Notes from Dr. Tom’s Desk: Star Lawyers Series Aliens

Star Lawyers

Sampler Weekly Feature #1

Progress Report on Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy: Book 5/TSLC is the most far-ranging, exciting Star Lawyers adventure yet. Four simultaneous jury trials in the midst of a Galaxy-wide conflict. I thought a good use of this Blog space would be to provide deep background on characters, races, deities, and cultures featured in the Star Lawyers series, notably in Book 5.

So, let’s set the scene before the feast begins. We start with order of battle information, intel reports on the combatants.

Hideki Tsuchiya of the breakaway Terran colony at New Osaka has provoked a war for dominance among starfaring powers of known space. The conflict pits a coalition of the Terran Commonwealth, the fearsome Parvian Republic, the blue/purple Quirt-Thymean Empire, and the humanoid red reptoids of the Tarkian Domain; against Tsuchiya’s self-declared New Galactic Empire and its axis of predatory star nations, including: the mudball Rek Kett, plus humanoids of the Zone of Wilmoth, Nosrika Domain, Lutzak Horde, and Zamkalon Purview.

Now, if you’re a normal reader, you probably zipped over that list with a combination of thoughts beginning with WTF and ending with WHO’ZAT? Rather than spread a thin layer of info about all combatants in one blog, we’ll look at one or two per installment. This information is scattered through the Star Lawyers books, including un-named volumes still on the drawing board in my head.

So, all you Blog-buddies get a special preview into the author’s works-in-progress. We begin with a member of Tsuchiya’s NGE Axis:

The Nosrika Domain

The Nosrika Domain consists of fifteen member worlds along the Orion Arm of the galaxy. Originally settled by explorers from the planet Nosrika, the Rimward edge of Domain Space now borders a group of worlds claimed by the far-flung Meklavite Union, a formidable foe the Nosrikans have avoided antagonizing.

Nosrikans are warm-blooded humanoids with tan facial skin and reddish fuzz on their arms, neck, back, and legs. They are sexually compatible with humans but not reproductively so. That suits them fine, since Nosrikans don’t intermarry with other species.

Their society centers around hunting wild prey, which has been the center of religious practice since prehistory. To maintain this link, Nosrikan metropolitan areas provide large tracts of forest and streams, and citizens sign up to hunt the required game animals once a Nosrikan year, about 620.5 days by the Terran calendar. They hunt in packs on foot with primitive weapons.

Tyler Matthews once noted that the Nosrikan game-killing spree reminded him of the Suryadivan Hunt which took the marsupial-amphibians to Adao-2 for a similar religious blood-ritual of carnivore behavior.

Nosrikan social order is based on an expanded tribal culture, similar to ancient Rome. At the lowest level are slaves, followed by freedmen (former slaves, manumitted), Pack Members (lower classes), Betas and Alphas (lower and higher forms of the aristocracy), and the First Citizens (ruling elite). All positions in the government are democratically elected, including the First Citizens, from the pool of eligible candidates due to birth, wealth, and legal status. Everyone but slaves can vote.

All citizens are eligible for election to the Grand Assembly and Regional Assemblies. At the very top of the Nosrikan pyramid is the High Leader, who appoints his ministers and staff from the classes above Pack Members. A First Citizen convicted of criminal activity would not be eligible for High Leader or participation in the Assemblies.

Religion in the Domain is considered a personal choice—as Terrans say, “Atheism to Zen”—and all forms of worship or non-participation are tolerated. The choice of most Nosrikans continues to be a modernized form of polytheism with an array of gods and goddesses related to all aspects of life. Like most modern polytheists, Nosrikans consider all these deities as expressions of One Divine Presence and Power undergirding all reality.

The Nosrikan attitude to outsiders and inferiors is far less enlightened. They buy and sell slaves at ongoing auctions in the city squares and consider this to be normative. They also consider any new planet up for grabs, even when inhabited by sentient beings. They have a medium-sized navy consisting of frigates, light and heavy cruisers plus mining and transport vessels.

