The Sky Suspended is in Kindle Unlimited

THE SKY SUSPENDED, the precursor to the newly released Mercenary Calling, is now in Kindle Unlimited.

Both books can stand alone, but this one comes right before Mercenary Calling.  It’s the first book I ever wrote, finished, and published.  I used one of my sons as a cover model, so I feel a certain amount of affection for that cover.  We went down to the Lincoln Memorial and he stood between various pillars looking heroic.  I sat on the ground with my camera so he’d loom even more (I learned that trick from someone while checking out Spaceport America in New Mexico), and snapped away.  Because we saw no alien planets in the sky that day, I bought one for $3.00 from a man in Turkey through Dreamstime.  Several filters, lots of feedback, and Phil Smith’s eventual corrections later, I arrived at the current cover.

What’s the book about?

It’s a novel of asteroids past, crowds, lawyers, and a starship.

It is the 22nd century and a generation has passed since asteroid scares led to the creation and launch of a single interstellar starship. Calvin Tondini is a new attorney with the government, and has no intention of watching from the sidelines as the starship’s return and its discovery of an Earth-like planet sets the bureaucratic response in motion. Can someone who has no business in the matter unearth the secrets that will allow the rest of humanity to reach the stars?



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Tipping the Writer

No, this is not to be confused (accidentally or deliberately) with cow tipping.  It’s totally different.

I learned of tipping the writer several years ago from fantasy and science fiction writer Cedar Sanderson, who noted that you could tip a writer by leaving a review of the book or story you read.  The review constitutes the tip.  Neat, huh?

Thank you to everyone who bought or borrowed Mercenary Calling.  I hope you are enjoying the tale.  If you are, and want other people to know about it, leaving a review is a fine thing to do.  It need not be long.  No book reports required.  A couple lines saying what you enjoyed would suffice.  And I would be ever so thankful.

Urban legend has it that part of how Amazon markets books depends on the number of reviews a book has and how many stars a books gets.  A review also tells other readers that someone may have liked the story, thus providing word of mouth marketing, which is far more valuable than advertising.  So, if you are wondering whether to leave a review, now’s a good time.

And, in case you do, thank you!



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It’s up!  It’s done.  It’s published, and it’s in print and on Kindle.

Exoplanets. Terrorists. Lawyers

Calvin Tondini has his first client, but he may be in over his head.

It’s the twenty-second century. Humanity’s first and only interstellar starship returns safely. Its mission to discover a habitable planet succeeded beyond all hopes, but there’s one problem. Captain Paolina Nigmatullin of the USS Aeneid left an unsanctioned human colony behind and now stands charged with mutiny.

Despite a somewhat spontaneous approach to his own career, life, and limb, Calvin intends to map a more cautious path for his new client. Captain Nigmatullin, however, shows an unnerving penchant for talk shows—appearing on them, that is—and otherwise ignoring her attorney’s sober counsel.

How can Calvin ensure his client’s freedom when death stalks the Aeneid’s crew, and Nigmatullin herself hides secrets from everyone, even her lawyer?

I hit publish on MERCENARY CALLING last night and you can now get it on Kindle or in print.  The two haven’t synced up on Amazon yet, but they both exist.  Or, read the snippet below to check it out.

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MERCENARY CALLING will be out sometime in the next week.  Because I’m so excited about it, I thought I’d share the beginning here.


Chapter 1

Calvin Tondini had to squint against the glare to see the motorcade of starship captains exiting the spaceport gates. With not just the sun and the water, but the air itself blindingly bright in the Florida afternoon, the world felt hot and alien for a January day. Coming to Canaveral Port from Washington, DC in winter he had almost forgotten his shades, but now he dug them out of his pocket and placed them on his face. He didn’t want the sunglasses to obscure his view of the commanders of the USS Aeneid, the starship that had discovered Earth’s twin, but he needed to be able to see, and his parents had spent no money on his eyes.

Calvin and his companions stood on a causeway over the Banana River between Merritt Island and the peninsula that held the spaceport. He could make out three figures still inside the spaceport in the pale green uniforms of the old ship: Aldo Contreras, the real captain, and Felicity Orlova and Paolina Nigmatullin his second and third, respectively. Everyone recognized Nigmatullin. She was tall, and had sharp pale features set off by black hair and brows. Her hair was long, and she wore it high in a horsetail that made her look even more severe than her impassivity already suggested.

