Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Derby is Graduating!

Back when I was still involved with the annual Pets in Space anthologies -- before the series changed hands -- I donated toward the training of two Hero Dogs. 

Hero Dogs is a noble organization that raises and trains service dogs for disabled first responders and the Pets in Space volumes donated to the cause every year since inception in 2016. It was a great choice, IMHO, the perfect charity to be supported by limited edition volumes with a focus on "pets in space."

Both service dogs I sponsored had names that held meaning for me. 

The first was MITCH. 

Mitch is also the name of the hero of my as-yet-to-be-published novel, The Outer Planets, so picking out my first pup was an easy task. I followed him through his training and, as I was about to by a part of the second Pets in Space release, he graduated to become a bonafide service dog (not all pups make it, so I was very proud of him). This was the announcement I made on this blog on November 4, 2017:


As a participating author in both of the Pets in Space anthologies to date, one of the bonuses is being able to help support the Hero Dogs organization with a 10% donation from all preorders and first month's sales.
My Hero -- Hero Dog Mitch
Photo credit the Hero Dogs site
A year ago, while involved with the original Pets in Space, I "adopted" one of the Hero Dog trainees -- Hero Dog Mitch -- as a side project and made special donations to assist with his training toward becoming a service dog over the last year. (You can read Mitch's blog here.)
I am absolutely delighted to announce that tomorrow, November 5th, Hero Dog Mitch will successfully graduate the Hero Dogs program as a service dog and will be paired with a US Coast Guard veteran!
Much is asked of these dogs, and not every candidate has the right stuff to successfully graduate as a full-fledged service dog, so this is a very special occasion indeed. I received a personal invitation to attend from Hero Dogs, but will be unable to make the trip to Maryland this weekend to witness Mitch's graduation.
I want to take this opportunity to wish Mitch and his veteran a very long, happy, and successful partnership.

I was super proud of my boy, Mitch. :) 

After his graduation, I picked out a second pup to support for future Pets in Space volumes, and her name was DERBY. 

For those of you who are familiar with me, you probably know that we've been involved in breeding and/or raising Thoroughbreds for well over a decade, so "Derby" was an obvious choice. 

Today, I was notified in a newsletter that Derby is now graduating, also as a bonafide service dog. She made it! 

Her graduation ceremony will be on October 7th (which will be right around the time the latest volume of Pets in Space will released this year--but no, I haven't been involved with PISA in a number of years now). 

Here's Derby's class graduation announcement:

The graduation of Derby feels like the Pets in Space chapter of my authordom is now closing. Though I'm still planning to publish my last former Pets in Space story -- Courting Disaster -- later this year, and that will close the entire book on my involvement with the Pets in Space franchise which introduced StarDogs to my Inherited Stars galaxy. :)

StarDogs will be back in later stories (or at least, that's the plan) but Pets In Space now feels a bit like a booster rocket that's been jettisoned. It helped to get me where I am, but it's no longer part of the program. 

Best wishes to Mitch on his continued mission as a Hero Dog, and Happy Soon-to-be-Graduated Derby. It was fun sharing part of my journey with two very exceptional Hero Dogs. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Storytelling: Effective Villains and Believable Lies

Well, my posts have certainly become few and far between lately. I apologize for going dark. There's a lot happening in the background called "real life" but I won't bore you with the details because it's probably non-relatable. Let's just say, "It's been the best of times, it's been the worst of times." (Inspired by a quote from Charles Dickens.) 

Lately, I've been doing a lot of studying and thinking and applying it to my work.

I've been studying what has happened in the past, what is happening now, and what may lie ahead...and how those elements can be interwoven into fiction. (I won't go into a lot of detail because my personal experience "won't compute" for a large number of people.) 

Today, I want to just focus on one of the things I've been studying and that's the nature of lies....and people who lie....and people who use lies for their own purposes and gain. It's a pretty dark rabbit hole to go down in reality, so let's not do that. 

I'll just post a few memes on my philosophy on liars, which is pretty simple:


and especially...

In fiction, we often create characters who lie as a means to advance their own position, their own selfish plans or to defend themselves from being judged too harshly by others. A really effective villain can usually weave lies and deception that will fool and mislead a great many people. If they weren't capable of that, they'd be reduced to a mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash. 

Old Snidely isn't very convincing, so a truly skilled villain learns three basic tactics: 
1) How to make lies sound like the truth, 
2) How to persuade a lot of other people to buy into his/her lies (usually with some sort of reward), and 
3) How to punish those who disagree with those lies.
"I'll get you, my pretty...and your little dog, too!"  

