Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Announcing GUARDIAN ANGEL, a new Troubleshooter serial on Patreon!

It’s finally time to debut that new Troubleshooter content I promised a while back for my Patreon Original Fiction tier! It took longer than expected, but I’m trying something new here, and I wanted to put extra care into it.

Starting today, I’m publishing a 5-part serial, Guardian Angel, focusing on Only Superhuman supporting character Koyama Hikari/Troubleshooter Tenshi. In hopes of attracting new readers, I’m offering Chapter 1 to all Patreon subscribers at the $1 level and above, while the remaining four monthly installments will be at the usual $10 Original Fiction level. As usual, the story comes with annotations at the $12 Behind the Scenes tier. Here are the links:

GUARDIAN ANGEL Chapter 1: “The Angel and the Panther” 

GUARDIAN ANGEL Chapter 1 annotations 

Guardian Angel is actually the self-contained B plot of a planned second Troubleshooter novel (still untitled), but since I’d run out of original material to post on Patreon, I decided to write and publish it as a standalone serial, thereby getting half the novel out of the way while keeping my Patreon alive a while longer. The story picks up a lingering thread from Only Superhuman, but everything the reader needs to know is explained within the serial.

Kari/Tenshi is a character I’ve always been fond of and wanted to do more with, and I felt the tragic backstory I gave her in Only Superhuman was rich with potential. However, now that I’m much more familiar with Japanese culture from my years of watching tokusatsu and other Japanese TV/film, I find that my portrayal of Kari in OS feels a bit naive in retrospect, based on somewhat cliched archetypes (a Japanese heroine who’s an expert martial artist from a Yakuza background) and some inaccurate assumptions. So I wrote Guardian Angel to flesh out Kari and her cultural heritage with (hopefully) more dimension, depth, and authenticity.  I even tried to capture Japanese phrasings and idioms as best I could in the scenes where characters speak or think in Japanese, “translated” into English for the readers’ benefit. Thanks to Yumiko Bendlin for consulting on Japanese language and cultural elements, and thanks to Keith R.A. DeCandido and Yoshiko Lane for getting me in touch with her.

The serial is also an opportunity to pay homage to Japanese superhero fiction, much as I’ve done in my Tangent Knights audio novel series. Tangent Knights was an attempt to do for tokusatsu superheroes what Only Superhuman had done for American superhero fiction, to homage it and justify it within a scientifically plausible setting (although TK is for a young adult audience and above, while the Troubleshooter series is for mature readers). It seemed natural enough to use Tenshi as a vehicle for bringing the same kind of homage into the Troubleshooter universe.

My hope is that this serial will generate enough interest to bring in more subscribers for my Patreon. The more readers I gain, the more motivated I’ll be to write more content in the future. So please consider giving this first chapter a try by signing on at the $1 level or above.


Over the past month, I’ve been tooling along pretty well writing Arachne’s Legacy, the third book in my Arachne series — or so I thought. I’ve been focusing on just one of the book’s two parallel plotlines, since I often find it easier to write the A and B plots separately so I don’t have to keep shifting my mindset between them. As of early last week, I was getting close to the climax of this first plotline (I’m not sure whether to call it A or B, since they’re pretty equal), thinking about how to bring it all together… and I realized I’d been so focused on just moving through the outline and putting words to the page that I’d overlooked a problem.

Specifically, my outline for this half of the story was focused so much on plot and new characters that I’d failed to work out the specifics of the returning characters’ personal arcs. I didn’t really have them going on the kind of transformative personal journeys in this book that they underwent in the previous ones, since I’d pretty much resolved their arcs in Book 2 and hadn’t given adequate thought to where they would go next.

So I put the brakes on and reevaluated the story from a more character-driven standpoint, figuring out what the returning leads’ goals and states of mind were growing out of the end of Book 2, and how that would create dilemmas or growth opportunities for them going forward. Then I did a revised draft with that in mind, reworking some scenes and adding more material. It didn’t have too great an effect on the plot structure up to that point, but it did alter a lot of the character scenes and conversations to make them more substantial, and it let me plant some seeds of character growth or conflict that I hope will pay off in the climax.

In particular, the character arcs I set up led me to realize that a few characters needed to end the book in very different places than I’d originally intended. One character has become a more active antagonist than I expected, becoming the initiator of something rather than just being convinced to go along with it. Conversely, a new character I’d put in the outline as a secondary antagonist has blossomed unexpectedly into more of a protagonist in the latter half of the storyline. This is partly because my own opinion of a key element of the story has changed since I plotted it, so I’m more sympathetic to the point of view of the character who’s questioning and challenging the main characters’ goals. It’s also because I realized I had too many new characters, so I conflated this one with a more sympathetic figure in the outline.

Even with the clarification of the characters’ personal journeys and where I intend them to end up, I’m still wrestling some with how I want the climax to play out. It turns out that when I outlined it, I didn’t take the logistics of the situation into account well enough, failing to consider the days of travel time between different locations in a planetary system, so there are matters of timing that are harder to work out than I thought. Nor did I work out specifics for what all of the relevant characters are doing in the climax and how they achieve it.

Well, I guess it’s probably not as complicated as it was to choreograph the climactic action in Arachne’s Exile, which required a whole beat-by-beat breakdown and lists and a map of the battle scene. And this climax is going to be less action-oriented than that climax, or than the climax of the novel’s other plotline, which I haven’t tackled yet. But it still hasn’t fallen into place in my mind. I made essentially no progress yesterday, since I woke up at two-something in the morning because a neighbor was having a party or something, and though I eventually got a bit more sleep, I was pretty useless all day, and I’m still lethargic today. I am inching a little closer, though. Hopefully it’ll fall into place soon.

Meanwhile, now that I have money in the bank again, I’ve begun buying a few of the things I’ve needed for a while, like new bedsheets and a protective case for my smartphone. I’ve been using a homemade phone case that I MacGyvered from a vinyl bank book sleeve, cutting a hole at one end for the power/USB and earphone jacks. But I hesitated to cut a hole for the camera/light and risk the structural integrity of the sleeve, so I had to take the phone out of the case if I wanted to use the camera or flashlight or put it in my car mount. Also, the vinyl kept coming apart and I had to retape the edges and spine repeatedly, with clear tape overlapping the screen.

So I was glad to finally get a proper phone case. I considered one of those wallet-style ones, which would be similar to the makeshift one, but I decided to go for one of those heavy-duty drop-proof rubber cases with a metal ring on back for holding the phone or propping it up on its side. It works well, and the ring really makes the phone easier to handle. (I’ve long found it bizarre that smartphones are so poorly designed for being held in the human hand.) The case makes the phone a bit wider, so it takes a bit more effort to fit it into the bracket of the car mount, but once it’s in place, the rubber grips much better than the bare metal of the phone, so it should stay in more securely.

However, I’ve had a rougher time with the protective screen cover that came with it. I didn’t get it aligned quite right the first time, so I peeled it off and tried again, which proved a mistake, since it wasn’t as pristine afterward. Also, the very first time I dropped the phone, a corner of the screen protector cracked. At first, I wanted to complain to the makers, but I decided not to. For one thing, I didn’t want to send the whole thing back when it was just the screen protector that broke. Also, I found that replacement protectors tend to be sold in packs of 2, 3, or more, suggesting that they’re not expected to be permanent anyway. And I realized that it was probably my own fault that the thing broke. I didn’t realize it was tempered glass rather than plastic, so I probably bent it too far and weakened it when I peeled it off and put it back on repeatedly in the attempt to align it perfectly. All told, I decided it would make more sense just to buy a set of 3 replacement covers than to ask for a replacement for the whole thing from the seller.

