A Sneak Peek at Striking It Rich

The Martian Chronicle was the place to drink for anyone in the capital city who was anyone.  While Frankie didn’t necessarily enjoy the atmosphere of high traffic night clubs, there was an open tab on alcohol that wouldn’t cause brain cancer.

Frankie leaned on the bar, trying to look casual and feel relaxed, but as with most public places he went with the crew of the Rosebud, he just ended up feeling out of place. Granted, there were few places in the galaxy that he actually ever relaxed, but at least in his bunk, he didn’t have to worry about anyone figuring out where he really came from or how he ended up drinking with a rowdy freighter crew after hours in Gale City.

He took another sip of the dark ale in his glass and admitted to himself that it wasn’t so bad after all. At least the alcohol was good, and Trigg was paying for it.

He glanced around the bar, looking for his crewmates. Janet and Stubb were on the dance floor. Janet danced with a certain wild abandon, her dark hair flowing around her smooth shoulders. Stubb swayed rhythmically but looked decidedly awkward compared to Janet’s abilities. The two seemed inseparable, even after Janet’s promotion to acting chief a year ago. If he remembered correctly, she would soon be confirmed and permanently instated in that role. Stubb remained in cargo but spent a lot of his extra time helping Janet around the ship, handing her tools. They both insisted that they weren’t a couple, but Frankie thought that if they had wanted to be, they would be perfect for each other.

Trigg and Lucky sat at the end of the bar in a relatively quiet corner, concentrating on a single flex screen, their heads nearly touching. He could tell by their body language that they were deep in discussion, probably about some obscure book they had found at a market somewhere. Lucky gestured to something on the screen and began ticking off points on her fingers. Two drinks sat on the table in front of them, ignored as their discussion deepened.

Frankie took another drink, holding the dark ale in his mouth as he watched his friends enjoying themselves. He was grateful that the crew of the Rosebud had been willing to take him and give him a place to live and a name to use when he’d had nowhere else to go, but he still occasionally felt outside the group. He didn’t know why he still felt that way—he’d been with the crew only a couple of months less than Lucky, but she had managed to acclimate and make the Rosebud her home much more than he probably ever would.

He swallowed, remembering the night that tore him from his own home and family. A single shot from a revolver, and he’d found himself in the cold desert night with no future. He’d fallen as he’d fled, getting dust in his mouth, the bland taste drowning out his fear. Now, that same bland taste seemed to color all of his interactions. He was just going through the motions.

“You look glum.”

He turned to see that Janet had, once again, sneaked up beside him. She was sipping a drink from a wide glass—probably a rum and soda if she followed her preferred patterns.

“You are always intense enough for both of us, so I figured I needed to balance it out,” he said, swigging from his ale again.

Janet swirled her drink and batted her eyelashes, feigning innocence. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Stubb appeared at his other elbow, the shorter man starting to show signs of intoxication. “You always just lean on the bar and look…what does he look like, Janet?” Stubb asked.

“Glum,” Janet said.

Stubb shook his head. “No, you used that one already. Choose another word.”

Sombrío, ¿no?” she said after a moment. “My abuela used to call Papa that all the time.”

“I’m pretty sure that is just Spanish for ‘glum’,” Stubb said.

“Well, you always look grumpy or glum.” Janet sipped from her drink. “Why is that, Frankie?”

Frankie sighed and took another long pull of ale. “Well, gee, I don’t know, Janet. Maybe it’s because I’m in exile and will never see my family or friends again. Maybe it’s because you keep calling me a name that doesn’t really ring true to me. Or maybe it’s because I just don’t see any other life than this and being trapped isn’t really a good feeling.”

Janet’s jovial mood vanished, and her face turned serious, a wave of surprise flickering through her eyes before quickly disappearing. “I thought we were your family, Frankie,” she said. Frankie could barely hear her voice, as it had turned cold and quiet in the heated noise of the club. A flicker of remorse pricked his conscience, but the alcohol in the ale was starting to affect his brain and he ignored it. He shrugged and turned back to watch the dancers under the lights. He could sense that there was more about to come out of Janet’s mouth, and he was ready for it. Any argument she could make, he could counter with the rough reality of what he had been living the past several months.

Stubb stepped around Frankie and stood by Janet’s elbow, gently reaching out and putting a hand on her shoulder, cutting off further words from her. “Hey, it’s okay for him to feel frustrated, Janet,” Stubb said. “Not everyone understands the crew the way you do.” He leaned closer to her. “Just give him more time,” he said, so quietly that Frankie barely heard him.