Number 3 may be one way to discern if someone is telling the truth. If they are telling the truth, and someone disagrees, they won't punish that person for not believing them or for being intelligent enough not to buy in to their deception. 

But the thing about villains is that in the end, they lose. Usually big time (...unless of course, the author is planning a sequel). 

If the story has no sequel where the villain returns, then the end is just The End. 

Justice is served. Judgement is rendered. The evil villain is doomed. Truth and goodness prevails.

These are the themes I'm working with in a current novel. The villain has credentials, power and influence and portrays himself as a good and decent man. He fools a lot of people and manages to convince them that he's their rightful leader, that his challenger is a threat to them and their way of life--and further, that his opponent is the one who lies and misleads. But beneath his shining white robes (literally) and his dark cloak of deception, he's not a righteous man, he's a self-serving and demented human being. (Okay, this is sci-fi so he's really an alien, but he's human enough to pass.)

But the thing about lies is they eventually ensnare the one telling them.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive." 

That phrase is often attributed to Shakespeare, but it was actually said by Sir Walter Scott. According to the site No Sweat Shakespeare, it means: 
"...when you lie or act dishonestly you are initiating problems and a domino structure of complications which eventually run out of control."
Yes, he and his cronies make a pretty convincing argument. Jointly, they have a talent for taking the truth and twisting facts and circumstances to serve their own end game. You can fool many of the people all of the time...but eventually, the truth is going to win out.

I'm intentionally avoiding the name of the villain character because spoilers...but the current working title of the story is in the tags, if you're curious.

Have you read any books with a thoroughly convincing villain who cleverly manipulates the truth? Let me know the titles and I'll check them out. 

Until next time.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Checking In!

Hi all, it's been a very busy and exciting summer, and I apologize that this blog has taken a bit of a back burner while I'm dealing with a lot of real life ups-and-downs. (I never was a big fan of roller coasters, but...here I am! :D )

For a brief recap, Courting Disaster is still in the editing phase. I hope to be making more headway soon, but as of now, the anticipated summer release is not likely. I honestly thought the story was as "perfect" as I could get it before submitting to my editor. My editor didn't agree. It's going to take a bit of time to work through her feedback. This story is crucial to the timeline going forward and as soon as my schedule allows, it will be priority #1. 

Luna, who was the inspiration for the Star Dog in Courting Disaster, has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and probably will be leaving us sometime in the next year. :'( We're doing what we can to keep her comfortable including regular visits to our vet. This has given me more incentive to get "her" story published and out there while she's still here. I'll try to do more frequent updates, snippets, etc. to keep you in the loop.

I did finish Linda Greenlaw's book, The Hungry Ocean. It was a good read, gave some great insights into the workings of a small crew (which may transfer in part to my future releases), and a ton of information on Swordfishing, which I've been a little fascinated with since first viewing The Perfect Storm many years ago. I'll be reading another of her books soon. 

I have to comment that it was a little sobering how huge the effort is in way of planning, supplies, groceries for a month, knowhow, ocean dynamics, instinct and pure luck go into a successful Sword boat expedition, and how little the payoff seems in comparison to the hardships -- sleep deprivation, high risk, and crises that arise from managing a 100-foot fishing vessel and a crew living in close quarters. A lot of this will filter into my next novel, Inherit the Vengeance, where crew troubles come in to play at the beginning of the story. 

Inherit the Vengeance is not close to going to the editor, but many scenes--and even entire chapters--have been written. The story opens in Captain Dava Jordan's POV. Ironically, she was first introduced in StarDog, and that story was inspired in part by the need to give her an origin story before she plays a major role in Inherit the Vengeance.

I'll sign off for now. Luna-bear and my three other Stardogs say "Hi." :)

Friday, May 19, 2023

The Perfect Storm Inspires Ideas

Recently, while watching an episode of Deadliest Catch (one of about three television series I follow anymore), I had a bit of a surprise in terms of the introduction of a new crew member to the show. 

It was a lengthy introduction and for good reason.

The new crew member was Linda Greenlaw. THE Linda Greenlaw. If you don't know who she is, and you ever saw the motion picture The Perfect Storm with George Clooney as the captain of a swordfishing boat, Andrea Gail, out of Gloucester, Massachussetts, that's the Linda Greenlaw I'm talking about. It was based on a true story about real people. And Linda Greenlaw was -- and still is -- one of those real people. The captain of the Andrea Gail's sister ship, the Hannah Boden

(theatrical release poster)
And that Linda Greenlaw had just joined the crew of one of the Deadliest Catch king crab fishing boats. She had somehow acquired a quota of crab and was looking for a boat to partner with. After some trial and error, including running into an old nemesis from her Hannah Boden days, she found a spot. 

