Halcyon’s Heirs is Released

Book 4 in the Pirates of the Milky Way series is up on Amazon! Here’s the blurb:

The survivors of the SLS Excelsior are marooned on Halcyon, an abandoned planet limited by 19th century technology. In Epsilon University, the seed of Resistance is forming, and attracting unwanted attention. And on Lute, the Tetrarch sends in the Marshal’s Service to try and recapture his daughter Jillian. Meanwhile, a secret gold shipment to Petra Roe attracts the attention of certain pirates.

The book also contains a bonus Patreon short story that won’t be published elsewhere.

Halcyon’s Heirs 1

Johan Milford stood at the lecture dais wearing a comfortable polo and blue jeans. Blue jeans, that ancient style of clothing, was currently in vogue on Epsilon, and Dr. Milford was a very popular, and hip, professor.

Milford was proud to boast ancestral blood from four continents on Old Earth: North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. He had nice blended look, featuring light brown skin, dark brown hair and eyes.

He stood five foot nine, or 175 centimeters, with bushy brown hair and a bushy brown beard. He carried too much weight from lack of exercise, good food, and copious amounts of beer consumed on the weekends.

In short, he was a very typical university professor, looking every bit the part. He stepped out from the podium and waved a hand around the lecture hall, filled with undergraduate students hanging on his every word.

Most professors preferred teaching small and intimate gatherings of graduate students, and the lighter grading load such classes entailed. But if Dr. Milford held such a preference, he kept it well hidden. He remained one of the most popular professors at Epsilon University, consistently scoring high on social media surveys. Students loved him, and his classes always filled to capacity.

Today he taught the 400 or so undergraduates in a stadium-style classroom for his Philosophy 101 class. Most in the class were 16-year-old freshmen, although a few older students were mixed in, particularly those who were unable to attend when they were freshmen themselves.

Unlike other lecturers at the university, Milford worked at making his time on stage entertaining. He danced around, gesturing wildly, varying the cadence of his voice. He included amusing anecdotes and used all the techniques of compelling oratory. Holos of his lectures were very popular, even among non-academics, and had racked up millions of views.

Several students were in fact recording him right now, their neural implants storing optical and aural sensory input as they watched him on the stage. Most recorded his lectures for their personal benefit, ostensibly so they could re-watch them before tests. In actuality, parties and personal relationships interfered with studying time for many of them, and the holos were never seen again.

A handful sold their recordings to companies looking to capitalize on the professor’s fame. This practice was officially frowned upon by Epsilon University and was grounds for dismissal if caught. However, it proved too lucrative for some to resist.

One student recorded the lecture for an entirely different purpose. He was registered as a sophomore under the name Ben Fernando. Fernando was an agent for State Security and Intelligence.

SSI had kept tabs on Dr. Milford for years. In fact, SSI monitored almost everyone at Epsilon University, students as well as professors. The hard sciences were watched for developments that could be appropriated by the state, or that might be used against the state. The soft sciences and humanities were monitored for political adherence, although less stringently. Everyone knew liberal arts and the like were mostly useless from a practical standpoint.

However, the war changed things and SSI slowly began to realize the true meaning of a liberal education. Liberal arts and social sciences taught students how to think. And if students learned to think outside established orthodoxy, that could be a problem.

Director Munk himself realized the error in their lax coverage of the humanities late in the war. He had since performed due diligence, including learning about the history of university education.

The liberal arts always rebelled against orthodoxy, it seemed. There may be times when professors adhered to the status quo, but invariably their politics shifted to the opposite side of the spectrum from which they were governed.

Therefore, capitalist societies produced professors who championed socialism. Socialist societies produced professors championing freedom and capitalism. The pattern held true for centuries.

Since the Star League was an authoritarian tetrarchy, it only stood to reason that her universities would produce freedom loving capitalistic professors. So, Munk increased surveillance on the humanities, and Fernando found himself signing up for various classes in liberal arts.

Fernando had to admit, Milford was a very good speaker. He found himself entertained, and often spent time afterward thinking about what the professor said. If it were not for the fact Fernando was an SSI agent, loyal to the state in every way, he might have been influenced to think the wrong way sometimes.

Philosophy was a broad topic, and Milford spent much time going over the classics. But the way he presented philosophical movements, ideas, and opinions always left his students with the notion that more freedom was better for individuals than what authoritarian governments typically allowed; that people flourished when government largely left them alone; that the right to be left alone was to be cherished and sought out whenever possible.

