God Bless Us Every One

For some people, today is about eating, drinking and giving each other gifts.

For some people, today is a sacred day, the day when we celebrate the birth of God’s son, who came to save us from our own worst natures.

For some people, today is about feeling excluded, feeling lonely, experiencing depression. Although the claim that suicide rates spike at Christmas appears to be a myth, a time when joy is a publicly traded commodity can be painful from someone who feels left out.

Christmas, like any positive thing, can be misused, can devolve into banality, can cause pain.

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Fifteen Years of the Arbiter Chronicles

So, it’s not like an official anniversary or anything. I kinda missed that. But the public first heard of my characters from The Arbiter Chronicles back in October, 2000–15 years and a half a year or so ago, when we performed my first radio drama at Farpoint.

TLFrontTaken Liberty, my first Arbiters novel, premiered just ten years ago, officially in March, 2006. A few months ahead of that, the Prometheus Radio Theatre podcast premiered in the Fall of 2005.

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The Sacrifice Play Kickstarter is LIVE!

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Sacrifice Play – A Tale from the Arbiter Chronicles, is the third novel based on my Mark Time and Parsec Award-winning Arbiter Chronicles science fiction series. It’s in final editing stages now, weighing in at about 60,500 words.

Sacrifice Play cover art by Caio CacauThis time out, the Arbiters are passengers on a military vessel that’s been assigned to test a dangerous new technology. If word of that technology’s existence gets out to the public, the Confederate Navy believes their very way of life could crumble. They’re willing to kill to protect the secret, and the Captain of the CNV Haakon Rodriguez decides to sacrifice his own ship and everyone on board for the good of all.

The Arbiters, aboard the doomed ship, um, disagree. It’s a battle of wills and a battle against the clock as they race to save the ship from its own captain. Caio Cacau’s gorgeous cover painting of Metcalfe and Carson should make it plain that the stakes are high this time out.

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Announcing Sacrifice Play – An Arbiter Chronicles Novel

Sacrifice Play - A Tale from the Arbiter Chronicles - Promotional Art

Sacrifice Play is the third novel in The Mark Time and Parsec Award-winning Arbiter Chronicles series, picking up where Unfriendly Persuasion left off.

Imagine a technology so dangerous that you could be killed just for knowing it exists…

Lieutenant Terrence Metcalfe and his team combat a starship captain so driven to complete his mission that he sets his ship to self-destruct and kill everyone on board.

Sacrifice Play – A Tale from the Arbiter Chronicles premieres at Shore Leave 38, and will be the eighth book released by Firebringer Press. It’s also one of two Firebringer Books slated to premiere at Shore Leave, alongside Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity.

Sacrifice Play will be released simultaneously in trade paperback and audiobook, and will be the focus of the first-ever crowdfunding effort by Prometheus Radio Theatre and Firebringer Press. Details will be announced soon. Stay tuned to this link!

Arbiter ship design by Ponch Fenwick.

REALLY Taken Liberty

I imagine pretty much everyone here knows that I published my first novel, Taken Liberty – A Tale from the Arbiter Chronicles, in 2006. It’s based on my audio series, The Arbiter Chronicles, which has earned the Mark Time Silver Award and the Parsec Award. The novel was recommended by Library Journal and is on shelves in hundreds of libraries around the country. It’s not a New York Times bestseller, but, in hard copy, eBook and audio, it’s been purchased or downloaded to the tune of something like 20,000 copies. Pretty good for a first novel from a tiny little local press.

Fewer of you may know that I wrote the original outline for the story that became Taken Liberty twenty years ago. I submitted it to an editor who liked it and wanted to purchase it. Then that editor was transferred, and the new editor hated the story. In 1998 I drafted it into a novel. Then I set the novel aside and created a radio show set in its universe. When I revisited the novel, I was, I suppose, something of an approximation of a “mature” and “experienced” writer, and my novel was well-received, even if it didn’t make me rich.

My overall point here is that Taken Liberty is a story that I conceived a long time ago. I can prove ownership in it. I have documentation. I have witnesses. Lots of them.

