DARK BISHOP: BOOK SEVEN

Dark Bishop: A bishop which moves on the dark squares.

Turn Up The Heat.  Passion.  Intensity.  Intimacy.  These are the prevailing themes in Dark Bishop, seventh in the Metatron’s Army series.

With much of the foundation laid this longer than usual chapter of Cirhce’s journey focuses on key players 

  • Who and what they are
  • What they bring to the table
  • How they relate to each other
  • Their stake in the game

It quickly becomes evident that regardless of where they stand on the emotion spectrum the common theme binding the characters together is passion

  • For excellence
  • For pursuit of goals
  • For each other

These relationships while passionate are not necessarily romantic.

There are deep friendships and relationships built on respect and loyalty

Like Recognizes Like.  Recognizing this drive – passion – in others establishes a type of trust that allows individuals normally distrustful of one another to work together.

They know passion so they trust tit as a driving force in another, as something they understand.

One Cool Customer.  Being driven by passions does not translate to rash or hasty action.

Education and experience have instilled a sense of responsibility that takes priority over curiosity or a need to be right.  This deepens the trust between Cirhce and the team of allies she is building.

We see Cirhce stepping into the leadership role she’s been working toward

There she was, graduated but grounded, yet knowing that the stunt that landed her in such a situation accomplished far more than shooting down enemies ever could.  She would do it again.

She is put in situations that aren’t necessarily comfortable

“Tell me about sex,” he replied, his expression bland.

Sex? Had she bitten off more than she could chew when she offered to help him build tolerance to emotion and – ultimately – emotion-inspired physical contact? 

She doesn’t back down

“Sex?”  She couldn’t help cringing as visions of being the hotline for Light Being birds and bees questions swam before her.  Maybe I’ll write a report.

We get a glimpse into the unusual world in which she moves, the people in it

“Come in!” Dacan called, unsurprised to see the Tactical instructor.  “What can I do for you, Corus?”

Before he could respond, the sound of smashing glass carried inside.  “I think you need to come.”

“Why?”

Corus jerked a thumb toward Verix’s office.  “Why?  Those two are going to kill each other!”

“I assure you,” the Auspex calmly responded, “there is no danger of that.”

“There’s not going to be anything left of Verix’s office, and he’s about to destroy some of mine,” Corus snapped.

And the unique individuals in it

Christine was unprepared for the fury turned in her direction.  “I am not embarrassed!” he growled, coming to his feet.  “I am poison to anyone and everyone!”  To her shock and dismay, sparks flew from his fingers, danced up his arms.  

She does not back down

“Dacan,” she snapped, exasperated, “knock it off.”  

We see she has come to accept the duality of her existence

It had taken time, not to mention a few harrowing events, but she’d finally come to accept that regardless of where she was raised, she’d been born on Ivar, her destiny to be responsible for the inhabitants of the Ivory Isles, three planets at the edge of the Vetria System.  

She is dealing with a number of growing pains.  Ironically they are not hers so much as those around her who need to accept her as the leader she is.

“Can’t you call me Christine Baker?” she said tiredly.

“You know I cannot, Commander.”

She let out a gusty sigh, wondered if it had been such a good idea to have Corus come with her.  Yes, she was the Commander, and yes, she was born Cirhce of Alsheer, but damn it, that wasn’t who she was to him. 

Throughout this series but particularly in this book I use humor to offset intensity

She became aware they had an audience in the form of Corus and Godzilla.  She wondered, idly, where Alexander was.

“Hiding.”

“I am not!” 

Her mouth twitched.

In the previous books of the series the stage was set.  In Dark Bishop key players take their positions on it.

Excerpt.

“Was the demonstration satisfactory?” he asked as a suction device descended from the ceiling and made quick work of the shards.

“Very,” he managed, eyeing the empty space.  “How -?”  He gestured toward the table.

“It’s a combination of robotics technology,” Christine started, “along with -.”

“I am a sentient being,” the image interrupted in what Corus swore was a tone of indignation.

“Technically,” he added, his expression cool.

Christine dragged a hand down her face.  

“Is that true?” he asked quietly.  “Is he?”

Turning to her love, she decided to be completely frank.  “I don’t know how to answer that, Corus.  My definition of sentient being has changed dramatically since coming to Dynamic.”  Her Sunday School lessons hadn’t prepared her for celestial beings, multiple universes, or energetic cores that could be transplanted like house plants.

PAWN STORM: BOOK SIX

Pawn Storm: A situation arising from opposite-side castling. One, of both players, advance their pawns towards their opponent’s king. This is usually not done on same-side castling, as advancing the pawns in front of one’s own king is generally unsafe.

