Today I bring you an author I’ve met in Twitter. Jon Fletcher has a very interesting life (that he’ll tell us a bit about later) and he’s real fun to follow. With another Twitter friend, Olivia, we’ve shared all kinds of slightly off-the-wall conversations. Jon has also shared some of his writing with us and I couldn’t help thinking he’d make a great guest for my blog. He bring us not only an original (that will be part of the new book in the series) interview with his main character Josiah Trenchard, but also tells us about himself and shares the prologue to his book. And now, I leave you with Jon, and Josiah…

Transcript of interview with Captain Josiah Trenchard of the United Worlds Space Navy by I.N.N. anchorman, Alexander Robertson, from his late night current affairs show “Rob’s On”:

ROBERTSON: Good evening, folks. This is Alexander Robertson. I’m joined in the studio by Captain Josiah Trenchard of the Wolverine class hunter-killer star-ship, the Might of Fortitude. Captain Trenchard has recently returned from a covert mission to protect a vital installation owned by the Papaver Corporation, and we are fortunate enough to have him here with us in the studio tonight. Good evening Captain Trenchard, or may I call you Jo?

TRENCHARD: No. You may not!

ROBERTSON: Okay then, let’s start with a brief history. You served aboard the U.W.S.S. Hand of Valour and were part of the peace keeping force sent to Europa. That battle was won by Captain Fisher wasn’t it; the so called hero of Europa?

TRENCHARD: It was a joint effort.

ROBERTSON: You were then transferred to the prototype Wolverine class ship, the Might of Fortitude as Captain Bird’s executive officer …

TRENCHARD: It’s referred to as a “boat”.

ROBERTSON: Right Jo. I’m sure that’s real important (smiles to camera and winks). There’s some confusion about what happened next. Would you like to comment on the rumours that the crew mutinied and were about to hand the shi… er, boat, over to the pirates?

TRENCHARD: That’s classified.

ROBERTSON: But Captain Bird was killed shortly after launch?

TRENCHARD: Yes. (looks at his watch)

ROBERTSON: And then you somehow managed to save the boat, single handed?

TRENCHARD: Yes.

ROBERTSON: Gee, you’re a really talkative guy Jo, I like that!

TRENCHARD: That’s Captain Trenchard to you…

ROBERTSON: So then your last mission was to protect a Papaver Corporation facility in the Kuyper belt. Tell me, how did you feel being promoted to Captain?

TRENCHARD: It’s a great honour to serve aboard one of the finest vessels in the fleet. The Might has a fine crew. They all carried out their duties admirably, under extreme pressure.

ROBERTSON: But we’ve received information that you’ve never completed the “Perisher” officer’s training course. What makes you think you’re qualified to command a hunter-killer star-ship?

TRENCHARD: (long silence) That was a field promotion, there wasn’t time to…

ROBERTSON: So what you’re telling me is that you have no qualifications to serve as Captain of a Wolverine?

TRENCHARD: I have served in the navy for many years, I…

ROBERTSON: You had two crewmembers injured on the last mission. One even lost a leg. Isn’t that true?

TRENCHARD: Unfortunately, yes, but…

ROBERTSON: Would that have happened if you’d received adequate training?

TRENCHARD: The injuries were unavoidable. We were in a battle situation for (edited) sake! We had a pirate ship bearing down on us and a homicidal enemy robot tearing the (edited) space-station apart. We were lucky to get away with the few injuries that we did. The men who were injured fought extremely bravely.

ROBERTSON: …and yet you had to be rescued by the S.S. Bertrand, Claude Papaver’s ship?

TRENCHARD: Rescued! (whispers something inaudible)

ROBERTSON: How about this nickname that you’ve picked up among your fellow officers, “The Fixer”? It seems like a tough sounding kinda name Jo? Are you a tough guy Jo? Are ya butch?

TRENCHARD: Where did you hear that from? I’ve never…

ROBERTSON: You’re getting quite a name for yourself Jo. If there’s trouble, send in the fixer right? He’ll get the job done, whatever it takes; even if that means bending the rules a little?

TRENCHARD: What? You son of a…

ROBERTSON: You went into that space-station your-self didn’t you Jo? Shouldn’t you have sent your executive officer in command of the mission? Do you think that she would have let a man lose his leg?

