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Writing the High Desert June 17, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, e-books, history, movies & TV, New Mexico, outlaws, Texas, westerns, writing.
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The Western Writers of America convention ended last night after a 5 day run. I passed up some of the events only because this is home territory for me (I’ve seen enough of Santa Fe, thank you, which was the field trip this year) and I had impossible amounts of catchup work to do. The Albq Comic Expo ended last Sunday, Monday was “off” for me and WWA started Tuesday.

A huge tribute to Max Evans provided some rare moments of insight into the movie biz, along with jokes and reminiscences that were touching and informative.

Max Evans at WWA

The outstanding panel had to be the innovative “New Mexico vs Arizona” faceoff since 2012 is both states’ centennial of statehood. Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble and editor Bob Boze Bell vs the NM team of Centennial Historian Don Bullis and former feature reporter Ollie Reed. Trimble ought to be a standup comic (he comes from a town in AZ that’s so small its sister city is a Taco Bell in Nicaragua). Cowboy Mike, Sherry Monaghan and I were chosen (and bribed) as a jury by judge Johnny Boggs. After great tale telling and, perhaps not a little tall tale telling, the winner was declared to be … Iowa.

Ollie Reed, Don Bullis, Johnny Boggs, Marshall Trimble, Bob Boze Bell

The writing western mysteries panel lacked a microphone and I lacked hearing acuity so I went to what proved to be a great presentation on the Civil War and various backwaters of its history that have been unexplored (or under-explored). Fascinating listening to Boggs talk about baseball and Pati Nagel on the war in NM, Jerry Poole on medicine and Terry del Bene on, well, just about everything I never knew and ought to have.

There were two autograph sessions, one I arranged at Page One Books for Chuck Tyrell (aka Charlie Whipple from Chiba, Japan), Courtney Joyner and Jackson Lowry to plug The Traditional West

Newer writer Rob Kresge was there, too, with a series of mysteries set in the west.

The other autographing, this one WWA sanctioned, happened at B&N. 73 authors officially participated but some, like LJ Martin, were signing but not at formal tables hawking their goods. This pointed out another problem with big dead tree bookstores: books they refused to order but sold on consignment will take 6 weeks to 3 months to be accounted. I am not sanguine about our chances of ever seeing money off those sales, or at least an accurate accounting.

The final panel I took in was on promotion with Steve Law, a rancher from WY, Jim Frenkel and David Morrell. You’ve heard all this via me or Mike Stackpole or Kris Rusch or Dean Wesley Smith. But simple things like QR codes were new to most of the audience. The rancher seems to have the finances to pay $800/mo for a media consultant and $300/mo to have someone do his tweets. Must be nice and, sorry, “you can start out paying less” doesn’t make it for me or most of the folks in the audience. As they say, YMMV. I am also less sanguine about doing autographings in grocery stores (I did one once sitting next to Tony Hillerman–the display of Pennzoil next to us did far better sales). High traffic, yes, but directed interest traffic seems more productive to me (such as the Albuquerque Comic Expo, the upcoming Cowboy Symposium and next year’s SW Book Fiesta.)

I survived, had fun, met lots of new people and am looking forward to doing it all again next year in Vegas (and then Sacramento and still thenner, in San Antonio). Masochistic me testing to destruction. And I love it.

Top nf writers Don Bullis and Leon Metz

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ACE-ing It June 7, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, e-books, New Mexico, science fiction, writing.
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I will be off the grid, kinda, for the next few days. In a couple hours I’ll be lugging boxes of books down to the Convention Center to set up for the first day of the Albuquerque Comic Expo (ACE) tomorrow (Friday 8) and through the weekend.

I’m sharing booth #401 with Scott Phillips. If you come in the main entrance, as opposed to sneaking in through the ventilation system, look for my Cephalobob banner

ACE 2011 booth

at the booth on your immediate left next to the signing tables for the Really Big Guests. Don’t get us confused with the likes of Adam Baldwin or Peter Mayhew. Or, if you like, go ahead and confuse us. We’ll sign about anything!

I have about two dozen titles to sell. More online at my store, of course, or Kindle or Nook. I’ll have QR codes for getting there if you prefer digital to dead tree. But you can get the dead tree books signed. Yes, I’ll do that.

