Available Now: The Medusa Effect

Hello, friends!

Today is the day.  The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella is available now.  Click here to buy, or you can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Litho is a peaceful, isolated colony world on the frontier of space.  Nothing bad ever happens there.  So when a reporter from the Tomorrow News Network shows up, nobody takes much notice.  Nobody except a young colonist named Milo.

Milo is a bit of a news junkie.  He knows all about the Tomorrow News Network, a news organization run by time travelers, and he knows all about Talie Tappler, the reporter they’ve sent to Litho.  Talie has a reputation for covering war, chaos, and galactic devastation.

So why has Talie come to Litho Colony?  What big, breaking news event has attracted her attention?  Milo doesn’t know, but he’s determined to find out, because whatever Talie Tappler’s big story is, it cannot be good news.

In yesterday’s posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I admitted to feeling a bit of anxiety over this whole “published author” thing.  I’m dealing with a touch of imposter syndrome.  However, when I think about the larger universe of Tomorrow News Network and all the stories yet to be told, my anxiety fades, and my eagerness to keep writing takes control.

So dear reader, there are a few things I’d like you to know about the Tomorrow News Network series going forward:

  • First off, you won’t have to read the stories in any particular order.  This is a series about time travel.  Be a time traveler.  Feel free to dip in and out of the timeline whenever and wherever you please.
  • As the series progresses, you may notice minor (or not so minor) inconsistencies in the story universe.  Pay attention to these inconsistencies.  They are not mistakes.
  • Don’t skip the bonus story at the end of The Medusa Effect.  That little bonus story will give you a clue about where the universe of Tomorrow News Network is heading.

Earlier this week, I had a phone conversation with my primary editor.  She told me I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.  The book is done.  It’s finished!  I told her no.  I appreciate the sentiment, but no.  The universe of Tomorrow News Network is huge and weird and complicated. I’m not finished. I’m just beginning.

† Well, I’m not perfect.  Some mistakes may be actual mistakes, but the most obvious inconsistencies—was Earth destroyed or not?—those are deliberate.

The Redlands (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends, and welcome back to the A to Z Challenge.  For this year’s challenge, I’m telling you more about the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, R is for:


Planetary bodies often bear distinctive and striking features.  In our own Solar System, there is, of course, the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, or the Polar Hexagon on Saturn, or the heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio on Pluto.

Litho, the outermost moon of the planet Berzelius, is also marked with a distinctive surface feature: a triple spiral formation in the northern hemisphere.  Officially, that triple spiral is known as Arfwedson Circumcurio, in honor of Johan August Arfwedson, the ancient Earthling who first discovered lithium.

Circumcurio is, of course, an exo-geology term referring to spiral-like surface features on alien worlds. Many worlds in the explored galaxy have these circumcurio features, though Litho’s Arfwedson Circumcurio is larger and more distinctive than most.

Admittedly, the name Arfwedson Circumcurio is a bit of a mouthful.  The colonists who actually live on Litho rarely use that name and instead refer to the region simply as “the Redlands.”

The Redlands are a desert covered in lithium trinate (a dark red powder-like substance).  You can find lithium trinate and other lithium compounds pretty much anywhere you go on Litho (hence the name), but the highest concentrations are out in the Redlands.  Alkali Extraction Incorporated has therefore focused most of its lithium harvesting efforts on the Redlands, and Litho Colony itself is situated right on the outskirts of the Redlands region.

A word of caution: lithium trinate is a highly reactive chemical compound.  Never touch it with your bare hands.  It will irritate and burn your skin, and it will do far worse to your lungs if you inhale the dust. Please follow the safety guidelines delineated in A.E.I.’s company handbook.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, there’s a common stereotype about time travelers.  They always wear or carry antique watches.