Janet’s facial expression didn’t change as she took another large swallow from the drink in her glass. “Drink up, Frankie,” she said, forced joviality in her voice. “We’re paying for it.” She gestured across the room. “Plus, looks like you have an admirer.”

Frankie followed her gesture to see a slender, olive skinned woman on the dance floor. She was staring at him, impossibly long and dark eyelashes fluttering against her cheek as her body slowly undulated to the music. The dim lights in the ceiling shone cast a golden crown on her silky hair, the dark tresses cascading down her back. She bit her lip as she made eye contact with him, one long finger beckoning him to join her.

Surprised, Frankie looked back over his shoulder at Janet and Stubb. Both grinned, Janet’s hurt feelings apparently forgotten for the moment. She gestured for him to go, reaching out and grabbing his near-empty glass. “Go, go, go,” she said. “Remember, make good decisions!”

Frankie felt a small smile quirk the corner of his mouth. “Yes, Mom,” he said. Trying to ignore the proud parental looks he was receiving from Stubb and Janet, he pushed off the bar and headed towards the dance floor.

The woman who had beckoned him over began to dance as a new song came on the loudspeakers, turning around so he could see her entire figure. She was truly exquisite and in his inebriated state he couldn’t help thinking she was a walking—or rather, dancing—work of art. Her dark dress was made from some sort of silky shimmering fabric and clung to every curve of her body in a way that was sensual and yet tasteful.

“Hi,” she said as he approached, her voice husky and warm. “I’m Della.”

“I’m Frankie,” he said.

“I like that name,” her husky voice purred in his ear, her long arms twining around his neck. He instinctively wrapped his arms around her in response, his hands resting lightly on the curve of her hip. She moved closer, her breasts lightly brushing again his chest. He flushed, and tried to back up a little, but she smiled through full lips. “Don’t be shy, Frankie,” she said. “Just dance with me and enjoy it.”

He took a deep breath, thinking it had been a long time since he had been this close to a woman and it wasn’t a situation he was really equipped to deal with, but the deep amber eyes looking at him in the golden light made him want to try it out and see what might happen. The alcohol warming his chest didn’t help to clear his head either, and he pulled her closer. As they swayed to the music, he tried to ignore the feeling of Janet and Stubb staring at the back of his head and just enjoy the woman’s warm vanilla scent.

He caught a flash of burnished gold out of the corner of his eye and saw that Janet and Stubb had turned back to the bar top and were carefully ignoring him swaying with Della on the dance floor.

She was tall, her height aided by the large heels on her shoes. They stayed together on the dance floor for a few more songs, dancing close enough to touch. Her smile was a little shy, but her physical contact with him wasn’t. She asked about his livelihood, fluttering her eyelashes at the mention that he was a spacer and spent most of his days on a cargo ship traversing the galaxy.

“That must be so…lonely,” she’d said, after hearing about how he didn’t have any family or any friends outside the crew he worked with. “It’s sad that someone as nice as you would have to spend all that time in the cold void of space all by himself.”

He shrugged in a self-deprecating way, saying it was the hand he was dealt, and he supposed he would have to live with it. She sighed, biting those soft, full lips and shaking her head. She mentioned not be brave enough to leave Mars—she had been born and raised on the Red Planet and didn’t ever see getting to see any other planet in the galaxy. The alcohol coursing through his blood stream was definitely making him feel bolder than he would have felt otherwise. He tucked a finger under her chin and gazed deep into those rich eyes, telling her that she was braver than she could even imagine. At her shy and embarrassed smile, he was overcome with tenderness and leaned in, his lips meeting hers in a gentle yet firm lock. To his surprise, she quickly deepened the kiss until they were fully, passionately engaged. He cupped the back of her head, breaking to take a deep breath, but resting his forehead against hers.

“We should get out of here,” Della said.

He nodded, not sure he was capable of a full sentence. He opened his eyes, ready to follow her anywhere, but was interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. He turned and saw another tall woman, her dark skin and black clothes making her difficult to recognize in the dim light.

“I’m sorry, do I know you?” he asked, not even trying to hide the irritation in his voice.

The woman’s face contorted into a grimace and she reached out and slapped him across the face. “You’re such a bastard,” she snarled. “I wait months for you to come back to Mars, and instead of calling me I find you here trading saliva with the first woman you see?”

Della stepped away quickly, her hands releasing Frankie’s waist. “Wait, is he with you?” she asked the angry woman.

