My wife's latest novel, "Blood, Oil and Love", has just been published.
It's the second in a trilogy that began last year with "Going Ballistic", and will conclude with the publication next month of the third and final book.
I'm really proud of her. Her first two books, "Scaling the Rim" and "Shattered Under Midnight", were a little tentative: not bad at all, but short, feeling her way into expressing herself in fiction (rather as I did in my first two books, "Take The Star Road" and "Ride The Rising Tide". Her third novel, "Going Ballistic", really took off. It's got plenty of excellent reviews, proving that she can write with broad appeal. I expect this new book, and the one next month, will be just as successful.
Dorothy writes either in a genre she appears to have invented herself, or has found a niche in an established genre that few others appear to be filling. I'd call it "tactically correct romances". Don't let the "romance" fool you: she's writing about what happens when the right woman meets the right man in a combat situation. They're hard-edged and very realistic, rather than the usual soppy romance novels one encounters. Put it this way - we have a number of combat veterans (including yours truly) in our informal North Texas Writers, Shooters and Pilots Association. All of us enjoy Dorothy's books, and find nothing unmanly or un-combat-veteranly in enjoying a "tactical romance". They're a lot of fun.
I've enjoyed Dorothy's creative writing process, because she treats me as her first-line subject matter expert when it comes to the nitty-gritty. (I can't imagine why.) We also have other experts like Lawdog, Old NFO and others, who've all "been there and done that" on more than one occasion. When she writes an action sequence and distributes it for comment, boy, does she get comments! Everyone who's ever done anything vaguely resembling the action in question chimes in with suggestions, advice, "No s*** - there I was" stories, and all the rest. She enjoys it, and incorporates our responses into her own storyline. I think the result is outstandingly realistic.
Without further ado, let me throw at you one of the action scenes from "Blood, Love and Oil". Enjoy!
The Fed plane felt like a hawk about to stoop, circling noisily overhead as they ran like flushed prey beneath it. The sound of its engines hit Lizzes right between the shoulder blades, and she fought not to hunch over so much it affected her speed, nor to look up at it instead of where she needed to keep her attention focused, on where next to put each foot. They’d crossed two creeks, and were working their way out of the trees into the grassland when Mikey fell back next to her.
“What is he waiting for?” She didn’t have to point skyward to explain the question.
“He’s guiding troop transports in.” Mikey paced alongside her, providing a steady, solid presence at her right shoulder. If she could somehow ignore the screaming noise above and the burning exhaustion and chemical energy warring in muscle and bone, she could almost pretend this was one of Twitch’s too-early morning runs at some random crazy place he’d found.
But this wasn’t the empire, and Mikey wasn’t the man she desperately wanted here instead. And the end of this run wasn’t going to be a picnic lunch over the lake or a tiny hole-in-the-wall noodle joint, it was going to be… something bad, but her imagination failed her. Memory only came up with chilling silences in conversation, significant looks that were never explained, and the gory scenes in horror sensies that nobody believed were true. “And when they get here?” she asked.
“If our rendezvous gets here first, no factor. If not, when they get here, we’re going to be in a firefight. This time, don’t stop to shoot back. You need to get off the X, to zig-zag so you’re a harder target to hit. Just keep running. Don’t stop.” His voice dropped, and got harder, commanding. “No matter what else happens, don’t stop.”
“Don’t stop. Don’t stop.” She nodded, and he picked up his pace and moved forward again. The words were the opening lyrics to a song Twitch loved to play, and the beat matched the pace of her feet hitting the earth, making a pounding rhythm to the earworm echoing inside her skull. If Twitch were here, he’d be singing it aloud, and the more she objected, the more deliberately outrageous and off-key he’d get, bouncing around just out of reach and daring her to put on a burst of speed to smack him.
Thinking of him hurt more than her lungs or her legs did. She wanted desperately to believe they had a plan and would survive this, but this wasn’t the way Mikey had been heading before, and she couldn’t see a way out. The ache in her heart made the world blur with tears, and Lizzes put her head down and concentrated on following the feet in front of her, hoping they wouldn’t notice.
