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Summer's finally over and I'm trying to get back into the swing of things. Oath Bound, the fifth Order of the Air book, is off to editing. I'm so pleased with how it came out! I'm working on an outline of a new Stargate Atlantis novella, but it's still in the first stages and hasn't been to MGM yet, so more on that later.

Melissa and I are in the first stages of the sixth Order of the Air book, Fire Season, and it's going to be exciting! Like an episodic tv show, each book tends to focus on particular characters who are getting "their episode." Oath Bound is really a Jerry episode. Fire Season is shaping up to be Stasi and Mitch. And of course all the characters are in it, but who's the focus of the "A plot" shifts. In Oath Bound, the A plot is Jerry and Iskinder and Willi in Alexandria searching for the lost tomb of Alexander the Great, which is very Raiders of the Lost Ark with lots of shivers. Fire Season's A plot is Stasi and Mitch in Los Angeles being film noir detectives. (They both need great hats!)

Someone asked me when the future books would be set, so here's the rundown:

Oath Bound takes place in December 1935 and January 1936, with the epilogue in July 1936, so it's a few months after Wind Raker. Most of the events of Oath Bound actually happened, though not of course to our guys, and we have moved a key fight about a week earlier to fictionalize it. (That's the piece that I'm attaching here.)

Fire Season takes place in July and August 1939, with the events of the last day on September 1. Yes, that's portentous!

Invisible Wars, the one after that, is about a year later, in June 1940. I've been really looking forward to that one because it's the one that will take place on the coast of my native North Carolina. Melissa has been looking forward to it because she finally gets her U-boat!

Ghost Light follows, set in 1941, and Night World in early 1942. After that, tentatively, it's Operation Eagle in the fall of 1942. Ghost Light is mainly in London and various bits of the North Atlantic. Night World is principally in Washington, DC with a side of the Baltic. Operation Eagle is in North Africa.

Someone also asked if we'd be seeing Iskinder again, and if other characters like Willi would be recurring. Yes! Iskinder and Willi are both in Oath Bound. Fire Season will see the return of Henry and his family, as well as one of our big villains from the past. Invisible Wars will bring back not only a villain but also Lorenz and Sommers from Wind Raker. In Ghost Light we'll rejoin Conrad Jezek from the Great Passenger Derby, and in Operation Eagle we'll definitely have more of George Patton from Wind Raker, as well as Willi again.

But! First! It's time for a bit of Oath Bound. This is a pretty non-spoilery bit with Lewis, Mitch, Alma and Iskinder. This is Melissa's beautiful writing, and it's the beginning of a sequence I adore. I've been waiting for five books to see Lewis and Mitch in a dogfight!

“You’re welcome —“ Robinson broke off as the door opened, and another young soldier burst into the room.

“Colonel!” He stopped, his English visibly deserting him, and turned to Asha, nearly shouting. The language didn’t matter, Lewis could hear the fear in his voice.

“A radio message from Gondar, sir,” Asha said. His own voice wavered for just an instant. “They’ve spotted a flight of Italian bombers. Heading our way.”

“The Cat,” Lewis said, sharply, and saw the same fear in Alma’s eyes.

Robinson ignored them. “How far out? And how big a flight?”

Asha repeated the question, and this time the radioman answered in English. “Maybe twenty minutes. Four bombers plus escort.”

Robinson’s face tightened. “Get the Potez on the line — Two and Three, hold number One for me. Pilots — put Ezera and Gedeon in Three, Aman can take Two and pick his gunner.”

“Go,” Asha said, to the radioman, and looked at Robinson. “With permission, sir, I’d like one of the Breugeuets.”

Robinson nodded. “Go ahead.”

Four planes, Lewis thought. Four outdated fighters against the cream of the Italian Air Force, four bombers and an unknown number of fighters. The odds were horrendous.

“Colonel,” Mitch said. “Are you short planes or pilots?”

“Pilots.” Robinson looked toward the door. “This is my training camp, most of the boys here can just about keep themselves in the air.”

“Lewis and I are Great War vets,” Mitch said. “I have seven kills. Lewis has three, and I don’t know how many as an observer.”

Robinson gave them a speculative look. “The Italian planes are better than anything I have. You’ll be taking a huge risk.”

“We know,” Mitch said, with a wry smile. “We just came from an air show in Italy…”

“Our only way out of here is the Cat,” Lewis said. “If we can stop them here —“

“The best we can hope for is to divert them,” Robinson said sharply. “Keep them from tearing the place up so badly we can’t use it. Anything else is gravy. Either of you flown the Potez 25?”

“I have,” Mitch said. He looked at Lewis. “Before you came to Colorado.”

“I’ve flown similar planes,” Lewis said. “Colonel, six is better than four.”

“Seven,” von Rosen said sharply, from the open door. “If there is an attack — Colonel, give me a plane. You know I’m qualified.”

Robinson nodded. “All right. I’ll take all of you, but get this straight. I’m in charge here. If you don’t like it, you’re better off on the ground.”