In relating her backstory, they included some footage of Greenlaw talking about her life and about surviving the "perfect storm" (what they had always referred to as the 1991 "storm of the century") and how it had impacted her life. 

The motion picture had been based on a novel by Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea. There were a few things I gleaned from her story that spoke to Hollywood's version of the "true" story, such as the suggested romance between Captain Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and Captain Billy Tynes (George Clooney) of the starcrossed swordboat, Andrea Gail

Apparently, they were never a "thing." Greenlaw related that they did work for the same man, and they occasionally shared info about the location of fish, but there was no tearful scene with Linda speaking at the Andrea Gail crew's memorial service. "I wasn't there. I was out fishing," Linda related. 

But that's not to say the disaster didn't impact her and her life. The owner of her boat did send her out to the last known location of the Andrea Gail, where they found a floating barrel with "A.G." painted on the side--debris from the lost ship. (Ironically, Mark Wahlberg's character, Bobby, is first viewed in the film standing on the bow of the Andrea Gail with several barrels marked "A.G." around him.) There was also a scene where a deceased member of Greenlaw's crew is carried off her vessel. That may have been based, in part, on a story she recanted on The Deadliest Catch of losing a crewmember. 

Here's an opening clip from the movie which highlights the Andrea Gail and Hannah Boden vessels and captains returning from the sea. Some of the elements I just mentioned above are included, but it's score only -- no dialogue. 

But what intrigued me the most was that I learned via her introduction and back story that Linda Greenlaw was also an author, and quite a successful one, apparently. 

A quick search on Amazon revealed quite a list of both fiction and non-fiction books, including The Hungry Ocean, The Lobster Chronicles, All Fishermen are Liars, Seaworthy, four books in The Jane Bunker Mystery series including Slipknot, Fishermen's Bend, Shiver Hitch and Bimini Twist, the non-fiction Lifesaving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother and two cookbooks, Recipes from a Very Small Island and The Maine Summers Cookbook. Her books rank between four and five stars on Amazon, with at least one earning more than 500 reviews, and she was a New York Times bestseller, which seems to indicate she is quite a talent as a writer and has a few things to say that a lot of readers were interested to read about.  

It occurred to me, an author who writes many stories centered on small crews on starships, that her work might have a few inspiring ideas and "small ship environment" tidbits to lend to my work. (Wish I'd found her work a decade ago.)

So although I don't tend to read a lot outside my preferred genre, I'm going to give her books a try starting with The Hungry Ocean: The Captain's Story and Seaworthy: A Swordboat Captain Returns to the Sea. If those are inspiring, I'll read on. 

I'll post a follow-up here on The Firebird at some point in the future.


Thursday, May 4, 2023

Juggernaut has Docked at the SFR Station!

has now been added to the SFR Station. 

You can find all my current books as well as many other great Science Fiction Romance reads on the SFR Station by clicking the bold "Juggernaut" link below. 

(No more searching on Amazon or other book sellers for hours. The SFR Station has the lion's share of SFR books available just one click away.)


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Catching Up (or Where the Heck Have I Been?)

So sorry I've been quiet these past weeks. We have a lot going on in our lives (mostly good, but at times a bit of a drain on my time). No big news in my author's life at the moment but I am working on getting the next book "out there" in the near future (or as near as I can manage).

Courting Disaster (now officially dubbed "my problem child") is back from the first round of edits with my editor - on this version -  and still has some work ahead. The base story was originally released in the second Pets in Space volume back in 2017, but I felt it needed a lot more work and a lot more words before being published as a separate book. 

It's gotten both. It's about 30% longer and will probably earn the title of my "Most Edited Book" by the time I'm done. Meanwhile, the cover--which has been completed for about four years -- stands by ready for duty. :)

The reason I'm being so "perfectionist" with this book (moreso than usual) is that this story will set up the next novel, which will close out this timeline in the Inherited Stars Series. 

Not to worry, there are many more stories to come -- prequels and sequels and companion stories alike! (Now just to get them all written!)

In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing some excerpts and working on some graphics that I'll post here on The Firebird. They've been very popular in the past.

Meanwhile, have you read The Shell and the Star on this blog?  It's an aquatic Space Adventure Romance that takes place in the far future of the Inherited Stars Series. One thing it shares in common with Courting Disaster is Talstar Station. Readers might be surprised to find out that Talstar -- former HQ of the Carduwan Fifth Fleet and the Universal Flight Academy -- is still around in 50,000 years! 

Click here to start reading The Shell and the Star.


I'll post more soon. (Promise!)

Hey, while you're here, check out my new digital signature block....