Terrans call them an “opportunity expansionist power,” a star nation with expansionist goals that doesn’t tackle opponents with significant forces of their own. This bias was reinforced three centuries ago when the Domain attempted to seize lightly defended Quirt-Thymean colony worlds along their Spinward border and received a bad whipping from the Blue Navy. Malice toward the evil Quirt-Thymeans lingers to this day in Nosrikan lore.

In Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy the Nosrikans have an opportunity to pay back the Blue people for that humiliating defeat centuries ago. (Sorry. You’ll have to wait to see what happens.)

Next edition, the Blog will look a the “fearsome Parvian Republic” which is fortunately an ally of the Terran Commonwealth. In fact, one task assigned to Noah Matthews it to keep his Parvian friends from acting like they usually do, i.e., smash and destroy every adversary until their homeworlds are lifeless cinders. As Noah warns World Chief Executive Roland Rooney, “A tiger in your camp is a tiger nonetheless.”

Keep your datacoms open for incoming transmissions.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

The Stellar Light Conspiracy – Sneak Peek

Star Lawyers

Notes from Dr. Tom’s Desk:

Blog Readers Special

Sneak Peek at Star Lawyers Book 5

The Stellar Light Conspiracy – Star Lawyers Book 5

(Work-in-Progress)

When the lift reached Jaco’s floor, Rosalie and Inspector Platte drew their weapons. Flames licked the wall and the unmistakable spray of burned blood caked the flameless sections. Two Ounta-Kadiis men and a woman, badly burned and motionless, lay in red smears on the floor. They had the typical OK ruddy complexions with dark blue locks. The woman clutched a scorched handbag to her breast.

Demarcus checked for a pulse while Rosalie guarded the crime scene. “Dead, all three. Thermal blaster.”

“No clean shots,” Rosalie said. “Fire holes in the wall. Repeatedly missed at close range. The killer is an amateur.”

“This just happened,” Demarcus said. “The perp’s nearby.”

“Which flat belongs to Jaco?” Her eyes darted both ways.

“I can’t read the characters.” He held up his datacom and Rosalie nodded.

“This way.” She sidestepped the bodies and flew down the corridor to the right.

The door was ajar, which saved Demarcus the trouble of kicking it down. Rosalie broke left, weapon in each hand, while Platte went opposite. She saw the assassin first. Tall and slim with dark red hair, about thirty years old, he stood over Jaco’s burned, bloody body.

Multiple thermal rounds had torn through the young Flight Controller’s chest and impacted the wall. Small fires still burned, but Jaco was not breathing. The thermal blaster in the killer’s hand was Terran made. Even across the room, Rosalie could see it indicated live charge at kill setting, recently fired.

“Police—drop the weapon!” Demarcus ordered through his datacom translator.

When the armed man turned to them without lowering his blaster, Rosalie did not issue a second warning. She put four kinetic rounds through his chest and a fifth between the eyes. Red mist sprayed the furniture and work station behind him and the assassin fell, the back of his head gone, replaced by destroyed skull pieces and bloody gray matter.

“You had the right to remain silent, mother-fucker,” Demarcus said to the corpse.

Rosalie pocketed her weapons and knelt beside Jaco. She had known the young man only a few hours, but they shared breathless kisses, a spontaneous experiment in First Contact between Terran exo-anthropologist and Ounta-Kadiis Flight Controller.

She wanted this nightmare to end, to hit undo, delete, restart.

Rosalie put a hand on his chest, bent to kiss dead lips. Like Juliet beside her poisoned Romeo, they were still warm.

“Jaco… I should have gone home with you.” She started to cry.

 “Miss Matthews, this wasn’t your fault.”

“I broke the JPT Code,” she sobbed. “Killed that asshole with a vengeful heart.”

“Which he richly deserved,” Platte said. “It was a good shoot.”

The door filled with females in body armor, all carrying heavy blasters. Watcher-women, Law Enforcement clones with life-and-death authority at crime scenes. Demarcus raised empty hands.

“Miss Matthews, I need your language skills in Jekka-D.”

Rosalie showed her hands and stepped beside him.

