Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – 99 cents on iBooks

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneEveryone’s favorite girl inventor is back. The Maxxim space program is in full swing, ferrying supplies to the International Space Station, as Astrid perfects her ground-launched rocket plane. To finish it, she must first deal with Maxxim’s new automotive division, a terrifying vision of the future, and an English class essay, and her cousin Gloria coming for Thanksgiving.

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane is available on iBooks for just 99 cents.

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 7 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneAstrid and her father gathered their dishes and took them to the kitchen, placing them in the dishwasher. Then they walked into the family room. Dr. Maxxim started to sit down, but Astrid waved for him to follow and led the way into the living room beyond.

“Now would be the time to talk,” she said.

They stood in the center of the formal living room that was almost never used. Astrid pointed to the doorway that led from the room, down a long hallway. That hallway was lined with small rooms that had once been servants’ quarters.

“So, what’s the deal?”

“Have you ever noticed how strange this house is?” asked her father, seemingly taking them onto a different subject.

“Um, sure. Especially since there are big parts of it we don’t even use.”

“This house was old when my grandfather bought it,” explained Dr. Maxxim. “I don’t know what it was exactly, but he liked it and bought it. It was all the way back in New York State then. When he moved out west, he brought it with him. He had it taken apart and reassembled right here. Then over the years, he began modifying it, changing it around. My father made a few changes. Both of them were happy to have a house full of servants taking care of them. I never felt comfortable with all these people living among us, and us acting like they were invisible.”

“Mom’s right, Dad. People don’t act that way anymore.”

“Maybe not,” he said. “You’ve looked in those rooms before?”

“Sure. They’re mostly empty, but a few of them have some furniture in them. They’re not too bad. Aren’t they about the same size as my bedroom?”

“No. Your bedroom is about fifty percent larger. And these rooms are only as large as they are, because they were intended to hold eight household staff in each one. They had their own dining room and common room at one time. They were right here, as a matter of fact. Your mother and I turned it into the living room. When we first got married, we went on a building spree, you might say.”

“You created my bedroom by dividing up a larger room, right?”

“Yes. We did the same thing with our bedroom. We added bathrooms. We put in the pool. We had the kitchen remodeled and created the breakfast room. Then we sort of ran out of gas. At least I did. We just closed off the rest of the house that we didn’t use.”

“Have you thought about doing anything else?”

“I guess I just figured that I would leave it for you when you grow up,” he said.

“Well, I have a lot of ideas,” said Astrid. “Some of them, I think we need to start on right now.”

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 6 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneAstrid was sad that she didn’t have any classes with Denise this year or with either Valerie, but they were all waiting for her at the lunch line. After a quick hello, they entered the queue and picked up their tray before heading to their regular table near the center of the quad. Lunch was chicken breast with white wine herb basting sauce, with garlic potatoes, sliced heirloom tomatoes, and green beans, and a raspberry white chocolate mousse for dessert.

“Yum, pudding,” said Austin, plopping himself down next to Astrid. “Or as we say in français, pudding.”

“The call it mousse in France,” said Denise. “And you know what? They call it that in America too.”

“It’s not my fault I don’t know about all this fancy food,” he said, as Toby and Christopher took their seats. “I’m just a poor orphan trying to make my way in a strange school. I’m like Harry Potter.”

“Austin is right,” said Astrid. “We don’t want to sound like food snobs.”

“Whatever you say, Hermione,” said Denise.

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneIt was a cool breezy day in Maxxim City. As they walked the carefully cultivated sidewalk, the overhanging trees were now denuded of leaves. But living in the southwest, it seldom got very cold and no measureable snowfall had come to the area in more than forty years. When they reached the corner of Acacia and Fourth, they found Christopher and Denise waiting in the usual spot, right at the corner of the Brown family lawn. Though Christopher lived two blocks down, on Cyprus, he often met Denise at her door and waited with her for Astrid and Toby.

“Ask Astrid,” Denise told Christopher.

“Ask me what?”

“Whether you like the school uniform,” said Christopher.

Students at Rachel Carson High School wore the school uniform. Boys wore a blue blazer with the school crest, white shirt, blue tartan tie, blue slacks, blue tartan socks, and black Oxfords. Girls wore the same blazer, tie, and white shirt, along with a tartan blue pleated skirt, tartan blue knee socks and black and white Oxfords. Girls had the option of wearing blue slacks, but few did. It was all pretty easy because the school gave each student four shirts and two of everything else at the beginning of each semester.

