Scary transition from Mars orbit to descent for Nikki and her crew …


June 19, 2023

“Initiate landing sequence,” Xander calmly instructed Jo, who reached to tap a button on her digital console.

“Landing sequence is a go,” the pilot declared, her voice strong and confident through the intercom in Nikki’s bubble helmet.

They were all suited up and strapped into the Crew Dragon capsule for the harrowing six-minute descent that could either establish humanity as a two-planet species or end in disaster.

Nikki and Sunny locked white gloves as they had for every life-or-death moment on the mission, and Nikki once again had to remind herself to breathe. She felt the thrust of the ship’s engines at her back and the level floor give way. The ship’s nose pitched downward, illuminating the previously dark windows with the blood-orange glow of Mars.

Nikki’s jaw dropped without exhale.

Starship accelerated its descent as programmed by the onboard computers, and Xander and Jo studied their digital screens closely to monitor their course toward Planum Australe near the southern polar cap.

“Maintaining current course,” Jo said.

“Accelerate descent to 7.5 kilometers per second,” Xander directed.

“That’s a go,” Jo replied, the engines roaring now and sending Starship into a virtual nose-down free fall toward the heavily cratered Martian surface.

Twenty seconds into that top-of-the-rollercoaster plunge, the ship’s internal lights and digital screens all flickered off and back on in a split-second.

“Electrical malfunction,” Jo reported, pointing to a flashing button on her console. “We’re on backup.”

Nikki and Sunny exchanged alarmed looks and gripped gloves even tighter.

“What the hell happened?” Nikki heard Eddy ask.

“Damage sensor flashing to the rear of the ship,” Xander announced, still amazingly calm.

“Heat shield issue?” Jo theorized.

“Too soon for that,” the commander replied. “How’s our course?”




“Then I’m guessing a plasma surge from micrometeorites,” Xander said.

“Dammit!” Jo shouted.

“Too small and too fast to detect … we might’ve been sandblasted with our ass up in the air.”

“Welcome to Mars, Earthlings,” Jo said with a gallows tone. “We just got hazed.”

20 chapters are now complete:

CHAPTER 1: An International Chorus
CHAPTER 2: Epic Decision
CHAPTER 3: A Long, Long Way
CHAPTER 4: The Link
CHAPTER 5: Red Zeppelin
CHAPTER 6: Parking Lot Reunion
CHAPTER 7: Sisters in Space
CHAPTER 8: No Softballs
CHAPTER 9: Last Supper on Earth
CHAPTER 10: Mars is a Lucky Guy
CHAPTER 11: Dancing with the Stars
CHAPTER 12: Space High

CHAPTER 13: Black Aces
CHAPTER 14: Song in a Letter Box
CHAPTER 15: Hazed
CHAPTER 16: What Now Genius?
CHAPTER 17: 12-Story Horror
CHAPTER 18: No Further Communication
CHAPTER 19: Is Matt Damon Here?
CHAPTER 20: This is Mars

Words completed: 22,132


Nikki and the crew get interviewed in low Earth orbit before the burn to Mars …


“Are any of you scared to put Earth in your rear-view mirror and travel so far away?” “CBS This Morning” host Norah O’Donnell asked the astronauts aboard Crew Dragon.
“I am,” Nikki said, “but I wouldn’t be human if I weren’t, so you embrace that fear and blast right past it to a place no human has been.”
“I feel like a conquistador, myself,” Eddy boasted to laughs all around. Then he grabbed his larger friend. “Pluto Parker, here, is disappointed we’re stopping at Mars and not going to his home planet … ice-ball dwarf, whatever it is.”