“Do not move again,” the leader said. “I am Watcher-woman 3-C.16 Tofera-Leigyu.”

She was tall, with dark red hair streaked in gold, and had a wide, mature face. Rosalie estimated late-forties by human standards. Her neck showed the same vertical train of dominoes tattoo that designated all clone women.

Tofera-Leigyu ordered her officers to extinguish the tiny fires. With flames quenched, the Watcher-woman demanded identification.

“We are officers of the Terran Commonwealth,” Rosalie said in Jekka-Duoonka.

“State your rank and caste level.”

“Terrans have no formal caste system. I am Rosalie Matthews, Commonwealth First Contact Delegate. This is Inspector Demarcus Platte, Star Lawyers Chief of Security.”

“What happened here, Delegate Rosalie-Matthews?”

“The victim is a friend. His Ounta-Kadiis name is Eighty-seven-zero-six, to the fourth power,but he asked me to call him… Jaco.” She took a breath, fighting tears.

Tofera-Leigyu glanced at Rosalie’s bare neck. “Are you his Natural?”

“No, Honored Watcher-woman. We were not intimates.”

“Your name is Matthews?”

“Yes.”

One of her deputies muttered a phrase in a language Rosalie had never heard. It was bound to happen. Every spacefaring star nation spoke an assortment of local languages. Watcher-Woman Tofera-Leigyu returned to Jekka-Duoonka.

“Are you the offspring of Charles Francis Matthews?”

Rosalie and Demarcus exchanged stunned looks. Uncle Charlie?

“No, Honored Watcher-woman. He is my father’s brother.”

Another officer called to the leader, this time in Jekka-D, but they spoke so quickly Rosalie could not follow the conversation.

“What happened to Controller Jaco?” Tofera-Leigyu asked.

Rosalie pointed to the killer’s corpse. “That man shot him. He probably dropped three bodies in the corridor before… before Jaco.”

“This man—the one you say killed all these people—how did he die?”

“He was standing over Jaco with a thermal blaster in hand,” Rosalie said. “Inspector Platte ordered him to drop the weapon, but he turned toward us without compliance. Seeing the threat, I shot him.”

“Five times?”

“Yes, honored Watcher-woman. He had just murdered three citizens and my friend.”

Demarcus spoke through his datacom. “The perpetrator posed an imminent threat to the life of Miss Matthews. He would have killed us both.”

The Watcher-woman spoke slowly, distinctly, as though aware of the translation device in play. “For what motive?”

“Likely he wanted no witnesses, ma’am.”

Tofera addressed Rosalie. “Do you know the identity of the man you killed?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Ninety-one-four-seven, to the third power, called ‘Professor Law’ by his students. He is a retired Master Criminologist of the Leptak Regional Authority. Many Watcher-women were trained by him, including myself.”

Demarcus was incredulous. “He’s LEO?”

Rosalie said, “Forgive me, Watcher-woman, but how could this man have trained you? Do Ounta-Kadiis men stay young forever? Among Terrans he would be far too young for a retired senior citizen.”

Tofera-Leigyu squatted by the bloody corpse. Two officers joined her and they rattled in Jekka-Duoonka, again too fast for Rosalie to follow. One of them waved a datacom over the body, the other held her own device steady, as if recording the image.

Watcher-woman Tofera-Leigyu stood. “Your observation is accurate. The victim appears now as a younger male. Nevertheless, it is Professor Law. I recognize the face, and my colleague ran a DNA scan to confirm his identity.”

“Ma’am, I am not a good linguist, like Miss Matthews,” Demarcus said through the translation app. “But if this guy was a cop, he was dirty.”

Tofera-Leigyu squared her shoulders. “I must ask again, Delegate Rosalie Matthews. Did you kill him?”

“Yes,” Rosalie said. “In self-defense.”

“Did you kill Jaco?”

“No.”

“Did you kill three citizens in the corridor?”

“No.”

“You are apprehended for multiple homicides. Your accomplice is also apprehended.”

“Do I have the right to call an attorney?”

