Cool Developments

Hello, folks.

It’s been a while since I had anything to say on here.  Or rather, it’s been a while since I bothered to say anything on here.  Suffice it to say the last couple months have been pretty busy.  We ran through a fairly hefty financial debacle, got really busy with the kids and school, had several visitors from out of town, took a family trip to Disneyland, wrestled with the Navy detailers to figure out what my next (and last) Navy job is going to be, and…

Long story short, I haven’t gotten much writing done, though I did get stories submitted to Writers of the Future, so that’s good.

As the post title implies, I’ve got some cool developments to announce.  So let’s get to it.

First.  My orders are finalized.  My Last. Navy. Job. EVER! will be on a Carrier Strike Group staff here in San Diego.  Which is cool because we don’t have to move until I retire.  And because I get to go back to sea, on a Carrier.  On the down side, I’ll be deploying again, and only a few months before my retirement date.  So that will make transition…interesting.  But that’s the Navy for you.

Second.  Turns out the nice people at Kobo are having a sale on books that are published through their Kobo Writing Life portal – 50% off the list price.  Since all my stuff is published through that portal and I’m a big Kobo fan, I figure you guys might want to know about that.  The sale has a different duration depending on what country you’re in, as follows:

Canada
October 28th – October 31st
Promo Code: CA50SALE

United States/Australia/New Zealand
October 27th – October 30th
Promo Code: GET50SALE

United Kingdom
October 30th – November 2nd
Promo Code: UK50SALE

So if you want some cool books for a good price, run on over there and use those promo codes, and Kobo will hook you up.  🙂

Third.  I’m doing a giveaway of Glimmer Vale, book one of the Glimmer Vale Chronicles.  If you want a free copy of a fun book, click here, input your email address, and your wish will be granted.  🙂

Fourth.  You probably noticed I’ve given the website a bit of a facelift.  I had been using the Ocean Breeze WordPress theme for a while, but decided to try The Responsive after interacting with a few other writers who dig it.  I have to say, I like it so far.  What do you guys think?  Better, same as, worse?

Finally, and speaking of the Glimmer Vale Chronicles, the fourth book in the series, Robbed Blind, is, at long last, about ready to go.  The cover art is basically finalized, so I figured I’d share it with you.  There are a couple very small tweaks still to make on the cover, but I expect it will be wrapped up this week.  Here it is as it currently stands:

JFBeveridge-Glimmer_4-cover_conceptB-15-layout-900w

Pretty sweet, right?  Once again, James Beveridge consented to provide the artwork, and he did a great job as usual.

Anyway, once the cover’s finished, I’m going to do something that I’ve not done before: pre-orders.  Barring some unexpected catastrophe, expect to see the book up on all the sites that allow pre-orders next week, for an official release at the end of November.  It’ll go for $4.99 for the ebook and $13.95 for the trade paperback.

That’s all I have for you for right now.  Don’t forget to hit up Kobo, and please do either hit the link above or click on the Newsletter link in the menu atop the page, to sign up to get updates and free stuff.  It’s good for you.  It’s good for me.  It’s good for the children.

Remember the children.

🙂

One Heck Of A Deal

Hi folks!

Before I put of the next chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy, I thought I’d tell you about a great deal going down.  Today and tomorrow, Short Story 10-Pack, my new release, is on sale.  For free.

Because I love you all, and want you to be happy.

🙂

Aren’t I nice?

So go on over to Amazon and pick up a copy.  You’ll be happy you did.  And when you’re done reading it, whether you love it or hate it, please leave a review.  Because every honest review helps.

🙂

It’s 2014 And I Feel Like Crap

…or at least I felt like crap.  I’m actually feeling much better today.  But yesterday and the day before?  Fugedaboutit.  Hacking cough, fever/chills, splitting headache, sore throat, queasiness – you name it, I had it.  Yuck.

Note to self.  No more 1/2 marathons with 37F starting temperatures.  I blame my cold on that little bit of foolishness, right there.  The San Diego Holiday 1/2 Marathon, this past Sunday.  Great race.  Great fun.  Awesome finisher’s medal:

IMG_3149

But changing from cold to exertion to warm but no exertion to a bit chilly as I cooled down to warm to chilly again as evening rolled in did a number on my system.  Monday afternoon I developed a cough.  Tuesday morning I was still ok, but by Tuesday afternoon I was AFU.  Good thing it was an early day at work on Tuesday or it would have been ugly.

Suffice it to say that New Years Eve here was non-eventful.  I did not see past 2100.  Yesterday was not that much better.  But now I seem to be past the worst of it.  Unfortunately, our 3 year old seems to have caught what I have/had; he’s been thoroughly miserable today, poor little guy.  🙁

So…a pretty cruddy start to the New Year, physically.

But wait!  There’s more!  And it’s good!

I did manage to gather up enough energy yesterday to give the final approvals, so now Out-Dweller, Glimmer Vale Chronicles #2 is out for the world to consume, in all its glory.  🙂

Glimmer2_Cover_Art - Ebook 600x900

A series of brutal murders has shocked the normally quiet town of Lydelton.  With no idea of the culprit’s identity, or even how the murders were committed, the townsfolk have become suspicious of each other, teetering on the edge of panic.  As the town Constables, Raedrick and Julian must put a stop to the murders and bring the killer to justice.   Somehow.

Before they can do that, the arrival of a member of the Magestirium poses another dilemma.  Because their friend Melanie is a mage, in violation of the laws forbidding women from practicing the magical arts, and the Magestirium’s wrath against those who break their laws is legendary.

But protecting their friend’s secret while saving the town from a horrifying killer may not be possible, since defeating this killer will require every resource Lydelton can muster.

