My Favorite Bit: Mel Odom talks about GUERILLA
Mel Odom is joining us today with his novel Guerilla. Here’s the publisher’s description:
He’s behind enemy lines. But those lines are shifting beneath his feet.
In the jungles of Makaum, the Terran military is locked in a critical standoff over the planet’s resources with the hostile Phrenorians, even as both species maintain uneasy relations with the locals. Tensions could ignite at a moment’s notice. And Master Sergeant Frank Sage has just stumbled upon the spark plug.
Alongside trusted Makaum scouts, Sage is running recon on what is possibly an unsanctioned Phrenorian military base.Deep in the savage wilderness, Sage recognizes the renowned Phrenorian warrior arriving on-site: Zhoh GhiCemid. As Sage knows firsthand, Zhoh’s presence could mean trouble.
Meanwhile, a mysterious faction of Makaum insurgents breaks the fragile peace with a reckless attack on the Terran base. Before the situation devolves into chaos, Sage must learn to think like his adversaries—devious friends and deadly foes alike.
What’s Mel’s favorite bit?
One of my favorite scenes in my newest book is a bar scene between series hero Terran Military Master Sergeant Frank Sage and Captain Zhoh GhiCemid of the Phrenorian Empire.
Frank Sage is old school military, a guy who’s already served in the Phrenorian War for years and gives his all every time. Unfortunately, he was wounded and shipped back to a training assignment for six years while he regrew his legs. During his time there, he’s been training young men and women to fight, but he’s wanted nothing more than to get back into combat because he’s tired of sending those people out there. He wants to be on the battlefront where he can make a difference. He finally protests enough that Command posts him at Makaum
This isn’t anything new. Look around at the men and women who have served multiple tours in Afghanistan. Those people go back again and again to help their brothers in the military.
So Sage is a guy readers can easily understand.
Captain Zhoh GhiCemid is also understandable. He’s the enemy. He’s cold, efficient, and ruthless. But he’s a military warrior like Sage, an individual who has been blooded on the battlefield and lives for combat. He’s also Phrenorian, which means that he has multiple eyes, multiple limbs, chelicerae around his mouth that can inject various amounts of poison into victims, who he may or may not eat. The Phrenorians are as close to scorpions as I could make them because, well…scorpions!
Zhoh hasn’t had an easy time of it either. He’s a disgrace to the Phrenorian Empire because his hatchlings were all deformed, a failing that was blamed on his bad genetics. Actually, he was manipulated into taking a defective wife whose family is high in the Empire. Zhoh lost his command and has been sent to Makaum to wither and die.
But he is determined to find his own path again and kill anyone who stands in his way.
To set up this scene, Sage and Zhoh ended up fighting together against a criminal cartel only a few hours ago in the dead of night. Sage wanted to shut down a weapons dealer while Zhoh went there to get information about illegal dealings his commanding officer was involved in, and—failing that—cover up anything that would damage the Phrenorian Empire.
These two enemies saved each other during that mission. But they both knew they hadn’t finished what they’d started. So, rather than end up shooting holes in each other, they agreed to a sit-down truce to negotiate where they went from there.
Of course, being military men, they meet in a bar—which quickly clears out because NO ONE wants to be caught in a crossfire between the Terrans and Phrenorians. And EVERYONE knows that’s what’s coming.
These two warriors talk, and I know and the reader knows that the ultimate showdown in this trilogy is going to be Sage versus Zhoh in a winner-take-all battle. I like the way they met as equals, but Sage still treats Zhoh as he would an officer. And Zhoh, as an officer, recognizes that sergeants are the ones who get things done in the midst of chaos.
I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done, and I like the psychology of the characters meeting on equal ground. They’re both soldiers, and they both know that when the war calls for it, they will attempt to kill each other. But for this moment—and a few moments after, they’re working together. Of course, Sage is trying to figure out what Zhoh is really after, and Zhoh wants to kill anyone who can reveal his commanding officer’s involvement before Sage can get to them.
This is one of the bits I think that works for me. I’ve read several stories of soldiers who were able to meet opponents on common neutral ground and found kindred spirits in war and hardship. I believe soldiers who are professional fighting men know that only other professional fighting men who have seen the same violence and terror can truly understand each other. Even when they were on opposite sides.
This lull, before the action ramps up in Book 3: Warlord, I think underscores that verisimilitude.
I had a blast writing it. Hope you who read it enjoy the book(s) as well!
MEL ODOM is the bestselling author of many film and computer game tie-ins, including Forgotten Realms, Mack Bolan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. He won a prestigious Alex Award for his YA fantasy novel The Rover. He currently lives in Oklahoma.