Book Quote Wed., keyword – “ragged”

Here’s a scene from my finished science fiction novel, The Sands of Mime. It will be part of a duology and I’ll shop it once the second book is done. Writing a chase scene in a flooding slot canyon was fun!


Dust and wind swept past Don and Effie as they ran under darkening skies. Misty rain started to shine on the rocks of the desert canyon.

He heard thunder in the distance, thought of the weather report he’d seen, and grimaced as they pounded down the narrow cleft. The rain came down in drops now, slowing them as it accumulated under their feet. Sheets of water splashed down the canyon walls, growing in strength and volume. The rain started to pound.

Effie looked back past him, the fear naked on her wet, determined face – she had to know what the rising stream and cascades meant. Ominous as it was, if their pursuer didn’t know the reason a slot canyon had smooth sides, well, Don decided they could use that. If he and Effie could find a way to climb, if they left the pirate in the slot, a flood pushing rocks up to and including giant boulders would be forced through this narrow defile.

But no handholds, Don noted in despair as his calves sloshed through rising stream at the floor of the canyon. No handholds: the unclimbable walls continued to be cut smooth by previous floods, with the added hazard of being wet. And, in his case, no hands to hold with: Don struggled with his partially-cut bonds as he slogged forward, his breath now coming in ragged gasps.

He nearly slammed into Effie when she stopped suddenly at a narrow cut in the wall, the site of a sudden spectacular waterfall. There were some boulders wedged above the streaming cut; an agile person could climb above the floor here, if they weren’t washed away. Don tried not to think of the force of a flood that could propel boulders the size of the ones wedged above them.

There. His hands were free.

“Hold on, Eff.” He surprised her by grabbing her by her sopping waistband and swinging her up onto the top of a boulder. If she could climb that wet, thin-cut channel she’d probably be up and away from the torrent he knew was coming. He tried shimmying up the same rock chimney, but the thing was too narrow and he slid back down with a thud.

“Don!” Effie yelled over the sounds of rushing waterfalls and more rain.

“Climb, dammit!”

“But what about you?”

“In a minute!” He rubbed his sore wrists frantically, kicked off his wet shoes, and tried climbing again. Over the pounding rain he yelled, “Get as high as you can!” Someone grabbed his bare ankle with a snarl. The pirate.

Effie shrieked, a high piercing sound like a sharp whistle.

“Effie! Climb!

For Book Quote Wed, Raw scene from MIME

At about 1 AM Claire and her cleaning crew were leaving by the front door of her restaurant because the area around the back door, frankly, looked unsafe to her. Too many places to hide in the dark around that door, she thought as she locked the storefront behind her.

“See you tomorrow!” Claire waved as all three of them piled into the autotaxi they’d called. Her auto-t was just pulling up.

The car’s mechanical voice asked, “Fitzgerald?”

“That’s me…I mean, yes.”

“I am carrying another fare,” the car informed her. “Is that acceptable?”

Claire hesitated. She had not been able to see that through the silvered windows. “I guess so. I mean, yes.” You had to be so careful to be specific with the damned AIs.

The back door on her side opened. There was a largish red-haired man in neat business attire seated on the other side of the back seat, doing something with his link, oblivious to her. She shrugged, and got in.

The auto-t accelerated smoothly, almost as smoothly as the other passenger used what had looked like a link to spray something cool on her face.

Claire lost consciousness almost immediately. Her last, waning thought was that maybe the back door alley would have been safer.

Then, oblivion.


Claire awakened very slowly from being drugged. Air puffed on her face from a grille in the wall. She was lying on some sort of bunk in a very small metal room. She tried to get up. She could sit but not stand yet. Still woozy. Queasy.

Perhaps the room was monitored, because a few minute after she woke, the door opened. An armed guard came in. He didn’t look military to Claire, but he did look like he and his huge gun meant business.  

“Where am I?” She asked him.

No answer. Stony silence.

Another rabbit of a man entered the small room, taking up most of the rest of the space. This turned out to be a medical person who checked her over perfunctorily, ignored her questions, and left. He seemed afraid.

The silent guard stayed; the door remained open with tantalizing views of a slightly-curved corridor. Where was she? There was a faint hum of some sort of mechanism in the background. The air smelled a bit stale, and of machinery and…paint? And humanity.