Out-Dweller is now live 0n all your favorite ebook stores: Amazon, Kobo, B&N, and Smashwords.  Apple, Sony,  and the others will follow shortly (Apple would be live already if their direct upload process wasn’t such a PITA…but that’s a different rant entirely).  The print version is also available.  I get the most money if you get it direct from Createspace, but if you’d rather find it at Amazon and B&N, you can do that instead.

The giveaways (for Glimmer Vale and Out-Dweller) are finished over at Goodreads, the winners chosen, and I’ll have their copies of the books mailed off within a week.  I considered just drop-shipping the winners’ copies straight from Createspace, but I think it’s more classy to sign and personalize the copy for the individual winners, so I’m going to take the time to do that.  Hopefully no one minds.  🙂

So that bit of goodness sort of balances out the bad of illness.  Almost.  Not quite.

As you can imagine I’ve gotten no writing done so far this year.  Hell, I got basically no writing done all of December.  More on that later; I’ll do an end-of-the-year wrap-up post tomorrow or this weekend.  And I’ll get back to posting chapters of The Pericles Conspiracy.  I haven’t forgotten about it, it’s just been lower on my priorities list than getting settled in our new house, and then the Holidays, and then…well, you know.

Excuses, excuses.

🙂

Ahem.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got time and energy for tonight.  Gonna hit the sack a bit earlier tonight too.  Sleep seems to help with healing and getting over illness.  Seems like I heard that somewhere once.   🙂

Right.  Until next time, then.  Have a good one!

The Pericles Conspiracy – Chapter Four

I am posting The Pericles Conspiracy for all y’all to read here on the blog.  Two chapters per week.  Given there are 63 chapters in the book,  if you don’t want to bother waiting half a year to read the entire book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, or  iTunes.

Or, if you want a chance to get the whole thing for free, check out my giveaway on Goodreads.  Enter to win one of 5 copies of The Pericles Conspiracy; the giveaway ends tomorrow night.  Good luck!

The Pericles Conspiracy Cover

Chapter Four: Back From The Dead

“Malcolm!” Jo exclaimed in disbelief, her fatigue forgotten in the shock of seeing him.

“It’s good to see you,” Malcolm replied.

“What do you mean, it’s good to see me?  You’re supposed to be dead!  Where the hell have you been?”

Malcolm’s smile faded and he pushed himself off the wall.  With a quick, furtive glance both ways down the hallway, he stepped toward Jo and spoke more quietly.

“I need your help, Jo.  Can we talk inside?”

She was tempted to say no, to tell him to go away.  If he had faked his death – and what other explanation was there – he was certainly up to no good, and that was trouble Jo did not need.  But he had been a good friend, and once, long ago, more than that.  She found herself nodding, and then following him into her condo.

As usual, the lights turned on as they entered, and her classical mix began to play along with the slideshow of alien landscapes.  She closed the door and rolled her suitcase over to the closet.  When she turned back toward Malcolm, he was watching the slideshow with a far away look in his eyes and an amused grin on his lips.

“Remember that time on Talos, when we took that picture?  You almost…”

“Stow it, Malcolm,” she said, placing her hands on her hips and assuming the tone she reserved for times when a subordinate was being particularly stupid.  “What are you doing alive, and who the hell did we cremate, a year and a half ago?”

Malcolm looked sidelong at her, saying nothing for nearly a full minute.  Then he nodded, as if coming to a decision, and sat down in her stuffed chair.  He drew a deep breath before replying.

“The body was a homeless man.”  Seeing her expression, he raised his right hand in a placating gesture, and quickly added, “We didn’t kill him.  We found him dead in a back alley.  Probably drank himself to death.”

“Bullshit.  They verified the body through DNA analysis.”

Malcolm’s eyebrows rose high onto his brow.  “Well, I’m here.  Clearly they were mistaken.”  He made a powerful case, she had to admit.  “We knew they would run tests, so we made sure to set the fire in a manner that would render the body unidentifiable.  But as a little extra insurance…”  He raised his left hand, and Jo’s breath caught in her throat.  His little finger was gone, cut off except for a small bump where the last knuckle would be.  “It doesn’t take much to leave a lot of DNA.”

Jo sank onto the couch and shook her head in disbelief.  “Why would you do that?  And who is we?”

Malcolm leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.  “Do you remember when we docked?  The debriefings?”

“Of course I do.  What does that…”

“Almost from the beginning, I realized that the government was not going to do right by our new friends.  When they brought out the non-disclosure agreements and swore us to secrecy, I knew for sure.”

Jo snorted, and Malcolm frowned slightly.

“Don’t believe it?  I studied the incubator, and the technical documents, for almost nine months before we turned over the watch and went back into cryo-suspension.  I checked with the others when we woke up before docking and no one else had bothered to even look at it.  I knew more about what those creatures gave us than anyone else alive, so why wouldn’t the Agency accept my help, unless they meant ill?”

“You faked your death because your ego was bruised?”  Jo knew she sounded incredulous, but it seemed appropriate.

Malcolm shook his head vigorously.  “it’s not about me!”  He stood up suddenly, and paced over to the window.  “I tried, Jo.  After we were released, I tried to get them to listen…”

This was getting ridiculous.  “Listen?  Listen to what?  You don’t have security clearance.  You’re just an Engineer on a starliner, or you were.  And a damn good one.  But why would they need your help when they have world-class PhDs on their payroll?  Especially when you were going out of your way to be a pain in the ass!”

Malcolm turned back at her, looking startled.

“Oh yes, I heard about the little stunt you pulled at NSA headquarters.  What were you thinking?  You’re lucky they didn’t lock you up!”

