GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Sci-fi Mystery Author Wesley Britton talks about Writer's block + giveaway | I Smell Sheep

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Sci-fi Mystery Author Wesley Britton talks about Writer's block + giveaway

One question I always dread hearing is: ”What advice would you give other authors?” My first thought is always: “Blaze your own path. All our journeys are different, all are individual.”

Then I think about all the questions I hear about writer’s block, finding inspiration, seeking kick-starts for writing. I may have a useable idea.

Back when I was drafting my first non-fiction book, I would hit periods when I just couldn’t stare at the computer screen any longer. One afternoon, I sat back, closed my eyes, and let a fantasy come flowing into me. I don’t remember how many afternoons I lost myself to the stories but eventually, the first four books of the Beta-Earth Chronicles had unfolded.

At first, I didn’t think of molding and shaping the tales for readers. I thought I was entertaining myself. Then I found my writing time split between two projects-my non-fiction spy studies juxtaposed against the main trunk of the Beta-Earth Chronicles. These were two very different kinds of writing. One was essentially collecting, synthesizing and analyzing data and organizing it in ways that hadn’t been laid out before. The other was absolutely creative-world building and giving life to characters who, for all intents and purposes, created themselves. My job was to keep these characters in struggles and battles that always kept them wary and on the move.

For years to come, I kept going back and forth between my espionage books and sci-fi stories and found when one well was feeling parched, I could go dip my bucket in the other. Along the way, I mixed in a ton of shorter writing assignments that weren’t all that demanding but helped keep my name out there. I wrote a ton of book and music reviews for sites like and I pumped out articles, essays, and book chapters for a wide range of sites and publications focused on one aspect or another of espionage. 
Still doing all that-

Now, none of what I’m describing is going to suggest a cure-all for all your writer’s slumps. But the more varied your interests and diverse writing approaches you use, the more channels you got to keep your writing juices flowing-

Hammerhead (The Mary Carpenter Spy-Fi Adventures)
by Wesley Britton
Genre: Sci-Fi, crime, mystery, espionage
Publisher: Alien Vision
20 years in the future, humanity has been decimated by climate change and waves of fatal plagues released by Islamic terrorists.

In this new world, Special Operative Mary Carpenter of the Commonwealth of Independent States takes on deadly opponents, including white supremacists, cells of the Everlasting Caliphate, and an international organization of smugglers called Hammerhead plotting to dominate the planet with an all-powerful fear gas.

Join Mary Carpenter in four fast-paced, futuristic adventures that might be in tomorrow's headlines-

A Day in the Death of the Magic Majestic

In 2043, cruise ships like the Magic Majestic served an important purpose in the post-apocalyptic years of the 2030s and 2040's. It was impossible to miss the impact of a decreased population on floating hotels like the Majestic. Most obviously, long corridors and large sections of the cruise ship had been cordoned off due to disuse. Many of these sections resembled a quiet ghost ship of bare walls and empty rooms with carpet stripped off the floors and furniture carted away. In these sections, light panels no longer illuminated the halls and walls. Maid-bots only roamed the cordoned-off floors once weekly to open portholes to air out the stale smells.

The current owners of the Magic Majestic, mainly Puerto Rican smuggler Felix Cortez, had new issues to contend with in the wake of the death of the ship’s former principal owner, Marcus Calavera. During the same hours the Navy of the Sovereign Southern Union had invaded and captured Calavera’s island headquarters, the sisters Tania and Tara Ormsdorf had killed Calavera and his principal henchman, Hector Fuentes, while the crime lords were in the thrall of the fear serum they had planned to use to conquer the world. Thanks to the work of special agents Mary Carpenter and the novice Jasmine Trayer of the Southern Union, “Hammerhead” had been dealt a serious body blow. But the organization was much larger than one charismatic Brazilian.

Still, on this enchanting spring morning, the Magic Majestic sailed out of San Juan in Puerto Rico with a larger complement of passengers than usual. Vacationers lined up on her three open decks, the Sports Deck, the Sun Deck, and the Promenade, waving goodbyes to friends and family anticipating their magic moments at sea. That morning, the sea air blew by on a pleasant, comforting breeze carrying with it the percussive sounds of upbeat island music pumped through the ship's public address speakers.

One member of the deck crowd was Major Mary Carpenter, a special agent on assignment with the Sovereign Southern Union. She was a passenger, not on board for a happy vacation, even though she wanted to dance and bounce on her heels to the beat of the steel drums and electronic vibraphones, just like she had on the Spirit of Charlotte Amalie ferry. As she stepped out onto the honey-colored Promenade, she reviewed the file she'd studied about the Majestic.

From her reading, she knew the ship weighed sixty-eight tons, was six hundred and seventy-five feet long, eighty-five feet wide, propelled by two steam turbine propellers that could get the ship moving at fifteen knots. Around her, she could see the frenetic energy of some of the fifty crew members polishing handrails, swabbing the decks, and touching up the paint. Some dangled over the sides cleaning portholes and tightening rivets.

She knew the ship once boasted 200 first class cabins and 350 spacious second-class cabins with private bathrooms and large beds. In her heyday, the Majestic had offered three restaurants, five kitchens, and a cafe grill on the upper deck that could be converted into a cinema or concert stage. The ship had two swimming pools, a library, dog kennels, even parking for a dozen cars. Mary had been bemused to read the ship had its own lower deck synagogue equipped with a full-time rabbi. But these were all amenities described in old sales brochures. How many were still in use she didn't know.

What she couldn't have known, or anyone else in the open deck crowd could have either, was that many decks below, in the underbelly of the ship was a special hold forbidden to all passengers and much of the crew. While most everyone else on board was enjoying the launch on the bright, clear day, five crewmembers stood around an open hatch watching a small submarine pull close to their ship's hull. Using long poles with strong hooks and thick, steel cables, the crewmen reached out and helped secure the black sub to the bottom of the six-foot open square hatch.

Very quickly, a much smaller hatch on the sub opened up and two figures emerged into view. They were two members of the Quai Do Pacific Rim Criminal Organization. Using the once-hidden sub, they had evaded capture when the authorities invaded the island of Marcos Calavera. They had departed just in time to take with them a prized and unique weapon.

Stepping into the Magic Majestic hold, the rather scruffy, sweaty, and unkempt pair pulled a military footlocker on board behind them. Wordlessly, they drug the black footlocker to an empty motorized flat-bed wheeled cart waiting for them. One of them accepted a small remote from one of the five Latino crewmen, pressed a button, and set the cart in motion. Following the cart deeper into the hold, the pair made their way through the circle of uniformed and much more presentable Hispanic sailors who stood aside at attention for them. The Quai Do men strode further and further into the hold until they were out of site of the Magic Majestic crew.

“Still wish I knew what those Chinese are carrying and where they are hiding it,” one of the crewmen said. “At least those guys don't need a shave.” His colleagues responded to this quirky observation with polite laughter.

“Not if you want a long, healthy life,” the team leader replied after sharing his own short laugh. “The less we know, the less we need to fear.”

Each of the sailors looked around furtively, knowing some unusual, unexplained outfitting of the hold's hull had occurred back in San Juan. Not sharing what changes had been made was apparently the way Felix Cortez wanted things, even if he wasn't on board for this particular cruise. The secret refittings were probably something to do with smuggling, like smuggling whatever the Quai Do men had just drug aboard.

The five crewmen began freeing the submarine from the cables and poles so it could go on its own way. “This will surprise the chinks,” one of them observed. All five men laughed together again.

The Quai Do pair indeed registered deep surprise when they returned to the hatch with now free hands and an empty cart and saw their ride gone. As they each turned to ask what had happened, their short-lived surprise ended after both felt the cutting of their throats by sharp, serrated knives from behind them.

“With these cuts,” the group leader recited, “Hammerhead hereby severs all connections with the Quai Do.”

The Latino sailors then dangled the tops of each victim outside the hatch so their blood would drain into the sea. They then attached ankle-weights to each corpse and then flipped the bodies into the ocean.

“Sayonara, baby,” one of the crewmen cried, after the bodies plopped into the water and sank out of sight.

“Sayonara? Those guys weren't Japs. They were Chinese.”

“Jap, Chinese, Vietnamese, don't much matter. We’ve recycled them as fish food for the bottom-feeders.”

The crewmen laughed again, closed the hatch, and walked off to do more mundane ship duties.

* * * *

Mary Carpenter strolled up to the Promenade deck's railing after accepting a thin-stemmed crystal glass of champagne offered by a colorfully painted waiter-bot rolling on his feet-balls. Like the half-dozen or so of these machines rolling around the deck, the bot carried two trays of filled champagne glasses that looked like metal wings.

Glass in hand, Mary stood by a blonde-haired twenty-something woman gazing out over the water. Since Mary had penetrated the secret headquarters of Marcos Calavera on his private island just a few weeks before, she had done what she could to disguise herself on the sea voyage just in case any of Calavera’s people had escaped the S.S.U. navy and might be aboard the Majestic. Not likely, but she had cut her usually loose and long auburn hair into a short, cooler Dutch-boy style. Her tank-top was loose-fitting and she wore blue-jean, fringed cut-offs that nearly reached her knees. Her flat-soled deck-shoes helped her seem not as tall as she actually was. She felt slight disappointment those shoes didn't hide the usual portable weapons Mary liked to have in her heels and tips. Well, with any luck, she wouldn't get embroiled in any combat.

She half hid her face behind very large blue-tinted sunglasses. These sunglasses appeared to be regular sunglasses, but the left lens was also a hidden screen where Mary could read data reports she could access from the S.S.U. military files included in the databases on the S.S.U. Clinton sailing not so far away. In particular, she could scan all the passengers and crew on the Magic Majestic via a camera built into the sunglasses' nosepiece. She could read any alerts the program might pick up.

While Mary and the young blonde, Jasmine Trayer, had met on a shared mission on Calavera's island, the first mission ever for Trayer, they decided to play new roles on the cruise ship to perhaps throw off any of Calavera's associates who might be on board. So Mary was now playing Mary Dell Somers, a high school teacher from Tennessee.

So far, so good. No familiar faces. Mary's glasses hadn't sent her any alerts.

Neither Mary nor Jasmine, the younger woman with the permanent, sultry pout, her face hidden under a white wide-brimmed, collapsible and easily packed summer hat, could have known that they were standing almost directly above the site of the two murders far below them. Unlike Mary, Jasmine wore thick soled, high- heeled sandals that gave her a bit more height and a bit more shape to her comparatively short legs. At least, short when she stood next to the 6'4” tall Texas beauty. Like Mary, the upper part of Jasmine's face was covered by oversize sunglasses with wide temples that blocked any sunlight from the sides. However, her glasses didn't have the data downloading capability of Mary's tool as she hadn't been trained on their use. In Mary's opinion, Jasmine hadn't been trained in very much. Any field missions like this were assignments Trayer wasn't qualified to perform, in Mary’s opinion. For her part, Jasmine thought her partner was a monolith, a blank, someone you could read anything you wanted onto. A cool customer, a cold fish.

Both women would have been keenly interested in the killings as they had met the Quai Do representatives at Calavera's estate. In fact, the two special agents were on board to find the footlocker of fear-inducing serums they correctly suspected were now hidden somewhere in the Magic Majestic. It seemed the most likely place considering the relationship between Calavera, Felix Cortez, and the Quai Do organization.

“Hi,” Mary said to her supposed new friend, holding out her hand. “Am I intruding?”

“Not at all,” replied the smiling blonde with the pouty mouth.

Accepting Mary's proffered hand and shaking it with a firm grip, she continued. “I'm Simone Perone from Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas island. I'm here because I won a contest and this cruise was the prize.”

Laughing with polite delight, Mary saw Jasmine still had the impish twinkle in her young eyes even though a dark haunting was now also part of her expressions. Seeing someone close to you murdered in front of you because she took a bullet intended for you had just happened to Jasmine Trayer. Trayer would always mourn Juanita Calavera, Mary was certain.

“Then let me toast your prize and wish you the fulfillment of all your dreams!” Mary exclaimed, raising her glass almost spluttering with mock tipsiness.

“Hear, hear,” Jasmine giggled like a flirtatious schoolgirl, draining her own glass and then flinging it overboard. Laughing at the gesture, Mary followed suit.

A muscular, handsome young man with a rich, deep tan, smooth bald head and nearly nonexistent butt strolled up beside Jasmine. As Mary looked him over, she thought his obviously tough skin more resembled a thick shell than normal flesh. He was tough like a human lobster or a walking stone sculpture. She couldn't hide her surprise when she saw his long fingers intertwine with Jasmine's. Jasmine hasn’t been on board that long, she must have moved fast to snare this one.

Mary's scan lens suddenly began scrolling out a report on Ricky Estaphan, a former naval officer of the rather new Caribbean Island Navy. He was apparently an expert on outfitting ships with military weapons. There was no employment record for him after he left the navy following a rather short career. He was suspected of involvement with Marcos Calavera's Brazilian operations. Warning tingles ran up Major Carpenter's spine.

