AMBER SKY is the first prequel novella preceding the adventurous steampunk horror tale CRIMSON SKY, and tells the story of Nash before he joined the Dauntless Wanderer when his only means of survival was to fight to the death, and how he was forced to make a choice that would change his life forever…
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AMBER SKY is set two years before the first novel in the DARK SKY series, CRIMSON SKY, and is told from the perspective of the Dauntless Wanderer’s quartermaster, Nash. It delves into his life when he was a pit-fighter for Ryland, the ruthless leader of the Stray Dogs, and tells the strange story of how he met Sawyer, his future friend and captain. Their friendship was forged out of hard-won battles and trust, both young men taking risks and fighting for something greater and more meaningful.
I’m a huge fan of novellas that take place in between or before the events of full length novels. I like reading new perspectives from characters who are fan favorites, but not necessarily key to the story or the plot. I love the Dark Sky world and wanted to tell more about it, but I didn’t want to write a story between Midnight Sky and the final Dark Sky novel, scheduled for February 2017. After the finale of Midnight Sky, I knew I couldn’t just leave readers hanging, so I decided to tell the stories of two side characters– Nash and Gemma.
In Midnight Sky, there are events that hint at Nash’s past. The more I wrote it, the more interested I became. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the full length novel, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to tell more of it in Amber Sky, the prequel novella. I worked on a simple, straightforward plot that was true to Nash’s character and expanded on his time with the ruthless Stray Dog Clan, steadily bringing Sawyer into the picture.
I have to say, that was my favorite part of writing this novella. Nash and Sawyer have a pretty easygoing relationship (as long as Sawyer isn’t feeling moody), but their banter always made me smile. Their friendship is unexpected for both of them, and forms out of a truly dark place.
As happy as I was to complete Amber Sky, there were of course steps to take to ensure it’s publication. The story was too short to send to print, so I chose to offer it as an ebook only. I like this exclusive, because it gives me a chance to offer something free to my newsletter subscribers. I had the manuscript edited by a Beta reader, who had great insights, and an editor who’s helped me with the Dark Sky series before.
After that came the absolutely stellar cover. Deranged Doctor Design always does amazing work, but this truly blew my mind. I was so happy with the end result that I approved the first draft. No nitpicking for this one!
The biggest challenge then came with promotion. I’m still learning the tricks of the independent publishing world, and tried my hand at creating my promotion without the use of a blog tour service. I’ll likely return to that for the final Dark Sky novel, but I wanted to try my own hand at it. I’m pretty impressed with the final result, and have nothing but gratitude for the reviewers and bloggers who have been kind enough to host me. Offering a free short story for newsletter subscribers is great, but I couldn’t have done this at all without the people I’ve listed above.
Writing Amber Sky has been a fun little challenge that I’m grateful I undertook. I feel it added to the experience and depth of the Dark Sky novels, and can’t wait for other readers to enjoy this new perspective.
The fight couldn’t have been going worse.
I got that Ryland wanted his champion in the Crater. I got that he wanted to give the Runts and the Dogs a show. I even got that he wanted to push me so I’d stronger, faster, better.
But I didn’t get why he had to pick the two biggest, meanest bastards from the crew to fight me. Two men who wouldn’t stop beating me until I was just a red stain on the ground. The taunts and advice from the crowd over our head didn’t help either.
“Crush ‘em, Nash!”
“Come on, Stanner!”
“Hit him, Dylan, hit him!”
“Nash is costing me bets! Someone kill him already!”
Being the Crater’s reigning champ definitely had its drawbacks.
Stanner moved along the edge of my vision. He lifted his foot, ready to drive it into my head and crush my skull. I rolled, grabbed his foot, and pulled. Stanner barked angrily as he lost his balance and landed hard on the ground. I crunched up and slammed my heel into his chest. There was a loud crack that made Stanner cry out in pain, and gave me a chance to–
If Dylan hadn’t shouted his rage, I never would have known he was coming. He snapped a kick down at my head. I crossed my arms and blocked him, gritting my teeth as his shinbone connected with the bruises on my arms.
I pushed his foot away and blocked the punch that sailed toward my head. I surged to my feet and pushed Dylan back. He swung a fist at my skull. I ducked under it and plowed into him. Dylan might have more muscle than me in this two-on-one brawl, but I wasn’t small or helpless.
The moment he hit the ground, I hammered blows onto him.
Skin bruised and split under my knuckles. Bones crunched and cracked. I didn’t stop when his eyes swelled shut. I’m not sure I would have stopped at all if a thick forearm hadn’t wrapped around my throat and tightened.
I clutched the arm and tried to yank it off, but the hold was good. Wasn’t long before my lungs started to burn. Punches started smashing into my battered ribs, each one harder than the last. Weakening me. Keeping me from fighting back.
But my sight was red. I lost control when I got Dylan on the ground. It was out of my reach now.
And I didn’t want it back.
Growling like an animal, I bent my knees and jumped back, letting myself fall onto the ground. Crushing Stanner beneath me. He screamed as my weight pounded on his fractured chest. The arm around my neck was gone.
Then I rolled off him, and really started the beating.
Stanner couldn’t move. Probably couldn’t breathe. None of that stopped me from kicking and stomping every part of him I laid eyes on. He tried to kill me. Would have killed me.
Should have known better.
