No rest for the wicked. The Long Goodbye is live and the next apocalypse is writing itself. Meanwhile, fall is in full swing here. Below is the road I walk on. My computer has a sticky B which is a surprisingly major problem for a writer so I see a new one in my future quickly. So much for catching up on expenses...
Here are the updates:
The Long Goodbye - Graham's Resolution, Book 7
Progress Report - The Drone Keeper - Chapter 3
Progress Report - In the Meantime
Live! - The Long Goodbye, Graham's Resolution, Book 7
Released on Wednesday! If you loved the book, please leave a review. And if you have any questions, send them to me and I'll do a video read response for next week's newsletter.
Coming Soon! New PreSale
There will be a cover update on this soon.
It was the first time he’d woken with a hangover in at least a decade. His temples throbbed and when he tried to focus. He noticed the too-bright light pouring in through the windows. Sitting up, he squinted. He still could not figure out what the hell that incessant noise was, and then he realized what it was…what it had been all along. It was Anabelle. Still, he didn’t hurry. Sitting on the edge of his bed, still fully clothed, he bent over and rubbed his temples and stared at his shoes. What in the hell simulated the alcohol effect in that beer? Then it hit him…it wasn’t the simulated alcohol that was giving him the headache…it was the simulated induced hangover to keep people from drinking too much. We could have done without that little party.
“I said, where are you? Steeeve…answer me!”
He groaned again, rubbing his forehead. This could not be happening. He pulled up the latches on his shoes while he was down there and shoved them off. Multi-tasking…it was a good thing.
“I’m here…” he yelled. “I’m right here.” His head hurt so much more when he spoke.
“I don’t see you!”
“Wait…what were you doing? This isn’t like you. Are you okay? Are you sick? Do I run a diagnostic?”
“No…no, don’t do that. I’m fine.”
“You left last night. You left the building. I saw that but figured you went on one of your walks. But you came back and then nothing. You didn’t check in. You know you have to do that. And I was worried. I have to report when you deviate from the routine. You know that, Steve.”
“Wait, wait…no. You don’t have to do that. I was on off-time.” He walked into the kitchen then, so she could see him, and she gasped.
“You’re…you’re are rumpled. You slept in your clothes, didn’t you?
“So…I just fell asleep. There’s no crime in that,” but then his head pounded more with each word, and he waved her down a little with his hand and grimaced again.
“What…are you hurt?” She looked harder through the screen. “Did you get injured? Or something”
“Shhh,” he said.
“Oh my god, I know what this is.”
He shook his head. “Don’t,” he warned her with a wagging finger. “Don’t say it.”
“You drank alcohol. Where did you get it?”
“Can we…talk about this another time, please.”
“Seriously, you never drink alcohol. You have alcohol poisoning.”
He swallowed, “And now the whole system knows. Thank you, thank you for that.”
“Well, it’s not against the laws. But it’s frowned upon.”
“Can we just get on with things, please?”
She didn’t say anything but just stared at him with her disapproving look. Her black hair, straight as a rod, not a strand out of place. Her glasses always reflected whatever light she had on in front of her to the left. Although come to think of it, she always had a light on. Was it always dark where she was? He still wasn’t convinced she wasn’t an AI.
“No. No…I think you need to clean up first. Take an hour. We can cut your break later. Or you can make it up on your own time. Not that you need more personal time. You get yourself in too much trouble.”
“Can we? That would be great. I’ll…” but she was already gone. Puffed out in a flash. “Okay then, I’ve got an hour.”
He shuffled off to the shower, and after depositing his clothes into the decontamination bin, the bright white lights flashed, letting him know the process had started. Then he stood underneath the shower nozzle and closed his eyes tight. Though it wasn’t terribly bright, he wasn’t ready for the vitamin D light yet this morning. And in a glow of a lavender beam, he went through the routine of scrubbing and rinsing. When the tone rang, he didn’t linger past the warning bell or risk the cold spray. In less than five minutes, he stepped out and dried off, retrieved his refreshed clothes from the bin, and then wanted coffee and something to eat to settle his stomach before Anabelle returned again. But it was smoothie day…and just the thought of chugging down a green smoothie made him gag. So instead, he traded the automatic meal selector option for a breakfast bar and called it good. As long as he could drink more than three cups of coffee…he wouldn’t strangle anyone or light them on fire because that was how he felt, not that there was anyone around to injure. But then again, there was the guy down the road that poisoned him in the first place…
Instead of plotting revenge, he tipped his mug and ripped another bite from his bar and realized he had the capability of reaching out and touching anyone, really. Then, of course, there was that pesky ex-wife of his…
“Are you done?”
Sometimes he was scared that Anabelle could read his thoughts. But, so what if she was an AI and was also somehow inside his mind…there were privacy laws against biohacking neurochips. Still, like everything…laws were made to be broken.
“Hi, you need to warn a person before you just show up. You know that. There used to be these things called social graces, Anabelle. You may have heard of them.”
She cut him off, “And they went extinct along with manners… Are you ready to get to work, or do you need more time?”
He took the last bite of his bar and another large swig of coffee. “Yes, of course. And thank you for your consideration this morning.”
“Well, you look like you’re back to normal. As long as you don’t make it a habit, I won’t report it.”
She said it so under her breath, he didn’t think he needed to remark on the fact that he’d done nothing illegal.
“We have five assignments today and three missions.”
“That’s quite a lot in one day. Someone’s busy. All for the company? Or private contractors?”
“A little of both.”
“Then we need to get started, or we’ll be here all night.” He went to the wall of screens and first noted the local conditions outside the window and then checked the list of assignments for the day. And then some movement out the window caught his eye again while Anabelle continued on about the first mission. “Anabelle, did you say there was a storm coming. Are we expecting rain?”
“No,” she said somewhat defensively because she was never wrong in the morning weather briefings. It wasn’t that they couldn’t deploy in inclement weather, and sometimes it worked in their favor depending on the mission. Still, it wasn’t expected, and that was the problem. Because things were moving out there. And the second time Steve looked, they were moving even more. Scrub brush vibrated, and what looked like desiccated remains of ancient cactus picked up and blew several feet away and then landed again. “There is clearly….”
“I…I know what it is. It’s not the weather. You’re receiving a visit today. I forgot to tell you.”
“What? You forg…you don’t forget….” But that’s when the door chimed, and Steve made a face at her on the screen as he passed by, and she made a face back at him as he left.
The door chimed three more times before he opened it. “Hi, Randolph. I’m surprised to see you here.”
“I made an appointment with your, ah, person.”
“You mean, Anabelle?”
“If that’s her name. Are you going to let me in?”
“I’m thinking, no.”
“I’m your lawyer. You can’t just leave me outside.”
Steve scoffed, left the door open, and went back inside, leaving Randolph on the ledge with a questioning look on his face.
“What do I….”
“Just shut the door behind you,” Steve yelled over his shoulder. “And make it quick. I’ve got work to do.”
Back in the kitchen, Steve’s hand was out, reaching for his cup of coffee before he even reached the island. Then he realized it wasn’t warm enough, and nothing was worse than mediocre cold coffee on a day with a hangover. So he looked up at Annabel on the screen. “Give us ten minutes.”
She nodded and puffed away.
On the way to the coffee dispenser, he caught sight of Randolph. “You want a cup?”
“Never touch the stuff, you beastly savage. It’s not real anyway.”
Steve shook his head and wondered if everyone had an annoying lawyer in their life. It could not be a good thing to have one that visited you when he was bored.
“Is this an official appointment?” Steve asked as the coffee machine poured another cup for him while searching the cupboard for a spare coffee mug. He wasn’t sure he had one, now that he thought of it.
“You mean, official for you or official for me?” Randolph said.
He found one up on the second shelf, just out of reach, and grabbed a wooden spoon to nudge it forward. Finally, in his hand, he said a little harsher than he intended, “I don’t care…why are you here?”
“You know, you should try those new positivity apps.”
Steve took his coffee out of the dispenser window and put the empty mug in its place, and pressed the button.
Then he looked at Randolph and raised an eyebrow with a menacing expression. “Ex-wife or company? Spit it out.”
Randolph put his hands up. “Company. Ex-wife is remarried…you should be off the hook there.”
“Whew,” Steve said. “Dodged that bullet. Here’s your cup.”
Randolph put his hands up, “I said I didn’t drink it.”
“I went through all that trouble. Drink it. I don’t care if you’ve developed scruples suddenly. You’re a lawyer.” He shook his head.
“Okay, okay,” he said, accepting the mug.
Steve tipped his head to the porch and held back the screen opening for him to follow. Outside, it was hazy like frosted glass…all except for the mirage above. The new world was always gallingly crystal clear, no matter the weather.
Randolph held his coffee mug up to the image. “When are they going to finish that thing?”
“I don’t know, man. Why does it matter? We’re not going.”
“True,” Randolph said and sat down when Steve also found a seat.
“What’s this about?”
“Okay, it boils down to exclusivity. So the company wants you to terminate the other contracts.”
Steve took another sip of coffee and said, “I’ll make this easy for everyone involved. But, unfortunately, the answer’s no.”
“Steve, Okay, I hear you but think….”
“See how easy this is. You asked me a question, and I gave you an answer, and now you can get back into your little helicopter or whatever brought you here and go back to your little office in Seattle. Easy. Done.”
“Not that easy. There’s a dollar amount attached to this offer.”
“Let me guess…there’s also a stipend attached for you if I accept.”
He cleared his throat and said under his breath. “Not exactly a stipend.”
Steve shook his head but smiled and sipped again while looking up at the imprint of the new world.
“You know this is just like you accepting watches from that old man whose son died. Each promotion you got, he gave you a new watch. That’s wasn’t right. Not exactly against the rules, but somewhere in the unwritten rules of humanity, that was wrong, and you know it.”
“It’s a gray area. There's nothing wrong with accepting gifts from clients.”
“Yes…yes, there is. Especially if the client is elderly, rich, and trying to replace a dead child. That’s the difference between you and me, Randolph.”
“My moral failings aside…please consider their offer.”
“I said no.”
“You haven’t even seen the contract. So how can you say no.”
“I have agreements with my freelance contracts. I don’t need to go exclusive. I make plenty without their exclusivity.”
“Yeah, but I don’t. Think of your friends.”
Steve chuckled at that. Randolph never made enough. “Do you have gambling debts I don’t know about or something?”
“Something like that, here look,” Randolph said, and before he could repeat no, Randolph opened up a screen projected from his phone.
“I’m not reading that.”
“You don’t have to. I’ll read it to you…actually, just look at this.” He circled a figure at the bottom of the page. “See…yeah?”
It was a significant amount. More than Steve imagined. But that also worried him. “It’s not about the money, man. Listen, look at that planet. It’s all pristine. No failings yet. It’s like a fresh newborn. It smells nice. There’s no trash. The water…can you imagine the water? You can drink right from a stream without dysentery. The animals are back. No gorgeous sunsets…but no pollution either.”
“I like sunsets,” Randolph said.
“Me too. But you know what, it’s all a lie. That whole thing. The company built that, too. Contracts don’t mean anything. I’m not going to sign. I don’t care what proposal you come back with next week or the week after that or how fat that number gets. So my answer’s no.”
The contract image faded above the phone slowly, and Randolph sat back in his chair and drank his coffee while he stared up at the new world. “It’s a shame we don’t get to go there.”
“Why would you want to?”
Randolph sighed. “Because it’s all brand new.”
“Nah…we just got this one all worn in. Don’t you see? It’s comfortable now.”
“Yeah, but it’s dying.”
“So are we.”
Randolph did that smirk thing that meant he agreed.
“I’ve got work to do. I’ll walk you out.”
“Oh…kay,” Randolph said. “I’ll see you next week.”
Steve smiled at the door as Randolph ran to his waiting helicopter. “Guy never quits.”
“He’s coming back next week?” Anabelle said.
“And the week after that. So it’s always something.”
When he glanced up, she had her brows furrowed. “But why?”
“There are some questions I can’t answer. Can we get to work? Are you done dawdling for the day?” he chided.
And to get him back, Anabelle launched into the first project like a rocket, as she sat very upright issuing coordinates, just as Steve sat his hands on the back of the empty armchair beside him. His knuckles became very white as he gave the voice commands that launched the first series of drones.
On the wall monitor, they lifted up through the cracks in the broken observatory tiles without a sound, into the gray sky like a dark storm cloud, and then dispersed at lightning speed. He followed their path in blurred real-time and then entered a hole in the earth near the Tayos Caves of Ecuador.
“I don’t like this…you didn’t mention caves,” Steve said as he spotted the drone marker for the supplies they were meant to transport.
“It’s a pick-up, Steve. But, of course, we do the easiest jobs first. That’s what you said.”