(I also decided to make this one a pickup order delivered to the Amazon center a few blocks away, since my last couple of mail deliveries have been iffy. This’ll be my first time trying that. To make the order large enough for free shipping, I’ve also bought a new wall clock for my bathroom, since the old one died years ago.)

Still on the agenda, for when I get around to it, is buying new shoes, and also a new laptop. But right now I’m mainly focused on writing the novel, and on catching up with a bunch of shows now that I’ve subscribed to HBO Max (after putting Netflix on hold for a few months, since I still have my old stingy habits and don’t want to spend too much at once).

Oh, and I know I promised some new Patreon fiction coming up soon, but I’d like to get this half of the novel finished up first. Hopefully it won’t be much longer.


My newest Star Trek Adventures product is out, and it’s free!

Star Trek Adventures Mission Briefs: Ancient Civilizations

The Galaxy is ancient beyond easy comprehension – on the order of a million times older than Human civilization. Uncounted civilizations have risen and fallen before the dawn of recorded history of any Federation world. While most of their remains have long since vanished, many have left ruins or artifacts that endure to the present. Other ancient societies live on, wielding technologies or mental abilities vastly beyond our own, though not always in a form recognizable to us. The discovery of these ancient civilizations, or their remains, offers immense potential for advancing Federation knowledge, but comes with great peril as well.

This packet presents ten detailed mission briefs you can modify for use as adventures in your Star Trek Adventures campaigns set during the original series or any other era of play with minor modifications. Each mission brief is designed to stand alone, though several are presented with a loose connecting story arc that may be used or disregarded at the gamemaster’s discretion. They may be added to an existing campaign with minor modifications.

These Mission Briefs are a different type of campaign, short, one-page summaries that gamemasters can flesh out on their own. If you’ve bought my previous few STA adventures, you’ve seen Mission Briefs appended to them as suggested followups. Ancient Civilizations is a set of ten such briefs.

Even though the briefs are, well, brief, this was one of my most challenging STA assignments, because I had to come up with ten different adventure ideas, and ideas have always been the hardest part for me. I discuss my creative process on the Modiphius Blog:

You can download Mission Briefs: Ancient Civilizations for free at:

An active week

This has turned out to be a busier week than I expected. After posting my new Troubleshooter story “Legacy Hero” on my Patreon, I figured I was free and clear to begin writing Arachne’s Legacy (whose similar title is coincidental, and indeed I only just noticed it). After I finished rereading Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile, I created the manuscript file on Monday evening… though I didn’t really add anything new until Tuesday morning, since the prologue is the short story “Comfort Zones,” which I wrote as a bonus for the duology’s Kickstarter (and reprinted on Patreon) but always intended to be the prologue of Book 3, before I knew it would be included in The Arachne Omnibus. Its inclusion will be redundant for people who have the omnibus, but necessary for those who bought the two books individually.

Anyway, on Monday night, I got an e-mail informing me that a story I wrote and submitted at the end of last year had been accepted! It’s my first sale of a “flash” story, i.e. less than 1500 words, and I’ll say more about it later. It hardly pays anything, but that’s less of a concern for me now than it was a month ago. Right now, the important thing for me is that it’s a chance to get exposure in a new market, an established magazine that will hopefully bring me some new readers.

Then on Tuesday, I got a reply about a couple of pitches I submitted to another new market, telling me they’ve been forwarded for the approval process. Nothing’s been given the go-ahead yet, but it’s a step forward.

And on Tuesday afternoon, I got something I’ve been waiting to see for a while now: the galley pages for my upcoming Analog story “Aleyara’s Descent,” which I sold nearly half a year ago. Assuming the headers and footers are accurate, the story will appear in the May/June 2023 issue of Analog, which means it should probably come out in April or thereabouts. I really feel this is a special one, and I can’t wait for people to see it at last.

So since I’ve been working on the galleys, I wasn’t able to make any progress on Arachne’s Legacy today. But I’m still figuring out how to write the next scene, reintroducing one set of the main characters and their situation. Beginnings are often the hardest parts to crack. I plan to do another proofreading pass through the “Aleyara” galleys tomorrow, and hopefully letting the book simmer for another day will help me figure it out.

Assuming, of course, that even more business doesn’t crop up in the days ahead…

New Troubleshooter fiction now on Patreon: “Legacy Hero”

Last year was a slow period for my Patreon Original Fiction tier, but I’ve been preparing some new material that will let me keep it more active over the months ahead, and hopefully bring in some new subscribers or bring back some old ones.

First up, it’s a brand new Troubleshooter story, “Legacy Hero” – a sequel to “Conventional Powers” from the Sept/Oct 2019 issue of Analog, reprinted on Patreon back in 2020. While my previous Troubleshooter stories on Patreon have been character vignettes peripheral to or expanding on parts of Only Superhuman, “Legacy Hero” is the full-fledged next installment in the Troubleshooter series, a nearly 10,000-word novelette focusing on Ekundayo DeMarais, the new Troubleshooter Corps recruit and Emerald Blair’s love interest from “Conventional Powers,” on Ekundayo’s first official Troubleshooter mission, with Emry tagging along as the Watson to her Holmes.

That’s right – “Legacy Hero” is a murder mystery, in keeping with its new protagonist’s role as a detective. When the newest Troubleshooter inherits the legacy identity of Lodestar from the Corps’s director, she also inherits the one cold case that the original Lodestar, Sol System’s greatest detective, never managed to solve: a brazen murder committed by one of three men who shared a common, impenetrable costumed identity as brutal enforcers for a police state, and who have closed ranks for six years to conceal the real killer. Can Lodestar and the Green Blaze find the one clue that will finally crack their sinister shell game?

“Legacy Hero” is available to Patreon subscribers at $10/month, and both the story and its annotations are be available at the $12 Behind the Scenes tier. And I’ll have more new Troubleshooter content over the year ahead!

A fresh start

I’m beginning 2023 in a much better place than I’ve been in for a while, though it’s for a regrettable reason. My late Uncle Clarence, who passed away in early 2021, was surprisingly generous to me in his will, so thanks to him — and to the diligent efforts of my cousins, the executors — I’ve finally been able to pay off the entirety of the crippling credit card debt I’ve been burdened with for more than five years now.

I fell into debt in 2017 when multiple sources of expected writing income were all simultaneously delayed far longer than anticipated. I kept being assured that one or the other would pay off soon, so I didn’t make alternate plans; and I didn’t realize how steep the monthly interest on the debt was getting, so I thought I had more time to spare than I did. Since then, the interest has been so steep that it’s cancelled out any gains I’ve been able to make, so I’ve spent the past five years basically running in place, managing to survive from gig to gig but never making enough at one time to pay down the debt to a significant degree. My GraphicAudio work over the past couple of years helped me gain some ground at last, but that’s on pause at the moment, and Star Trek prose fiction has been reduced to a handful of books a year, so I’m not sure when I might get further work from them. So I was afraid I might backslide again if I didn’t find some new gig to tide me over, and I wasn’t having much luck with that.

So I’m deeply thankful that this inheritance came when it did. I can now afford to wait until things pick up again with contract work — and more importantly, I can use the time to finally focus on some long-delayed original writing. I’m getting ready to begin the manuscript for Arachne’s Legacy, the sequel to Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile, which I’ve been meaning to get to for more than two years now but never found time for. I’ve already been working on some new Troubleshooter material in recent months, with an eye toward serializing it on my Patreon before compiling it for print, so hopefully I’ll have time to continue that as well. (Just wait, though — now that I want free time to work on my own stuff, I half-expect someone to offer me a contract assignment with a tight deadline any day now.)