We’re Gettin’ Serious.  From the outset we see Christine (Cirhce) is in a dark place.  Without those she trusts around her she is forced to be the candle in the dark that projects a light it cannot see and a warmth it cannot feel.  This is essentially the tone of this chapter of the Metatron’s Army series.

It isn’t about overcoming adversity so much as knowing who you are because of it.

There were a number of considerations when deciding the setup of Pawn Storm, sixth in the series.  I chose to intersperse backstory with current perspective in the opening scene.  

Akin to a chess teacher pointing to each piece and explaining what it is, its strengths and weaknesses.

I recognized this could be considered a bit remedial which is why I also explain why each piece is where it is.  

This provides readers with a deeper understanding of Cirhce’s world highlighting unique variables involved with the key players who move in that world.

It is evident by the fact she continues to run events through an Earth filter Cirhce has not come to terms with who she is.  Despite evidence to the contrary she continues to identify as human.  

The bond in question was an energetic connection shared with Light Being Verix Sterling, aka Godzilla.  From what she’d been able to determine, based on research and careful questioning of Alexander Craig – another Light Being – it was a type of soul to soul connection.  

Light Beings were energetic; beings, but so were humans.  Er, Ivarans.  She may have been raised on twentieth century Earth, but she’d been born on twentieth century Ivar, a planet in the Vetria Star

This gives readers insight as to where she is on her journey of transformation.

There’s work to do.

There is a duality in her relationship to those around her.  Even as she seeks their assurance if not validation she refuses to accept what they tell her about who she is.

So, here she was, trying to keep her stomach from heaving, about to buy herself freedom from hell, a soldier who didn’t want to be, an heiress who didn’t want to be, and a vengeance she didn’t know how to be.

I introduce a number of key players in this book.  

And provide deeper insight into those already known.

This gives readers a glimpse at the method to Cirhce’s madness when it comes to how she thinks and strategizes.

There are a number of reveals in Pawn Storm.

Christine dropped the glass, effectively spilling water all over Dacan.  She jumped up, ran for a towel.  It gave her time to think, and she needed to if she was going to avoid passing out.  

Dacan and Alexander watched the Princess fight to stay conscious.  Neither was willing to intervene.  This was an internal struggle only she could win.  

There are a number of decision points.

 “After you complete Advanced Flight Maneuver, you have completed the requirements for graduation.”

“I -.”  Christine shifted.  “Then it’s time I – went on the offensive.”

Including the decision about who she is.

Christine laid her head on his shoulder, stared up.  “I don’t think I can handle any more change right now.”

“Of course you can.”

“You don’t understand.  Every change makes me lose a little more of myself.”

I provide insight regarding the world into which she is being thrust.

“What about my post-graduate assignment?”

“That is being finalized.  I’ll let you know when I have the details.”

“Oh, goodie,” she grumbled.  “Another note.”

I also show that like other key players Cirhce is holding her cards to her chest, working independently even as she is part of a team.

She hadn’t told him about Metatron’s Army.  She shrugged.  “I’m still working out the details but yeah, I have a few thoughts.  It will depend on whether or not I get those other details finalized.”

As I’ve written, Metatron’s Army is about transformation.  Change.  There are a number of ways to demonstrate change.  One I had fun with is a plot device by which characters can measure that change.

Christine followed Verix onto the carpeted elevator.  “Baliss Level please,” she said then stepped over to the side where she could get a better view.

The doors closed silently and the lift moved slowly upward.  Within seconds a view of Sky Harbor appeared through freshly polished glass.  Boats bobbed, birds dived, and cargo ships maneuvered their way to and from the docks.  Same as always.  That wasn’t exactly true.  The activity remained the same.  She had changed.  Numb.  Empty.  The soldier she never wanted to be.

“Baliss Level,” the operator announced when the doors slid apart.

This scene, first used in Zwischenzug appears throughout the series.

The dynamics between characters is highlighted as we see Cirhce’s perspective toward them changing.

She recognizes her friends – fellow grads – as professionals.  

She sees her companions as individuals with unique gifts to contribute.  

This is different than seeing them as fellow students, part of a collective.

She is coming to see herself as being on even footing with senior players and recognizes she has a responsibility to them.

Especially those who invested their time and energy in helping her succeed.

She is put in a number of situations where people are counting on her to make sound judgment calls.

The stakes are higher.

A number of conflicts resulting from hidden motives are coming to light.

There is definitely trouble on the horizon.

Much of this stems from refusal to see where she is on the journey of transformation.  

