Make a fast start…

January 23rd, 2018

In my blog post “The End Game,” I discussed what back material should be at the end of an author’s books. While Big Five authors in their arrogance mostly ignore this, indie authors and authors published by indie publishers (small presses) shouldn’t. I was imagining a reader who had just finished a book, a complete entree, but still wanted some dessert.

The front material is more likely to get the reader to read the book, so it’s more important in that sense. It represents the appetizer. Here are the key elements:

Title. Too many authors don’t spend enough time creating their title. Here’s a list of titles that have recently turned me off: Darker, Artemis, Restless Hearts, Lizzie Borden Zombie Hunter, Good Girl Gone, and Leaving Earth. If the title doesn’t work for an author’s readers, the book has one strike against it. S/he should come up with something that catches the reader’s attention and won’t find annoying. In the latter category are titles too close to the title of a successful book.

I’ve seen so many books with titles that have “…Girl…” in them, trying to mimic Girl with the Dragon Tatoo and Gone Girl (the quality of the first book is far superior to the latter one, by the way), that I cringe when I see such a title. But only one of the titles I’ve listed made me cringe in that sense. Some are ambivalent, fluffy, and/or do absolutely nothing to grab my attention.

The best title is like a short blurb of the book. Rather than use any of my own titles as examples—not all good, by the way—let me give some famous examples. Crichton’s Jurassic Park immediately said to me that the story is about dinosaurs that are in an amusement park, but I’ll confess that I assumed the park was in the past where rich time travelers went to gawk and play. Baldacci’s Absolute Power told me right up front that the book was about some VIP abusing his power to do bad things. That it was POTUS was a surprise, though (probably not so much today).

Cover. Abstract covers are sometimes OK, but I don’t like abstract art and prefer ones that, like the title, tell me something about the book. For example, I just finished a reprint of Chad Oliver’s classic sci-fi tale The Winds of Time. The title is bad enough, although it contains “Time,” an important theme in the book, but the original book couldn’t have had this awful cover. It looks like a still taken from some 50s B-movie with iconic bug-eyed ETs from abduction accounts. Terrible, especially considering the ETs in this book are just ordinary men, not something some conspiracy theorists would have in Area 51.  Rampant anthropomorphism if you will, but not bug-eyed ETs.

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Why Amazon is anti-indie: Part Two…

January 18th, 2018

Why Amazon is anti-indie: Part Two…

Now that I have your attention, in Part Two, I’ll belabor the point that Amazon is anti-indie. We can see that right away when we compare how the retailer compares to Smashwords. Let’s forget how negative Amazon’s KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited are for indie authors for the moment.  Amazon has many other problems that work against indies.

They restrict the author to the propriety Kindle .mobi format for ebooks.  They always try to create monopolies, of course, and this is only one example.  But one format does keep things simple. They offer DRM for that .mobi format, which allows some protection against piracy, but at a cost—most authors turn it off (and should) because it requires one file per reading platform, so it doesn’t permit readers who are family members to share an ebook easily (an advantage of print, of course). The author can create a print version with Amazon (usually the proprietary KDP Print or Create Space) along with the ebook version and take advantage of Matchbook. And Amazon offers some marketing help to authors—for an inflated price, of course (they have sneaky ways to take people’s money, even the money of their content providers).

Millions of users visit the Amazon site, but they’re not all readers, of course.  And reviewers of your ebook are probably writing product endorsements instead of reviews—in fact, they and Amazon will treat your book just like any other product because that’s what Amazon wants. (I once had a review from a person who specialized in lady’s apparel and women’s shoes.  You can imagine the quality of that review!)

Smashwords is a better place for authors—no doubt about it! It offers a lot more. It’s only a retailer and distributor of ebooks (Amazon retails but doesn’t distribute)—people visiting there are only interested in buying books, not other merchandise. There’s no competition from Big Five publishers either. While Amazon treats the Big Five with kid gloves and coddles them more than indie authors and publishers, Smashwords’s ebooks on the site generally originate with those indies. There are good reasons for that.

Smashwords offers ALL ebook formats, and the author can choose (I always exclude plain text and PDFs, the easiest formats to pirate). It has affiliate retailers (Apple, B&N, and Kobo, for example) and lenders (Overdrive, Scribd, CloudLibrary, for example)—in fact, Amazon has no affiliates beyond a few greedy sites that sign up to be screwed by Amazon.