Strangely, it was Nigmatullin who had appeared in the bulk of the broadcasts about the new planet, Elysia, from the starship. The population of the entire United States, if not the world, recognized her.

Calvin was pleased with the vantage he and his friends had attained.

They had crossed the causeway over the Banana River the night before on foot, and found a spot next to the road right outside the spaceport gates. Sean Han had agreed to come for the captains’ landing, since it was a Saturday. He lounged by Calvin’s side and played with the recording functions in his palm. His parti-colored face was intent on his goal of capturing every second of the historic event. Tri Marlin, who was younger and browner without the many hues that marked Sean’s epidermis, did not lounge. He leaned forward hard, intent on everything. Tri, who had learned the landing date a month ago, bought his ticket, and found them all rooms as soon as he heard the announcement, had brought three friends from college.

Tri and the other students made Calvin, who was twenty-seven, feel old. Tri’s group had made it through all of one semester of college, but Tri understood the bubble drive that had powered the starship, and two of the others were at least able to pretend they did. The third was quiet and just shone with the same inner excitement that glowed from Tri and that Calvin admitted he felt himself. Not aloud, because that would only invite ridicule, but he felt it.

The commanders of the Aeneid were on course to pass within ten feet of them. He could see them standing in the back of their vehicle, Contreras in the center, one hand holding the roll bar and the other waving at the mob who’d come to see them. Women talked a lot, too much, some might say, about what a handsome man he was. Even at a distance, his grin flashed white. The women to either side of him stood very straight and proud, and somehow managed to look as happy, if more quietly. They’d been gone from Earth a decade in their personal time. It had to be good to be back.

A guard sat in the front seat of the vehicle, and military police walked at its side, easily keeping pace with the vehicle’s stately progress. The police presence was not absurd. The starship’s popularity was not universal.

Calvin and his friends stood on the lavender side of the road, to the right of the gate. The division was not official, but when the supporters of the settlement the Aeneid had left on Elysia showed up and pitched their campsite on one side of the road, and people with the green flag of a disaggregated Earth saw them and took the other side, those who came later felt more comfortable following suit.

Calvin spared a quick look behind when he was jostled. The crowd stretched back to rocks leading down to the water. Those not wearing purple shirts had purple hair or armbands, and one fellow with a tail had a lilac ribbon tied to its tip.

Calvin looked away from the tail. Odd birth gifts could make him uncomfortable on a visceral level. Growing up mostly overseas, he was still not used to them. Calvin himself lacked the genetic enhancements of his cohort because his parents had left him natural. As a result, he had some height, but not enough to have had any chance at going pro in basketball. His coloring was neither brown nor blond, and his eyes were too long and his jaw too pronounced for the genetic fashions of his generation.

Contreras and his senior officers drew closer. They had yet to exit the gates, but the crowds there mobbed the car. The spaceport had reserved the space inside the gates for its employees and their families, and they had taken full advantage of their special relationship. The spaceport, with its demure single story buildings and modest walks and lawns from a time long gone, was packed. Calvin was envious, although he had no reason for it. He and Tri stood right at the front. The others had insisted. Tri, one of his classmates had explained, was very good at standing in line, and Calvin got points for his patent exposé the year before.

Calvin tried not to act pleased that three college freshmen he’d never met knew of his very minor triumph of administrative law in the service of humanity’s settlement of outer space, but he agreed that he should get a spot at the front purely on the basis of his advanced age. The others found this arbitrary and capricious logic acceptable, and Calvin got to watch the approach unimpeded.

Captain Contreras was close enough now for a good look. The interstellar traveller, one of humanity’s first, caught his eye and gave him a grin and a wink. The older man was dark, with olive skin and black hair, and the world’s whitest teeth. His eyes were dark, and, looking into them as he pulled closer Calvin was struck with how this man had seen other suns, had walked on another world, breathed alien air and lived to come back and tell the world.

Contreras had traveled forth at a time of great peril, the spearhead of mankind’s response to its brush with extinction, and now he was back in the normal world. Calvin’s was not the studied, cynical response of a seasoned attorney, and it wasn’t as if he shared it aloud with anyone else, but he very much wanted to follow this man back to the stars.

The vehicle drew closer, and Calvin found his eyes turning to the women. Orlova was nothing special to look at, and she lacked the magnetism that Contreras shed so freely. Nigmatullin was a little more alarming than the smaller woman. Were it not for the smile playing on her lips Calvin would have agreed she looked cold.

