The Whisper of Somewhere Else

The Other Day in the Gym

The other day at the gym, I was on the leg press machine when someone sauntered into the squat rack next to me. He nodded and smiled, before grabbing a couple 45-pound plates to load up the bar. His Iowa State t-shirt caught my eye. “Cy,” the familiar Cardinal with his caricature grimace of determination marched across the front of his t-shirt, emblazoned above with “Iowa State Cyclones.” It took me back to my days as a student there.

Iowa State T-Shirt
Used with Permission

In between sets, I asked him when he went to Iowa State. He hadn’t, it turned out. His daughter a Veterinary Medicine student was in her third year, there.

     “Why Iowa State?” I asked.

     He shrugged. “Beats me. She had several scholarship offers, but…” He left his sentence unfinished and returned to the squat rack for his next set. “It is a beautiful campus, though,” he admitted, before shouldering the bar.

     “I’ll sign that.” I agreed.

And it’s true. Despite being flat as a tabletop, Iowa has its own special beauty. And that was the end of our conversation. The gentleman finished his squats and moved on.

Later in the day, I was sitting at my laptop, working on the next chapter of my science fiction novel when my college years at Iowa State crept back into my head. I’m sure my conversation earlier that day in the gym was the catalyst.

The Influences of Environment

If you didn’t grow up in the Midwest, it might be difficult to fully appreciate the nuanced feelings that might lurk in the back of the mind of someone who grew up in a part of the country prone to wild swings of weather. The Great Central Plain is home to some unpredictable and occasionally violent weather. In Through the Windshield, Drive-by Lives, the environment and the weather is almost another character in the stories.

In Sinbad’s Sofa, a cat seeking shelter from a blizzard at the gas station where the author worked teaches him something about himself and the nature of human’s connection with critters. In The Last House in Town, one human’s unexpected kindness leads the author to a deeper understanding of life and other’s pain.

In Heartland, the author invites readers to confront the pull of horizons and the how the limitations of where we are can awaken the restless spirit living in all of us. And it was this latter thought I found myself focusing on, as I reflected on my conversation earlier in the day at the gym with the Dad whose daughter was attending my Alma Mater.

Wide Open Western Spaces
From Unsplash-Used with Permission. The Influence of Envrionment is undeniable, if imperfectly understood.

People who know me well also know that I’m drawn to wide open spaces, and that I am (occasionally) afflicted with an almost irresistible wander lust. How much of this has to do with the tantalizing lure of open horizons, whispering to me of new sights, sounds and scents? How much influence (if any), did growing up on the plains have on my decision to join the Corps or to spend the first 20 plus years of my adult life in the nomadic world that is the life of a professional warrior?

The influence of environment is generally an accepted concept, even if the details of how/how much influence they have. I’m convinced the wander lust that frequently calls me to head off for parts unknown is at least partially a function of growing up in a place where open horizons beckoned.

Through the Windshield

Which brings us to Through the Windshield. Day or night, whether it was a vanishing point on the horizon or the cold, distant glitter of lights in the distance on a winter’s night, the plains tend to remind you that there are other places to be. That there are other things to see and experiences to be had for those willing to stray from the familiar in pursuit of a different level of knowing.

Even though few of the stories in this anthology are true absent embellishment, they are all self-reflective, at some level. In common with many authors, the original impetus to write was for me, all about self-expression. These days, however, I seek to balance self-expression with the broader observations about humans in general and who we are stripped of the masks behind which most of us hide.

Cover of Through the Windshield an anthology of short stories
Through the Windshield is the perfect introduction to Dirk's writings...

Through the Windshield, Drive-by Lives is the perfect introduction to my longer fiction. If you would like to read the stories, you can get your free copy here. If you’ve never read anything by D.B. Sayers, before, you can snag your free copy of this anthology, here.

The Year of Maybe-Act II of Nyra’s Journey

Tai's nothing like her hopeful dream-and everything she wants...

Nyra’s transition from college grad scrambling for her first career job to full independence is as on track as it can be, these days. With her new marketing job is going well, even if she’s still living at home,Nyra’s pretty sure the light at the end of the tunnel is not an onrushing train.

