Why the “Citizenship at Birth” Amendedment in the Shmuley Myers Series is Better than the Status Quo

Currently, my lovely state of Texas ranks amazingly low in child insurance and high in infant and maternal deaths. The current “pro-life” trend apparently starts and stops only with citizens with the means to pay for care. What happens to non-citizens, or those unable to pay for medical services, is not relevant.

In this series’ universe, since every pregnancy means a live citizen, and every non-live-birth a murder investigation, women would be required to have prenatal care. On a high-school nurse’s office, in The Property of Blood, there’s a poster:

1.  Thou shalt place your citizen’s needs above your own.
2.  Thou shalt keep your citizen safe.
3.  Thou shalt shelter your citizen well.
4.  Thou shalt not poison your citizen.
5.  Thou shalt keep your citizen’s home clean.
6.  Thou shalt prepare a safe place for your citizen.
7.  Thou shalt obey your doctors.
8.  Thou shalt keep yourself healthy for your citizen.
9.  Thou shalt feed your citizen as an honored guest.
10. Thou shalt treat your citizen as you would want to be treated.

It’s sad when a dystopian speculative fiction series devoted to unintended consequences is beat by the realities of 2024. The decimation of funds for those most at risk is a blazing proof that it’s not about the women, it’s about propping up the existing (white, moneyed) system.

And Now… Excerpt from The Property of Blood

Finally, the upcoming novel! I made my last edits while on an Alaska cruise, “enjoying” COVID symptoms as I finished with the last scenes. Caught a lot of interesting glaciers, all in retreat or dissolution, helped in part by the ship’s massively polluting engines. I wasn’t going to walk from Texas to see it, so…it was the way to go.

A shout-out to Grammarly for giving my editor a run for his money on the ticklish grammar. (Robin comes out way ahead, given the tricky “Shmuley-speak” of the narrator’s sentence construction.) The last piece in the way is the dust jacket. For some reason, this one’s harder to get down than the first two. But I Shall Prevail. Still looking for a publish date in early October.

Buy A Day at the Zoo

Buy A Question of Allegiance

Without further ado, here’s the excerpt:

The scene, from where I stood on the steps of the Followers of Faith Christian Church, looked like the petting zoo of a serial killer. As a Haredi—ultra-Orthodox Jew raised in a Yiddish-speaking neighborhood—this was like watching aliens land. But for an APD homicide detective, the overtime pay was enough to buy a whole week of food. So, keeping peace at a church event was something I would suffer. Hopefully, no one would give me work for mine real job: homicide detective.

On top of the church, at mine back, flew a flag, green and gold in four quarters on a shield, with three purple lambs going across it at a diagonal. Didn’t see this before in the church. You should have it on a flag or something. Like an American flag at a used car dealership it waved, so big it was. Like the church building itself big.

Families disgorged from cars at the far side of a long oval driveway, which circled a bright green grass lawn, each in clothing fancy, as if for services. Not Subsid clothing could I see in the mass.

People walked from there to a fenced pen. Dozens of baby sheep inside it wandered in a broken chorus, crying for their mothers. When not eating the lawn. Their last supper. The smell of manure came and went on the breeze. Already there must have been five thousand people. The event, as listed, said they expected ten. Where outside all those people would fit I wasn’t sure. Certainly not on the grass, which into quarters was split, with clear spaces between for ambulances or police vehicles to quickly get inside the crowd.

A main street ran beyond the driveway. All around the church were low, sooty cement Subsid apartments. All alike, except only with different graffiti on them. The bright spring morning only showed the buildings off with more squalor. Mine grandparents told us stories of before the Amendment, when the president was Nixon. When families could be as small as they wanted. Before being pregnant and not having a baby was murder. Before, when people had things to take or use so as not more babies to bring into the world. Before Subsid became living a life when not enough for people there were jobs. Before the Preborn Investigation Bureau—the PIB—and its investigations of what was in sewers to tell of pregnancy. Before GodMother inquisitions for miscarriage. PIBniks, fech.