He realized he must have been staring like a slack-jawed rube, for Contreras’s attention returned, and Calvin could see the other man laughing at him. There was no malice, and it did not change Calvin’s opinion about following him from the planet, but he had no chance to share this thought, even though the slow-moving vehicle was now within thirty feet.

There was no warning. Calvin would remember it later as an unsettled blot of time, where everything was wonderful and not all at once.

There was a noise, a piercing crack, and Contreras’ head jerked in response to a sudden, sharp collapsing of his torso. The air around him filled with a red darkness, a disbursed liquid that had no place in the brightness of the day.

It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be happening, not to anyone, but not to this man, not on this day.

“No,” Tri moaned at Calvin’s side. “God, no.”

Felicity Orlova spasmed. Her hands flew skywards as if pulled by wires, and her chest collapsed, too, as her face vanished in the same spray of darkness that marred the light of the day.

The crowd had started screaming. Calvin couldn’t see Nigmatullin. Surely, Calvin thought, they couldn’t all three be dead. He had no doubt about the condition of the first two.

Tri, who was an idiot, was running toward the vehicle. Calvin knew this because he was at the boy’s side doing the same. He saw two of the MPs fall, and it occurred to him that he was maybe in the wrong place and going in the wrong direction.

Some of the military police stayed with the convoy, but others rushed in pursuit away from the port, up the causeway, toward a curve where anyone could have blended back into the crowd. How the people in the crowd hadn’t seen or stopped someone was hard to say, but someone had managed to get off enough shots to kill.

Nigmatullin lay on the ground, blood flowing dark and red from her leg. The MP crouching over her looked up at Calvin and Tri. “Get out of here,” he said, right before a bullet grazed his helmet. The next one caught him in the neck.

It was nightmarish. Calvin had never seen anything approaching this level of violence, and the thick smell of the blood and other odors, the viscous coating on human flesh, turned his stomach. He breathed through his mouth as he pulled the purple bandana from his arm and took the spot at Nigmatullin’s side. She appeared to be unconscious, but her eyes opened as he began to wrap the bandana high up her leg. “It’s not an artery,” she said, as if she would know.

Tri picked up the wounded MP’s weapon, and stood between Nigmatullin and the causeway, sighting down the road to the west. Calvin hoped no one decided to shoot him. He liked Tri.

The other vehicles in the convoy looked to be untouched, but the remaining police clustered around the one that had preceded the captains’ ride, as if it contained someone more important. A woman with olive skin and black hair was trying to get out of the car. The MPs were aggressively discouraging her.

“Calvin,” Tri said. “Watch out.”

The scene to either side of the road had changed, too. It had all been so fast, but he could see the difference in the crowd. Where people had run from the car earlier, they were now returning, and the ones on Calvin and Tri’s side of the road were angry and screaming, “You killed them,” at the carriers of the Earth flags.

Calvin saw a blur of faces under the Earth flags, and one hollered, “You know we didn’t,” and shouted something foul.

Tri and Calvin were the only two in the road near the vehicle. Calvin noticed something strange about that. There were dead and wounded MPs. The shots had been indiscriminate, it looked like. But there were plenty of MPs crowding the vehicle with the politician or whomever she was up ahead.

“No one’s helping anymore,” Calvin said. “We’ve got to get her out of here.” He tried the vehicle’s ignition, but it wasn’t keyed to his bios. He’d always heard it wasn’t wise to move a wounded person. That was fine in the abstract, but someone had killed two starship captains and tried for a third, and the mob on the Earth side of the road was straining closer. He looked toward the spaceport and saw only a packed crowd of horrified port employees.

Tri stood guard, his weapon aimed at anyone who looked to be stepping into the road. “I’ll cover you. Over here,” he finished, calling to his friends, who approached at a tight dogtrot. Two sported the close buzz cuts universal to ROTC youth throughout the country. One of them had enough mass on him to look useful.

“We’re taking her back inside,” Calvin said. He shifted his stance and tucked his arms behind Nigmatullin’s back and knee before draping her, as gently as he could, in a fireman’s carry. Whatever medical finesse he lacked, he figured she’d be safer if she weren’t between the parti-colored crowds.

The edge of the road seemed to serve as an invisible barrier to the now angry people packed to either side, but the pushing of those from the back pretty much guaranteed that, like most invisible barriers, it would eventually fail. The din was loud and the air hot, and still Calvin’s neck hairs prickled as if with cold as he began to walk Nigmatullin to the spaceport gates.

“Elysia!” a high voice, a girl’s, called to his right, and someone else picked it up.