The 12 chapters of Part 1 are now complete:

CHAPTER 1: An International Chorus
CHAPTER 2: Epic Decision
CHAPTER 3: A Long, Long Way
CHAPTER 4: The Link
CHAPTER 5: Red Zeppelin
CHAPTER 6: Parking Lot Reunion
CHAPTER 7: Sisters in Space
CHAPTER 8: No Softballs
CHAPTER 9: Last Supper on Earth
CHAPTER 10: Mars is a Lucky Guy
CHAPTER 11: Dancing with the Stars
CHAPTER 12: Space High

Words completed:

6 chapters complete so far for Nikki Red: Mars Colony Agatha (Nikki #4)

BFR and Crew Dragon on Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.


(8,276 words completed)

Nikki Janicek, specialist
Sam “Snowbow” Archambeau
Thomas Harvey
Adam Upton
Roger Janicek
Lynn Barrett
Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO
Jane Rushmore
Xander Vermilyea, commander
Jo Giguere, pilot
Ulysses “Pluto” Parker, specialist
Eddy Etergino, specialist
Susan “Sunny” Wilkes, specialist

Work begins on Nikki Red: Mars Colony Agatha

Jack Chaucer wants to write a NIKKI RED to go along with the previously published NIKKI WHITE (2017) and NIKKI BLUE (2015), as well as the prequel STREAKS OF BLUE (2013), so he has begun toiling on the opening scenes from the fourth book. It will pick up right where NIKKI WHITE: POLAR EXTREMES left off, in the skies over the North Sea on Sept. 8, 2022.

Let’s just say things won’t be going as Nikki had expected, per usual.

The goal is to have this one published by July 4, 2020 — so very Red, White and Blue — well before humans actually set foot on Mars.

So far, there is a two-part PROLOGUE featuring Nikki and Thomas in one part, and South Pole legend Sam “Snowbow” Archambeau in the second part.

There’s also CHAPTER 1: AN INTERNATIONAL CHORUS and CHAPTER 2: EPIC DECISION, starring Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX.

The first line of Chapter 1 will be a short one … “Scheisse!”

That’s the German word for “shit.”

Stay tuned …

Full chapter excerpt: Thomas meets the universe at the South Pole

April 14, 2020

darksectornikki-white-d2Finally, the Dark Sector.

I followed the old man up the snowy stairs and into the tallest, newest telescope at the South Pole. Snowbow had given us a lift in a snowcat because it was 60-below and dropping fast. We entered the circular building at the base of the rotating telescope. The shell of the thing stared into space at an angle.

Once we got inside and shed some layers of winter gear, Willem showed me around.

“Where is everyone?” I asked.

“It’s my shift and you’re my assistant,” he said. “I gave my regular assistant the night off.”


“Better than washing dishes, eh?”

“Hell yeah.”

Willem grabbed a bunch of ropes tied together and yanked them to one side. Then he hit some buttons on a console, causing the whole clam shell to rotate toward us in the center until it locked into place right above us. After admiring it for a second, Willem used a step ladder to climb up and open two handles on what looked like a big white cabinet that was facing down at us. He swung both doors of the cabinet all the way around so it was fully open. Then he stepped down the ladder, removed it and flipped on a light.

“Have a look,” he said, waving me on.

I moved under the opening and stared through the inside of the massive telescope. It went up and up and up, with windows near the top and darkness above it all. It looked like you could fit a small rocket inside it — that’s how big it was, narrowing at the top.

“Cool,” I said.

Willem practically spat at my response. “Cool? That’s $19 million worth of cool!”

“You must get some sick close-ups of the moon.”

Willem shook his head in disgust. “Don’t they teach you anything in your pathetic American schools? We ain’t looking at the fucking moon with a massive instrument like this.”

“What then?”

“Have you ever wondered, Thomas, where we all come from? Where this whole universe we live in got started?”

“Not a whole lot.”

“Well, I figured that so let me try to get you up to speed.”


“The universe started about 14 billion years ago with a huge release of energy called the Big Bang. To give you some perspective, Earth is about 4 and a half billion years old. With this telescope, we can see the light and other waves of energy produced before the galaxies, stars and planets were even born. We can see what space looked like when the universe was very young.”

