Alex Rath, Author

Military Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

Well, things are moving right along with ‘With Your Shield’ in the Four Horsemen universe. I’d say I’m about half-way through at this point, and I’m really very excited about what’s going down on the pages between Chris Kennedy and myself. I’m even thinking… just maybe… the main character and his ‘work’ might be seen again later in the universe. We’ll see!

Almost 10k words down in With Your Shield this weekend, and I may not be done. I was thinking today about my inspirations for writing. Not books I’ve read, but authors I’ve met and talked to.

The first brush I had with authors was probably back in about 1994 or so. I was a volunteer for TSR Online on AOL. For the younger folks, TSR was the company that published Dungeons & Dragons before Wizards of the Coast bought them out. During my time there, I handled setting up Q&A sessions between authors and game developers, and the fans on AOL. Among the folks I got to work with were Ed Greenwood, Colin McComb, and Elaine Cunningham. Working with Colin was great (not least because I got an early copy of Birthright and was playing it months before it released). The best though, was Elaine Cunningham, most well-known for her work in the Forgotten Realms setting. I was pretty cash-poor at the time, and we ended up talking on the phone about her upcoming Q&A. She asked if I’d read all of her work, and modules, and I indicated that I hadn’t, and couldn’t really afford to buy much. So, what did she do? She mailed me a big box with a copy of everything she’d produced up to that point for D&D. We also talked a little about writing, and she encouraged me to do it. Unfortunately. I didn’t follow her advice at the time.

The second was David Drake. I met David at a small bookshop in Columbia, South Carolina, which no longer exists, called the Happy Bookseller. It closed in 2008 unfortunately, unable to compete with the big name bookstores that were opening up. Anyway, my wife and I went there to have our copies of, I think it was Queen of Demons, signed. I’d only read his fantasy work. Only us and one other person showed up, but he actually enjoyed it. We sat with David for an hour and he told us about being a writer, getting cover art done, and about how his time in Vietnam inspired much of his writing with the Hammer’s Slammers, which I’d never heard of, but devoured after that. Again, I talked to David about my own desire to eventually write, and his advice, like Elaine’s, was to do it!

David also referred me to another author I’d never heard of, named David Weber. I started reading David’s Honorverse, and haven’t stopped yet. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to spend a decent amount of time with David (who only let me call him Mr. Weber once) and talk to him and his wife, Sharon. They’re amazing people. I even found out that David and I went to the same high school, years apart of course. Again, David encouraged me to pursue my desire to write, but I wasn’t quite in the right head-space yet.

The last, of course, was Chris Kennedy. I’ve already talked a bit about that, so I won’t belabor the point. Suffice to say if it weren’t for Chris’ encouragement and dedication to helping first-time authors get published, you still wouldn’t have heard of me.

Today I decided to take a look back at my early writing. While I’ve never been ‘published’ I’ve definitely done a lot of writing. I suppose the first bit that was seen by more than a few people was in 1991 for an in-game newsletter for a game called Gemstone III. It was run on a dial-up service called GEnie, and back then, cost about $7.00/hour to play. That’s right, per HOUR. It was a hardcore, RolePlay enforced MUD, and due to being on an ARIES IV mainframe, could only support 50 players at a time. It was a tight community, and the newsletter was always fully player written. You got rewarded in free playing hours for writing and having an article chosen, so it was pretty attractive. I wrote several articles under my character name of “Jhembryn Durrock” (a name I used to use everywhere, but had to stop once one of my accounts was hacked, and my name was pretty much ruined because of their actions).

After that, for almost every game I played, I searched out the “Role Play” community, whether it was other MUDs, or graphical MMOs like Everquest, World of Warcraft, EVE Online, The Secret World, or countless other games. Also, every time, I’d write out a detailed biography for my character(s). It always just made the game feel more “right” to me. I’d spend days reading the lore of the game, and more days writing up a backstory for the character. For me, it was fun!

Now I’m playing in someone else’s sandbox, and writing a story for the Golden Horde, with Chris Kennedy. Once that’s done, I’ll probably take a stab at creating my own world.

How did this get started? Well, Chris Kennedy and I actually met as members of a fan organization for a series of milscifi books a few years ago. One night in late 2017 I was messaging with Chris on Facebook about having always wanted to write my own books. He was very encouraging. I don’t remember exactly how it went, but I proposed an idea for a book in the 4HU, specifically the Golden Horde. His response was something like ‘sounds good, how about I write it with you.’ The grin on my face probably made the people around me nervous. That was the start. Unfortunately it took me a while to get heavily into the writing, but now things are rolling along nicely!

That’s the tentative title for my first novel written with Chris Kennedy! It’s pretty exciting getting to this point. There’s just something about having a title that makes the move toward publishing my first novel a bit more real. I’ll be a bit more active as we really get rolling toward release sometime this year!