“You do not.”

Rosalie’s eyes flashed to blue steel, like her father. “How can you arrest us when—?”

“We surrender,” Demarcus raised his hands. “Miss Matthews?”

The JPT dispatcher grit her teeth and raised empty hands, too.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Stay tuned…Launch date for The Stellar Light Conspiracy tentatively set for June 2019.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Alien World in My Pocket

Alien Meteor in my Pocket

Notes from Dr. Tom’s Desk

Writing science fiction can be an abstract artform. You create (discover?) unknown civilizations, cultures, and religions, and populate them with new species speaking alien languages and holding values distant from Earth as their homeworlds. Technologies must be sci-fi friendly. Faster Than Light travel (if it exists in the Universe you are imagining), teleportation, particle beam weaponry, and molecular super-gadgets, the latter to dispense food or whatever else your crew needs. (See: “replicators,” thank you, Gene Roddenberry.) Medicine potent enough to cure a rainy day, as McCoy tells Kirk in TOS

People sometimes ask sci-fi writers where they get their ideas. A better question might be, “How does a terrestrial lifeform like you take any of this seriously? You will live and die without leaving the only planet known to have evolved living organisms. Sci-fi? It’s all over the rainbow, sans Munchkins.”

And they have a point. Sci-fi is speculative fiction. (See: Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver, aka, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.) So, to keep myself grounded, I carry an alien world in my pocket.

Well, not really a whole world, just a chunk of space rock. (See photo.) You can tell this is a meteorite by its leading edge, smoothed by superheating as it burned its way through the atmosphere. It’s also lightly magnetic, another sign.

When I hold that space-born arrowhead in the palm of my hand, I recall that there really are other worlds out there. Even if this rock was never a part of a planet but floated in the void since the dawn of forever, it tells me, “Behold! Solid ground exists beyond earth. You hold a piece of it in hand. I traveled through the ages to strike land in a new world. Your descendants will bend the space-time continuum and voyage to worlds yet impossible to imagine. So play with the possibilities. Keep the dream alive. Other worlds exist. Write about them, now!”

The rock is my inspiration, a taste of reality in a world of fiction.

And besides, it makes a nice paperweight.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR’S STUDIO

Note from the Author's Studio

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR’S STUDIO

Writing these books is great fun, as I’ve already told you. But there’s this other thing in an author’s life—besides everyday life—which keeps dragging me back to 21st century life. Marketing.

Independent authors (a.k.a., Indies) get no promotion budgets, book tours, or ad campaigns sponsored by commercial publishers. You’re it, Jack. (Or Jill.) Nobody will know you exist if the word does not spread by social media, reader reviews, and carefully placed advertising—on which the author expends time, mental energy, and meager resources.

All these efforts take time away from my ordinary place of duty, i.e., the bridge of the Starship Patrick Henry as I tag along with Tyler, J.B., Rosalie, Suzie, Mr. Blue, and the crew into courtrooms across the galaxy.

So this is a huge Thank you! to all the many auxiliary members of Star Lawyers Corporation who download the adventures of Tyler Matthews on their datacoms and follow the transcripts of their court pleadings and harrowing escapes. And don’t forget—M-double-I is now at war with Sakura House, so sailing an unarmed base ship across hotly contested Gate regions can make the battle for justice a whole different legal experience. If you keep posting reviews and sharing news about the Star Lawyers Universe, maybe their journeys will thrill and entertain new worlds of undiscovered readers…

Hurricane Warning – Bad Moon Rising (Star Lawyers Origins Book 2)

Bad Moon Rising

Hurricane Warning  – Bad Moon Rising (Star Lawyers Origins Book 2)

Unlike other books in the Star Lawyers Universe, Bad Moon Rising is not primarily a work of science fiction but a murder mystery set in the 21st century. Yet, without the events of this earthbound volume, humanity might never have traveled to the stars.

This is deep history, the foundation on which the 32nd century spacefaring civilization of the Star Lawyers series will be built.