Monday, March 20, 2023

Eschatology and the End of Days

Eschatology (/ˌɛskəˈtɒlədʒi/ (listen); from Ancient Greek ἔσχατος (éskhatos) 'last', and -logy) concerns expectations of the end of the present age, human history, or of the world itself. 

The end of the world -- or the End Times - is predicted by several world religions with teachings or prophesies that specific events will reach a climax and result in ultimate catastrophe. 

Believing the end of the world is imminent is known as apocalypticism, and over time this belief has been held by both members of mainstream religions and by doomsday cults.

The last few years -- and particularly in the last few months -- there's been a lot of talk and speculation about if we're approaching the end of the world as we know it. I've been doing a lot of thinking about that myself. Cue the earworm R.E.M. rock song...

That song was actually released in 1987, so we've been waiting for the end of the world as R.E.M. knew it for a very long time -- 36 years. Other end dates on civilization and/or the human race have certainly come and gone in those three-and-a-half decades. 

This is a blog I wrote over 11 years ago that also dealt with the subject of eschatology and the End of the World and how it intersected with my writing life (at that point, it wasn't an authorly life yet). 

I promise it's not a doom and gloom read, and it might even give you a smile.


Something's coming. Something BIG!

Or not.

Lately I've been living a sort of immersion scenario while I work on my third novel and reflect on the current uneasiness in our culture surrounding an upcoming date on our calendar.

Let me explain...

Living With World-Changing Prophecy


We're living in a time where our world has gone edgy with expectation.

Many cultures of the past--the Mayan, the Hopi, the Chinese, and others--have all hinted that on one particular date in the future something big is going to happen. Many researchers agree they are all pointing to the same date--December 21, 2012.


Eleven months from now.

No one really knows exactly what will happen, only that an ancient calendar comes to an abrupt end on that particular date.

Some forecast doom and gloom in the eerily prophetic Mayan calendar--a calendar that has supposedly marked every major astronomical event for eons. Its terminus has been put forth by some to correlate to an energy surge from alignment with the galactic rift, a polar shift, intense solar flares, impact by a stray comet or errant asteroid, a direct hit from a gamma ray burst, an overdue supervolcanic eruption, shut down of the ocean conveyor and the inevitable instant ice age, or the mysterious planet X that's supposedly going to swoop in from the edges of our solar system, gallop through the orbital planes of the inner planets to collide with Earth.

Some believe it will be a change for better, for enlightenment, for the next step in human evolution.

And then there's the school of thought that nothing is going to happen at all. It's just going to be another date on the calendar.

After all, how can an ancient society predict what's going to happen in the future--long after their civilization has ceased to exist? How can they know?

There's actually a precedence for that, according to some researchers. They're studying a sudden spike in global consciousness the morning of September 11, 2001, hours before the events of that day actually occurred. They claim random event generators can predict catastrophes that are yet to happen. [Read more.] Are they quacks, or is there really a way to tap into a global consciousness and "see" events that are yet to happen? Are some people wired to tune in to the future?

Was Nostradamus a prophet who predicted the rise of Hitler and other upheavals in history, or merely a very clever creator of enigmatic words with symbolism that could be interpreted or twisted in any way to mean anything a person chooses?

The Great Prophecy of Draxis

In my work in progress, Draxis, the people of this fictional society are living with a prehistoric prophecy that might be coming true. And just like the theories surrounding 2012, many are jittery and fearful. They aren't sure if the change that's foretold will result in annihilation, or glorious evolution...or if anything will happen at all.

The Great Prophecy was written by a philosopher-visionary named Hamaden Sarcassius sometime around 9,000 BC by our time scale, the text carefully preserved for over twelve thousand years.

Who Sarcassius really was is lost to the centuries. Heck, maybe he was a mad. Or maybe he had ulterior motives for penning his prophecy. Or maybe--just maybe--he had the gift of vision and sent a dire warning to his race across a great expanse of time that something was coming--something the Draxians needed to prepare for.

The events of the Great Prophecy center around a person identified only as "the Flame," who according to the scripts will make a single decision that will destroy or "turn" their world.

The novel opens as the one who many believe may be "the Flame" wakes up on Draxis after being abducted, drugged and hurled through space and time to be thrust into this maelstrom of fear and fanaticism spurred by her arrival.

The parallels between the Draxian empire and our present day culture are easily drawn. Two societies living with the fear, apprehension, skepticism and denial surrounding a world-changing prophecy and the potential Armageddon it portends. Or doesn't.

No one on Draxis really knows what the words of Sarcassius mean.

And no one on Earth really knows what the end of the Mayan calendar indicates.