It’s also a relief to be able to ease some of the austerity measures I’ve been living under for so long. Already this week, I’ve indulged myself in some better, more varied foods from the grocery store, and it’s been so refreshing to get to do that. (Although one of my current favorite foods is one I discovered while searching for the cheapest foods available: canned refried beans. They’re fantastic on a faux chili dog with chopped onions, dijon mustard, and grated cheddar.) I also have the option now to buy some stuff I need, like new shoes and shirts, a new vacuum cleaner, a new laptop, maybe even a modern TV.

Although my priority at this point is to try to build up some real savings for the future, since after spending five years teetering on the brink, I’d really like to avoid going broke again if I can. With no more interest or late fees, my monthly spending will be considerably less, so hopefully I can finally start making more per year than I spend. (Being broke is really expensive.) If I can save enough, it will give me more of a cushion to tide me over through slow times. And hopefully that will give me more freedom to devote time to expanding my catalog of original work and building a larger audience.

Moreover, being broke has exacerbated my tendency toward depression, and it’s often been a struggle to motivate myself to write. I’m hoping that being in a more comfortable place financially will make it psychologically easier to be more productive. Of course, depression is not that simple or predictable, but removing a major stressor (at least for the time being) certainly can’t hurt, and being able to afford getting some new things and varying my environment more could help. (Though it’d be easier if the pandemic weren’t still around. I’m still not willing to go to the movie theater or any crowded indoor place if I can avoid it.)

Although I want to reiterate how grateful I am to my readers. You’ve provided invaluable assistance in keeping me afloat over the past few years through your donations, autographed book purchases, Patreon subscriptions, and Kickstarter support for my eSpec publications. I’ll do my best to continue repaying your generosity by producing cool stuff for you to read and listen to.

First batch of books mailed!

I apologize for the delay in sending out the first batch of autographed books from my book sale, but they’re now at the post office, beginning their journey to their buyers. I optimistically say “first batch,” since there are still plenty more books available! Find the full list here:

You can buy them for yourself, or ask me to autograph them to a friend or loved one as a holiday gift.

The TANGENT KNIGHTS trilogy is 65% off through December 11!

GraphicAudio is now offering the entire Tangent Knights audio novel trilogy as a single set, and from now through December 11, the entire set is available at a 65% discount! You can get 21 hours of full-cast, fully dramatized audio, the equivalent of an entire season of tokusatsu action, drama, and comedy, for only $23.09 as a download or $41.95 in MP3 CD format. That’s the entire trilogy for close to the price of a single book.

Oh, and if you’ve already gotten the first one or two books, or if you want to try the first one before committing to the rest, the three volumes are also discounted individually, to $8.00 for download and 14.68 for CD.

If you’ve been hesitant to give my audio novels a try, now’s your chance to discover how fun they can be!

At last, the return of the holiday book sale!

November 23, 2022 4 comments

It’s been three years since my last autographed book sale, since I kind of got out of the habit during the pandemic, and I’ve been pretty busy the past couple of years with writing projects such as the Tangent Knights trilogy. But I’m not too busy right now, since I have very little work lined up at the moment, and I’m still waiting for answers on various feelers I’ve put out. Which means I need to raise funds however I can to help tide me over.

With three years gone by, I now have several books to offer for the first time, including my two most recent Star Trek novels, my Arachne duology, and even my Hub collections, of which I now finally have a handful of print copies to offer. I’m afraid I’m out of nearly all my older mass-market paperback stock. I wish I could offer signed copies of Tangent Knights, but the CD versions are only available as print-on-demand.

Since I hardly have any specific projects lined up, it wouldn’t be feasible to offer a Tuckerization reward like I did the last couple of times, so I’ll just have to hope the signed books themselves are enough of an enticement. But you could always help me out with donations through PayPal, or better yet, by subscribing to my Patreon, where you can read a variety of exclusive short fiction (and a couple of reprints) and behind-the-scenes notes, as well as my ongoing TV and movie reviews, which mostly cover vintage TV, though I’m currently reviewing The Orville. (Indexes: Fiction, Reviews.) I’m also working on something big for the Fiction tier, so now (or soon) would be a good time to subscribe.

You can buy books or donate by clicking on the PayPal “Donate” button on the right-hand side of my blog page. If you’re seeing this on Goodreads, click on the “View more” link below to go to my main blog and you’ll see the button. All book buyers, let me know who to make out the autograph to.

As always, I’ll try to keep this list updated with regard to availability, but if you have doubts (particularly with the single copies), query first. For buyers in the US, add $4.00 postage per book.  For buyers outside the US, pay the book price and I’ll bill you for postage separately once I determine the amount.

If you have a PayPal account of your own, please pay through that instead of a credit card.  PayPal charges a fee for credit card use, so if you do use a credit card, I have to ask for an additional $0.50 per book.

This sale will continue as long as I have books in stock, and the call for donations is always open. I hope we can help each other out.

Here’s the list of books:

Arachne’s Crime — $15.00: 8 available

Arachne's Crime cover

Is this a dream… or a nightmare? 

The crew of the interstellar colony vessel Arachne is roused from artificial hibernation to face a horrific reality, as an alien boarding party takes them into custody to answer for the deaths of tens of thousands of sentient beings.

But there is more to their trial than meets the eye, and the threads of intrigue weave a tight web as crewmates and friends are divided between those who feel they owe restitution for the actions of the ship’s AI in their defense, and those who refuse to bow down to a judgment they see as persecution.

What future can they hope to build among aliens who see them as mass murderers… presuming they have a future at all?

Arachne’s Exile — $15.00: 8 available

Featured Image -- 6633

What a tangled web…

When the colony starship Arachne unwttingly destroyed a deep-space habitat of the Chirrn, her crew committed themselves to a lifetime of penance to repay their debt. But a brutal act of vengeance has now forced them into exile in a distant part of the galaxy.

Drawn into a cosmic conspiracy spanning millennia, the colonists learn that the Chirrn’s ancient choices have exacted a terrible toll on human history. Now, their only way to win true freedom may be to carry out a perilous theft aboard an extraordinary megastructure orbiting a neutron star.

Will Arachne and her crew pull off the heist of the millennium? Or are they being manipulated into committing a far more awful crime… one for which all humanity could pay the price?

The Arachne Omnibus trade paperback — $30.00 ($2 off current list price): 9 available

Deluxe trade paperback volume containing:

  • “Comfort Zones” prequel story (first time in print)
  • Arachne’s Crime
  • Arachne’s Exile
  • “The Weight of Silence” (connected story)
  • “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” (connected story)



Only Superhuman — $20.00 (20% off!): 14 13 available

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett

In the future, genetically engineered superhumans, inspired by classic Earth comic book heroes, fight to keep the peace in the wild and wooly space habitats of the Asteroid Belt

2107 AD: Generations ago, Earth and the cislunar colonies banned genetic and cybernetic modifications. But out in the Asteroid Belt, anything goes. Dozens of flourishing space habitats are spawning exotic new societies and strange new varieties of humans. It’s a volatile situation that threatens the peace and stability of the entire solar system.

Emerald Blair is a Troubleshooter. Inspired by the classic superhero comics of the twentieth century, she’s joined with other mods to try to police the unruly Asteroid Belt. But her loyalties are tested when she finds herself torn between rival factions of superhumans with very different agendas. Emerald wants to put her special abilities to good use and atone for her scandalous past, but what do you do when you can’t tell the heroes from the villains?

Only Superhuman is a rollicking hard-sf adventure set in a complex and fascinating future.

Library Journal‘s SF/Fantasy Debut of the Month for October 2012!

Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman — $12.00 (20% off!): 2 available

(Robot and Cover Design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics)

When the line between life and technology blurs, humanity must adjust its understanding of the universe. From bestselling author Christopher L. Bennett comes Among the Wild Cybers, eight tales portraying a future of challenge and conflict, but also of hope born from the courage and idealism of those heroes willing to stand up for what is right.

  • An intrepid naturalist risks her future to save a new form of life that few consider worth saving.
  • An apprentice superhero must stand alone against an insane superintelligence to earn her name.
  • A cybernetic slave fights to save her kind from a liberation not of their choosing.
  • A seasoned diplomat and mother must out-negotiate fearsome alien traders to save a colony’s children.
  • A homicide detective serves in a world where curing death has only made murder more baffling.

These and other heroes strive to make their corners of the universe better—no matter how much the odds are stacked against them.

Includes the brand-new tale, Aspiring to Be Angels, prequel to the novel Only Superhuman.

Footprints in the Stars — $12.00 (20% off!): 3 available

Footprints in the Stars

To follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, first we must find them.

Dreaded hope settles over mankind as we stare into the heavens, looking for a sign we are not alone. Fearing we will find it, puzzled when we don’t.

Among the stars or in our own backyard, lose yourself in the wonder of these tales as we humbly posit mankind’s reaction to the awesome certainty that ‘they’ are out there…or at least, they were…

Footprints in the Stars

With stories by Gordon Linzner, Ian Randal Strock, Robert Greenberger, Dayton Ward, Aaron Rosenberg, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher L. Bennett, James Chambers, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Russ Colchamiro, Judi Fleming, and Bryan J.L. Glass

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Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy — $8.50 (15% off!): 4 available

Hub Space cover

The Hub is the most important place in the galaxy — the single point through which all interstellar travel must pass. Yet no one in the galaxy understands how it works. David LaMacchia, an unimportant man from an unimportant planet called Earth, is determined to change that. He’s got no qualifications and no skills. His only friends are a cynical, sharp-tongued space pilot named Nashira Wing and a smugly philanthropic alien named Rynyan, and they both think he’s crazy. On top of that, the powers that profit from the Hub might just be trying to kill him. Still, that won’t stop David from trying to prove that humanity can make a difference to the greater galaxy.

Now the tales of the Hub from the pages of Analog are collected for the first time in one volume, newly revised and expanded! Includes “The Hub of the Matter,” “Home is Where the Hub Is,” and “Make Hub, Not War,” plus exclusive bonus material!

(Note: Print edition has blank spine, as it’s just a bit too thin for spine text to fit)

Crimes of the Hub $11.00 (~15% off!): 4 available

Crimes of the Hub cover

The hapless heroes of Hub Space return with new jobs, new allies, and new adventures at the heart of the galaxy, in a novel expanded and revised from stories originally appearing in Analog.

Just when cynical space pilot Nashira Wing has finally started to enjoy helping David LaMacchia with his clueless quest to crack the secrets of the Hub Network, he’s hijacked by a crew of kittenish thieves and trapped in the treasure vault of a far older civilization. What he finds there gives Nashira a shot at the score of a lifetime—but changes David’s life in ways that threaten their friendship. To keep the devious masters of the Hub from getting their tentacles on Nashira’s prize, she and David must mend frayed relationships and navigate new ones, all while facing adventures in larceny, sex, bureaucracy, hyperspatial geometry, and radical body modification. Can they come through it all with their hearts, their identities, and their dignity intact?

Star Trek: The Original Series — The Higher Frontier — $16.00: 8 available

ST Higher Frontier cover

An all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure featuring James T. Kirk!

Investigating the massacre of a telepathic minority, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise confront a terrifying new threat: faceless, armored hunters whose extradimensional technology makes them seemingly unstoppable. Kirk must team with the powerful telepath Miranda Jones and the enigmatic Medusans to take on these merciless killers in an epic battle that will reveal the true faces of both enemy and ally!


Star Trek: The Original Series — Living Memory — $16.00: 8 6 available

Star Trek Living Memory cover

An all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure!

While attempting to settle in as commandant of Starfleet Academy, Admiral James T. Kirk must suddenly contend with the controversial, turbulent integration of an alien warrior caste into the student body—and quickly becomes embroiled in conflict when the Academy controversy escalates to murder. Meanwhile, Captain Spock of the USS Enterprise and Commander Pavel Chekov of the USS Reliant are investigating a series of powerful cosmic storms seemingly targeting Federation worlds—unstoppable outbursts emitting from the very fabric of space. Endeavoring to predict where the lethal storms will strike next, Spock and Chekov make the shocking discovery that the answer lies in Commander Nyota Uhura’s past—one that she no longer remembers….

Star Trek: The Original Series — The Captain’s Oath — $16.00: 5 4 available

Star Trek The Captain's Oath cover

The saga of James T. Kirk’s historic command of the U.S.S. Enterprise is known throughout the galaxy. But one part of the legend has barely been touched upon until now: the story of Kirk’s first starship command and the remarkable achievements by which Starfleet’s youngest captain earned the right to succeed Christopher Pike as the commander of the famous Enterprise.

From his early battles with the Klingons to the rescue of endangered civilizations, Kirk grapples with difficult questions: Is he a warrior or a peacemaker? Should he obey regulations or trust his instincts? This thrilling novel illustrates the events and choices that would shape James T. Kirk into one of the most renowned captains in Starfleet history.

Star Trek: Mirror Universe — Shards and Shadows — $12.00 (25% off!): 3 available

Mirror Universe Shards and Shadows

Fractured history. Broken lives. Splintered souls. Since the alternate universe was first glimpsed in the classic episode “Mirror, Mirror,” something about Star Trek’s dark side has beckoned us, called to us, tempted us — like forbidden fruit on the Tree of Knowledge. To taste it is to lose oneself in a world of startling familiarity and terrifying contradictions, where everything and everyone we knew is somehow disturbingly different, and where shocking secrets await their revelation.

What began in 2007 with Glass Empires and Obsidian Alliances — the first truly in-depth foray into the turbulent history of this other continuum — now continues in twelve new short tales that revisit and expand upon that so-called “Mirror Universe,” spanning all five of the core incarnations of Star Trek, as well as their literary offshoots, across more than two hundred years of divergent history, as chronicled by…

Christopher L. Bennett – Margaret Wander Bonanno – Peter David – Keith R.A. DeCandido – Michael Jan Friedman – Jim Johnson – Rudy Josephs – David Mack – Dave Stern – James Swallow – Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore – Susan Wright

Star Trek: Titan — Přes dravé moře (Czech translation of Over a Torrent Sea) — $12.50 (~20% off): 4 available

Star Trek Titan Pres Drave More

As the Federation recovers from the devastating events of Star Trek: Destiny, Captain William Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan are ordered to resume their deep-space assignment, reaffirming Starfleet’s core principles of peaceful exploration.  But even far from home on a mission of hope, the scars of the recent cataclysm remain with them as they slowly rebuild their lives.

The planet Droplet is a world made mostly of water without a speck of solid ground.  Life should not exist here, yet it thrives.  Aili Lavena, Titan‘s aquatic navigator, spearheads the exploration of this mysterious world, facing the dangers of the vast, wild ocean.  When one native species proves to be sentient, Lavena finds herself immersed in a delicate contact situation, and Riker is called away from Deanna Troi at a critical moment in their marriage.

But when good intentions bring calamity, Lavena and Riker are cut off from the crew and feared lost.  Troi must face a life-changing event without her husband, while the crew must brave the crushing pressures of the deep to undo the global chaos they have triggered.  Stranded with her injured captain, Lavena must win the trust of the beings who control their fate — but the price for Riker’s survival may be the loss of everything he holds dear.