“Yeah, it’s because I need a sense of accomplishment to establish the day. It’s a strategy to keep me out of depression.”
One beat later. “It’s not working?”
“Always a smartass,” Steve said, ignoring her and tapping several keystrokes on the wall giving commands for the swarm to gather the goods. Then, like an orchestrated ballet, they lined up, and as if consuming their feed, they each picked up a parcel and then hovered there like pinwheels held on a stick.
“And uh…where are we going?” he glanced at Anabelle on her screen.
“Oh…I was mesmerized by the cave markings. They’re beautiful.”
Steve looked again at a stout figure on the walls. Then, squinting his eyes, he said, “Those are probably from the 1970s and meant to draw in more tourists.”
“Oh,” she said and typed in the coordinates for the drop-off.
“I like the easy one’s first. This shouldn’t take long.”
Steve thought of his childhood and what it was like to play around with delivery drones and how quickly that had evolved. He loved the simple accomplishments of a job well done. Still, when he’d entered university, his talents were soon discovered, and his tasks included much more than deliveries. But, unfortunately, many of them were not nearly as satisfying as it turned out.
“Deploy,” Steve said, and within moments a black line snaked out into the sky, and a silent cloud formed again and lifted up like an elevator risking and stormed to the north.”
“Did you see that lag?” Anabelle pointed out.
“I did. Check to see if it’s A503 again. I think the laser sintering is off. I don’t care what Mike says.”
“Let Mike do his job,” Anabelle said in a sympathetic voice.
“I think you have a thing for Mike.”
“I do not.”
Steve smiled. AI or not, she had a thing for Mike.
Moments later, the drones approached the rooftop of a Chicago skyrise. “And they’re waiting for delivery already?”
“Well, I notified them.”
“We usually drop them and run. I don’t like the drug deliveries. These guys are always scary.”
“It’s all legal. Just say go, remember?”
“So stupid to legalize it all,” Steve said.
“So taxable, you mean,” Anabelle said under her breath.
“You got that right,” Steve said watched as one of the thugs began to approach a drone dropping off a parcel. Breathing out quickly, Steve flipped on a mike. “Back away. We are not responsible for any injuries you may incur.”
“Steve, calm down,” Anabelle said.
The weird guy stepped back in a kind of dance, licking his lips as he went.
“Total stoner,” Steve said.
“It’s his choice as long as he’s not hurting anyone,” Anabelle said.
“Yeah, well…by that Fostech he’s holding, I very much doubt he’s not hurting anyone. Are you sure they paid upfront?”
“Yes,” she said after a moment. “Paid and cleared.”
“Okay,” he said, breathing a little easier as the parcel-free drone cloud lifted up from the rooftop as the thugs watched. Still, at the last moment, the moron below raised the world’s fastest shotgun and fired.
PreSale Series - Times of Trouble, Book 1, In the Meantime
Starting this soon! I'm receiving a lot of great feedback on this series and it's not even begun. That's great news because I'm very excited to get started as well!
This will be a break from the hardcore post-apocalyptic genre. It's a series of stories that I think are very valid in our current situation. And I'm eager for a lighter take on this genre. Some will call it a Clean Post-apocalyptic, but I'm generally not fond of that term. It implies arrogance or superiority in some ways to me. And that's just not how I feel. Cozy Apocalypse is a better term in my opinion.
Universal Deal - Only $0.99Graham's Resolution, Book 1
The China Pandemic is at $0.99. This is a great way to start the series. And book 7 will release soon! This was the first series I've ever written and can tell you I had no idea what I was getting myself into when it was published in 2013. 😊
US and Canada Only. $0.99 for the Month of October Deal Ends 10/31!Dawn of Deception, Book 1
It doesn't happen often but Unbound, Book 1 of the Dawn of Deception series has been selected by Amazon for a Kindle Deal in the United States and Canada. You can pick it up for only .99 for the entire month of October. Be sure to share this with all of your reader friends and groups. Apologies to everyone else! (Again, not my fault).
Ready to Catch up on a Series
Shout OutA New Release
Every now and then an author friend of mine has a new release that I think you'll enjoy. Here is one.
She fought her way back from certain death.
A predator is still hunting her…
Alex Ridley knows there are only three certainties in life... taxes, death, and that if you try to kill her, that death will be yours. Read more...
Author of Unfortunate PerilAR Shaw