“What’s wrong with the uniform?” wondered Astrid. “It’s the same as last year.”

“Other schools don’t have uniforms,” said Denise.

“Other schools don’t have a lot of things we have,” said Christopher.

“Don’t rock the boat,” said Astrid. “I have a hard enough time picking out my clothes on the weekend. Don’t ruin the rest of the week for me.”

The four of them walked down the short, sloping block to Fifth Street and were all shocked to find the two Valeries by their front door. Valerie usually kept them waiting while making last minute touches to her hair. From the Diaz home it was a short walk to the Main Street Monorail Station. Waiting on the platform were dozens of other students, including Austin and Bud. The train slid into the station and they all climbed aboard.

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – 99 cents for Kindle

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneEveryone’s favorite girl inventor is back. The Maxxim space program is in full swing, ferrying supplies to the International Space Station, as Astrid perfects her ground-launched rocket plane. To finish it, she must first deal with Maxxim’s new automotive division, a terrifying vision of the future, and an English class essay, and her cousin Gloria coming for Thanksgiving.

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane is available for Kindle for just 99 cents.

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 4 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneAstrid led the group away from the public area to one of the hangers. Using a key card, she let them in the side door of a large aircraft hanger. With a flip of a nearby switch, powerful lights suspended from the very high ceiling illuminated the entire building. Sitting in the center was the most remarkable aircraft they had ever seen—Astrid’s space plane. It was shaped something like a short arrow with a large arrowhead. The pointed nose arched back to a wide cabin. Then the fuselage narrowed, only to widen a bit in the back to contain powerful rocket engines, which had not yet been installed. Just in front of where those engines would be located, was a small wing on either side. In addition to a very large window in front of the cockpit, there were two large windows on either side of the craft.

“It’s not as pointy as I expected it to be,” said Valerie.

“She’s right,” said Toby. “Every supersonic aircraft I’ve seen is a lot more sleek.”

“And I thought it would be black, like a stealth fighter,” said Austin, “or maybe silver. This is beige.”

“It’s off white,” said Valerie.

“Eggshell,” offered Denise.

“It’s called ‘simply white’,” said Astrid, with a frown. “The astridium coating could have been made in any color. I chose this because it’s the same color as my first computer. I was feeling kind of nostalgic. The astridium, which covers a cooled nickel-titanium skin, is also why it doesn’t have to be quite so angular. It also allows for larger windows, since they are made from the same transparent astridium I used in my undersea dome, thicker though. I think she’s beautiful.”

“It will be supersonic though, right?” asked Toby.

“Hypersonic,” said Astrid. “She should be able to make mach-6 in the upper atmosphere.”

“How fast is that?” asked Austin.

“4,132 mph,” said Astrid. “Of course in space, she’ll fly at 30,000 mph or more.”

“Can you fly it to the moon?” asked Regular Valerie.

“No,” said Astrid, “but she will fly much higher than the NASA space shuttles ever did. She’ll be able to reach geostationary orbit to repair telecommunications satellites for instance. That’s an altitude of 22,236 miles above sea level.”

“Can we go inside?” wondered Austin.

“Sure.”

Astrid led them to the far side of the spacecraft where a set of steps led up to an open hatch. The interior was divided into a cockpit and an aft cabin. The former contained the flight instrumentation and seats for five crewmen. The latter, despite containing four workstations for mechanical and scientific work, was very spacious.

“So, nine astronauts?” said Christopher.

“The normal crew compliment is five,” said Astrid. “They would all be up front during takeoff and landing. Back here is the work and living area.”

“I don’t see any beds or a toilet,” said Denise.

“There is a zero gravity waste disposal system in the back. In space though, you don’t really need beds. The crew will sleep in sleeping bags that Velcro to the ceiling and walls.”

“So when are you going to fly it?” asked Robot Valerie.

“We’ll be installing the engines next week,” said Astrid. “Then comes the ground test. The atmospheric test flights should begin before the end of the year. But it won’t be me flying. I don’t even have a pilot’s license.”

“You should get yours,” said Christopher. “The governor would give you special permission like he did Toby and me, so not being sixteen yet won’t be a problem.”

“Besides,” said Toby. “I’ve seen you fly several times now and you’re better than any of us.”

“I’ll think about it,” replied the girl inventor. “In any case, it will be a trained test pilot taking her up for the first time.”

