Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus

Making its debut in print Thursday, August 2nd, is the fourth novel in the on-going Zack Jackson series, Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus.

Join Zack as he returns to for his second year at Cytherean Academy and reunites with his friends Ix and Jenny.

“Breaking news from Cytherea!”

“Cytherean Security is cooperating with troops from the Devoran Defense Force in a city-wide search for a 14-year-old student. If you see or know the whereabouts of Zack Jackson, please report immediately to the nearest authorities. Under no circumstances should you approach the suspect, he is considered armed and dangerous.”

It was natural for Zack to assume his second year at Cytherean Academy would bring fresh challenges and new friends. However, he never imagined being pursued as a criminal by the Devoran military. Meanwhile, something stirs beneath the city, in the crushing depths under the churning, acidic clouds.

What are the Devorans hiding about the secret of Venus?

You can buy it directly from me if you’re attending Gen Con, otherwise, you can purchase it for your Kindle or in print from

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Zack Jackson 4 Delays – A Eulogy of Sorts

So, I had hoped to have Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus all wrapped up by the Fourth of July, but unfortunately, last weekend brought with it tragedy with threw the rest of our week into disarray.

Saturday, my cat slept all day. Literally; we couldn’t get her to wake up for more than a few minutes at a time. When she did wake up, she seemed to have trouble walking. Our day was fairly normal; we didn’t realize until the evening that she had not, in fact, done ANYTHING all day besides sleep (she was 17 years old, so she slept a lot).

We took her to the Vet ER (not my first choice, since the vets at that particular location don’t really know how to handle my cat. They did their poke and prodding thing, gave her some IM fluids (couldn’t get an IV in because she was a bit dehydrated) and an appetite stimulant. We weren’t able to get that in her, but we were able to give her the other medicine she’d been on since we moved; an anti-anxiety drug that also served as a pain killer.

Things seemed OK after that. Sunday, she was still lethargic, though not as much as she was Saturday. Her left hind leg seemed to be bothering her and we knew she had a bit of arthritis in that knee. I had made an appointment at her regular veterinary office earlier in the day, so we took her and had her examined by a vet who knew how to handle my cat. They took some blood and we weren’t able to get any more answers. We made a follow-up appointment for the next day when her regular vet would be in. During dinner, we heard some noises upstairs. I knew she’d gone up there to lay under a small table I have in the hallway, so I dashed up to see her thrashing around like she was stuck, though there was nothing for her to get tangled in. I brought her downstairs.

Her gait was extremely slow, her tailed held low and she stuck to the perimeters of the rooms. As the evening progressed, it seemed increasingly likely that she could not see. She’d walk into walls if her whiskers or ears didn’t touch them first. She did eat and drink and use the litter box, but only after we directed her toward them.

I’d often joked that Callie would end up one of those gnarly 25-30 year old cats before she died. At her last appointment in January, she received a clean bill of health; everything looked great for a nearly 17 year-old cat.

On Monday, the vet confirmed that our suspicion was very likely; she’d had at least one stroke over the weekend. He said that her could refer us to a nearby neurological specialist, but with a 17 year-old cat…

It was a conclusion my wife and I had already discussed. The cat we took to the vet lacked the spunk, vigor, and fight that our Callie was known for. She was blind, in pain, and suffering. We made the difficult decision to euthanize her. I held her when she started to stumble after they gave her the sedative and helped her lie down, where she fell asleep with her head on my arm. Looking back, I can say that, when they euthanized her, she went out as she lived, sleeping on my arm.

RIP my little girl, Callie.
2001 – June 25, 2018

Kitten Callie (technically before I knew her, but not long before)


Kitty Boops


Callie looking on while I write one of the Scars of the Sundering novels


Wassup, you?


A pretty girl


Her favorite place to sleep


Sleeping in our new home

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Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus Cover Art

Once again, Joshua Pinkas has come through with some excellent, nay, AMAZING cover art for the next book in the Zack Jackson series.

We get a great view of Cytherea at the bottom right as well as an awesome… well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out what’s going on.

Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus will be available on Kindle and in print early Spring 2018.

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Gen Con 50 Wrap-Up!

The Best Four Days of Gaming™ have come and gone and Gen Con 50 is behind us. I came away with a pleasing number of sales (which will hopefully generate some new fans for the World of Calliome and Zack Jackson), some new ideas, and a few hopes for future projects/collaborations. I would love to shout from the rooftops about a couple of these potential opportunities, but since nothing is set in stone, it really would serve no purpose save to get my hopes up. I prefer to be calm about such things until there’s something to actually talk about.