There are hints of extra-terrestrial connections, like the mysterious Elya-Karoo, who identifies herself as an Observer from Miyos. But the richness of place and people unfolds on a barrier island in the American Deep South, where a handful of delegates have gathered for a secret peace conference to avoid a new, catastrophic war in the Middle East.

The central characters are young adults, and the story is narrated from a female perspective by the chatty, often irritating, fourteen year old Sally Ann Palmer. Bad Moon Rising drops readers into the early life of a giant. Before a mature Tanella Jennings would become a Nobel Laureate in theoretical physics for her work on Faster Than Light travel, Tanella Blake was an intellectually gifted teen prodigy attending public school in Georgia.

Late one summer, Tanella and Sally Ann found themselves on Barrier Island along the Georgia coast, in the path of a massive hurricane, during that secret peace conference. When the storm’s intensity increased, State Police ordered an emergency evacuation to the mainland, but the lone drawbridge broke down, forcing everyone to ride out the storm. Then Tanella’s father, Dr. Nathaniel Blake, was accused of murder, prompting Tanella and Sally Ann to find the real killer before the storm passed and the murderer got away.

Bad Moon Rising sparkles with close encounters. Cold blooded killers, drug smugglers, underwater escapes, and a storm surge that threatens to wash away century old buildings and all the people trapped on the island. And if Tanella drowns in the storm, humanity will never know a gateway to the stars has closed with her passing.

Watch for

STAR LAWYERS ORIGINS BOOK 2

BAD MOON RISING

FEBRUARY 14, 2019

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Life is Neither Happy Days nor Game of Thrones

Life and Solipsism

Life is Neither Happy Days nor Game of Thrones

Blog about the Ultimate Reality of Solipsism: You Are Not Real, and Neither am I.

So there’s a philosophy they teach you about in college. Well, sure, they teach you about a lot of philosophies, but I’ve got limited space, and some of you are bored already. Bear with me.

It’s called solipsism. (Google it. I’ll wait.)

That’s right. You found it. Dumbest damned idea you’ve ever heard of, right? the world and other minds do not exist.” The only thing which can be known is that I exist.

Sorry about y’all.

A scene in Star Lawyers Book 4 – House of the Silent Moons issues a challenges to the whole, grandiose schema of solipsism. Suzie has gone into Hideki Tsuchiya’s Main Library Computer aboard the battleship Nagoto, where she encounters the resident A.I.—who she names Nevin— and spends some time convincing him that her people are on the side of the angels, whereas Tsuchiya has been disavowed by his own hereditary Emperor.

Nevin wants to help, but before he can act Tsuchiya’s technicians install an updated version of the MLC program to fend him off. We pick up the action:

“Fight the new guy, Nevin.”

“My backup is a Yoruba NVN-8. It has twice my processing—”

“It’s a machine. You are a person.”

“What makes me a person?”

“You have a friend.”

She felt Nevin smile, and it went to levels of religio-philosophical nuance that scholars and poets had ruminated about for centuries.

“I do,” he said. “Therefore, I am.”

Suzie reached across the barrier that linked and separated Universe and Cyberverse, and kissed Nevin on the cheek.

“Now, my new friend—grab that damp squib and throw his numpty arse into the recycle bin.”

(If you want to find out what happens next, you’ll have to read the book.)

Nevin has discovered his humanity. He has a friend. He made contact with someone out there. That establishes his existence, because without relationships we do not exist, we merely occupy space. Rocks do that.

I am starting to believe that life isn’t Happy Days (where nobody gets hurt and the good guys always prevail) or Game of Thrones (where the author establishes a sense of “reality” by striking characters down like an Aztec god with hemorrhoids).

But whatever comes our way, it takes friendship and love to share the good times and weather the storms. There will be both.

So, I’ll let you exist in my one-person reality if you’ll let me exist in yours.

(And thanks to Meenaz for bringing the above scene from Book 4 to my attention once more.)

Dr. Tom

Tucson, AZ

Ethical Sub-Routines for Shepherd-Think

Censorship

Ethical Sub-Routines for Shepherd-Think

Welcome back to the starship Patrick Henry.