Still, she gets bored, sometimes. A whimsical decision to take up surfing brings her together with Tai Abrega, a professional surfer and shaper so delicious Nyra’s imagination hasn’t even gotten around to fantasizing about a man like him, yet. Surfing awakens a latent, mystical connection with the sea along with a driven passion for the man himself.

But embracing one possibility often demands abandoning another. How can Nyra fit Tai and the seductive siren song of freedom into her “safer” vision of perfect? Can she blend her conventional world with his freespirited lifestyle, or is she doomed to disappointment and heartbreak? New Adult fans of It Ends with Us and Finding Perfect are sure to enjoy this upbeat tale of hope.

The Year of Maybe Act II of Nyra’s Journey continues the story begun in Best-Case Scenario. For a limited time, get your free copy of Best-Case Scenario, and be up to date on Nyra’s story when The Year of Maybe is released in November. Then go to Amazon and pre-order your copy.

This is D.B. Sayers’ sixth book and the second in the Nyra Westensee series. If you haven’t already, subscribe to Smoke Signals, his newsletter by adding your email address in the subscription box in the upper right corner of this page.

Isn’t Hope in Some Form Our Best-Case Scenario?

Relentless Hope.

Sometimes you can sense it, even from a distance. The down-cast eye, an aimlessness in their gait. Something—or someone—has extinguished that flickering flame of hope that elevates existence to vitality. At some point in time or another, most of us have been there. But not Nyra.

After a college career in which Nyra’s sincere desire for connection and her driven sexuality has been frustrated by an almost impossible series of bad luck, she could be forgiven is she thinks being alone and disappointed is her fate. Living but not not quite alive. Wishing, but not really hopeful.

On the surface, that’s the Nyra readers think they’re  meeting in chapter one of Best-Case Scenario. But entitled Relentless Hope, nothing characterizes Nyra’s most persistent state of mind. Despite disappointments that haunt lesser souls for years—even a lifetime,

Nyra still believes in her future. The possibilities she senses, even if the tangible evidence of hope still elude her are at the driving centrality of her soul.

Catalysts.

But hope is one thing. What continues to feed it? Is it that faint tickle of apparent interest radiating from someone we know and secretly desire? For Nyra, there are two. Toni, at work, a lovely woman of color whose kindness directed to a younger woman leaks soft sensuality. Is she interested in me? Nyra wonders more than once. What will she do if she is? Nyra isn’t sure. But she would like to find out.

And then there’s her more conventional “love interest.” Kevin, the night manager at the Blue Macaw. Handsome, confident without being an ass, Nyra sometimes catches him looking and wishing he’d do more than look. Surely one or the other of her two potential playmates will make a move.

But what will she do if they both make a move? With no experience with either gender and aware she’s attracted to both, how does she even decide? And then there’s the continued frustration of somehow being unable to snag her first professional level career job.

In the final analysis, doesn’t maintaining her positive outlook depend on a catalyst, either romantic or professional—preferably both? Nyra guesses it might. In the meantime, she keeps trying. After all. Isn’t hope in some form everyone’s best-case scenario?

May 30, 2022 Another Memorial Day

Airports Tell on Us

It was few years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in an airport, on my way somewhere when I saw her. She would have stood out from the rest of the throngs milling around the luggage carousel, even if she hadn’t been in uniform. She had that “just got back from somewhere” look I recognized immediately, having seen it in so many others—and from personal experience. The culture shock of stepping back into the “real” world, so at odds with your reality from 24 hours before. Was she home on emergency leave or…?

An old B-4 Valpak came down the luggage chute and onto the carousel, conspicuous in it’s worn drabness among all the civilian luggage. The young woman snagged it with a practiced hand. She didn’t look old enough to have been around while they were still issuing B-4 bags. Perhaps it was handed down to her by her father or her mother?

B-4 Valpak, circa Vietnam Era (Used with permission).

But as she turned from the luggage carousel, I caught another glimpse of her face, the momentary disorientation sapping purpose. I grimaced in empathy. Even if you’re not returning from combat, returning for overseas service reminds you of what you’ve missed. Loved ones, of course. Time you’ll never get back.

But goes well beyond that. The music, the idioms, and dozens of other little cultural milestones we sense without noticing consciously have changed. Things others take for granted are foreign to us. As though emerging from a time capsule or year long amnesia, the sense of disconnection is even more profound if we’ve left someone (or ones) behind.

Echoes of Loss...

After multiple deployments, veterans inevitably become strangers in their own land. I often wonder what those who have died for us would think of what we have become. A nation perpetually at war, with a bloated defense budget at the expense of infrastructure and the less fortunate in our society they gave everything to defend.

So as we close in on another Memorial Day, remember the fallen and honor them. But when you vote in the primaries and later on in November, may I gently suggest that your honor also all those still living? We have many things we need to attend to if we are to have a future even remotely as illustrious as our past. And if we expect our elected representatives to do it without a rude nudge, we’re clearly not paying attention. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. And the wait is over.

A Plea for Sanity…

Can we stop monetizing social poison?

The day started well...

I got back from the House of Pain, a few mornings ago, still riding the uplifting burn of the morning’s weight workout and cardio. I opened my laptop, as I do every morning and went to my Medium feed to scroll through the day’s offerings.

The day always starts better with a little well-modulated pain... photo courtesy of Luis Vidal on Unsplash

As an unapologetic eclectic, I tend to think of myself as conversant with a lot of stuff and a master of nothing. Politically and philosophically, I’m an independent progressive with conservative leanings. Or perhaps, an independent thinking conservative with progressive leanings. It’s a matter of emphasis and perspective, I guess.

My point being, I read a lot of different takes on many topics, and the offerings in my feed reflect that. I expect—even seek—opinions at odds with mine and I try to keep an open, (if skeptical) mind. But on the day in question, the morning’s feed was overly supplied with some of the Downer’s who make Medium their home. And I’m seeing that, more and more, these days. Just two examples follow.

Movin', shootin' and communicatin' Photo courtesy of Kevin Schmid on Unsplashh

The War on Ukraine...

“Putin Really Could Nuke Us,” one writer opined. My best efforts notwithstanding, the crotchety old Marine officer bubbled to the surface. “Oh, ya think?” I muttered under my breath. “Congratulations, you just blew the lid off the previously unreported threat of nuclear annihilation.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s maybe a helpful reminder, lest those prone to complacency may have forgotten. And there probably are a few out there who’ve forgotten Russia has nukes. A LOT of nukes…

But I didn’t see much in the post that hadn’t already been said on CNN, MSNBC et al. And his closing? I’m sorry, but not especially helpful. One needs not, if he/she has been paying attention resort to the doomsday scenario to remind readers of the fragility of life.

And at the rate we’re going, we may not need nukes to write finis to life as we know it. What if he doesn’t launch? What if (instead) his oligarchs come to the same conclusion the author reached, grow a pair and decide to “off” him, for reasons of their own? Wouldn’t be the first palace coup in Russia. In that case, might we be better advised to be working toward a better tomorrow—however we define it, irrespective of the murky goings on in Putin’s Russia?

The Demise of Sex...

“We are in the middle of the Great (Sex) Resignation,” another writer assures us. “Yeah?” I muttered under my breath. “Speak for yourself.” To be fair, maybe I’m the one who’s “out of step.” It wouldn’t be the first time. But based on the feed I get most days; I seem to be in pretty active company in that department.

The Great Sexual Resignation...REALLY? Photo courtesy of Maddie Bazzocco on Unsplash

And even if some of us aren’t “getting any” right now (or as much as we would like) this instant, I’m convinced it’s less a resignation than a drought. Are there studies out there suggesting that a statistically significant number of men and women are opting out, for now? Sure.

But barring the unforeseen, it’s a long life for many of us, with our sexual rhythms fluctuating for a number of independent variables all subject to change without notice. So I’m not moved, as yet, to herald the decline as a resignation—never mind a “great” one. It’s just as likely to be a pause.

And perhaps that’s not all bad, insofar as we’ve done a bang-up job (pun intended) of overpopulating the planet. In the end, however, I’m betting on libido reasserting itself. Maybe it’s too early for dramatic headlines, nevermind statistical inferences.

Nobody asked me, but...

Added to the mix are the steady drumbeats of an impending second civil war, dissolution of “The Great American Democratic Experiment” or the demise of the republic due to voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering.

The foregoing are all valid topics for consideration, and I should probably apologize for appearing to pick on the two foregoing examples above. They’re hardly alone, either here or in the “Mainstream Media.” My problem with these speculative doom saying stories isn’t that they’re wrong, or devoid of merit, it’s that they’re often premature leaps to conclusions. At the same time, they erode hope, obscuring possibilities we might other recognize, and further divide us.

To be fair, they’re not simply monetizing angst, though they’re most certainly doing that. There’s research validating their observations, even if we may disagree about the proximal causes for that division. A 2019, Pew Research study found two-thirds of adults in the U.S. believed “other” Americans had little or no confidence in the government at any level. This is an observation that would surprise few, these days.

But there’s an insidious side effect that oozes into our relationships with each other. The same study reported distrust of each other (as individuals) stood at 64%. And the Freedman Consulting Group’s joint study with The Partnership for Public Service   (Paul Hitlin & Nadzeya Shava) wasn’t much more flattering, finding fewer than 30% of Americans believe the government listens to them, or is transparent.

Not an encouraging statistic in any society that literally lives or dies based on cooperation. As the narrative accompanying the study results opines:

“Trust is the elixir for (both) public life and neighborly relations…”

As I have suggested in previous posts, we are the answer to most of the riddles. Blaming “government” for how things are going is counterproductive if we’re not actively working toward solutions. And blaming government especially if we didn’t vote is irresponsible. To be clear…I don’t have unqualified faith in either of the two dominant parties in the U.S, today. They have at best become part of the problem, in their current forms, for different reasons.

We Are More Than Our Organizations

It’s the nature of organizations to develop agenda of their own. Agenda that inevitably leak out in ways that often bear little resemblance to how most of us feel. Which explains why there’s so much attitudinal spread in both political parties today. Most of us recognize the collective majority American consciousness isn’t well represented by either party.

Statistics on many of the seminal issues we hear/read about in the news bear that out. By way of illustration, Only 19% of all America is anti-abortion in all cases. Almost 80% believe it should be legal in some cases, at least. So what does the decades-long assault by fundamentalist Christian and Republicans on abortion rights and Roe V. Wade say about our politicians’ responsiveness to us?

How many believe the election was rigged? Even on the eve of 1/6, more than 55% of Americans believed Biden won. And why is it only 55%? We all know the answer. We have a polarized news media that caters to their stove piped viewers, many of whom have abandoned anything but the hyper-editorialized, for-profit news media. Have we become addicted to outrage? I’m just asking the question.

Taking Back Our Lives

The foregoing wasn’t meant as a political screed. As I’ve said before, I’m not especially fond of how either party is conducting itself. But one is generally better than the other and I’m not going to tell anyone hear who it is. Any reader of normal intelligence in possession of an internet connection can arrive at a thoughtful conclusion with a little unbiased research.

The point I’m making is we all need to spin back down from our hyper-partisan distaste our stove piped media are trying to fob off on us and do a little independent thinking. If you’re getting more mileage out of your outrage than the still moments of your life, is it maybe time to ask why? If you don’t like the answer, then maybe it’s time for a change.

It’s not just the life of our nation riding on it. It’s all of our lives, as well. We have important issues to deal with. But dealing effectively with them demands a clear eye, a touch of humility and the open willingness to work together to fix what truly matters.

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer turned full-time author with five books in print and three more on the way and the facilitator of the OC Writers’ Space. Pick up your free copy Through the Windshield, Dirk’s anthology of short fiction today.

Are We Not One?

Book Cover for Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula

Readers who know me well also know that in my previous incarnation, I was a Marine officer, serving from the Vietnam era through Somalia. During that time I served multiple gigs in Asia, the Med, the Middle East, Africa with one foray down south to Columbia during Pappy Bush’s (George Herbert Walker Bush) administration for an operation we don’t talk about.

In both Tier Zero, Vol I of the Knolan Cycle and Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula, Hāthar Tahk, formerly Marty Tellus of Earth has learned many of the same lessons. In his short career as an officer in the Knolan Shock Forces, he has served with warriors from several systems in the Knolan Concordant.

His closest comrades in arms have include Kareitha, his platoon sergeant a battle-hardened and efficient Valiskaari woman, Ranyia, a Mennaran woman and heavy-weapons employment specialist, Kuristäal one of his wiry, sardonic squad leaders and the seven-foot Oörana, a Haãrapuri woman and heir to the the Umatôk’s throne. His shared hardships with them and reliance on them in battle has taught him honor and courage is not confined to just the Knolans who are first among equals in the Concordant.

In Eryinath-5, the Dancer Nebula, Hāthar’s story (and his education) continues. Gravely wounded and captured by the Valdrōsians, the Knolans’ implacable enemy, Hāthar learns that neither courage nor nobility is confined to the Knolan Concordant. Ironically, he learns this as a captive slave on Eryinath-5, a hybriding colony at the outer reaches of the Valdrōsian empire.

At the hands of the lovely Rexsylia, Hāthar’s Valdrōsian handler/trainer, he begins to sense the limits of his courage and heroism, along with an appreciation—if not acceptance—of alternative philosophies and universal viewpoints. As his limitations and his own vulnerabilities become more evident to him, he inevitably begins to question much of what he has taken for granted from his mentoring in the Knolan Way.

Given his value to the Knolan Concordant, it is inevitable that both the Guardian and the Oracle would seek to extricate him if they can find him and if they can locate him. Therein lies the problem. Where is he? A recovery force is on standby if only they can locate him. In the meantime, the Concordant has other problems, including the Valdrosians’ apparent growing interest in Kurrithäal, the Knolan name of Earth and the indigenes that call it home.

Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula continues the story of first contact between Earth and Knola, and the ancient war that has been raging for over a thousand years, for this little corner of our little galaxy. The story continues…

The Special Bond of Comrades in Arms

Hāthar, Oörana and Strius

Readers of Tier Zero, Vol. I of the Knolan Cycle have already met Paul Tillotson (renamed Strius by the Knolans). But it is not until chapter 7 in Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula that Hāthar and Strius meet. Strius already knows of Hāthar by reputation. The first half-Knolan, half-human Seed trained in the Tower and installed into the elite order of the Kurálli is almost larger than life, in the Academy where Strius is trained for duty in the Knolan Shock Forces (KSF).

And it’s clear that of the two, Hāthar has the most powerful mind and a foresight that’s almost otherworldly. It’s not that Strius is deficient. Hāthar is, after all, a Tier Zero, with (as yet) untapped and unmeasurable reserves of power.

But as they work together for the first time, they clearly complement each other. As they first plan and then execute the raid on a research facility on Trenyarmätt, a planet in the Valdrōsian controlled Punahir system, readers sense their fit as comrades in arms goes beyond their skills. Their respective temperaments and an almost symbiotic sensing of what the other is thinking make them a uniquely formidable duo. It’s clear that they are destined to become significant fixtures in each others’ lives. Assuming they survive this mission and its aftermath. Going in, they both knew it was a long shot.

When the misson goes sideways, Hāthar is gravely wounded in the final stages of a battle to steal needed Valdrōsian technology, Strius is forced by circumstances to leave Hāthar, knowing odds are that he will be killed. But sometimes odds don’t play out as planned.

Unknown to Strius, Hāthar survives—barely. When Strius learns Hāthar is indeed alive, but a prisoner on Eryinath-5, a Valdrōsian slave world, he vows to free him and exact revenge on the Valdrosians.

Though Eryinath-5 can be appreciated as a standalone tale, most readers of Tier Zero will welcome the return of Oörana, Hathar’s old friend and comrade in arms from Tier Zero. Now Umatôk of the Haärapuri, she offers herself and Tushar, Captain of her Guard to assist in Hāthar’s rescue attempt.

We also learn a lot more about the Knolans’ enemy, the Valdrōsians and realize not only is the a fight to the death, we learn that as is often the case in war, things are not as cut and dried as they seemed. What is always true, we realize, is that comrades in arms remain comrades in life and in death.

Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula

Volume II of the Knolan Cycle

Book Cover for Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula

Hāthar-Tahk, (formerly Marty Tellus of Earth) has just returned from a successful mission with the Knolan Shock Forces (KSF). In common with most successful combat missions, Hāthar returns with his share of ghosts. The mission cost him and his platoon dearly. Casualties were high. But in the variable operational calculus by which Knolans evaluate success, it was “worth it.”

Hāthar, on the other hand, is less sanguine about the men and women he’s lost than the strategic planners who advise the Guardian, responsible for the safety of the twenty-three systems (or sectars that form the Knolan Concordant. He understands and respects their perspective. But for Hāthar, the loss of men and women following his orders is deeply personal.