She has a title and responsibilities but not much in the way of acknowledgment.

 Ironically, the worst offenders are those claiming to support her.

“Christine, I made mistakes in how I handled the news and I’m sorry.  I let my past color my feelings.”

Conflict will continue to build until and unless she takes action

“You’ve taken a lot on your shoulders, Christine.”  He hated to think how much of it he’d put there.

“Like I said, my life is not my own.  There are a lot of people counting on me.”  

Is she in or out?  Her words say she’s in but her actions do not support that.

The journey is far from complete.

Excerpt.

Christine stared at the response on the comm device.  “You have got to be kidding me,” she growled.  “That arrogant -.”  Her head snapped up, eyes zeroing in on the jet assigned to her.  She hadn’t had time to personalize it, was planning to do so after she returned from the graduation ceremony.  Sliding the comm device into a pocket, she stalked toward the jet.  Ignoring Roddy and Corus, who stood near a small group of cadets several feet away, she wheeled steps toward her jet.

“Christine, what are you doing?” Corus called.

“Not now, Corus.”

“What do you mean, not now?  What are you doing?”

“Stay out of my way.”

“Where do you think you’re going, cadet?” he asked as she climbed into the cockpit.

She looked down to where he and Senior Cadet Roddial stood, hands on hips.  “To take care of something.”  She fired up the engines, began preparation for a vertical take-off.

“You are not cleared to leave.”

“Hear that?” she yelled over the roar of the engine.  “That’s my clearance.”  She shut the canopy then lifted into the air.

SIMULTANEOUS DISPLAY: BOOK FIVE

Simultaneous Display: When a master plays a number of opponents at the same time. Usually arranged as a ring of tables, with the master moving round inside, and the opponents outside. Players move when the master arrives at their board, master replies and moves on.

The use of chess terms as part of the naming convention in the MA series was both fun and challenging. 

I explain how I came up with Metatron’s Army in Lessons From The Edge: An Author’s Guide to Metatron’s Army.

I always waited until a book was finished before combing through a list of chess terms and selecting what I felt best fit a particular chapter of Cirhce’s life.  

Finding a term for the book trailers was even more difficult making it more rewarding when I succeeded!

The plot of Simultaneous Display perfectly matches the term in that Cirhce is the master being challenged by several opponents on multiple boards, including characters just making an appearance in the series.

The boards are multiple planets in multiple universes.  

Readers are immediately drawn into the emotions and perceptions of these other characters as they take her measure.  

“I do not disagree that you benefitted from the therapeutic touch.  I disagree with your choice of therapist.”

“You told me to establish diplomatic relations, Alexander.  You never told me how to do it.” 

In keeping Cirhce as the master moving between them, readers get a view of these worlds from her perspective as well as that of characters in those worlds who are challenging her.

In this context challenging: is providing information and experiences that will help her achieve goals that are still coming to light.

Just as pieces on a chess board are contrasted through color in this chapter I draw attention to significant differences between Cirhce and the characters challenging her.  Especially, the Light Beings.  Their stoic nature is a contrast to her passion.  Highlighting this allows readers to get an idea how things got to this point.

The Light Beings have been without emotion so long they’ve lost critical thinking skills.  

While I draw attention to specific emotions such as love, subtle emotions have as much if not more of an impact on the situation.  

Curiosity for instance.

In no longer feeling curiosity, Light Beings have become immune to the wonder and mystery of the universe.  Mediocrity has become a way of life, one that destroys the spirit.

As with the other books in the series there is a focus on Cirhce’s transition through change.   I accomplish  this by showing that it isn’t only she who changes.  Other characters and environments she is familiar with are also changing.

“Seeing Shane – it brought home just how far from normal my life has skewed.  In a way, it was like looking in a mirror and not recognizing myself.”

“That I don’t understand.”

“We come to know ourselves, in part, by the way others view us.  Watching Shane’s eyes, seeing him search my face for signs that the Christine he once knew was still there – it was painful because on some level I was hoping she was.”

Though she is growing and reaping the benefits of overcoming adversity, she still relies on outside validation of her identity.

“Then I was kidnapped by a lunatic, tortured, shown multiple universes, and my life continued going sideways from there.  I guess I was hoping some part of me survived all of that.”

“It would be unrealistic to expect not to change, Princess.  Even had you remained on Earth, you would have had experiences that brought about change.”

The dynamics of the characters go through serious changes in this book.  Though they build on previous experiences each begins an evolution that will ultimately isolate them even as it solidifies the need to work together.