Amazon forces readers to their proprietary services (that monopolistic tendency again)! The author can set up special library pricing at Smashwords too (I do so because I’m a big supporter of public libraries and have donated my print books on both the East and West Coast as well)—Amazon doesn’t give a rat’s ass about libraries or bookstores because they would like to eliminate them!

Best of all, Smashwords doesn’t try to force an author to be exclusive (Amazon is the only bookseller that does!). Along with this comes the opportunity to offer sales via coupons, either general site-wide sales or targeted ones (to reviewers, for example). While I find gifting a reviewer an ebook in return for an honest review easier via Amazon’s Whispernet, it’s really not a problem to do so via Smashwords. And reviewers often want some other ebook format Amazon can’t provide (I don’t hand out PDFs anymore—every pirated ebook of mine has its origin in PDFs).

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News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #154…

January 17th, 2018

Books as gifts. I’m probably preaching to the choir here because you all know books make excellent gifts, whether print versions, ebooks, or audiobooks. I made out very well over the holidays. I received Isaacson’s Leonardo Da Vinci (even if there’s an ebook version, I’d recommend print because of the excellent art reproductions that accompany the text describing Leonardo’s development), Mark Weir’s Artemis (see my review on my blog), and Orwell’s Why I Write. There are no better gifts for a reader or writer!

Voices. On Saturday, January 13, I had the honor of being interviewed by Donna Carrick of Toronto’s Carrick Publishing. Donna handles most everything for my indie books beyond the writing, and she’s an excellent writer in her own right—see The First Excellence, her mystery/thriller set in China.

She now also creates the podcast series “Dead to Writes”; the link for my interview is: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/dead-to-writes/id1323768397?mt=2. She precedes the interview with a reading of my short story, “The Case of the Carriageless Horse,” which appears in the anthology World Enough and Crime along with many other excellent crime stories. She has the voice for this; I don’t.

I found this to be a new, interesting, and educational experience. Isn’t technology wonderful? Kudos, Donna!

Talk. I’m looking forward to my talk at the Montclair Women’s Club on January 26; it begins at 1:30 p.m. I’ll be discussing writing and publishing and my recent book, Rembrandt’s Angel (published by Penmore Press last year).

If you’re in the Montclair, NJ area and have the time and interest, please drop by. The address for the Women’s Club is: 82 Union Street, Montclair, NJ.

Amazon. Don’t expect my books to be on sale at this online retailer. I’m no longer exclusive to Amazon—I haven’t been for some time—so Amazon doesn’t allow me to offer special sales at their site. Amazon is anti-indie in many ways; this is one of many. See my recent blog posts for more.

Sci-Fi Sale on Smashwords. If I offer special sales of my books online, this is where you’ll find them. Right now, More than Human: The Mensa Contagion and Rogue Planet are on sale at Smashwords—use the indicated coupon code during checkout. I only offer ebook sales online. For those readers who prefer print, I often offer a special event price for print books at events in the Montclair area—for example, at the talk at the Montclair Women’s Club.

Free books. Generally speaking, I only offer free copies of my books to reviewers in exchange for an honest review. Ebooks are the easiest, but print versions are doable within the U.S.—both ebook and print versions have a cap for each title. Beyond that, I mentioned on Donna’s podcast another alternative: I can’t publish everything I write—even the good stuff (the bad never sees the light of day, of course)—so I offer PDFs free for the asking. See the list on my “Free Stuff & Contests” webpage, and query me using my website’s contact page (or by responding to this email). You also can find free short fiction in my blog categories “ABC Shorts” and “Steve’s Shorts.”

What’s a bundle? This is a new publishing term for a collection of several novels. For example, I have several old print books on my shelf that are collections of Agatha Christie novels. The term “bundle” is generally reserved for the ebook collections, but I’m a bit old-fashioned so I still called my bundle of sci-fi novels The Chaos Chronicles Trilogy Collection, available on Amazon and Smashwords and all the latter’s affiliated retailers and lenders.

What’s coming? In the first quarter you’ll see the second edition of The Secret Lab, and in the third quarter The Secret of the Urns. These are two YA sci-fi mysteries. Other novels in the works: The Last Humans, a post-apocalyptic thriller; #3 in the “Mary Jo Melendez Mysteries” (title TBD); and #8 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” (title TBD).

Do you want to see these published ASAP? Purchase some of my already published books. I reinvest my royalties to publish the next books.