The church was like an egg in a nest of sticks. A colossal bubble rising, with columns like Greek temple columns all around it. Below the flag, a cross bloomed at the dome’s crown. Fancier by far than the State Capitol building. Almost exactly like a British royal orb it looked. Only greenish, from the copper roof. And tinged with the soot that covered everything, eventually.

Many of the men in the in the crowded swirl were dressed in white, thin robes with a fabric strip to tie it shut. Exactly like our Jewish kittels. Only on some holidays we wore them—and were in them buried, instead of in a coffin.

I adjusted mine police hat, then tugged at mine service belt. A little tight on me it was. Tight enough to keep mine equipment from falling down. As a detective sergeant in APD’s homicide squad, this for me wasn’t mine usual dress.

“Bored, Shmuley?”

Lieutenant JJ Dawson above me towered by a foot. Mine uniform was just tight; his was custom for him fit. On his face a smile flickered. Dawson was for us detectives the mother hen. Also, our slave driver—and the backup we needed sometimes against the Austin Police Department’s bureaucracy.

“This uniform makes me itch,” I said. Thanks to the Religious Freedom Act, mine usual “uniform” was more traditional: black felt hat with a hatband (no feather, please), black jacket, pants, and shoes. And a white shirt, collar open. Under mine hat a black fabric yarmulke. And under mine shirt a fringed undershirt. Both reminders that we were, from other religions different and held to a high standard. “The penguin suit,” mine mostly charming squad mates called it.

“Welcome to my world.” Lieutenants wore mostly dress uniforms. For all their important meetings to go to. After a moment, down the steps he went to make a circuit. He, like me, was for overtime pay working, so it wasn’t like now he was mine boss.

In the line of parishioners, the men in the families passed money or Subsid vouchers to a man in a white robe with on his head a flat, round, white hat, like a tambourine. A priest, maybe? The priest to the husband or oldest boy gave a small white box.

From the top of the steps I took a break and walked down to the front, near the animals. Nearby was Michael Midas, another Austin homicide detective. Aka, the Golden Boy. With blond hair, too.

He nodded at the zoo. “Do you have this ceremony at Jewish churches too, Myers?”

“We call them synagogues, actually,” I, with a smile, took the sting off the correction. “We ultra-Orthodox Jews, I mean. But no. This is new for me. Is this something your church does?”

His head he shook. “Nah, we just have prayer services a couple of times a week, and a big one on Sunday. Easter’s a longer service, at dawn. This is one of those churches that tries to do things the old biblical way, but for rich folks. Kind of fundamentalists.”

I didn’t know. Not mine biblical way, for sure.

“Although,” he continued, “I’m thinking maybe we won’t have lamb chops this year.”


A bleat came from the large, fenced pen. Three baby sheep got somehow their heads together and tangled in the fencing. A couple of the teenagers, their boots shmeared with animal dung, trotted over to save them from themselves.

Excerpt: A Question of Allegiance

Today, I’m showcasing “A Question of Allegiance.” A Day at the Zoo laid out all the characters and backstory. The trick with follow-on novels in the series was to make each novel standalone. Cue lists of key moments to be explained, biographies, and, due to the language, ensuring that each term is spelled and used consistently.

This is also where I started using the calendar of Jewish holidays to anchor the story. While AD@tZ was merely sometime in February, AQoA and The Property of Blood were closely following the first in the time line.

Okay, maybe this is TMI from author to reader. But the Jewish holidays each represent concepts of the book itself, adding a layer of texture. I hope you enjoy the book!

Oh, and remember, there’s a sale on both books throughout the month of July! The @Smashwords sale is part of their Annual Summer/Winter Sale. Be sure to follow me for more updates and links to the promotion for my books and many more! #SWSale2023 #Smashwords.