While the three talked, mere feet away, Arabella Hong, a fairly heavyset and drab woman in her early fifties wearing an out-of-season, over-sized gray shirt and long khaki pants spoke to a pretty young hostess. Her flowing thick blonde hair signaled Hong's mixed ancestry. Her flat face, small nose, wide cheekbones, and especially her epicanthic fold, the skin fold of the upper eyelid covering the inner corner of her sky-blue, almond-shaped eyes, clearly showed her bloodline was largely Asian.

“The last cruise I took was fifteen years ago,” Hong reported, “with my late husband, Antonio. It was the time of our lives, I tell you! Even if the rest of the planet was mired in fear and death.”

“Well, I'm delighted things worked out for you fifteen years ago. I'm sorry to hear about your husband. We’ll do everything we can to make this cruise as enjoyable a trip as possible. But, I have to go check on the other passengers right now. We'll talk more later.”

“Sure. I understand.” A disappointed Hong moseyed across the deck, a lonely look in her eyes. Mary ran a quick scan over her facial features. No response from the databases at all.

Jose Boliver, a man so thin his own mother teased that he had to run around a shower just to get wet, was the ship's social director. Jose stood up on a small wooden riser and called out greetings to all the guests.

“Could I have everybody’s attention? Everybody? Please. Welcome! Welcome to the Magic Majestic! We are pleased to have you on board. My name is Jose, Ship’s Host! I will be personally responsible for seeing to any of your special needs!”

He turned and indicated a smiling woman dressed in a uniform very like his, the same girl who had spoken with Arabella Hong. “And this is Maria. She is Ship’s Hostess and will do her best to make sure that we all enjoy ourselves. That’s what we’re here to do, right? Enjoy ourselves!”

The passengers cheered as Maria spoke up, “Our kitchen is always open! The Poseiden's Trident Lounge has live music sixteen hours a day! Feel free to roam the ship whenever you like!”

Maria paused and Jose called out, “We do, however, ask that you refrain from entering areas of the ship that are clearly marked as Personnel Only.”

“It’s a big ship,” Maria added, “easy to get lost in, especially as we have a lot of space not being used on this cruise. I will be giving tours at five-o’clock, seven-o’clock, and again at ten o’clock in the morning for anyone who would like to get acquainted with the layout.”

“So, enjoy yourselves!” Jose concluded the welcome. “And please call upon any of us for anything that you may need. We are here to serve you.”

* * * *

In the dim light of a storage room filled with tool and supply lockers on a lower deck, a pair of gloved hands picked the lock on a large trunk. CLICK. The tumblers fell. The latch popped open. But suddenly, black-skinned Haitian-Creole Emmanuel Lindor looked up when he heard approaching footsteps outside the room.

Knowing his time was limited, Lindor lifted the lid of the trunk and rifled through it. Disappointed by what he didn't find, Lindor heard the steps now just outside the door. He lowered the trunk's lid and slipped away.

About the Author
Dr. Wesley Britton is the author of four non-fiction books, Spy Television (2003), Beyond Bond: Spies in Fiction and Film (2005), Onscreen and Undercover: The Ultimate Book of Movie Espionage (2006), and The Encyclopedia of TV Spies (2009).

Starting in fall 2015, his science fiction/ mystery/ espionage series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles debuted with the ground-breaking The Blind Alien. Throughout 2016 to 2019, eight sequels followed including Return to Alpha, Wesley's first stand alone novel. Alpha Tales 2044 was the first of three collections of Beta-Earth short stories.

Britton earned his doctorate in American Literature at the University of North Texas in 1990. From 2007 to 2015, he was co-host of online radio's "Dave White Presents" broadcast over For DWP, Wesley contributed interviews with authors, musicians, actors, and many entertainment insiders. In 2022, Wes picked up from where he left off with his own “Flashback, another interview show broadcast over and now also archived at his Remember When podcast page.

Wesley taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College until his retirement in 2016. Wes is blind due to the progressive genetic disease, retiniteous pigmentosa. Wesley served on the Board of Directors for Vision Resources of Central Pennsylvania for 14 years. He has been writing book reviews for sites like and for nearly 30 years. Wes and Grace and their menagerie live in Harrisburg, PA.

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