Malcolm waved off her comment.  “They wouldn’t have done that.  Too much press if they did.  Too many questions.”  He walked back to the sitting area and took his seat in the chair again.  His expression was serious as he continued, his eyes taking on a fierce light.  “But then I met some people.  I don’t know how they heard about it, or how they found me.  But they had suspicions about what had happened up there, and they confirmed my worst fears about what the government was up to.”

“Some kooks tell you a tall tale, and you buy it?”

“Of course not.  I thought they were crazy at first too, just as you think I am.”

“I don’t think you’re crazy.”

He smirked.  “Yes you do.  But they showed me evidence of what the government had done in the past in other cases, and it was compelling.   When I showed them my copies of the technical documents…”

“Copies?  You made copies of what they gave us?”

Malcolm nodded.  “I knew they’d be confiscated, but I wanted to continue studying them, so…”

Jo threw her hands up.  “And you wonder why the Agency wasn’t going to trust you?  Did you ever even once think about just trying to work within the rules?”

“The Agency’s rules are about exclusion.  About keeping information away from the populace.  About keeping them enthralled with bread and circuses while the government…”

Jo stood up.  “I’ve heard enough of this.  I don’t know what happened to you, Malcolm, but I’m tired and I’ve got an early day tomorrow.  Take your conspiracy theories and leave.”

She turned away, toward her bedroom door.

“The government has no intention of sending those eggs back, Jo.”

Malcolm’s words stopped her in her tracks.  She looked back at him over her shoulder.  His face was stricken, almost as though he was in physical pain.

“What are you talking about?  Of course they will.”

He shook his head.  “No.  They’ve got the eggs in a lab, and they’re running tests on them.  When they’ve learned all they can, the eggs will be discarded.  Meanwhile, the government is using the technology in those documents to build weapons to use when we encounter them again.”

Clenching his fists as he rose, Malcolm took a step toward her, and Jo backed away without realizing it.  Now he looked enraged, ready to commit violence.

“They entrusted us with their eggs – with their babies – and the government is using them like lab rats!”

This had gone far enough.  Malcolm’s rapidly changing moods were making Jo more than a little nervous.  “I’m going to bed now, Malcolm.  Please show yourself out.  Don’t make me call the police.”

He recoiled as if slapped.  For a second, Jo thought maybe he was going to lash out at her.  But then he slumped, looking defeated, and, nodding, he turned toward the door.  He half-turned as the door slid open, and he looked like he was going to say something else.  But he must have seen in her face that she didn’t want to hear it.  So, with a sigh, he walked out of her condo.

As the door slid shut behind him, Jo let out a tense breath.  What had happened to him?  He used to be poised, decisive, passionate, brilliant!  Now…well, he was still passionate, that much was clear.  But the rest?  He was twisted, hardly resembling the man she once knew.

Jo locked up and went to bed.  But she was unable to sleep for a long time.  Instead, she replayed the encounter in her head over and over.  She couldn’t help but feel sorry for her old friend.

 *  *  *  *  *

Jo pushed past Harold’s secretary, ignoring his protests that Mr. Jameson was in a meeting and wasn’t to be disturbed.  The double doors to his forty-fifth story office were solid, probably mahogany, and beautifully stained.  She shoved them open, and they swung through their full range of motion, smacking into the walls within his office with a loud crash.

Harold was seated at his coffee table with three other men, all dressed in fine business suits.  They were going over documents on the display screen built into the table, but all looked over in unison at the noise, surprise turning to chagrin on the faces of the three guests as she walked in.  Harold’s face was a thundercloud.  He stood up, pulling off his reading glasses and glowering at her.

“Jo, what…”

She gave him no time to complete his sentence.  In her best no-nonsense tone, she said, “I need to talk to you, Harry.  Right now.”

Harold knew her well enough to recognize that tone.  His expression moderated a bit, but from the tightness around his eyes, Jo could tell he was very annoyed.  Well, it was about to get worse.

“Will you excuse us for a moment, gentlemen?” Harold said to his companions.

The three men looked from Harry to Jo and back, then the fellow who seemed to be the leader nodded.  They stood, the younger of the three pausing to turn off the display, then walked out.  All three of them gave Jo appraising, and questioning, stares as they walked past her.

Harold closed the doors behind them and turned to face her.  “Alright, Jo, this better be good.”

“Malcolm Ngubwe is alive.”

Harold’s jaw dropped open, the annoyance leaving his face, replaced by confusion.

“What are you talking about? He was confirmed dead a year and a half ago.”

“Then I guess it was a ghost that came by my condo last night.”  Jo stepped over to the televid control on the wall across from Harold’s desk and touched her holocard to it.  A moment later, her homepage came up, and she tapped her video cache twice.  The feed from the security camera outside her door came up on the televid screen, showing her encounter with Malcolm, or at least the part of it that occurred in the hall.

Harold stepped toward the screen, his eyes widening.  “My God, it is him.  How?”

“He faked his own death.”

“But, why?”

Jo felt an upwelling of sadness for her friend as she related the substance of their discussion to Harold.  She was circumspect about the eggs, and the other items they brought back on Pericles.  Harold did not know the details about what happened up there.  He took over as COO three months after Pericles docked, and he was not cleared to learn the details.  As far as he was told, and from what Jo could tell as far as he cared, something had happened that the government cared about.  But it was not safety related and it did not affect the operation of his starliner fleet except for a short delay offloading that one ship, so he had not asked questions.  He knew better than that.

All the same, he looked quizzically at Jo as she came to the end of her tale.  “I know you can’t say what could possibly have gotten him so riled up, and I really don’t want to know, but…?”  He left the rest of the question unspoken.