The convention itself was the typical mix of awesome and obnoxious. Fortunately, the awesome outweighed the obnoxious. I think I’m going to invest in some cloth banners to hang from the backdrop next year and eschew the pictures in frames. They’re unwieldly, unstable, and difficult to travel with. I’m also happy that only one person made the mistake of thinking MY name is Zack Jackson.

At some point, I suppose I’ll have to start picking and choosing which titles to bring. I’ll definitely have Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus for next year (I’m hoping to have it published by the end of the year, frankly), and if my schedule holds and no immediate paid work comes up, maybe another title as well.

There is another World of Calliome novel in the works, but as I’m only about 1/4 – 1/3 into the first draft, that’s all I’ll say about it for now. Well, that, and it features a cast of all-new characters.

I can’t really comment on the gaming. As an exhibitor on Author’s Avenue, I only spent about an hour wandering the Dealer Hall, and since most vendors were closed when I did, I didn’t see much. I didn’t sign up for any events; when you work all day in the Dealer Hall, committing yourself to something else when you could be finding dinner and resting for the next day is difficult. It’s tiring, but rewarding.

The next convention at which I’m scheduled to make an appearance is GameHole Con in Madison, WI. I’m mostly scoping that con out this year, so I’m only appearing on one panel and will likely not be there all four days. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and hope that you keep reading.

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Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus

Zack Jackson Arc

The first draft of Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus is complete!

Once I remembered how to write for this series (three fantasy novels in a row kind of made forget some of the character’s voices), I had a lot of fun writing it. There are several new characters to look out for:

  • Rio, a transfer student who takes a liking to Zack
  • Major Jericho, an EAC fleet officer who is on Cytherea to help with the immigration of Confederation citizens relocating to Vilicus
  • Kaneer, a Kerrolan who is Zack and Ix’s new roommate
  • Valianna Hallox, a Noble Devoran and daughter of the former Emperor of Devorus, temporarily stopping at Cytherea en route to Vilicus… Dravs may be in love…

I hope to have this one available for sale by next August (to be released at Gen Con). After a short break, I will start writing book 5, Zack Jackson & the Ruins of Athos.

You can buy the previous three Zack Jackson books at

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Seven Galaxies stories now available!

Forgotten Dreams Cover for webA few years ago, I wrote two short stories for Fear the Boot’s Sojourn speculative fiction anthologies. The rights have reverted back to me, so I am making “Forgotten Dreams” and “The Pleasure Pools of Persiphia” individually available on Kindle.

They are $0.99 each. If you prefer print, they’re still available in the Sojourn anthologies, but I will also have a convention-exclusive flipbook version available starting at ConQuest 47 in Kansas City, MO.

The flipbook has both stories bound together, but they’re upside down with respect to each other. When you finish one story, you close the book, flip it over, and start the other. Since they’re not sequels (though they share a setting), it doesn’t matter in which order you read them. I plan on selling the flipbook for $5 only at conventions (ConQuest, Gen Con, whatever other shows I exhibit at). I will likely also offer direct sales of these, so if you can’t get to one of my convention appearances, I’ll have something set up for you to send me $5 +shipping via PayPal and I’ll mail a signed copy out to you.

Pleasure Pools Cover for webYou may ask, “Well, why not make it permanently available in print on Lulu or someplace like that?” Very simple: they won’t guarantee consistent results with the flipbook. Automated systems don’t like seeing half of a print file upside down. Plus, I would have to sully one of the beautiful covers with a barcode and since each side is upside down with respect to the other, placement is problematic. Later this year, I may investigate making individual print copies available, but the price I’d have to charge to make it cost-effective may not be worth your while for a 10,000-word short story.

Please note: production of these is not in any way holding up production of Scars of the Sundering, book 2: LamentLament is currently with my editor and Beta Readers. Cover art has been ordered and everything is on track for a Gen Con release. Scars of the Sundering, book 3: Salvation is written. Editing will begin on that once Lament is published.



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Not an Announcement – Star Trek: The Terror Paradox

On March 31, I wanted to make an announcement. I was waiting for word from a publisher if my short story had been accepted for an anthology.

The anthology was the latest Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology. The story I wrote: “The Terror Paradox,” was an Original Series story. In the best tradition of Star Trek, I took contemporary events and dealt with them through the lens of the 23rd century. In this case, the Paris terrorist attacks in November of 2015.