TRENCHARD: Watch your mouth, you arrogant piece of (expletive removed)!

ROBERTSON: You like a drink don’t cha Jo?

TRENCHARD: (looks confused) Occasionally, like any other sailor I…

ROBERTSON: Well we have witnesses that have seen you in Mike’s Bar, regularly drinking heavily until you can’t stand up any more.

TRENCHARD: Who…

ROBERTSON: Do you think an officer who smokes, drinks heavily, breaks the rules continually and disobeys standing orders; is a fit person to hold command of a military star-ship?

TRENCHARD: (stands from his seat and rips off microphone) I don’t have to stand for this (edited), you (edited) piece of (edited)! (walks away)

ROBERTSON: (calls after Trenchard) Do you think that you’re fit to be a star-ship Captain Jo? Can’t stand the heat Jo? Are you a coward too Jo?

TRENCHARD: (walks back towards Robertson, swings fist and punches Robertson off his chair) (edited) you!

End of transcript…

Jonathon Fletcher: Author of the Josiah Trenchard series.

I first started working on the story ideas for the Unity story arc when I was a film student at the University of Northumbria. The original idea was for a short film that I made (with a lot of help) in my third year. Ever since then I played about with the stories, mainly as film scripts. But then life got in the way. I finished the degree and started a job working as an assistant prop maker at Cosgrove Hall Films in Chorlton-cum-hardy, Manchester. The first show I worked on was Brambly Hedge, and then Rocky and the Dodos and Gerry Anderson’s LavenderCastle.

After about a year I left Cosgrove Hall with a group of other people who were setting up a new company called Hot Animation. I became the head of props and worked on some more Brambly Hedge and then the pilot for Bob the Builder. I gradually worked my way up and eventually became Series Art Director on Bob the Builder. After around fourteen series (I lost track after a while) and a few specials, Hot Animation was taken over by another company and they instigated a round of redundancies. I had been thinking about leaving for a while and so I decided to take the redundancy money and set myself up in business as a gardener.

I’ve been working as a gardener now for nearly ten years. I recently moved from Manchester up to the beautiful Northumberland countryside. Gardening gives me the time to look after my wife, who works very hard as a Head Teacher, and also have some time off in the winter to write. I’ve been working on the universe that Josiah Trenchard lives in, on and off since 1992.  I initially re-worked my short film idea into a novel and then looked into publishing via the traditional route, which seemed very hit or miss! Then a friend suggested self publishing on Amazon. He had a work colleague who was now making a fair income from writing books for Kindle. I didn’t want to give away my novel straight away, firstly because it wasn’t good enough yet, and secondly because I wanted to dip my toes in the self publishing waters with shorter stories first.

I already had some off-shoots from the main story in mind and so I decided to write a series of shorter novellas following the adventures of one mighty star-ship and one infamous Captain. Most of the best military sci-fi follows the voyages of an iconic vessel, from Star Trek to Jack Campbell’s “Lost Fleet” series, so that’s the format I chose. The idea for the first story was fairly easy to come up with. I knew that I had to introduce the prototype Wolverine star-ship, the Might of Fortitude, and that it would be set in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter and involve space pirates. To be honest, the most difficult thing was coming up with the name of the Captain, probably the single most important thing for the books. For a start his name would be on every book cover. Secondly it had to be something new, that nobody else had already used. I spent a while trawling through Google and searching for different names; nothing would do. Then one day, the name “Josiah Trenchard” just popped into my head suddenly. Was it divine inspiration or just my subconscious finally working it through? Whatever the reason, the name was perfect and the series was born. Josiah Trenchard actually translates as “the lord saves man of war” which is kind of cool for the main hero of your military sci-fi epic!

After that, the name of the space-ship was the next most important element. Most science fiction vessels have bold sounding single word names like “Vengeful”, “Nostromo” or “Enterprise”. Alternatively they have two word names like “Red Dwarf” or “Millennium Falcon”. I wanted to use a different format, one that could be adapted for many different star-ship names. Then I was near the sea one day (I tend to spend a lot of time at the coast when I can) and I started noticing the names on fishing boats. A large number of the boats were named “the something of something”, for example the “Pride of Newcastle”. And so after a fair bit of brain-storming, the “Might of Fortitude” was born. Other vessels in the series include the “Gift of Stealth”, the “Hand of Valour” and the “Breath of Vengeance”. It’s a format that suits military vessels and has millions of possible combinations.

