Dragon Moon


Honored by the League of Utah Writers as the best speculative fiction novel of 2017.

A new space race explodes into violence when China sets its sights on the Moon. The aim: seize the ultimate high ground. When a Chinese-American spy brings word out of Beijing, she is assigned to help an unlikely team of Navy SEALs and Russian Spetsnaz special operators to deal with this new threat. The cost of failure: worldwide Chinese empire.

Dragon Moon weaves together the stories of the special operators, the ultra-ambitious Chinese officer who has created this new lunar weapon, and a young asteroid hunter who stumbles on the truth.

I’ve done my best to make sure it’s chock full of the latest in geo-politics, military hardware, intrigue, and glimpses into what I think could very well be Earth’s near-term future.

What the readers are saying:

“Damn, but this is a rattling good tale – grabbed me from the first page and wouldn’t let go.” – Trish Fraser

“I stayed up until two in the morning reading so that I could get through the exciting finish!” – Carrie Pearce

“There is love both lost and found, trust in the goodness of others, betrayal on innumerable levels, misunderstandings, and abuse of power, all dancing between the teenagers swept up in events beyond their control, the faction bent on world domination, and those who are assigned to keep that from happening.” – John M. Olsen

“The premise and order of events was so believable it had me hooked by the first few pages.” – Bleu Roesbery

Reviews from Goodreads.com

Sneak peek:

Chapter One
     Major Mu Guiying waited at the curb outside the General Staff building, careful not to
fidget. Smoothing her impeccable dress uniform over her slight frame gave her one last
surreptitious chance to dry her palms. She folded her hands in front of her, the outward picture
of calm. Deep breath in, slow breath out. She closed her eyes and focused her mind on the
early autumn breeze and the rustle of leaves along the quiet suburban street on the north side
of Beijing. She felt her thudding heart gradually slow. Good. That’s better. One small, nervous
mistake now, so close to payoff, could spell the undoing of three years of hard work—three
years of unending, grinding fear.
     Colonel Yang Liwei’s limousine swept into the headquarters’ driveway and eased to a
stop in front of her. He had returned from an inspection in Chengdu, just in time for the
climactic meeting with the chiefs of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff. The driver
scurried around to open the door, snapping a salute. Mu removed her hat, stepped into the
back of the limo, and sat facing Yang.
     She kept her face impassive. She did not return his smile, which was warm, and twinkled
with their secret game. The game of cat and mouse—hiding their relationship from everyone
around them—had its own little thrills. But the furtive thrill of dodging the military space
program’s strict anti-fraternization rules paled in the deadly light of the bigger stakes.
Quite the inviting picture, the colonel. Her attraction to him was undeniable, and would
have been overwhelming if the stars had aligned differently. Despite her caution, she found
herself leaning into his clean, musky scent.
     She allowed her eyes to roam over him, the carefully maintained appearance of the
ideal modern senior officer, the tailored uniform that accentuated his athletic frame. His hair,
just beginning to gray at the temples, was kept to military standards, but not by any on-base
barber. She had been with him more than once on his frequent visits to a Hong Kong
     Everything about him, including his closely guarded love life, was orchestrated to fit the
subtle but unmistakable impression of a man on the rise, a man with a bright future in the top
echelons of power.
     His mirror-polished shoe slid forward until his instep cradled hers, innocent to any
observer, a clear message for her alone. Without taking overt notice, she tucked her feet
together and pulled them beneath her, the reply deliberate: wrong time, wrong place. Much as
she wished it could be different.
     He sighed, leaned forward, and held out a manicured hand. Message received. Down to
business, then. “The PowerPoint?”
     “Sir?” Mu asked.
     “Where is the presentation? Thumb drive? CD?”
     Was it some sort of clumsy test? One of their little shows for the benefit of his driver?
She dipped her head apologetically. “Sorry, sir. Strict security guidelines. No top-secret
materials on removable media. Only on the secure server. The tech in the conference room has
the presentation all cued up and ready.”
     “Of course,” he acknowledged with an almost imperceptible wink. Ah yes. Definitely
part of the show. “Sensible. The presentation has the full operational details?” He sat back.
“Contingency plans, personnel bios and taskings, equipment, budgets? Everything?”
“Everything, sir, the whole thing, just as we rehearsed. With all the supporting materials
linked. Your entire Dragon Moon mission plan.”
     He nodded, satisfied.
     “Sir, are you sure you won’t reconsider and take me in with you? I know every tiny
detail.” Fat chance. Closed-door meetings of the General Staff were all-male, all big-dog affairs.
Fine Scottish single-malt whiskey, Cuban cigars—no aides. Certainly no women. And Yang did
his best to fit in with the Old Guard. Understandable. If he was going to run with the wolves, he
must work his way to the head of the pack.
     Yang shrugged. “I have it under control, Major.” He gave his appearance one last check
in the mirrored lid of the limousine’s bar cabinet. “The generals are concerned about the
strategic implications and the politics, not the load distributions and the composition of the
rocket fuel, like you.” He flicked an imaginary speck of dust from his lapel, lowered the lid of the
bar with a satisfied click, and stepped out of the car.
     Mu’s heels clacked on the concrete as she hurried after him. “But if there are detailed
     “—I will answer them. And if I can’t, I have your phone number.”
     “Very well, sir.”
     “Don’t look so down, Major. You’ll get your chance with the big brass. You’re a good
planning officer. One of the best I’ve ever had. Bright future ahead of you. But now it gets
political. And that makes it my job.” For a moment, she thrilled at the compliment; thought he
might actually mean it. But in the end, it wouldn’t matter.
     She trotted after him up the stairs of the headquarters building. He paused with his
hand on the gleaming, ornate bronze doors. “It’s all a sales job from here. The General Staff has
to sign off, then the Central Committee, then the president.” His grin was dazzling, as always
making her head spin just a little. “And that will take unbelievable charm and persuasiveness on
my part.” Oh, he has the charm part down pat, all right.
    “Sir, I’m sure final approval is a formality. I doubt there will be questions you can’t
answer. But if anything comes up, I’m a click away.” She held up her state-of-the-art American
smart phone. Built in Jiangsu Province, of course.
     “Right,” he nodded. “I know you are. That’s good, because it will happen in a hurry once
we get the go-ahead. This many off-the-shelf components will mean a fast track. You need to
be ready for non-stop duty. All leave will be cancelled as soon as the politicians give the mission
the go ahead.”
     “I’m more than ready, sir.”
     “I know you are. You’ve done good work. You have a commendation coming. And a
guaranteed spot on the short list for lieutenant colonel.”
     “Thank you, sir.”
     For a brief instant, his eyes said he wished he could reach out and touch her. But no, not
there. Not in front of so many prying eyes.
     “Major, you haven’t been away from headquarters in weeks. You must be exhausted.
Go home. Take a couple of days off while you’ve got the chance. See a movie. Unwind. But
don’t go far. And keep your phone charged.” The message was implicit: wait for me in your flat.