Quad-Units (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends!  Welcome back to the A to Z Challenge.  For this year’s challenge, I’m telling you a little more about the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, Q is for:


So far, most of my A to Z posts have focused on things that will appear in The Medusa Effect, book one of the Tomorrow News Network series.  A few posts have covered material that I plan to include in future books.  But this post is the first time we’re talking about something that I had to cut.

Litho Colony’s residential district was originally made up of just a few small prefab housing units.  As the colony grew, more prefabs units were added, and recently a dozen new quad-units were constructed as well.

Quad-units are larger housing modules designed to accommodate up to four separate families.  They’re really big, really bulky structures.  Maybe they’re a little too big and bulky, or at least that’s what some of the older colonists say.  But given how successful and prosperous Litho Colony has been, A.E.I. has plans to build at least a dozen more quad-units next season.  It’s really the best way to keep up with the colony’s population growth.

In early drafts of The Medusa Effect, I devoted several paragraphs to the quad-units.  Those paragraphs helped me show that Litho Colony is prosperous and growing.  However, I say that and show that in other ways too, and that particular section of text was really slowing down the pace of the story.  To make matters worse, this was in a scene where the pace needed to start picking up.

So reluctantly, I cut that whole section.  Why am I telling you about something that didn’t make it into the book?  Because I know some of the people reading these A to Z posts are fellow writers.  Some of you have also had to cut stuff out of your stories, stuff that you enjoyed writing, stuff that you really, really, really wanted to hold on to.

This post is basically a quick reminder to you, my fellow writers, that you’re not alone.  We all have to make tough choices in our writing sometimes.  It’s okay to cut stuff if you have to.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, the official name of the Redlands is Arfwedson Circumcurio.  But don’t worry.  Nobody who lives on Litho ever calls the Redlands by their official name.

The Professor (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends!  Welcome once again to the A to Z Challenge.  For this year’s challenge, I’m telling you more about the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, P is for:


In a previous post, we met Milo Marrero, one of the younger colonists living on Litho.  Today, I’d like to introduce you to Milo’s dad.  Milo’s dad is a stern and imposing figure in Milo’s life, and… you know what, rather than telling you what Milo’s dad is like, how about I show you.  Who’s ready for an excerpt from The Medusa Effect, book one of the Tomorrow News Network series?

* * *

“I saw her!” Milo said.  He’d rushed to the Alpha Building, all the way up to his father’s laboratory.  “I saw Talie Tappler!”


Milo’s father–or rather “the Professor,” as everyone else knew him–had glanced up for just a moment, uttering nothing more than that single syllable: Who?  Both the Professor and his junior assistant, a young woman called Ramirez, were hunched over the worktable in the center of the room, running scans on the latest mineral samples from the Redlands.

“Dad, I’ve told you about her: Talie Tappler, that reporter from the Tomorrow News Network.  She’s here!  She’s doing a story about us!”

Ramirez snorted a laugh.  “Who’d do a story about this zero-glitz colony?”

“Zero-glitz?” the Professor grumbled beneath his thick beard.  Then the Professor said, assuming his most professorial tone: “Young lady, young man, I’ll have the both of you know this colony supplies more than half the lithium for the Outer Territories, plus a full 15% for the Empire as a whole.  I’m not surprised this… this Tappy woman would do a story about that.”

“Tappler,” Milo corrected with an exasperated sigh.

“Hmph… whoever!”

The Professor gave his assistant a curt nod, and Ramirez reached for the next sample container.  With a cold hiss, the canister opened, and Ramirez spilled its contents onto the scanner bed.  The system beeped twice, indicating it was ready, and the Professor pressed his thumb into the big green go-button.

“Dad, listen,” Milo said.  “Talie’s not some ordinary journalist.  She’s with the Tomorrow News Network.  That means she can travel through time!”

“Yes, yes.  That’s obvious,” the Professor said.

Milo gritted his teeth.  He wanted to shout, to scream at his father, the oh-so-venerable Professor; but what could Milo say?  The old man didn’t follow the news, aside from financial reports.  He’d never seen Talie in action, didn’t know the kinds of stories she covered: war and chaos, assassinations and terrorism, the rise and fall of mighty space empires!