Rapid footsteps approached. A very plain older woman in a tattered black jumpsuit glanced at the guard and passed him. She seemed afraid, too. She had a similar jumpsuit over her arm, and a tray of very plain food in her hands.

“Where am I? Who are you people?”

The guard gestured with is gun, and the woman all but dropped the clothes at Claire’s feet and spun—never taking her eyes of the guard—to place the food tray on the bunk, the one flat surface in the room. She choked back a sob, and backed out of the room. Claire could hear her running down the corridor.

Not good. This was not good.

Claire looked around, really looked around for the first time. Her link and her bag were nowhere to be seen. Her shoes were missing.

The guard stepped just outside into the corridor, still visible and watching her, but doing something with his link. Behind where he’d stood in the room, Claire’s eyes focused on a glass covered cabinet, marked “Emergency Oxygen.” She put the clues together: curved corridor, mechanical hum, stale air, emergency oxygen, metal room.

She was in a spaceship. She was in space.

The guard finally spoke. He pointed at the clothes heaped on the floor with the tip of his gun as he said, “Put those on.” His voice was guttural, accented. He indicated the tray of food in the same menacing way. “Eat that.” As an afterthought, he added, “It helps nausea from the drug.”

He closed the door.

Claire got up and walked shakily to the door, leaning against the walls as she went. It was locked. There were scratches in the metal near the latch, as if someone had been trying—and failed—to get out.

She couldn’t handle the food yet, but she didn’t want to tangle with that guard. She supposed she’d better put on the black jumpsuit. It wasn’t prison orange, at least.

On the other hand, maybe it was worse.


The Year in Review

It was a busy year for me.

On top of publishing the usual four editions of Abyss & Apex Magazine, I wrote a few new short stories, plus I sold a few stories and a few reprints (I’ve been much better about sending my work out this year!) I attended a greater number of conventions, too. And I hired a publicist for A&A and my writing, as promotions were taking too much of my writing and editing time.

I was featured in a couple of anthologies, wrote a few poems, sold a few poems, and ran my first writing workshops. I even sold six non-fiction articles about the craft of writing. I ran my first book tables, too, and I updated my published non-fiction BETTER DATING THROUGH ENGINEERING series as things changed in dating the world. Oh, and I published a paperback version of my poetry chapbook on dealing with depression–PLANT A GARDEN AROUND YOUR LIFE–which has been a surprising best seller at conventions.

I also made great strides on my novels, deciding early in the year to finish the entire four book series and then shop it as a whole. And I started a book on the craft of writing that is nearly done: WRITING THE ENTERTAINING STORY. Sadly, there was a problem with the audiobook version of CONFESSIONS so that project will happen next year. But overall, I’m pleased with looking back at 2018.

On the home front, we had the house interior painted, got rid of the popcorn ceilings, got a new cabinet installed in the kitchen, and redid all of our floors. This constant work on the house affected my ability to work on writing and editing, at times, but the resultant work environment more than made up for it.

Here’s to a successful 2019!

Wordcount on MIME

This week I’ve been able to get some new words on the prequel to The Sands of Mime.  In particular, I finished it up until the scene where they are about to board a space elevator in Ecuador. A snippet:

The vista out of the terminal’s plate glass windows was stunning, like a matte-plated backdrop painted for some fantastical movie about the future mashed with a nature vid. In the background Sy spotted a large bird—a condor?—circling upward on a thermal alongside jungle-covered tall mountains. In the foreground was the fully-modern spaceport that serviced the space elevator, the reason they were here.

His team was sitting in the departure lounge, covering their nervousness about the adventure they were all going on with light talk or with their noses shoved into readers. Ah, Marie had her portable chess board out, and was trying to talk Wilson into a game with her. Marie. His betrayer couldn’t be studious, elderly, meticulous Dr. Marie Covenant, could it? What could possibly be her motive?

He’d done thorough but surreptitious checking on all of them. None of his crew had gambling debts, nor bad habits that could have led to blackmail. None of them had become suddenly wealthy.

But they were the only ones with access to what had been stolen from them all. One of his colleagues had to have betrayed him, betrayed all the rest of them, somehow selling their nearly completed work to the big pharma company who’d passed it off as their own. That thieving company that had expertly accused him and his team, and gotten them incarcerated and unable to find work, blackballed. It had to have been an inside job. But who’d done it?