Buy A Day at the Zoo

Buy A Question of Allegiance

Here’s an excerpt from the novel, A Question of Allegiance:

Donuts. The curse of cops the fashtunkeneh—awful—things were. Chocolate. Chocolate and some fruit thing. Jam. And maybe a little vanilla I smelled, too. Chocolate was expensive so much almost no one had it to give away.
My mouth watered. I glanced over mine left shoulder behind me what to see who was there. A crowd of hungry cops is what was there. Lieutenant Dawson was by them in the middle, glaring at two uniformed officers who maybe should have been bloodhounds. Or maybe Intel.
I got up, then in mine chair sat back down. Today was Ta’anis Ester—the Fast of Queen Esther. So, no breakfast. Also, not at all eating today until the Purim holiday celebration tonight. Cake, cookies, and booze for me awaited. And no donuts. Chaya, mine wife five years to me married, being pregnant, today could eat anything. Jealousy is for between a couple a bad thing to feel.
At the Austin Police Department, I’ve been a detective for three years. Haredi—what we call ourselves, and what others call ultra-Orthodox, usually didn’t work outside of cities with big Jewish communities. But when they a detective badge waved at me, I took it, even if our little shtetl community was smaller than even Skokie was.
“Hey, Myers, want a donut? Dawson brought them in from one of your bakeries, for the squad.”
He meant a kosher one. I wasn’t enough hungry that into sin it would tempt me. Dawson above his head waved one. Almost I could see others getting ready to jump up for it. He over six feet stood, big and muscled and like a fallen oak leaf black. He polished his kopf like a radar dome instead of growing out hair to cut.
“Thanks, but I can’t today,” I said, standing up again. “I gift it to you.” At him I made a little bow.
He snorted and back to the group of cops turned. “What am I bid for Shmuley’s donut?”
A funny man. I sat back down. Just another slow afternoon in the APD homicide squad room.
Mine desk, what I named Shmendrick, meaning idiot, had electronic clutter on its top windows and objects. And that was on the screen part only. On the desk itself was the Austin-American Statesman newspaper, in print.
It I opened first, and over to the classified section went. Mine eyes went to one tiny ad, just a line. “Stocker Needed.” A phone number, and an extension. A message for me, from Upline. A when and where, and to where, like a secret taxi ride.
Upline helped women escape the Preborn Investigation Bureau, “PIBniks,” or “GodForce” as most called them. Women who were by accident pregnant and needed the whole United States to escape to get an abortion. Or to help rescue helpers who the PIB were looking for. I, from before even I moved to Austin, worked for them, moving people. Hiding people. Like the enslaved people from the South up North being smuggled. Not something mine police department would like for a homicide sergeant to be doing, for sure.
I closed the paper and into a drawer put it. The stack of folders next I looked at. Audits, the commander had decreed. Audits of a certain former Detective Simmons, who turned out not to be one of the good people. A murderer, almost, of me, mine wife Chaya, and the little fetus that in her was growing.
That last piece into such trouble he got him daylight he would never see. Sure, trying to bomb your partner and his wife was bad. But a preborn trying to murder brought on him down the wrath of the GodForce—Preborn Investigation Bureau—with their lawyers and prosecutors and special powers.
Fine, so auditing I had to do. Mine punishment for surviving him trying to blow us up. The stack of papers setting on fire with mine eyes I tried. Not enough strong a glare. I sighed and pulled the next folder open, to read what five years ago he did that might have been wrong.
Simmons,
yemach shemo—may his name be erased—was maybe inside APD part of a terror group. Fighting crime wasn’t for them good enough. Killing people they thought were guilty was what they wanted. For them I was looking—because mine other job was as a Mogen Dovid for the Jewish Sanhedrin. A defender of our people—the Jewish people. To APD and GodForce, though, the Sanhedrin was a terrorist organization. If they even knew it existed. And on mine hands already I had blood.
This folder was from eight years ago. A murder, no fetuses involved. Religion not involved either. On the “maybe” pile I put it. The “no” pile an ant could see over. For “yes,” there was no pile. Later that would pile up, for after I reread each folder in the “maybe” pile.
Mine electronic clutter swept to one side of mine desk, and a picture of a phone in its place appeared. I tapped mine earbud. “Detective Myers.”
“How’s it going, pahdnah?” Most Blessed Jethro Waters, mine liaison to the Preborn Investigation Bureau, like on a horse, a cowboy he sounded. Also, loopy a little.
“I don’t have a partner,” I said. “I’m a—ah—alone ranger.”
“Lone Ranger. Lone Ranger, Shmuley. You’ve got to work on your idioms.”
“We didn’t have Lone Rangers where I grew up.” Because where I grew up, we only had the Torah, and the Gemara—Talmud—and books by rabbis about things only to be more Jewish to know. Vids only of religious topics, for kids even too there was only ‘kosher’ programming.
“Whatever. You’ve got me, like it or not. Pahdnah.”
“Oh, did you apply to APD? I hear there’s an opening for a homicide detective.”
“Ha,” Jethro said. “Yeah, Simmons. That’s the reason for my call. “Clear, his voice got, the Abilene from his accent disappearing. But still to me he looked like on drugs.
“Nu? You done interrogating him?” To the PIBniks Simmons, from the hospital being discharged got transferred. Federal, they said, trumping our local jurisdiction. Because of a fetus he tried to hurt, not for two real humans almost at his hands dying.
“Yes,” Jethro said. On screen his face sagged like when too close beeswax got to a candle. From firm to loose. Medications, I hoped. “We’re done interrogating him.”
“And?”
“And he was found dead in his cell about twenty minutes ago.”