Jo spread her hands in an expression of helplessness.

Harold waved a hand, as though dismissing his own question.  “Well, the authorities are going to want to know he’s alive.  And if he’s as unstable as you say…”  He shook his head.  “Pity how people fall apart sometimes, isn’t it?  Well, I’m sure when they catch up to him they’ll get him the help he needs.”

Harold checked the time and paused for a moment.  Jo could almost see him computing the time difference in his head.

“It’s four o’clock in Geneva now.  Better let Chandini know.”

He reached toward the controls for the intercom to his secretary, but froze as Jo spoke again.

“There’s something else, Harry.  A reporter’s been asking questions about what happened on Pericles.”

“What?  Who?”

Jo shrugged.  “A guy named Reynolds.  Jeremy Reynolds, from Star News.  He approached me at a bar.”

“When did this happen?”

“The night the Hephaestus had her accident.”

Harold slammed a fist onto the top of his desk.  “Goddamnit, Jo!  That was almost three months ago, and you’re just telling me now?!”

“It slipped my mind in the furor of trying to save over five thousand lives.  Sorry.  Next time I’ll get my priorities straight.”

Harold managed to look a bit sheepish as he nodded, conceding the point.  “True enough.  Well, hopefully no harm no foul.  Brace yourself though, Jo.  You know the Feds aren’t going to like this one bit.”

With that, Harold tapped the intercom control.  His secretary’s voice came through.

“Yes, Mr. Jameson.”

“Steven, get me Deputy Director Chandini of the NSA.”

There was a long silence on the other end of the intercom.  For a moment, Jo wondered if Steven had heard the order.  But then he spoke again, his voice quavering as though he were suddenly very nervous.

“Yes, Mr. Jameson.”

The intercom clicked off, and memories from Pericles’ docking rushed into Jo’s mind, primarily the interviews with the NSA agents who took charge of her crew’s debriefing.  They were cold and aloof, seemingly ready to find fault with her people and haul them away at any moment; a far cry from the customs agents from the Interplanetary Commerce Administration that starliners normally dealt with.  They were cordial, almost warm in a professionally familiar sort of way.  But the NSA people…  They were in the law enforcement and solar system security business, and on the murkier side of law enforcement at that.  It made sense for them to take over, considering what happened, but dealing with them was uncomfortable, to say the least.  And Chandini herself…  Jo had to stop herself from wrapping her arms over her chest, protectively.  Chandini was not someone to be trifled with.

Jo glanced over at Harold.  From his expression, she could tell he was thinking the same thing she was: it was going to be a very long day.

*  *  *  *  *

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy.  Stay tuned in a few days for the next chapter, or, if you don’t want to bother waiting half a year to read the entire book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, or  iTunes.

Or, if you want a chance to get the whole thing for free, check out my giveaway on Goodreads.  Enter to win one of 5 copies of The Pericles Conspiracy; the giveaway ends tomorrow night.  Good luck!

The Pericles Conspiracy – Chapter Three

I’m a little behind putting this one up.  I flew to Japan last weekend for an exercise planning conference and have been busy doing things like…conferencing (I’m sure that’s a word).  And eating yummy Japanese food, drink Chu-Hi…and doing a little writing.  I also re-formatted the paperback version of The Pericles Conspiracy, because I realized the original version was too thick – it made the price I would have had to charge to get good distribution excessive.

So that’s what’s been going on.  And now, our regularly scheduled programming.

I am posting The Pericles Conspiracy for all y’all to read here on the blog.  Two chapters per week.  Given there are 63 chapters in the book,  if you don’t want to bother waiting half a year to read the entire book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, or  iTunes.

Or, if you want a chance to get the whole thing for free, check out my giveaway on Goodreads.  Enter to win one of 5 copies of The Pericles Conspiracy; the giveaway ends on 23 September.  Good luck!

The Pericles Conspiracy Cover

Chapter Three – Old Friends

Carlton Hersch met Jo at the baggage claim in Logan Airport.  She was just turning away from the carousel, pulling her checked bag behind her, when he saw her and waved with a grin.  She returned the grin in kind, her face brightening as it always did when she smiled, and gave him a hug in greeting.

“Looking good, Cap’n,” he said, then winced at the look of reproach on her face.  “Sorry.  I mean, you look good, Jo.”

Try as he might, and no matter how often she told him to do otherwise, he always found himself addressing her by her title when talking to her, almost without realizing it.  Serving under her command aboard Pericles for five years was hard to get past, but he was out of that game now, wasn’t he?

“Good to see you, Carl,” she said, the reproachful look changing to a familiar, friendly smile.  “How are Alison and the kids?”

“She’s fine.  Tim’s enjoying first grade a lot.  He has a girlfriend.”  Carlton found himself shaking his head in amusement at that.  “Malcolm’s starting to say a few words.  Or at least I think they’re words.”

“You didn’t have to come all the way out here to meet me, you know.  I’ve ridden the T before.”

Carlton waved off the comment dismissively.  “Least I can do.  You’ve had a tough few weeks.”

They stepped outside into the crisp winter afternoon.  Carlton noticed Jo shivering, heck nearly convulsing, as she pulled her jacket tight about herself.  Too much time along the equator’s making her blood thin, he thought.  Not that he didn’t find it a bit chilly for his taste, as well.

He was parked in the short-term lot.  It only took a few minutes to reach his car.  Jo whistled appreciatively when she saw it, a brand new Mercedes, painted in a green so dark it was nearly black.

“Not bad, Carl.  The Airline’s treating you well, I see.”