In short, Fernando increasingly grew to realize that Milford was extraordinarily dangerous and spreading seditious rumors and half-truths to his students. He grew increasingly alarmed as the semester advanced, and his reports back to SSI HQ became more strident in tone.

Today Milford expounded upon the philosophies underlying the American Revolution, and Fernando remained particularly alert. These ideas were poison to the League, especially in their ongoing war against the Republic. The Republic was in fact founded on the same ideals.

The Republic even thumbed its nose at the League by naming their most powerful spacecraft after American founding fathers.

So Fernando paid close attention, sitting front and center in the auditorium for a good view, and recorded it all on his neural implant.

Milton paused dramatically and said, “Somebody once said a democracy is like two wolves and a sheep voting what to have for dinner.”

Everyone in the room chuckled. All these students, Fernando thought, had been taught from an early age the evils of capitalism and democracy by state-approved schools and teachers. The notion had been pounded into them relentlessly.

Milton continued and said, “Somebody else said a representativedemocracy is where the sheep has a gun.”

A girl in the back of the room, “Oh, no!”

A few turned around and looked at her. She clapped a hand over her mouth and her ears grew red.

Milton nodded sagely. He said, “Of course, it doesn’t have to a literal gun, although in the case of the United States it certainly was with the Second Amendment to the Constitution. But the weapon in question is really the electoral process. You see, in a representative democracy, the people’s weapons are elections. If the people don’t like who is serving them in government, they can have a revolution at the ballot box and vote the scoundrels out of office.

“This is why representative democracies are the most stable and longest lasting of all governments. Their ‘revolutions’ occur every four years or so. The people in charge change, while the underlying framework within their constitution carries on.”

Fernando heard some mutterings, a couple of “Hmm’s” and “Aha’s.” He looked at the students sitting near him and noticed some eyebrows raised.

Milton had made an excellent point, and his ideas were shaking the carefully entrenched attitudes toward government these students had been indoctrinated in almost since birth.

Milton had also, Fernando decided, signed his own death warrant.

State of the Tome and Special Offer for May Patrons

I decided to release Pirates of the Milky Way as a web novel in part as an effort to broaden my audience. Today, May 1, I feel confident that effort has been successful. I have almost 20,000 views on Royal Road and 10,000 on ScribbleHub. The story has also generated hundreds more on such sites as SpaceBattles and Sufficient Velocity.

Efforts are ongoing, and I released the latest chapters for Book IV, Halcyon’s Heirs, on Patreon this morning. I have a special offer for new patrons coming in at the Crewmember level or higher in May: a free copy of Ghostsuit: An Empathic Detective Novel on Amazon.

Thanks for your ongoing support! Look for Book IV to be completed later this month.

Pay What You Want Boxset

 

I am happy to announce a special deal on a boxset featuring the first three books in the Pirates of the Milky Way series! Basically, you can pay whatever you want. I appreciate and all support.

Make a PayPal contribution using the link below and you will be redirected to the download page. You can choose the Kindle version or ePub version to download the file.

You can send any amount you like. For reference, if you were to buy all three books separately at current prices, it would run $6.97. You can send less than that, or if you’re feeling generous and you’d like to support my writing to a greater degree, you can send more. Either way, whatever amount you send will lead to the download links.

Thanks!



Announcing a Web Novel

When I started Pirates of the Milky Way, I set out to write a serialized science fiction web novel written in the way I enjoy reading them. It’s a tough “market,” and a crowded one at that. But I wanted to create a huge universe in which a number of hopefully compelling stories could be told, and hopefully reach a lot of people.

Most web novels are fantasy, rather than science fiction. However, I went science fiction this time because the stories in this universe are more focused on how people use technology in war, in spy games, and in manipulating one another. So in that regard I made a deliberate decision to avoid “magic,” at least at first. I’m more interested in exploring the advantages and disadvantages technology gives the characters.

Another dilemma with web novels is the fact that they are typically free. For all the time and effort an author spends creating them, they are widely disseminated for naught. I tackled the issue with bonus chapters that are not available free online but are in the Amazon/ebook versions. I also set up a Patreon page where subscribers could access the bonus content for as little as a $1 contribution.

Time will tell how successful this model will prove to be. The free portions have seen wider distribution than they otherwise would have, and that has translated into some sales. With going wide I’ve had to forgo Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited income. On the other hand, I have gotten some sales in other channels such as Apple iTunes, to readers I presumably don’t normally reach.

Another thing about web novels is the constant content updates. This has been good, though, because I have upped my productivity. Already I’m into book 3 and I’ve only been doing this a couple months.

