SMOKE SKY is the second prequel novella preceding the adventurous steampunk horror tale CRIMSON SKY and centering around a young thief named Gemma––not yet a member of the Dauntless Wanderer crew––as she was forced to choose between freedom from a twisted family, and forsaking the only people who have ever shown her kindness…
To survive in a horrific world overseen by bloodthirsty monsters, young thief Gemma will do whatever she must to see another day. Even though that means working for a damaged man convinced to make her a permanent member of this thuggish family.
So when her employer tells her that he’ll release her from his clutches, Gemma is obviously skeptical. Especially since the job is easy enough– recruit the two marauders that the gang has been spying on to take her place.
But as Gemma lies to Nash and Sawyer, she commits the greatest mistake a spy can make–– she begins to see them as friends, and perhaps more. Soon, she will have to choose: Sacrifice two strangers to ensure freedom from a brutal future, or risk her life to save them…
Set two years before the events of CRIMSON SKY, this prequel novella tells the story of how Gemma met Nash and Sawyer, and what prompted her to chose their safety over her own. While best enjoyed before reading CRIMSON SKY, this bonus story can be read at any time or enjoyed as a standalone.
Buy it here:
SMOKE SKY is set two years before the first novel in the DARK SKY series, CRIMSON SKY, and takes place shortly after Captain Sawyer Kendric and his first mate Nash meet AMBER SKY. The story is told from the perspective of Gemma, the future master gunner and rigger of the Dauntless Wanderer. Before she became a marauder, Gemma was a thief working for a sadistic and morally damaged man named Fletcher, who formed a “family” with three young men named Boyd, Tyler, and Morris. She longs to escape their horrible plans for her future, but to do so, she must take one last job: Trade her life for the lives of two young marauders named Sawyer and Nash to take her place in their family. But when Gemma integrates with them, she realizes they are good men and develops strong feelings for them, especially charming, kind-hearted Nash. Soon she is torn between sacrificing her freedom, and her morals and sanity.
Of all the novellas I’ve written to date, Smoke Sky is one of my favorites. Gemma and Nash have a relationship that I love––they are two characters who could hardly be more opposite, but who fit together so beautifully––and I couldn’t let their story go untold. This is likely the most romantic story in the Dark Sky series and features one of my favorite romance moments, so I hope a lot of readers enjoy it.
Gemma’s past is hinted at in Crimson Sky when Gemma has a conversation with the main series heroine, Claire Abernathy, but at the time, it was something I just threw in there for context. I didn’t really plan anything beyond moving Crimson Sky forward. But when I decided I wanted to do some novellas, I thought it would only make sense to go back to that moment when she was explaining pieces of her past to Claire, and extrapolate from there.
I started Smoke Sky shortly after completing its predecessor, Amber Sky. Because it’s so short, less than 40,000 words, I decided to write it as an ebook only, though it will be included in the Dark Sky Box Set releasing in April 2017. The whole story was a lot of fun to write, but I have to say that my favorite part was building the relationship between Gemma and Nash. Their personalities are so contrasting––she’s brash and fiery, he’s gentler and relaxed––that it was fun just to have them flirt and grow close to each other, while Sawyer grudgingly accepts that he enjoys the challenge of her company, as she’s not afraid to challenge him.
After hard weeks of writing, editing, and gushing over the cover created by Deranged Doctor Design, I worked on setting up my own promotions with Google Forms and contacted book reviewers, bloggers, and bookstagrammers who have helped me with previous releases. They are all fantastic, friendly, wonderful people, and if they’re taking the time to read this, know that I appreciate all your hard work more than I can say.
Though I’m very happy to have the release of Smoke Sky––one of my favorite written novellas to date––out in the world, I’m eager to get back to working on the final novel in the Dark Sky series, Obsidian Sky. I love hearing feedback from everyone I work with (I really couldn’t have done it without you) and everyone I share my books with, and would love to hear thoughts on this novella and upcoming work.
Q & A: Amy Braun and Smoke Sky– MINOR SPOILERS BELOW.
Q: What inspired you to write Smoke Sky and two prequel novellas?
A: Gemma is one of those characters who you know has a story to tell as soon as you meet her in Crimson Sky. What pushed her to become a thief? Why is she so fiercely attached to Nash? Is it just her personality that causes her to clash with Sawyer more often than not? I love Gemma––she’s exactly the kind of heroine I like reading about and after mentioning a snippet of her story in Crimson Sky, I knew I had to find out more about her. As with Nash, I wanted to tell her story and learn more about the world of Westraven and Aon. I just had no idea that there would be so much to tell!
Q: Why did you choose to tell the story from Gemma’s perspective?
A: For a thief, Gemma is a noticeable character. She’s not quiet and not afraid to speak her mind to anyone challenging her––including her captain. Since I love writing characters who snark and question authority as much as they breathe, it was really a no-brainer to tell the story in her own sarcastic, quick-witted words. Plus, delving into the true depth of the emotions she feels for Nash, feelings she never considered she might have, add another layer to her character and give her an almost vulnerable appeal, something Gemma would never let show if she could avoid it.
Q: Which was more challenging to write: Amber Sky or Smoke Sky?
A: Both of them had their challenges, but if I had to choose, I would say Smoke Sky was harder. There were more settings to construct, a more complex challenge for the characters to overcome, and more world building to do. I also had to answer certain questions about the Dauntless Wanderer and how it was able to be transported to its final location, which was no easy feat. But I also think that because of those challenges the story is stronger. Don’t get me wrong––I love and am very proud of Amber Sky, but there’s more going on in Smoke Sky and that makes it engaging and exciting.