If you still have trouble finding where I’ve set up shop, Saturday I will have booth babe Ashley Bryce (most recently in a Longmire episode) pointing the way. If you aren’t familiar with her work (or ACE honcho Craig Butler’s) here is something showcasing their talents.

See you this weekend!

Eleven Dead Armadillos, A Wood Pussy and 703 Lbs of Dead Rubber May 2, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, geocaching, hobby, New Mexico, Texas, weather, web & computers.
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I am back from the far eastern lands of Oklahoma (east of Muskogee, all the way to the capital of the Cherokee Nation). It was a tiring drive, although mostly in clear weather, and emotionally draining getting my mother squared away in assisted living.

Coming back was the spot where I got a bit antsy. I left in the rain, which cleared by the time I got out of Muskogee. This has happened a couple other times, fog or rain vanishing as if Muskogee has some evil Mordor-esque vibe to it. By the time I drove past the Firelake Casino outside OK City, the sun was shining and the clouds were breaking up.

A word about OK City. I have never liked the place but they have upped the ante on bad roads. It used to be the concrete freeways that would chip your teeth as you drove. This time it was the 6 lane freeways bottlenecked down to one lane. I hit Yukon, looked down at the stopped traffic that must have stretched 20 miles into OKC and decided it was time for breakfast at a McD’s. Ate breakfast, hunted for a geocache (had found one nearby earlier) and failed to locate it. A comment from a successful cacher said the coordinates were off 20m. Hunting around busy parking lots doesn’t thrill me. I didn’t find the cache. A handy traffic warning sign said the 45 min I’d spent already was down to 2 min. Got in the queue and inched through OK City. This is new freeway and open, for no good reason I could see since it lacked proper surfacing.

It was hardly better returning, but I hit it at 11am so the noon traffic hadn’t begun backing up yet.

Gasoline prices were less than in Abq, though one place topped $4. The week I was gone saw on road prices edge up about 10cents. (I tend to refuel at the same places since I know how far I can get on a tank of gas–31mpg this time around served me well).

While in Tahlequah, I found a couple geocaches in the Cherokee Cemetery. Tried for another one in an industrial park under the watchful eye of security cams, but I gave up when guys on riding mowers decided to cut the grass where I was wandering aimlessly. Logged another cache at the end of a road but failed to find one near a mural. OK, I’m a wimp. It was raining and the cache wasn’t immediately apparent. But I did find one hidden in (yes, *in*) a fire hydrant in Tucumcari behind the state cop shop.

Somehow I have never logged a cache in Texas. I forgot to look at a rest stop going. I stopped at one of the best rest stops I have ever seen (not too far from North America’s largest cross in Groom, complete with Golgotha nearby). Fabulous view to the north of not-quite Palo Duro Canyon scope. Great facilities, a tornado shelter. Supposedly wifi, but it was off. And my phone couldn’t connect so I was unable to hunt. Decided to boogey on through Amarillo because very black clouds were forming to the SW.

I don’t know from shield walls but I did see what wasn’t a verga. This was a solid column of black cloud coming from the pitch black layer above. I kept on trucking and the storm sorta slipped behind, only dropping a few splashes of water on me. That night I saw that a tornado had been sighted and flash flooding had occurred about an hr after I hightailed it. Hailstones the size of billiard balls were scoffed at by the weather clown–they hardly report until they reach grapefruit size now. But I was in NM. Crossing the border the sky turned blue, the clouds all vanished (all!) And the wind, hot and dry, kicked up. Home!

One Fantasy Football article showed up but getting reliable wifi/internet to return the edited version proved impossible until I got to the work computer at home. I more or less completed the Slocum Giant synopsis, started writing a short story and got a request for another.

On the way thru Deaf Smith County I saw what has to be a scary sight. A car marked “Federal Police.” We are truly going the way of post Weimar Germany. I did remember to grope myself before leaving so the TSA was robbed of that illicit pleasure. (I understand there is an app for that now)

Ah, yes, the title of this. I saw eleven dead armadillos, mostly on their backs and all 4 clawed feet pointing skyward. The 703 lbs of retread tires peeled away and littering the road is an estimate. It might even be a low estimate since there was a lot this time. And wood pussy? A skunk. (When I was in hs, the English teacher ordered the wrong movie version of The Scarlet Letter. Instead of a talkie, she got the silent Lillian Gish edition which has the memorable scene where Hester sees the skunk and the caption comes up, “Oh, a wood pussy!” This, of course, produced great mirth among 16 yr olds who didn’t want to see the movie, talkie or not).

