Production Notes: Wild Space: Onslaught

What are production notes?

Think of production notes as the “behind the scenes” features found on DVD’s. This is where I go back and talk about the characters and break down each chapter to explain why I write the things I write in my books. I’ll also load these production notes down with insider information into some of the trivial Easter eggs that I hide within my writing.

So, with no further ado, here are the production notes for Wild Space: Onslaught.

WARNING: The production notes are filled with spoilers from this book and others in the series. If you haven’t read the book yet, please read it before going on. You’ve been warned…

Character Profiles:

If you read the reviews from my previous works, you’ll often find people mentioning that my characters seem one dimensional. In some ways they are – but it’s intentional.

I view my characters as being similar to real life. When you first meet someone, you don’t truly know them. You form an opinion based off of that first impression, but that is all you really know about them. As time goes on, you get to know these people and begin to see the many different layers that they have.

That is the way my characters are written. Maybe that’s not a good thing, but that’s how I write. I introduce them very loosely and then develop them over the course of a series. We get to discover their many different layers over time. We also see them change due to major events.

With that in mind, let me introduce you to a few of the characters from the first book.

Captain John Avery: Captain Avery is not like your typical Captain Kirk or Malcolm Reynolds. He is a family man first as displayed by the fact that he left star fleet to take care of his dying wife. He does have a very strong love for being up in the stars, but at what cost? His character is going to evolve quite a bit as the first series continues on. Where it takes him I’m not sure of yet. But imagine having your only child on a ship with you and knowing that she is a heartbeat away from dying because you made a tactical error. That is the premise that will determine his growth as the series continues on.

Commander Michael Reid: Star Trek: Enterprise fans have no doubt already noticed the similarities of the First Officer of my ship and the tactical officer of the original Enterprise NX-01. I loved the Malcolm Reid character in the television series and so loosely, I based Michael Reid off of him. He has inherited the tactical knowledge of Malcolm. He has his level head and grit. He also has a charm about him that will develop as the series goes on. He’s got clear goals of one day being a captain in the fleet but I made sure that his eagerness doesn’t make him overconfident and dangerous. Michael will be a smart balance with the Captain Avery as the series develops.

Lieutenant Kelly Avery: The Captain’s daughter is in for more than she bargained for in this series. Her dad invited her to get her doctrine by serving in the field on his vessel with Dr. Douglass (one of the best surgeons in the fleet.) That training is cut short by his death during the onslaught and now Kelly must figure this all out on her own. The first book doesn’t really allow readers to get to know her, but she is going to be a very brave and powerful character in this series as it moves forward. I know readers are going to love her as we move on.

Commander Neil Hammond: Neil doesn’t live long in this book. When I first drafted the series, he didn’t die. But to crank up the risk, I allowed him to die. Unfortunately, he was one of my favorite characters to write. I kind of had something going with him as I put him on paper, but I had made my decision already. Someone needed to die to set the premise that Wild Space was indeed dangerous. I chose poor Commander Hammond to be that red shirt. And I miss him so much.

He’s off the cuff. He’s not your typical officer. He speaks raw and he thinks dynamic. He’s a genius kid trapped in a young man’s body. He’s cocky but can back it up with his actions. I would have loved to see what he would have become over time, but alas – we’ll never know.

Chapter by Chapter Breakdown

The first book in the series introduces us to all of the characters and sets us on the road to what Wild Space will be all about. In truth, the first series will be about the evolution of these characters over time. This book is an introduction to everyone and puts them in their dire situation.

As I look back on Onslaught, my biggest regret is not bringing this book to a more complete conclusion. It felt rushed. I kind of stopped it abruptly and I wish I hadn’t. I think just bringing it all to an end the way I did probably left readers feeling a bit cheated and I’m sorry about doing that.

This first book was inspired by one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise – Azati Prime. In this episode the Enterprise is attacked and is nearly destroyed. The crew is helpless to fight off the onslaught. As the only star ship of its kind, nobody is coming to its rescue. It’s that sort of hopelessness that I wanted to capture in Wild Space: Onslaught.

