My prequel novel is live on Amazon. I expect to get some, "Why did you take the time to write this when we already know what happens?" from those that have read my books. I don't know. I started it for fun, and I couldn't stop, and it turned into its own book. I got it edited and had a cover made and well, I like it.
It's always a bit disconcerting to push publish on another book, because while I always expect confetti to fall from the sky, it doesn't. (I did have my 5:00 wine at 3:45!) It's Star Wars day. Two of my favorite bands, My Morning Jacket and Mumford and Sons, released new albums. It felt like it should have been a holiday, but it wasn't. My friends and family don't understand my anxiety and that's okay. Life goes on and all there is to do is start the next book. So I have. Sort of.
First, I had to do some dreaded begging on social media for people to buy my book. Some did and I'm eternally grateful.
I made this to put on Instagram.
You're allowed to laugh. I did.
I wrote about five sentences on my next book.
I Googled titles for enlisted rank in the U.S. Navy. Got confused. Panicked I might have used a wrong term in an already published book. Decided it was probably okay.
Got this picture from my mom, rubbing it in that she lives at the beach and I don't.
And this is what I ended up with--a very rough draft of the first scene of Sun and Saltwater. It gets a spell check and that's all. (Incidentally, I'll be posting scenes as I write them. Kind of a live writing type thing. It's supposed to help with productivity.) Again, you're allowed to laugh. This will get messed with and tweaked a billion times before I'm done. My goal is to get the bare bones down in 30 days and spend the next 30 days filling it in and cleaning it up.
Must. Write. Faster.
(obviously there be spoilers here of you haven't read any of my other books)
I was sitting at one of the tables at Pirates watching Jamie try not to squirm in his seat out of the corner of my eye. This was his coming out/welcome back from the dead/team reunion party all rolled into one.
Donovan and Tate, two of Jamie’s former teammates were sitting at the bar along with the usual suspects, Jeb, Dylan, and Cree, waiting for the press conference with General ? that would officially introduce Jamie, and us too I guess, to the world to start.
“Here it is.” Donovan reached for the remote to the televisions mounted in the corner over the bar and turned the volume up.
“General [don't know his name yet] How exactly has our government succeeded in keeping a whole sub-species of human a secret for so long?”
“We haven’t been keeping secrets. What this government has done is work for decades to protect a segment of its population that may be open to unwarranted scrutiny and bias. Government officials, both local and federal, along with this community of people wanted to be sure the population of this region, of the world were ready, and we agree that they are.”
“Does this sub-species have a name? What exactly do we call them?”
The tilt of the general’s lips was indulgent. “I think human works fine. We don’t see the need to assign labels. I assure you, these people are just like you and me. They have families. They have jobs. They pay taxes. They simply have biological needs you and I don’t. A need to breathe water. Scientifically it’s quite remarkable. In the coming days and weeks you’ll be privy to some of these scientific observations as the information becomes declassified.”
“You’ve recently admitted these people have been integrated into specific military units, working along side some of our servicemen. How are they being accepted as part of our military?”
“In anticipation of such a question, I’ll let one of those servicemen answer for himself.”
The screen cut to a recorded interview with Donovan recounting his days of training with Jamie. Donovan sat forward in his chair, shushing us with a wave of his arm. “Quiet guys. This is my fifteen minutes.”
For the duration of the two minute video, Donovan sang Jamie’s praises. Made him sound normal. Made him sound loyal. Credited him for saving his life once in a training accident, concluding with a direct appeal aimed straight at the camera. “There’s not another man I’d rather have at my back. I probably wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for Petty Officer Jacobs. This country is lucky to have him.”
Tate pretended to wipe his eyes. “Shit, Donovan, you’re breaking my heart.”
“I meant it, Jamie. Every word they wrote for me. Except that last bit. That came right from here.” Donovan thumped the right side of his chest with his fist. Jamie threw a hushpuppy at him, which Donovan snagged out of the air and stuffed into his mouth.