“He was,” the other woman spat. “Told me he wanted me to wait for him and everything, then disappeared into space for months at a time. Let me guess, he told you how lonely he was, only having his crew for company and all?”

Della’s face fell, and she looked up at Frankie. “I mean, yeah,” she said.

“Don’t believe it,” the angry woman said. “Sorry to bust your evening, lady, but honestly I just saved you a world of hurt.”

Frankie looked between the two women, struggling to keep up with the exchange through the haze of alcohol. He turned to Della, a pleading look on his face. “I don’t know who she is at all,” he said, reaching out to her. “Please, don’t go—”

“Forget it, Frankie,” the angry woman said. “Leave her alone.” She made a shooing gesture towards Della. “Look, he pays for part of my apartment. I’ll take him home and sober him up. Just be glad you dodged a bullet. Go on now, sweetie.”

With a sniff, Della disappeared into the crowd of dancers. She didn’t look back.

Frankie frowned, surprised to hear the angry woman using his name. His own irritation was sobering him up quickly as he looked her up and down. She was dressed in a sensible business suit, a white collared shirt peeking out from under a dark blazer. Her black hair was thick with what he realized were multiple tiny braids, all of it woven together into a thick bun on the back of her head. When she spoke, her teeth flashed white in the darkness of the club. He knew he was still a little drunk, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember ever having met her before in his entire life.

“I really don’t know you, do I?” he asked her.

She took him by the elbow and started steering him towards the side exit door. “No,” she said, her voice just loud enough to be heard over the music.

They stepped out into the clear Martian night, the cold biting through Frankie’s shirt. “I left my jacket inside,” he said, turning to go back in.

“Here,” she held out a dark leather jacket to him. “I picked it up before I saved you.”

He scoffed and snatched it from her hand. “You ‘saved’ me? Really, lady?”

She smirked and shook her head. “I guess you haven’t heard about Jose’s Girls, then?” When he shook his head, she continued, “They’re prostitutes. They prowl the nightclubs, flirt with the vulnerable, and then after the deeds are done, they extort the men for money.”

Frankie frowned at her. “You’re lying—prostitution is illegal on the colonies.”

The woman snorted a derisive laugh. “Prostitution is only illegal if someone gets caught,” she said. “So, I just saved you the most expensive and illegal night of your life.”

Frankie grumbled. This definitely wasn’t the most illegal night of his life, and while he was relieved he hadn’t gotten trapped into having to pay for the evening, he definitely did not want to admit any of that.

“You’re welcome,” she said, interrupting his grumbling.

“Thanks, I guess,” he said.

She pointed down the road behind him. “Spaceport is that way. Have a good evening, and stay out of trouble, Frankie.” She turned and walked away in the opposite direction, making long strides in sensible shoes.

“How do you know my name?” he called after her.

She tossed a wave over her shoulder, not turning around. A moment later, she turned the street corner and was lost to sight.

Shivering in the cold, Frankie pulled on his jacket. He stuffed his hands deep in the pockets and headed back to the ship, still muttering curses to himself.

Frankie returned to his bunk on the Rosebud, feeling dejected. The cold of the Martian night seemed to have seeped into his very bones, causing him to ache all over. He sat down heavily on his bed and scrubbed two hands over his face, trying to dispel the fatigue calling him to collapse onto the bed and just sleep his woes into oblivion.

A quiet ping caught his attention. The personal computer station in his quarters was flashing a small, green light. He reached forward and keyed the screen to life, seeing that he had received a message while he was out at the Chronicle.

He pulled the message up and was surprised when a large amount of text filled the screen. In a time when video conferencing and voice transmission was the cheapest form of communication between the planets, text-based messages were considered a more formal approach to communication. The sender’s contact card appeared in the top left side of the screen, showing a headshot of an older, distinguished looking gentleman in a suit and tie. His salt and pepper hair was cropped close and a neatly trimmed goatee covered his chin. The postmark was from Earth, which Frankie found strange, as he didn’t have any contacts on Earth at all.

He looked down to read the message.

To: Francis Staple

Sir,

I hope this letter finds you in good health. Allow me to introduce myself: I am James Francis Staple, III, of Staple Holdings. For reasons that I can explain at a later time, your name appearing on a crew manifest out of Newport triggered a series of tracking algorithms owned and managed by my family.

You no doubt have noticed the similarities in our names, and it is this very similarity that has prompted this message. I would like to offer you a deal—a business arrangement, if you will, that I think will be beneficial to both of us.

