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Slap Leather, Pilgrim October 7, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, e-books, history, iPad, New Mexico, outlaws, Texas, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing, zeppelin.
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The past few days have been spent getting a talk ready for the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium coming up at the end of the week. I’ll be on a panel Friday morning, give my talk on New Mexico railroads both Friday and Saturday afternoons. For me talking that much is a marathon event and I’ll likely end up hoarse (horse? Sorry!)

From a writing standpoint, I’m trying some new marketing ideas. I’m turning my notes into an epub for easier use on my iPad, then will post the ebook on my store next week (for free, of course) for anyone wanting to see more details since I don’t anticipate going too deep into any one part of the talk.) Along with the talks, I’ll be selling copies of Karl Lassiter and Jackson Lowry westerns, hyping Karl’s upcoming China Jack
because it is about railroads and specifically railroads in that region of the country, and seeing how a special project goes.

Just for the getogether, I’ve done a mini-anthology of three stories about Texas Rangers, past, present and future. A memento for the event. Something easily carried (as opposed to a copy of The Traditional West)

If this experiment works, I’ll do something similar, Tales from New Mexico, for the SW Festival of Books next May. Targeted to the regional interests, relatively inexpensive, a keepsake for remembering the event. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Who knows? I might even take pictures at the symposium and lost a couple here, but it will have to be next week. Still working on finding tidbits about railroads in NM (including the 1880 tale of a fish-shaped hot air balloon dropping blue origami flowers and a teacup on the Galisteo railhead. Most inexplicable.)

More soon. Until then you might want to check out

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Just Playing Around September 19, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, history, outlaws, Texas, VIPub, westerns, Wild West.
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I finished the mini-anthology, Tales From Texas, and will debut it at the Lincoln County Cowbowy Symposium before going wide/public with it. Let me know what you think of this first attempt at doing a book trailer. Limited to 30 seconds, no control over the fade or effects, but I think it works pretty well for a first effort from an aesthetic idiot.

texas tales video

And here’s a look at the cover.

Forthcoming TALES FROM TEXAS

Well, That Was Special September 4, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, contest, e-books, Free, movies, Texas, VIPub, writing.
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My mistake on yesterday’s blog. Zumaya is doing the trivia hunt but, as I can be, I was a day late and a dollar short. Actually, not $ short but days late.

Makes me feel guilty about this, though. So, a trivia contest run by yhos. Same question as before. What was my first published science fiction book? If you really don’t know, check my website. Email me the answer at rvardeman451@comcast.net You have one week. Ends midnight Sept 10. Prizes will be ebooks off my online store. First five will be winners! Not that you all aren’t now, of course,

Been doing family visit stuff and loving it. Hit a couple movies. I thought Lawless was ok but really liked Premium Rush, much to my surprise. That one’s a 90 minute chase scene–and they make it work. I was sorta rewriting lines in Lawless but only found one small scene I’d have changed in Premium Rush toward the end. Wasn’t built up before getting trotted onstage and eliminating it wouldn’t have affected the plot one iota (and, of course, in my feeble mind, would have improved it).

Odds and ends. Congrats to all the Hugo winners and what’s with the streaming company killing the feed because its bot detected DRM violation (that wasn’t there)? Welcome to world of robots telling us what’s legal. Robocop, anyone? Except without the human brain? Skynet won’t let us see Neil Gaiman? Everyone’s a critic, including the silicon brained among us…or are they among us, rather than being our new masters?

Something happened on Sep 1 to drive up my count 10x. Big search item? Texas State Flag.

Best joke recently: I set my DVR to record “The Biggest Loser” but it won’t record anything but Dallas Cowboys games.

Must return to the word mines. This is “my” month to start new projects rather than complete old ones. Want 2 novel proposals and 2 short stories done by this time in Oct, when I must get going on a new western. Which brings me to the cover on Karl Lassiter’s China Jack. Click on it below, but don’t expect terracotta soldiers in the book (I chose this from 3 since it appealed to my narcissistic sense and, besides, probably won’t see the light of day anywhere but on Kindle. It makes a compelling b&w thumbnail!)

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

Thern and Texas June 6, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in fantasy, history, iPad, movies, movies & TV, outlaws, sci-fi, science fiction, Texas, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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Or maybe Thurn and Taxis, if you are a Crying of Lot 49 fan.

But therns. I saw the supposedly awful John Carter movie again on Monday. 2D this time, a better look for the movie (the colors die in 3D, it appears). I say “supposedly awful” because that is a critics’ opinion, not mine. I liked it even more the second time. I might even try for a 3rd view before it leaves the big screen, or as big a screen as the $1 movie theater has. This is a movie that deserves to be seen in IMAX.

The look of the movie is good, the pacing is off, taking too long to get moving, but the plot is heroic fantasy and the sfx are lovely. (That adjective can be applied to Dejah Thoris, too). Taylor Kitsch (what a name!) might not have been my pick for the John Carter role, but he does fine. I even liked Woola a lot more this time around. The reworking of the original book plot makes it into a stronger movie–face it, a 100+ years makes astral projection kinda clunky. Go for that Stargate!

An entertaining movie which comes out in Blu-ray today (or soon–I don’t have a Blu-ray so don’t pay close attention). I’ve heard that there will be an iPhone/iPad app that will add to the experience. No idea what it is but this pushes the connection of home theaters and iPads a bit closer together.