TPoB Is Off to the Editor!

And the graphic artist. After one last set of comments (thanks, Victor!) and comments from the whole White Gold Wielders group, it’s finally off my desk. Until, of course, it returns with edits.

Coming next: an excerpt.

On Unintended Consequences and Proofs Thereof

I debated, both internally and with friends, about whether to write this. As someone who doomscrolls on this subject in this “alternate reality” America, each article on the progress of creating the reality of the Shmuley Myers universe is depressing. But, also, uplifting, given the strength of politics as regards to bodily agency.

We’re creeping, sometimes leaping, to the point where the Preborn Investigation Bureau is a state, if not federal, necessity. After all, if “personhood” starts at conception, then civil law suits as a trigger or response don’t make sense. One doesn’t use civil suits, for example, as the primary means of handling assault and battery, right?

From NYTimes.com, May 7, 2023

The abortion issue aside, fetal personhood requires intrusion into personal lives that makes England’s forced boarding of soldiers as a Revolutionary War trigger look trivial. Just as the police patrol for lawbreakers, sewers and toilets would need to be surveilled to look for pregnancies or abortion signs.

However, that’s just the start.

There would need to exist, even on a state-level “personhood” concept, an equivalent of the NCIC, to track people when they’re pregnant, and their “crimes” of abortion. Just like bank robbers. After all, if abortion=murder, we’d need those mechanisms in place.

Now add the kinds of protections afforded to born children: Child Protective Services would be called on a parent who took their kids into a bar to drink. Ditto for having a child hang out while the parent works dangerous tasks, such as working on an oil rig, or being a cop. A woman in this reality would be under the aegis of such a bureaucracy.

The non-birth parent would also need to be under scrutiny. What if they smoke at home? Do drugs? Abuse the birth parent in a way that might endanger the fetus? Use carbon tetrachloride to clean down a greasy bike? Keep unsecured weapons in the house?

And what of punishment, or recidivism? Can a person with a history of fetal personhood termination be allowed contact with their children? Courts have been removing children from dangerous homes for decades.

Either people have agency or not. Cognitive dissonance does not work in a legal framework. If we take away privacy, add Soviet-style snooping, and add data collection, we have created the ultimate “nanny state” in terms of privacy intrusion. We also add a huge financial burden to the economy for no economic benefit.

