Introducing a New Science Fiction Series

Nick Walker will be back soon (spring 2016) in Manhunt on Tau Ceti 4.

In the meantime, I have a recommendation for Nick fans that you’re going to love. Victory Crayne is a good friend of mine who is working on a science fiction series of her own, and the first novel is now on sale at Amazon. Freedom is the first of at least three planned novels in the new Jake Dani series; I’ve read it and highly recommend it.

If you like Nick Walker, you’re going to love Jake Dani. So…while you wait for Nick’s return, give Jake a shot. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

http://www.amazon.com/Freedom-Jake-Dani-Novel-Shapeck/dp/0988690543/

Available on Kindle and in paperback.

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DECEMBER 2015 SPECIAL!

From Thanksgiving 2015 through New Year 2016, all 5 Starport books will be on sale for 99 cents each. Take advantage of this special to experience the exciting Starport universe. Politics, war, sex, intrigue, and true love—Starport has it all.

Starport

Guerrilla Girl

Famine Planet

Prisoners of Eroak

Occupy Eroak!

On sale now at Amazon.com, just 99 cents each.

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Nick Walker #5 is here!

JohnBowers-GunfightOnTheACE-web-MEDIUM Nick Walker #5, Gunfight on the Alpha Centauri Express, is now available for pre-order. Order before  September 1, 2015 for just 99 cents. After release, the price will jump to $2.99.

 

Barely recovered from his adventure at Binary Flats, Nick Walker is suddenly sucked into another  situation so bizarre it almost defies belief. His reputation as a two-fisted lawman has spread  throughout the settled galaxy; many compare him to Yancy West, the fictional Hollywood hero of the  Ancient West, and billions are grateful for what he does.

But not everybody.

Just as he is about to take on the most dangerous adversary he has yet faced—a terrorist organization  intent on the overthrow of the Federation—Nick gets sucker-punched by a “legal-eagle” tinhorn in a  $4000 business suit who thinks Nick’s law enforcement methods are just too violent. Assistant U.F. Attorney Brian Godney seeks an injunction against Nick, and a court hearing to determine if excessive-force charges can be filed.

If that isn’t enough, Godney’s assistant is U.F. Attorney Victoria Cross, a former Star Marine with whom Nick was once involved…and his fiancée, Suzanne Norgaard, isn’t going to be happy about that. Nick finds himself juggling terror attacks, the media, and courtroom drama as he struggles to make sense of it all—and if the U.F. Attorney doesn’t get his head…the terrorist leader wants him dead.

Don’t miss this fast-paced, high-octane adventure as Nick Walker faces the possibility of prison even as he tries to save the planet from the raging terror threat. It will all come to a head during the Gunfight on the Alpha Centauri Express.

Rated R for language and violence.

Here is a preview:

Nathan pushed off from the station wall and squared himself as he watched them approach. The five teens were laughing and joking, but it quickly became apparent they weren’t really together. As they approached the terminal they stopped, as if to say good-bye. One of the girls impulsively kissed both boys, and with a final laugh and wave, the boys separated from the girls and walked away.

The girls kept coming.

They were weirdly dressed.

They had no luggage.

They definitely weren’t locals.

One was heavy and wore a dress that draped her like a tent to within an inch of the ground. The others were skinny as flagpoles, their unkempt hair long and stringy; all three wore bead strings around their necks and one had flowers in her hair. They proceeded toward the station as if they hadn’t seen him, still laughing and joking, but Nathan saw furtive glances in his direction. The hair on his neck began to tingle.

They were thirty yards away. He began strolling in their direction, his pulse ratcheting up another notch to double-time.

The train sounded its horn and began to move, returning back the way it had come. The girls, still pretending they hadn’t noticed him, stopped at the baggage cart and began matching their boarding passes to the luggage tags. They identified two bags and hauled them off the cart; one was so heavy it took two of them to lift it. Nathan reached them just as they set it on the platform.

“Evening, ladies,” he said casually, trying to keep the tension out of his voice. “Welcome to Trimmer Springs.”

All three turned to face him, eyeing him from head to toe. They were smiling, but he detected animosity—the smiles weren’t friendly.

