Alliance of Shadows is out today! It is the final book in the trilogy that began with Dead Six, and was continued in Swords of Exodus.
I posted the following back in July when I finished the final edits on this book, but figured I would copy it over again for those who didn’t see it, because how these books came to exist is really kind of a cool story.
These books came about in a really odd and interesting way.
Back when I was working on the first MHI, I was a moderator on a popular gun forum called The High Road.
There was another member there named Mike Kupari. I had never met him in person, and only knew him from his THR posts.
In 2006 he started writing an online fiction serial called Welcome Back, Mr. Nightcrawler. He would write a scene, and then post it on the forum that day. The next day, another scene.
Welcome Back, Mr. Nightcrawler was a thriller about mercenaries in the Persian Gulf. Mike had just gotten back from working there as a contractor, so he knew the area and really nailed the vibe, but his job had been uneventful guarding stuff kind of work. Mr. Nightcrawler was the stylized action hero version he started working on when he was bored.
It was pretty popular. The forumites were really enjoying it. I started reading the serial posts, and it was really good. This Kupari guy could really write. Then I got to this scene where his mercenary character Valentine takes out a terrorist financer, it was awesome, but it got my writer brain turning. And I came up with an idea about one of the bystanders.
So I started thinking about the scene from the perspective of somebody who was there to rob the bad guys. What the heck, I wrote it up. That was how Lorenzo was born.
Keep in mind, I’d not published anything yet at this point, so Mike didn’t know me from Adam. So I sent him a message, said hey, I’m a wannabe writer too. I just wrote a novel about monster hunters. You inspired this scene set in your world. Do you mind if I post it to your thread?
Fortunately, Mike took it as a compliment, and said go ahead. I posted it to the serial thread.
The readers went nuts. My scene integrated so well that they all assumed we had been planning it that way from the beginning.
So Mike and I got to talking. Neither of us were professionals at that point. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. But by golly, people were reading it and enjoying it. So what the heck? He’d keep writing his serial, and I’d keep writing my side story. Let’s see where it went.
So then Mike would post another scene the next day. Then I would write up a couple thousand words from my character’s perspective and post the next day. Then Mike would read what I wrote, and post up another scene from his character’s PoV. We were going so fast there was no proof reading and hardly any planning at all.
The fans loved it.
At some point Mike and I realized that if this story was going to have a coherent plot, we really should figure out where it was going. Both of us had just been pantsing it based on what the other guy had written the day before. So we started brainstorming where this thing was going to end up.
What people don’t realize is that during that initial brainstorming for Mr. Nightcrawler, we would also come up with the basic plot for what would eventually turn into Swords of Exodus and Alliance of Shadows.
Over the course of that summer Mike and I wrote a hundred thousand words of on the fly fiction. By some miracle Welcome Back, Mr. Nightcrawler actually worked out great, everything came together, and it had a satisfactory conclusion. By the end we had thousands of people hooked on the serial.
The best thing about that for me was I now had a couple thousand people in one place who knew I could write, and hey, look at this… I just so happen to have this novel I’m conveniently self-publishing soon you guys can throw money at. That led to MHI having some fantastic sales for a self-published novel (this was before the eBook revolution, so we’re talking about $20 Print on Demand paperbacks), one of the serial readers introduced me to Uncle Hugos, which is how a PoD paperback wound up on a national bestseller list, Uncle Hugos is how I met Toni at Baen, and the rest is history.
During this Mike and I started working on the next serial idea which would turn into Swords of Exodus and Alliance of Shadows. We decided this one was going to be epic. (Uh yeah, since neither one of us knew what we were doing, the plot of this “little serial” actually ended up around 350,000 words over two novels). I wrote a bunch of Lorenzo’s half of what would turn into SoE, but we never ended up posting it on the gun forums, because stuff got kind of crazy.
During all of this I owned a gun store in Utah, and anybody who owns their own small business knows that consumes your life. Mike (who I still hadn’t met in person) came out to Utah for a change of scenery, and ended up moving here. The first time I met the guy who I’d basically written a book with was when he stopped by my shop.
And when it turned out he was super good at selling guns, we ended up working together. Sure, he didn’t get paid much, but then again, neither did I most of the time. We ended up teaching pistol classes together. Long story short, Mike has been one of my best friends ever since.
I sold the rights to MHI to Baen and discontinued the self-published version. A year and a half went by before the Baen version came out. My really limited writing time was spent on MHV, so the plan for the SoE online serial kind of fell by the wayside. Mike, who had been in the Army before, joined the Air Force and went to EOD school. Burned out of the gun store, I sold my shares to my partner in 2008, and for four months I was unemployed wannabe writer guy (which was when I wrote Hard Magic) until I found a military contracting job.
In 2009 the Baen version of MHI came out and did shockingly well. I was selling well enough that Baen wanted more books from me. So I got to thinking… What about Welcome Back, Mr. Nightcrawler? It was way too rough to just publish it as it was, it would take a lot of work to really clean it up, but it was one hell of a story.
Keep in mind, Mike was kind of busy right about then (I’ll get to that in a second), but he was game. So we cleaned the heck out of Mr. Nightcrawler (and both of us were more experienced writers by this point) and it turned into Dead Six. (It was now nearly twice as long too). Toni thought it was great and picked it up.
It came out in 2011. Remember when I said Mike was kind of busy? He’s the only author I know who had his first book signing at a FOB in Afghanistan.
We still had the story we had come up with for the second serial, and I’d already written a bunch of my half. So Mike dove into that and we finished off Swords of Exodus. It came out in 2013.
It took us a while to wrap up the last book considering we had the basic plot figured out nearly TEN YEARS AGO! One reason is that between SoE and AoS, by popular demand, Mike launched his solo career with the excellent space opera Her Brother’s Keeper. (Seriously, buy it. Great book)
Last week we heard back from Baen, the final edits were in and done for Alliance of Shadows. The eARC will be out soon. The book will be on shelves everywhere in October.
That is the end of one heck of a creative journey.
I’m proud of this book. I’m proud of my coauthor. I think you guys are really going to enjoy it.