I have managed to find the flight plan of your current ship of occupation, the Rosebud, and I see that we are scheduled to be on Newport at the same time, in about a week. I would very much enjoy the opportunity to share a meal with you, based on your availability and the local time your ship arrives at dock. I have included the contact information for my hotel while on Newport and eagerly await your call once you land.

I thank you for your time and attention in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

JF Staple

Frankie read the letter three more times, each time becoming more confused by its content. He had no inclination of what kind of business arrangement could be made just based on a name, no matter how similar it was. When he had been rechristened as Francis Staple, Frankie had not received a middle name, just the two names that appeared on his identification card. At the time, he had been in a distracted state of mind and did not think to ask Jonas, the tech wizard who had facilitated his rebirth, if the lack of a middle name would affect the believability of his dossier. Concerned, he quickly pulled up the Net and ran a search on the name Francis Staple, finding no records more recent that six months. All older records appeared to refer to the man that had sent him the message, and his family.

Troubled, he shut off the computer screen and sat back on his bunk, fists clenched and thumbs twiddling nervously. Maybe it was a scam targeting everyone with the last name of Staple. It couldn’t be a particularly unusual name, right? Not in a population spanning entire swaths of the galaxy. However, in thirty years of being alive, he had never once met another Staple, either on his home planet of San Pedro or on any of the other colonies he had visited.

He yawned, causing his jaw to pop near his ear. There was nothing he could do about any of this tonight, he realized, as sleep began to creep over him. In the morning, he would ask Trigg’s opinion on the message. Maybe he could even contact Jonas Solomon on Newport. What other surprises he could expect from his name going forward?

Aaaand we’re back! (Lucky Updates – March 30, 2018)

Happy Friday, Readers!

At long last, I am happy to share that the paper copies of Lucky are once more available on retail sites such as Amazon. If you haven’t done so already, you can order your copy here: bit.ly/LuckyTheBook

I am also very excited to announce my first “official” appearance as an author! I will be attending El Paso Comic Con on April 13, 14 and 15! I am attending with the Fictioneers of the Desert, a group of local El Paso authors that also include YA novelist Jessica Bucher and award-winning mystery author LC Hayden. We are very excited to be attending El Paso Comic Con for the first time this year, and we hope to see you there!

I will also be attending an author panel at the convention on Sunday, April 15, at 11:00 am. I will be available to answer any questions in person at the panel and also afterward at the Fictioneers booth. For more information on El Paso Comic Con, visit: http://elpasocomiccon.com/

April and May are both going to be busy, busy months around here so I might not get to send email updates for a while. To stay up-to-date on Lucky and her adventures, please follow my social media accounts and blog:

 

Twitter: @RH_Webster

Facebook: R.H. Webster

I look forward to seeing you at El Paso Comic Con!
Happy Reading!
– Webster

Lucky Updates – March 26, 2018

My most beloved and most patient Readers,

Lucky is doing well out in the world on her own. She currently has a 4.5 out of 5 rating on Amazon (out of a whopping two reviews but let’s think positive here) and just received her first unsolicited blog post review from Red Talon Books. You can read the blog post here: https://www.redtalonbooks.com/single-post/Lucky
In other news – for anyone looking to order Lucky from online retailers such as Amazon, I beg another few days of patience. There has been a mild kerfuffle with the printing company that I am trying to straighten out.
On my first run of paperbacks, there was a coding issue on the back cover, in the text. When the text was converted to a PDF file for printing, an em dash in the text turned into a weird letter with an accent over it. The back cover is still readable but looks a little bit less professional.
I conferred with my cover artist who had created the file, and we discovered a way to lock the em dash in so it wouldn’t turn into a weird code thing again. I received the file and re-uploaded it to IngramSpark for revision.
However, the file can’t be replaced until all the orders that have been placed are completed and shipped out. My mistake in all of this was a rookie error – I didn’t disable distribution before trying to change the files. I’ve been pestering the good folks at IngramSpark Customer Service to get it corrected, but it is a bit of a wait-and-see process.
If you are seeing the print version of the novel as “unavailable” on Amazon, this is why. I am trying to get everything corrected and back into circulation. What I need from you is that you please do not order any more copies of this book until we get this straightened out. Every time another copy gets ordered, a resolution to this issue gets pushed back another two to three business days. 
In conclusion to this rather lengthy update, I will let everyone on the list know the moment the book is back in circulation. Feel free to send me any questions or concerns that you might have (ordered it as a present, for example).
Thank you as always for your support and patience. Without Readers, authors are simply shouting into the void; and without all of you, I would never have gotten this book finished and published.
Until next time,
Webster

RELEASE DAY – March 15, 2018

Happy Friday Eve, Readers!