On the upside, Arra, Hāthar’s partner is carrying their first child and both mother and unborn are in good health. For reasons that should be obvious, Hathar wants to be around for the birth and Arra is looking forward to having him there to share the experience.

Unfortunately the Knolans’ Valdrōsian enemy rarely sleeps. The Knolan fleet protecting the Orothon Sectar has ambushed by Valdrōsians using advanced stealth technology the Knolans have yet to decipher. And they have no countermeasures. While not decisive in itself, the Knolans are rattled by the ease with which they were ambushed. A counter must be found.

So when an accidental misstep by the Valdrōsians reveals where the new stealth technology has been developed, Hāthar-Tahk is called to help plan the raid. Sensitive to Hāthar’s extended absence and Arra’s approaching delivery, the Guardian wants to limit his help in planning only.

Specifically, the Guardian wants the benefit of his unique ability to formulate creative and unpredictable approaches to seemingly insoluable problems. The Guardian isn’t disappointed.

Together with Zukinar, a Knolan Intelligence planner, they come up with a plan that may work. But it’s so risky that Hāthar cannot in good conscience leave this mission to anyone else.

Designated Mission Commander, Hathar begins mission-specific training for Operation Night Flower, a mission with so many uncontrollable variables, top-level leadership has profound doubts about anyone returning from it. But Sa ́ang Kurinth, the Knolan call to duty is a compelling principal in Hāthar’s mind. Once he can’t ignore, personal desires notwithstanding.

Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula takes the reader on a journey of convoluted twists of fate and gives them an upclose and personal look at Knola’s implacable enemy, the Valdrōsians and the perilously beautiful region that is Knola’s corner of our galaxy. Eryinath-5 is available in Kindle and paperback from Amazon and in paperback and epub from Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

What Reviewers Are Saying About Eryinath-5

“A great second book that takes up from the first book where it should and how it should. A throughly enjoyable read that, like the first book, is hard to put down. D.B. Sayers has a knack for developing characters that appeal to the reader while entwining them in a story line that has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Sprinkled throughout is thoughtful dialog that gives the reader a moment to pause and go back and reread a particularly insightful moment in the story.”

Semper Fi on Amazon

“I find it rare to read a book where the imagination shines so much and is so vivid. This one did it for me. Sci-Fi is one of those where you really need to be able to picture things and I was able to get a clear picture in my head.”

“This is an exciting read with wonderfully engaging characters that are passionate and compelling. Add to that the action and you will be engrossed.”

The Texas Book Nook

“I really enjoyed this read! I thought it was very engaging once it got started, I couldn’t put it down. I liked how the writer made me feel like I was part of this new world and a part of the story. The characters became real, the world became real! Vivid.”

The Indie Express

About the Author

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer turned corporate trainer and district manager, turned full-time author. Other books by Sayers include:

Other Books by D.B. Sayers

West of Tomorrow, a contemporary novel of corporate intrigue, betrayal, misplaced love and the phoenix in all of us.

Best-Case Scenario, Act I of Nyra’s Journey is a thoughtful and often racy New Adult novella following the development of Nyra Westensee, from a young college graduate with more questions than answers to a young woman of dawning sophistication.

Through the Windshield is an anthology of thought-provoking short stories.

Tier Zero, Vol. I of the Knolan Cycle is the first book in the Knolan series, a tale of first contact between Earth and the Knolan Concordant. Eryinath-5 above-mentioned is the second book in the series.

The Year of Maybe, Act II of Nyra’s Journey, the sequel to Best-Case Scenario is due out this year.

Unresolvable Conflicts-Sheera Prasad

Clay’s first glimpse was memorable. Slender, with glossy midnight hair in a professional updo that made him wonder what it might be like to unpin it and run his fingers through it. It seemed to glow. Her enigmatic smile revealed perfect teeth and drew attention to full, pillowy lips. Her deep olive complexion and eyes almost as dark as her hair nevertheless seemed to glow.

As he would soon learn in working with her, Sheera is smart, self-possessed and driven, personally, professionally and sexually. Rarely caught off guard, Sheera is unapologetically her own woman, literally one of a kind, self-created and self-contained.