He chuckled.  “Alison paid for it.”  Alison was an Attending at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and made much more money than he did as a senior instructor at Delta’s Orbital Flight Academy.  He could not complain about his work schedule, though.

The drive from Logan to his and Alison’s house took a bit less than an hour.  It was after rush hour, but someone from out of town would not believe it from the number of vehicles on the roads.  Most people commuted on the T, or in automated taxis or public transport buses, but even still the roads through town were almost always packed.  Eventually, he turned right off the Riverway onto Longwood Avenue and drove into the residential area adjacent to the medical district.  It was like driving back in time.  The rest of the city had long ago turned into towering skyrises, but here the residents still maintained old, quaint homes on quiet, wooded streets.

They pulled into the driveway, and Carlton helped Jo with her luggage.  Alison was waiting on the porch, beaming a wide smile.  She and Jo embraced fondly, and walked into the house, chatting away already.  Typical, Carlton chuckled to himself as he trailed behind and lugged the bags up the stairs and into the house.

Alison had dinner ready: a marvelous concoction of braised beef, simmered greens, seasoned mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, and a fine Cabernet that they had decanted earlier in the afternoon.  And, of course, mashed up baby food for little Malcolm, who proudly wore his meal on his bib before Alison finally gave up trying to pilot any more starships into the tiny docking bay that was his mouth.

After dinner, the ladies took Malcolm to the family room while Carlton took Tim upstairs to get ready for bed.  The usual routine of bath, pajamas, and bedtime story went off without a hitch, and before long Carlton kissed his son on the forehead goodnight and shut the door.

When he got back downstairs, Alison and Jo were deep into another bottle of wine.  Malcolm was lying on Alison’ s lap, drowsy eyes halfway closed in sleep that he was clearly fighting.

Carlton gestured to the little guy.  “Want me to carry him up?”

“No, he’s fine.  Come join us,” replied Alison, pointing to a filled glass that was sitting on the end table next to his chair.

Settling down into his chair, Carlton took a sip from his glass and smiled.  It was a Malbec from Argentina, one of his favorites.  “So, ladies.  What are we talking about?”

“Not much.  Just reliving some old sea stories.”

Carlton always found it funny how starfarers called tales of what happened onboard the starliners “sea stories”.  There was no denying that many nautical traditions had translated over into the culture and procedures of operating spacecraft.  All the same, to still use the term after all this time was strangely amusing.

The conversation lasted late into the night, only interrupted for a few minutes while Carlton carried Malcolm upstairs once he was good and fully asleep.  But after a while, Carlton noticed Jo drifting off into her own world.  Frowning, he glanced at Alison, who shrugged slightly.

“Jo, is everything ok?”

She gave a little start.  “Oh?  Yes, fine, thank you.  My thoughts were just wandering.”

“Where to?” queried Alison.

Jo took another drink of wine and was silent for a long moment.  Then she sighed and asked, “Do either of you ever think about our last shift?”

Surprised, Carlton shared another look with Alison.  “Of course we think about it.  How could we not?  But, well…”

Alison picked up his slack.  “It’s out of our hands now, and we’re not supposed to talk about it.  So we don’t.”

Jo nodded slowly.  “I hadn’t thought about it for a long time.  I’ve purposely kept myself from thinking about it.  But a few weeks ago, a reporter came by, asking questions.”

Alarm bells went off in Carlton’s mind.  “You didn’t tell him anything?”

“Of course not.  You haven’t heard from him have you?  Jeremy Reynolds.”

Both he and Alison shook their heads.  “Does he know anything?”

“Just conjecture, and even that is far from the truth.  It got me thinking though.”

“Well that’s something, at least.”  Carlton shook his head.  “What did Harry say about it?”

Jo took another drink.  “I haven’t told him yet.”

Alison’s eyes widened in shock, and Carlton knew his were as well.  “You haven’t?  Jo, you know the protocol on this.”

“I know, I know!”  Jo stood up and strode over to the window.  From her gait alone, Carlton could tell she was annoyed.  “I’ll tell him when I get back.  But look,” she turned back to them, fully back in the present and talking in her ‘I mean business’ tone.  “This guy might come calling.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he did,” replied Carlton.

Jo stayed with them for three days, but they never again spoke of what happened on their last shift aboard Pericles, or of Jeremy Reynolds.  It was a fun visit.  She had been to Boston before, but it had been years.  So for those few days, Carlton and Alison got to be tourists in their own town, showing her all the sights.

Jo’s flight back to Quito departed early in the morning of the fourth day.  Once again, Carlton drove her.  They sat in silence for most of the trip to Logan, listening to the morning news.  When they pulled up into the passenger offload area, Jo smiled and clasped his hand.

“Thanks for your hospitality, Carl.  It’s been great seeing you two again.”

“You too, cap’n.  Don’t be a stranger.”

And then she walked away, into the terminal.  Carlton waited a minute, in case she forgot something in the car.  But she didn’t return, so he drove off.  When he got back home, he found Alison just returning from dropping Tim off at school.

“She make it ok?”

Carlton nodded.  “Ought to be in the air by now.”

“You’re heading back up to Luna tomorrow morning, right?”

“Yes, but only for a week this time.  Should be back for Tim’s birthday.”

“What will I do without a babysitter during the day?”

Carlton chuckled and shook his head.  “Good to know I’m loved for who I am.”

Alison smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek.  “See you this afternoon.”  And then she headed out for work.

Carlton spent the day taking care of Malcolm, as he did most days when he was at home and Alison at work.  It was a pleasure, for him and Malcolm both.  The little guy cooed and giggled as they played, and occasionally babbled the beginnings of a word.