As soon as the video was over a picture of Jamie popped up in the right-hand corner of the screen—his official television debut. The room erupted in loud hoots and hollers. Even Jamie smiled and we clinked our beers together. I’d been on the beach with him when he’d posed for this particular picture. It was one of hundreds they’d taken. Dressed in a pair of fatigues, his t-shirt was skin tight and deep blue, displaying his impressive physique to perfection. They hadn’t attempted to camouflage the blue stripe crossing Jamie’s face. This whole press conference was a full embracement of Jamie and what he was, what we were. The idea was to play to people’s imaginations. He looked like the hero on a movie poster, or a book cover, or a recruitment ad for the Navy. He was the epitome of badass. The new “America’s Navy” evidently included another species of human and they were milking Jamie for all he was worth.
He was a super soldier. Who didn’t love a super soldier?
Behind General ?’s press secretary A video clip of Jamie going through a workout on the beach was playing. His shirt was off, and on camera those patches of blue-green skin left by his time in the Deep looked like tattoos, which only added to his badassness. He was carrying the load of a whole team of men on his back, but he was sweating, and grunting, and breathing heavy, and though he was obviously strong as shit, he was showing just enough weakness to make him relatable. He didn’t look scary. He looked inspiring. Hell, I was about to enlist myself.
The questions continued; carefully selected questions with carefully selected answers with just enough antagonism and suspicion from those asking that it didn’t look and sound like a total snow job.
And if social media was any indication the public was buying the image they’d created hook, line, and sinker. Live tweets were running across the bottom of the screen, documenting the world’s reaction. Maybe the modern world needed a super hero after all.
Cree had his phone in his hands, monitoring #waterbreather. Jamie was going viral. And he hated every minute of it. He wasn’t even watching anymore. He’d gotten up from his stool and punched the mute button on the remote control.
“Dude. Some girl is offering to bl-“
“Shut up, Cree.” Jamie tossed the remote on the bar, signaling Joe for another beer.
I glared at Cree. The topic of girls, even in a generic sense, were taboo right now. And as hard as it was for me not to mention Erin, Jamie’s ex-wife, she was taboo too. Jamie had received his divorce papers earlier in the week. I’d sat beside him as he’d signed them. Drank with him afterwards though I was the only one that ended up wasted.
Cree laughed, scrolling over his screen. “A marriage proposal from a Lauren. Natalie from Australia wants to have your babies.”
Cree kept talking and I not-so-patiently waited for the storm of Jamie’s anger.
“Some blowhard is calling you a right-winged conspiracy publicity stunt. The meatheads are out in force wanting to know your workout routine and what kind of supplements you take.”
“Cree. Really. Shut the hell up,” Jamie said, the irritation clear on his face. And I meant that literally. That stroke of blue skin grew a little darker and the texture of it seemed to waver making it look like the ripple in a pool. It was subtle but unmistakable. Cree put his phone down.
The workout question had been highly anticipated and hoped for. It was exactly the angle Jamie’s handlers were hoping would strike a cord with the public. Jamie already had a website up with his daily workout routine. He’d gained 2,000 followers, most of them in one branch of the service or the other, and the website had only gone live this morning. Whoever Marshall had hired to handle PR was a genius. This coming out of the closet stuff just might work to our advantage.
“So you think this is going to help us get laid?”
“Seriously?” I asked, my beer suspended halfway to my mouth.
“All I know is, at Flounders last night when I mentioned to this chick that I knew Jamie and was on his team before, she practically dragged me out of the bar. True story.”
Dylan and I exchanged a look. We were the only two not elated by this news. We both had girlfriends. Very beautiful, exotic, otherworldly girlfriends, and if the appeal worked both ways, as I knew it would, I pitied any dude who even hinted at offering to give or receive sexual favors from Caris or Quinn.
God, I suddenly missed Caris so bad. Since Jamie’s return and his subsequent break-up with Erin, I’d felt the need to spend most of my time with him. This guys’ night was just another in a long string of distractions I’d been throwing in front of Jamie. Couldn’t say it was working much. I knew he was still miserable without Erin.
“Wait. What happened?” Cree sat up in his chair, his eyes focused on the television. The twitter feed had stopped. He snatched his phone off of the table checking the screen then turned a stunned expression on Jamie. “You broke it. You broke the internet.”
About that time, Athen Kelley walked up the back steps and the whole dynamic in the room changed. The air always felt different when Athen was around, more combustible. You put Jamie and Athen in the same space and it felt like the air was on the verge of catching fire. Like don’t strike a match. Don’t even sneeze.