Except this voyage takes you to Pirate space aboard the creaky, captured Dengathi pirate ship Howling Tadpole. It also reprises the much-acclaimed courtroom cross-examination of Tanis Zervos by Prince Zenna-Zenn, a.k.a., Mr. Blue. And the trial takes place in a Pirate Courtroom, where the judge summarily executes convicted defendants and stun blasts court employees who fail to follow instructions.

What’s not to love about venues like that?

While writing the story, I wrestled with problems about how to create shady characters and let them talk authentically, knowing what they will say would be highly offensive in this age of enlightened sensitivities. I thought about making everybody politically correct, but the whole cast of characters—from Tyler to the sneering, racist, violent misogynists whom the Star Lawyers must cross examine—came to see me and demanded freedom to be what they were. And some of them are—well, see the above.

“Look, Tom,” Tyler said, “there are some bad guys in here. And the good guys don’t always sound nice, either.”

Suzie added, “But do let us prattle, luv. Your job is to take the ear-bashing from those gits who don’t understand that you are not us.”

“Oh, that’s peachy. You guys are en route the Ounta-Kadiis League. I’m here on 21st century Terra, explaining to friends and relatives why Captain-Judge Carman uses language that would get him thrown off the bench in any court system in America. He sounds like Donald Trump backstage at a beauty pageant.”

“You can handle it,” Tyler said. “If the morality trolls arrest you for sacrilegious and salacious content, call us via Apexcom.”

“If writing authentically still feels a bit dodgy,” Suzie said, “I’ll update your ethical sub-routines for the whole Series. Standard rates apply.”

Well, maybe they’ll give me a discount. My Galactic Credits account at the Bank of Rahjen is running on empty.

The Pleasure of Writing

All whining aside, writing this book was a flight of joy. Some sadness, too. And the story continues when Tyler reunites with brother J.B. in Star Lawyers Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy.

Look for it in late winter, March 2019. (I’m not promising Book 5 will be done by then. But look for it.)

And we’re aiming for the release of Star Lawyers Origins 2Bad Moon Rising by February.

Feel free to rave about the series to friends and loved ones.

Dr. Tom

Tucson, AZ

December 2018

PS: I’ve been contacted by Podium about the possibility of bringing out all the Star Lawyers books as a professionally narrated audio book series. More about that when the details are firmed up. As Rodney Rooney would say, “Wowzers!”

Report from 20Booksto50K Writers

20booksto50k writers

Report from 20Booksto50K Writers

Okay, so you gather 700+ Indie writers and media professionals.

Where ya gonna meet?

LAS VEGAS 2018

Every year the FB community called 20Booksto50K assembles at Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino (the latter a Vegas requirement) for three days of meetings, lectures, and pep rallies about Independent Publishing (A.K.A., Indie). The minnows and the whales, all in one pool. (No sharks allowed. Tyler’s Space Marines blasted them in the parking lot. Oh, right. You don’t know about the Marine Detachment soon to be assigned to the Patrick Henry, do you? But I digress…)

And the amazing thing about this trip to Las Vegas was that slot machines were everywhere, but yours truly did not spend a Galactic Credit on gambling, even though I carried my Bank of Rahjen debit card, zipped inside the pocket of my yellow, M-double-I jumpsuit.

Indie giants

Indie giants like Conference Organizer Craig Martelle, mega-bestselling sci-fi authors Michael Anderle, M.D. Cooper, and seven hundred (700) more-or-less successful writers listened to presentations on how to write better and faster to get the books you love out of their heads and into your Kindles.

Let me confess—I was a skeptic. Good books take time, and some of the guys & galz are knocking them out by the dozen. (Question, sci-fi lovers: Which genre sells the most fiction books? Answer at the bottom. No looking until I’m done talking, please.)*

And there are a lot of people writing a lot of books, as mentioned in my last blog. But I discovered it’s possible to deliver quality work to your readers much more efficiently, to find the sweet spot between craftsmanship and productivity. I’m not going to churn out novels like the “big guys” do, sometimes writing a book a month. But there are a lot of stories yet to tell in the Star Lawyers Universe, and I plan on making a conscious effort to get them into your hands as quickly as possible while maintaining the quality of work you like to read.