Today is the day we’ve all been waiting for! Lucky has been released for distribution and is starting to appear on the web!

That’s right, Readers – you can order Lucky today! For the rest of today it’ll be a pre-order, but it will become available tomorrow so the wait won’t be terribly long.

To view Lucky on Amazon, click this link: https://goo.gl/gJh5b3

I have a couple of author events coming in the next few months and will give more information about those as they approach.

For now, the best way to support Lucky is to read and review! Independent and self-published authors (such as myself) live off reviews left on places like Amazon and Goodreads. Since we often can’t compete against the noise generated by books published by larger companies, we rely on people who have read the book to tell their friends about it.

Thank you all for your patience and perseverance during the long, long journey this book has taken on its way to the publishing date. Words cannot accurately capture my emotions at this moment, but just know that my gratitude is overflowing.

Happy Reading!

– Webster

WE DID IT

Good afternoon, Readers,

I did it. We made it.

Lucky was enabled for distribution worldwide this afternoon and now I can’t stop shaking.

Now, before you rush directly to Amazon, there is a short delay between “enabled for distribution” and “being ravenously devoured by avid fans” (wink wink). Part of that delay is simply the refresh process that retail websites and systems go through. It can take up to thirty days for the information for the book to appear on websites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. However, true to my word, everything will be released on March 16 and should start showing up in your searches shortly thereafter.

I will, of course, be posting more details as they become available, as well as links for purchase. But the big news today is that we did, against the odds, make it this far and that’s something.

A huge thanks to each Reader seeing this today. It’s been your support and patience that has enabled my childhood dream to become a reality.

Until next time,

– Webster

Quick Update – March 7, 2018

Good afternoon, Readers,

I am currently bundled up on the couch, fighting off a terrible cold and coughing my way to a six-pack.

Despite my illness, I wanted to give a quick update on how Lucky is doing. The ebook conversion has been completed and my physical proof copy is in the mail, due to arrive on Friday.

I made a few minor formatting changes today so that each individual copy of the book will be less expensive and easier to get your hands on. The validation and approval of these changes will take another day or two, and then I will be able to properly price the novel and release it to the general public.

I have received a couple of questions about the upcoming release that I will attempt to answer.

“Will the book be released in print as well as digitally?” Oh, yes. I am a huge fan of reading paper books, so I am definitely releasing the novel in both formats.

“Where can the book be purchased?” Once it’s released, it will most likely be available from major online retailers such as Amazon. You will also be able to order through physical retailers like Barnes & Noble and most other bookstores. I am currently working on a price structure that I can release to bookstores interested in carrying the novel on a regular basis.

I expect to have more news for you in the new several days, so (as always) stay tuned!

– Webster

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RHWebster.ScienceFiction/
Twitter: @RH_Webster
Website: http://www.RHWebster.wordpress.com

HAPPY LUCKY PUBLISHING DAY

Dear Readers,

HAPPY PUBLISHING DAY!!!

Except that yes, there is going to be a delay in releasing the novel. I am expecting the delay to be about two weeks, so I am looking at pushing the release date out until March 16, 2018.

That’s the bad news. There is a bunch of good news, though.

All the art and text files for the novel have been uploaded to the printing company and validated by an actual human. Physical proof files are even now being printed and shipped to me. I have my fingers crossed that they will be here by the end of the week. The eBook conversion is in process, meaning that the novel will be available to be downloaded from sources such as Amazon and iBooks. I am currently working on promotional materials, such as handouts, flyers, and maybe even hat pins (provided I can find someone to do hat pins for less than my first born child). It’s all very exciting.

I am especially excited to share the new cover art with you! It is currently featured below and on my author Facebook (www.facebook.com/RHWebster.ScienceFiction/) and Twitter (@RH_Webster).

Thanks again for your patience. These processes take time but I’m finding that they typically take less time than expected, so stay tuned for more updates in the coming days.

– Webster

Lucky_cover

Lucky Updates – February 23, 2018

Good afternoon, Readers,

We are very quickly approaching Lucky‘s publication date! As with most major dates, the closer we get, the more my anxiety spikes out of control.

I am a nervous wreck, y’all.

The final baby steps towards being fully published are being (slowly but surely) taken. On the positive side, I have received the official Library of Congress Control Number for Lucky, so that it can be tracked and ordered by libraries across the nation.