“How young?”

“If the universe was 100 years old today, this telescope can show us what it looked like when it was about 8 minutes old.”

“Holy shit.”

“That is some holy shit. We’re studying what is called the cosmic microwave background for signs of the Big Bang’s earliest ripple effects. We’re also learning more about the 95 percent of the universe that we cannot see — dark matter and dark energy.”

“Is that why they call this the Dark Sector?” I asked.

“Maybe you do have a brain in that skull of yours. That’s one reason. Another is this telescope does most of its work during winter, when it’s dark all the time.”

I nodded and walked over to a bulletin board, which was plastered with all kinds of information and photos on it.

“Yes, study that and learn more about what we do here while I perform some routine maintenance tasks,” Willem said.

“Have you shown Nikki or Adam or Bill this place yet?” I asked.


“Why not?”

“Because they haven’t earned the right to see it yet and you have,” he said, strolling over to a computer on the far side of the room.

Me? Head of the class? That’s 14 billion jolts of Big Bang-style explosive shock right there.

I leaned in and looked closer at the bulletin board of telescope stuff. One wicked weird photo caught my eye.

“This image shows a section of the universe 14 billion years ago, as mapped by the South Pole Telescope. The image shows 1/100th of the sky.”

That was the note in small print underneath the photo.

Then I squinted at the picture for an even closer look. No moons, no stars, no planets and no galaxies. To me, it looked like they zoomed in real fucking close on a piece of burnt rug.

Hell, I could’ve gotten them a shot like that for free and pocketed the $19 million myself.

Second draft complete for Nikki White: Polar Extremes

mybooksathickoryThe third book in my YA/NA/Sci-fi series, which follows the adventures of Nikki Janicek, is another major step closer to release now that I’ve completed the second draft and major revisions. I should be able to wrap up final tweaks and edits by sometime this fall, and I’m already looking forward to seeing what Damon Za of South Africa will pull off for a cover for this one.

I’ll shoot for a cover reveal before the end of the year and plan to have ARCs ready on NetGalley by early 2017. I’ll likely publish it in paperback and e-book some time in the first half of next year.

“Nikki White: Frozen Upside Down” had been my working title for this project, but “Polar Extremes” is shorter and works better on multiple levels. I think it’ll make life easier for Damon as well.

“Nikki White: Polar Extremes” resolves the cliffhanger ending from “Nikki Blue: Source of Trouble” and sends Nikki off on a new adventure, which primarily is set in Antarctica and South Africa.

I’ll be teasing blurbs and excerpts later on, but I just wanted to update my fans and followers that the book is coming along well.

At 46,400 words or so, it’s much shorter than “Nikki Blue” and slightly shorter than “Streaks of Blue.” There are four parts and 50 chapters, but the story moves along at a crisp pace. Though the first chapter begins on New Year’s Day, 2020, the book’s full time span is between August 2019 and September 2022, so there are some leaps.

“Nikki White” is less dark than the first two books and even provides one of the worst characters in the series a chance to change and grow. The third book circles back well with “Streaks of Blue” and provides some closure to the series, but it also leaves the door open for a fourth book. If I do write that book, it will be called “Nikki Red,” but I plan to do something different with my next project before resuming this series. I think three books are enough on these characters for now, and I’d like to experiment with a different type of story or genre next time around.

I’ll provide a full chapter listing later, but for now here are some of my favorites for teasers: Dyer Situation, Root Beer Lolly, Men’s Room Fight Club, Filling the Crevasse, 10-Below Barbershop, Siberia on Steroids, Summer Wind, Race for the Hollywood Showers, $19 Million Burnt Rug, Mars Isn’t Enough?, South by South Pole, The 300 Club, Sugar Snow, Here Comes the Sun and Red Confetti.

And last but not least, the best new character in the series:
Sam “Snowbow” Archambeau, a snowcat driver, handyman and bartender who just can’t get enough of wintering over at South Pole Station.