“Hey, check out the pig with the cowboy hat!” the fat girl said, and the other two giggled.

A second girl nodded at the .45 in his holster.

“How many people have you killed with that?” she asked, her eyes an open challenge.

“What brings you to town?” he asked.

“It’s a free planet,” the fat one said. “We can go anywhere we want.”

“That’s right!” the third girl declared. “So stop hassling us.”

Nathan grinned. “I welcome you to town and now I’m hassling you?”

“That’s what pigs do, isn’t it? Hassle people?”

“Maybe in your world. Not in mine.”

“What do pigs do in your world, then?” asked the second one.

“They shoot people with big guns,” said the third girl.

Nathan planted his feet. “You don’t look like you’re from this area. Do you have relatives in town?”

“Not in this town,” the third girl said.

“Then I think you got off at the wrong station.”

“Oh, well.” The fat girl sneered at him. “Too late now. The train’s already gone.”

“Is there a hotel around here?” the second girl asked.

“Maybe we can stay at your place,” said the third one.

“Yeah, how about that?” said the fat one. “You are kind of cute…for a pig.”

The second girl plucked a flower out of her hair and stepped forward, reaching for his hat. Nathan instinctively took a step back and put up both hands to block her, his danger flags snapping at high alert.

“Step back!”

“What’s the matter, pig? You don’t like flowers?”

“Flower Power!” shouted the fat girl.

Nathan’s scalp tingled. “Don’t you mean, ‘Power to the people’?”

All three registered shock at his utterance, then sprang into action.

“That’s right, bitch!” snarled the girl with the flower.

She lunged for his weapon, but he blocked her and elbowed her aside. The third girl also sprang at him—he didn’t see the knife until it impacted his body vest. The blade skidded off, but she drew back and lunged again, aiming for his throat. His combat training kicked in and he nailed her in the face with his right fist, leaving his gun momentarily exposed. The knife wielder hit the platform with a cry, but the flower girl leaped for his gun again, jerking it halfway out of the holster before he slugged her in the face with his left. As she fell, he jerked the .45 free of her hand and swung it toward the fat girl.

He was almost too late. As Nathan was fighting off the attack, the fat girl hiked her tent up around her waist and unslung an ugly semi-automatic machine pistol. She swung it toward him just as he gained control of his .45, and he found himself staring into the stubby 10mm muzzle. For one frozen instant he hesitated; the fat girl did not.

Kill the pig! Kill the pig! Kill the pig!” the others shrieked, their shrill voices cutting through the gathering dusk.

The fat girl pulled the trigger.

Pre-order now at Amazon.com

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Nick Walker #4 is Here!

BountyHunter-Web-MEDIUMBounty Hunter at Binary Flats, the fourth book in the Nick Walker, U.F. Marshal series, is here! The book will be on sale July 4, but pre-orders are available now. You can get yours here.

In volume 4, Nick is still operating out of Trimmer Springs on Alpha Centauri 2, but is called away to investigate a death threat to a Colonial senator. Things quickly go haywire when he gets conflicting stories from various witnesses and none of the evidence adds up. The shocking truth behind the death threat sends him into more danger than he has ever faced before, but at least this time he has backup. Don’t miss a single heart-stopping second of this fast-paced adventure.

Here is just a sample.

Standoff

Nick Walker saw the flashing lights from six blocks away and turned his hovercar in that direction. He’d arrived in Camarrell just minutes earlier, letting his GPS guide him to his destination. But flashing lights and hovering police cruisers were too good to pass up—something was going down and he had to see it for himself.

He set down a block away, just outside the barricade manned by uniformed officers. He stepped out of the car onto the sidewalk, gazing in the direction of all the excitement. He could hear the police spokesman’s body-blaster clearly. His adrenaline notched up a level as he started walking toward the commotion.

“Sorry, sir, you have to stand back. This is a restricted area.”

Nick glanced at the young cop who barred his way. A rookie, he guessed, less than a year on the job. Still afraid of everything and uncertain of his own authority…it was in the eyes. Without a word he lifted his right hand and showed the officer what was in it. The kid’s eyes widened slightly; he looked Nick up and down, noting the twin holsters on his gunbelt. He nodded reluctantly.