On the negative side, there have been unforeseen delays with completing and submitted the cover art. The first draft of the art came in last week and while exciting, the cover needed work to improve its readability and visual appearance. I assure you all that it will be well worth the wait, as my artist is very talented and is bringing her own unique style to the project.

My fear, however, is that this will make Lucky miss her set publication date on February 28. We only have a week left to go at this point, and I have not yet been able to see a fully formatted and printed hard copy of the novel. I will need to review the proof copies carefully to ensure that everything is properly spaced, italicized, spelled, etc, etc. I don’t think this will take much more than a week at most, so my plan currently is to only delay the publication by a week or two.

This being said: If I delay the publication, I will make every effort possible to make sure that you are able to get your copies of the novel as soon as possible. The printing company that I am using is a Print-On-Demand service, which means that a book is only printed when it is ordered. Depending on the volume of orders at any given moment, it could take a few extra days for your copies to reach you.

I hope you will forgive this delay as it is with every intention of bringing you the best and highest quality book possible. I will keep everyone up to date on the most recent developments as much as possible.

Thank you as always for your support. I’ve uploaded Chapter 5 of Lucky to my blog for your weekend reading. I hope you enjoy!

Until next time,
Webster

LUCKY – CHAPTER FIVE

Of all the things she thought would happen to her when she entered graduate school, serving on a freight vessel on a trip across the stars was not one of them. She was still unsure of what had compelled her to volunteer, what had driven her to give up four weeks of perfectly good reading time secluded in her cramped bunk to be barked at by the Commander Gray Eyes himself. Maybe it was the money. Maybe it was curiosity about the man she’d be working with. Maybe it was simply madness. She scoffed quietly to herself. Of course, the primary reason had to be the money; while she had been able to purchase a ticket back to Earth, she always felt on the brink of financial ruin.

She stared at the back of Commander Donner’s dark head, vaguely noting the soft wave in his hair before he turned back around to her, boots and flight suit in hand. He was quite possibly the most difficult man she had ever tried to get a read on. She tried to figure out his command style and his habits from watching his interactions with the crew, but their time with the group during the briefing was too short and Barnes was clearly too kowtowed to even breathe normally in Donner’s presence. Now, everyone on the ship was caught up in the pre-launch duties that accompanied getting a hunk of metal so large off a planetary surface.

Her new flight suit and boots in tow, she quickly retreated to her bunk and changed, then headed back to the launch deck. Adrenaline coursed through her body, making her muscles feel weak and shaky. She noticed a few surprised looks from the other passengers as she entered the launch deck wearing her new uniform and hoped that they didn’t notice how badly her hands were trembling.

The launch deck was simply a more formal name for a common area in the middle of the ship, but it did come equipped with specialized launch seats that made the taking off process vaguely easier. Each chair was securely welded to the ship’s internal support structure and featured a five-point crash harness to keep the passengers in their seats. Oxygen masks were also supplied, as well as small vents to blow cool, fresh air on those feeling particularly susceptible to motion sickness. Lucky had been through a launch process of entering zero gravity, adjusting to new gravity, and then the fun of the catapult enough times to know that she could handle it without showering her new shipmates with her most recent meals. She looked at the other passengers around her, currently strapping themselves down. A few looked nervous; one elderly lady was even holding a strand of rosary beads in her hands and murmuring quietly to herself. The two retired crewers Donner had tried to recruit seemed perfectly at ease, holding their wives’ hands and settling into the seats as much as anyone could.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a woman in a flight suit identical to Lucky’s sat down in the seat next to her and started strapping in. She was murmuring under her breath in rapid Spanish. Lucky only caught bits and pieces but gathered that the woman was not a fan of takeoff.

“How is it you work on a ship and still don’t like the takeoff process?” Lucky asked her.

The woman looked at her in surprise. “Habla español?” She grinned. “No me gustan los guisantes, pero los como porque son buenos para mí.

Lucky gave her a skeptical look. “I quit eating peas as soon as I started cooking for myself. I don’t care if they’re good for me or not.”

The woman smiled again, wider this time and laughed out loud. “We are going to get along famously.” She held out her hand. “Janet Ruiz.”

“Cassandra Luckenbach.”

The woman nodded knowingly. “I heard about you. Joining the party for a few weeks, no?”

“As far as Newport, according to the contract.”

Janet shook her head. “Is it true Trigg assigned you to be his personal aide?”

Lucky frowned. “Trigg…?”