“Earth first!” came an answering cry to his left, and he saw it was another girl, slim and furious.

“Elysia,” screamed the girl on his right again. She was also slim and furious, and looked as if she could have been the other’s sister. Maybe, Calvin thought, they were.

He moved in his own screen of young men, the four of whom had apparently decided the threat of shooters came from the west, and guarded his back.

What the girls had started didn’t stop, the syncopated screaming substituting for any desire the onlookers might have had to rush each other. Picked up by the male voices in the crowd, the screaming changed to a roar and reverberated drum-like through the heated, shimmering air.

Nigmatullin’s weight slowed Calvin even as he tried to move quickly. She wasn’t a small woman, but he had his own mass and used it to maintain his pace. His shirt grew tacky with her blood, and he prayed that someone inside Canaveral was sending help. The roared chants sounded prayer-like, but they were a different kind of prayer, and there had been enough blood sacrifice for one day.

He had a dim notion that a thigh wound could lead to a very bad outcome, and the woman he carried was the one who knew the way back to the new planet. He scanned the crowd inside the port for any sign of something useful like an ambulance as his feet pounded in rhythm to the roar and counter-roar.

It was as if he now jogged atop a giant drum, and the sweat ran into his eyes and the blood was too warm and there was too much of it.

Someone threw something, and it hit him in the shoulder, just missing Nigmatullin. His arm hurt.

“Tri,” Calvin muttered. “To my left.”

“You,” Tri called, pulling up level to Calvin and letting the weapon’s muzzle travel across the green Earth crowd. The surge of people rippled back and lost the rhythm of their calling.

This made the crowd on the right, no longer using the cry of “Earth first” as a moment to gather air, lose their own pacing. The cries of “Elysia” picked up in speed, and with too much war vid in his youth, Calvin was convinced the change in pitch presaged an advance from what had been his own side of the road.

“To the right,” he called out to the youngsters behind him.

One of them had acquired a weapon somehow, and made the same slow fan that Tri had used. It had the same effect. It shouldn’t have been necessary. The right side had the same interest in not trampling Nigmatullin that Calvin did.

They were closer to the gates, and, sure enough, through the sweat that clouded his eyes, Calvin saw that an ambulance worked its way slowly through the parting crowd.

He felt Tri stumble against him, but he had his left arm wrapped around the woman. He tried to turn and catch him, but one of the other young men did. “Help her,” Tri said, when he saw that Calvin was pausing.

Calvin looked, and two men and a woman, all clutching rocks, were coming at them from the Earth side of the road.


UPDATE:  Now that it’s published, you can read more here.

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Cover for Mercenary Calling




MERCENARY CALLING is coming soon!  It is undergoing print formatting, but the cover is ready.  Streetlight Graphics did a great job with the cover, and I couldn’t be happier.

There’s a lot involved in getting a new book out into the world.   Fortunately, today’s markets and technology make that so much easier.  First, of course, one must write the book, share it with beta readers, consider and incorporate their comments, and bless them for spotting typos and other mistakes.  Then I print and proofread.  One friend sets her word processing program to audio for her proofreading.  For me, printing it out helps me spot things I’ve missed.

I put MERCENARY CALLING into Amazon’s Kindle format.  I hyperlinked the chapters in the table of contents and stripped out the page numbers, set the margins and spacing, and fought with the feeling I’d forgotten something.  I’ll look at it again before it goes live.  Oh, yeah.  I still haven’t run spell check.  For a 96,000 word book that will take a while and is boring.  Still have to do it.  With print text and cover formatting underway, I wait for the results.

I will place MERCENARY CALLING in Kindle Unlimited for its first 90 days and then take it “wide,” adding it to such other booksellers as Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  If you are an Amazon KU subscriber, strike while the iron is hot.

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Sleeping Duty is Now Available in Print!

I am super excited to announce that Sleeping Duty is now available in print.  The book has been available as an ebook for over two years now, but it was still weirdly thrilling to hold a proof copy in my hands.  I’ve been reading books since I was very young, and, although I love my Kindle, I was always holding one of these book-things as my talisman to other worlds before the Kindle came along.  Now one of my books exists in the real world, too.

My next book, Mercenary Calling, should be out by the end of January, and it, too, will be available in paper.  How am I able to finally accomplish this amazing feat?  I found the right folks.  Although I figured out how to publish electronically, set up two websites, and do some of my own covers for my short stories (I tell you all this not to brag but so you won’t think I’m too pathetic), attempting to make all the widows and orphans, page numbers and fonts, and headers and footers–and margins!–all work with each other completely stymied me.  There are people out there, however, who stand ready to help people like me.  One of them is Streetlight Graphics, and I really love what they did.  They’re also very nice to work with.  If you need help, check ’em out.