(Federace se pozvolna zotavuje z ničivých událostí popsaných v trilogii Volání osudu. U.S.S. Titan a jeho kapitán, William T. Riker, přebírají nové rozkazy – mají pokračovat v průzkumu hlubokého vesmíru, aby tak stvrdili, že mírové bádání je stále tím hlavním posláním Hvězdné flotily. Avšak utržené rány se nechtějí zhojit ani tak daleko od domova. Planeta třídy O, přezdívaná Kapka, je zcela pokryta vodní plochou – jediným velkým oceánem. Život by tu vůbec neměl existovat, přesto se mu až neobyčejně daří. Navigátorka Aili Lavena, sama vodního druhu, je ideální kandidátkou na průzkum tohoto ohromného a divokého moře. Když náhodou objeví jeden vnímavý druh, ocitá se na delikátní stezce k prvnímu kontaktu. Jak to tak často bývá, dobré úmysly však přivodí situaci, ze které se Lavena a Riker nemusejí vrátit. Posádka bez kapitána mezitím čelí drtivým tlakům temných hlubin, ve snaze odčinit globální chaos, který nedopatřením sami rozpoutali.)

ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference (Book 5) — $8.00: 3 2 available

The time has come to act. Following the destructive consequences of the Ware crisis, Admiral Jonathan Archer and Section 31 agent Trip Tucker both attempt to change their institutions to prevent further such tragedies. Archer pushes for a Starfleet directive of non-interference, but he faces opposition from allies within the fleet and unwelcome support from adversaries who wish to drive the Federation into complete isolationism. Meanwhile, Tucker plays a dangerous game against the corrupt leaders of Section 31, hoping to bring down their conspiracy once and for all. But is he willing to jeopardize Archer’s efforts—and perhaps the fate of an entire world—in order to win?




Today’s the day! Tangent Knights 3: Gemini Ascendant, the epic conclusion to my tokusatsu-inspired full-cast audio drama trilogy from Graphic Audio, is now on sale as a download (with MP3 CD release to follow in mid-December).

At the moment, it’s exclusively available at the above link, but it will soon become available at other audiobook sites such as Audible and Google Play. I’ll update links on my Tangent Knights page when the time comes. And I’ll update the page with annotations once I get a chance to listen to it myself and add the time codes.

Meanwhile, here’s a larger version of the nifty cover art from Amelia Grace Buff, which is my favorite of the three covers (click to enlarge):

Tangent Knights 3 Gemini Ascendant

I’m really happy that the complete trilogy is finally out. Tangent Knights is my first novel-length trilogy. The three Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations novellas were written as a trilogy, as were the three Hub stories collected in Crimes of the Hub. A couple of my Star Trek novel series have run longer than three books, but they were never commissioned more than two at a time. And I intend to add a third book to the Arachne duology if I can ever find the time. But Tangent Knights is the first time I conceived a complete trilogy of full-length works, wrote them nearly back-to-back, and saw the entire thing published fairly close together (about 15 months). It’s a milestone achievement in my career.

Although, since the three audio novels run about 7 hours each, that’s comparable to a full year’s worth of 24-minute episodes of Kamen Rider or Super Sentai. So you can see it as a complete trilogy, or as a complete “season” of a tokusatsu series.

Naturally, I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to do a second Tangent Knights trilogy/”season,” and I already have a premise in mind. But whether GraphicAudio asks for more depends on how well the first trilogy sells. So if you haven’t tried out Tangent Knights already, I hope you’ll give it a shot. Even people who aren’t fans of tokusatsu will find plenty of my usual hard science fiction concepts, worldbuilding, and humor, and I feel I’ve rarely if ever written anything with such potent and compelling character drama, or such cosmic scope. I’m really proud of this series, and the folks at GraphicAudio are great to work with. So I’d really love the chance to continue expanding the Tangent Knights multiverse.

Phase in!

Announcing TANGENT KNIGHTS 3: GEMINI ASCENDANT! (Updated with cover art)

October 24, 2022 1 comment

GraphicAudio has posted the blurb for the concluding volume of my original audio drama trilogy Tangent Knights.

In a world where communication with parallel tangent Earths, known as “realms”, has brought a disruptive influx of new beliefs and scientific innovation, college-student and fangirl Corazon Kagami continues to discover astonishing new facets to the abilities she’s unexpectedly acquired in the accident that transformed her into Tangent Knight Caprice, the foremost of a growing ensemble of armored super-warriors very much like the heroes and villains of her favorite tokusatsu shows.

After a very personal betrayal, Malika Ramos, AKA Tangent Knight Gemini, finds herself captive of a powerful agency that polices the multiverse for inter-realm threats. They intend to use her as the means to lethally put down what they see as a threat disturbingly similar to the one that all but wiped out the highly advanced civilization of the Cefal. The menace at hand is Malika’s teammate Cory Kagami, Tangent Knight Caprice. And many of Cory’s comrades-in-arms have begun to suspect the danger is real.

Caprice’s ever-evolving, ever more godlike powers have triggered an intervention that will pit warrior against warrior, as Caprice refuses to turn away from a destiny that may save her tragically damaged family, or lead to horrific multi-versal catastrophe.

Gemini Ascendant will be released as a digital download on November 14, and on MP-3 CD in mid-December. I’m glad the wait for Book 3 will be so much shorter than the wait for Book 2. As you can tell from the blurb, the story escalates to a truly cosmic level this time, and the personal drama and moral and philosophical conflicts reach new heights as well. Plus, as befits a tokusatsu series, there are cool new armors with amazing new powers! I’m really proud of how it turned out, and I really hope it sells well enough that I get to do a second trilogy.

You can pre-order Gemini Ascendant at the above link, and read my non-spoiler notes on my Tangent Knights page here. Cover art and more ordering links will be updated as they become available.

STAR TREK ADVENTURES digs into “Native Soil”

October 19, 2022 2 comments

Less than two months after my previous Star Trek Adventures standalone campaign, Better Days, Modiphius has just released my latest campaign:

Star Trek Adventures: Native Soil

Assisting an archeological team on the planet Avalon leads to a shocking discovery and entangles the crew in a momentous cultural dilemma.

Your orders are to assist an archaeological team being led by an old friend of one of the ship’s command personnel. The planet’s original civilization was wiped out thousands of years ago by a radiation burst. Thankfully, the planet is no longer in danger and a new civilization has since flourished there.

The away team provides support at the digsite and are present when survivors of the original civilization are unearthed, held in stasis. This discovery will help answer a great archaeological puzzle, but poses an even greater challenge when the revived ancients make claims to the planet now inhabited by a new civilization.  

Avalon is an independent colony and the Federation cannot dictate a solution, but the crew are invited to mediate in an attempt to relieve the impasse of ideals and demands. The away team’s advocates face difficult choices and protests from both sides–can they calm the situation and find a solution agreeable to all parties?

Although this is a standalone adventure, a one-page mission brief provides inspiration for continuing the mission.

This 22-page PDF adventure for the Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game is written by Christopher L. Bennett, and is set during The Next Generation era with the player characters being the crew of a Starfleet vessel. This adventure also contains advice on adaptation for use in campaigns based in other Star Trek eras.

This may be my newest release, but it’s one of my oldest story ideas, which I’ve reworked for various series over the years. I discuss its origins in my latest article for the Modiphius blog:

Native Soil is available as a downloadable PDF at:

I’ve got two more STA projects written and waiting their turn, one approved and one still pending approval. They’re both interestingly different, and I look forward to announcing them.

New(ish) Troubleshooter story now up on Patreon!