Time to pay bills and get caught up on mundane things before settling in to work. It’s good to be back.

Chasing Away the Dust Bunnies…For Now April 20, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, contest, e-books, End of the World, iPad, New Mexico, outlaws, sci-fi, science fiction, Second Life, VIPub, weather, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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No specific theme today but a lot of tidbits that have accumulated during the past few days. It’s been a busy time for me. The last science fair judging of the year is past and, as before, the Manzano Day School kids had some great projects. This was the year when high tech really kicked in. One budding scientist had a video (taken underwater!) showing the effect of drag on swimmers. Another surveyed cooking pans to find which baked the best chocolate chip cookies (I told her bribing the judges with the cookies would have worked well–didn’t really matter. She did a good job. I didn’t know the high-end cooking pans were dual layer with air between. And yes, they seemed to cook the most evenly.) Analysis on the cookies included using a cellphone gizmo to evaluate color which correlated with even cooking. Amazing.

These were 4th and 5th graders.

A couple days ago I got a surprising call from my agent. Last year Berkley decided the Slocum Giant books weren’t selling and eliminated the annual book. My last royalty statement was extraordinary. And I have a new Slocum Giant to do ASAP for likely publication in November. Working title: Slocum and the Silver City Harlot. Others in Western Fictioneers have commented on improved royalties for their westerns. If you live long enough, the wheel always spins back to you. Do love those westerns.

I also love my sf. Check out this review of Moonlight in the Meg from Virgil Kelberwitz of Second Life fame. His reaction to the protagonist not being named until late in the book is interesting. Final Blackout used this technique to even better purpose, I think. Best use of the techniquye–ever–was in The Prisoner.

As you know by now, I didn’t win the $650m Megamillions lottery (I did win $2, though. BFD) However, someone who did win something of both worth and usefulness is Terri D, the winner of a Kindle Fire in Scott Gamboe’s contest. A great prize and I’ll try to get Scott to do a guest blog here on how the contest helped his numbers on Amazon.

Check out another Scott’s new blog. Scott Phillips is now doing a daily blog. Very funny stuff. And touches on a lot of nostalgia. If you remember 8-tracks and hate spiders and…well, read it for yourself. Rattle and Blast.

After 30 years I have stopped receiving a daily newspaper. The $200/yr was a factor but realizing I can get all the news and features on my iPad convinced me to save a tree and cancel the Abq Journal. Their national news is always 2 or 3 days late and local news tends more toward pet adoptions now. I will miss the Trever cartoon on Sundays, but he used to do more and is mostly retired. Having lunch with John on occasion will have to suffice.

I am not sure how many new blogs will be done in the next couple weeks since I am heading over into Tornado Alley. Trust me, I want nothing more than to get back to this keyboard in sunny, dry, twister-free Abq as soon as possible.

The Unseen World Around Us April 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in dinosaurs, geocaching, history, ideas, New Mexico, outlaws, science, science fiction, sense of wonder, space, UFOs, writing.
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As you probably know by now, I am fascinated with the idea we go through life and see only a tiny fraction of it. This drew me to geocaching where most people go right by a cache and never know. This is a simple thing. The world–nature–is vastly more intriguing with its diversity and how new things pop up all the time, things we simply have not been attentive enough to see before.

In NM there are cemeteries all over the place, but who is buried int hem? Some terrible outlaw who never achieved the status of Billy the Kid or Blackjack Ketchum? Or just plain folks, putting in their time, working sunrise to sunset and then…dying. Unnoticed, or perhaps noticed only for a very short while by a very few people?

New discoveries in NM caverns possibly give us more powerful antibiotics. Who woulda thunk it? Back in 1986 the Lechuguilla Cave was discovered. It’s the 7th longest cave in the world and the deepest in the continental US. And antibiotic resistant bacteria have been found in it.

Which brings up the point, what antibiotics? Turns out these may be brand new ones. What else may be found here? It is near Roswell. Could those crafty UFOnauts be hiding down there, knowing it is the deepest point they could reach without digging? Are those antibiotics potentially from Out There, brought to Earth by the 1947 saucer crash? Or perhaps your ideas run more to thriller. If there is a bacterium, can it be used as a terror weapon? Only the antibiotic from the cave can save us?