A. B. Carolan. I’m honored that A.B. has decided to collaborate with me. I always wanted a collaborator a la Preston and Child (Pendergast thrillers) and Niven and Pournelle (sci-fi). A. B. lives in Donegal. I met him on a trip to Ireland, and we’ve had some lively email exchanges since then. He’s a bit of a recluse, so he’ll be sharing this website—you might have already read some of his short stories.

Rumor has it that he’s a descendant of the great Irish bard Turlough O’Carolan. He definitely has a way with words. He’ll be collaborating on my young adult novels.

He’s finished the rewriting and reediting of the second edition of The Secret Lab (to be published this first quarter of 2018) and is finishing a new novel, The Secret of the Urns, which is inspired by my short story “Marcello and Me,” found in the speculative fiction collection Pasodobles in a Quantum Stringscape, mentioned by Donna Carrick in her podcast.

In libris libertas!

Why Amazon is anti-indie: Part One…

January 16th, 2018

I’ve been analyzing why my book sales on Amazon are so low. They never were great, but now they’re terrible. Yeah, I don’t play the review game very well, but almost all my reviews are serious 4- and 5-star ones and not the short product endorsements that Amazon encourages. I don’t have endorsements by V.I.P. authors; I don’t know many Big Five authors—I’m not sure I’d want their endorsements anyway.  And I can’t afford much PR and marketing, not that it seems to matter.

When I first started publishing 10+ years ago, I tried the traditional route. Frankly, I was a newbie to publishing (although not for writing), and I didn’t know anything else. After over 1000 rejections from literary agents (not quite as bad as real estate agents) and editors (especially those from major publishers), I didn’t give up—I went indie and tried POD. Both Xlibris and Infinity did nothing for me, although the latter people treated me better than the former.  Xlibris has since become part of the Random House consortium and gobbled up other PODs, showing its true colors. I then jumped on the ebook bandwagon, found my wonderful Canadian friends at Carrick Publishing, and started publishing what I, not some agent or editor, wanted to publish.  I could never have published so many ebooks without having gone indie, but now I’m assessing where I go from here.

Readers might have problems with my stories because I don’t write fluffy fiction and I do consider serious themes.  I won’t write cozy mysteries or romantic fantasies.  But I’m 96% an indie author (I have one book, Rembrandt’s Angel, that’s traditionally published by Penmore, a small press run by a great bunch of people), and I value the independence.  That’s all segue to why I’m writing this post.

Amazon is now anti-indie.  Mark Coker of Smashwords has made a great argument for doing ditching Amazon exclusivity because of this in his yearly analysis of the ebook industry. I came to the same conclusion a while ago. This post much more about explaining my decision than supporting Coker and Smashwords. Butto begin, let’s have a quote from him: “Authors who now derive 100% of their sales from Amazon are no longer indie authors.”

Why is that? Because indie means independent, and authors who are exclusive to Amazon, a retailer that’s anti-indie, have given up their independence.  They’ve been lured to exclusivity by KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited, magical spells Amazon has cast on the indie community that will eventually lead to authors paying Amazon to be read (I think Coker already proposed this dystopian vision of publishing, but it’s an obvious extrapolation).

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Does the NY Times know books?

January 11th, 2018

As readers of this blog know, when it comes to news, I often bash the Times. They put their slant on everything, just like the Wall Street Journal, but the Times v. WSJ story isn’t as bad as the MSNBC v. Fox News one (if anyone’s interested, I ignore both Hannity’s and Madow’s rants and listen to Jake on CNN).  One can argue that any media outlet will have a slant–in this polarized political state, that’s become the new norm.  However, it’s the Times’ book biases that bother me.

Newspapers are fast becoming irrelevant compared to TV and streaming video, of course. But my foray into political op-eds is on hold for the time being as I dedicate more time to my storytelling, so in this article  I’ll focus on what the Times has to say about books. They work hand-in-hand with and are sycophants of the Big Five—after all, they’re a major publisher too. In this blog, I’ve complained about them as much as I have about Amazon (it often seems that Bezos wants to take over the commercial world more than Trump wants to become the despot of the political one).