Q: Gemma’s relationship with Nash and Sawyer are vastly different. Which did you enjoy writing more?
A: While I had a great time pitting Gemma against Sawyer and loved writing their barbs and teasing, I liked writing the moments between Gemma and Nash more. I’m a sucker for sweet romances, and Nash is nothing if not a teddy bear. Considering I wanted to tie in events from Amber Sky with Smoke Sky, I thought their scenes flowed wonderfully. Nash is smitten early on but Gemma is a little more hesitant, and watching her test those barriers between them was amazing. There is one particular scene in the middle of the novella that I’m very proud of and sums up their relationship tenderly and beautifully, so I look forward to hearing feedback from readers and reviewers on it.
Q: What can you tell us about the final novel in the Dark Sky series?
A: Obsidian Sky will be the last of the last in the Dark Sky books. I’m currently editing it, and it will be slated for release on February 7, 2017, with a cover reveal happening January 2. The story is told from both Sawyer and Claire’s perspectives, will be full of action, and will vastly expand the world by going way beyond the borders of Westraven. I have some surprises and a lot of excitement planned for this final book, and couldn’t be more excited to share it. I’ll be doing a lot of promotions around social media and my website, but newsletter subscribers will get first peeks at the cover and notifications on the big giveaway I’ll be doing. I can’t wait to share it with you all!
Amy is a Canadian urban fantasy and horror author. Her work revolves around monsters, magic, mythology, and mayhem. She started writing in her early teens, and never stopped. She loves building unique worlds filled with fun characters and intense action. She is the recipient of April Moon Books Editor Award for “author voice, world-building and general bad-assery,” and the One Book Two Standout Award in 2015 for her Cursed trilogy. She has been featured on various author blogs and publishing websites, and is an active member of the Writing GIAM and Weekend Writing Warrior communities. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, watching movies, taking photos, gaming, and struggling with chocoholism and ice cream addiction.
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.
More From Amy Braun
DEMON’S DAUGHTER | DARK DIVINITY | DAMNATION’S DOOR | TRILOGY BOX SET
CRIMSON SKY | MIDNIGHT SKY | AMBER SKY | ENGINEERED DECEIT (In GHOSTS GEARS AND GRIMOIRES)
STANDALONE NOVELS AND NOVELLAS
PATH OF THE HORSEMAN
Social Media Links
Nothing ever happens the way you expect it to. Even the most detailed plans wind up spiraling to oblivion’s bowels if you forget that one, minor, impossible-to-see detail.
Then again, this was the first job I’d actually planned to the letter. I’m more of a wing-it-as-she-runs thief. Hasn’t always worked out for me in the past, and neither had this.
Face it, Gemma. You just have terrible luck.
“I know you’re here, girl,” the marauder below me growled, silencing my internal voice. “Come out now, and I won’t be too hard on you.” His boots creaked against the wooden floorboards as he stalked through the attic, glancing at the stacks of dusty crates and wondering which I was hidden behind. “Might even have a little party if you play nice.”
Since he wasn’t looking up, he couldn’t see that I was perched on the rafters in the corner of the shadowy attic. I rolled my eyes and shook my head, pushing chin-length, sable hair away from my face. The world had fallen apart in the most abysmal way, but pirate men still thought with their cocks. If there was a decent man left alive in Westraven, I doubted I’d ever meet him. I didn’t run with chivalrous folk. Kind of hard to do when half the people in the city were desperate or dead.
From outside, thunder growled with agitation. The storm had gotten worse in the short amount of time I’d been in the apartment. This wasn’t going to be a fun escape.
“You took something that belongs to me,” the marauder continued, his dark-haired head flicking left and right to scrutinize the crates. “I’m getting it back, and I don’t care if you’re alive or dead when I do it.”
While he rambled on about being stiffed, I looked for my exit. He’d spotted me just as I claimed my prize, but I’d managed to dodge him by being fast and tossing furniture in his path until I got into the attic. I’d climbed up the crates to get to the rafters then stuck to the shadows until he stomped up here to gripe. I hadn’t had the chance to look at my surroundings. As much as I wanted to believe he was too stupid to look up, I wasn’t taking chances.
The murky, rain-drizzled window I’d used to get inside the building was on my right. I could use it again to slip out, climb up, and run across the roofs of the collapsed apartments, but this building was old and uncared for. The window’s hinges would creak. The marauder would hear me and holler his heart out. He would be the death of me.
Not because I thought he would hurt me––I was much too fast––but because other things would hear him.
Other, savage, inhuman things.
A chill crept up my spine at the thought of the Hellions, but I needed to focus on my situation now–– escaping before the marauder shot me. Or worse.
I reached for the window. My legs burned and I grimaced from the way I crouched, stretching my arm as farther than it should have gone, balancing on the balls of my feet, hoping I wouldn’t slip or be seen. My fingertips scraped the edge of the window frame. The window was still unlatched, but from the angle I was stretching at, it was too heavy to push open. I had to move closer.
Holding my breath, I edged along the beam, glancing down at the marauder. He stopped cursing and spun in agitated circles. He was right underneath me. Now that I was closing in on the window, my shadow would fall over him and catch his attention. But I had no choice. I couldn’t stay here.
Casting caution aside, I nestled onto the thin window ledge and shoved my palms against the icy glass, pushing with all my weight. The window resisted, but I kept pushing until finally the window nudged outward with a lurch and a screech. Wind and rain lashed into the opened crevice. Lightning illuminated the sky in a blinding flash and thunder roared its rage. I cringed and turned my head away.
My eyes locked onto the marauder’s.