“Understood,” Mitch said, and Lewis nodded.

Von Rosen dipped his head as well. “Agreed.”

“Colonel,” Iskinder said. “Are there any antiaircraft guns here?”

“We thought we were too far behind the lines,” Robinson answered. “If you want to unload some of those fancy guns you just brought up, feel free, but we’re heading out.”

Lewis caught Alma’s eye and smiled, no time to do anything more, and saw her nod. That was enough, her blessing and benediction, and he followed the others toward the hangar.

Robinson’s men were already hard at work, the first two machines running and ready to taxi, mechanics struggling with the others. As Lewis watched, a nice-looking Breugeut sputtered to life, Asha at the controls, and turned ponderously toward the hangar’s open door.

“Get Four and Five running,” Robinson called.

One of the mechanics waved his hand in answer, and von Rosen took a quick step forward. “The Breda — if I might?”

Robinson nodded. “I don’t have experienced gunners for you, but you can have the men I’ve got.”

Lewis glanced at the nearest Potez 25, saw the forward-mounted machine guns as well as the Lewis gun mounted on the rim of the observer’s cockpit, and shook his head. “I’d rather go alone.”

“Me, too,” Mitch said.

Von Rosen eyed the Breda. “I’ll take a gunner, thanks.”

Robinson gave the necessary orders, and a few moment later Lewis hauled himself into the Potez 25 marked with a single number five on the tail. He glanced quickly around the cockpit, finding the familiar controls: he’d never flown this particular plane, but he’d flown dozens like it; it wouldn’t take him long to get her measure, to know what he could do. At least there was radio, and he settled the headphones snuggly on his head, pulling the goggles down over them. He checked the forward guns, but left the safety on, then signaled for the nearest mechanic to swing the propeller. The engine sputtered and died. The mechanic hauled the prop around again, and this time the engine caught. Lewis adjusted the throttle, testing rudders and flaps, and saw Mitch in number four doing the same.

Robinson’s voice crackled in his ears. “Potez, take off in order starting with Two. Breda, Breuguet, follow Five in that order. Head west on two-niner-zero and be ready to take formation.”

“Roger,” Lewis said, his voice drowned by the others, and advanced the throttle, taking Potez Five out of the hangar. On the bumpy, red-brown taxiway, he eased into line behind Mitch, waiting as the first two planes lifted off. They were quick, bounding into the air, and he began to hope they might be good enough to hold the Italians back. It was Mitch’s turn now, and Lewis watched intently as Mitch turned the little biplane into the wing. This was one of the new designs, with the small lower wing; it was supposed to be more maneuverable, though Lewis hadn’t really noticed the difference. Mitch opened the throttle, Potez Four skittering down the dirt track, tail lifting almost at once. Then he was up and away, banking sharply west into the sun, and Lewis swung into line, opening the throttle. The engine roared, he released the brakes, and Potez Five leaped forward. He checked his instruments, everything in order, and felt the tail come up. He pulled back on the stick, and the little plane rose sweetly into the air. He climbed steeply, a hundred feet, three hundred, and banked onto the ordered heading. He could see the rest of the flight ahead of him, dots strung out in the glassy sky almost obscured by the sun: Robinson already maneuvering to get the advantage. Below, the ground showed broken scrub and fields; the airstrip and the village fell away, and he craned his neck to see north toward Gondar.

“All right, boys,” Robinson said. “We’ve got the sun behind us. Potez Two, Three, Brueguet, form up on me. Potez Four, you take Potez Five and Breda. Let’s go find them.”

Lewis brought Potez Five around in a wide circle and took his place on Mitch’s left wing. He could feel the excitement building, the familiar delight that he hadn’t felt since the War. This time, he could use it, could let it go, and he settled himself more comfortably in the cockpit, scanning the sky ahead. They’d come down on the Italians out of the sun: that was all the advantage they had, but he’d made less work for him before. This time the hound could run.

As a matter of introduction, Colonel Robinson in this scene is the legendary John C. Robinson, known as "the Father of the Tuskegee Airmen".


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 11th, 2015 01:46 am (UTC)

Argh! When is it due out again??
Sep. 11th, 2015 01:04 pm (UTC)
November! Not long now.

I'm so pleased with this book. It may be my favorite yet.
Sep. 11th, 2015 07:46 am (UTC)
Oh, my. I looked at John C. Robinson's entry and saw his picture, with that casual pose in uniform (leather flyer's jacket), and that good-humored, slightly rueful and very knowing smile... !!!

Then I looked at his sweater, and did an image search for a better view of the details, and it seems that some kind of pectoral is embroidered on the sweater! It looks like maybe a lion's head, with wings on each side, wearing some sort of helmet or crown. Very cool.
Sep. 11th, 2015 01:09 pm (UTC)
Robinson is very cool. I love that picture too -- such aviator sass! The aviators of that era just exuded cool.

I think the emblem is the Lion of Ethiopia with wings, yes. Which makes all kinds of sense as an emblem for the new Ethiopian Air Force. He's much better remembered there than here, which is a shame.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )