Summer’s here, and the time is right… For getting hooked on a new serial podcast!

Maybe you’re packing the kids in the car for a long road trip vacation—and you’re looking for some “theater of the mind” entertainment that doesn’t involve another screen. Or maybe you’re just a lover of genre fiction—one, as ever, on the lookout for a snappy sci-fi concept, beaucoup action, and a longform adventure where a slew of vividly-drawn characters grapple with almost ludicrously long odds to help humanity slip free of the destructive designs of an otherworldly threat.

Either way it’s time you subscribed to Artifact X—my engaging new (and free to listen!) episodic audiobook/podcast hybrid available across several digital platforms like Apple podcasts, Spreaker, and streaming at its own dedicated website.

Artifact X is a work of middle grade fiction. In the mold of series like Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Harry Potter, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, it is specifically written for young people ages 8-13.

And Artifact X asks, “How do you save the world—while you’re grounded?”

Set amidst the excitement of youth robotics competitions, Artifact X tells the story of Brant Haughton. Brant is a military family kid growing up on the army base his father helps command. Joining Brant is Thu Tran, his ready-for-anything best friend; Dana Granadillo, the hyperbrainy, headline-grabbing school genius Brant and Thu must recruit as a cohort; Uncle Clive, Brant’s luckless auto mechanic relative; and E.R.V.E.R.E., an avenging angel of a nearly all-powerful alien A.I. warrior who—it turns out—desperately needs Brant’s help.

Just how does a fearless, bristling-with-the-tools-of-war, spacefaring robot from a whole other arm of the Milky Way come to rely on a crew of kids?

You’ll have to ask disgraced former U.S. Astronaut Gerald P. Rathburn. After all, it was his blunder that set up the whole dire situation our planet is facing.

Rathburn may have had “the right stuff” to be on the crew of NASA’s 2nd Apollo-Soyuz Test Mission in 1974. But now this gangly, white-maned old man is most definitely is bursting with “the wrong stuff.” Especially when it comes to keeping the human species off the extinction list.

As the years slipped by, Rathburn became more and more bitter about how the likes of John Glenn and Neil Armstrong had rendered him a mere footnote in the history of America’s space program. And one evening, decades ago, Rathburn shot off his mouth about this on the wrong radio call-in show. Exactly no one in the listening audience of Houston, Texas, had tuned in to the broadcast that night.

But something millions of miles distant, in deep space, did. And now Earth has been secretly invaded. And Rathburn, for the time being anyway, is the only man on the planet who knows.

As our story kicks off one stiflingly hot Saturday morning in San Antonio, Brant is consumed by a personal problem that, to him, sometimes seems as potentially disastrous as alien invasion.

That problem is this: everyone Brant knows has some special talent. Except him.

Brant’s older sister is a star student and athlete. Thu, Brant’s best friend, is a budding sculptor racking up awards and scholarships every time he turns around. And there isn’t a car or motorcycle that Uncle Clive can’t fix.

All his life Brant has been searching for that one singular thing to be the best at.  But after trying and failing every sport and after-school club there is, he’s now almost certain he has become a “quitter.” He is doomed, it seems, to be a failure at life.

But Brant has one hobby left to—perhaps—prove himself with. And luckily, it’s the one he thinks is the most jaw-droppingly cool of them all.

The Robo-Ruckus competition is where kids make homemade robots from scratch and duel their remote-controlled gladiators in front of cheering crowds.  Brant has now staked his entire future on whether or not he can win the Robo-Ruckus.

But he’ll have to seriously do it on the down-low. That’s because his father worries that high tech is taking over the human-based, spit and polish old military traditions he reveres. In other words, Brant’s dad hates robots. And if he catches his son competing in a Robo-Ruckus again, he has threatened to send our hero away to a military academy thousands of miles away from everything Brant knows and cares about.

Given the sinister alien adversary that has secretly invaded Earth, though, Brant is about to learn what a real threat looks like.

Our hero’s amateur, self-taught robot engineering skills will turn out to be just about the only thing that can stop the Earth from being reduced to a thinning, lifeless cloud of water vapor and rocky debris—consigned to float forever between the orbits of Venus and Mars.

For Brant is about to stumble upon what he and his friends soon come to call “Artifact X.”

Artifact X is a baffling, unidentifiable something that Brant unearths in a junkyard he and his buddy have been combing for discarded electronics to turn into robot parts. If Brant can crack the mystery of what he’s found and learn to control it, every man, woman, child, and animal just might stand a longshot, last-ditch chance to live past next week. But he’s going to have to wrestle with and learn to overcome his quitter attitude every step of the way.

Artifact X is written, produced, and narrated by me with some occasional help from voiceover artists like L.A. talk radio legend and impressionist Brian Whitman, and Peter Miller, whose  vocal stylings have been entertaining crowds for years at Universal Studios. Sound effects are the creation of San Francisco Bay Area-based musician and sound designer Nathan Moody.

Each episode of Artifact X consists of one or more chapters of the book. While the podcast is being released in weekly updates, audiences don’t have to sweat this original story petering out. The plot has been fully scripted in its entirety. And it builds up to one barnburner of a climax!

I have always loved audible storytelling. As a kid I placed myself under self-hypnosis at regular intervals with The Story of Star Wars, a 1977 abridged version of A New Hope released on vinyl records—and through friends I later discovered the BBC radio adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and more. It has been a thrill to experience the digital age making the production and distribution of this kind of content so seamless and rewarding. The undertaking has even inspired me to design a popup recording studio using off-the-shelf hardware that can be set up or struck in minutes!

But mostly I have found podcasting to be a smashing way to bring Artifact X, which I first started writing as a book in the early 2000s, to those who want to hear it.

I started quietly releasing updates of Artifact X some months ago. So by the time you’re reading this there are already several hours’ worth of quality audiobook chapters waiting for you.

Subscribe to Artifact X on Apple Podcasts or listen here at the Artifact X website.

And listen: we authors depend more and more on your feedback and reviews to get our work discovered by those who would also enjoy it. So may I implore you! Leave a review of Artifact X on whatever service you happen to use to listen to it through. And spread the word about this free audiobook!