TOS-Enterprise“The Terror Paradox” was not among the stories selected. As is par for the course for these sorts of contests, I have no idea why my story wasn’t selected. So, if it really, really sucked, at least I can delude myself as to its quality.

I could re-write the short story, keep all the themes and rename the characters and Star Trek names. I think it would be pretty thinly disguised, though. I think I’ll keep it a Star Trek story and just give it away.

Perhaps I was overly optimistic regarding my chances. I still believe “The Terror Paradox” was a GOOD Star Trek story told in the finest tradition of the Original Series. Am I disappointed?

Yes. I wanted the feather in my cap that said “published Star Trek author.” Alas.

I’m not going to stop writing, though. I was writing before the contest and I’ll continue to do so. I did not pin all of my hopes and dreams on this one contest, though I admit had it come along five to six years ago, I might have just given up. Rejection is something all writers have to deal with.

Assuming I was rejected because I’m a horrible writer fails to take into account the arbitrary nature of contests. I did get a confirmation that my submission was recieved, but maybe I screwed up the entry formatting. Sometimes, if you don’t precisely dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s, you’ll be rejected out of hand (I don’t think I screwed that part up). Maybe all the other stories were super-awesome and mine was only awesome. Maybe they had a mandate that they could only include one original series story and the other one was just a little closer to what they were looking for (more comedy, less Serious Topic). Who knows? I may never know, so focusing on the fact that I didn’t make the cut isn’t going to do me any good.

560px-Star_Trek_TOS_logo.svgYou can judge the quality of “The Terror Paradox” yourself. Please, download a copy in your preferred format. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to leave a comment.

EPUB (for e-readers other than Kindle)
MOBI (for Kindle devices)



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Meet Jenny


Art by Tadas Sidlauskas

Here’s another character from my Zack Jackson series, Genevieve “Jenny” DuBois.

Jenny is a Junior Ranger and student at Cytherean Academy, one of the EACs more prestigious schools. Cytherean Academy is on the eponymous aerostat on Venus. (See, breathable air is a lifting gas on Venus. In theory, an aerostat filled with breathable air would float in Venus’s dense atmosphere around 50 km. up, which provides approx. 1 ATM of pressure and livable temperatures, though folks still need protection from the clouds of sulphuric acid.)

She was born and lives (when she’s not attending school) on Messier Habitat in orbit around Mars. Don’t mistake them for Martians, though. Messiers are proud of their French heritage and will let you know it.

She’s pictured with a cloud glider. She’s solo rated and spends downtime at the academy helping Coach Dagon instruct other students, but thus far has resisted joining the school team as she feels it would be too much like work at that point.

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Meet Mungus

So, I’ve commissioned some more character art, this time from my Zack Jackson series.



Art by Tadas Sidlauskas

This is Mungus (more properly, Mungaborrarius, son of Goreborrarius Tonnarvassas, First Warrior of Clan Stonetalon), an Ersidian from my Zack Jackson series. He’s a Junior Ranger in the same troop as Zack, Jenny, and the Valtraxian, Ix. Unlike the others, he still lives on his homeworld; his temper has gotten him kicked out of all the local troops.

The large knife on his back was his grandsire’s. Ersidians once had a proud, honor-obsessed warrior culture to which they still pay lip service. Their braids are their badges of honor. The more story beads woven into their braids, the more honor an Ersidian has. Cutting a braid to give to a friend is a mark of great trust and honor and other Ersidians will leap to the aid of one who carries an Honor Braid. Forcibly cutting an Ersidian’s braids is a gross violation and is punishable by death on Ersid. The Earth-Alpha Centauri Alliance feels this punishment is too harsh for a haircut and won’t extradite criminals to Ersid.

Mungus is an interesting character to include because he doesn’t go to school with the others, so realistically, he only appears in books that take place on annual term-break Junior Ranger trips. In books that take place during the school year, he mostly shows up in long-distance correspondence.

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Zack Jackson becoming reality

Though I was inspired by Star Trek’s replicators, I feature clothing fabricators in the Zack Jackson series regularly (in fact, these fabricators are used for most household items, like dishes, clothing, and furniture). I was very gratified to see this project pop up on Kickstarter: 3D Fabric Printer.

While the technology is in its infancy, it seems that within our lifetimes we may be able to order up and create our own cloth from the comfort of our homes. It’s commonplace technology in the 43rd century of Zack Jackson’s universe. Might it be commonplace sooner than that in our world?

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