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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Making New Worlds

I’m very excited to be on Erika Nesvold’s Making New Worlds today.  Science fiction writers are not alone in contemplating what will come next in any new worlds humanity may reach.  The podcast explores the ethics of space settlement, and Erika addresses property rights with a sociologist, a colonial historian, and a space lawyer (that’s me).   So, go check out Episode 3:  Who Owns Mars.  If you want to keep up with new episodes you can follow the podcast on Twitter or Facebook.

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A Densely Packed World

When we write we fill our fictional world with things we know, whether obtained from our own experience or through research.  I know that I get many of my ideas from my day job as a space lawyer.  I was at the Federal Aviation Administration for many years.  Prizes were really big in the space sector–and still are.   SpaceShipOne snagged the ten million dollar prize offered by the Ansari X Prize.  The Google Lunar X Prize offers $30M to the first privately funded team to land a spacecraft on the Moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit high definition video and images back to Earth.  Prizes, by the way, go all the way back to the Longitude Prize offered in the 18th century for navigation.  Surrounded constantly by prize talk I came up with my own idea for a prize, $50M to the first to de-orbit a large piece of space junk.  I have a short story awaiting rejection at a magazine that comes from wondering whether alien visitors would need an FAA reentry license.  It’s not like they’d left Earth, so how could they reenter?  Hey, I thought it was funny.  Fortunately, that story morphed into something beyond just the joke.

I used to think that if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to get a job at the FAA doing space work, I would have liked to work in the power wheeling world.  As a space junkie (which is different from space junk), I’ve long thought that any day now we’d be getting space based solar power beamed to the ground from orbit.  If I’d worked on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues I figured I’d have been ready to work for a solar powersat operator.  Also, electricity is cool.

But I may have been thinking too small for a writer.  If I’d been an environmental lawyer, I might have known everything.  I say this because I check the table of contents of the Federal Register every day for the legal side of my work.  (If you are interested in space law, I blog at  The Federal Register is where the government publishes all its notices.  I pay close attention to the space regulators, of course, but glance over others.  I’ve got to say, the Environmental Protection Agency has real breadth to its jurisdiction.  Just the other day it was getting into the coastal waters of New England, the cement kilns of Maryland, and natural gas compression stations somewhere, maybe everywhere.  If you worked there or for a firm, you’d know all about everything.

One of the good things about being a lawyer is you learn a lot about whatever industry you work on.  I’m a philosophy major who learned a whole lot about blowing up rockets.  (In America, which is a great country, you achieve launch safety through explosion.)  I learned how they string the ordnance, how the vehicle tells the ground based element that it’s off course and heading for a city (which is bad), and how they send the destruct signal through all the little components.  I even remember the exploding bridge wires and command receiver decoders.  I used the check tone requirements of 14 C.F.R. part 417 for my fictional powersats in a novel.

When I read fantasy or historical fiction set in the distant past, I love all the “stuff” in the background, the rye in the fields, the geese in the streets, the balance to a sword, and the rifling of the Baker.  If I’d been an environmental lawyer I’d know more stuff.  Oh, well, it’s too late now for me, but for those of you in law school who want to know everything, think about it.  Or, just read the Federal Register.

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I Didn’t Know This

There’s world building. That’s when a writer tries to create a tangible story world.  In science fiction, the process is more involved because rather than relying on the world we actually live in–or a reasonable facsimile thereof–the writer creates an environment in space or on an alien planet.  For fiction set in the near future, the writer finds the task much easier.  Still, research is required.

When I wrote my novelette Far Flung, which is set somewhere between five and ten years from now, with “now” always being today, I had to research how to renounce U.S. citizenship.  It made me feel sad.  I love my country and its founding ideals.  In Far Flung most of the seasteaders who make up its original settlers come from the United States, so I learned all about the process of renouncing U.S. citizenship and how you have to go in twice to show you really mean to lose something so precious.

Then this morning I found this list.  For my day job as a lawyer I check the table of contents of the Federal Register every day.  I check the three space regulatory agencies–the FAA, the FCC, and NOAA–and I also check a few other agencies with space responsibilities like DOD, NASA, and the State Department.  It turns out that the Treasury Department publishes a quarterly list of individuals who have chosen to expatriate.  As Treasury explains:

This notice is provided in accordance with IRC section 6039G of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) of 1996, as amended. This listing contains the name of each individual losing United States citizenship (within the meaning of section 877(a) or 877A) with respect to whom the Secretary received information during the quarter ending September 30, 2017. For purposes of this listing, long-term residents, as defined in section 877(e)(2), are treated as if they were citizens of the United States who lost citizenship.

The list goes on for twenty pages, with maybe 75 names per page. That’s a lot of people. It makes you wonder what the stories of all those people are.  Long term residents who are not citizens may just want to go home.  Others may have married overseas. Several people share a last name. Is that coincidence or are they a whole family leaving? Or, are they leaving families behind? They do leave behind the protections and rights of a great country.  In my imaginary Far Flung world Betha Tenney’s name would appear on that list.  Her father would see it and hate it being there.  How do the families left behind feel about that list?  Do they know it exists?

It’s a big decision, renouncing one’s citizenship.  How did they make the call? And why?  It seems like there are a lot of stories there, at least twenty pages worth, of leaving one’s world behind.

Correction:  The original post stated that the list was published by the State Department.  That was wrong.

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I don’t know what to do.  Should I do National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) in November?  I’ve done it many years, and it’s a fabulous way to reach 50,000 words in 30 days.  I have some problems, however.

For one thing, it turns out I have two novels in draft.  Like a Continental Soldier, the next Waking Late book, is with beta readers, and it is possible I’ll start hearing back from them any day now.  If that happens, it’s got to be my top priority because I’m hoping to publish it in January.  That might not happen in any event because my cover artist isn’t available until then.  So there’s that.  Mercenary Calling, the sequel to The Sky Suspended, has been sitting in my computer for two years.  I’ve not wanted to look at it because I was writing, finishing, and publishing Out of the Dell, and then Soldier.  However, I’ve just finished re-reading Mercenary, and it’s just a little messy, not the out and out Mess that I had feared.  I could get that published within a couple months of Soldier.  I’d polish up Mercenary this week and then find an unsuspecting beta who said she’d be happy to read it.  Our conversation took place over a year ago, but she might still be amenable.  We’ll see.  No beta reader would finish that in November, so it’s not really a barrier to NaNo.

There is a bigger barrier to NaNo.  I have no idea what I’d write.  I have very inchoate thoughts on the next Calvin Tondini novel after Mercenary. Waking Late will be done with the third book.  I have ideas for more seastead stories.  I really want to write Shut the Kingdom, which is a follow on to Manx PrizeKingdom is about Charlotte and Ethan again, lunar property issues and Chinese shenanigans, and may have thriller overtones.  I’m not sure.  Regardless, I have a huge file to read about lunar rills, lunar landers, water, lunar geography, and whatnot.  I have a globe of the Moon, so that’s a start.

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