America has splintered into various independent republics after a brutal civil war. Against this backdrop, space exploration is on the cusp of new technological breakthroughs. Jim Atteberry, a mid-30s English professor at City College in San Francisco, spends his free time listening for alien signals on the amateur radio astronomy bands. His life as a single parent to his precocious daughter is turned upside-down when he hears an intelligent cry for help from the Ross 128 system and realizes we are not alone. This signal unleashes a chain of events pitting Jim and his brilliant, mysterious colleague Kate against a power-hungry scientist with his own secret agenda. Jim must learn the truth about the signal, the strange disappearance of his wife Janet, and the meaning of true love before it’s too late in this first contact thriller.
Atteberry understood immediately what this meant. “So everything I’ve been doing on the radio, monitoring the stars, finding the Ross signal, it’s all being seen by someone else?”
“That’s my guess. I thought the glitch could be a nasty sleeper virus, so I looked into that but, no, it’s definitely a tracer.”
Atteberry felt his heart race and his fingers shook a bit when he lifted his coffee mug and drank.
“I’ll tell you what I think, Jim.” Her notes flashed in front of the screen. “You remember that late night creeper fellow you scared away?”
“Perhaps Creeper Boy came back when you were gone, broke into your house, and planted the code on your system.”
“No way, I’ve got security cameras and motion detectors everywhere. I would’ve seen something.”
“Jim,” she said calmly, “I could easily bypass your security if I wanted to. Those things are designed to dissuade teenagers and Neanderthals from arbitrarily breaking in, not those of us who know what we’re doing.”
“Listen, I’ll come over in a while once I’m dressed and bring my sniffer gear to clean up your radio and computers. In the meantime, you’d better check your equipment again for anything missing.”
Atteberry shook his head. A wave of anger, humiliation and fear washed over him. He kept putting Mary’s safety at risk, and Kate’s as well, and for what? Chasing an unknown signal across the sky? Time to drop this crazy business. His gut told him, however, that Marshall Whitt was behind it all, and he needed to find out why.
“Thanks, Kate, talk soon.”
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What are four things you can’t live without?
I could not live without hope. It is the only thing that can withstand the ravages of time and global events. Without hope, I think we are all doomed. So that’s the first thing for sure.
Too esoteric? The other thing I could not live without are books. I love books. I have a massive library at home and even though I give many of them away, I’m still overflowing. They are to me the greatest things ever.
I couldn’t live without others around me. Make no mistake, I am an introvert and I really enjoy being alone and doing things that don’t require team work. However, I also recognize that we are all social creatures. I need to get out and be with others, even if it’s sitting in a coffee shop writing or listening to music on my laptop.
The last thing I couldn’t live without (other than food and water) is music. I enjoy all kinds of music, both listening to it and playing it. Music is such a large part of my life that I think I’d go crazy very quickly if I didn’t have it.
What is your favorite television show?
I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek The Original Series, and The Next Generation. Not all shows, mind you, but for the most part, they are my go to shows. I also love the Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch and I could easily binge watch the original Law and Order shows and the Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
But to pick a favourite from those, I’d probably have to say Star Trek The Original Series.
If you could be any character, from any literary work, who would you choose to be? Why?
This is a great, but challenging, question.
I think I’d like to be Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. The story of the same name is about a young man, Nicholas, who must look after his mother and sister after his father dies. What strikes me most about this character is that he is flawed. Sure, he has good traits and all, but his flaws are significant. Like the time he gets so frustrated with the school system that he beats up the school master. Oliver Twist certainly wouldn’t do that. And the way he looks after his sister Kate is nothing more than powerful. Brilliant. So, yes, that’s the character I would choose to be.
What have you got coming soon for us to look out for?
I have several projects on the go at the moment. The first is a sequel to The Crying of Ross 128. Without giving away the ending, suffice it to say that some things are left unresolved. The sequel will continue the story, although it will look and feel quite a bit different. Again, I don’t want to give anything away, but one of the characters in the Crying – Kate Braddock – plays an even more significant role in the sequel.
I’m also helping some of my young writers in Ottawa publish their novels through DeeBee Books. Keep an eye out for Julia Lye, a brilliant fantasy writer, and Amalia Lemay – both from Ottawa – who will have their debut novels coming out in late 2018 or early 2019.
Finally, I’m also co-authoring a non-fiction book novel writing with Emma Bider, and editing a non-fiction book on helping low-wage earners generate wealth with my son, Spencer Hamilton. Both of those books will be published in 2018.
What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
Oh, this is really difficult to answer because I feel that everything I’ve ever read has had some kind of influence on me, good or bad. But here are my top 5, in no particular order.
1. “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury.
I love Bradbury’s short stories, both in terms of his elegant, simple writing style and because of the emotional reactions he creates in his reader, especially me. This particular story with its brutal ending has stayed with me a long, long time. I could read it forever. I think my own writing style patterns his in that I try to keep the purple prose to a minimum and focus on human reactions to events.
2. Greg Cox, author of several Star Trek The Original Series novels.
Well, these are not going to win any Pulitzer prizes of course, but what I like about Cox’s writing is his sense for plotting, his easily accessible style, and his knowledge of the characters. These are fun novels to read in the summer in the back yard.
3. Clive Cussler
His adventure novels are all fun reads. I am particularly intrigued by his plotting and sense for tension. This has influenced me a lot in my own story development. Cussler’s protagonists like Dirk Pitt tend to be larger than life James Bond types, opposed to my own heroes, but still I like what he does in structuring a story.
4. “The Mountain and the Valley”, by Ernest Buckler
Buckler is a Canadian author who wrote in a poetic fashion. Today, that style wouldn’t work commercially. I’m sure Writer’s Digest would criticize him for his purple prose. But, his awareness of the human condition, of how to evoke feelings and reactions in his readers, is beyond reproach. He was a master wordsmith. When I first started writing stories, I tried to emulate his style. Couldn’t do it. But he remains a key influence in my writing today.
5. “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
This isn’t my favourite Vonnegut story (Breakfast of Champions is), but it is highly influential. If you go into a Barnes and Noble or Chapters, you’ll find him in the “Fiction” section, but this story really is science fiction. He has influenced my writing with respect to writing in sections and exploring speculative fiction in the context of the human condition. Brilliant story.
David Allan Hamilton is a teacher, writer, and multipotentialite. He is a graduate of Laurentian University (BSc. Applied Physics) and The University of Western Ontario (MSc. Geophysics). He lives in Ottawa where he facilitates writing workshops and teaches. When not writing, David enjoys riding his bike long distances, painting, and knitting.