In a society today where fetuses are coveted no matter the mother’s religion or circumstances, but children are abandoned if they’re beyond the current safety net, we’re doing no one any good. And there, perhaps, is a good place to invest in outrage and remediation.

There’ll be an ongoing set of posts when particularly obtuse news comes out relating to the 13th Amendment.

What do you think?

Michael Chambon and Orthodox Judaism

Austin Poet John Gibbons posted this NYTimes article about Orthodox Jews and an extension of an eruv, which lets Jews carry (anything other than clothes) on Shabbat between private (their house) and public (everywhere else) spaces.

Reminds me of my friends when I was growing up with keys made into tie clips or embedded in simple necklaces. My synagogue even had a red/green traffic signal visible so people could pass by and see if the eruv was unbroken (another tease to read the article).

John also reminded me of why I got into the Shmuley Myers series in the first place. I really loved The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, which Chambon wrote in 2008. Where his book focused on the grander scale of the American Jewish community at an inflection point (no spoilers, go read the book!), I wanted something more intimate, where the Jewish component was as much a fabric of life as that of a homicide detective. And where he has Alaska as the focal point, much as Gene Roddenberry used Star Trek as a stage for human problems, I wanted something more tactile, more interacting with the physical space that Austin provides in spades. Hat tip to Michael for writing this book, and (shameless plug) check out my books in the Shmuley Myers series!

On Fiction & Current Events

I’m doing one last pass on the 3rd book in the Shmuley Myers series, The Property of Blood, before handing it off to an editor and page-setter to prepare for publication. That equates to a few months before publication.

These mysteries take place in an alternate reality, a few decades after the Citizenship From Conception Amendment was ratified around the time of the ascension of the American Moral Majority’s fundamentalism. Think late 70s and early 80s. The unintended consequences described in the books seemed to me an impossible reality when I wrote A Day at the Zoo in 2016.

But this is not a political screed about reproductive independence. When looking for a publicist, I gave one to a well-recommended agency. The owner indicated they were anti-abortion. “Someone on our staff is Jewish,” I was told about the Jewish content, in my opinion much the way “I have a Black friend” is used by racists. They declined to provide a quote because “they weren’t a good fit” for the project. And I get it, if this was a story about abortion.

I’m writing the Shmuley Myers murder-mystery series book #4 as I procrastinate writing this post. It’s an exploration of another culture much more in the style of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chambon than it is the Rabbi Small mysteries, as in Harry Kemelman’s Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home series.

The series is also, at its heart, a love story about a married couple facing issues ranging from faith to family to dangerous secrets. So yes, in this alternate reality, abortion is a federal crime, and the Preborn Investigation Bureau was formed because of it. Just like in real life, there are good PIBniks and bad ones. The characters and the story that star in my books, not a hook a tenet of one religious sect’s opinion on which to hang all reality.

Back to book #4…

And the consequences begin

I’m not going to make this site yet another unheard voice with a political bent. Detective Sergeant Shmuley Myers has too many real-world situations in my books to deal with for me to get distr—ooh, squirrel!

My ex-brother-in-law is a constitutional law scholar, who’s been involved in several of the pivotal cases put before the formerly sane Supreme Court. Y’all can read or not his article, co-authored, here.

The biological pachinko of complications and odds that is fertilization, implantation, pregnancy, and birth is beginning to unfold. In five years, if there’s no return to sanity in the political machine, we’ll see the swell of children that, now born, are no longer of interest to people who’s goal is to control women.

Not Final!

A Question of Allegiance is getting close, to final typesetting. I still need the back blurb, the right ISBN, etc. Gudrun from Yote Design did an amazing job with the last one, so I’m looking forward to a clean layout to match the great cover.

Robin Seavell did a great job editing the manuscript. Difficult because, as he put it, the manuscript’s “alternative word order.” (Love that phrase.) I’m working on putting his edits in, as well as last-minute tweaks.

I’m still looking at a fall launch. Need to get a publicist, or someone who can execute on a marketing plan, but The Book Comes First.