More than 1200 new species of plants and animals have been found in the Amazon since 2000. What might James Cameron find diving into the Marianas Trench? That’s a long way down and hitherto unexplored.

Panspermia might be a way of repopulating lost species on earth. Comets and asteroid impacts can blast away huge chunks of earth (imagine finding those dinosaurs from ’40s and ’50s pulp stories on other planets!) And then return it.

So much of nature out there, unseen.

A Moment of Bragging April 3, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in awards, business, e-books, Free, ideas, New Mexico, outlaws, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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Yesterday my western editor at Berkley let me know that “Jackson Lowry’s” Sonora Noose had been nominated for a Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award as best novel. Wowza. Woot woot!

My novel lost out in the NM Book Award competition last year to Rudolfo Anaya’s Randy Lopez Comes Home. That was no surprise to me. Nor will a loss on the Peacemaker be unexpected. My money’s on James Reasoner’s Redemption, Kansas to be the winner. If not that, then Dusty Richards’ Between Hell and Texas. (But Rod Miller is on a roll this year, already winning two Spur Awards so The Assassination of Governor Boggs can be there, as well as Lyle Brandt’s Blood Trails.)

A lot of tough competitors.

But I am still doing a happy dance being in their company.

Been thinking about another Mason Barker novel and have notes all over the place, as well as a basic outline scratched down in my notebook. Apache Tears is my working title. For those not in the southwest, an apache tear is a small chunk of obsidian. The title, as it stands is a pun or maybe a metaphor. No good luck will come from this small bit of volcanic glass.

Try a free Jackson Lowry short story, “Fifteen Dollars.”

Back to work (on a fantasy short story, then a new bit of a western novel). A good day to stay in since it is snowing and has accumulated more than a half inch already. Quite a change from the 80 deg a couple days ago. But the winter wonderland outside cannot dim the warmth in my heart over the Peacemaker nomination.

http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&keywords=sonora%20noose%20jackson%20lowry&tag=roberevardesc-20&Go.x=7&index=blended&Go=Go&Go.y=6&link_code=qs

Look to the (New Mexico) Skies! February 24, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in awards, business, history, New Mexico, space, writing.
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Last night I trundled on down to the NM Museum of Natural History to attend a talk on 100 years of space flight in New Mexico by author Loretta Hall.
She won a NM Book Award for her history of space exploration since 1930 and gave an entertaining presentation ranging from Robert Goddard to 2025 or so, when Virgin Galactic figures to break even on its space tourism.

Much of the talk was familiar, especially the pictures of early launches from White Sands. She touched on how Randall Lovelace was charged with testing the Mercury astronauts (and that the movie The Right Stuff was pretty accurate). What I had never heard before was Lovelace’s crazy notion that women ought to be in the program, too. One pilot named Jerrie Cobb tested out to within 2% of the top men. Five other women also qualified. So it ought to have been the Mercury 13, not the Mercury 7–except NASA wouldn’t accept women. The kicker was that the women weren’t jet test pilots.

One of the un-Mercury 6 has a ticket on Virgin Galactic. I hope she makes it (another interesting factoid–90% of everyone from 21-80 yrs old can qualify to be a space tourist. Think I could raise $200k on Kickstarter for a ticket? Loan me $200k till my (rocket)ship comes in?).

The entire space tourist trip will last about 2.5 hrs, with 90 minutes being a slow spiral upward to 50,000 ft to get above the turbulence. Another 6 minutes to apogee, perhaps 10 minutes of floating about and sightseeing, then descent a la space shuttle (ie, unpowered, like a falling brick) Hall said that maximum g-force would be 6g, which seems wildly high to me since the shuttle launch only had a max of around 3g. Instantaneous g-loading? A football player takes 80g instantaneous–repeatedly. So maybe 6 isn’t outrageous for a sudden stop?

NM has a great history from Goddard’s liquid fuel inventions to probably satellite launches from White Sands/Spaceport America in a few years. Ad astra!

http://space.about.com/od/astronautbiographies/a/jerriecobb.htm

February 23, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, New Mexico, science, science fiction, space.
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Water Worlds and Space Elevators

Lou passed along this about a water world around a red dwarf. Twenty times as massive as earth, the atmosphere has water, but in “super fluid” phase. Not sure what this means so will check it out to see. Maybe an entire planet of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Ice 9”?