But as the day wore on, Carlton’s mood grew darker.  As he looked at his little boy playing, the conversation from four nights ago came to mind, and he started thinking about what had happened onboard Pericles.  And about his friend, the man his son was named after.  And then there were the things they had been given, and what they had been asked to do.  What had become of those things, he wondered, after the government took over?

He would probably never know.

 *  *  *  *  *

The lift door opened, and Jo stepped out onto her floor.  Pulling her suitcase behind her, she walked slowly toward her condo, yawning into the back of her hand as she went.  It had been a long flight, made the worse by weather delays over Columbia.  It was almost 1 o’clock in the morning, more than three hours later than she thought she would be getting home, and she had a meeting at 8:30.

She reached her door and pressed her holocard against the door control.  The identichip interfaced with the locking mechanism and the door slid open.

“Hello, Jo.”

Shocked, Jo jumped backwards, landing in a defensive stance as she turned toward the deep voice.  It registered in her head that the voice was familiar in the same instant that she saw the man standing there, leaning casually against the hallway wall.

He was tall, dressed casually in khaki slacks and a dark blue collared shirt.  He had a lean runner’s body, dark skin, and close-cut black hair that grew in tight curls.  His face was narrow, but not unattractive.  His eyes were dark, his gaze direct and intelligent.  As she landed, he grinned, revealing gleaming white teeth.

She knew him at a glance, but there was one problem: he was dead.

*  *  *  *  *

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy.  Stay tuned in a few days for the next chapter, or, if you don’t want to bother waiting half a year to read the entire book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, or  iTunes.

Or, if you want a chance to get the whole thing for free, check out my giveaway on Goodreads.  Enter to win one of 5 copies of The Pericles Conspiracy; the giveaway ends on 23 September.  Good luck!

I Mentioned It Before, But…

…I didn’t really call attention to it.  Not really.

I’m doing a giveaway on Goodreads.  Observe:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Pericles Conspiracy by Michael Kingswood

The Pericles Conspiracy

by Michael Kingswood

Giveaway ends September 23, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

5 print copies of The Pericles Conspiracy are up for grabs.  All ya gotta do is roll on over and enter to win.  The giveaway ends on 23 September, so there’s still plenty of time.

Good luck!

The Pericles Conspiracy – Chapter One

Hola amigos.

As promised, I’m going to start posting The Pericles Conspiracy for all y’all to read here on the blog.  Right now, the plan is two chapters per week.  Given there are 63 chapters in the book, you can do the math on how long I’ll be doing this.  🙂

So here we go.  Of course, if you don’t want to bother waiting half a year to read the entire book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or  iTunes.

Or, if you want a chance to get the whole thing for free, check out my giveaway on Goodreads.  Enter to win one of 5 copies of The Pericles Conspiracy; the giveaway ends on 23 September.  Good luck!

The Pericles Conspiracy Cover

Chapter One – Pickup Lines

La Chupacabra was almost empty.  A few patrons sat at tables along the wall opposite the bar and two more were at the bar itself: a plump middle-aged man in dirty work coveralls at the near corner and, at the far end, a slender woman with short-cut black hair dressed in dark business attire.  The bartender idly wiped down the taps halfway down the bar, and a lone waitress chatted with a patron at one of the tables.  Vidscreens behind the bar displayed the latest headlines and sports scores, but the volume was muted.  A tune from the middle of the pop charts played over the bar’s speakers, just loudly enough to make it difficult to hear a conversation from more than a few feet away.

He would have expected more business, considering it was hump day.  Just two more days until the weekend after all.  But he was just as happy for a sparse crowd.  He hated having to search through a throng to find his mark.  As it was, a quick survey as he paused at the tavern’s entrance revealed this evening’s objective.  He smiled slightly and walked to the far end of the bar.

He paused as he reached the chair around the corner of the bar from the slender woman.  He cleared his throat, but the woman already noted his presence, favoring him with a slight frown and a quirked eyebrow.

“Is this seat taken?” he asked.

She shrugged and looked away, back to the closest vidscreen, where, from what he could tell from the closed-captioning, some talking head was pontificating about what effect the latest elections on Centauri would have on interstellar trade.

Her choice of programming made sense, considering her occupation.

As he sat down, he was struck by the woman’s appearance.  Ten year-long shifts as Captain on a starliner, plus the time to move up through the ranks to reach that station meant she had to be in her early to mid 50s at least.  Still, he could have sworn she still had a few decades before she reached her middle years: she did not look a day over forty.  Her bio said she was the product of a marriage between a Japanese man and an English woman.  In his experience, women from east Asia tended to age well, but even still he was impressed.

The bartender sauntered over.

“What’ll it be?”

“Bud Light.”

He noticed the woman smirk ever so slightly before taking a sip of her drink as the bartender moved back to the taps.  He figured she would prefer to drink something more exotic from one of the colony worlds, but unless he missed his guess, she was drinking a Seven and Seven.  Hardly the height of sophistication itself, and not exactly a perch from which to scoff at his beer.

“You ever study ancient history?”

She glanced back at him and rolled her eyes.

“I’m not looking for company right now.”

“Sorry.  Don’t mean to impose.”

She sniffed and turned back to her newsvid.

A moment later the bartender returned with his beer.  He accepted it with a smile of thanks and tapped the paypad on the bar.  His database implant interfaced with the pay system and applied his standard tip rate automatically.  The bartender looked surprised, then pleased, and voiced his thanks before moving away.  Tipping well was often useful for opening doors, he found.