Milo approached the worktable, leaned on the outer guardrail.  He was wearing his coveralls loose, contrary to company handbook guidelines, and the papery fabric made a crinkling sound when he moved.

The Professor glanced up.  “Well… ehmm…,” he said.  His bushy eyebrows were furrowed as though he were trying to solve a difficult puzzle.  It would take the scanner another minute or two to finish its current sequence.  “Well,” the Professor said in the meantime, “what’s this time traveler saying about us?”

And just like that, Milo felt a sudden thrill of relief, a sudden surge of hope.

“Okay,” Milo began, “so she interviewed a few people in the outdoor commons, asked questions like ‘What do you do here?’ or ‘How long have you lived here?’  That sort of stuff.  Normal stuff, right?  But then she started talking about the mining equipment and the prefab units, how everything looks so sparkly new, how we have such a promising future ahead.”

Ramirez pretended to scoff.  “How could anyone say such despicable things about us?”

Milo scowled but pressed on regardless: “She mentioned the local economy.”

“Oh?” the Professor said.

“She said we’re primed for rapid growth.”

At that, the Professor grinned.  “Well now, you don’t need to be a time traveler to figure that out.  Why, this planetoid’s mineral wealth alone could make us all rich, but then you add in the meso-lithium.  The price of mesotronic elements keeps going up.  The company’s earnings tripled last quarter, which means higher percentages for us!”

Abruptly, the scanner beeped.  Fresh data flashed across the holo-display.

“Dad, please!” Milo said, ready to present his most damning piece of evidence yet.  “Listen, she used these exact words: ‘What could such happy, prosperous colonists possibly have to fear?’”

Professor Marrero nodded as though he were listening, but his finger was tracing a string of numbers across the holographic display.  In one ear, out the other, as the ancient Earthlings used to say.  The Professor mumbled something to himself–doing rough estimates on the fly, it sounded like.  Then he reached for a datapad and started cross-referencing the new readings against a library index.

An orbital survey chart materialized above the worktable, and there, rendered in topographic contours, were the Redlands.  Or rather there was “Arfwedson Circumcurio,” as the region was officially labeled on the map, but nobody who lived on Litho ever referred to the Redlands by their official name.  An indicator flashed at the current sample’s point of origin.  Ramirez said something about the decay ratio, and the Professor agreed that the numbers looked good.  Very good.  “Primed for economic growth?  I’d say so!” the old man added with a chuckle.

* * *

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, Litho Colony really is a happy and prosperous place.  Just check out those new quad-units they’re constructing.

Oxygen Sheath (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends!  Welcome back to the A to Z Challenge.  For this year’s challenge, I’m telling you more about the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, O is for:


It should not surprise you to learn that oxygen is one of the strongest oxidizers in the known universe.  For some of us, that makes oxygen a source of biochemical energy and a necessity for life.  But for many other life forms, oxygen’s oxidizing power is too much to handle, making oxygen a deadly poison.

There’s not much middle ground here.  You either need oxygen to survive, or oxygen means instant death, depending on whether your species evolved in an oxygen rich or oxygen poor environment.

When human colonists first arrived on Litho, they set up generators for a static oxygen sheath: a force field bubble that keeps Litho’s natural atmosphere out and holds an artificial oxygen atmosphere in.  The oxygen sheath isn’t perfect.  Near the oxygen sheath’s perimeter, you can smell ammonia seeping through.  And of course, all the alkaline dust particles covering Litho’s surface still pose a bit of an air quality concern.  Colonists are encouraged to wear nose filters whenever outdoors.

But the biggest concern related to the oxygen sheath has to do with Litho’s native life forms: the scrubby, slimy cyanomolds.  Those cyanomolds evolved in an oxygen poor environment.  Oxygen should kill them.  And yet, for reasons that remain unclear, the cyanomolds are thriving under the oxygen sheath’s influence.