Writing the first episode was hard because an establisher episode has so many constraints. You must introduce the main character, the setting, a problem for them to overcome, their enemies, and so on. You have to do all this in a finite number of words and keep it interesting for the reader. I think I did a pretty good job, and episode two is much better as the story just gets straight into the action. There are a lot of unanswered questions at the end of part two and some of the crew have undergone some pretty horrible traumas. Part three, “Berzerkergang”, should be out on sale as this blog is published. It picks right up where part two left off. This time the crew of the Might get to visit a planet’s surface and really delve into what make’s the Insurgent terrorists tick. The reader also finds out a good deal more about the mysterious Japanese assassin and the motives of Claude Papaver.

Each episode is loosely based on a classic horror / sci-fi theme, which is then re-told in my own style. Morgenstern obviously draws heavily upon Frankenstein, and Berzerkergang is a Jekyll and Hyde / Wolfman inspired plot. Part four is currently being written. It’s and action packed story and pits the crew of the Might against zombies! Well, it had to happen eventually, didn’t it?

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Excerpt from Josiah Trenchard Part Three: Berzerkergang:

Prologue “Campfire Tales”

The dancing flames flickered violently as a cold wind blew in across the compound. The four figures huddled around the old oil drum pulled their capes a little closer around their necks to ward off the chill of the night. The night watch was always hard, but the bitter cold was draining the last of the United Worlds trooper’s courage.

‘Throw another log on the fire would you,’ asked Stofan, hugging herself tightly to keep out the cold.

Coloroso duly obliged and the fire sparkled and crackled as the heavy log hit the smouldering embers, sending bright sparks whirling skyward.

‘You want to hear a story?’ said McGagh darkly, pulling a hip flask from his uniform pocket and taking a swig, then offering it around. ‘Not one of Vinny’s crap ghost stories, a real story?’

‘Hey!’ said Coloroso, alarmed. ‘Alcohol’s forbidden on duty,’ he cried.

McGagh gave him a disgusted look. ‘You haven’t been out of the academy long, have you lad?’

Coloroso shook his head.

McGagh pushed the flask towards him. ‘This is best Irish whiskey. If you don’t take a drink, then I’ll be offended, and so will my family and all our ancestors. You don’t want to offend my family do you?’

The underlying threat was clear. Coloroso took the flask and swigged a shot down, the harsh spirit stinging his insides. As he did, he noticed a tattoo on McGagh’s outstretched right hand. It read “Drink”. On McGagh’s left hand, the hand he preferred to punch with, he had another tattoo which read “Feck”. Coloroso passed the flask to Vinny on his left and then the others duly took a drink, the warmth of the spirit spreading across their chests. When the flask arrived back to McGagh, he took another deep drink and then stared into the flames, deep in memory.

‘Four years ago, just out of the academy myself, I was stationed on Mars. There had been grumblings from the Martian government for years. They didn’t like being ruled from Earth and wanted independence from the United Worlds. Our platoon was guarding the local United Worlds headquarters in the capital city of Belatu-Cadros.’

Shit…’ whispered Stofan. She knew what was coming. Every veteran in the navy knew about Belatu-Cadros. Vinny and Coloroso were probably too young to have heard the real story yet. Sure, they would have seen is on the news, but the media held back the details. They were looking on intently, their eyes shining in the dancing firelight with the innocence of youth.

‘Mars was still dusty then,’ continued McGagh. ‘The atmosphere processing was only half done. The magnetic pole shield had just been activated but the water hadn’t been released from the ice-caps yet. It was a hot, dry, hard-baked planet. Breathing was like being at high altitude, low oxygen. We still had to use breathing masks when the grit storms came down from the slopes of Olympus-Mons. It felt a little like hell. The only good thing about being stationed there was that the low gravity made moving around a little easier.’

McGagh stared off into the distance before taking another swig of whiskey and then grimacing, baring his teeth and making a sucking sound through them.