I’ve got something fun for my Patreon Fiction tier subscribers this month. Chapter 4 of my 2012 novel Only Superhuman begins in medias res during an adventure on Pellucidar, an amusement-park habitat run amok. That scene was inspired by an earlier comic book spec script I’d written for Emerald Blair in 1996, when I hoped to do a comics spinoff to the intended novel series. Though the two versions were very different, I’ve salvaged what moments I could from the comic to create an expanded account of the canonical Pellucidar adventure from the novel, a 7000-word short story called “The Baseless Fabric of This Vision.”

But that’s not all — the story is illustrated! I actually did a full set of thumbnail sketches for the comic script around 1998 or so. They’re somewhat more detailed than normal for comics thumbnails, since I got carried away drawing them. They’re still fairly crude, but there are a few bits I’m fond of, and doing this story for Patreon was a way I could finally show them off. (Apologies for the empty boxes Patreon is displaying above and below the images for some reason. None of the ten illustrations are missing, at least not in my page view.)

As usual, there are annotations available at the Behind the Scenes tier as well.

STAR TREK ADVENTURES looks to “Better Days”

August 24, 2022 1 comment

It’s been a year and a half since my last Star Trek Adventures standalone campaign came out, but my latest one has finally been released! Here’s the official description:

Star Trek Adventures: Better Days

Complications suffered while traveling through the Bajoran Wormhole lead to a historically significant mission to Bajor itself.

Starfleet has directed your vessel to carry out a survey mission to the Gamma Quadrant. It should be a relatively simple exploratory mission but, having left Deep Space 9 behind, your passage through the Bajoran Wormhole causes some damage to the ship which forces you to return to the Alpha Quadrant. Further complications mean that you cannot seek help from Deep Space 9, so you must head to Bajor. But it is a very different Bajor than the one you were expecting to find.

The away team must locate the means to repair their ship, while delicately navigating the unexpected cultural situation on the planet. Difficult decisions need to be made regarding Starfleet directives and the future of the Bajor you find yourself upon. Will the crew be able to successfully infiltrate Bajoran society and find their way home without impacting the timeline?

Although this is a standalone adventure, a one-page mission brief provides inspiration for continuing the mission.

This 22-page PDF adventure for the Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game is written by Christopher L. Bennett, and is set during The Next Generation era with the player characters being the crew of a Starfleet vessel. This adventure also contains advice on adaptation for use in campaigns based in other Star Trek eras.

The summary is a bit circumspect about what’s going on in the game, but you can probably guess. I talk about it more openly in the behind-the-scenes blog article I wrote for Modiphius, which is here:

Better Days is available as a downloadable PDF at (UK), (USA), or DrivethruRPG.

Hopefully it won’t be long before my next STA campaign is released, since it got approved and invoiced simultaneously with this one. Stay tuned!

A few minor updates

August 12, 2022 1 comment

First off, if anyone was wondering, I was unaffected by the incident at the Cincinnati FBI office yesterday. That’s miles away from me, and the resultant chase went much farther away. Still, it’s alarming that it happened in my city.

Better news: Yesterday morning, I received both my payment from Analog for “Aleyara’s Descent” and a small batch of royalties for my Hub books. I set up a direct deposit arrangement with Analog in hopes that it would help the payment come faster, and apparently it worked, since this is much faster than I expected.

That’s in addition to the modest royalties I got from eSpec Books last week. I wish the Arachne duology were selling better, but I appreciate eSpec’s willingness to stick with a book and give it time to find an audience. Apparently their model relies heavily on convention sales, and they’re only just starting to get back into that after the pandemic shutdowns, so hopefully things will pick up. My editor Danielle let me know at Shore Leave that she’s still open to a third novel, though I’m not sure when I’ll find the time to write it, given my need to line up other paying work. Ohh, I wish I wrote as fast as I did a quarter-century ago.

I’ve been looking over the list of the uncollected stories I’ve had published in magazines or self-published on Patreon, and it looks like I’m getting close to having enough for a second story collection. I think I’d prefer to sell a few more stories first, ideally in the Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe, which would not be strongly represented in a collection otherwise. But then, it’ll probably be a while before “Aleyara” comes out in Analog, and then I’ll need to leave a cushion of at least a couple of months before collecting it. (It would definitely be the centerpiece of the collection, the longest and IMHO the best of the stories I have available.) So that gives me time to try to write and sell some more short fiction in the interim — again, if time permits. Fortunately, selling “Aleyara” opens the door for me to revisit and revise some shelved stories featuring the Biaru, the species introduced in that novelette. That might save me some time.

Ideally, what I’d prefer is to wait until I have enough stories to do themed collections. For instance, I’d like to do a collection of Troubleshooter stories, or do enough fantasy stories to do a collection of those, or that sort of thing. But I just don’t produce short fiction quickly enough. And I don’t know, maybe that’s just my own sense of orderliness talking. Maybe it’s better to do a collection with a more eclectic range of stories and universes, to give readers greater variety and a broader overview of my work. Themed collections could come later, repackaging stories that first appeared separately. I’d like to hear opinions from my readers — what kind of story collection do you prefer?

My new coffee maker is working out okay, except the same thing happened with the coffee grounds I bought as with the free sample bag — the first cup was nice and mellow, but subsequent ones were more bitter and sour. I figured out it’s what inevitably happens once the package is unsealed and the grounds are exposed to oxygen. Now I know why my cousin Mark insists on using beans and grinder. And why the coffee bags I used before are individually wrapped. Still, I’m getting used to it, and it seems that digging out grounds from deeper in the container helps a little.

The main issue with the coffee maker is that it’s a bit messy. It’s a single-cup maker that drips directly into a coffee cup rather than a pot, so there’s a certain amount of splashing out onto the countertop. I’ve been using my preferred coffee mug, but yesterday I tried using the taller mug that came with the machine to see if it ameliorated the splashing any. It did splash less, but still some. And maybe I’m being paranoid, but I’m not sure whether I should trust an inexpensive ceramic mug made in China to be lead-free. It’s probably safe, but I’m more comfortable sticking with my usual mug. As for the splashing, it just requires me to wipe the countertop regularly, which I should do anyway.

I do appreciate the greater amount of counter space I have in the kitchen now thanks to my smaller microwave and the glass shelf I bought that goes over two of my stove burners. Being able to access the countertop and the microwave even with the dish drying rack deployed opens the door for me to wash dishes more than once a day, which has already proven useful on a day when I had more than one rack’s worth of stuff to wash. The one adjustment is that I have to retrain my reflexes a bit, since I’m often working further to the left on the countertop than I used to, which throws off my aim when reaching for the silverware drawer, and puts me a bit farther from the fridge, so it’s not as easy to hold the door open with my foot (which I probably shouldn’t do anyway).

The oven shelf is nice because I can move it to different positions depending on which burners I need to use. It can be handy as a cutting board right next to the pan. Although I found out recently that it’s not a good idea to use it that way when I’m using both of the front burners, because reaching over a hot pan to cut things behind it is not comfortable or entirely safe. Better to use my normal cutting board for that arrangement.


Let’s see, what else? After surviving Shore Leave without getting sick, and with the government now relaxing COVID guidelines and suggesting it’s time to begin returning to normal life (while still taking precautions to protect those at greater risk), I’ve dared to venture out for my walks around the neighborhood without wearing a mask — though I still carry one in a plastic bag in my pocket just in case I have to go into a public building or something. I realize that having a mask on just for an outdoor walk was probably overcautious, but I’d gotten used to the sense of security it brought me, and I’m still getting used to the feeling of being outside without one. It is more comfortable for my ears, though.

Get the whole DTI series in this month’s STAR TREK eBook Deals!