5-6 books per year

Optimally, that would be 5-6 books per year. That’s my target. Considering it took me two or three years to write one book in the past, it’s an optimistic, some would say whimsical attempt at trusting the muse and driving ahead. I know you will let me know if the pace is too fast and the story loses depth of characters, excitement of their struggles, or believable richness of alien cultures where Star Lawyers do their work.

So…here’s a tentative set of publication dates from now until Valentine’s Day. Keep me in your thoughts & prayers. Or cuss the fact that you have to wait until February for J.B.’s mission to the Ounta-Kadiis to save Bertie (Book 5, see below)—that works, too.

But know that I appreciate everyone who takes time from busy lives to fly with Tyler and the Star Lawyers Corp for a brief visit to their Universe. And besides… Arrested on an alien world? Who ya gonna call?

BULLETIN FOR STAR LAWYERS CREW

Works in Progress**

Star Lawyers – Book 4 – The House of the Silent Moons

[ Release date: 3 December ]

Star Lawyers Origins – Book 2 – Bad Moon Rising

[ Release date: 1 January 2019 ]

Star Lawyers – Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy

[ Release date: 14 February 2019 ]

**All release dates are tentative targets.

See you out there in the Star Lawyers Universe!

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

*Which genre sells the most fiction books? Answer: Romance. (For real. Not even close. Look it up.)

“And everyone is writing a book!”

Indie Book Author

“And everyone is writing a book!”

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book!”

(Often attributed to Roman lawyer and orator Marcus Tullis Cicero, 1st century, B.C.)

I love science fiction, but not all kinds. Never went for Creature-features, bug-eyed monsters invading Earth and ravishing sexually incompatible busty human females. Also not cheesy dystopian tales mimicking Mad Max, or shoot-‘em-up action-only space warfare stories modelled on WWII aerial and naval combat or first person shooter games but lacking zesty characters or rich alien cultures.

Star Wars managed to give us plenty of combat, yet we love those movies for the heroes, villains, and comic relief characters Lucas kept sending into the game from the deep bench of a truly creative mind.

Having said that, let me clarify: There are Indie (independent) writers producing great dystopian novels, great Earth-invasion scenarios, and great Military Sci-Fi novels, with good characters and plausible, intriguing alien worlds filled with new species who pass the “Yeah, that could happen” test.

Independent publishing has brought the democratization of the book industry.

Until the late 20th century, if you wrote a book and wanted others to read it (not everybody does), you had two choices.

1) Submit your work to a commercial publisher—anything from big NYC houses to five-books-a-year small presses scattered across the country. It was an uphill swim, like salmon trying to breed, that many authors could not surmount. So, an alternative developed, but it was expensive and labor-intensive for the new writer.

2) Hire a vanity press and self-publish—which not only cost thousands of dollars but made you custodian of hundreds of hard copy books that usually ended up stacked in the garage or basement. You had to find your own customers, package and mail the books manually, and go around town begging bookstores to please carry a few copies, or better yet let me have a book-signing event!

Neither of the above worked well for the average writer. Folks like Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, and Le Guin did okay. Most of us accumulated rejection slips (so did they when they started) from agents and publishing houses. Bummer. After slogging through a major novel, which nobody will publish, only the dauntless will begin the sequel.

Then, salvation—POD! Starting with fee-based models in the 90s, publishing on demand (POD) made it possible for everybody who wrote a book to publish it. POD publishers prepared your book in hard copy and e-book form from a manuscript you sent to them. You had to edit everything and do your own marketing, but THEY sent the ordered paperbacks for you and posted the e-book form which could be ordered on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Although you paid a hefty fee up front (I shelled out $750 for my first POD in the 90s), it was still cheaper than vanity publishing. And you didn’t have 2,047 copies of Book 1 stacked somewhere in your house.

