Orion Bartleby is a man who has made a career out of avoiding responsibility on two different colonial planets. When he runs into a woman on the street he just can’t make himself walk away, even after he’s mistaken her for a saloon girl.
His life is getting ridiculously complicated, and everything is sideways, but he can’t seem to make himself regret it.
Targeted Age Group:: General Adult/ 12+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The characters crawled in my head and refused to be ignored. They are all strange, somewhat broken people and the challenge of convincing them to deal with each other while they were embarking on the wider plot fascinated me.
Also, it’s a Space Western and the entire concept of blending an utter lack of technology with a high tech universe sounded stupidly challenging and fun all at the same time.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I found Orion first, because he’d been hanging out in the back of my head for a while. He’s the sort of anti-hero who’s mistaken about himself but generally clear on other people. Everything else about his character came from that, and from the kind of life experiences I felt he needed to get to that place internally.
Frank (the best friend/doctor/roommate) never really got to be a side character. Frank liked to stride onto the page and make it clear he was done with this crap and you had five minutes to resolve it before he was leaving. I’m not sure I can take credit for inventing him. He just was.
Addy (the love interest who’d kick me for calling her that) came from a real desire to avoid all the western tropes we’re all raised with, where the girl needs rescuing and she’s there to look pretty. I wanted her to be smart and sassy and spectacular and she always delivered. And then managed to be a whole host of really amazing other things as well.
Orion Bartleby wasn’t a smart man. He wasn’t a particularly talented man. He’d spent most of his childhood on the wrong side of the law, one way or another. His Mama hadn’t been a saint, but she’d been a good woman. She’d certainly deserved a better son than the one fate handed her. She’d deserved a husband who stuck around, too…
Doc grumbled darkly, dabbing at the steadily bleeding cut over Rye’s eyebrow. “Who in the hell told you it was a good idea to stop beer bottles with your face?”
Orion didn’t answer. He wasn’t so stupid that he didn’t recognize a rhetorical question when he heard one. After five years, he’d learned most of Doctor Frank Laman’s questions were rhetorical. The rest were orders wrapped in question form just to see if you were paying attention.
Careful hands moved to the bruising on his cheek. “If this god-forsaken rock isn’t the end of me, you will be.”
“Aww,” Orion cooed, “I love you, too, honey.” Stupid, because Frank was straight as a yardstick, and Orion had already been beaten up once tonight.
“Not funny.” But Frank’s lip made that little corner twitch that said it was.
’Course, the eyebrow twitch that went with it meant Orion wasn’t out of the woods yet. For being manly, Frank could nag like no woman Orion’d ever seen. Since the day they met, Frank had been threatening to go back to a nice cushy life in one of the big cities. He hadn’t left yet. He’d even followed Orion to Wilma for ostensibly no reason but to keep him in one piece.
“Hey.” Frank swatted his arm. “What were you thinking?”
Orion winced at the pain in his shoulder. “That he was an asshole.”
It didn’t look like Frank bought it. Orion watched as Frank’s brows drew down and his mouth pinched in the corner. He hadn’t yet, but Orion figured it had to happen sometime. Maybe when they were eighty and Frank was still following Orion around muttering about him not taking care of himself. He didn’t really see himself living that long, but supposedly stranger things had happened.
He wouldn’t lay odd on whether or not they’d still be living in the same little tumble-down farmhouse outside of Bend. The universe was a big place. Maybe bigger than he was comfortable with, but he’d already hopped planets more than once.
“Dammit, Rye…” Frank sat back, folding his arms over his chest. For all that, there was only about seven years between them; sometimes it felt like twenty to Orion. “I’m serious! You can’t get into a fight with every Tom, Dick, and Idiot that wonders into Bend and acts like an ass!”
“Oh come on. I don’t,” Orion insisted, embarrassed.
He wasn’t sure what the hell Frank thought was worthwhile about him. He’d never asked. It was entirely possible Frank just didn’t care about much of anything anymore, and Orion was as good a person to follow around aimlessly as any. The fact Frank had invented a name for him didn’t annoy him nearly as much as the fact he liked it, that somehow it had become his name. Rye. Nicknames meant ownership, and he had more than enough call to know how that went bad.
Rye flushed, realizing he’d gotten a little lost in his own head there. “You’d be spending a fucking fortune in med supplies if I was. They’re all idiots and assholes.”
Frank rolled his eyes and stood up from their chipped plastic faux-wood table. “Go to bed, kid. I’ve done all you’re going to let me.” He sighed and started muttering. “Why I put up with this…”
Rye didn’t answer that either.
He wasn’t sure what Frank had been like before. He couldn’t imagine the…crotchety…was new. He knew Frank’d been a surgeon.
A good one. Respected by everyone, with a big shiny house and a big shiny paycheck, and a pretty young wife named Bella he’d loved dearly.
Rye wasn’t a bad friend because he didn’t know how Bella’d died. Seriously. When you meet a man because he’s so fucking drunk he nearly falls out a ten-story window at the shuttle platform — because he’s looking at an advert that reminds him of his dead wife — you don’t really say “so, how’d she die?” when he’s sober again.
Sober didn’t happen for a year and a half, as far as Rye could remember. Not that he’s judging. At all. He’d pretty much never loved anybody — outside the way he loved Frank like a brother — and he couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to have the love of your life die before you were thirty.
He watched Frank pack his med kit up and contemplated leaving Wilma for the fiftieth time. They managed some sort of life here in the middle of nowhere. Frank wasn’t really open to hospital work anymore. The people on Wilma were a little…uneasy about medical people, but they’d opened up to Frank helping them a little more every year they’d been there. Rye managed to keep a steady income. He wouldn’t lie and say it was all legal, but no one got hurt.
Alright, so his morals were a little iffy.
“What was that nonsense about the Sons of Paradise?” Frank asked, looking up at Rye as he stashed his kit back under the sink.
“No clue.” Rye rubbed the back of his neck. The blond who’d made sure he made close acquaintance with his beer bottle had certainly thought they were something. The Sons of Paradise have the right idea about this place and Drifters like you… The whole damn thing made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end.
Everyone knew where Paradise was. One of the settlements on the western side of the habitable zone, it had been one of the nicer ones until the mag line had mysteriously crashed. Aside from killing nearly everyone on-board, it had damaged the line so badly it wasn’t usable in its present state.
Paradise had been left to die a lonely secluded unnatural death. The kind of death any place suffered cut off from the rest of society and access to everyday goods and new people.
Bend was a small quiet place. Well, he supposed the whole of Wilma was generally small and quiet, nearly out on the outer reaches. Far enough away from the big planets that the centralized governments didn’t really bother with them. Wilma boasted one large city, and that only because someplace needed to hold the spaceport. They’d yet to terraform a planet well enough it could actually grow all its own shit. “Well, I suspect we’ll hear more.”
“Suspect so.” Rye looked out the window, watching the grass blow in the wind and the moonlight.
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