We live in interesting times.

Write what you know.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Working on an Author Signature Block

One of my favorite tools to use for creating graphics and promotional images is BookBrush. I have a lot of fun rifling through their many templates looking for themes that will fit my books and series. 

Recently, I found some author signature blocks in the templates, and of course I had to give it a try. 

Though my end product wasn't quite as slick as their original image, I was pretty happy with how it turned out. The nice thing about graphics is you can also come back and tweak them as time allows and inspiration strikes, but for now...tada. My signature block. (I could have animated it too, but that seemed just a leetle bit over the top. So it's a static signature block. Which sounds kind of boring, but hopefully isn't.)

Of course I couldn't stop at just an author signature block, so I decided to also do a graphic featuring one of the thoughts plucked from my series overview. It's a funny thing about history. It's often forgotten, sometimes to be rediscovered in the future and sometimes to be lost to sands of time. But sometimes history is intentionally changed, which led to the perilous situation Lieutenant Commander Dek Garr finds herself in in Juggernaut

This short snippet from the series overview hints at what knowledge may have been lost from ages long past. I love how the background illustrates that mysterious "cross-rip in time and space."

The clincher is that the readers of this series know that Earth is real and not imagined or just a fading legend. The people of The Inherited Stars Series can't be sure.

I hope to be back soon with a few snippets (but no spoilers!) from Courting Disaster.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Luna Says Hello

Luna wants you to know she's feeling much better after her surgery last month, thank you very much. But she wants "Mom" to hurry up and finish her book! 

Yes, Luna was the inspiration for the StarDog (also named Luna) in my next release, Courting Disaster.

Like her namesake, Luna is one clever little StarDog, and it might just be up to her to save the day when her people end up in serious peril. 

One crafty little StarDog to the rescue!

I'll be posting more about Luna -- and her namesake's roll in the story -- soon!

Viva la StarDog Luna!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

I'm Still Among the Living!

Why, yes, I have been missing in action this last week or so. Sorry for the dark blog!

But I have a very good excuse. I'm up to my earlobes in Courting Disaster edits. This will be the last of my rewritten and published-as-standalone books from the StarDog tales formerly published in annual Pets In Space volumes (so no longer available). 

And it's a lead-in to the next--and last--novel in this timeline of the series, so it's a pretty major story.

I'll have a couple more weeks of work to wrap this one up and shoot it off to my editor, then I'll be working on my next project. (More on that soon.) Meanwhile, I have some new graphics and fun stuff to show you.

In the meantime, if you haven't caught one of the free reads on this blog, here's one you can check out. The Shell and the Star is an aquatic Science Fiction Romance!


Thursday, March 2, 2023

Amazing Stories Interview with Author EG Manetti

Veronica Scott of AmazingStories.com recently did an interview with  author EG Manetti on her Twelve Systems Chronicles series and other works. Take a look at what she has to say by clicking this link:


Author EG Manetti has been a frequent guest blogger on this site (when it was Spacefreighters Lounge) and she has written some interesting and thought-provoking blogs for this site. 

After reading her interview, you might want to come back and take a look at some of her previous posts here:

Slipstream Dreams - Exploring Slipstream SFR

Galaxies and Gods - God, gods and deities in SFR

Tempest Tossed  - Surviving Hurricane Ian and the "tempest tossed" theme in SFR

Interstellar Top Guns and Other Swashbucklers - What is "Top Gun" SFR?

Enjoy the read. Have a great Thursday!

Friday, February 10, 2023

Friday Notes

I'm probably going to be dark for the weekend, but hope to be back next week with some excerpts from or commentary on Courting Disaster...next up in the Inherited Stars series. 

It's also book four that includes a StarDog. Courting Disaster was originally published in Pets in Space 2, but this story is being extensively revised, updated and expanded, so it will be a very different book once it's published, though the premise and characters will be the same. 

Truth be told, Courting Disaster was my least favorite story of all the StarDog tales I wrote for previous Pets in Space collections, so I've been taking quite a bit of time to work on some of the issues I had with the story. It's really a pivotal book in the series and will set the stage for future works, so it deserves the extra time and attention. I don't want to publish it until it's where I want it to be (but it's getting there fast--*knock on wood*). 

As a side note, Luna, our pup whose namesake is the StarDog in Courting Disaster, just had surgery to remove a mass, so we need to keep a very close eye on her for the next few days, hence my going a bit quiet. 

See you next week! 

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Pyramids: Fact and Fiction

Writing my upcoming novel, Draxis, involved a lot of research into ancient cultures, and primarily the Egyptian and Olmec societies. That, of course, entailed a lot of research on pyramids.

