Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Giveaway: Adam is giving away a signed author’s proof edition of the book with this post – for a chance to win, just comment below!
Today, Adam Gaffen – So, I suppose I should start with some basics, eh?
I was born in Maine, didn’t live there for long before my parents figured out that it was too bloody cold and moved south, all the way to Massachusetts. Grew up there and in Connecticut, lived in Maryland and Indiana for a while before moving back to Maine. Lived there for twenty years before I, too, decided the winters were too long. Of course, where do you to get away from long winters? COLORADO! Naturally. Married to a wonderful, inspirational, supportive woman; between us we have five kids, five dogs, and five cats.
As for my writing, well, I’ve thrown a bunch out onto Amazon. There’s a couple Sherlock Holmes stories, a few horror-ish shorts, and then you get to my longer books: Refuge, a time-traveling take on vampire stories, and The Cassidy Chronicles. There are currently five volumes in the series with the fifth book just out!
Like I said, thanks for dropping in! You can find me on Allauthor.com, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and on my website www.cassidychronicles.com. I love interacting with fans, but be warned: I often add my fans into my books!
Thanks so much, Adam, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Have you ever taken a trip to research a story? Tell me about it.
Adam Gaffen: I’ve never traveled to conduct research; however, I have drawn on my travels and experiences in my writing. Part of the issue there is I write Sci-Fi, and there aren’t any regularly scheduled runs to Artemis City on Luna yet, so anything I write about it has to be entirely made up.
JSC: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
AG: Spend more time reading. Anyone who knows me may well believe this to be impossible, as I spent most of my youth with my nose in a book. But I didn’t read critically, and I didn’t read broadly, at least not outside my chosen genre. And since I can see the footprints of the various authors I admired all over my current writing, I can’t help but think I would have been better served if I had read across other literary styles.
JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
AG: Of course I read reviews! How else will I learn what my readers like, dislike, and want? Look, like any author I love the positive reviews. Always always always! But I appreciate the less-glowing reviews just as much, because they often point me in a direction I had missed. They provide a valuable teaching opportunity for me.
JSC: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
AG: It depends on the book. The first volume in my Cassidy Chronicles series was supposed to be four novellas. I wrote the first in 2012 and self-published it. The second one was finished in late 2012 but didn’t get released until 2013. I started the third novella, got 10,000 words into it, and stalled out. I worked on it on and off (mostly off) for 6+ years before finally being inspired and finishing it in March of 2020. By then it was too long for a novella, about 60,000 words, but couldn’t stand alone, so I took what I had, smoothed over the rough edges, and the first volume was complete.
Since then I’ve gotten quicker. The first volume was released in May 2020; the second in September; the third in December; the fourth in April of 2021; and the newest one was August 15th.
JSC: How long have you been writing?
AG: First book? Do you mean the first one I tried to write, or the first one I completed? Because I got about 2/3 of the way through a Star Trek novel back when I was in high school and just into college. After that, the next ‘big thing’ I wrote was a novella, a time travel/vampire mashup written when vampires didn’t sparkle, called Refuge. That’s my oldest work, and it’s still out for the public. I didn’t really attempt anything longer until about 12-13 years ago, when I got annoyed with a fellow author for not finishing a series I had been reading. I decided I would write my own sequel. I started, and told some people on the fan site I was doing so. Next thing I knew I was posting chapters and had acquired a co-author, and we produced a 240,000 word novel. With, I might add, the author’s blessing.
JSC: How did you choose the topic for Triumph’s Ashes?
AG: In each of the previous books, the main characters have been faced with new challenges; not necessarily more difficult, but certainly coming at them from a different direction. In the first book it was about trust and found family. The second book was accepting responsibility for others, for good or ill. The third, while superficially about a cold war heating up, is really a statement about prejudice. The fourth book shows how small actions can snowball into huge consequences. But through them all Kendra and Aiyana have been able to pursue their dreams. In this book, they have to decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for those dreams: whether making their dreams survive is worth their lives. I’ve been saying for a while, and it’s reflected in the title, that there is no triumph without sacrifice and no victory without cost. That’s the choice they face.
JSC: What was the hardest part of writing this book?
AG: This book strikes harder at the theme of loss than any other I’ve written; there are several characters who’ve been around for several books who don’t make it out of this one, and many others who have close calls. And since I think of my characters as people with their own lives, lives I’m privileged to see a tiny part of, it’s a terrible burden to decide who lives and who dies. There is one extended scene which brings tears to my eyes as various characters make decisions which will (or could) result in their demise, and they make the decision for all the right reasons. The nobility I feel they’re demonstrating? Definitely something I appreciate.
JSC: Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?
