The Last Day of Summer

summervacationToday is the last day of summer at my house. A purist would say summer doesn’t end until September 21st. Some of my fellow Texans would say summer doesn’t end until the high for the day is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit for five days in a row – in other words, November. And I have a few friends in the southern hemisphere who tell me summer won’t even start until December. But around here, today is the last weekday of summer vacation, and right now, that trumps every other measure.

It was the same when I was a kid. That last Friday before schools started was the last day of summer. Technically, yeah, I know it wasn’t even the last day of summer vacation – that being Sunday or the occasional Labor Day Monday when we started late – but either way, the last Friday was the last day that counted. The weekends were days that we would not have been in school anyway. (Strangely though, summer vacation began four nanoseconds into the first oscillation of that final bell at school, regardless of which day of the week it was.)

All of that is to say that my kids go back to school on Monday. This has been a hard summer at my house, particularly this last month. My boys on the autistic spectrum have been having a hard time. The eldest had his routines disrupted in late July by some extended family visits, and that has had repercussions on everything from whether he’ll sleep in his room to his toilet use. Meanwhile, my youngest has been having some serious freak-out that we now suspect is an adverse reaction to a medication change that started in May. And in the middle our daughter has been, well, caught in the middle of it, having a rough time with the turbulence.

Yeah, I know, folks complain about kids as a reason to get in the way of everything from cleaning house to writing the great American novel, but anyone who has spent much time at my house knows that my kids are a greater challenge than most. I love them and everything, but they can pretty much consume my universe when things get bad. That was my summer from about July 20 onwards.

Anyway, my writing took a hit. The blog has been largely silent, and I’m behind on edits and new drafts. I’m not promising to be back at full productivity by Monday morning, but things should turn around shortly. Sorry for silence here on the blog, and my apologies to those waiting for the next installment in the Father Chessman saga.

So, see you on Monday. In the meantime, I’m off to make sure the kids aren’t setting anything (or anyone) on fire.

Ships of My Fathers, Launch Day

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I wrote another book, Ships of My Fathers. Well, it is now out there, officially, available for purchase. Right now it’s in print and on the Kindle. The other e-book platforms will follow later in the year.

It’s another space opera, in the same universe as Beneath the Sky, though it’s not really a sequel. It’s the story of a young man who finds out that his recently deceased father was not the man he thought he was and what he does with the mystery that leaves behind. Here’s the cover and blurb:

ShipsOfMyFathers_Cover300pxMichael was orphaned at seventeen, light-years from home. His inheritance: a starship, distant relatives he never knew existed, and inescapable questions that challenge everything he thought was true.

Michael’s quest for answers takes him halfway across the Confederacy, from the gleaming corridors of the wealthy super-freighters to the dark holds of Father Chessman’s pirate ships.

The truth is waiting for him, but he’ll have to survive to find it.


Where did this come from?

This story traces its origins to two main ideas. First, my father died of cancer about eight years ago. No, he did not leave behind any great mysteries, but I started to wonder what it would have been like if he had. What if he had not actually been an electrical engineer? What if he had secretly been a Cold War spy instead? Or what if he were a member of some ancient secret society? What if his old friends and enemies came looking for me?

We think we know our parents, but what if they really did have some dark secret? They could probably be quite effective at hiding it from you. You might not trust them to take you ice skating or to deliver on your Christmas wishes, but you figure that you can trust them on some fundamental issues, like what your name is, or whether they’re war criminals. Because of that, you never think to dig into those kinds of secrets. But sooner or later, the past catches up to everyone, and those secrets come out.

Another big source of this was someone who was a minor character in Beneath the Sky: Father Chessman. Something about him really appealed to me, and a number of other folks said they liked him as well. He’s the other half to the larger story arc in this series, as our protagonist Michael learns more of his own history, he finds himself learning more about the origins of Father Chessman.

In the end, the series is going to be about the rather big idea of moral equivalence, whether terrible acts are justifiable in dire situations or if some acts truly are beyond the pale. If so, which ones? What if it was your father who did it? What if it was you?

But along the way, there will plenty of space opera fun, with merchants, pirates, conspiracies, young love, and even the occasional explosion. Check out the sample chapters.

The Next Big Thing Meme

Rhonda Eudaly, one of the Four Redheads of the Apocalypse, did a meme recently on her upcoming book Vagabond. She herself had been tagged by J. Kathleen Cheney, but Rhonda did not get any volunteers to be tagged for a followup. I’m was a little late to the party to get officially tagged, but I figured I would do the meme anyway.

So, here are my answers for the “Next Big Thing” meme. If I could actually tag whomever I wanted, I would tag Nathan Lowell, C.J. Cherryh, Elizabeth Moon, Jack McDevitt, and Jim Butcher.

1) What is the working title of your next book?
Ships of My Fathers

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
This one bubbled up out of a number of sources, but the central event was the death of my father seven years ago. Then, quite some time later, I heard a tale about someone discovering all manner of things about their father after his death, including details of some secret life the father had led. From that, I began to wonder how I would have reacted if I discovered that my father had actually been some kind of secret government agent, or a mobster, or an elite assassin for dark powers… and what would I do if they wanted me pick up where my father left off?

3) What genre does your book fall under?
Space Opera, which is basically Science Fiction where we get to have faster-than-light travel and the occasional ray gun. It’s written in the same universe as my first novel “Beneath the Sky”, though it is not a sequel. It’s just another story happening elsewhere in the neighborhood.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This is hard for me, because I don’t really follow actors that closely. I’d probably want an older Nathan Fillion as the father, but it’s a very tiny part. It’s just that’s the kind of guy the father was. I think I’d want Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the protagonist, but I’d need him younger than he is now. He’s had that boyish innocence when he was younger, and he’s grown into a tougher figure. As for the rest… wow, too many characters to cast here.

5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
On the cusp of adulthood, Michael Fletcher finds out that his father Malcom was not what he appeared, and Michael sets out to find out who he really was and what happened to his mother seventeen years ago.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be self-published. I already have feedback from my first set of beta readers, and I’m doing another pass at the edits. It might need one more set of fresh eyes, but I hope to be doing the copy edits by late January and releasing it by March.  (And kudos to Rhonda for pointing out that self-publishing and getting an agent are not the only two options in this business.)

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Two months, and that wasn’t even full-time, since I took off about three weeks in the middle. Of the four novels I’ve written, this one was the fastest as well as the cleanest.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I would like to compare it (and the four that will follow) to the Vatta books by Elizabeth Moon or perhaps some of the Merchanter books by C.J. Cherryh, but I’m still too much of a fan-boy of these two legends to say I’m in their league.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I suppose it would be easiest to say “my father”, but other than having died, he doesn’t have anything in common with the protagonist’s father. Most of the ideas came simple noodling around in my head, but I should say that I “got permission” to do some things from Nathan Lowell’s Solar Clipper series. Most space opera is all dashing captains, exploding ships, and political intrigue. While this book has its fair share of that, I also wanted to include some wrench turning, the kind of boring day to day stuff that would make up most of your life aboard a starship. Nathan Lowell showed me that this boring stuff could actually be pretty interesting, so I went for it.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
If you read my first book “Beneath the Sky”, you’ll have seen hints of the Confederacy’s darker underbelly with pirates, corrupt politicians, and shadowy figures like Father Chessman. This book (and the four that follow) shows a young man coming to terms with what Father Chessman did to his family and him deciding to go after this powerful figure himself. And if you didn’t read Beneath the Sky… hey, come on, the link is RIGHT THERE! Ahem… I mean, give it a shot, ok?