As they made it out into the grasslands, the heat of the late afternoon hit like a hammer, and the sun’s glare off waves of dead grasses bleached bone-white beneath the open, cloudless skies above made her eyes ache. The salt pans ahead were blindingly pure white. Even with the sun behind them, the pans ahead were so bright her sunshades couldn’t totally overcome the glare. The land was far less flat than it looked; the rippling waves of grass blended together and hid rises and dips deep enough to lose sight of the trailbreaker in front. It wasn’t all grass, either; they were running through playas with rings of different vegetation by the lingering levels of rainwater. What seemed a straight-line distance turned into a much longer run, and she could have sworn they were on rising terrain. Which made sense; the same brine-laced water from subterranean salt deposits that fed the Saline river had to flow the other way on the far side of the grasslands, to evaporate and trap the salt at the surface in the pans.
She wondered what it’d be like to be caught out on the pan in a storm, and for a moment, thought she could almost hear the thunder. No, it was more engines inbound – two planes still small by distance, but she recognized the bulkier cargo-style, flying together toward them. For a moment, she wondered if they were the rescue Mikey was running for… and then the swearing around her crushed that hope. She’d never felt as alone as she was now, found by the Feds and left with nowhere to go, and no way out.
Penn finished a truly anatomically impossible string of swears with, “Here they come.”
“Run!” Mikey barked. “Get to the salt flats now!”
The command in his voice got her legs pumping before her brain could catch up. It didn’t make sense; they’d be completely open and exposed. Why weren’t they stopping in the grass where at least they had some concealment? Lizzes concentrated on breathing for maximum oxygen without hyperventilating, and opened up her stride as they started downhill, letting her legs fly. Why didn’t matter; like the Landing Day Ball, all that mattered was she had to trust them, and stay as close as she could, and run. And if she had boots instead of running shoes, well, at least it wasn’t fashionable heels this time.
As they hit the shores of the ancient lake, the grass dwindled to little clumps scattered among cracked earth by loose rocks limned with salt. The troop transports grew larger and louder, screaming toward them. Lizzes wondered if the salt sea was still too muddy under a crust of salt for the Feds to land safely, but when they ran out on it, the dirty salt was firm and hard as concrete underfoot. The strange, acrid tang to the dust kicked up ahead of her burned at her nose and coated her mouth and skin as they continued to run across the dead remains of a sea.
“Think they’ll airdrop ’em?” AJ spoke up, and she realized she hadn’t heard them communicating by tacnet.
Ryan replied. “Saltpan like this? Probably just land ’em. But if not, you’re welcome to take ’em out on the way down. Just remember you’re fighting gravity with ballistic arc and bullet drop; it’s not like micro-g.”
“I’ll leave that to you. I’m used to close quarters combat, or very long-range shots. Midrange with winds in a gravity well… No point wasting ammo.” His lips were pulled back in a grin, for all he was sucking wind to keep up.
Miguel spoke up, and she could hear his own black humor. “It’s all right. They’ll get on the surface sooner or later, and then there’ll be enough for everybody.”
“If you don’t want to leave any for me, I’m okay with that. Really.” She gasped out, and Ryan laughed.
The troop transports roared overhead, and she instinctively cringed. “Where are they going?”
“Setting up for a landing.” She looked over, and found that AJ had switched from having his gun slung over his back, out of the way, to holding it with the barrel pointed out and low, away from her or Ryan. The others, too, had gotten ready. Her stomach was cramping in fear, as her own hands felt all too empty.
As the transport planes turned around to face the team, their engine’s scream seemed curiously doubled, and she saw the pale flash of a face as Penn looked back above her and burst out, “Oh, thank God!”
“What?” Lizzes looked back, and saw another plane coming in, seeming to barely crawl over the mountains and approach at a snail’s pace. As it slowly, ever so slowly got closer, she could make out the much sleeker shape of a Fed ballistic, all out of place. She’d seen them in sensies and once at the airport, all glossy white curves and looking like they were going a million miles an hour even when parked, but a ticket to the exotic destinations all over the globe had always been far outside of a grad student’s budget.