But another item caught my eye. It looks as if Japan is committing to a space elevator by 2050. Alas, I will never see it work, but I have doubts about this technology and if I lived to be 200 might not live to see it work. Still, go for it! No idea where the earth base would be. One of the Pacific Islands, probably. Iwo Jima is a bit north since nearer the equator would work, but it would be good seeing something rising from Mt Suribachi in addition to an American flag. (This date, 1945)

As an exotic technology for cheap launches, I’d prefer something like a laser launch vehicle. (For both this and the space elevator, a tip of the space helmet to Jordin Kare.)

Tonight I’m likely going to a talk by Loretta Hall on the NM Spaceport and a NM perspective on the history of rocketry. (7-8:30, Natural History Museum, for you locals)

Blast Off For High Adventure… February 19, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, New Mexico, science, science fiction, sense of wonder, space, Texas.
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But probably not from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. The legislature mostly failed to do anything this year in its 30 day session, but what else is new? A lot of egregious oversights but getting bought off by lobbyists and not passing limited liability for the spaceport is going to cost us dearly.

There are six in the works, with Colorado getting into the foray.

I suspect the Texas spaceport might be financed by Jeff Bezos (go buy more of my stuff on Amazon so he can afford to build his own rocket–and I can afford to launch!) Check out the link to see what Texas did to provide launcher protection–which is what NM failed to do.

With Virgin Galactic only on the hook for a few offices rented in Las Cruces and not paying a dime so far to the state, chances look mighty good to me they will shift their attention to either Texas or Colorado. Rutan is building the White Knight out in California but going to the Mojave Desert for a launch lacks…class. It’s hot out there and miles from civilization. Space tourists (it said in the paper this morning that Victoria Principal is on the roster for the first Spaceport America launch–hope she can get a ticket elsewhere) are in it for a little adventure and a lot of bragging rights. Roughing it in real desert is nowhere near as brag-worthy as staying in a posh hotel and then launching. Sort of like comparing Magellan’s Trinidad to the Queen Mary (the trial lawyers would likely make the comparison to the Titanic…) Exploration, no, elegance and adventure, yes. The difference between naming the Magellanic Clouds and “merely” seeing them from space.

With the death of all space missions and NASA still sucking up the same amount of money for a lot fewer programs, private space is our salvation. Mine, at least, for seeing space travel. (The sf I read as a kid still burns brightly in my imagination).

If Nature Abhors a Vacuum Why is It So Hard to Send Manned Ships Into Space? February 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in death, gummint, New Mexico, science, sense of wonder, space.
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It was with real sorrow I saw that NASA is forsaking the Mars exploration. In the words of this article, Mars lost.

No, we lost. If the race is to the stars, that is. If it is to become a third-world, second-rate country then we are certainly crossing the finish line.

The conjecture is that NASA figures Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and other private companies will do it. Fine, I’d say, but there is an incredible impediment skyward for that, at least in New Mexico. The trial lawyers have spent a reported $200k lobbying to kill a bill limiting liability at Spaceport America. IOW, they want to sue the place into oblivion at the first accident.

If you are smart enough to accumulate $200,000 for the ride and smart enough to go through the release form where it states in *three* places “you may die if…” and the form must be signed at least 24 hours prior to launch to give time to think it over, then I’d say you are well on your way to understanding the danger. Everyone dies. I’d love to go up in the Virgin Galactic launch vehicle to space, and if I had to die, there’s no way I’d prefer more. But that’s just me. If I had $200k, I’d pay for the privilege of maybe dying on my way to space. Color me DD Harriman. And if I didn’t augur in, then I’d have one hell of a story to tell for the rest of my life.

Word is that Virgin Galactic is pulling back a bit because of the lawyers. VG has sunk more money into offices and the like in Las Cruces but they haven’t yet ponied up a dime to the state for use of the spaceport. It might well be they pull out and go to the Mojave site or Wisconsin or wherever. The loss to them would be negligible at this point. To space tourism in NM, it would be a crushing blow if not a fatal one.

This isn’t to say Spaceport America would close. 90% of the facility schedule would still be A-OK to go as unmanned launches are lined up and waiting to blast off. But space tourism is, excuse the expression, the boost NM needs. Thanks for trying to kill it, ambulance chasers. And thanks, NASA, for killing our entire space program.