Here is a black list of recent items that have upset me about the Times’ coverage of books and the publishing industry:

The Times is out-of-date. Because of their pandering to the Big Five, it’s understandable that the Times mostly ignores indie authors and indie publishers (small presses). Most “official mouthpieces” and sycophants of the Big Five do so—that includes major newspapers, websites, agents, and editors, of course. But sometimes that goes a bit too deep into the weeds.  The Big Five, for example, lives in the past with its emphasis on print books over ebooks and charge as much for the latter as the former, when that’s absurd.  When the Times acts as their mouthpiece, that’s prejudicial to readers and also many good writers.

But the Times actions get worse and more insidious. In the Times’ interviews featured in their Book Review Sunday supplement, they ask, “What books are on your nightstand?” Many modern readers have converted to ebooks, so the only thing on their nightstands is a Kindle or some other e-reader! (iPad or smartphone? Horrors!)  In other words, the Times has become the cheerleader for retrograde Big Five dinosaurs.

They feature the old stallions and mares in the Big Five stables. Again, this really goes down into the undergrowth of the Times’s weed patch because they run only Big Five ads. Sure, they allow non-Big Five ads if indie authors and indie publishers are willing to pay Big Five prices. That’s the greed factor.  Even worse, though, they run absurd Big Five ads where some horses in the Big Five stables endorse another horse’s books (to add –ass would be a double animalistic metaphor that PETA might protest, although the metaphor is appropriate in many cases).

Lee Child and Michael Connelly did this favor for James Patterson recently for his new and formulaic Alex Cross book (Patterson doesn’t need any endorsements, of course, although maybe his fandom is slipping), and a larger list of authors destined for the glue factory also did so in a full page ad in the Times. We’re seeing the actions of an exclusive club promoting only its members, a club of literary one-percenters.  Sorry.  I didn’t see one author in this list I’ve read recently!

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Steve’s shorts: Prequel to Chaos…

January 9th, 2018

[While many of my books lead up to Survivors of the Chaos in the “Chaos Chronicles Trilogy” and are on the same long timeline—in particular, the “Clones and Mutants Series” and the bridge novel, Soldiers of God—I decided that, considering the current political situation in the U.S. right now, a short-story prequel to The Chaos Chronicles Trilogy Collection, just recently released, was in order.  Consider it a funeral dirge for democracy treating how fast my warnings about fascist capitalism are coming true. 1984 missed the point—now it’s the worldwide oligarchy who are the fascists.]

Prequel to Chaos

Copyright 2018, Steven M. Moore

The three hydrogen-powered limos pulled in front of the 202m-tall building on Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets. First to get out were the security guards who created a perimeter to protect their charge from unwanted New Yorkers like the infirm, hungry, and homeless who filled the streets around the tower.  When that was established, Randall Holmes, chief lawyer for GenCorp, stepped down and followed some of his security personnel into the tower.  There he met Daniel Ito, chief lawyer for GenCorp’s main competitor, WorldNet.

“You do pick unusual places to have a meeting,” said Ito, waving a hand to indicate the ornate lobby now a tarnished derelict compared to its original splendor.  “Is this—?”

“Yes, it is.  It possesses some symbolism I find useful for our meeting.”

Ito nodded.  “Let me guess: A phallic symbol of how we’ve screwed the common man, perhaps?” He smiled, but the smile was cold and forced.

“I have no regrets.  You shouldn’t either.  The masses deserve to be screwed.  They’re all idiots.”

“We all operate with that assumption.  Want to make a coordinated entrance for shock value, or should I go in first because you’re the one who set up the meeting?”

“Don’t be petty.  I need to make a call to our fearless leader, so go on up.” Holmes waited until the elevator doors closed and then made his call using subvocalized commands to the wi-fi device implanted in the right side of his head.  “They sent Ito,” he said.

“I think he’ll go along with the plan,” said the GenCorp CEO. “It’s beneficial to all of us, after all.”

***

When Holmes stepped out of the elevator, he had to smile. The corridor that led to the meeting room was in worse shape than the lobby. The frayed carpets had curious splotches on them.  He couldn’t help imagining squatters defecating on the floor.  There are multiple facets to this symbolism, he thought.

His security detail joined the others already present who barely acknowledged his presence. Ito probably had a better reception because he had already sent his security up.  All VIPs are equal, but some are more equal than others, he thought with a smile. He didn’t really give a damn about Ito or WorldNet.

He entered the room and eyed those who were already seated around the huge table—nine CEOs from multinationals looked his way, some nodding slightly, others showing a more curious expression, and still others, disdain.  He took his chair at the head of the table.  Ito was already sitting at the opposite end.