Pyramids turned out to be a pretty fascinating subject. 

Ancient Pyramids were Bright and Shiny

The pyramids weren't always crumbling masses of dissolving limestone.

That's how the pyramids appear now, as immense pointed structures of jumbled sand-colored rock, but they were once smooth-sided, being adorned in polished limestone. These casing stones were individually cut to specific angles to seamlessly cover the structure, and were then sanded until they shone. In the ages since, this polished outer layer has been knocked loose by earthquakes or dismantled by more modern residents for buildings and other uses.

Sudan has More Pyramids than Egypt

Egypt is renown for its pyramids and has around 140 (that we know of to date), but there's another culture that has even more. To the south, in present-day Sudan, more than 200 pyramids have been found!

Until the mid-20th century, most archaeologists considered the Sudan pyramids as nothing more than extensions of Egypt, instead of the remnants of a unique culture. But the pyramids in Sudan, most located in Meroe, are structurally different. They are smaller, steeper, and surrounded by collections of chapels and monuments that are unique to Nubian culture.

Though Egyptian-type pyramids are found in a very large area, including Italy and Greece, there are many forms of pyramids that are located in widely diverse areas -- including deep underground.

The Americas Contain More Pyramids Than the Rest of the World Combined — And the Largest!

In ancient Mesoamerica, a region spanning from much of modern-day Mexico through most of Central America, peoples such as the Olmecs, Incas, Aztecs, and Mayan had their own brand of pyramid structures dating back to around 1000 BCE. In fact, they built vast numbers of them but unlike the Egyptians, they didn't use them exclusively as tombs.

The most well-known structures are in Teotihuacan (Tay oh TEE wah con), an ancient Aztec city near present-day Mexico City. The Pyramid of the Sun was the largest of these structures and was built by constructing retaining walls which were filled with rubble, then had an adobe retaining wall encompassing the structure that was cased in limestone. The nearby Pyramid of the Moon was built the same way. It was discovered that the Pyramid of the Sun hides a secret: another pyramid, accessible through a cave beneath the structure. These pyramids have been dated to 1 and 200 CE, but the pyramid inside the cave is much older.

The  Olmec civilization built their own brand of pyramids. The Great Pyramid in La Venta (near present-day Tabasco, Mexico) is different: It’s essentially a clay mountain. Later Olmec pyramids were also earth mounds, and they were only covered by stone steps to finish them.

The Great Pyramid of Cholula, or Tlachihualtepetl, in Mexico, is the largest pyramid on the planet -- but by volume not by height! It dates back to circa 200 BCE, and in essence, it's basically six pyramids stacked over each other. 

Later civilizations expanded this earlier work, taking care to preserve the older structure. The new layers are composed of adobe bricks. Over time, the pyramid eventually became covered by jungle foliage and was later abandoned. That may have been fortunate, because when the Spanish invaders swept through, led by Hernan Cortez, over 3,000 inhabitants were murdered and most of the infrastructure of their culture was destroyed. The Spanish apparently thought Tlachihualtepetl was just part of the natural topography because it survived the assault by the invaders who dismantled or destroyed many of their other buildings.

Discoveries are Still Being Made

The tallest of the Egyptian structures, the Great Pyramid of Khufu, has been under rigorous study for more than a thousand years. Yet, even today, we’re discovering more about what is inside, including vast new chambers that were previously sealed and unknown. Using cosmic ray technology, the Scan Pyramids project -- a collaboration between Egyptian, French, and Japanese research institutions began in 2015 -- is using updated technology for a non-invasive searches inside the structures.

To date, they’ve found two previously undiscovered areas: a corridor on the north face of the pyramid and a huge void above the Grand Gallery measuring at least 100 feet long. It appears to be a similar structure to the Grand Gallery that connects various areas of the pyramid, including the burial chamber.

A team of American researchers wants to use other technology to get a complete three-dimensional image of the void area to determine if it's just a structural facet or a previously unknown chamber. Once completed, this study could provide much information on exactly how the pyramids were built.

Pyramids According to Draxis

My work-in-progress (temporary title: "Draxis") puts a totally different spin on pyramids. In this fictional version, the heroine learns that the Egyptians didn't build the pyramids, they merely repurposed the structures (including the Sphinx) that were already there, and were far, far older than the Egyptian dynasties by at least 6,000 years -- and still standing, though crumbling. 

The Egyptians performed the mother or all fixer-uppers and repaired and re-coated the massive structures to be the bright and shining monuments their culture became known for. 