“Why do you keep calling it ‘she’ and ‘her’?” wondered Regular Valerie.

“It’s kind of traditional for ships and spacecraft to have a female pronoun.”

“Well, does she have a name?” asked Denise.

“Sure.” Astrid smiled. “I kind of have a fantasy about building a fleet of ten space planes, so I have ten names. The first one… this one… she’s Ariel.”

“You didn’t name them all after Disney princesses did you?” asked Austin.

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane“How much time before the launch?” asked Denise.

Toby looked at his wrist. “Thirteen minutes.” He turned to show the device strapped to his arm to everyone else on the row. “See? I got my Astrid watch when I got my Astrid phone.”

“That’s not what they’re called,” said Astrid.

“Really? Because that’s what the guy at the electronics store called it.”

The wristwatch device that had been dubbed by marketing specialists the Maxxim Carpé was a high powered computer in its own right and when paired with the Maxxim Phone it was even more powerful. It came in about two-dozen different styles including the one that Toby had with a dark blue band and a blue and grey bezel—The Mariner. Astrid had originally designed the wearable computer as a Fathers Day present for her dad, but her work could also be found all through the phone. She had written part of the operating system for both devices and designed the batteries that powered them.

“That is so cool,” said Austin from the far end of the row. “My grandma said I could have one for my birthday if I promise not to lose it.”

“I hope you didn’t promise,” said Christopher. “There’s no way you’re not going to lose it.”

Austin had a history of misplacing all kinds of things, including his phone and other electronic devices. He was once bitten by a rattlesnake while looking for a lost PDA.

“That’s the beauty of it,” said Austin. “It has a built in app so it can’t get lost. Your phone will lead you right to it.”

“I confess to thinking of you when I wrote that app,” said Astrid.

“You’re welcome world,” said Austin.

“The countdown is at ten minutes,” said the voice over the loudspeaker.

“I love my phone,” said Toby, fishing it out of his pocket. “I’m surprised that Maxxim never made one before.”

“It’s a tough market, so I think my mother thought we couldn’t compete,” Astrid explained. “She’s probably right. We’ll never be the industry leader, but my dad and I think if we just make the best phones in the world, that will be enough.”

Toby held the phone up for her to see that he had set the wallpaper to Astrid’s new school picture. It was a good likeness, and picture day that year had been a great hair day, but still it made Astrid uneasy seeing her image looking back from the screen.

“Bow down before me,” she whispered.

“What?” asked Toby.

“Nothing. Um… I think it would be better if you took me off your wallpaper.”

“Why?”

“Well, um… somebody might find your phone and think it’s mine.”

“Then you could give it to me,” he said slowly, as if trying to find the meaning behind her words. “Are you mad because we haven’t been on another evening date since Junior Prom?”

“No.”

“It’s just been such a busy summer, Astrid. I was in Europe and you were in Antarctica and then working. It just seemed like whenever we had time the whole gang should get together.”

“No, really,” said Astrid. “I’m not angry about that… or anything really. I just think you should put something else as your wallpaper—maybe something manly. You could put um… football or a truck or maybe Iron Man.”

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane“What’s the matter?”

Looking up into the face of Robot Valerie, Astrid screamed again. She looked around, but for a moment couldn’t remember where she was.

“Are you all right, Astrid?” asked Regular Valerie, looking down at her from above.

“I told you we couldn’t all three fit in the bed,” said another voice, and Astrid saw Denise looking over the edge of the mattress.

“Denise? You’re not in prison?”

“Valerie, you’d better go get one of my dads. I think Astrid hit her head and knocked a screw loose.”

Regular Valerie hopped off the bed and hurried out of the room.

It was coming back to her now. She was at the Brown family home for a sleepover, but she still flinched when Robot Valerie reached toward her.

“I just wanted to check your head for a bump,” said the mechanical girl in a hurt voice.

Her flesh and blood sister returned, followed by Denise’s brother Dennis and both her dads.

“Dennis,” said Astrid. “Thank goodness you’re alive.”

“Are you all right?” asked Dennis Brown Sr. “Do you need a doctor?”

“No,” Astrid replied. “No, I just had a bad dream.”

“And Valerie pushed her out of the bed,” added Denise. “Me too. I’m fine by the way.”

“That must have been some dream,” said Mr. Brown.

“It was. It seemed so real. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream that seemed as real as this one.”

