by James Young
GENRE: Alternate History
Adolf Hitler is dead. Great Britain has fallen. The Royal Family has fled to Canada, and the United States stands alone against the Axis.
On Seas So Crimson collects both novels of the Usurper's War into a single package. Acts of War (Amazon Bestseller in alternate history) begins this universe with London on fire, while Collisions of the Damned (recommended by Alternate History Weekly) continues it with the desperate defense of the Dutch East Indies.
It’s never a good day when you become commander of a vessel simply because no one else was left. From what he understood, Keir had started the day as chief of Hood’s Navigation Division. That had been before the vessel took at least three 15-inch shells to the bridge area, as well as two more that had wiped out her gunnery directory and the secondary bridge.
Captain Gordon was right—she was a very powerful warship. Unfortunately that tends to make you a target.
“Commander, you are certain that…” Gordon started, then collected himself. “You are certain His Majesty is dead.”
“Yes sir,” Keir said. “His Majesty was in the conning tower with Admiral Pound when it was hit. The Royal Surgeon positively identified His Majesty’s body in the aid station before that was hit in turn. We cannot get to the aid station due to the spreading fire.”
“Understood. His Majesty would not have wanted any of you to risk his life for his body,” Gordon said.
“I just…” Keir started, then stopped, overcome with emotion.
“It is not your fault lad,” Gordon said. “Her Majesty will understand.”
Gordon turned and looked at the Exeter’s clock.
“Very well, we are out of time. Stand by to fire torpedoes.”
“Torpedoes report they are ready.”
“Sir, you may want to tell your torpedo officer to have his weapons set to run deep,” Keir said. “She’s drawing…”
There was a large explosion aboard Hood as the flames reached a secondary turret’s ready ammunition. Eric saw a fiery object arc slowly across, descending towards the Exeter as hundreds of helpless eyes watched it. The flaming debris’ lazy parabola terminated barely fifty yards off of Exeter’s side with a large, audible splash.
“I think we do not have time for that discussion,” Gordon said grimly. “Fire torpedoes!”
The three weapons from Exeter’s starboard tubes sprang from their launchers into the water. Set as a narrow spread, the three tracks seemed to take forever to impact from Eric’s perspective. Exeter’s torpedo officer, observing Hood’s state, had taken into account the battlecruiser’s lower draught without having to be told. Indeed, he had almost set the weapons for too deep a run, but was saved by the flooding that had occurred in the previous few minutes. In addition to breaking the battlecruiser’s keel, the triple blow opened the entire aft third of her port side to the ocean. With the audible sound of twisting metal, Hood started to roll onto her beam ends. She never completed the evolution before slipping beneath the waves.
1.) Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
On Seas So Crimson is actually an original take on World War II alternate history, so I guess more the former than the latter. I do try to stick within some alternate history tropes (see killing Hitler), but do it early enough that it would make a difference. I am also not a fan of going with the historical myth that the United States was of course united prior to Pearl Harbor. President Roosevelt faced a great deal of resistance in trying to convince the American people to do what he considered right and necessary, i.e., confronting Nazi Germany. It’s not a spoiler alert (the collection opens with London on fire) to say this resistance would have grown ever stronger in the face of Great Britain’s defeat.
2.) Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
On Seas So Crimson is a collection of the first two novels in the series (Acts of War and Collisions of the Damned). As I’m intending to do a 6 book arc, I’ll probably do this every two books both as a marketing tool and a means for someone to dive right in if they discover this in, say, twenty years or so.
3.) What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I’d say the best money I ever spent as an author has been on J.I. Rodale’s The Synonym Finder. Pretty much a thesaurus on steroids, it has been a great help when trying to avoid repetition.
4.) Do you have anything coming up and can you tell us about it?
I’m currently working on the next book in my Vergassy Chronicles sci-fi universe. Entitled Though Our Hulls Burn…, it’s where I pull a George Lucas and explain the back story to my first novel, An Unproven Concept (but without an overreliance on CGI or bad dialogue). One steady critique of An Unproven Concept was that I basically plop the reader down in the middle of the story. Although people liked the overall novel, a lot of them were annoyed that I referred to “in universe” events in the past tense…then they could not find those events. I guess this goes back to “deliver to readers what they want,” but I’m cleaning up a bit of the back story so that there’s a common frame of reference.
5.) How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
I assume that the reader is going to come to the book with at least a little background. In many ways, that’s demanding a reader at least know some background on World War II and who the major players are. For instance, I should be able to just gloss over the role of Frank Knox and Admiral Earnest J. King in the United States Navy. Likewise, I do not want to slow the story down by giving a treatise on air combat prior to the scene where a major character is about to engage in the same. That’s insulting to those readers who have done their homework, and it also makes it hard to quickly advance the story.
That being said, the first 90-120 pages of On Seas So Crimson stemmed from the fact a fairly knowledgeable beta reader said, “I know that the point of deviation is Adolph Hitler is dead. What I’m having trouble wrapping my head around is how this has definitely affected things.” I figure making it absolutely clear how we all got here is something the writer should do. Also, I cover some aspects of warfare at my blog “The Colfax Den” (vergassy.com) to help folks quickly catch up to speed.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
James Young is a Missouri native who escaped small town life via an appointment to the United States Military Academy. After completing his service in the Army, Mr. Young moved to Kansas to pursue his doctorate in U.S. History. Fiction is his first love, and he is currently the author of the Usurper’s War (alternate history), Vergassy Chronicles (space opera), and Scythefall (apocalyptic fiction) series, all of which are available via Amazon or Createspace. Currently living in the Midwest with his loving, kind, and beautiful spouse, Mr. Young spends his time completing his dissertation while plotting new, interesting ways to torment characters and readers alike. As a non-fiction author, Mr. Young has won the 2016 United States Naval Institute’s Cyberwarfare Essay contest and the U.S. Armor Center’s Draper Award for a battle analysis of the Golan Heights. He has also placed in the James A. Adams Cold War History contest held by the Virginia Military Institute and been published in the Journal of Military History (“The Heights of Ineptitude”).
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James Young will be awarding a 9 x 12 print of the cover painting, "Death of Kongo" signed by the author and the artist Wayne Scarpaci (US ONLY GIVEAWAY) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.