“The commander. You think we actually call him Edmund Donner the Third? Please.” She giggled. Lucky thought she could hear a layer of nervousness beneath Janet’s seemingly never-ending mirth.

Lucky frowned. “But you get to call him by—what is that, a nickname? I mean, isn’t he in charge of the whole ship…?”

Janet laughed again. “Girl, you’ve got a lot to learn about the merchant ships. And it’s not like the movies, either.” She shrugged. “It’s not like we’re in the military or anything. ‘Captain’ and ‘Commander’ are just formalities that we make the passengers use to keep everyone in line. Kind of like you don’t call your doctor ‘Joe,’ right? You call him ‘Doctor So-and-so’ and that keeps the professionalism between you two. But as for us, we all just call each other whatever. Except for Barnes. Everyone makes his life hell and makes him call them all the proper titles.”

“I take it he’s the sweaty one?”

“Exactly.”

Lucky settled back into her seat and tried to get comfortable. The seats were built for functionality and easy storage, not napping. Honestly, she was reminded of the roller coasters her brothers used to drag her to ride in Orlando on summer vacations. The human race had developed space flight, settled colonies on distant planets, and set up sophisticated trade routes through the stars, and still roller coasters had the most uncomfortable seats on any of the planets.

Stubb appeared at the hatchway of the launch deck. “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, stepping through the doorway. “I’m here to check that your takeoff harnesses are properly closed.”

As he moved from one passenger to the next, tugging harnesses and demonstrating the quick release mechanism on the latch, Stubb seemed to be running low on the good humor that Lucky had witnessed earlier. His process was quick and efficient, and before too many minutes had passed, he was in front of Lucky and Janet.

“I need to check your straps, Miss Luckenbach,” he said.

“You can still call me Lucky,” she said as he reached for her harness.

He gave it a sharp tug. “In the event of an emergency, this red button on the side will quickly release your harness. It is best not to press the button unless explicitly ordered to by a uniformed crew member.”

“Lucky, release your straps,” Janet said from her side.

“A uniformed crewmember that isn’t Janet,” Stubb added, fixing the other woman with an unamused glare.

“Oh, come on, Stubb, you don’t trust me to take care of our most junior crew member?” Janet dramatically fluttered her eyelashes, looking young and innocent in the face of Stubb’s unhappy expression.

Stubb unceremoniously reached out and yanked on Janet’s harness. “Not really, no.”

Janet stuck her lower lip out in a pout. “It’s not like I’d get her into any trouble, you know. Speaking of trouble, how is it going with you and your toothbrush date?”

“That’s not funny.”

“It’s a little funny.”

Stubb shook his head and walked away without another word, his expression still dour. “Have a good flight, ladies and gentlemen,” he called over his shoulder as the hatch closed behind him.

Lucky felt a pit forming in her stomach. Not even a full first day on her latest job and she was already well on her way to upsetting her coworkers. Well done, Luckenbach, she thought with a mental scowl.

“So, tell me, Lucky,” Janet’s voice broke into her thoughts. “How’d you end up in San Pedro anyway? I mean if there was ever a rock that no one ever wanted to be on, this one is it.”

“Field assignment for a master’s degree. I was only supposed to be here for nine months for an internship, but then I lost my research grant and my tuition assistance and didn’t have the funds to get myself home until now. I’ve been working jobs around the colony for the past two years.”

“Hard luck,” Janet said, tightening her straps one more time. “At least the San Pedro-Earth route isn’t super expensive.”

“And thank God for that,” Lucky said. “I might never have made it back if I’d been on one of the far colonies. One of my classmates was at New Los Angeles. Granted, he made it home in time for the new semester since his parents practically own one of the Earth-side airlines.”

“Did he lose his scholarship too?”

“He didn’t have one.” She made a face. “Silver spoon, et cetera.”

Janet’s reply was drowned by the sound of the rockets firing. The intercom in the seat crackled to life, Captain Conerly’s voice only slightly muffled in Lucky’s left ear. “Sit tight, guys. We’re cleared for takeoff, and we’ll be airborne in just a few moments. Starting ignition in five, four, three…”

Lucky leaned back on the headrest and gritted her teeth. Launch didn’t so much cause butterflies in her stomach as make her feel as if said butterflies were going to start chewing and come bursting through her chest.