So I was a bit surprised, last Winter, to come across a (pseudo) published work whose storyline bears what I consider to be a striking resemblance to the plot of Taken Liberty. I was at a loss to know what to do about that. I consulted with some trusted friends, most of whom have advised me that my preferred direct approach (contacting the authors of the newer work and politely saying, “I’ve noticed some similarities…”) would merely put those authors on the defensive, accomplishing nothing. So I decided to take two steps:

1 – I consulted a copyright attorney, and filed what documents are necessary to protect my rights to my work. I was very concerned that letting the unauthorized adaptation stand unchallenged would give the other creator some claim to my intellectual property should I ever decide to, say, sell film rights in Taken Liberty. I am assured that the steps my attorney has taken will prevent that. They have harmed this other creator not at all.

2 – I am sharing with a friendly audience that this has happened, and stating my reasons for believe that, intentionally or otherwise, someone else has adapted my novel.

I’ve no desire to grant this other work any publicity. I won’t, therefore, mention its name, or the name of its credited authors. But I’m listing (in what I hope is a factual and objective manner) the similarities I found between the two stories, my twenty-year-old one, and the new one.

In both stories:

– The moral problem is that it may be politically expedient for a government that condemns slavery to return an escaped slave to her owners.

– An escaped female slave petitions asylum aboard a military vessel.

– A male doctor and the senior surgeon is the first to reveal the slave’s pheromones as a problem.

– A woman doctor is the first member of that vessel’s crew to befriend the slave.

– The vessel’s Captain and his female doctor clash over the slave’s disposition.

– The slave radiates pheromones that make her attractive to males.

– The slave attempts to seduce the vessel’s captain in order to win her freedom. The Captain refuses her, but wants to help.

– The Captain’s superior orders him to turn the slave back over to her people, and informs him that a slaver vessel is already on its way to pick up the slave.

– The person who comes to collect the slave is not just any representative of her people, but with very slave trader who originally sold her and abused her.

– The slave is accused of murdering someone in the course of trying to escape.

– Telepathy is used on the slave to find out the truth of her story.

– The slave’s case is taken up by a young officer.

– The young officer helps the slave in an escape attempt, placing him in defiance of his Captain’s orders.

– The slave attempts suicide, and her death (faked, in my story) resolves the immediate diplomatic incident.

The creator of this other work has had the opportunity to comment on these similarities. He said he’s never heard of me or my work, and that these similarities are coincidences.


Reader, what do you believe?

If, like me, you’re angry and you feel that someone has taken unfair advantage of a guy he considers to be a little-known creator who is no credible threat, here’s how you can help: Help me get better-known. If you enjoy my work — be it my blogs, my plays, my podcasts, my quirky, idiotic jokes in staff meetings — share that joy with someone you know. Hell, with everyone you know. Let more and more people know that The Arbiter Chronicles exist, that there are two excellent novels available in trade paperback, eBook and audio formats. That there are eighteen podcast episodes of the series. That there are four eNovellas available. All of that is linked here:

The Audio Drama Podcasts

Free Audiobooks at Podiobooks.com

My Books and eBooks at:



Barnes & Noble (The guy who spells it “Stephen” is not me! Nor did I write the book on Science and Engineering.)


Kobo (Again, the search includes some books not mine.)

Help spread the word about my work. Mention it on your blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, at the water cooler. Review it, if you’re really feeling kind. Help me prove that living well is the best revenge. And it’s the only revenge I want. I don’t want to see the other guy fail. I don’t even want to make him stop distributing his adapted work. I would have preferred he give me the story credit I feel I deserve, but he doesn’t agree I deserve it; and I don’t want to mortgage my house (again) to take him to court. So I’ll settle for having more and more people know that my work is here, that I created it first, and that it’s deeper, richer and more imaginative than anything he’ll ever produce on his own.

Fair enough? More than fair, I think.

Character Development as World Building – Part Three

I continue from last week, where I was running through my own creative process in developing the characters, and along the way the worlds, which make up my series, The Arbiter Chronicles. As explain last week, I work by asking myself a lot of questions, and answering them allows me to develop my story.

Question: What kind of society makes it strange to have a relationship with your parents?