A hand yanked at her upper arm, and she looked over to find AJ pulling her along, his face flushed red with heat and exertion. “Stop looking back! Slows you down!”
“Why is it flying so slowly? They’re going to get us before it gets here.” She panted, words broken as she tried to match his pace.
AJ still had enough breath for a bark of laughter.”Not slow. It’s that big. Go!”
The surveillance plane stopped circling, blasting them with a deafening roar as it started clawing for altitude, trying to go almost straight up, popping bright points of light in a waterfall of smoke like a tail of some strange fireworks strewn out below and behind. The Fed transports were pulling up sharply, too, from where they’d been coming in to land. Mikey stumbled to a halt, breathing raggedly, and she swung around to see what he was staring at. The ballistic’s wings had changed shape, almost like something had fallen off. Before she could ask, she saw flickering lights under each wing.
There was something there… but she couldn’t track it. Two smoke trails streaked across the sky like lightning, too fast for her to see the source, and she’d barely turned her head when there was a… two slams, like when she’d seen a large lorry barreling full speed into a commuter car that had ignored the lights, sudden and shocking at the violence of it. Only this wasn’t a wreck; these were explosions, and the surveillance plane disintegrated in a fireball and billow of smoke. One moment it was there, and the next the only things left were smoke and fire and metal rain showering down.
The transport was less fireball and more… almost comical. An entire wing had come off and was fluttering, gently drifting down like an autumn leaf. As for the rest of the plane, it was spinning like a pencil being sharpened, while tumbling end over end and flopping in the most amazing way. The nose and tail were bending at the break from the missile, almost folding, and things were falling out of the break. She squinted, and recognized, suddenly, the shapes. The knowledge hit her, freezing her in horror. “Oh, God, those are people!”
She didn’t realize she’d said it out loud, but AJ spun and pulled her into a rough hug, turning her away from the sight as the rest of the team formed up around them. Softly, in a voice so guttural she almost didn’t recognize it, he said, “Sooner them than us.”
The third transport had peeled away, running flat out for the hills and safety far away from the ballistic that passed overhead and came back, pitching up, way too far up compared to what she expected, and landed far enough away it was small enough to cover with her thumb. She wondered why they’d have to walk so far, when she realized it was still slowing down, dust cloud billowing up behind it like a farmer’s flatbed on a dirt road, only so much, much bigger. The closer it came, the larger it got, until it was passing close enough she realized each wheel rolling along dwarfed Twitch’s oversized truck. It passed them and started to turn. Her world disappeared in a dust storm whipping at her clothes as she heard the engines get even louder, vibrating her body and bones and compressing her chest even as she coughed and choked on dust.
There was a bruisingly strong grip on her arm, hauling her forward again, and she looked over through squinting, teary eyes to barely make out AJ, ducking and running. Her brain caught up with their feet, realizing their ride was here, and she needed to get the hell on board before the Feds came back. She ran for all she was worth, but her legs were toast. Her quads were burning, quivering, and she felt like she was tangled in that damned ballroom dress again. Worse, like that dress was soaking wet, making each step start with the intention of a running stride and come out as a shuffling stagger.
Strong hands caught her up, then, and she was upended, lifted and slung over a broad set of shoulders. At first she thought it was AJ, but he was next to her, running head down against the wind and dust. And then the feel of their footfalls thudding into salted dirt changed to metallic slam, as they were running up a loading ramp, into the darkness of the airplane’s cargo bay. She couldn’t hear herself think over the roar of the engines, much less anyone else, and wished again she had a tacnet so she could find out what the hell was going on.
I'll stop at that point, so as not to reveal one of the plot's major turning points. Suffice it to say that it's a tightly written action novel with a twist, that draws you in and keeps you turning the pages. Highly recommended.
(Yes, of course I'm a biased reviewer. I'm her husband, dammit! What did you expect?)