“Okay. I guess it’s okay.”

Nick winked at him and walked on past. As he ducked under the barricade, he pushed his western-style hat down over his wavy brown hair and walked resolutely forward at a steady pace. Half a block from the scene, he drew both guns from his holsters and switched them, leaving the laser pistol on the left side and placing the .44 on his right. He didn’t expect to shoot anybody, but if it came to intimidation, the .44 was a hell of a lot scarier.

By the time he reached the scene, it was pretty clear that neither side was going to prevail anytime soon.  Nick stopped just behind the rifleman on the sidewalk, watching and listening. He could hear the woman sobbing, and the kid was practically sobbing, too; Nick could hear his harsh breathing as he waited, trembling, looking for a way out.

Nick touched the cop with the rifle on the shoulder.

The cop jumped in panic and swung the rifle toward him, then caught his breath as he saw what Nick held in his right hand.

“Jesus, God! You nearly got yourself shot! Who the hell are you?”

“Stand down,” Nick said quietly. “I got this.”

He didn’t give the cop a chance to form a reply, but walked on past him, his attention focused on the suspect. Behind him the cop was talking to his superiors on his implant. The second sidewalk cop, who had flanked the suspect from the other side, was glaring at Nick in consternation, his rifle still aimed at the kid.

“Hey, you! Get the fuck outta here! Who do you think you are, Yancy West?”

Nick didn’t reply, but held up his hand for the cop to see what it held. He subsided in confusion, but didn’t lower his rifle. Nick approached the suspect, his attention riveted, but the challenges just kept coming. The officer in the street with the body-blaster weighed in.

“Hey! Get that goddamn cowboy out of there! Schumaker! Take that man into custody!”

“He has a badge, sir,” Schumaker replied.

“To hell with his badge! My kid’s got a badge—get him out of there!”

But Schumaker, the man Nick had tapped on the shoulder, wasn’t so sure.

“I think he outranks you, sir!”

Nick let them discuss it while he closed in on the suspect. The kid with the gun was staring at him with hollow eyes, sweat dripping off his chin. Nick saw desperation in his eyes and knew exactly how he felt. He drew the .44 and aimed it directly at the kid’s face.

“Let the woman go,” he said in a cold voice.

Panting hard, the kid swallowed. “No way, man. If I let her go they’re gonna kill me!”

“No, they won’t kill you. But I will.”

The kid was trembling so hard he was choking the woman. Nick heard her gagging for air.

“Let her go or you both die.”

“You back off! I’ll shoot her if you don’t!”

Nick smiled slowly, looking as evil as he knew how. “Promise?”

The kid blinked. “What?”

“Promise me you’re going to kill her.”

“What—why would you want me to do that?”

“Because I can’t legally shoot you unless you do.”

“You—you mean, you want me to shoot her?”

Nick nodded eagerly. “Oh, yeah, I really do. Then I can blow your head into tomato soup. I haven’t killed anybody in a couple of weeks, and I’m getting edgy. The minute you shoot her, I can kill you and nobody will care.”

A yellow puddle began to spread around the suspect’s feet. His voice became even more ragged.

“You’re crazy, man! You’re fucking crazy!

 

 

Pre-order NOW at Amazon.com.

 

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Star Marine! teaser

Capt. James Carson keyed the microphone with his chin.

Sadat Control, ResQMed One One requesting position for launch,” he said easily. His ship sat on the lift at the edge of the flight tunnel on board UFF Anwar Sadat. The big carrier was cruising roughly two million miles off Pluto, supported by six destroyers and one star cruiser. Four fighter squadrons had launched just minutes earlier, and it was time to get the rescue ships out and into position.

“ResQMed One One, stand by. Break. Lumberjack, what is your status?”

Carson’s eyebrows lifted a notch. He’d never been asked to wait to position for launch. He exchanged glances with Lt. Ho as they listened to the chatter between the STC and Lumberjack.

“Lumberjack requesting emergency recovery!” came the excited response. The pilot sounded young, and he was definitely scared. “My cockpit is full of smoke, I don’t know where it’s coming from!”

The STC hesitated barely a second before responding.

“Lumberjack, you are cleared for immediate recovery. All weapons systems are powered off?”