CHAPTER 1: Because this was my first short story, I knew I needed to get right to the point. I couldn’t do set up work right away. Instead I did the setup though flashbacks. For this chapter we meet Captain Avery and we see that there is nothing he can do to stop the oncoming destruction. I wanted to create a sense of hopelessness. I wanted readers to feel that there was no way out of this disaster. When John is knocked out at the end of the chapter, I wanted to leave readers wondering if the flashbacks were the last visions he saw before death or something else.

CHAPTER 2: We fall back 9 months earlier. Captain Avery is just returning from a simple mission. We learn a bit about his backstory and then introduce Ensign Markson as well. She is a character that I will go more in depth with in future production notes because she is someone who is going to be pivotal in Captain John Avery’s growth.

I also introduce Admiral Goodrich to the scene. The Admiral is the last relic from John’s past and helps me connect John with his families legacy – his father’s legacy to be exact. John learns that he will be the captain of the newest ship to bear the name Independence. His father happened to command the last Independence and went down with his vessel.

Finally we meet Marvin Kent. Marvin comes from a rich family. His mother and father had worked together to build their fortune supplying weapons, ships, and equipment to other planets. Kent is a chip off the old block. His Deep Space Drive engine is what drives the Independence and makes it possible to travel to Wild Space in 6 months instead of 20 years.

TRIVIA: In case you missed it, each chapter that contains a flashback that ends with some sort of statement that signifies that the characters are excited about the future. I then open the next chapter with them being in grave peril. Isn’t that the way life can sometimes be? We have visions of grandeur and we get the dirty end of the lollipop instead?

CHAPTER 3: Marvin is a civilian contractor. He’s a genius but by no means a Star Fleet officer. Marvin is put into a life or death situation. He has the heart to want to save people but he doesn’t have the courage. Now this isn’t a statement against civilian heroes – there are many heroes in the civilian world. This is a statement that not all of us are cut out to be one.

It takes a special kind of hero to be willing to override that instinct to survive and instead rush into danger. Marvin tries to override that instinct but he sees a lost cause and makes the decision to survive. This single event will scar Marvin for life. He didn’t sign on to make life and death decisions. He signed on to see his baby completed and then study what he has done and improve upon it with the next model. Instead, he watches in horror as people die because of his decision. We’ll see how he deals with that in the coming books.

CHAPTER 4: Now we meet the Captain’s daughter. Kelly is taking after her mother and becoming a doctor. We learn more about John’s background through this one on one with his daughter. We learn that he puts family above all else. He left Star Fleet to go home and take care of his ailing wife. Once she passes away, he stays home and gets Kelly off to college before finally rejoining Star Fleet.

I wanted to take this moment and show what family means to John Avery. We have so many captains depicted in science fiction but rarely do we see how they interact with family. Often they have unhealthy relationships with their children. Kirk’s son never knew him until Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. Picard regrets never having a family as we see during his time in the Nexus in Star Trek Generations.

With Captain John Avery, I wanted a man who was very much a family man and yet balanced his career with family obligations. He even sacrificed his career to be with family when they needed him most. That is important to me. I wanted John to be a very honorable man and I think his commitment to being a father and a husband is important. That is the real message I am trying to convey in this chapter.

TRIVIA: When I first outlined this series, Kelly was actually going to be a love interest for Captain Avery. Instead, I came up with the crazy idea of having his daughter join him on this mission.

CHAPTER 5: And now we see Kelly’s world shattered. This was supposed to be an educational voyage for her and instead she becomes the new chief surgeon in a matter of minutes. Kelly is going to go through the School of Hard Knocks as she learns to become a doctor.

Though if you’ve read Reclamation, you’ll learn that she still has some help in the form of the Emergency Holographic Medical Procedure program. Realistically I can’t have her be a Chief Medical Officer with only a college education. There’s no way anyone could do this job with that little of an education. We’ll get to talk about that in my production notes for Reclamation.

TRIVIA: For those who have read Reclamation and Sedition, yes, the unnamed man at the end of Chapter 5 is indeed Lieutenant Travis David.