He sipped at his beer for a few minutes, watching the newsvid with only the vaguest of interest.  It was a moot discussion; whatever effects the election caused had already occurred more than four years ago.  Folks on Earth were only now hearing about it, of course.  But whatever changes they made in response would also be extremely time late in reaching Centauri ears.  So what was the point?  Glancing back at the woman, he noted that she too looked a bit amused at the discussion.  Of course, she would know the futility of it more than most.

Time to try again.

“So I was reading the other day about an ancient Athenian ruler.  Guy named Pericles.”

She stiffened slightly when he mentioned the name, but quickly recovered, sipping her drink again without bothering to look at him.

“Is that right?”  She sounded annoyed.

“Very interesting man.”  He took another drink of his beer.  “He took over while Athens was rebuilding from the Persian wars.  He fostered the arts, built the Acropolis, endorsed Athenian expansionism.  During his reign, Athens became the greatest political force in the region.  But then, of course, he pressed too far.  Made Sparta nervous.  And so, the Peloponnesian War.   He didn’t live to see it, but eventually Athens fell beneath Sparta’s military might.”

“Fascinating.  Look, I really don’t want company, so…”

“I heard a story about another Pericles recently.”

She froze, her expression suddenly becoming wary.  He continued on.

“Starliner by that name comes in from the Gliese system, just like normal.  But there’s nearly a week’s delay in unloading the cargo.  The crew is sequestered.  Interviewed by government agents, they say.  All but the fourth shift are out within a week.  That shift’s sequestered for more than a month.  Six months later, Malcolm Ngubwe, the fourth shift’s Engineer, dies under, shall we say, mysterious circumstances?  Then that same shift’s pilot, one Carlton Hersch, and his wife Alison, the shift’s doctor, leave the starliner company for work planetside.”  He shrugged.  “Not so unusual, except he was in line for promotion to Captain.  Strange time for a career change, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes you do.”  He leaned toward her, noting her expression shifting from wariness to nervousness.  “What happened out there to cause so much fuss, Captain Ishikawa?”

She swallowed, pulling away from him.

“Who are you?”

He tapped his thumb and forefinger and waited for a moment.

When nothing happened, he sniffed in annoyance.  He figured she would have upgraded to the interactive database implant by now.  She had been back long enough, and those implants made forgetting names a thing of the past.  He always kept old-style holocards, though, just in case.  Pulling one from his pocket, he slid it across the bar to her.  His credentials were plainly visible: Jeremy Reynolds, Investigative Reporter, Star News.

She picked it up, her eyes narrowing as she read it.  Then she stood, dropping the card onto the bar.

“I’ve got nothing to say to you, Mr. Reynolds.”

She turned to leave, but stopped as Jeremy grabbed her arm gently.

“There are rumors of a new strain of disease onboard.  The public has a right to know the truth, Captain.”

She hesitated, then pulled away from his grasp.

“Good night, Mr. Reynolds.”

With that, she walked away at a brisk pace.  She was out the door quickly, and never looked back.

Jeremy remained in his chair for several minutes more, finishing his beer and shrugging off the bartender’s quip about him striking out.  There was definitely something there.  And he intended to find out what it was.

 *  *  *  *  *

As the door to La Chupacabra slid shut behind her, Josephine Ishikawa let out a breath she did not realize she had been holding.  It had been two years, and she thought sure interest about her last shift on Pericles had died by now.  Damnit, that’s all she needed, some reporter prying into things.

Muttering angrily to herself, she stalked to the lift at the end of the hall and punched the down button.

La Chupacabra was on the third floor of a commercial tower on the east side of town.  Far enough from her usual stomping grounds that she was unlikely to run into anyone from work.  Not that she didn’t like the people she worked with, but she generally preferred not to mix business with pleasure.  Besides, she saw way too much of them when they were stuck together on a starliner, millions of Astronomical Units from the nearest rock.

A short lift ride later, she hit the streets.

Quito was the major hub for travel to and from low earth orbit in the Western Hemisphere.  Its location, essentially right on the equator, was ideal.  Add in its status as a political hub and its relative proximity to major shipping ports, and it was natural that, as mankind became a spacefaring species, it, along with Mogadishu and Kuala Lampur, would move into the limelight.  That would likely change once the space elevators were completed; the western anchor point was further east, in Brazil, away from the fault line in the Andes.  But that wasn’t scheduled for completion for another decade or more – a worry for a later time.

For the planetbound, anyway.  But Jo, like other starfarers, had a different perspective on the flow of time than most people.  In another two years, once Pericles’ overhaul was complete, she would hop aboard to Gliese once again.  The next time she returned, though only two and a half to three waking years would have passed for her, Earth would have seen over forty.  Some found that disconcerting; culture shock alone accounted for a large percentage of the Company’s attrition among new hires.  But Jo found it fascinating, being able to observe the flow of history from a position outside the normal timeline.  She very much looked forward to seeing the changes when she returned next.

But for now, she was here, and Quito was booming.  Towering skyscrapers, filled with stylish and pricey condominiums.  Fine restaurants on every street corner, catty-corner to the omnipresent Starbucks.  Shopping establishments that ran the gambit from thrift stores to the highest of high-priced.  Quito had it all, and with it, congestion.  It wasn’t worth it to even try to motor yourself anywhere, even if it did not cost an arm and a leg to park.

A cab stand was situated a half-block down from La Chupacabra’s building.  Jo flipped up her collar and hurried the short distance, hunching over in the early evening drizzle in a vain attempt to avoid getting wet.  The forecast had been for clear skies, so she had not brought an umbrella.  She should have known better than to trust the weatherman.

Fortunately, the queue was short and covered with a simple plastiglass canopy, so she was able to avoid the rain while she waited.  Within a few minutes, she found herself settled into the cab’s passenger compartment.  Fortunately, it was an older cab and still had a slot that accepted holocards.