“Here comes the fun!” Janet yelled over the sound of the engines, quickly crossing herself. Her legs swung free under her seat, as if she were an excited kid. Lucky smiled around her gritted teeth just as the engines kicked into full thrust. She felt the subtle jerk as the pilot released the brake and allowed the freighter to start rolling forward. The Rosebud, like most current space vehicles, was a unique hybrid of large cargo space plane and old-school rocket. The runways for the ships were longer than any other used in the history of flight, but had been the best alternative to a completely vertical takeoff. As the ship gained speed, the runway began tilting upward, slowly at first and then more steeply. At the end, it was nearly vertical and, like a giant motocross ramp, launched the ship straight up into the air. For many years, that had been the most dangerous part of the launch process, as pilots had failed to compensate for the innate desire of the ship to continue rotating and dive into the ground. Better training and better ship engineering had maintained a low number of crashes per year. As few as one or two crashes occurred in a single year for commercial transports, fewer even still for the military ships. Based on the weight Lucky seemed to have gained in the past few seconds, the pilot was exceptionally skilled in keeping the ship nearly perfectly vertical on takeoff.

She felt lightheaded and knew that the pilot was rotating the ship to enter high planetary orbit. Janet had stretched her hands out over her head as if she were enjoying a roller coaster, but her teeth were clenched tightly together and her face looked pale. The incredible noise made by the engines faded somewhat, and only a low-pitched vibration remained, making a nearly inaudible thruuuumm echo throughout the ship.

The intercom woke up with a feedback squeal. “Oops, sorry about that folks. Umm, this is the captain. We’re entering high planetary orbit. We ask that you please remain seated at this time with your seatbelts fastened and your tray tables in the upright and locked position. We will be engaging the catapult in about fifteen minutes or so, and then we will be on our way to Newport.”

“Mark thinks he’s so funny,” Janet said through clenched teeth. Her eyes were tightly closed now, too.

Lucky released her death grip on the arms of the chair and let her hands float in the zero gravity. The lady with the rosary beads across the way stared at the floating crucifix as if it had become possessed, and Janet’s long raven locks waved around her face as if she were underwater. Lucky couldn’t suppress a giggle as she felt her own shoulder-length brown hair floating around her face. She poked Janet’s arm. “Is it a bit humid today?” she asked sarcastically. “Feels a bit humid to me.”

Janet gave a forced grin and tried to catch all of her hair and twist it behind her head. The twist quickly came undone, so she grabbed it and stuffed it in her collar. “Welcome to space!” she said, the discomfort in her voice belying the positive sentiment.

Lucky Updates – Jan. 18, 2018

Happy Friday Eve, Readers!

Some big updates this time around, so buckle up!

Firstly, copy-editing is complete for Lucky! My wonderfully talented and incredibly focused editor Jessica has done a final run-through of the document and it is set and ready to go. And to be honest with you all, I feel like a fifty-pound weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Secondly, formatting is complete for the print edition of the novel. This includes little things like italicizing the name of the ship and italicizing any non-English language words used in the novel, as well as more major things like having all the chapter headings be the same font and size! That was a pain – I’ve never formatted a novel before and it most definitely a learning experience. At the end, though, I did a few font tests by printing a couple of pages on my home printer and it looks like a real book. I nearly cried from happiness.

Formatting for the ebook is proving to be a little bit trickier. Most ebooks available today have a real-time movable type format so that the readers can change font sizes to suit their comfort. This means that I can’t simply upload a standard .pdf file to the website and just distribute it – I will need to have my manuscript converted to a more complex ebook format. I can either attempt to do it myself (jinkies!) or just pay to have my printer do it for me. I’m trying to learn to do it myself but at the end of the day (and for the sake of sanity) I might end of having IngramSpark perform the conversion on my behalf.

The cover formatting and artwork are still pending, since the amazing lady who is doing my art is also a graduate student and is kind enough to pencil me in around her insane study schedule. We have discussed the appropriate size and formatting for the cover, so it’s just a matter of time before we have new cover art to share.

As for publishing date…I am planning to officially publish Lucky on February 28, 2018. If this seems really soon and you’re wondering how I’m going to pull it off – join the club! Just typing that sentence caused an impressive amount of anxiety and panic. Excuse me while I go breath into a paper bag and try not to lose my breakfast.

From the research that I’ve done, there appears to be a short delay between official publishing date and “available” date, also known as the date you’ll be able to order the book from Amazon. I am working to make that span of time as short as possible but will have to keep you all posted as more information becomes available.

I’ve also uploaded both Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 to my blog for your enjoyment. You can read them at https://rhwebster.wordpress.com/. Feel free to comment on the blog posts or reply back to this announcement.

Hope you all have a wonderful (and warm) weekend!

Until next time,

Webster