They re-carved the head of the giant Sphinx, once a massive lion believed to honor the constellation of Leo -- which was in a different position in the skies in that earlier time. The Sphinx structure had been built in that ancient past so it faced directly toward the constellation shaped like a lion. The Egyptians carved the head of the lion into the likeness of their Pharoah, leaving the head clearly out-of-proportion to the rest of the structure, as we can see today. 

The mysterious earlier civilization had build the pyramid structures as giant power-generating stations that drew energy from the natural world to supply their advanced society that had thrived until the Younger-Dryas event wiped out civilization, as well as technology, as they knew it. Millennia later when the Egyptians re-worked these structures they found a maze of passages and chambers inside that they didn't understand, but branded with their symbols and painted with their stains to appropriate them as their own. They then used them (possibly) to bury their venerated dead.

The civilization on the planet Draxis also uses pyramids for most of their primary structures, though they more resembled the pyramids of the Americas with stepped terraces and attached porticos. The Draxians use primarily pastel colors to finish them -- soft beiges, peaches, aquas and lavenders -- with elaborate geometric murals. They didn't build them for looks. They built them because they were the standard for structures in their hot, dry, sometimes harsh culture -- stable, cool and energy-generating.

Although their grand palace is not a pyramid, it does have twenty-seven towers topped with pyramidal structures to generate energy, just as Earth's variety are suspected of doing by some researchers. One of these towers is used by the royal physician for it's healing properties, and this is where the heroine, Katrina, awakes at the beginning of the story.

Who the Draxians are, and what their civilization represents is what Katrina will discover as the story unfolds. Draxis is a civilization in decline, and an ancient legend says that a person known as The Flame will either save them or plunge them into oblivion. The ruling monarch, King Alii'us (Ah LEE us) loves Katrina, and believes her to be The Flame. But can he convince her that both he and his planet need her desperately even though she demands to be returned to her former world, and her former life?

This is the opening of the story (prefaced by a brief prologue that sets the stage for Katrina's journey). 

If you enjoyed the premise of "Draxis" and you're curious about the upcoming book, here's a bonus for you. There's a free short story set in the world of Draxis available on this blog titled The Recruit. It's a quick read, but it's packed with mystery and action, and there's a character from the story you'll meet in the book. 

The premise of The Recruit is that it's a scene taken from the book, but turned inside out and presented from a different POV. It takes place in the ancient jungle known as the Green Death, which is another name for The Black Stand mentioned in Juggernaut. (Juggernaut takes place on the planet LaGuardia, which had it's name changed from Draxis centuries before.) Click this link to read The Recruit.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023


Danger, Will Robinson!

The Juggernaut introductory price is ending very soon!

Grab your copy for .99 cents NOW before it goes to the regular price of $2.99.

Click here to see the book on Amazon.

(The price change is at the whim of Amazon KDP, but the sale price will probably end in the next 24-48 hours.)

Monday, February 6, 2023

JUGGERNAUT Excerpt: Man Troubles

Welcome to today's excerpt from new release Juggernauta book in the Inherited Stars series. The story is an expanded, revised version of a shorter story originally published in Pets in Space 5 (no longer available).

This comes with a quick reminder the Amazon Kindle book will only be on sale at .99 cents for a few more days. If you're reading this on February 6th, this is a great time -- and  possibly the last time -- to grab it at a bargain price. (Click this link to visit Amazon.)

Scene Set-Up

Lieutenant Commander Dekessa "Dek" Garr is having man problems. No, not the romantic kind. (At least, not yet.) As second in command, she's been left in charge of the ultra-secure Site D, located in an underground lava tube. But her fellow security team members aren't quite sure how to deal with her as their new boss, and the mysterious stranger -- and his StarDog partner -- who has suddenly been dumped in her lap isn't being very cooperative either.

Excerpt from Juggernaut:

Satisfied Telon’s creature posed no threat to her personnel, Dek left Major Remm in charge of getting the man and his pet settled in quarters.

She directed the major to have the quartermaster assign a vacant berth in Block A. Having the mystery guest and his pointy-eared partner quartered on her level would help her keep a closer watch on their activities.

As she made her way to the mess to grab a morning meal, she met Sergeant Garr on the path.

“Congrats…Boss,” he grumbled, clearly not happy with her in-charge status.

Dek ignored his jibe. “Those kids on the beach. They okay?”

“Yeah. Staggered away from the perimeter shortly after you left, shaken, but under their own power. But since when have you been sentimental about interlopers?”

“It could become a security issue,” she clarified. “They might be back. Possibly with friends.”

“Maybe we should just blast them next time.”

Again, she let his insolent response slide off. “We need to consider placing a secondary deterrent at some distance beyond the barrier.”