“Well, what happened?” asked Dennis. “Obviously I was in prison, so that sucks, but what else?”

“I traveled in a time machine twenty-five years into the future into a dystopian world ruled by… ruled by an evil military dictator, with robot storm troopers.”

“Oh my,” said Robot Valerie.

“It’s your own fault,” said Denise, and when Astrid looked questioningly at her, she said, “You’re the one who wanted to watch The Hunger Games last night.”

Motivations: Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneIt’s a funny thing.  I had started and stopped writing Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition several times, but by the time I was done, I was just hitting my stride.  I immediately started working on Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane.  The previous books had hinted quite a bit about what would be in this book and I just continued on.

This was without a doubt the quickest I had ever finished a book.  I started the rough draft August 24, 2014 and finished it September 13th.  Twenty-one days inclusive.  The very next day, I started on His Robot Girlfriend: Charity, It took forty-two days, exactly twice as long, but still pretty quick.  A big part of this is probably because I just finished a second twelve credit graduate program at SUU, and I hadn’t been able to write much during those months.

The cover for the book went through half a dozen drafts as we got just the right spacecraft and image of Astrid.  Though not created at the same time, this cover and the one for the upcoming Astrid Maxxim and her Outpost in Space fit really well together.

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 1 Complete

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneAstrid Maxxim stepped out of the time machine and looked around. The Main Street of Maxxim City didn’t look very different twenty-five years in the future, at least at first. Then she noticed gigantic buildings off in the distance, so high they reached up into the clouds. Hearing a thunderous noise to the west, she turned to see a huge spacecraft, spherical and the size of a football stadium, rise up into the sky. As her eyes followed the vapor trail from the sky to the ground, she saw the monorail station, looking just as it always had. In front of it though, was a four story tall video screen. A close up of a woman’s face filled the image. She was talking but Astrid couldn’t hear what she was saying, and from this angle she couldn’t make out the woman’s features.

“Must be a soft drink add,” she mused.

It suddenly occurred to Astrid that at mid-day there should have been shoppers going in and out of the stores and cars moving up and down the street. There were neither. The storefronts across the street from her should have been The Bagel Nook and Dickens and Co. Books. Now however, neither building was labeled. They didn’t even seem to have front doors. There was a kind of a slot about five feet wide and three feet tall just above where the door would have been. As she watched, a flying drone, held aloft by four Maxxim hoverdisks, just like those in her hoverbike, zipped over her head and into the slot in what had been The Bagel Nook.

“Maybe they have drones pick up things for them at the store,” she thought aloud.

Turning around, she saw that the Malt Shop didn’t look all that different. It appeared to be open, so she started toward it. It wasn’t until she was right in front of the door though that she noticed the sign. Instead of Maxxim City Malt Shop, it read Startopia Malt Shop. The door whooshed open, kind of like on Star Trek, as she passed through. Inside though, it was exactly the same—the same barstools and counter, the same tables and chairs, and the same menu board. There were no customers though.           “Just a minute,” she heard someone call out.

A minute later, a man who looked to be in his thirties stepped out of the back room and walked out to the counter as she sat down on one of the round stools. Dressed in white pants and shirt, and with an apron tied around his waist, he was pretty normal looking. He was a little chubby around the middle and his hair was thinning. Astrid looked at the nametag above his shirt pocket.

“Irving?” she said. “Irving Witzel?”

“Yup, that’s me. Do I know you? You look familiar.”

“Um, my name is Gloria.” Astrid didn’t think she had to worry about changing anything here in the future the way she would have if she was in the past, but if she admitted who she was it might cause complications. “My parents used to live here in Maxxim City and they told me you worked here.”

“Oh yeah? Well, they must have lived here quite a while ago if they still called it… if they still used the old name.”

“You’re good friends with Dennis Brown, right?”

“We were best friends,” he smiled sadly. “He was killed in the war.”

“What war?”

“The Last War, the only war.”

“How about his sister?”

“Her name was Denise,” said Irving. “She became a writer—a pretty good one from what I hear. She might be working for the news agency, or she might be in prison.”

“Prison?”

“Yeah, well you know how writers are. Are you going to order something?”

“Um, yes. Let me have a chocolate soda, please.”

Irving’s eyes lit up.

“You’re parents must have told you about chocolate sodas. I used to be the best soda jerk in North America.” He pulled a large glass from beneath the counter and began mixing chocolate sauce and soda water together. Then he plopped two scoops of chocolate ice cream into the mixture. “Sorry. No whipped cream. I haven’t made one of these in years.”