AG: Emily’s World of Design does all the covers for The Cassidy Chronicles books, and she’s a joy to work with! She knows the characters nearly as well as I, which makes the design process relatively painless. She’s also fantastically organized; each book requires a questionnaire with my ideas and concepts explained, as well as a summary of the book. She then takes my information and turns it into the covers, usually on the first try.
JSC: We know what you like to write, but what do you like to read in your free time, and why?
AG: I’ll read almost anything and always have a few books going at once. Currently I’m reading in the Mika & Leah Cross series, Black Tide Rising (John Ringo’s zombie series, an anthology), Succubus on Top (Richelle Mead), Manxome Foe (John Ringo/Travis Taylor), plus there are others scattered around. This doesn’t count any of the audiobooks I’m listening to! I can always go back to Heinlein, though.
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
AG: Neilsday. I believe that July 20th ought to be a huge celebration; it’s the day we first set foot on another world, even if it’s only a quarter-million miles away. No matter where the human race ends up, it all starts there.
JSC: Star Trek or Star Wars? Why?
AG: Definitely Star Trek, and that was before the prequel and sequel trilogies. Star Wars is fun, but it’s utterly implausible. Star Trek is based on reality and a possible future (even if that’s somewhat tenuous at times), but also takes a much better look at the human condition. Khan isn’t entirely bad – he grieves for his lost love and for Joachin, for example – and the ‘heroes’, Sisko for example, are anything but pure. It’s a far more nuanced vision of the universe.
And now for Adam’s new book: Triumph’s Ashes:
Viva la revolucion!
The Primus, Vasilia Newling, is facing her worst nightmares:
- A revolution on Luna
- Titan and the Asteroids abandoning the Solarian Union.
- Defections from within her own government.
All because of those damned Cassidys!
But she’s still as ruthless as ever.
And if Aiyana and Kendra thought she was playing dirty before? They’re going to see how filthy she really can get. There isn’t room for both the Terran Federation and the Union. This time, one is going down.
Daniela nearly spilled her coffee jumping to her feet.
“Admiral!” she said in surprise, starting to salute before putting her coffee down and trying again. This time she succeeded.
“Sorry, Danni, I didn’t mean to make you jump.” Daniela didn’t think she sounded at all apologetic, but, well, Admirals.
“No problem, Admiral. How can I help you?”
Kendra looked around the squadron’s small wardroom. “Is there any more coffee?”
“Always,” she answered and hustled to get a mug. “Anything in it?”
By way of answer, Kendra asked, “Is it any good?”
“We like to think so, but we might be biased.”
Social niceties finished, Daniela waited for Kendra to sit before settling back into her chair.
Kendra took a sip and set the mug down.
“I have to admit, I had to ask Diana how to get here,” she began. “I haven’t spent much time down here. Okay, well, none, if I have to be specific.”
Shannon! she was desperately comming.
The Admiral’s in my wardroom!
What did you do now?
Nothing, I swear!
On my way. Two minutes.
“Um, yes, Ma’am.”
“You didn’t hear a word I said.”
“No, Ma’am, sorry, Ma’am.”
“Knock it off, Danni. It’s me, Kendra. You know, the person who married you a month ago? I’m not here to bust your chops over breaking another Direwolf. Actually, I wanted to ask you a favor.”
“I heard there was a two-person version of the Mark II?”
“Yes, Ma—Kendra. For training.”
“For this to make any sense I have to give you a little ancient history. You have time?”
“As much as the Admiral wants, Kendra.”
“Hmmph. I guess you get away with that one. Ah, Flashdance, I was wondering when you’d make it,” she added as Shannon trotted into the wardroom and skidded to a halt at the tableau.
“It’s okay, Shannon,” Daniela said. “The Ad—Kendra was about to tell me a story.”
“You want to hear it too, pull up a chair and grab a cuppa.”
Kendra waited as a silent Flashdance did just that.
“About fifteen years ago I was able to buy an antique car, internal combustion, cheap. It was pretty much rusted out, but I was making pretty good money and I could pay experts to restore it.” Her eyes grew distant with the memory. “Even before they started I could see the beauty in her. This wasn’t just a car, this was a piece of art, made to be shown off and treasured.”
“What kind of car?” asked Shannon.
“A Bugatti, a Veyron Super Sport. One of thirty of that line, number eighteen. Black body with red highlights and ‘go faster’ stripes,” she said with a fond smile. “I probably dropped a hundred kilocredits into her bringing her back to life, and then OutLook provided me with some little extras. If we didn’t have her, Cass and I never would have survived our wedding.”
“Oh, that car!” said Daniela. “I’ve heard some stories about it. Is it true you had a laser in the car?”