There are several major turning points in Simultaneous Display, the most significant being Cirhce’s transition to an entirely new level of  leadership.  She is stepping into her role on her terms – the ultimate measure of success in transition.

“I need to make two more stops before returning to Eol.  Will you go with me?”  She smirked.  “I suggest you cooperate with me.  For all I know, one of those tools I inherited will enable me to open doorways myself.  I’d much rather work with you than find a way around you.”  Her eyes burned fierce.  She could feel it just as she could feel it when they were no longer blue.  “I will go around you if I think it’s the right thing to do and I will cut you out.”  Especially, if it would keep them safe.  “But I would much rather have you on my side.”

And yet she continues to rely on outside validation.

“I don’t think I can.”

“This from the woman who faced down the Council?  I think you have more discipline than you credit yourself.”

Obviously, there’s more work to do.

Excerpt.

“Hello, Councilors,” she began, her voice metallic.  “I think it’s about time we got a few things straight, don’t you?”

As desperately as she wanted to savor the moment, savor the looks of astonishment she’d elicited from the stoic brats, she forged ahead.  “So, how are we going to do this, killing the Iconoclast?  I’m the Commander and there’s a lot of work to do but first, we should probably iron out a few important details.  Such as how you want me to interact with the Light Beings.”  And how they expected her to interact with them.

“What -?”

She held up a hand to stop Council Vetria’s question and turned her head to the right, addressed the Councilor sitting next to Balen.  “I wouldn’t, Councilor Sartus.  I don’t think you’ll like the consequences.”  She looked back at Councilor Vetria.  “He was going to try to incapacitate me.  I do believe he thinks to put me in my place.”  She laughed, the metallic quality making it sound like something from a horror film.  “I am in my place, though, aren’t I?”

She swept the Council with a quicksilver gaze.  “You can’t always predict Mother Nature.  You could certainly never have predicted what that Light Being DNA would do.  Shall we try and find out?  Shall I unleash what I really am?”

POSITIONAL PLAY: BOOK FOUR

Positional Play:  Play dominated by long-term maneuvering not short-term attacks and threats. It needs judgement more than calculation. The term is contrasted with tactics.

Adversity builds character.  Positional Play, fourth in the Metatron’s Army series, builds on the momentum of the previous books where experiences – good and bad – provide the foundation for Cirhce’s journey if not her identity.   In electing to pace the series so that readers get to see what goes into the making of a Commander I needed to choose my tools wisely.  To that end I decided to use education and life experience as the primary methods by which she gains the knowledge and skills she needs, though the giving of information is also a method; one that required careful planning.

In this chapter we see Cirhce is beginning to feel powerful and capable.  

“You’re being awfully cooperative,” the Energy Seer remarked as he handed her a boarding pass.

“I’m humoring you,” she replied flatly.

However, due to lack of confidence, she continues looking for validation not from within but from those around her.

Another Piece Of The Puzzle.  Though information is gained through education – the classes she takes at the academy – it is often provided by supporting characters.

The Light Beings in particular.

I needed to consider the way by which the information would be imparted.  If a character simply gave it away they would be cheating Cirhce of the benefits associated with figuring it out for herself.  This was of particular concern since she needs to draw her own conclusions not simply adopt those of whomever was passing the information along.

Their experiences are different which means their perspective if not their motivations are different.

Were they to tell her how to feel about the information, what to do with it, they would deprive her of an opportunity for growth.  

I needed to concern myself with the pace at which the information was provided.  

As Alexander likes to say, All in Good Time.

While some lessons could be learned simultaneously, it was imperative I drive the pacing so lessons were learned sequentially, building one upon another.  This provides a better opportunity for Cirhce to truly absorb the information in order to integrate it more completely.

Critical for building reasoning skills.

There was also the consideration that those imparting the information, while ostensibly working together, are also working independently, motivated by individual motives and goals.

Motives and goals driven by emotion, passion.

 For the Reader.  I wanted readers to experience the worlds Christine (nee Cirhce) visits through her eyes. 

Though the geology was similar to what she would have seen in the American Southwest, the rock color was different.  In addition to reds, greens, and yellows that represented iron, copper, and other minerals, there were blues interspersed with black.  She guessed whatever minerals were in the Solan soils were very hard, with low flash points.

I delve into what it means to be an energy being symbiotically connected to other energy beings as well as environments that intrinsically give off and absorb energy.  I highlight the unique nature of Christine’s relationship with the beings tasked with protecting her.

Ever since the rescue, members of the Inner Sphere had been experiencing more fluctuations than what was normal or, acceptable.  That the most violent fluctuations happened in her presence was no coincidence.  They were harmonizing to her as she was to them. 