Representatives of the most powerful multinationals on the planet. Can we ensure our future? More importantly, can I guarantee GenCorp’s?

“No introductions are needed,” he said, “so let’s get down to business. We will have to take matters into our own hands if we’re going to survive.  We’ve caused a lot of this general breakdown in world society we now call the Chaos.  We have to come up with a fix.  Is everyone in agreement?”

There were nods of agreement, but Ito’s was less enthusiastic.

***

“The breakup of countries into feuding but large tribal-like groups is the end game of the tribalism promoted by that crazy U.S. president so many decades ago,” the WorldNet representative said.  “While I might generally agree we have to come up with some kind of solution to guarantee our future, why is it only our responsibility to fix things?”

“That psycho admired the fascist oligarchies of China and Russia,” said Holmes, “but our predecessors supported him so that they could all get rich.  As a consequence, America became a fascist oligarchy too and split into different countries just like everywhere else.  We benefitted from that and still do.  We have continued to do so ever since.  But in this Chaos, our profits might dwindle and anarchy is a distinct possibility. Anyone here want that?”  They all shook their heads in the negative.  They all wanted to preserve their place in the oligarchy, which was now entrenched and worldwide. “Then listen to what I have to propose.  Shall we go to the slides?”

That was really a command for the computer to start projecting slides for a talk Holmes had carefully prepared.

***

“My proposal is simple. We have been content to play in the background as long as governments did what we told them to do. With the breaking up of countries and their economic pacts across the globe, that tactic no longer is feasible.” He gave a subvocal command to the computer.  It changed the slide from the first one titled “What to Do About the Chaos?” to the second with bullets outlining his plan.  “We’ll have to refine this plan, so it’s only a beginning, but I think the main ideas are solid.” He began to cover the bullets.  The AI followed his words, highlighting each one as he came to it.

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Book review of Andy Weir’s Artemis…

January 4th, 2018

(Andy Weir, Artemis, Crown-Penguin Random House, 2017, ISBN 978-0-553-44812-2)

Visitors to this website and readers of this blog should know that my book reviews originate in two ways. I “officially review” at Bookpleasures.com because I can choose from many books I’m not familiar with and provide authors new to me some name recognition. I also read many books for R&R and will sometimes review some of them if I have something positive to say. In either case, I won’t refrain from stating the negatives.

Artemis fits in the last category, I suppose, but I didn’t buy it.  I rarely purchase any Big Five ebooks these days because I can buy three, sometimes four, excellent ebooks for the price of one Big Five ebook.  That said, I’m reviewing the print version that I received as a gift.  I enjoyed Mark Weir’s new sci-fi thriller enough that I’m motivated to write the review, even with its many flaws. So, play Ennio Morricone’s wonderful score, because I’m going to discuss the good, bad, and ugly about this novel.

The good. This is a fair sci-fi thriller, much better than The Martian in the genre-sense.  It’s nothing like Weir’s first book, in fact, and dabbles in some political issues that make me think of sci-fi Libertarians like Heinlein, Pournelle, Niven, and Hogan.  Actually, that’s a negative, but I just want to point out that the plot is much more complex. I’ll read a good sci-fi story even if I disagree with opinions expressed via underlying themes.

The tale here has more meat on it than The Martian, although compared to Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Friday, two classics, Weir’s novel often seems like watered-down Bud Light compared to Guinness.  Fun, yes; profoundly entertaining, no. Heinlein’s first book has a better plot (though Weir’s is also Libertarian, in the sense that the lunar city has a lot of vigilante justice), is more entertaining (Heinlein’s characters aren’t stereotypes, for example), and is more profound (Heinlein’s lunar city is a penal colony, for example, not a haven for fascist capitalists); his second has a better female protagonist (OK, she’s a bit of a female Rambo, but not a spoiled brat).  To his credit, Weir’s main character is a woman; he stepped up to that challenge.  From his acknowledgments, he even had female help, but something went wrong. Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara acts like a precocious, immature, and rebellious tween throughout the book, not a mature woman in her twenties with some common sense. Does Weir think this YA character merits serious sci-fi readers’ attention?