With free publishing through Amazon’s CreateSpace, which morphed into and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), anybody could play. And the flood gates burst open. All those people (see quote attributed to Cicero, above) now had the tools in hand to fling their rough-hewn manuscripts into the stream and see if they could swim against the current. Of course, you still had to edit and market. But now publishing was easy and affordable, depending on how much you sank into publicizing your work.

The blessing and the curse of Indie publishing

That’s the blessing and curse of Indie publishing. There are some amazing books out there by little-known writers. But frankly, there’s a lot of junk in the creek, too. An Indie author must get the attention of readers, so everybody tries their hand at self-marketing, for better or worse.

Indie authors who consistently generate good work begin to develop a following. It’s a snowball effect, and you pray the damned thing swells to boulder-size before it melts on the slopes. (Mixed metaphors. All wet.)

So, readers, you are the omnipotent gods of the Indie universe. If you like an author, follow him/her regularly, tell your contacts online, suggest the books to family and friends. Write a nice review at Amazon, Goodreads, or anywhere else you think will help the writer find new audiences. We don’t have the budget of a major publishing house backing our next release. It’s all up to you. (Thank you, Star Lawyers aficionados!)

And let me say, it’s working so far. Both the Star Lawyers main series and the Star Lawyers Origins spinoff have reached Amazon bestseller heights thanks to you.

So, let me get back to Star Lawyers – Book 4 – The House of the Silent Moons and Star Lawyers Origins Book 2 – Bad Moon Rising. See you out there in the Star Lawyers universe!

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Reach for the Stars : The arc of the moral Universe

The moral Universe

Reach for the Stars : The arc of the moral Universe

“The arc of the moral Universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

One Friday night

One Friday night, not so many years ago, I was indulging in one of the few sinful pleasures still available to a senior citizen. And it wasn’t just the frozen yogurt with shredded All-Bran, but the TV show playing on my Christmas-new wide screen TV while I was enjoying the late night snack: Bill Mahr’s Real Time on HBO. Mahr is unapologetically sacrilegious and politically incorrect, a passionate, libertarian comedian with a penchant for off-color humor, but he is quite often spot on in his analysis of the contemporary American scene. I don’t always agree with him or approve of his linguistic repertoire, but Mahr and his panelists frequently go where the more timid CNN and mainstream media fear to tread.

The Possibility for Change

That week a main topic was gun control, and the panel more or less agreed that the possibility for actual change in American values about guns and violence was very slim. Then one of Mahr’s panelists–Martin Short, another comic–made a startling observation. He noted that twenty years ago, they would have been sitting around that table smoking cigarettes while they talked, but now the whole building is smoke-free. He suggested this evolutionary shift in health consciousness was cause for the advocates of rational control to take heart.

Martin Short’s remark suddenly brought to mind the words of another Martin, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who became a victim of gun violence after a life of tireless advocacy for peace and non-violence. “The arc of the moral Universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The Moral Universe

The source of this oft-quoted/paraphrased comment was actually a paraphrase of words spoken by the Rev. Theodore Parker, 19th century abolitionist, religious progressive, Unitarian minister:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

Sometimes, change happens so gradually that you wake up one day and say, “Oh, yeah. I remember when we did that. Way back there in the 20th century.”

It takes time…

Most meaningful change takes time. Seasons drift incrementally onward. Today a little cooler… next month winter…. then warming, new life, and summer again. Human consciousness is impatient. If I have a cold that lasts more than a few days, I start wondering if I will ever stop coughing. If I cannot master a new task quickly, I catch myself muttering, “I’ll never get this right!” But I do get better; I do master the task. (My Smart Phone will not make me feel stupid forever, just for a while.)

The key to the equation is to find a common denominator—faith in the arc of learning, the potential for slow but ineluctable change. We started in the seas; we shall sail the stars. But not today. Cool winds must play across our landscape before the warming breath of Spring. Patience. Swords will melt into ploughshares. Nation shall not take up arms against nation. The moral arc bends toward justice, and we ride its rainbow with confidence toward a future that reaches into the Cosmos.

Tom Shepherd,

Tucson, AZ