In place of the Saturday Rewind this week, I’m advertising my latest Space Opera, Survive (The tale of Ballantyne Alysom).
The novel will be published on September 1st, I’m giving you a chance to read the first chapter and pre-order the ebook for just £1.99.
Survive is a spin-off from my Dave Travise series, Freefall, Myra and the soon to be published Promise Me. In Freefall, Dave is led to the Alysom Caves on the planet Qister-Alu. I described the caves as extensive and impressive, as far as Dave knew, they had been discovered by the famous and legendary explorer Ballantyne Alysom, after his ship had crashed there.
That all took place a long way in Dave’s past; a lot of the action in the latter part of Freefall takes place in the caves.
I thought about the few lines of description that had used to introduce and describe the caves, it made sense as a piece of writing to justify their existence but was there more to it? I wondered if I could make the caves themselves a story, and perhaps include a bit about Alysom and how the caves were actually discovered. It was all very well to say that his ship had crashed, why had it? Then what happened?
The great thing about dealing with a legend is that you have a lot of license, there are bound to be lots of different anecdotes and stories, it’s impossible to tell which are true, which are false and which are partly true and embellished in the telling. If you remember your Shakespeare, you’ll know the quote
Which is great news for writers, you can use that to create a good man and destroy him in legend, or vice versa.
Anyhow, the more I thought about it, the more I was sure that there was a story to be told. Alysom could be a wonderful man in legend, I could tell the truth. Or at least a different version of the legend. I could develop it and make a reason for it to be different and unknown.
I started writing Survive in May 2013 and finished what became part one in late 2017. I was working on it between other projects, as ideas came to me. I could see that it would be a two-book story, there was just too much to get into one volume.
Beta readers have been positive, here are a couple of comments.
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 Bal 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.
The second part, roughly titled Aylsom’s Revenge, is well underway. Meanwhile, here is a taster of part one.
What no man has seen before.
Ballantyne Alysom is Galactographic! Magazine’s intrepid explorer.
Davis Jansen is the cameraman he takes on his latest and most dangerous expedition.
When things go terribly wrong, the survivors of the group are stranded on an unexplored planet. Surrounded by danger, they will need to work together to stand any chance of ever going home.
In the days that follow, as the group is riven by argument, Davis sees the real Alysom, the man behind the carefully constructed public face. He comes to realise that he is being forced to make a choice.
The question he must face: does everyone need to know the real story? Which version will they believe?
Can the truth Survive?
Here’s Chapter One of the book.
The studio lights were blindingly bright. Even though I was used to them, 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 video signals 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.
The studio went silent as the taped piece about Alysom was broadcast.
Helles fetched us tea and sat on a chair that she pulled up between us, displaying lots of toned thigh. Anisia eyed it with annoyance, I ignored it. Skinny blonde announcers weren’t my type. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
“So, what was he like when things got rough?” she said as we sipped our drinks, on the monitors we could see Alysom’s life unfolding. Reminders of his good deeds flowed over the screen behind us as I hesitated, still unwilling to start the chain of events that would vilify him. Beside me, Anisia had no such qualms. “He was a fake and a conniving bastard,” she spat. “If he had been a real man, instead of a coward, I would still have both of these,” she waved her hands at her leg.
Brit looked suitably shocked, she had seen snippets of the video; the things the network had used in teasers to make sure everyone was watching. It had been enough to get everyone interested, she must have realised that there was so much more, could she be wondering if it was worth being a cheerleader for him? In the same way that Alysom had manipulated information to boost his profile, was she now ready to do the same to protect him while we tried to shoot him down? We would see.
The segment finished, I knew it had all been about how Alysom had rescued National Geographic magazine and turned it into Galactographic! How he had made it the most exciting thing in the known universe. About his pledge not to take a penny from the profits he made, how everything he earned was put back into worthy causes.
About his legion of devoted female fans, who called themselves the Alysomettes. Anisia had been one, once. Now I knew how he had done it and it left a bad taste in my mouth.
The floor manager called out, “We’re coming back, standby.”
The red light came on again.
Brit turned to me and forced a smile. “So, Davis, how did it all begin?” she said.
The camera swung at me, I took a sip of tea and a deep breath.
“It’s taken me a while to piece it all together,” I said. “Towards the end of our time on Qister-Alu we were split into three groups and even now, some of the main players’ actions are uncorroborated. I’ve edited together all the video I could find and made sense of the timeline as much as possible, one thing is clear, the deaths of two members of the expedition are suspicious and the prime suspect isn’t able to be here to defend himself.”
Brit looked shocked as I carried on. “We have so much information to show you; we’ve spoken to Galactographic! and we’re going to split it into segments. Tonight’s programme will look at the events leading up to our arrival on the planet we now know to be Qister-Alu.”
That was the agreement, we were still editing the video for the later episodes, much of it was mundane but there was enough excitement to make this a whole series. And now it would all come out. Not tonight, as I had said; this was just the first in a series of films that Galactographic! had planned.
There would be this one to set the scene. Then, several more dealing with the time up to our separation. One for each of our adventures and finally a longer piece showing the ending and our rescue. And that would be the one where the fireworks would really begin.
“Well, let’s see the start of the story,” Brit said. The tape rolled, the light on the camera went out and we sat back to watch ourselves on the monitor.
This, more or less, was what the viewers saw.
I hope that you enjoyed that. To pre-order Survive at the special price of £1.99, go to this link, http://mybook.to/Survive-B_Alysom
I’ll be back on Monday, with another Blog Hop, Have a great weekend.