With this question, framed about the character Kaya, I move off earth and create the character that’s going to be both a romantic interest and a different kind of foil for my hero. This is a very smart, capable woman for whom Terry Metcalfe will fall hard. And, because I wanted that element of old, pulpy space-opera, she’s going to be the Captain’s daughter. But she has to be a misfit to be part of my team. She’s smart, she’s rich, she’s beautiful. What’s wrong with her? Her people think she’s weird because she has a man she recognizes as her father.

Wait, every human has a father and a mother. What kind of world is she from that it’s weird that she knows hers?

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Character Development as World Building – Part Two

Last time I talked about world-building, and how I think it’s properly accomplished by starting with your lead characters and building the world that they need to live in, the world that would have produced somebody like them. (Of course, it’s important to point out that the world we grow up in is only one factor in the person we actually become. “Nature or Nurture” is an old question, and I agree with L. Neill Smith’s answer–ultimately it is each one of us, not external factors, who determine who we are. But there’s no denying that place changes us.)

So this week, I want to start showing you how I used my own method to create worlds for my most successful series, a space opera called The Arbiter Chronicles.

My Example

The Arbiter Chronicles is a teen-angst story about outcasts. When I started, I knew I wanted a cast of five young characters, mostly from different worlds. I made them each different and therefore rejected by most of the people around them. Why did I do that? Because, above all, you’ve got to write what you know. You may be writing about worlds that don’t exist, where people have powers no human could ever have, but, at some level, you’ve got to write what you know. I started creating the Arbiters when I was a freshman in college. At that point, what I knew best was what it was like to be a high school geek. So I made my characters young misfits in space.

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For Your Review – No Seriously

Upfront — this is an appeal. I’m asking you to do something. It’s not a favor. I hate favors. It’s something I think is a critical part of the writer/reader relationship. It may be something you don’t always think about, but it’s really, really important.

First, let me ask you a question.

How do you hear about books? Stop and think about it. What’s your favorite book? How did you first discover it? If it’s a lifetime favorite, probably a parent, librarian or a teacher read it to you when you were little. If it’s a favorite from your teen years, probably a friend recommended it, or some adult told you not to read it. (The Catcher in the Rye syndrome, I call that.) My all-time favorite book, I’m pretty sure, is Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein. One of my best friends in high school (and still one of my best friends today) turned me on to Heinlein. As an adult, you probably found some favorites just by looking on bookstore shelves. But somewhere along the line, if you’re a serious reader, you started asking, “What else is out there that I’ve missed?” And to answer that question, you did one of two things: you asked your librarian or bookseller to make a recommendation, or you read book reviews. Continue reading

The Arbiter Logs #4: The White Lady

TheWhiteLady2Only 99 cents! 

Visiting the colony of New Rhineland, the Arbiters are lured into the centuries old German ghost story of the White Lady, a harbinger of death and spirit of vengeance. Metcalfe is confronted by the most haunting spectre of all — that of his sister, Lydia.

The White Lady is the fourth adventure of the crew of the CNV Arbiter, adapted from the Mark Time and Parsec Award-winning audio drama series, The Arbiter Chronicles. Library Journal calls the Arbiters “a cast of compelling characters,” and Analog calls the Chronicles “a fun romp… like a cross between the funniest episodes of the original Star Trek and Monty Python.”

Buy it for:
All formats at Smashwords | Kindle | Nook  | iBooks


The Arbiter Logs #1: Mutiny Springs Eternal

MutinyA century ago, the Faraday disappeared. The great ship dropped into the mysterious region known as L-space, never to be seen again. There are only legends left, legends of mutiny, of murder, and of the discovery of forbidden secrets. Today, the young midshipmen of the patrol ship Arbiter have found Faraday, a ghost ship orbiting a remote planet. And, somehow, someone… or something… has survived.

Mutiny Springs Eternal is the first adventure of the crew of the CNV Arbiter, adapted from the Mark Time and Parsec Award-winning audio drama series, The Arbiter Chronicles. Library Journal calls the Arbiters “a cast of compelling characters,” and Analog calls the Chronicles “a fun romp… like a cross between the funniest episodes of the original Star Trek and Monty Python.”

Buy it for: Kindle | Nook | Other formats at Smashwords