I use various plot devices to draw the reader into the world of Dynamic.  One of my favorites is the nondescript door.

  • Stepping off the elevator, third year cadet Christine Baker walked toward a nondescript door and wondered, briefly, why there were no nameplates on any of the offices.  
  • Paper in hand, third year Cadet Chestin Coust stepped forward and knocked on the nondescript door.
  • Alexander gave a quick knock before opening the nondescript door.  
  • Corus rapped his knuckles against the nondescript door.

I worked to have a connection between reader and character.

Readers have information she may not and yet…

“Things are not always what they seem, Princess.”

That was the truth.  The deeper she got into the morass, the more manipulated she felt.  She shrugged.  “I’ve been going along with it because I had nothing better to do but I’ll admit, I’m losing patience with the whole All in good time mantra.”

Humor takes the stage throughout the book.

Particularly dry humor.

“Remember what I told you, Princess.”

“I said get out of my head, Alexander!”

That message was accompanied by a gesture.

“Vulgarity does not become you.”

“You haven’t begun to see vulgarity.  Get – out – of – my – head!”

I give readers a glimpse into Cirhce’s unique struggles.

“And they also couldn’t be bothered, apparently, to tell you that I was completely unaware of this until a few months before starting at the Academy.”

“No, they didn’t tell me that either.”

“We felt the less he knew, the safer he was,” Alexander explained.

Christine sighed.  The pest in her mind was giving a whole new meaning to romantic triangle.

“If you only knew.”

Her mouth dropped open.  A joke?  Alexander?!  The worlds would spin backward next.  She took a sip of water, made an effort not to choke on it.  “I’m sure they had their reasons,” she managed.

For the excerpt, I selected a passage I believe exemplifies this stage of Cirhce’s transition as described above.

Excerpt.

“By returning to the very place you were attacked you are providing important clues about who you are.”

“A fool?”

“Do not say that about yourself!”

She frowned at his back.  “Can you let go of my hand?”

“Will you follow?”

“Maybe.”

He stopped, turned to face her.

“You need to understand something, Verix.  I’m in charge of me, not you.  By allowing you to think you are, I’m humoring you.  Never forget,” she said, folding her arms over her chest when he let go of her, “I have the final say.”  Unless he was capable of mind control, which she doubted.  Even then, something told her he wouldn’t push her if she truly refused to go along.  Or, maybe he would.  Look where they were.

“Why would I harm you?”

“Maybe the better question is, why would you help me?”

ZWISCHENZUG: BOOK THREE

Zwischenzug:  An “in between move”, where a player, instead of playing the expected move, first inserts a move which the opponent must answer, before making the expected move.

The Plot Thickens.  That’s the phrase that comes to mind when describing Zwischenzug, third in the Metatron’s Army series. Like when playing a game of chess I spent a great deal of time considering each book as a separate move to put pieces in place laying the foundation for the overall story.  This allows readers to study each move independently and consider how things may play out.

 In this chapter of Cirhce’s story I  introduce players who are and have been working behind the scenes in her life.  Much of the story is told through their eyes which highlights motivations that aren’t always clear.  This allows readers to make up their own minds about what may be going on.

To say things are not always what they seem is an understatement.

Adversity continues to play a significant role in Cirhce’s education through life experience world.  We see this approach having a positive impact as evidenced by this moment of self-reflection:

Rather than following, she led the way, unable to avoid feeling a bit smug.  The first few times she’d felt so turned around, so lost.  Now she was leading the way.  

The tone of this book is different than others in the series.  This was done to draw attention to where the characters are in their development – as individuals who have a duty to fulfill as well as co-conspirators who have hidden motivations.  

Zwischenzug is one of the longer books in the series.  While there is a lot going on it was the need to focus on the supporting cast that drove this approach.  Especially the Light Beings.

 Their physiology, their abilities, and their vulnerabilities.

I will share that key pieces are now in place.  How things evolve from here is a direct result of the setup to this point.

Excerpt.

 “But we are together.  I am here, with you.”

She laughed.  “I meant together, ya know?”  Realizing he didn’t, she huffed.  “He thought you were my boyfriend, that we had a relationship.”

“I understand.”

“He offered to buy me a drink but I told him I needed to get back to my friend.”

He didn’t reply.

“Friend?”

“I heard you, Princess.  We are not friends.”

“Are we enemies?”

“We are not.”

“Then what are we, may I ask?”

“I am tasked with protecting you and ensuring you get the education and experience you need -.”

She held up a hand.  “Please, no destiny talk.  If you go there I may just go find that guy and take him up on his offer.”