“That’s affirm!” Carson could hear the young pilot gasping.

“Your approach looks good, Lumberjack. Recovery in eighty seconds. Break. ResQMed One One, maintain position.”

“ResQMed One One, roger,” Carson said quickly. He and Ho craned their necks to the right, peering down the quarter-mile tunnel in the direction from which Lumberjack would be coming. If the landing was routine, he would stop two hundred yards short of them. If he didn’t stop, they weren’t in his way; they were still on the lift that had brought them up from the hangar bay.

In spite of himself, Carson felt his heart thump a little faster.

The STC continued talking to Lumberjack as the seconds ticked by, giving him landing information as it became available. The pilot’s replies were terse and terrified.

“Recovery in twenty seconds,” the STC said.

Carson keyed his intercom.

“This is the captain. They’re bringing in a hot fighter, so everybody hang onto something back there.”

He could see the fighter’s strobe light now, eleven miles out and coming like hell, just a blue-white flash in the distance.

“Jesus!” Ho muttered. “Looks like he’s coming awfully fast!”

Approved landing speed for fighter recovery was two hundred knots. The approaching ship seemed to be coming much harder than that.

“Lumberjack! Fire retros! Your speed is increasing. I say again, fire retros now!

“Oh, shit!” Carson looked out the window to his left, wondering if there was any way to get the lift lowered in time. But it was too late, and he knew it. He looked to the right again, in time to see Lumberjack hit the tunnel with all nose rockets firing at full thrust.

Whatever had happened to fill Lumberjack’s cockpit with smoke, there would have been no problem had he hit the tunnel at approved landing speed. But he arrived at close to four hundred knots, and fired his retros too late. The top turret struck the tunnel ceiling a glancing blow and disintegrated; the fighter ricocheted into the floor, then tumbled out of control as it hurtled down the length of the ship, bouncing from side to side, top to bottom. The Nakashima fighter’s fuel and liquid oxygen tanks ruptured, and with the nose rockets still lit, exploded.

Carson and Ho ducked as a gash of flame boiled over the rescue ship, fragments slamming the fuselage like pellets from a shotgun. Air exploded out of the cockpit, and in spite of his collision harness, the sudden decompression jerked Carson halfway out of his seat.

It all happened in the space of a heartbeat. The ResQMed was slammed against the bulkhead beside the lift and came to rest at an angle. Carson sat up and peered out in disbelief, grateful for once that pressure suits were required during launch. The flame disappeared once the LOX was consumed, but wreckage littered the tunnel, pieces large and small that smoked even in the airlessness of space. Clearly, Lumberjack and his gunner were dead.

 

Star Marine! Now on sale at Amazon.com

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The Starport series is now complete!

Don’t miss these five exciting novels:

Starport

It’s election year; President Muriel Enza is challenged by Barry Boyd, a hugely popular member of the Senate. Boyd’s campaign platform is simple—the office of President is just too stressful for a woman to handle.

Enza faces an uphill battle; with only eight weeks until the election, the economy is in a nosedive and the cost of energy is skyrocketing. The nearby world of Environ, Askelon’s primary energy supplier, is under siege by insurgents who have captured Environ’s hydroleum conversion facility, reducing exports by 70%. Unless the insurgents can be overthrown, Askelon will face economic ruin.

To make matters worse, a terrorist bomb destroys the hydroleum storage tanks on Starport 1, further depleting Askelon’s fuel reserves; and the Orbital Dock Workers Union threatens to strike, freezing all cargo shipments leaving the planet. Unless Enza can turn things around quickly, Askeloni civilization will slip into decline…but certain men in high places will do anything to stop her. What do they care if the economy collapses?—it’s only politics.

 

 

Guerrilla Girl

Wanted for murder at home, Carlene Vargas flees to the nation of Campetana on Tropicon, which has no extradition treaty with Askelon. If she can keep a low enough profile, she should be okay…but there is no statute of limitations on murder, and someone has been following her.

A few miles away, mountain girl Terra Lafirma runs away from home. All her life she has heard about the evils of Askelon, which exploited her planet and reduced its citizens to poverty. She makes her way to Casamanilla to join the local regiment. She wants to fight, to make a difference, but the adventure just ahead is far more terrifying than anything she could ever imagine…it will change her life forever.