This month, Simon & Schuster’s Star Trek eBook Deals include my entire Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations series — both novels and all three e-novellas — for just 99 cents each, through September 4.

This means you can get the entire series for only about 5 dollars! Sounds like quite a deal.

Also on sale this month are Diane Carey’s classic George Kirk/Robert April novel Final Frontier, Christie Golden’s second post-finale Voyager novel The Farther Shore, Dayton Ward’s recent Original Series novel Agents of Influence, and Una McCormack’s Deep Space Nine: Hollow Men, a sequel to the episode “In the Pale Moonlight.”

“Aleyara’s Descent” into ANALOG

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I got a novelette accepted on the morning before Shore Leave began. I’ve just signed the contract, so it’s time to announce more widely what I already told the convention audience.

“Aleyara’s Descent” will be my thirteenth story published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and my first since “Conventional Powers” in the Sept/Oct 2019 issue. At 15,800 words (in the unrevised draft), it’s the longest piece of non-Star Trek short fiction I’ve ever sold. (The previous record-holder was also an Analog story, “Hubstitute Creatures” at 14,200.)

It’s also pretty unusual for me. Though the story technically takes place in my Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe, it stands effectively alone, since it’s set entirely in the distant past of an alien planet. Basically it’s historical fiction, just not about human history. The story is an adventure quest set in the preindustrial era of the Biaru, a colorful species with a rich mythology and spiritual life, so it has the feel of high fantasy even though it’s a work of hard science fiction. It’s a deep dive into a whole alien world — its people, its biology, its customs and beliefs and stories. It’s my first published story with no human characters (although my Patreon story “Growth Industry” has no speaking human characters). I’m eager to say more, but I don’t want to spoil it.

The Biaru are one of my favorite species that I’ve ever created, and I’ve written multiple stories about them (though this is the only one set before their contact with humans), but it’s taken me decades to finally get them into print. “Aleyara’s Descent,” my thirteenth Analog story, was actually written just months after my first Analog story, “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” way back in 1997. After my initial failed attempts to sell it, I convinced myself there weren’t enough markets for a story of its length, and I decided that I’d incorporate it into a novel instead, with some reworking of its ending. (I did not submit it to Analog at the time, perhaps because I felt it was too fantasy-like for a hard-SF magazine. I wonder now what might have happened if I hadn’t talked myself out of trying it there.) As my career took another direction and my original novel plans remained mostly unrealized, the story gathered dust on my shelf.

But recently, I’ve been too busy with audio novels to write new short stories, and I realized that I needed to get something out there on the market. So I took another look at “Aleyara” and decided it was worth submitting as it was, even if that required adjusting my novel plans later on. I had to stop letting my tentative plans for the future prevent me from using what assets I had in the present. I sent it to Analog first out of tradition, basically, but I figured it was a long shot. I was quite pleasantly surprised when I got editor Trevor Quachri’s acceptance e-mail.

So it’s taken me fully 25 years, but I finally get to tell the epic tale of “Aleyara’s Descent.” I hope it will open the door to telling more stories about the Biaru going forward.

Journey’s end, eventually

I’m home at last, but the start of my trip today wasn’t quite as smooth as I hoped.

I got what counts as a decent night’s sleep for a motel, i.e. I woke up in the middle of the night, got up for a while, and eventually drifted off after who knows how long, only to wake up and find it was nearly 8 AM. That was good, since that was when the breakfast room opened. I expected I’d take something back to my room to eat, but the breakfast room was empty, so I had a quick bowl of cereal, coffee, and orange juice there, and also took a honey bun for later, which I completely forgot about until unpacking my food bag at home just now.

I asked the guy at the front desk where the nearest garage was, and he named one he’d frequented and thought well of, after steering me away from a closer auto parts place that didn’t do repairs. So I packed up my car and drove about a mile to that garage… and they told me they don’t do tires. Ack! I guess the motel guy never needed tire service from them.

So that garage’s guy directed me to a tire specialist about nine miles away, which meant, this being western Maryland, that it was across the border in West Virginia. They had an office on one side of the road and a garage on the other, which seems an odd setup. But they got a new tire on within about 15 minutes, for a bit under a hundred bucks, and I was on my way — after asking the woman in the office where the nearest place was to get coffee, since I’d forgotten to get a second cup from the motel before I left. That turned out to be a gas station mini-mart, which let me fill up (just over enough to get home) and get a deli sandwich for lunch and dinner. It was close to 10:30 by now, and I figured I needed both food and coffee to be fully alert, so I had half the sandwich right there.

Then I had to do a long, long drive through intermittently heavy rain. Remember how I estimated on the way out that there was a swath of about 2 hours between rest stops? Even though I was basically taking the same route in reverse, plus the ten or so miles from the gas station to the road, either I went much slower, the rest areas are asymmetrical, or I just underestimated it the first time. When I finally found a rest stop — after passing through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the northern skinny part of West Virginia and re-entering Ohio — I checked the time on my gas receipt and found I’d been driving nonstop for nearly four hours!

Well, at least that means I made good time, though I stopped more often on the Ohio part of the trip. That went about as usual, aside from several slowdowns due to construction and accidents. Or rather, due to most American drivers having no idea how to zipper merge, so they always create a bottleneck trying to crowd into a single lane. If they’d just slow down and allow room between cars, they could merge far more quickly. But in their selfish haste to get ahead rather than deferring to others, they make things slower for themselves as well as everyone else.

Also, of course, whenever someone’s going too slowly in the right lane and you try to pass them on the left, they inevitably speed up just then so you can’t pass them after all. And when you move back to the right lane behind them, they immediately slow down again.

So anyway, I initially put my phone away once I was on the last leg of I-71 and didn’t need directions. But then we hit another slowdown, and I realized I could still use the traffic info, so at a point when we stopped moving completely, I put the phone back in the clip and restarted Maps. I kept it going all the way home, and it was interesting to see the overhead map view of the route through Cincinnati that I know so well from ground level.

I was wary about getting home and finding it smelling of insecticide from the cockroach spraying, so I kept my mask on and vented out the place right away. But I saw or sensed no sign that anyone’s been in here since I left. I’d think they would’ve left a note if they’d sprayed, but there’s nothing. I guess I’ll ask tomorrow.

The phone clip is already half-broken, by the way. It still holds the phone, but one of the two springy rods that hold the movable part of the clip in place has already detached from that part. I guess that’s what I get for buying a cheap one.

And my right wrist still feels like I’m wearing the proof-of-vaccination wristband I wore all weekend, even though I tore it off more than a day ago.

But I get to sleep in my own bed again…

Stranded after Shore Leave

Remember how ten years ago, on the way home from Shore Leave, I took too wide a turn into a driveway and gave myself two flat tires, so I had to stop for the night only a few hours into my trip home?

This time, at least it wasn’t my fault.

I was just over a hundred miles out from the convention, on I-70 just a few miles short of taking the exit to I-68, when I noticed something a bit wonky with my steering. I figured it was probably just the vagaries of the roadway, but then I started to hear an increasingly loud groaning sound. I vainly hoped it might just be the engine of the semi behind me, but the truck wasn’t that close. From the car’s performance, I realized I must have a flat. I kept going slowly forward in hopes of reaching the next exit, but I realized it was on the left and I couldn’t get over there. Plus I was starting to smell burning rubber (or maybe I just noticed that after I stopped and am rewriting the narrative in my head). I had no choice but to pull over to the shoulder, which seemed alarmingly narrow. I didn’t feel safe getting out to try to fix a flat on the driver side of the car, with other vehicles racing past behind me at 70 MPH or more. (It was a 70 MPH limit on that road, but of course, many freeway drivers interpret speed limits as lower limits.)