CHAPTER 6: So here we meet Neil Hammond. As I outlined the series, I always intended for him to die so Marvin could be elevated to Chief Engineer. I felt I needed a character to perish in the onslaught if I was going to ratchet up the tension and make people worry about characters they may have already started to enjoy. Therefore, I picked Neil to die because as you are all figuring out as you’ve read along in the series, there’s more to the mission of Independence than was once thought.

Unfortunately, as I wrote Neil Hammond, I fell in love with his swagger. I liked the rhythm of his speech and the words he used. He’s loose and cool. He kind of became Trip Tucker from Star Trek: Enterprise (so maybe it’s best I did kill him off so I don’t get sued by Paramount).

I especially loved Neil’s line of: “I could Jerry rig the snot out of that thing if I had too.” He says that in an interview. I loved it!

CHAPTER 7: Now we come to Neil’s death scene. We see his courage under fire. He’s calm and collective and he’s the complete opposite of Marvin.  In Reclamation, people don’t see the leader in Marvin that they saw in Hammond. People know when they have a true leader before them and a fake. We see what a real leader Hammond was in this scene. While Marvin does all he can to survive, Neil walks into the face of danger and rescues everyone he can. And when all the chips are down, he sacrifices his life for the good of the many.

Would Marvin had done that? I’m thinking no.

TRIVIA: Because I fell in love with Neil Hammond, I considered introducing a different character to kill off. I nearly created a wife for him with the intention of having her die in his place, but in the end, I didn’t think it had the same shock value. Plus, if I would have killed off his wife, Neil would have changed and I doubt it would have been for the better. Alas, Neil Hammond had to die.

CHAPTER 8: Gretchen Markson is another interesting character to me. As I wrote out my outline for the series, I imagined her to be older and a love interest for Captain Avery. At one point I was going to have a love triangle develop between John, my original version of Kelly, and Gretchen. Then I made the decision to have Kelly be his daughter and I made Gretchen younger.

I wanted to put a little tension between her and Captain Avery and so Gretchen does appear to be flirting with John and John feels some sort of attraction to her. I begin to develop this relationship in Onslaught, advance it along in Reclamation and then bring it to a head in Sedition.

I also introduced a second character in this chapter. It’s time to meet Lieutenant Michael Reid. Michael has a dream of commanding his own star ship and so he desires to be the First Officer on Independence. John has already chosen a First Officer so he has to convince Michael that he needs to take the opportunity before him.

CHAPTER 9: Due to the planned length of the book, chapter nine begins to pull everything together. It begins just after the power goes out. We get to see Lieutenant Reid in action as he works in a darkened room to rescue a knocked out captain and figure out what is still serviceable on the ship.

This is the first chapter in this book where two characters who are introduced in flashback scenes, work together during the onslaught. Here we bring Michael and Gretchen together to work towards stabilizing the ship. Soon after, Captain Avery comes through and now three of the main characters are working together. I did all of this intentionally as I wanted all of the characters to seem independent of one another to begin. Now in Chapter 9, the realization of their situation will force them to begin joining together as one team to survive.

TRIVIA: Originally Michael Reid was the Commander of Independence. At the last minute, I changed it up and created Commander Madsen. I wanted to create the irony we all experience in the world. Sometimes we desire something for ourselves and we seek it but it doesn’t work out as we planned. Instead, fate steps in and we get what we want but through events not of our own making. I’ve always found that is often how God works in our lives. It’s what happened in this turn of events. Reid is a commander but not by his doing. He gave up his ambition to be a commander and took a lesser role. Now he’s become a commander because of the onslaught.

CHAPTER 10: Up to this point the attack seemed like it came from nowhere. As John and Michael are digging their way through the ship to take inventory of what they still have, we get a quick flashback to the warning John received from Cho Fen on the planet of Jokuu.

He knew of the Imperial aggression in Wild Space but he didn’t take it serious. John will struggle with this issue in Reclamation. And just when he starts to come to grips with this failure, John learns about a secret plot that turns his world upside down in Sedition.

Be watching for those books and notes on my website. Be sure to subscribe to my eNewsletter so you don’t miss my next Production Notes post. Also, be sure to check out Space Port One, the official homepage for everything Wild Space!

Until next time!