The plot starts slowly—there’s too much superfluous narrative because Weir isn’t world-building in this novel—but the pace increases, enough so to keep me reading to finish the tale.  Jazz is smart, but she wants to be rich. She graduates from small-time smuggler to more profitable crime…and gets into a heap of trouble. You might think she’s some urban urchin eking out a street life in any big city on Earth—in fact, you could transport the tale to such a venue, except for the lunar setting—but she lives in Artemis, the first and only lunar city created in the future by a strange Kenyan organization–as Africa’s response to European colonialism, it’s too much like a Steve Jobs’ project. (That’s a bit weird, but I’ll not dwell on it.)

The bad. The boring potato farming in The Martian has been replaced by boring details about Jasmine’s life, EVAs, and blowing up ore harvesters and smelters.  Like the potato farming, most readers will want to skip over most of the tedious technical details in Artemis—they read like an engineering manual, except Jazz is describing them in her urban-urchin’s cutesy language.  The tech here is more varied, but most people won’t be able to check it, or care to do so. I was turned off by the super fiber optics, though. Any transmission medium is lossy—zero loss only exists in a vacuum, and there EM radiation (light and radio, for example) loses by the one-over-r-squared effect. Because the story depends so much on this “discovery” in fiber-optics technology, I was immediately turned off.  And Weir only provides some unbelievable techno-babble to explain why it has to be made in a low-g environment.

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ABC Shorts: Caitlin O’Riley…

January 2nd, 2018

[A bit early for St. Patrick’s Day, but what the heck…there was plenty of Guinness and Jameson imbibed yesterday!]

Caitlin O’Riley

Copyright 2018, A. B. Carolan

The shuttle from the starship Brendan touched down in the forest clearing. Security personnel were first out; Dr. Carlos Obregon was the last to leave. He’d wangled a trip from the captain because he needed some fresh air and the new planet seemed mysteriously beckoning to his aging eyes.

“Looks like ancient Humans’ idea of paradise,” he said to no one in particular as the plodded along the perimeter of the camp security was already setting up.

“Doc, you never know what might await us in that forest,” said a member of the security team.

Obregon nodded.  He spotted the twelve-year-old on the other side of the clearing.  “Where’s that kid’s father?  He acts like he owns this place.”

“He just about does,” said one of the exobiologists.  “I still have my doubts about this whole process.”

Obregon wasn’t the only one who was an unusual presence in the landing team.  He had read the files available on the solar system and the planet, although they were about two centuries old.  The Space Exploration Bureau rarely returned to a potential colony world unless some group wanting to colonize had enough leverage to convince SEB to do otherwise and make a more complete survey.  Joran Kilgud led such a group.  He had insisted on accompanying them—not unheard of but unusual—and had brought his son Yindon.

“Hey, kid, stay within the security perimeter!” Obregon looked at the urchin and frowned.

“But I want to explore!”

Turned out that Joran was helping the security detail establish the perimeter. I’ll give the old autocrat that, he thought.  He pitches in.

“I recommend you wait until you’re father’s free.”

Yindon ran toward his father. “Can I explore, father?”

“Dr. Obregon is right, son. Wait until I’m finished here.  We’ll both go exploring then.”

Obregon smiled. The father seemed level-headed; the boy was like all boys. But the doctor didn’t think anyone should be exploring so soon after landing on the planet.

He decided he’d better start unloading medical supplies from the shuttle. They would soon have the hospital tent up.  He was already missing his quarters on Brendan.  You have to be careful what you wish for.

***

Like many pioneers, Kilgud’s group was fleeing the more populated worlds of the Interstellar Trade Union of Independent Planets, better known as ITUIP.  As far as Obregon knew, the group were all Humans, something he objected too because it often led to planetary xenophobia as an isolated colony worried more about their own future and welfare rather than the future and welfare of near-Earth planets as a whole.  Gilgud’s group practiced pantheism, which Obregon considered a strange religion—the believers deified all of nature.  I wonder what they eat?  Although he could imagine and had seen worst cults, Obregon expected planet SB1167 to become provincial too, a colony out-of-touch with the mainstream.

As he took out the last crate of medical supplies, he saw Gilgud father and son enter the woods.  The father was carrying a long rifle. Obregon hoped he wouldn’t shoot something in front of the boy.  But not likely because they must be vegetarian.  He hadn’t noticed aboard Brendan.  In fact, he’d avoided the two.

***

Obregon was helping set up tents when Joran Kilgud returned carrying Yindon in his arms.

“Doc, I need some help here!”

Obregon unfolded a cot and placed the boy on it. “What happened?” He was already taking the child’s vitals.