“What would you suggest?” Garr gave her a scathing look.

“Why don’t you come up with a plan. Put some thought into it and report back.”

“Yes, sir.” Garr performed an exaggerated salute.

“Carry on.” She passed him, continuing her trek to the mess hall, but the cold burn of Garr’s gaze drilled into her back.

Countering his challenge with a tasking was a subtle form of discipline she hoped might temper the junior officer’s streak of insolence. Pulling rank on him on her first day as acting commander would only heighten his belligerence. Better to give him the time to work through his issues on his own. Patience could win wars before they even started.

When she reached her destination, the boisterous din of the breakfast crowd fell to a sudden hush. Ignoring their scrutiny, she grabbed a tray. Conversations picked back up as she went down the line, selecting im-eggs and pancs from the offerings, before turning to make her way to a table with a couple of other members of the task force. Their conversation stopped as she drew near, and they exchanged glances.

“Acting Commander,” they muttered in stereo.

“Sergeant Caffron. Officer Bell.”

She settled and thumbed quickly through the StatCon messages scrolling on her wristcom. While her companions focused on wolfing down their meals, she switched on the surv-cam video to zero in on the site’s visitor. She locked on the feed of Telon milling beneath the ceiling breach, smiling as his little beastie scampered along the fallen jumble of basalt, her fluffy, cream-colored tail a stark contrast to the mottled black rocks. The little critter’s enthusiasm made Dek crack a tiny smile, too.

At the abrupt sound of scraping chair legs, she glanced up. Her two companions gave her stiff nods and walked single file to deposit their trays in the receptacle. She now had an eight-topper to herself in spite of the growing crowd. Obviously, command was going to be a lonely job.

Dek took a couple of bites of her meal and washed it down with a long swig of weak kinna before checking the surv-cam footage again.

Telon—and his little prototype—had vanished.

Dek straightened in her chair, scowled, and flipped through the various surveillance feeds. Quarters block. Zip. Command offices. Nothing. Secure lift entrance—she held her breath—nope. Her guest and his pet had seemingly disappeared into thin air.


Enjoy this excerpt and want to read another snippet? Check out last week's excerpt from Juggernaut here.

Thanks for visiting The Firebird today! 

Monday, January 30, 2023

An Acting Commander, a Network Agent and a StarDog Walk into a Lava Tube...

There's no punchline to that. It's actually the premise for Juggernaut.  

Meet Dek, Sno and Cassie in my latest release with snippets from the book.

An Acting Commander...

Lieutenant Commander Dekessa “Dek” Garr is second-in-command of a security force that protects a discovery buried deep inside an ancient lava tube. The implications of the find are staggering, and the stakes are high if their enemy—the Alliance—ever learns the truth about Site D. When her commander suddenly departs with zero warning and a mysterious visitor arrives, her job becomes a whole new level of complicated.

A Network Agent...

Sno Telon has an exercise to perform, and he isn’t about to let anyone stop him--including the dedicated acting commander known as Dek.

And a StarDog

But when his partner, CaSandra, a bioengineered dog-cat-weasel-mongoose, takes an immediate liking to the team leader, Sno realizes there’s much more to the woman than harsh words and hard scowls.


Snippet from Juggernaut

Graveyard shift. Four members of Dek’s security team were in their assigned sectors, manning the night watch. The science crew were all tucked in for the night. None of LaGuardia’s three moons yet cast its light through the break in the cave high above, and a deep inky blackness filled the great hole in the ground that she called home.

Dek crouched on the roof of her quarters, listening, eyes closed, senses keen. Her intuition told her something was amiss, and she’d learned never to ignore the feelings of gut-deep tension and restless unease. They were her wired-in early warning system. She slipped on her night vision goggles, checked the settings, and did a slow pan around the immense cavern. There! By the lifts. Movement.

Someone attempting to access Lower Cave?


If she sounded the alarm, it would alert the prowler before she’d had a chance to ID him. Best keep this on the down low. Dek debated alerting the security detail via her wristcom and nixed it. This was one guy. She’d handle it.


Juggernaut is on sale for the introductory price of .99 cents. 

The special price will be ending in the next week.

Click here to view it on Amazon

or use your cell phone camera to scan the QR code below

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Fun with Juggernaut Mock-Ups

It's always entertaining to use specialized mock-ups to highlight available books. Here's a few recent ones I created for use on social media. Whatcha think?

Whoop! There it is!

Mmm. Mmm. Good!

Juggernaut: MISSING...from your Kindle

A subtle reminder  :)

And this last one's a test of the animation.

Whoa! Look at that. It worked!  

I'm curious if you have any favorites among these five? Feedback welcome!