Could it have been Dr. Gasparelli? Emilio Gasparelli stood apart from the others with his luggage at the edge of the departure lounge. The habitual condescending expression on his face had not changed a whit at the prospect of interstellar travel. He was the only one of them still working. Gasparelli’s reputation was in serious trouble from his relationship with Sy, but was willing go if Sy could induce MedGalaxy to set up a facility on Helleaf, and he had. Gasparelli certainly has his share of medical arrogance but, as far as Sy could tell, not the greediness required.

Or how about Joriz Merma, the Filipino whiz kid who’d coordinated his patient trials? The kitchen table gene-splicing they’d done only required tissue samples, and consent, but Jor had been into everything else as their of jack-of-all-trades/gofer/administrative assistant and dogs body. Not that Jor understood a tenth of their work, but then none of the team could function without him. Jor was standing over there, with his wife and son, and very excited. They were dressed as if going on a holiday; Jor, in his Panama hat, claimed he’d always wanted to go into space.

Certainly not his dear friend Marie Covenant, the brilliant theoretical bio-molecular chemist, who lived only for her research. Her other loves were chess, tea and chocolate. She’d been vibrant but comfortably retired in Flagstaff, Arizona when he’d asked her to become a part of his team, and since she seemed to have not been able talk anyone into a game of chess, she sat there chatting brightly with Irina Petrov.

Sy had originally hesitated to include Mrs. Petrov in his list of suspects. But she had a slightly opaque past in the Ukraine; she got bumped up the list when Sy discovered she was the one person with access who’d had a sick relative… and who had gotten a mystery cure during a clinical trial. Dowdy Mrs. Petrov had been their cleaning lady/landlady and at their rental office in Brighton Beach. She recently lost everything when her husband died and she said wanted to emigrate to get fresh start.

Sy wanted to keep an eye on her, so he included her in his group.

Surely he did not need to keep an eye on his weak-eyed, mild mannered, intellectual friend Aubrey. Dr. Aubrey Dirkovic, biologist, was over-the-moon happy at the prospect of writing papers on a whole new ecosystem on a new planet. Wispy of hair and thoroughly professional, Sy had known Aubrey since they’d been roommates at MIT and they’d done post-doc work with Don Lawrence. But Aubrey was blacklisted, too, and needed the work.

And to be a Judas, you had to be trusted.

The same went for quirky, brilliant, aspie Don Lawrence…what possible motive could he have? He trusted Don because material things meant less than nothing to the man. He was so wealthy from his numerous bio-patents that he could do anything he wanted: money was no object for Don, not that you could tell from his slovenly appearance or vacant glance, for he viewed money as an inconvenience. It was just a way to support himself while he worked.

Don had no real family that Sy’d been able to discover; certainly, no romantic entanglements. He lived for his work. He’d chipped in substantially on the colonization costs, saying he wanted a fresh challenge in, as he put it, “a less densely populated place.”

Who had betrayed them? Jor? Gasparelli? Marie? Mrs. Petrov? Aubrey? Don? Wilson? He meant to find out. Someone on his research team had sold them out to the government, probably working on the side for the thieving company that now owned their bio patents.

Which of them was the thief that had stolen his reputation and his professional life? Which of them had caused him to go to jail on trumped up charges, killing his parents with grief?

He’d find out. He’d clear his name. And Sy would make that person pay.


Sy sat down next to Don Lawrence on one of the line of bright green plastic molded chairs that were secured against the stunning window, turning his back on the panorama. “Well, we’re nearly on our way, Don. Any last thoughts?”

Don swiveled to face him. “Eh?”

Oh, right,  Don was usually in his own little theoretical world. You always had to get Don’s attention before speaking to him. “I said, we’re nearly on our way. Any final thoughts? Regrets?”

Don snorted. “Like, did I remember to pack my toothbrush?” Don shrugged. “Probably.” Then he leaned back in his chair, against the window, his expression serious. “So our blackballed biotech team is really going to set up shop off-planet. What a time to be alive.”

Sy grimaced. “It’s not like we have a choice. You saw the  piles of rejection letters and cancellations of symposium opportunities-with their prestige and honorariums-that I had our teammates bring to the first meeting about this venture, right?”