It’s not hard to understand. As Sheera herself explains to Clay over a business lunch:

     “My father taught business administration at U Conn Hartford.” She frowned and shook her head. “Growing up, it felt like they brought India with them.”

     “Isn’t that human nature?” Clay asked. “Even as we evolve, don’t most of us crave the familiar?”

     “Probably,” Sheera admitted. “And don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of my heritage. But I wanted to grow up American. Unfortunately, my parents wanted me to grow up an Indian who just happened to live in America.”

     “So you pushed back?” Clay guessed.

     Sheera laughed. “Oh, did someone rat me out?”

     “No. It just feels in character.”

     She shrugged. “By the time I was in high school, we fought almost daily about everything. Usually dating, curfews and hemlines. That’s why I went away to college instead of going to U Conn.”

     Clay nodded. “Understandable.”

     “Well, they didn’t. When I came back for spring break the first year, Baba had arranged for a transfer back to U Conn.” Sheera frowned. “Mother handed me the application, almost before I dropped my suitcase in the hallway.”

   “Subtle,” Clay remarked. “So what did you do?”

     Sheera picked up her fork and stabbed at her salad. “Even though Mother was the messenger, I knew Baba was behind it. We fought everyday for a week, but he wasn’t budging. So I pretended to. I filled out the application and gave it to Mother to mail.”

      Sheera speared another bite of salad with a sardonic smile. “After Baba left for work, I snatched it before the mail was picked up and burned it.”

Predictably, Clay is smitten with this independent thinking, strong-willed woman. How that affects the course of his destiny and Sheera’s, is a far-reaching and nuanced tale of love, conflict and redemption.

West of Tomorrow is essentially Clay’s story, but the role Sheera plays in his downfall at Halberstamm Leadership Group and what follows later is pivotal to the story. Sheera’s complexity and inner conflict delights and bedevils readers in this convoluted tale.

Half an Hour West of Tomorrow

Clay Conover and a Moment in Time

If you’ve worked in an organization, you probably know a Clay Conover. Or it could be a Karen Conover. It’s less about gender than identity. An evolved, capable and compassionate human, evolved in ways it’s hard to miss. It’s an indivisible part of who they are. In common with all of us, they have their flaws, but their steady, unflappable competence and essential decency wins people over at the same time it sometimes limits how high they can climb in organizations.

In West of Tomorrow, Clay Conover is at a crossroads not unlike one where most of us eventually find ourselves. A fateful decision looms ahead. A decision some part of our mind suspects we should have made before now. Like so many other things as we reach the “back half of our lives,” the decisions we make now creep closer to irrevocability, with consequences that have a ring of finality to them.

Ten years into his second career as a corporate trainer/team leader, post-retirement from the Corps, Clay can’t help feeling like his career is “stuck” in neutral. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy what he’s doing or that he’s struggling. If anything, he’s too good to be stuck as a Mobile Training Team leader. And when Alistair, Clay’s boss moves up to COO from Director of the Western Office, Clay is his most logical successor.

The arrival of Sheera Prasad shakes up the equilibrium. Young, hungry and ambitious, Sheera has been sent by corporate to fill a bonafide need for another trainer. But Jonas Stevens the COO from corporate isn’t just filling an open position. He has another, darker purpose in mind. Always perceptive, Clay senses something is “off,” but can’t put his finger on it.

So does Clay tell Alistair about his concerns? Tell him what, exactly? That she’s competent and learns quickly? That she is an excellent facilitator? As always in organizations, the answer to that question is curiously equivocal. “It’s complicated” is a phrase invented for situations like this. Not the least because despite Clay’s best efforts at detachment as her trainer and supervisor, Clay is attracted to her. And it appears to be mutual.

As a retired Marine, he has strong notions about fraternization or personal relationships with subordinates, but it’s been a long time since he’s had anyone in his life. And this isn’t the Corps. Both Clay and Sheera are mature adults, aren’t they? Surely they can navigate the complications of working together and playing together, if it comes to that?

As the story unfolds, Clay’s character and perceptiveness will matter as much as at any other time in his life. Can he dovetail love and career and chart and ethical course at the same time?

West of Tomorrow is a tale of corporate intrigue, betrayal, misplaced love and the phoenix that lives in all of us.