 

Famine Planet

Tropiconi trillionaire Jorge Sorres hates Askelon and President Enza with every fiber of his soul. Twice he has schemed to bring Askelon to ruin—and very nearly succeeded—but now he has a sure-fire plan that can’t miss. The farming planet of Agricor provides forty percent of all the food consumed by Askelon, as well as sixteen planets beyond the nebula; if Sorres can put Agricor out of business, Askelon will collapse from starvation.

All it will take is a little grass-roots revolution…and Sorres knows exactly how to make it happen.

 

Prisoners of Eroak

Not every war is winnable, and when fifty thousand soldiers of Askelon are taken prisoner by the Empire of Eroak, things look bleak indeed. Eroak is located beyond the nebula, a hundred light years away, and the Askeloni military is in no condition to mount any kind of rescue operation.

Military doctrine holds that every soldier, if captured, has an obligation to escape. But where do you go when you escape captivity on an enemy planet that is not only freezing, but also starving?

Askelon has elected a new President who vows to get the prisoners back, but he doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry; the only real hope may be the Intelligence Agency girl who was also captured…but she is being held as a slave.

 

Occupy Eroak!

When all else fails and no one is coming to get you, maybe you have to do it on your own. Askelon’s escaped prisoners have taken shelter with rebel tribes in the remote regions of Eroak, but their plight is looking bleak.

Askelon’s new president has more important things on his mind—like cavorting with movie stars—than rescuing his captured army, and even as revolution brews at home, he can’t be bothered. A series of blistering documentaries get his attention, however, and he finds himself trapped between political ambition and doing the right thing.

In the meantime, the situation on Eroak has reached critical mass, and the escaped Askelonis attempt what no sane man would ever consider…Occupy Eroak!


 

Check out these trailers:

 

Guerrilla Girl

 

The two heat sigs were coming straight for him. Tyler felt his arteries pulse as the range closed to twenty yards, fifteen, ten. Peering through the tall grass, he saw the outline of a man in green fatigues. His mouth turned dry and he gripped his rifle tighter.

Five yards.

He stood up, rifle aimed, and stared into the face of a startled Askeloni.

Freeze! Identify yourself!”

The man raised his hands automatically, his blue eyes stark against his pale face. He had blond hair.

“Don’t shoot. I’m unarmed.”

“Who are you?”

“Daniel Troy. I’m a citizen of Askelon.”

“What are you d—”

Tyler never finished the question. The second heat sig materialized out of the tall grass, and this one was armed. Tyler shifted his aim past Daniel Troy to cover the newcomer; he had a brief mental snapshot of a girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen, dark and beautiful. She saw him at the same moment and her eyes widened in alarm. She swung her rifle toward him…

It’s a trap!” Sam Duval screamed.

Startled, Tyler glanced to his left as Sam leaped up out of the grass.

“Sam, wait—

Sam didn’t wait. He jerked his trigger and a stream of bullets cut Daniel Troy almost in half. The girl screamed and swung her weapon toward him, but only got off one shot before Sam ducked again.

“Goddammit, Sam! Hold your fire!

Sam popped up and sprayed the trail, but missed the girl. The girl fired two more rounds, blindly. She was only six or seven yards in front of Tyler, but seemed to have forgotten he was there, her attention on Sam. He could hear her screaming.

“Hold your fire, Sam!” Tyler shouted again, but had no confidence that Sam would listen. He charged the girl, closing the range in two or three seconds, and took her down with a body tackle as hard as he could. Just as they hit the ground, another stream of Sam’s bullets whizzed overhead, popping like fireworks.

The girl struggled like a wild horg, screaming and clawing and trying to kick. Her knee came up like a piston and narrowly missed his crotch; she clung to the rifle like a drowning man to a reed. It took all of Tyler’s strength to hold her down as Sam fired yet again, his bullets snapping off grass blades inches above their heads. Finally Tyler drew back his fist and slammed it into the side of the girl’s head; the blow stunned her long enough for him to wrest the rifle from her grip and toss it out of reach, then he pinned her like a wrestler and held her down while he chinned his helmet mike one last time.