Don waved that aside, as irrelevant. “We weren’t finished. There’s something about our project that bothered me. We gonna try to recreate it and finish on our own?”

“We’re going to have to, if we want to clear our names.” Sy replied.

Irons in the fire

My new books I am working on:

  • Wolves Masquerade (non-fic)
  • Writing the Entertaining Story (non-fic)

Recent editing-for-others projects:

  • Humor book on the subject of writer’s block
  • A flash-fiction horror story
  • And, of course, A&A slush

By the way, I have 14 stories and poems out on submission.

Back-burnered projects:

  • The MIME series (SF, will finish book 2 after the two non-fics above are done))
  • Three new short stories.

As Julie Czerneda always says, #Love my life.

Number six and more to come

Did you all know that Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer was my sixth book? There are the two anthologies I edited: The Best of Abyss & Apex Volumes 1 & Volume 2.

And there is my poetry chapbook, Plant Garden Around Your Life , as well as my two non-fiction books about dating later in life: Better Dating Through Engineering (for women), and Better Dating Through Engineering for Men.

And here is what is in the works:

  • Wolves’ Masquerade
  • Writing the Entertaining Story
  • Mime
  • The Sands of Mime
  • Mime Shaft
  • Mime Stream

Plus a host of short stories. Stay tuned!


I’m writing: MIME

Today brought more work on book 1 of the MIME Series. Starting count, 6,080 words, end count 8,628 words.


Sy…sighed. “Okay. The planet got its first nickname, Hell Leaf, from the parasitic leaves on what looked like its deciduous trees. They were trying to discourage me and showed me a horrifying series of pictures of a man who had rested in a pile of leaves and had died—from leaves going through their animal phase–reproducing by laying eggs on him that were eating him alive.”

He added, looking down, “I had nightmares for weeks after seeing that.” He paused, “Then there was a video of another man who had only been touched by one leaf; that death had been much slower. The homestead office worker had asked if I’d care to see that, too? I said no.”

Their drinks arrived. Fort mumbled, “You’re not reassuring me.”

“Look,” Sy breathed. We’re going to settle in a desert portion of the planet, far from leafy trees and stormy seas. I’m bringing robotic drones in to keep our settlement free from the hell leaves, too.”

“Right.” Fort sipped his iced tea.

“Hey, at least this planet has a breathable atmosphere. The homesteading office clerk went to close the file on the planet, but I stopped him. I told him that I had no problem with living in a desert if there was any arable land to support it. And there was a little, near a river in the desert.

“The administrator said, ‘You can’t be serious,’ but I was.

Fort played with his napkin. “So which did you choose? Hellstorm or Hell Leaf?”

“Neither. I hope to come up with a better, more colonist-friendly name, something descriptive but more positive, but we’ll pick it out once we’re living there.”

Fort shrugged, but brightened when he saw their food coming. “How about Sy’s Planet?”

“Ha, ha. No.”

Current writing project: Mime series

Currently working on the first book in the plotted-out Mime series. Here’s a snippet of the work-in-progress!

     Claire Fitzgerald ducked her head out of the kitchen into her new restaurant full of happy customers and sighed in weary relief. The Casablanca black and white VR theme had been enough to get them in the door, but her culinary creations would be what kept them coming back.

It was a triumph long in the making. After all the hell she’d been through, to climb out of abuse and the muck of poverty and learning to insist on respect, and finally making it? The opening reviews for her restaurant were nothing short of glowing. There had been a line out the door earlier.

Claire was a happy chef, and a happier business owner. But somehow she was still surprised that after doing the right things for so long it had all worked. She was still emotionally waiting for the figurative “other shoe” to drop.


There was no way for her to know that under the cover of the VR disguise she had provided, the “other shoe” was watching her.

Someone had found her cooking so good that he was planning on having her cater for him, in every way. Permanently. As in, We’re gonna take a little trip. And the theme music wasn’t gonna be “It Had to Be You,” either. “Fly Me to the Moon?” No. Much further than that.

He watched Claire put up the newly-framed reviews on the wall in the entryway, oblivious to the threat watching her under veiled eyes, so close he could almost touch her. Her soon-to-be captor could see she’d hung up a five-stars review where he sat. Stang smiled cruelly to himself.

His ship needed a cook.

And there were going to be a lot more than five stars where they were going.