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At the height of the Second World War, Violet DeVere was a WASP-- a Women's Airforce Service Pilot, trusted with ferrying the most advanced warplanes in the United States arsenal. Five years after the war, she's barely making ends meet as a crop duster and part-time science fiction writer.

Kidnapped across a hundred million miles of space, Violet suddenly finds herself a prisoner in an impossible empire, an inhabited Mars shielded from earthling eyes by a scientific illusion called the Veil. Mars and its people are ground beneath the heel of the ruthless All-Sovereign, whose legions rule the skies. All resistance to his absolute despotism has been driven to the deadly red sands beyond civilization.

Outgunned and outnumbered, Violet DeVere and her few brave Martian allies make a desperate stand against the All-Sovereign... against an ageless tyrant with the power to destroy every living thing in the solar system.

*****

In early 2008, I had a vivid dream about a book I had written. It was a pulp adventure of some sort, with swashbuckling and planet-hopping and flashing ray guns, and the cover art was killer. Lurid black-and-red, full of energy, downright beautiful... I held that physical book in my arms and gazed down at it with total contentment.

And then I started to wake up... and the book in my arms lost all of its weight, and the colors faded from the cover, and one bitter moment later I was sitting up in bed, holding empty air and swearing at the top of my lungs.

I suspect that most authors feel the way I do about our work... those books are like infants to us, and holding one in our hands for the first time is heaven on earth. Dreaming that you've had a bright, bouncing baby book in your arms and then waking up to discover that not a single word had ever existed- well, that's just a damn cold thing for a man's subconscious to pull on him in the middle of the night.

So I started that book, fumbling along on the few scraps of memory I still had. I wrote about six chapters before life and other business intervened, and then I put the story away and barely thought about it for a year.

*****

Queen of the Iron Sands started going online in 2009 as a self-motivated attempt to deal with the deep anxiety alluded to in my Livejournal post of March 8, 2010. In that respect, it was a failure. My anxiety and depression got the best of me and I felt unable to continue posting for some time.

Yet here we are, in 2012 (as of this writing). I've had therapy and medication for my troubles. Nothing magical has happened. My fundamental condition remains unchanged. But what I have now is a growing set of coping skills, a better awareness and understanding of my illness, and a great deal of unexpected support from more readers than I can count.

So I'm going to continue posting that dream-book I wrote, chapter by chapter, in regular installments as a free online serial novel. And I'm eventually going to finish the sucker in the grandest style I can.

*****

This story is free. It's got nothing to do with any existing contract, it's no publicity stunt for any upcoming project (though it is, for damn sure, a publicity stunt for my work in general, meant to end my long silence in the loudest possible fashion). I have a donation button, for those that wish to throw some coins in the jar, but think of it in those terms-- pay what you like, as a tip, to show that you enjoy the story, and to help me keep presenting it. If you don't like the story, you don't owe me nothin'.

New installments will be released as regularly as my anxiety issues will permit me to do so. In an ideal world, I'd like to get back to weekly updates as soon as possible. I know better than to promise too much at this stage, however. So all I can say is more, but gradually.

*****

So there you have it... think of Queen of the Iron Sands as something to whet your appetite between now and my forthcoming novels. Enjoy, hopefully, and come back often!

*****

UPDATE! AUGUST 5, 2012: Violet is on the move again, and we're now up to the beginning of Chapter 8, "Across Savage Mars." Also, I have eBooks! Test versions of the first two chapters of QotIS are now available in EPUB and MOBI format! Take them for a spin and help me figure out how I can make them better!

Queen of the Iron Sands is an entirely donation-supported project!

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