I’ll call you soon. We’ll spend some time together as soon as I have any to spare.
Mu snapped a salute as he disappeared into the building. A tsunami of relief swept over
her. She had done it. That was that: finished with Colonel Yang Liwei. With a last, lingering
twinge of regret, she resolutely dismissed him from her mind.
     She strolled down the drive and out the gate, head down, to all appearances just
another young Army officer texting rapidly on her phone. But as she texted, her flying fingers
extracted the phone’s tiny microSD storage card from its slot, too smoothly and unobtrusively
for even the most careful observer to catch. Just as smoothly, she palmed it and inserted one
carefully prepared to withstand close scrutiny.
     It was classic sleight of hand, worthy of any illusionist, one she had practiced thousands
of times. Since it was first taught to her, she had drilled it dozens of times every day, following
her trainers’ old dictum: the amateur practices something until he gets it right, but the
professional practices until he can’t get it wrong. And even though this was her first and only
mission, she strove to be the consummate professional. Everything depended on it—including
her life.
     She snapped the storage card, smaller than her little fingernail, into a special watertight
capsule, which she swallowed. Wherever she went, every detail of the Dragon Moon plan
would go with her.
     She emerged from her Spartan second-floor flat an hour later, to all appearances twenty
years older, a bent and exhausted cleaning lady with a single plastic grocery bag. Down the
street from the flat, anonymous and unnoticed among a dozen women returning to the
crowded warrens where the “unofficial” migrants huddled, she boarded a city bus.
Behind her, a shattering explosion rattled the bus windows and an orange and black
fireball rolled skyward. A roaring jet of burning natural gas shot fifty feet high, one the utility
workers wouldn’t be able to extinguish for a long, destructive time.
     Panicked screams engulfed the bus, and the driver instinctively sped away from the
carnage, peering in his rearview mirrors at the conflagration.
     Outwardly, Mu’s demeanor mirrored her fellow commuters’ panic. But staring at her
own reflection in the bus’s window, she had a sudden, unbidden vision of blood on her hands.
All the residents of the tiny apartment building were young professionals like her, childless,
most of them military officers, and should have been gone in the middle of the day. But what if
someone had stayed home sick? What if? She felt her gorge rise, and pushed it down only with
supreme effort. It’s just first mission nerves. Just nerves. Just nerves. You’re a good soldier,
serving your country, carrying out the mission you were assigned.
     Gradually she succeeded in pushing the grisly details from her mind. But beneath it was
that whole set of more personal regrets. Yang—in another place and time, we might have . . .
but she couldn’t let herself think that way. That was over. Once and for all.
     Firmly, she pushed contrary thoughts aside and reminded herself again and again that
she was satisfied. Her superiors would be satisfied. So far, so good. Forget the regrets and
concentrate on making sure everything went according to plan.
     The exfiltration strategy was simple: one of the support team had rigged a large gas
main for the tragic ‘accident’ that was quickly reducing the low wood-frame building to
smoldering rubble. Thankfully, her only part in triggering the fire had been to pull a plastic tab
from a tiny dissolvable timer before she walked out, starting the ten-minute countdown.
Sharing a room with a thawed corpse while she performed her clothing, wig, and
makeup transformation had been the hardest part. The exfiltration team had returned the real
major, the woman Mu had impersonated so carefully for so long, to her bed. Having the
cadaver back in the flat where it had breathed its last seemed like some ghoulish return from
the grave. For nearly three years she had been trying to forget it existed.
     Her phone, its electronic contents replaced just in case anything survived the fire, lay on
the night stand. Check. Fingerprints carefully wiped and replaced? Check. Every personal item
that might remotely be suspicious, removed? Check. She had stood with her hand on the door
knob and run over the entire plan in her head one last time. Yes, everything had been in place.
The timer tab had been pulled. There was no going back.
     The idea was to leave barely enough of the major’s body to be identified by dental
records. If the fire failed to burn hot enough and long enough, the killing stroke—Mu’s stilettopoint
severing of the woman’s spinal cord between the second and third cervical vertebrae—
could possibly be identified. But the chance of such detailed dissection on a charred corpse was
so slight, the mission planners had deemed the risk acceptable. Nothing had been left that
would point to a conclusion of anything other than a tragic accident. The cover was foolproof—
at least, as foolproof as anything in this game ever was.
     But Mu was far from relaxed. Even though HQ had tried to plan for everything, it was
the unlucky, unforeseen happenstance which had brought more than one meticulously planned
operation crashing down. The time would soon come when she could ease off from her manic
situational awareness—a time when her head didn’t have to be on a swivel, as fighter pilots
said in the movies. But that time was certainly not now. Until she was through immigration on
the other end, in her recliner at home with her feet up, she would not breathe easy.
But now, with any luck, it would all be worth it. Dragon Moon would go forward without
its chief planning officer, and the Chinese military space program would never know it had been
      In the meantime, she had three trains, a ferry, and a series of continent-hopping, tracetwisting
international flights to catch. Appearance and identity changes were carefully
choreographed at several points along the way. In quick succession, she would be a solo
international business woman, a college student backpacking with a tour group, even a harried
young mother, complete with husband and small child.
     She smiled. Three days to home. Maybe after debrief she would have time to take her
nieces to Disneyland.

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