What is Sleeping Duty about?  It’s the tale of a former space marine trapped on a lost, medieval colony planet:

Gilead Tan and Andrea Fielding survived their stint in the military, got married, signed up to emigrate to a terraformed colony world, and went into cold sleep for the journey from Earth. While they slept, the starship went through the wrong fold in space and settled for a different world, a wild world. Three centuries after the founding of a colony on the uncharted planet, Gilead awakens to find humanity slipped back to medieval tech and a feudal structure. Worse, the king who wants Gilead awake won’t let Gilead awaken his wife.

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My husband and I drove by a house awash in Christmas lights the other night.  It was a corner house, and the yard facing the side street held inflatable Christmas icons.  The corner itself housed behemoth elves that were two stories high.  But the front.  The front had all the action.  Lit arches, knee-high, flowed across the yard as a backdrop to a dozen small Christmas trees.  Sparkling lights hung from the eaves.  The lights ran in a pattern, starting softly with a little twinkling on a tree, a ripple through one arch and then the next.  Rolling down the window let us hear music–we were at a stop light–and the lights ran faster.  It grew to quite a frenzy before they died out and reached visual silence.  Then they started again.

This extravaganza fed some atavistic childhood need for Christmas lights.  When I was four years old or thereabouts the State Department posted my dad to the embassy in Mexico City.  He always drove us downtown for the lights.  In Mexico City they go all out, with lighted loops, mosaics, patterns of the Nativity, and buildings awash in light.   I don’t remember details well, but my memory assures me that waterfalls of lights cascaded from giant skyscrapers.  You’re pretty short when you’re four, so I could be wrong.

After Mexico we came back to the States for a year and then went on to Thailand. In Bangkok they didn’t have Christmas lights.  They did have a king, and his birthday was December 5.  It was celebrated with lights all over parts of the city.  So the five of us got in the car, and we got to see those lights, too.  I remember them as all white, outlining streets and buildings like a fairyland.  They weren’t Christmas lights, but they were still really good.  We loved the king’s birthday.

When our sons were little we popped them in the car and took them to a state park out 270 which was lit into a fantasy land of light-lined toys and trains, Santas and elves, and all the fevered holiday dreams one could imagine.  I think it took about 20 minutes of slow driving to get through the whole thing.  Whatever we paid, it was worth it.  After seeing that one house the other night, I want to go again.  My husband may not know it yet, but next year we will.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Holidays!

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Print, Timing, and Pricing

I’m very excited.  Although I have published four novels and a handful of short stories, I haven’t yet put any of my work into print.  That’s about to change.  As we speak, a proof copy of Sleeping Duty is making its way through the postal system to my waiting hands.

Plenty of other independent writers have said they see fewer than ten percent of their sales come from print, so I’m not doing this for the money (although, yes, I did click the box for receiving royalties.  Of course.)  One reason I’m doing it is for passive marketing.  When a prospective reader lands on Sleeping‘s Amazon page, the presence of two editions, one electronic and one in paper, will subliminally signal that this is a real book and the reader must buy it immediately.  Or something like that.  Also, when I go to LibertyCon I can request an author table without feeling foolish sitting there with no books.  I’ll have books.  Who knows, prospective readers might even visit me at my author table.  Maybe I’ll hold a space law raffle to drum up visitors.  The final reason I’m doing it, of course, is so that I can hold my book in my hands.  I am absurdly full of anticipation.

I think I’m still on track for January publication of Mercenary Calling, about Calvin Tondini’s defense of a starship captain who allowed an unauthorized human settlement.  I originally intended the third Waking Late book to come out first, but the cover artist for that one is not available until January, so I’m spending my time in the Ground Based Universe getting Mercenary ready.  I will be teaching space law starting in January at Catholic University’s law school, and that’s going to require a bit of attention as well.

One other change coming up is that in January I will be raising prices on the shorter works.  During the preparation of Sleeping Duty for print I learned that I was under pricing my short stories and novelettes.  I did, however, want to let those of you who stop by here know so that you could pick them up while they are still 99 cents.  Prices will go up January 1.  Short stories that come out next year will be 99 cents for the first 30 days, and then they, too, will go up to reflect their length.

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