“Absolutely. 1.21 gigawatts. Saved our asses. Anyhow, one of the reasons I loved that car so much was her ability to get up and go; I know it’s not much, but we pushed her to 423 KPH once. Another time, a couple years later, I managed to get her up to 431 KPH, but that was at about 1800 meters altitude, so it probably helped.”
“This is a ground car? Like, wheels?”
Kendra smile grew from fond to predatory. “Yep. One badass car.”
As quickly as it grew, it faded.
“Then Newling had a KEW dropped on our home, and that was the end of her. I haven’t had the heart to find another; it just doesn’t feel right. But that’s why I want the Mark II.”
“You lost me.”
“The Mark II is the fastest sublight ship ever built, and from what I’ve read it’s the one that makes you feel the speed, more so than the Wolves. No offense, Flashdance.”
“It’s true,” Daniela said. “The compensators do their best, and the improvements have helped, but, well, the best way I can explain it is you fly a Wolf, and you wear a Direwolf.”
“Exactly! That’s what I miss. So I want you to train me in the Mark II.”
It looked to Shannon as if Daniela were trying to speak, but there wasn’t any sound.
“Admiral, I don’t know if my DCAG and primary fighter commander has the time to take you joyriding,” Shannon said.
“You just told us about how much you miss the feeling of going fast, and you want to use a Mark II to get a thrill. What would you call it?”
“I’d call it a reasonable request from the fleet commander,” Kendra replied coldly, then shook her head.
“No. You’re right, Shannon. But, dammit, I need to do something! This is the first time Cass and I have been apart for more than a couple days in, oh, five years, except for that first deep space mission. I used to deal with it by taking my car out and throwing myself around curves at stupid speed. I can’t do that any longer, so I was hoping this would scratch the itch. It doesn’t have to be Daniela,” she admitted.
“I’m afraid it does. I’m the only one checked out on the Mark II so far. Shannon, thanks, but I do have a little time set aside for squadron drills. I can turn that over to Zero; it’ll do her good to run them through. Okay, Kendra. You’re on.”
Kendra’s grin, the one which made you feel like the most important person in the universe, returned. “Great!”
“Ground rules. You don’t agree, you don’t fly.”
“Agreed. What are they?”
“I’m in charge. You’re not even a cadet. Got it?”
“You’re the pilot, not me.”
“You touch nothing I don’t tell you to touch.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start.”
“You have to wear a pilot’s uniform and skinsuit.”
“Do I get to keep the helmet?”
“I suppose. Finally, no puking in the bird.”
“I’ve got a strong stomach.”
“Then go suit up. I’ll preflight the bird, and we’ll launch in fifteen.”
Looking maybe twelve, Kendra bounded from her chair and headed out, then skidded to a stop.
She gestured to her uniform. “Where do I change?”
“I can’t believe it! I haven’t felt like that in years!”
Kendra was still bouncing. She’d behaved herself on the hour-long flight, with only the occasional lapse. Daniela had needed to shut off Kendra’s mic a few times but she could understand her excitement.
“When can we go again? Or, better yet, can I get trained to fly one solo?”
“Whoa, wait just a moment, Admiral! Solo? You’ve had one flight as a passenger in a Direwolf and you think you’re ready to solo?”
“No, not at all! I want to learn now to fly solo! I’m not egotistical enough to think I could fly one now.”
A somewhat placated Daniela said, “I don’t know if you have the time. I know I don’t, but we can get around most of the flight training with sims. You’re not going to go into combat, so just learning to fly a Direwolf? It will be simpler.”
“Done. How much time?”
“You need to have twenty hours of simulator time before you get back into a bird, and then you have another twenty hours of mixed simulator and real-world practice before we try for certification.”
“I’ll do it. Is there any way to test out of some of the hours? Like, if I can do X, I can move on?”
“I’ll think about it, but you have to put in at least half the first set of sim hours. There’s nothing that beats actual time, no matter if you can ace all the checkpoints.”
“Got it. When do we start?”
“You’re not going to waste my time? Get halfway through and drop it? Because if you do, Admiral or not, I’m going to kick your ass!”
I’d like to see you try! Kendra didn’t say. Instead she answered, “I won’t, Danni. I promise. The only thing which will keep me away from here are my other duties.”
“Then I’ll put in your codes for the simulators when I get to my office. You can start on them any time after you get the ping.”
“I’ll look for the notice. Thanks, Danni.”
“That’s IP Garcia-Kay to you, Cadet.”
Kendra snapped off a salute.
“Yes, IP Garcia-Kay!” she said in her best parade-ground voice.
“Good. Your next flight will be scheduled after you complete your initial sim certifications.”
“Thank you, IP Garcia-Kay!”