“Goddammit, Sam! I’ve got her. Hold your fucking fire!”

 

Famine Planet

 

“Hey, Missilini, you must be new in town.”

The man who sidled up to her was hardly unexpected—it happened every time she went out—but he did represent an opportunity. She gazed at him without expression or curiosity, and he grinned at her.

“Let me buy you a drink.”

She looked away without a response. He was about fifty, grey and grizzled, his beard tangled and yellowed to match his teeth. He was also fat and smelled as if he’d just crawled out of a rendering vat. Carlene looked at the man on the other side. He was ten years younger, twenty pounds lighter, but didn’t smell much better. He pretended he wasn’t watching her, but from time to time glanced in her direction. He apparently had a fungal infection under his fingernails, which he was trying to clean with a four-inch skinning knife.

“Come on, Missilini!” the first man insisted. “You don’ wanna be rude, do you? Let me buy you a drink, huh?”

“I am not thirsty.”

“Oh, sure you are! It’s hot outside.” He laid a hand on her shoulder; she was about to shake it off, but the proprietor arrived and she decided to ignore it.

“You wanted to see me?” The proprietor didn’t look exactly prosperous, but his clothes were clean and he had shaved within the last three days. He smelled faintly of deodorant.

Carlene dazzled him with a smile. “I need a job.”

The man stared at her a moment, debating, but regret filled his eyes.

“I am sorry, Missilini, but we have no openings.”

“I think you do. You just don’t know it yet.”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

Carlene stepped back and spread her arms, giving him a look at her compact body. She was wearing an extremely short, tight dress with a spotted design that left very little to the imagination.

“Once the word is out that I work here, your sales will double.” She tilted her head, as if to say Ta-daa! “The truth is, you can’t afford not to hire me.”

The proprietor looked perplexed. The bartender looked hopeful. The fat man looked gleeful.

“She is right, Castrón, just look at her. The bracerinos will flock to this place if you hire her.” He laid his hand on Carlene’s shoulder again and let it slide down to her butt.

“What’s your name?” the proprietor asked.

“Carla Verda.”

“I can’t pay you very much.” He still looked undecided.

“I make you a deal—I will work at minimum pay for one month; if sales do not increase, I will quit. But they will—and when they do—then we talk about a raise.”

The proprietor stared at her another ten seconds, then realized the bar had gone completely silent. Every man in the room was listening, and several nodded encouragingly. He shrugged.

“When can you start?”

Carlene smiled. “I will be back tonight.”

“Okay. Six o’clock.”

The fat man on her left cackled happily and squeezed her butt.

“There you go, Castrón! Good call. She is going to liven up the place, eh?”

With his right hand still on her butt, he slapped his left flat on the bar. Carlene smiled at him, then turned to the man on her right.

“May I borrow that for a moment?”

Fungus-man’s eyes widened in surprise, but before he could answer, Carlene plucked the knife out of his hand. In one swift move she spun around and drove the blade straight down on the fat man’s left hand, pinning it to the bar. He screamed in agony and jerked his right hand off her ass.

Carlene smiled at the proprietor.

 

Prisoners of Eroak

 

Cynthia Howard looked pale, sleepless, washed out. Her hair hadn’t been washed in days, she wore no makeup…the jump suit was spotted with stains. Judge Waters glared at her with not the slightest indication of sympathy.

“Mz. Howard, is there anything you would like to tell the Court?”

Cynthia grimaced. Her attorney braced himself.

“I would like to ask the Court a question, if I may.”

“Very well. What is the question?”

“Who do I see to apply for asylum?”

Waters frowned and pulled her glasses halfway down her nose. “Excuse me?”

“I want to apply for asylum. That’s what political prisoners do, isn’t it?”

Waters’ face flushed. “Cut out the drama, Mz. Howard. You are not a political prisoner.”

“I’m not? I’m locked up because I asked some hard questions about the President. That sounds like politics to me.”

“You are locked up because you refuse to reveal the source of your information, not because you asked questions, hard or otherwise.”

Cynthia shook her head with a tired, tolerant smile.

“Your Honor, don’t lie to yourself. You’re much too intelligent to believe that.”