I stopped. He called my name, shouted it at the top of his lungs. The rest of the crowd fell silent. This probably wasn’t the first time he’d shouted at me.
I looked over my shoulder, lifted my eyes from the wide dirt pit, and found Ryland.
He was impossible to miss, nearly twice as big as me, despite his age. Broad shoulders and swollen biceps strained against his black leather vest. With long grey hair hanging to his shoulders and a wild grey beard, Ryland looked every bit as rabid as the snarling dog tattooed on his chest.
He stood on the rim of the Crater, staring at me with piercing grey eyes. A scowl twisted his weathered face, slowly turning into a smug grin.
“Congratulations,” he said for the crowd to hear. He looked at the rugged Dogs and the filthy Runts. “Let’s hear it for Nash, still the undefeated Crater champion!”
Most of the crowd roared with joy. Others booed. I was too tired to care about which I appreciated more.
A rope ladder was rolled over the edge of the Crater. Before I went to it, I looked back at my opponents. Now that the rage was gone from my vision, I could clearly see what I had done.
Dylan was still lying in a heap, his face red, swollen, and lumped from bruises and broken bones. Stanner groaned and winced, rolling on the ground with his hands wrapped around his ribs and chest as if to hold his bruised and likely broken bones inside his skin.
Horror filled my chest, the way it always did when I finished a fight in the Crater. Crushing shame filled my heart and drowned me. I took a couple steps closer to Stanner, wanting to help him.
He cringed at the sight of me.
I stopped and glanced over my shoulder at my captain. He was waiting impatiently. As far as Ryland was concerned, anyone beaten in the Crater didn’t need help from the Dogs. Until they proved otherwise, they were beneath us. Weak and useless.
I grabbed the rope ladder and climbed from the Crater, my victory feeling more hollow with every step.
Q & A: Amy Braun and Amber Sky– MINOR SPOILERS BELOW.
Q: What inspired you to write Amber Sky?
A: I’ve always been a fan of Nash, and wanted to tell the story of how he and Sawyer came to meet. They have a good relationship in Crimson Sky and Midnight Sky but it wasn’t always like that. They endured mistrust and battles the same as all sturdy friendships do, even trading blows a couple times. It was a lot of fun to not only tell their story, but to expand on an element of Midnight Sky that I enjoyed–– the crew’s journey to the Barren.
Q: Why did you chose to tell the story from Nash’s perspective?
A: In the novels, Nash is a pretty quiet character. He’s often the voice of calm and reason, the one who knows how to relax Sawyer and Gemma. Ironic, since he’s heavily built and muscular. Readers who are familiar with him are likely used to his steady demeanor, and know little of the violence he used to be capable of. He’s a lot more complex than you would realize reading Crimson Sky and Midnight Sky, and after I hinted at his past in Midnight Sky, I knew I had to tell his story through his eyes.
Q: Did you find it easier to write a shorter story? Did you prefer it to writing a full length novel?
A: Easier? Yes. Definitely. My word count as just over 30,000, less than half of what a typical Dark Sky novel will run. I had a simple story line, a “simple problem” for the characters to solve, and no need to tie up a hundred different plot holes. But, if we’re talking about preference, I actually enjoy writing full length novels more. As an independent author, I’m not hindered by word counts and will write until the story is done. This means that I can experiment and add new elements to a story that I don’t usually get to do in a novella. That definitely doesn’t mean I’ll stick to novels my entire career– every big series I write will likely have at least two or three novellas attached to them– but they are definitely my comfort and creative zone.
Q: There was a serious lack of Gemma in Amber Sky. Where is she?
A: Ah, yes. Gemma. Readers of the novels will know that she’s Nash’s other half, the moon to his stars, the heat to his fire. They will also know that she is most definitely not in Amber Sky. When I planned to write some novellas after Midnight Sky, I definitely had a plan about what those two stories would be about. Nash’s story comes first, because the second novella, Smoke Sky, is all about how Gemma entered the lives of the crew. Her story is one of my absolute favorites, and I knew that her romance with Nash would be a key element. So while she’s not in the picture for Amber Sky, she’ll be entering it soon.
Q: What can you tell us about the next novella and novel in the Dark Sky series?
A: Smoke Sky, which will be released December 2016, will be told from Gemma’s perspective and tell the tale of how she first met Sawyer and fell in love with Nash, and the wild adventures they had before she was accepted to the crew. There will also be a short story told from Sawyer’s perspective called Engineered Deceit, which will be featured in Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires from Mocha Memoirs Press, as well as my collection for short stories called The Shadow Omnibus by the same publisher. Both will be released in the next few months, before Smoke Sky. The final novel in the series will be released in February 2017, and is titled Obsidian Sky. It’s perhaps my top favorite in the entire Dark Sky saga, as it’s full of action and told from both Claire and Sawyer’s perspectives. I went wild with the world in the third and final chapter of this series, and can’t wait for readers to experience the last adventures of the Dauntless Wanderer.
Her short stories published by independent houses like Mocha Memoirs Press and April Moon Books, and she has independently published a collection of standalone and series novels including Storm Born, Path of the Horseman, and the Cursed and Dark Sky series. Many of her short stories have been featured in anthologies such as Amok!, Avast, Ye Airships!, and That Hoodoo, Voodoo, That You Do, and Stomping Grounds.
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