She inserted her card and said, “Home.”

The cab acknowledged in a deep male voice and pulled away from the stand.  Jo would give even odds whether the voice was from a voice-actor or just simulated.  Either way, she suspected it was supposed to make a lady feel secure, or maybe sound sexy.  She had heard the female voice that played for heterosexual male passengers.  Hopefully they found her as silly as Jo found the male.

Settling back into the passenger couch, Jo watched the buildings pass, and her thoughts began to drift.  She remembered the mixture of wonder and fear when Carl called her to the bridge and she saw what he had found.  The exhilaration of applying her crew’s capabilities to an unexpected problem.  The terror when it seemed like it was all falling apart, and then the relief when it didn’t.

She decided two years ago to put it out of her mind.  Even without the security debriefings and non-disclosure agreements, she knew her part of the job was finished.  There was nothing else she could do, and it wouldn’t serve any purpose to dwell on their encounter.  Then, when Malcolm died, it was just one more reason to move on.  She had done a good job of it.

Damned reporters.

The cab stopped, and she stepped out.  Her building was a smaller condo complex on the south side, not far from the spaceport.  More industrial, with less fancy decoration and greenery, it wasn’t a choice neighborhood.  But she hated long commutes, so it suited her purpose.

Her condo was on the sixth floor.  The ride up on the lift seemed slower than normal.  Or maybe she was just more anxious to get home than usual.  It had been a crappy end to a crappy day, and she wanted nothing more than to soak in the tub and hit the rack.

As she entered, the lights automatically turned on and soft music began to play, streaming from her favorite mix site.  As the music started, the televid wall in her small living room lit up with a slideshow from Jo’s travels during her career in space.  Vistas from a dozen worlds flicked past in time with the music.  The eternal terminator on Gliese, where the famed Granite Trees with their massive trunks leaned far into the constantly-blowing hurricane-force winds and sent their branches with their hauntingly beautiful flowers straining toward the star that forever lingered on the horizon.  The barren mountains of Barren’s Holdfast, accessible only in a suit and even then only with permission from colony administration and after extensive EVA training.  The Vine Peaks of Talos, rising higher than a number of mountains on Earth and formed entirely by a single growing plant that housed its own micro-ecosystem and dozens of unique species.  And countless others.

Jo smiled slightly as she took in the slideshow for a moment.  It was good to be home after a long day, but there was where her heart truly lay: out among the stars, on a ship at her command.

Then her smile faded as a dialog box opened on the televid wall.  There was a message from Harold Jameson, the Chief Operating Officer of the starliner company and her boss at the moment.

“Crap,” she breathed, and tapped the televid control pad.

The dialog box turned into an image of Harold, bald head and all, looking tired but alert.  Seeing her, he perked up and scowled.

“Where the hell have you been, Jo?  And when the hell are you going to get an implant?”

“Never.  I don’t want a bunch of electronics in my head that will be obsolete by the time I get back from my next run in forty years.”

“Then why can’t you turn on your mobile, like every other civilized person on the planet?”

Jo rolled her eyes.

“What do you want, Harry?  It’s late.”

Harold’s scowl faded, replaced by a focused, businesslike expression, with a hint of anxiety that only someone who knew him as well as she did would notice.

“I need you back here ASAP.  We’re manning the ECC.”

Jo’s fatigue was instantly replaced by a surge of adrenalin, and annoyance.  So much for her trip to Boston tomorrow.

“What’s happened?”

“Wu Shin will fill you in when you get here.  Hurry.”

The video feed switched off, and the televid switched back to the classical music playlist.  Swan Lake began playing, along with a slideshow of landscape photos from the various planets she had visited during her time with the starliner company.

Jo left the condo before the first ten bars had finished.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy.  Stay tuned in a few days for the next chapter, or, if you don’t want to bother waiting half a year to read the entire book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, or  iTunes.

Or, if you want a chance to get the whole thing for free, check out my giveaway on Goodreads.  Enter to win one of 5 copies of The Pericles Conspiracy; the giveaway ends on 23 September.  Good luck!

Sex

Title get your attention?  😛

Anyway, the results of the ultrasound are in.  The verdict: boy!  So that means our brood will be one girl (the oldest) and three boys.  So much for the better half’s plane to even out the numbers.  Oh well…

 

No, before you say it, there WILL NOT be a fifth.

 

So what does that mean for the little contest?  Interestingly enough, almost everyone guessed girl.  I think there were two, maybe three people who guessed boy.  Total.  So that makes it easy.  So I’ll figure out who’s getting the free copies this afternoon and let everyone know either tonight or tomorrow morning.  Fun, fun.

Boy or Girl?

Tomorrow my wife is going to a 3D ultrasound to check out our new baby (yes, for those who are doing the math in their heads, this would be child number four.  And yes, our oldest right now is 4 years old.  So yes, we are officially insane.  Sue us.  😛 ).  We’ll be finding out the sex, naturally.  I think it’s going to be another girl, and I’m batting 3 for 3 so far on baby predictions, so I’m confident the results tomorrow will be favorable.  🙂

Ericka decided it would be fun to make a little contest out of it, though.  So here’s how it works:

  1. Go to my Facebook Page
  2. Go to either the post referring to this blog entry or to Ericka Pawlowski’s shared post on my page wall.
  3. Leave a comment whether you think it’ll be a boy or a girl.
  4. Those who get it right will be put into a hat, and one lucky winner will get a free print copy of Masters of the Sun, signed, of course, by yours truly.

Sounds great, right?  We’ll pick the winner on Sunday, the 15th of April.  So get your tushies over there and pick a sex.  What have you got to lose?