‘There had been demonstrations, banner waving and shouting mostly, a bit of pushing and shoving, nothing too violent; nothing that we couldn’t handle. I was on morning watch with ten other troopers at the front gate, all young lads. I’ll always remember those faces… good lads, good blokes. A young girl came up to the front gate. It wasn’t unusual for the local kids to sell stuff to the troopers, fags, booze, chocolate; anything that was rationed on the base. I remember the lads used to call her “Buttercup”, ‘cause of the flowery dresses that she used to wear. A guy called… Fred Townsend, strolled up to her and asked her what she wanted. I was standing just inside the guard hut. I could see her face clearly. She couldn’t have been more than fourteen…’

McGagh gulped. His mouth had suddenly become very dry.

‘She smiled, such a sweet little thing. I’ll always remember the look in her eyes…’

Stofan placed a reassuring hand onto McGagh’s arm. The big Irish man, tattooed, afraid of nothing and full of bravado, was actually shaking at the recollection.

‘She said something quietly in Townsend’s ear and his face just went… terrified, white like a sheet. He started running, but it was too late. This little girl, she raised her arm in the air and pressed the trigger that she had hidden in her hand.’

There was absolute silence around the fire. The flames whipped down for a moment in a gust of wind as if leaning in closer to hear the story.

‘I saw Townsend for a split second before I blacked out as the blast hit me. He was literally splashed across the ground by the force of the explosion. It even melted his dog tags and his fillings. When I came to, there was a pitched battle going on in the streets. We never found out where the Insurgents had got the weapons from, or the explosives. Suicide bombers hit several United Worlds buildings in a coordinated attack. Fifty troopers were killed in the first ten minutes. Then their armed forces moved in while we were still picking up our wounded.’

Vinny and Coloroso were standing with their mouths hanging agape. Stofan dropped her eyes to the ground. McGagh looked back up from the fire and stared straight into Vinny’s eyes.

‘That was the day that the war against the Insurgents really started. That day I learned one thing Vinny. Never trust anyone, not even a child. The Insurgents have no honour, they fight dirty. That’s why I did what I did to that crowd of civilians, why I’ve never been promoted, why nobody trusts me. I’m not proud of it, but any one of them could have been a suicide bomber. I couldn’t take the chance. I’ve paid for that every night since, when I close my eyes and see their screaming faces.’ McGagh paused and took another long drink of whiskey. ‘There’ll be no peace until every Insurgent sympathiser is buried in the fucking ground!’

There was another long silence. Stofan was about to speak when the silence was disturbed by a rhythmic banging that began on the ten foot high wire mesh gate that led into the compound. Vinny leapt towards the guard hut and hit a switch that turned on the overhead spotlights, illuminating the fenced off compound grounds. Stofan, McGagh and Coloroso, legged it over to the gate to see what the noise was.

The three troopers stopped still, their mouths agape. Standing outside the gates was a young trooper. His helmet was missing, as was the rest of his uniform. He was completely naked and his body was covered from head to toe with cuts and scratches. His face was blank, staring, void of emotion. A strange glow seemed to be coming from deep within his wildly staring eyes. He was hammering ceaselessly on the gate with his left fist.

Pound!

Pound!

Pound!

As the shaken troopers looked on, the most disturbing thing about the completely naked young man, was that he was covered, head to toe, in bright, scarlet, blood. Lumps of flesh and brain matter dripped from his skin. When he bared his teeth as the torchlight hit his face, there was human flesh and hair stuck between his crimson stained, snarling teeth…

Available in Amazon: Josiah Trenchard Part One “The Might of Fortitude”

http://www.amazon.com/Josiah-Trenchard-Might-Fortitude-ebook/dp/B009PK84WW/

 and Josiah Trenchard Part Two “Morgenstern”

http://www.amazon.com/Josiah-Trenchard-Part-Morgenstern-ebook/dp/B00AGZE6AO/

Part Three “Berzerkergang” is coming soon!

Jonathon Fletcher can be contacted on Twitter – @JonGardener and on YouTube – Evilgenius1972.

Honour, strength and unity!

Thank you to Jon for sharing with us (and I hope you’ll all download his books). And hopefully he’ll come to visit us soon with updates and tales. And next week…There will be more!