I recently had a message from my editor; my manuscript for Survive would be back with me shortly! With all that had been going on in my life, I had almost forgotten that I was waiting for it.
To refresh your memory, here’s the working cover and the blurb.
“What no man has seen before.”
Ballantyne Alysom is Galactographic! Magazine’s most intrepid explorer, Davis Jansen is the cameraman he takes on his most dangerous expedition so far.
Alysom is secretive about the details of the mission; when Jansen finds out the danger they are in, there is no turning back. Davis comes to see that Alysom is not the man his public think, he is controlling and arrogant.
When his behaviour results in disaster, Davis and everyone else must try to survive. Not just the savage planet they have crashed on, but also from Alysom himself. Finally, they must escape from those who will go to any lengths to protect his reputation.
Now Davis has a choice, does the world need to know the truth? And which one’s story will they believe?
There’s a rough cut sample from the middle of the book here,
And here’s the opening few pages,
The studio lights were blindingly bright. Even though I was used to the idea, it was a new experience for me and I was blinking in their glare. Today, I was on the other end of the camera, facing it instead of pointing it. I had forgotten just how much heat the lights generated. Sweat was running down my neck and back and I wondered if the make-up my face had been plastered with had streaked and run. Beside me, in her wheelchair, was Anisia, my wife – although the fashionable term had apparently become ‘life-partner’. Things had certainly changed while we had been gone.
She was also my recording engineer, which was how we had met. We had worked so well together that we decided to make the relationship more permanent. I for one felt no regrets, despite our present situation.
She was still getting used to the loss of one leg; fortunately, the chair was only temporary. Once her prosthetic had been finished and fitted she could start learning to walk again. And we could get off the surface of the planet, with its crowds and pollution, get back to our home in orbit. I wasn’t a big fan of Earth, I had become unable to cope with its crowds and the constant demands that mere existence made on your life. All the petty politics and jealousies, the point scoring that was no part of life in space, where you worked for the common good. The synthetic fibres in my clothes scratched my skin. I was used to cotton, you wore natural fibres in space, you didn’t want a static spark spoiling your day.
The floor manager, little more than a shadowy shape behind the camera, counted us in. “Four, three, two, live,” he said. The red lights came on over the cameras and the programme’s presenter, Brit Helles, walked into the lights. She had been standing behind the camera and in shadow. A tall, willowy figure, she stood slightly off to one side of us. She had been dressed to emphasise her legs, was that all part of the studio’s plan?
“Good evening, everyone,” she began, reading from the autocue over the camera. I wondered who had written her words, whose side they were on? “The news just recently has been full of the amazing story from the planet Qister-Alu, where the well-known explorer Ballantyne Alysom and the remnants of his team have been rescued. It seems that, over a year after they disappeared, they have performed one of the most amazing feats of survival.”
She moved to stand between us, the camera swung to focus on all three of us, at that moment I felt more nervous than I had at any time over the last year. I took Anisia’s hand, it shook slightly.
“We have the first two of the party to have been released from the hospital with us tonight,” she continued. “Ballantyne Alysom is still unconscious and listed as critical because of injuries sustained whilst on that planet. We must rely on the account of these two, husband and wife Davis and Anisia Jensen, the expedition’s official photographers for Galactographic! Magazine. Tonight, and over the next few weeks, they’re going to tell us the story of just how they came to survive the series of events that led them to being marooned on that savage planet.”
That was quite an introduction, now we had to tell our story to the masses who I knew would be huddled around their receivers. The broadcast was live on Earth and all the colonies, with the new Q-E relay stations, there wouldn’t be an inhabited planet that couldn’t watch us, live. That was a new development, when we had left the transmission speed for a video to the outer planets was only as fast as the ship carrying the file. Now, Quantum Entanglement computers were sending video across the galaxy faster than light, using the instantaneous response of vibrating atoms in different places.
I knew that if Ballantyne had been aware of what was going on his temper would have got the better of him. He loved to be in control of the story and had tied us up with non-disclosure agreements before we had set out. As we had discovered, it was his usual practice, he wanted to be the centre of attention and the recipient of all the credit, well this one was out of his control.
Bearing in mind what had happened since we had set off, it was a good job he wasn’t around. We had been on the receiving end of more than one of his sudden temper tantrums. After we had finished with our story, there was no way that he would be able to spin or bluster his way out of any responsibility.