Waters banged the gavel.

“I’m warning you, Mz. Howard! I will not tolerate any more of your insolence!”

“What else can you to do me? Life in prison? Execution? Go ahead, Judge. Do your worst. Show the worlds how far Askelon has sunk.”

Waters danced in her chair, trembling with rage.

“Mz. Howard, for the last time, you aren’t doing yourself or your case any good. Shut your mouth!

The Government prosecutor lowered his eyes, embarrassed at the judge’s outburst; attorney Mark Bauer looked distressed but stood silent. Only Cynthia seemed unfazed.

“Before I shut my mouth, your Honor, may I say one more thing? If I raised any questions in my documentary that President Marco did not want answered, I think you are providing that answer here today. And the answer is a resounding yes!”

There was no ruling to justify it, but Waters banged her gavel again, apparently out of pure rage.

“Bailiff! Gag the defendant!”

The bailiff, an older man with thinning hair and a gut, moved to obey, but his expression suggested he found the order distasteful. Thirty seconds later Cynthia stood before the bench with a strip of tape across her mouth.

Waters turned to her attorney.

“Mr. Bauer, have you advised your client of the possible consequences of her continued defiance to the court order?”

“I have, your Honor. Mz. Howard is aware of the penalty, but she believes the order is illegal. She is a woman of integrity; it’s very difficult to persuade someone with such high moral standards to cave in.”

Waters glared at him, but Bauer gazed back with saintly innocence.

“Does defendant’s counsel have anything further to add?”

“I renew the motion to dismiss, your Honor. This is a gridlock and it isn’t getting us anywhere.”

Waters shook her head firmly. “Denied.”

Bauer extended his arms to the side and dropped them, shaking his head. Waters looked at her calendar.

“Very well. We’ll give Mz. Howard another fifty days to think about it. We will reconvene on Sextua 44—”

“If it please the Court!”

Waters’ head jerked up in surprise. From behind the holocams in the gallery, a figure emerged, a young man in Army uniform. He stepped smartly forward and stopped at the wing gate separating the gallery from the forecourt. Waters squinted.

“Who are you?”

 

Occupy Eroak!

 

“Do you remember Agricor, Senator?”

“Of course I remember it. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Do you remember when President Enza asked for ten divisions to send to Agricor, because our task force there was about to be overrun by an army from Eroak?”

White swallowed. His throat was dry.

“Yes.”

“How did you vote on that request, sir? Did you vote in favor of the troops, or did you vote against them? Did you give the President what she needed?”

“I… I—”

“You voted against them, didn’t you? During the initial debate, you were all in favor of giving the President what she wanted, but the next day, after Michael Marco delivered his speech condemning the mission, you reversed yourself. Do you remember that?”

White twisted in his chair, his skin blue with cold. His bladder was about to split.

“I wasn’t the only one! At least a hundred others did the same thing!”

“Yes they did. But right now we’re talking about you.”

“How—how do you know all this? It was a closed session!”

“Why did you change your vote, Senator? Did you think the troops on Agricor weren’t worth saving?”

“No! No, of course not.”

“Then please explain it to me.”

“It was… I just…”

“Were you afraid to stand up to Marco? Is that why you changed your position?”

“Marco…Marco made a very convincing case! Diplomacy hadn’t been tried! Enza jumped the gun and sent the Army out there without trying to resolve the issue through peaceful means.”

“Let’s suppose you are right about that,” said the man in the chair. “But the troops were already there, they were facing annihilation, and they needed help. By denying them reinforcements, you sealed their fate, Senator. Some thirty thousand of them were killed, and another fifty thousand are now prisoners of Eroak. How do you feel about that?”

“Well, it…it’s a goddamn shame, of course it is! But it’s all on Enza. She’s the one who sent them out there. Not me.”

Silence reigned for thirty seconds. The man in the chair shifted position.

“Let’s cut to the chase, Senator. You wimped out. You and most of the other senators in your party, all of whom had spoken in favor of sending troops, reversed yourselves after the great man gave his speech. More than ninety senators and not a single pair of balls in the bunch.”

“That’s not true! It had nothing to do with balls.”