He slid the glass toward Astrid, and she took a straw and stuck it into the confection, taking a long sip.

“Delicious.” She took another sip. “Say, Denise Brown used to have a friend named Valerie.”

Irving’s face scrunched up as if he’d bitten into a lemon.

“Governor Diaz. I don’t talk about politics. Say, why are you asking all these questions?”

“Um, I’m doing a report for school… um, it’s about my mother growing up.”

“Oh yeah?” suspicious dripped from Irving’s words. “Just who is your mother?”

“Oh, you probably never heard of her,” said Astrid, struggling to think of someone whom she could name. “Her name was… Océane Feuillée.”

Irving’s face broke into a grin. “I know you!”

“You do?”

“Sure. You’re Gloria Bundersmith! Your dad was a good friend of mine. Boy-oh-boy, I remember when he married Océane and moved to Europe. That was the last big party we had around these parts. How is your dad?”

“Fine, last time I saw him,” Astrid’s voice came out as a squeak.

“Is he still friends with Christopher Harris. We all expected Toby to move to Europe, marrying a French girl and all, but it was a surprise when Christopher and Alicia went with them.”

“Um, yes,” said Astrid. “They’re still best friends. Why wouldn’t they be?”

In a daze, she turned her attention to her soda, sipping all the liquid out and then taking a bite of the leftover ice cream with a spoon. Irving took out a white towel and began polishing some glassware. Her mind abuzz, the girl inventor watched him. Finally she noticed that every so often he looked up toward the back wall. Back in the present, or the past, or the past present, or whatever, a large mirror had hung there. Now a white tablecloth thumbtacked to the wall covered the space. Finally Irving turned back to her.

“Um, I don’t know if my money is still good,” she said.

“Not if it’s Euros,” replied Irving. “Don’t worry though, kid. This one’s on the house.”

“Thanks,” said Astrid. “Say Irving, I mean Mr. Witzel, do you remember Astrid Maxxim?”

“I wondered if you would ask about her.” He looked around the room and then leaned across the counter to look out the front window. “I bet people still show up to some town in Austria and ask what Hitler was like when he was a boy.”

“Hitler!”

Irving laughed nervously. “Not really a fair comparison.”

“I should think not,” Astrid blurted out.

“After all,” said Irving. “I hear Hitler loved music and was kind to dogs.”

Suddenly the door burst inward, sending shattered glass across the room, and a dozen bluish silver figures marched in. Irving turned as if looking for an escape, only to see six more of the invaders marching out of the back room and into the space behind the counter. As one, all eighteen figures raised their right arms, which transformed into some kind of weapon. Red laser targeting dots appeared on Irving’s chest, and Astrid’s too!

“Irving Witzel!” said the foremost figure. “By the Authority of Valerie Diaz, Governor of District Three, you are ordered to stand in judgment!”

Astrid gasped. The voice was that of her friend Valerie, only she sounded grown up. Even more shocking though was that the eighteen bluish silver figures all looked like grown-up versions of Robot Valerie!

“Why is your reminder covered?” demanded the closest Robot Valerie, pointing to the spot where the large mirror used to hang.

“Uh… I was painting.” Irving’s voice shook. “I didn’t want to get paint on it.”

“Covering the reminder is a class six crime, punishable by no less than 100 hours in the reeducation booth.”

Irving collapsed, sobbing. The Robot Valerie closest to him reached up and yanked the cloth down, exposing a video screen. Though she hadn’t been able to see any real details before, Astrid could tell that this was the same face that was on the giant screen by the monorail station. Only the head and shoulders of the woman, who was wearing a stiff-collared military style uniform was visible. Her strawberry blond hair was cut short, like a boy’s, and parted on the side. Though pretty, in a hard sort of way, and wearing a modest amount of makeup, a scar ran from her forehead down her left cheek to her chin, marring her face. Whatever had caused that scar had obviously cost her an eye, because while her right eye was large and bright blue, a glowing red robotic eye replaced her left one.

“She looks a little like my mother,” thought Astrid.

And then the woman on the screen spoke.

“I am Supreme Ruler Astrid Maxxim. All will bow before me!”

“What?” yelled Astrid.

“She said to bow down!” growled one of the robots, grabbing the girl inventor by the shoulders and pushing her down.

Astrid screamed as she hit the floor.