Litho Colony is now partially surrounded by a mold forest.  Giant, bulbous masses have swollen up, with coral-like fringes and lots of creeping vines and tendrils.  To some, it’s a disgusting sight; to others, the cyanomolds have their own alien beauty.  Like so many things about life, it’s a matter of perspective.  But if left unchecked, the cyanomolds would spread rapidly across the colony grounds.  Keeping that mold forest under control has become a real nuisance for the colonists.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, we’ve already met young Milo Marrero.  Now it’s time to meet Milo’s dad.

Milo Marrero (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends, and welcome back to the A to Z Challenge!  For this year’s challenge, I’m telling you more about the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, M is for:


Milo’s full name is Milo Moneo Militaeus Marrero.  It’s an awkward name, which is fitting because Milo is an awkward teenage boy.  He is one of the 786 colonists living on Litho.

Like many awkward teenage boys, Milo has a crush on a girl.  Also, Milo doesn’t pay much attention in school, he tends to skip his apprenticeship in hydroponics, and he’s got a few minor citations from colonial security on his semi-permanent record.

Oh, and Milo is also a news junkie.  Most of the colonists don’t really follow the news.  As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Litho Colony is so very, very far away from all the war and chaos and interplanetary drama that keeps making headlines.  People have more immediate concerns, like meeting their work quotas and keeping the colony running.

But Milo has developed a peculiar fascination with the Tomorrow News Network, a news organization run by time travelers, a news organization that literally brings you tomorrow’s news today.

So when a certain attractive and popular journalist from the Tomorrow News Network shows up on Litho Colony, most people don’t know who she is, and they don’t really care.  She’s probably doing a business story about A.E.I.  Litho Colony has been turning such an extraordinary profit for A.E.I., after all!

But Milo knows better.  This journalist from T.N.N.—she isn’t just any journalist from T.N.N.  She’s Talie Tappler, the woman who covered the assassination of Reginald Zaphiro, the woman who covered the crash at Roswell, the woman who covered the Planet Eater attack on Hyla Prime.

And now that same T.N.N. reporter is walking around on Litho with a cybernetic cameraman in tow, and Milo is determined to find out why.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, chemistry is already a complicated subject.  By the 44th Century, it’s going to be even more complicated.

Litho Colony (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends!  Welcome to another episode of the A to Z Challenge!  This year, I’m telling you all about the universe I created for my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series, Tomorrow News Network.  In today’s post, L is for:


In case you were wondering, the galaxy is not a peaceful place.  We’ve already met the Galactic Inquisitor.  We’ve learned a little about the Hykonian Hegemonic Empire, and we’ve talked about Earth’s Imperial Exofleet.  But for the good people of Litho Colony, all those wars, all that conflict and strife—those things are very, very far away.

Litho is the outermost moon of the planet Berzelius, located in the Vesper Beta-Beta Star Sector.  The chemical element lithium is superabundant in the moon’s crust (hence the name Litho), and so Alkali Extraction Incorporated (A.E.I.) has established a small mining colony there.

That colony has been extraordinarily profitable, supplying more than half the lithium for the Outer Territories and a full 15% for the Earth Empire as a whole.  A.E.I.’s earnings keep going up, and the colonists are being well compensated for their work.

Don’t let the industrial aesthetic of the place fool you: Litho Colony is a cozy and comfortable place to live.  The hydroponics dome supplies plenty of fresh food; no one has to eat synthetic mush or take nutrition tabs.  The recreation facility is top notch, and there’s even a fully staffed school.  Litho Colony is the kind of place where people can—and do—raise families.

In short, Litho is a quiet, peaceful, isolated colony world on the frontier of space.  Nothing bad ever happens there.  And this peaceful, isolated colony world will be the setting for The Medusa Effect, book one of the Tomorrow News Network series.

And next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, we’ll meet an awkward teenage boy who calls Litho Colony home.