“It had everything to do with balls. You left those soldiers on Agricor to die, all because you didn’t have enough testosterone to save them. Enza has more balls than you do, and even if she made a mistake, it was the Senate’s duty to rescue our soldiers.”

White was panting, very near to hyperventilation. He twisted his head from side to side, sweat running down his face in spite of the numbing cold.

“Never mind,” said the man in the chair. “You have to answer for turning your back on Askelon’s fighting men and women. And tonight…you’re going to pay the price.”

“What price? What—what are you talking about?”

“The Askeloni Constitution, Senator. Remember what it says about treason?”

IT WASN’T TREASON!!

“I think it was. I think you know it was. The penalty for treason is death, Senator. But we aren’t going to kill you.”

White sagged in his seat, staring at the blinding light.

“You…you’re not?”

“No. What we are going to do is expose you as the coward and traitor you are. This interview will be released to the public so the entire population of Askelon and the other Trimary worlds can see what a disgusting waste of humanity you really are.”

“No one…no one will…believe…”

“Oh, they’ll believe their own eyes. Trust me, yes they will.”

White tried to rub the sweat out of his eyes with his shoulder, but couldn’t reach it. His bladder was throbbing, waves of pain radiating through his belly.

“For the love of GOD!” he cried. “What do you want from me?”

“We want to humiliate you. And…we want you to suffer.”

He lifted his chin, tears and snot dripping down his face.

“Suffer? Suffer how?”

The man in the chair abruptly stood up; he and the man behind the camera walked away into a dark corner of the barn, returning a moment later with a ten gallon pot which they carried by the handles. As they moved into the light, into view of the holocam, White realized they were both hooded to mask their identities, but as the pungent smell of hot roofing pitch stung his nostrils, he forgot all about their hoods. The pot they carried was steaming, the contents bubbling as they set it down in front of him.

“What is that? WHAT IS THAT??

 

Don’t miss the  Starport series. You’ve never read anything remotely like it!

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Why Reviews Are Important

All artists crave recognition. Maybe it’s insecurity, narcissism, or something else, but every artist longs to be appreciated.

It usually doesn’t take a lot of effort to determine if an artist has talent. Walk into a gallery and observe the paintings, and chances are you will know right away whether you like the work. For painters, photographers, and sculptors, it only takes a glance to determine their ability. For musicians you can usually judge talent within thirty seconds just by listening. For actors, maybe a few minutes.

It’s different for writers, and novelists in particular. We novelists walk the streets in anonymity. Nobody recognizes our faces and very few know our names, simply because it takes some effort for the target audience to decide if we are any good at our craft. The sad truth is that perhaps 90% of the population never picks up a book, and for those that do, every novelist in the world is competing for their attention.

I think every budding writer has had a similar experience if they ever declared their intention to write…skepticism. A lifting of the eyebrow, a faint sneer, and a disdainful “You want to be a writer?”

Judged and convicted with no evidence whatsoever. Because it takes time and effort for one to tell if a writer has talent, or can tell a captivating story. And not many people are willing to exert that effort.

Reviews Are Important

So…when someone does actually read a book, the author really wants to know how it was received. Did you like it? Did you hate it? Can I do it better? Should I do it differently? Should I just forget it and kill myself?

Imagine, if you throw a dinner party. You shop carefully, spend hours planning the menu, and slave for hours in the kitchen preparing the meal. People sit down and eat, visit, enjoy each other’s company, then get up and leave without a word about the food itself. Did they like it? Did they hate it?

How would you feel?

Perhaps the word is “unappreciated”.

Good books take a long time to write. An author can spend weeks, months, even years getting a book written, edited, rewritten, edited, marketed, and finally published. Then, assuming anyone reads it, no one leaves a review. Other book shoppers may see the title, but with no reviews they decide to pass it up. Five or six positive reviews might change that.

Obviously the author wants to see 4 and 5-star reviews, but even negative reviews can have benefit, if only to encourage the author to do a better job on the next book.

Reviews are important. When you finish reading a book, by anyone, why not leave a note of feedback. It only takes a couple of minutes in most cases, and it will encourage the author to keep on telling great stories…or if he really sucks, maybe to find an “honest job”.

Either way, the world of books will be better for it.

 

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