In the light of what I wanted to say, while I was waiting for Anisia to be discharged, I had spent a day with the top men at Galactographic! After they had seen the video highlights of our story the managers were happy to waive our agreement with Ballantyne, provided I just presented the video diaries we had salvaged. I was warned not to make any comments that didn’t have solid video evidence to back them up.
The lawyers representing Alysom were not so happy; were they ever? But as all of us that had made it back had come to accept, someone was going to have to tell the story that the whole sector wanted to hear. And, with the evidence that I had, I could back it all up. There was no need for conjecture.
I knew that it wouldn’t be a pleasant job, I was about to set off on a path that would destroy the reputation of the man who had made his name as a fearless explorer and generous philanthropist. A man whose face had covered a million children’s walls, whose books and video films had sold by the shipload.
The next few hours would almost certainly ruin him. In some of his more devoted followers’ eyes, it would make me seem like the bad guy. The trouble was, it had to be done. As long as I kept to the recorded facts I could hardly be held responsible for his words or actions.
Anyway, the dead demanded that I should do it; I could see their faces in my dreams and they screamed at me for their voices to be heard, and for justice. I had the proof to back up what I was about to say. Galactographic! had already seen the video logs I had kept in secret and the things that I had found, things that Ballantyne must have hoped would never be found. They were working on the official line; it wouldn’t be pretty for them either. It seemed that they were prepared to cut him loose and take the short-term pain.
Brit was still talking while I considered all this; Anisia must have sensed my mood and squeezed my hand.
“Davis, Anisia, we’ll shortly be asking you to tell us just what you’ve been up to while you’ve been away, but first, I think that a brief reminder of the life of Ballantyne Alysom, of his achievements, would be in order.”
Brit Helles was a fan of Alysom, she had told us as much in the green room. I was pretty sure that she hadn’t seen all the footage that the managers had. She must have had an inkling though, she seemed determined to get her retaliation in first. I got the impression that she wouldn’t willingly let her idol’s reputation be tarnished by a mere cameraman and a crippled sound engineer. She had already mentioned his injuries and glossed over Anisia’s. While his were significant, they could hardly be used as a justification. Especially once the way they had happened came out.
I hope you enjoyed that.
Survive had its origins in a small piece of backstory in my novel Freefall. It’s all based around a location in that story and my description of it. I enjoyed inventing and writing about it so much that I wanted to find a way to tell you more about it. Survive is still set in the future, just not quite as far in the future as Freefall (I guess that makes it part of the history of the future?)
It’s been out for beta reads and had a few good comments (spoilers removed),
What a fantastic book!!! I love how while every book you write is technically the same genre, they are all completely different. Survive came alive from the first page, and really took on a life of its own. The characters were all well developed and believable, the story was saturated with the atmosphere, and the bad guy was someone that everyone has experienced at one point in their life! A lot of effort has been put into the research for the story, it comes across as real instead of patently fake. My goodness, that ending though! Perfect setup for a second book, which I sincerely hope there is one!
All in all, another fabulous read,
Awesome concept, fast-paced and something very different.
To my delight, my editor was equally happy with it, although as usual, her eagle eye spotted a lot of things I hadn’t noticed. Mostly these were inconsistencies in the second half of the story. Her comment, The opening section is very good – you just need to review the areas I’ve marked so they come up to the same standard (that sounds simple enough!).
In the end, I’ve decided to re-write a lot of the second half, So far, I’ve added about 6000 words and hopefully, I’m well on the way to achieving that. When I’m happy with the new version, I’ll send it back to her for another look. The cover designer is booked for September, I’m hoping that my working idea will be transformed into something wonderful.
While I’m following her advice, I’ve had a lot of thoughts on a sequel. While I was writing, I realised that the story, although at a natural end, was nowhere near complete. I had so many ideas, I did think of adding them to part two but that would have turned the book into a 200,000-word epic. There were so many avenues to explore that there was neither the room or the time to do them all justice. And I reckon that a second story; tying up all the loose ends, is a much better idea. It’s always possible that the story won’t be finished there, who knows what turns it will take? Could there even be a part three?
I hope that Survive will be published later this year.
In the meantime, I’ve sent off another manuscript for editing, more on that when it returns.
Don’t forget the Indie Showcase on Thursday.