I hope you enjoy Pirates of the Milky Way. If you like the free version (and chapters are now posted daily here on this site), please consider supporting me either via Amazon or Patreon. I sincerely appreciate it.

Clarion’s Call 1

 

Author’s Note: the Prologue for Clarion’s Call is a bonus chapter titled “Unleashed on Raton Five, Part One,” available in the Amazon version or Patreon.

 

“Come on, you two. You can do better. Wotta bunch of weenies.”

Granny put both fists on her hips and looked down on the mat where Skylar and Raquel lay panting. They were all barefoot and wearing gym shorts below their t-shirts.

“I don’t get it,” Skylar said between breaths. “How can someone so petite be so strong?”

“I don’t get how someone so old can be in such good shape,” Jillian said, equally winded.

“Okay that does it, missies. Get up so I can kick your butts again.”

Both younger women sprang up from the mat and rushed Granny at the same time. She sidestepped and tripped Skylar, then swung around and grabbed Jillian’s arm, turning her forward momentum into a flip.

Jillian fell end over end and landed on the mat again with a loud, Splat!

“Who looks old and petite now?” Granny said. She cackled and walked over to offer the women a hand up.

They were a week into the voyage to Pegasi Station aboard the Ultima Mule, and already the three had formed a bond while sharing quarters.

Skylar and Jillian, closer in age, had more to talk about with each other. In previous voyages, Skylar kept mostly to herself, interacting with her brother Samuel and rarely spending time with others. Now that he was gone, she turned to these two for companionship.

Granny served in a matronly role, freely offering advice. She also willingly served as the odd person out for the other two to gripe about.

Granny said, “Two women are friends. With three women, someone is going to become the target of the other two. So I’ll be you gals’ target. If you can hit me!”

Indeed, Skylar and Jillian found themselves griping about the older woman frequently. Part of it had to do with their inability to take her down during these sparring sessions.

“What do you call this again? What’s this style?” Jillian said.

Granny said, “The flips are from Aikido. It’s a type of fighting that uses your opponent’s weight against them. It’s particularly useful for women because the fellas are usually bigger than we are.

“Now, my other techniques are based on Krav Maga. That’s for close quarters combat. You girls need to learn some fundamentals, first. Like how to roll when you fall. If you were to have gone down on a hard floor like that, Princess, you might have busted your neck.”

Granny grinned at them and pulled out a cigar she had hidden on her person somewhere. She stuck it in her mouth, unlit, and kept smiling.

“I’m gonna hit the shower and have some lunch. See you gals at mess!”

She walked out of the gym, leaving the younger women alone.

Skylar said, “She must have some anti-aging nanobots in her system or something. I swear she can’t be 73 years old. Nobody that age can move like that.”

Jillian cracked her neck and rubbed the small of her back. Granny was right. Without the mat her fall would have hurt much worse. Plus she was beginning to wonder if her long hair was going to become a problem. It certainly did not seem conducive to fighting.

She said, “Chris says that’s her real age. I think she just stays very active. She’s certainly limber enough.”

Skylar gave her a lopsided grin. Nobody onboard the Ultima Mule called Captain Christopher Raleigh by his first name, except Jillian Thrall.

Skylar said, “Come on, let’s go eat. After lunch we can resume your shooting lessons.”

-+-

The elevator door to the flight deck corridor opened. Skylar and Jillian stepped out, now well fed, showered, and dressed again in grey slacks and brown boots below fresh white t-shirts.

The corridor looked ribbed, with metal protrusions sticking out from the wall every couple of meters, each stretching from ceiling to floor.

“I meant to ask, Skylar, what are these for?”

Jillian pointed at one of the extensions.

“These are barricades to hide behind if someone tries to board us. They would land on the flight deck and try to shoot their way through to the elevator. Our people would take cover behind the barricades and try to keep them holed up at the doorway. It’s a fairly common defensive measure. You should have seen the size of the entrance corridor on the Aquamarine. They had something like a hundred soldiers waiting for us. Of course, Samuel and I took care of things.”

Skylar put her palm on an armory panel near the elevator and it hissed open, showing rack after rack of rifles and pistols.

“Can anybody open the armory?” Jillian said. “Seems like it would be more secure.”

“The Captain, Quartermaster, and First Officer can open it without question. When a regular member like you or me tries, Lootie makes a decision. If she needs to, she’ll query the Captain directly. In this case, she knows we are about to practice shooting, so she’s not overly concerned. No doubt she’ll keep an extra eye on us while we have the guns out, though.”