Feeling stuck in the car, I tried phoning my insurance agent, but it was after 5 PM on a Sunday, and their voice menu advised calling 911 in an emergency. I wasn’t sure mine was enough of an emergency to warrant 911, but I didn’t know what other options I had. The 911 operator directed me to the state police, who called a tow service for me.

As it happened, while I was waiting for the tow, a good samaritan (and a former Saturn owner, so I guess he felt a connection) pulled over and offered to help me put on the spare. He didn’t get too far before the tow service guy came along, and basically the latter guy just contributed his superior jack to make it go faster, and the good samaritan kept working on the tire until the small spare tire was in place. I guess that’s why the tow guy didn’t charge me. He was on his way before I even got to ask the question.

But I did ask how long the spare would last me, and he advised it was no good for more than 30 miles. It was also raining, another good reason to stop early. The tow guy told me of a motel a few miles away, which I then confirmed on GPS.

I’m typing this from my room there, which looks nice and clean even though the motel seems unimpressive on the outside. Still, I opened the window to let it air out before taking my mask off.

I was hoping the motel might be in the book of coupons I picked up from a rest area on the way out, something I always do in case of emergencies like this. But I couldn’t find it in the book. Still, the price isn’t bad, considering. I just hope the nearby garage doesn’t charge me too much tomorrow for a new tire.

The thing is, I asked the garage back home to check my tires before the trip, and they said they looked good. Still, the last entry I have in my computer for a new tire purchase is seven years ago. I was a bit concerned about their age before I left, and I guess it was warranted.

Still, all things considered, I got lucky. I had a tire blowout at 70 MPH on the freeway, and the car and I are otherwise whole and unhurt. I guess I’m lucky it was a rear tire on a front-wheel drive car. Otherwise, who knows? In any case, I’m grateful to the gentleman who stopped to help a stranded motorist. Thank you, sir, whoever you are.

So anyway, the last day of Shore Leave went about as I expected. I got a pretty good night’s sleep, thanks to remembering to sleep on the folded-over comforter. Being stuffed from Andy Nelson’s BBQ and a slice of chocolate cake the evening before probably helped. Still, I hung out in my room all morning, getting in a bit of writing and getting ready to go, and I got my leftover BBQ sandwich and carrot sticks out of the room fridge for lunch. Then I went and got some ice to preserve the second half of the chicken sandwich I bought yesterday, which I was saving for dinner. I checked out before my noon stint in the “writer’s chimney,” but hit a bit of a snag when they disabled my room key early and I still had two bags in my room, since I was taking two trips to the car. So I had to go to the desk and ask them to reauthorize a key for me for the few minutes it took to get my bags out.

Things were slow at the author chimney, and I only sold one book. I only sold three in total this year, all Star Trek, even though I brought a bunch of my original books to sell. Still, I got to finish off with a nice panel talking about Sherlock Holmes. And I got to have some informative conversations with other writer guests, a couple of which might lead to new work opportunities. Here’s hoping.

And then I hit the road and drove for a while, and stopped at a rest area to have the chicken sandwich and some trail mix as an early dinner. Then I hit the road again with the goal of trying to make it at least halfway home before stopping. So much for that idea.

I guess now I should rest, recover, and count my blessings. Hopefully I’ll get a new tire pretty quickly in the morning and get home without further incident.

But wow, two post-Shore Leave flat tire events ten years apart. I’d better be careful after Shore Leave in 2032…

Preparing for Shore Leave

We’re only five days from Shore Leave now, so only four days before I head out. I’ve been taking a few steps to get ready.

For one thing, I decided it was finally time to buy one of those things that lets you mount your smartphone in your car. For years now, I’ve just kept the phone in the cup holder between seats when I used GPS, which meant I had to look pretty far down to see the screen, which is less than ideal. Since I’m concerned with safety after being out of practice with long drives, I figured a phone mount would be a real help.

I couldn’t afford one of those elaborate stem-and-base ones that mount atop the dashboard, but I went looking at local stores for one of those little clips that you stick onto the air vent slats, which generally sell for only a few dollars. I didn’t find anything suitable at the stores I checked, but I did pick up some iced coffee and trail mix for the trip.

I got really gung-ho about this problem the other day for some reason, and after taking two separate walking trips to local stores with no result, I got caught up in trying to figure out some way to rig up a homemade phone mount. There are internet videos for such a thing, but I didn’t seem to have the appropriate parts. I realized, after experimenting a bit in the car, that the phone (in “widescreen” orientation) would fit neatly into the depression at the base of the ashtray/lighter compartment, which of course I never use anyway. (It’s a 2001 car, so it still had an ashtray/lighter.) That was only a little bit forward from the cup holder, but it might have given a somewhat better angle. It only fit in loosely, though, and might fall out from car vibrations. So I had the thought of creating some kind of lip around the depression to hold it in. I noticed I had some rope caulk lying around, and thought that might be worth a try.

I never got around to the attempt, though. Yesterday, it occurred to me belatedly that I should really get hold of some N95 masks. I picked up my allotted three free masks when the government handed them out months ago, and haven’t actually used any of them yet, but three isn’t enough, and the masks provided don’t seal well around my nose, so I don’t trust them not to fog my glasses. (Plus an imperfect seal defeats the purpose anyway.) So I did some research into what some of the best masks were, and ordered a set of 10 NIOSH-compliant masks from Amazon yesterday. While I was at it, I went ahead and bought a 6-dollar phone mount clip. However, since my previous Amazon order was delayed by a few days due to a delivery mixup, I didn’t want to take any chances, so I paid extra for one-day delivery.

As it happens, the Amazon driver was timely, but it’s fortunate that I was tracking the van on the site and was watching out from my balcony, since the driver left my delivery on the wrong doorstep, two doors down in my apartment complex, even though the building numbers are quite prominently displayed on the front windows. I didn’t have a chance to get out the front door and call to him before he was gone, but it was easy enough to pick up my items just after he left.

I promptly took the phone clip down to my car to see how it worked, and it took a little trial and error to determine that it needs to be mounted low on the vent grille, otherwise its weight tilts the vent downward. It also doesn’t clip the phone quite as firmly as I’d like, but I think I just need to make sure it’s fully inserted and completely flat against the back of the clip, since if it’s at an angle, the spring pressure pushes it out. I also have to clip the phone a bit below center to make sure the clip isn’t depressing the on/off button on the side. (Maybe I should put the clip around the phone first and then attach it to the vent.) Still, it looks like it should work adequately, and should be at least a somewhat better placement for the phone/GPS than the cup holder was, or the ashtray depression would’ve been.

As for the N95 masks, they’re still sealed in a bag, but they clearly have some pretty heavy, robust metal nose clips built in, so hopefully that means no fogged glasses.

Usually on my trips, I bring along a metal flask of filtered ice water, plus I put my 2-quart plastic jug of filtered water in the freezer overnight beforehand so I have replacement ice water all day. Now, in the past few years, I’ve started buying iced tea bags, the result of a grocery substitution mixup that turned out to my advantage. So it occurred to me that I could make a batch of iced tea, pour it into a washed-out empty 2-quart juice bottle, and freeze it overnight as well. That way I get a bit of extra caffeination on my drive.

The biggest thing I have yet to do is to take my car in for maintenance, which will be tomorrow morning. As I mentioned last time, I hope they can get it fixed promptly, since I’m cutting it kind of close.

In short, I’m spending a fair amount for this trip. Gas prices seem to be on the way down at last, but it seems unlikely that I’ll sell enough books at the con to turn a profit for the whole thing. As I mentioned before, though, readers can help me out through PayPal donations or Patreon subscriptions.

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