“A little man appeared and put a spell on Yindon.”

Obregon smiled.  “Littl man?  A spell?  What the hell does that mean?”

“He pointed a finger at Yindon, there was a sizzle, and my son fell.  I covered him with my body to protect him from any further discharge.”

“Where’s your gun?”

“I must have dropped it.”

“And your attacker?”

“He ran away.”

“Maybe you two aren’t the first colonists here,” said Obregon.  Or maybe you’re just crazy in a new way?  He peered into the child’s eyes and noted that their whites were now yellow. The pupils were enlarged too, and the irises had become emerald green. “Probably a weapon of some kind.”

“He just used his index finger, I swear.”

“Was that little man green?  Your son is turning light green.  Either he’s very sick, or that so-called spell produces a weird skin color.”

“As a matter of fact, the little man’s skin was green.”

***

The boy’s condition stabilized but didn’t improve. Obregon told security to go find the little green man. They were professionals, so they didn’t question the request…at least, not verbally.  Three hours later they returned with a little green woman. Given the pointy ears and yellow eyes, Obregon knew he was dealing with a new group of ETs. ITUIP won’t permit colonization here after all, he thought. Sorry, Joral.  But, for the moment, that was irrelevant to the present situation.

He examined the ET, planning to put the little woman under and install the implant that would eventually allow them to communicate.  While security people restrained her, he examined her head to decide where to place the device.  The big ears will complicate things.

But he discovered that the woman already had an implant.  Of course.  How do you communicate with new civilizations efficiently?  You get an AI to learn both languages and then translate.

He asked a specialist to analyze the ET device’s signal.

“Frequency-hopped spread spectrum signal similar to ours.  Smaller device, but more powerful.  She’s probably in contact with her people.  They’re technologically advanced, Carlos.”

He nodded.  “Saves me some work.  And it’s always challenging cutting into an unknown ET body.  Set her up.  Get our AI to match the signals, and then it can start learning the ET’s language and teaching her ours.  With our help and her cooperation, of course.”

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Happy New Year!

December 31st, 2017

2017 was bad for many reason–politics, extreme weather, terrorism, ethnic cleansing…the list goes on. Let’s learn from our mistakes and refocus to make 2018, and our world, much better.

In libris libertas!

Holiday Greetings 2017-18!

December 22nd, 2017

Happy Holidays to everyone! Take this time to enjoy being with family and friends.  Forget those New Year’s resolutions, but plan what you’d like to accomplish in the New Year and how you’d like to change in your life.

The last is segue to informing you about a change in this blog.

First, I’ll not be posting again until January.  Second, I’m changing both the frequency and content of what I’ll post.  Many of my posts are very time consuming and need a lot of investigative journalism; I’d like to spend more time on fiction writing.  To this end, starting in January, I’ll only make one post per week, something related to reading or writing—maybe a short story, book or movie review, my online newsletter, and so forth.

For loyal followers of this blog, this post might be sad news.  Please understand that I just want to spend more time storytelling.  Maybe it seems like I have a lot of books, but I have a lot more in me.  Remember my muses are really banshees with Tasers…and they’re always after me to get the stories written!

To fill those days when I no longer post, I’d ask readers and writers to consider contributing a post.  Interviews are easy—I can send you a list of questions from which you can make selections, or you can add your own.  If you have something to say about reading, writing, or the writing business, please consider being a guest blogger—just keep it clean.  Your post can even be a short story.  While some of my own short stories have adult themes and language, this website is generally PG-13, so be careful with your short story submissions too.

I’ll be at my laptop most of the time during this festive holiday season—it’s a good time to write when not celebrating—and you can always email me using my contact page.  So, until January, good reading!  And be warm and safe….

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The entire “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” is on sale now at Smashwords until December 24. The NYPD homicide detectives’ cases usually start out in New York City but expand to national and international crises as they fight all sorts of criminals—gun runners, sex traffickers, evil hedge fund owners, drug smugglers, terrorists, and more. The crime-fighting duo also have their own personal battles to fight. These seven ebooks make excellent holiday gifts for the reader on your gift list—maybe that’s you? Use the coupon code when you checkout at Smashwords to receive a fantastic sale price and hours of reading entertainment! And don’t forget The Chaos Chronicles Trilogy Collection, a bundle of sci-fi novels that’s ideal as a holiday gift.

In libris libertas!