She handed Jillian a rifle and took one for herself, then closed the panel door.

Jillian said, “At least we don’t need Granny for this.”

Skylar said, “Yeah, this is my preferred method of fighting. A gun levels the playing field, you know? It doesn’t matter how big they are, you can always take them down with one of these.”

She patted the rifle affectionately. Jillian shivered. She knew that Skylar and her brother had killed a lot of people.

They slung the guns over their backs and walked out onto the flight deck. They weaved between fighter drones, heading for the large hexagonal opening with a forcefield on the side of the ship serving as the flight deck entrance. The opening shimmered red and they watched the stars wink by as the ship teleported once every second.

Skylar said, “Give us two moving targets, please Lootie. And a score counter.”

Round holograms the size of dinner plates appeared in front of the forcefield, moving in random patterns. The number zero showed on the top left of the hexagonal opening, and another one on the right.

“You always beat me at this,” Jillian grumbled.

Skylar said, “I’ve just got more practice.”

“I know. Before I joined the company, I never even touched a gun before.”

“You’ve come a long way, girlfriend.”

Skylar raised her rifle and shot the first hologram circle. The number on the left turned into a one. Jillian shot at her circle and missed. She fired three more times before finally hitting it. Skylar shot two more during that time.

Half an hour later, they called it quits. Skylar shot 111 discs while Jillian managed to hit 82.

“You’re getting better,” Skylar said as they walked back toward the corridor.

Jillian rubbed her arm where it cramped from holding the big gun for so long. Despite her muscle pain, she was happy with her score. It was a new personal record.

They heard a Ding! from the distant elevator and a moment later Rodrigo Diego-Rodriguez, the ship’s pilot, stepped out of the corridor. He looked around, but failed to see the two walking through the fighter drones out on the tarmac. Instinctively Skylar pulled Jillian down behind one of the small crafts, and they remained hidden.

Satisfied of his privacy, Rodrigo pulled out his portable radiation absorber from a pocket and pressed the button on top. A cloud of silver pixels formed, quickly coalescing into the beautiful blonde and silver shape of Raquel Kirkland.

He handed her a plate of food from the mess hall then stuck his hands in his pockets while she wolfed it down in front of him.

When she finished, she stepped very close to him and looked up into his face.

“Thank you for taking care of me, Roddy. I’m sorry about what I did before. I don’t know what came over me. But I am so glad you are my bondholder now. You’re the best bondholder I’ve ever had. And I mean that with all my heart.”

The plate crashed to the floor as he took her into his arms and kissed her passionately.

Clarion’s Call is Released!

Clarion’s Call, second in the Pirates of the Milky Way space opera action adventure series is out!

Here’s the blurb:

The SLS Excelsior has a million credit bounty on her, and pirate captain Christopher Raleigh leads his crew to claim the prize. But with the Digital Assassin and the Tetrarch’s daughter onboard, no plans can ever be safe.

When Space Marines recapture Jillian in the midst of battle, Raleigh and his crew have to find a way to get to Clarion and take her back. Or die trying . . .

Hope you enjoy! I hope to have the next one out in April. For the latest chapters in the Pirates of the Milky Way serial, please visit my Patreon page.

Digital Assassin is Released!

I’m happy to announce that Digital Assassin has been released, first in the Pirates of the Milky Way series.

Here’s the blurb:

New technology allowed humans to reach for the stars. Now technology has led to war.

Opposing AI systems battle in a monumental struggle for control of the galaxy. But one planet remains a refuge of independent thought. Lute is home to pirates, harboring ruthless companies of warships hunting for prey.

The pirates are offered the spoils of war, for a price. Captain Christopher Raleigh leads his crew in an effort to snag a lucrative transport on the opposing side. Along with the ship, he snares the Tetrarch’s daughter and several hundred indentured servants.

But not all are who they seem. As the bodies pile up, Raleigh has to figure out who is telling the truth and decide if the spoils of war are truly worth it.

I’m on my way with Book II, which should be out next month if all goes well. In the meantime, you can read the latest chapters on Patreon.

Introducing Pirates of the Milky Way

I’m serializing my latest novel, Pirates of the Milky Way, on RoyalRoad.com. We’ve got digital assassins, indentured servants, evil ambassadors, spymasters, space battles, ray gun snipers, and lots more. That’s just in book one!

You can catch book one, with a new chapter coming out every day, over on Royal Road. You don’t have to subscribe to the site to read, but if you do subscribe it will keep track of your progress for you.