The tribe had been looking to Athen for the last few months as our unacknowledged, undisputed leader. I wondered if that was going to change now that Jamie was back and he was well… what he was. Jamie had been touched by the Deep in ways none of us had ever experienced. She’d marked him, and I knew I wasn't the only one who responded to his dominance. I’d follow Jamie, bow to his leadership. Problem was, I’d follow Athen too.
Athen inclined his head to the room, pausing for a second to watch the television screen. It looked as if the press conference was winding down. Athen stopped by Jamie’s chair and something in my chest thrilled to the sight of them together.
“Can I talk to you two a minute?” Athen said, casting a quick glance at Donovan and Tate. “Alone.”
Jamie sprang from his chair as if he’d been waiting for an excuse to get out of here. I was just happy for the inclusion into what appeared to be a super secret meeting. I left my beer on the table and bounded after them.
“You sure about all this?” Athen asked when we were on the beach and out of earshot of Pirates. “This is quite a circus Marshall is creating.”
If Jamie had any regrets about the tactic that had been employed, it was too late now. Jamie inhaled, lifting his hands to the back of his head. He never seemed at ease unless he was on the beach or in the Deep.
“What’s on your mind?” Jamie dropped his arms and faced Athen, a wariness in his expression.
“Tribe business. The first order of which is Sol.”
The three of us, with the exception of Caris, were the only ones who knew Sol was responsible for the explosion that had nearly killed Jamie. Just thinking about it made my blood boil. I hadn’t seen Sol since that morning on his boat when he’d confessed and that was fine by me. Even with Jamie alive, I didn’t trust myself not kill him. Jamie remained tight-lipped about the incident. He’d collaborated Sol’s story that he hadn’t known Jamie would be on the boat that day, that he’d tried to help him, but other than that Jamie had kept silent on the subject, especially since the day he’d had a confrontation with Carl Rogen and ended up in the Facility with an infection from a knife wound. Something was going on, and I was trying not get impatient waiting for Jamie to decide to confide in me.
“What do you propose?” Jamie asked.
“A hearing. In front of his peers. We let the tribe decide how he should be punished.”
“Are you okay with that?”
A hearing would mean the whole tribe would learn the truth. Punishments usually meant pain and lot’s of it. I tried my best not to look too eager, but the thought of Sol at the mercy of the tribe was enough to make my heart race.
“I don’t see that I have a choice. Whatever his reasons, he has to face the consequences of his actions. It’s only fair to the tribe. And to you.”
Athen wasn’t just spinning his wheels when he talked about facing consequences. He’d done things. Hurt people. Including raping a girl he’d claimed to love. And he’d done his penance, done his time. It had taken a while, but he’d regained the respect of the tribe, mine included. Not to mention he was my girlfriend's father.
“You don’t think calling an official hearing is extreme? We can handle this quietly if you prefer,” Jamie said.
Kind of stuck up my craw to hear Jamie actually defending Sol. He almost sounded like he’d forgiven him for nearly blowing him to hell.
“And then he sat on the knowledge of what happened for almost two years. I never would have let Flores back into our waters if I had known."
At the mention of Sterling Flores, something happened to Jamie—that indefinable shift in the air mass surrounding us that I was growing to expect. When those marks on his skin would pulse and he seemed anything but human. And just as fast, Jamie gathered himself, reining in all that energy, and he was Jamie again—a bigger and badder version, but still just Jamie.
"Unfortunately, Sol’s been MIA since that morning.” Athen shot me a disgruntled look as though it were my fault Sol hadn’t shown his face around here for weeks. I guess it was. I’d made it no secret that I wanted to kill him. “I’d like to get this settled and behind us, which leads to the other business. There are some calling for a formal gathering to discuss how to best deal with all of the sudden attention on our species."
"And you feel like we need our own house in order before we face the hostilities of a gathering. I'm assuming you want to participate."
"Yes. I don't think we have a choice anymore."
I didn't know how Jamie did it, made the air go frigid with a stare. "I don't either. You know where Sol is?”
I stifled a groan.
“I could guess, but I don’t know for sure,” Athen said before shifting his eyes on me. They were both looking at me expectantly.