Also of note are the new westerns. History Channel did Hatfields and McCoys starring Kevin Costner and Bill Pullman. I enjoyed the first 4 hrs or so but began to tire of the repitition in the final 2 hours. All this killing over a pig. Sort of like the War of Jenkins Ear. Lots of background to what sounded like a trivial reason to go to war.

Better is A&E’s Longmire. A modern day western with cowboys and sheep herders and Indians and six-gun totin’ marshals set in Wyoming, or maybe Montana. The pilot was a bit contrived, making me think the bad guy would never have been caught if he hadn’t used an antique rifle and instead relied on a .30-06 but the show has promise. I’ll tune in again.

All Fired Up and Launching (written) Torpedoes June 3, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, hobby, Texas, writing.
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That’s the way I usually feel after going to a convention. Tired, but revved up to write more. The reason is pretty simple. Listening to other writers tell of what they have being published, what they’re working on, everything about their prodigious outputs, all this makes me feel like a slacker. No matter I am hearing about a year’s output from dozens of writers. It all boils down to: I need to write more.

I am not a big proponent of writing seminars and workshops, though many swear by them. They are certainly great networking opportunities. But the cost is frightful on some for marginal advice (in my opinion). I saw one that charged $100/hr, 3 different sessions (so a total of $300) covering stuff you can figure out on your own or find online for free.

But there might be more to attending than networking or actually learning. I spoke at an East Texas writers workshop quite a few years ago. One writer told me how especially fired up she was and how much she had gotten from my talk. I asked her what she intended to write next. Answer: nothing, but she was going to another seminar in Houston in a month. Write something new? Never! Go to more seminars! Yes!

Everyone needs a hobby, I suppose, and this was hers. Going to writing seminars. A long time back Ed Bryant mentioned speaking at an annual Colorado Springs workshop where James Michener was headlining. A woman brought the same ms to the workshop every year–this was her “ticket” to meet famous authors. It gave a cachet of “being a writer, just like you” so she could meet folks like Michener (and presumably Ed, whom I consider a far better writer, but that’s just me).

Use conventions/seminars/workshops to network, maybe to learn something, but when you’re away from all the glitz and glitter, write!

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.

Barsoom! March 7, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, fantasy, movies, movies & TV, nostalgia, science fiction, sense of wonder, space, Texas, Wild West.
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Saw the 3D version of John Carter last night and enjoyed it a lot. There are few movies that need 3D, but ones with huge vistas and gaggles of cgi attacking armies nudge into that category. I’m not sure it’s exactly necessary, though, and if you saw only the 2D version you wouldn’t be disappointed. (I won’t even mention the truly deplorable Princess of Mars since John Carter is light years better)

The tharks are incredible. Wonderful thought behind how a 4-armed goober would act and move. They seemed skinnier than I pictured them but Barsoom, after all, has a lighter gravity and that’s why John Carter can leap tall buildings, etc. But, perish the thought, Dejah Thoris was well endowed and not the least bit undernourished looking. (The actress, Lynn Collins, had a weird accent, but IMDB said she was born in Texas, classically trained in NYC and lives in London). My one complaint about her role was that, unlike ERB’s description in the books, she didn’t go around nearly nekkid enough.

The voice talent for the tharks was a known quantity in Thomas Hayden Church and Willem Defoe while the onscreen live action actors were, to me at least since I don’t watch Friday Night Lights, unknown. Oddly, Taylor Kitsch (what an unfortunate name) who played John Carter is a Canadian who plays a Marfa high school football player on tv?

The dog critter Woola was fun and the airships definitely unusual, though Roy Krenkel sorta formed my images of them in the Ace editions back in the ’60s. The white apes are nothing like I envisioned them, but in a way this was a throwaway scene.

The plot is pure pulp but one great improvement over the books was how the Therns were pictured. The writers worked them into the story, indeed made them the driving evil force, and gave us something better than astral projection for John Carter to get to Barsoom. Very clever, very well done, especially for the payoff at the end.

A lot of interest in Barsoom-esque stuff out there now. Stephen D Sullivan has his Elf Princess of Mars and a book I did a cover blurb for is Nathan Long’s Jane Carver of Waar, a most enjoyable book..

If only we could read our pulp stories under the light from Barsoom’s twin moons…

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).

Chopped Eagle, To Go, Please June 20, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in inventions, New Mexico, Texas, writing.
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For long years I have called wind turbines “Avian Evisceration Devices.” I even thought this was such a good title, I used it in a short story of the same name.

Driving back and forth to OK I went past several wind farms. In NM they are around Tucumcari, in the Pandhandle there are several but the ones closest to the road are around Groom. I seem to remember some in OK, also, but I might be wrong about that. If you’ve seen one wind turbine, you’ve seen ‘em all. There used to be some variation, notably the upright eggbeater design but it seems they have all devolved into 3 blade propellers.

Always see a long semi flat bed on the road hauling a single blade. Those bird-guts-choppers are long. Very long.

It will be interesting to see how green jobs collide with animal rights especially in California where both are elevated to religion status.. The rather specific number 67 is used to enumerate the dead eagles in any given year. I don’t think the wind farm around Willard, NM, has been murdering eagles, but I might be wrong. It’s a sure thing the blades are chopping up birds (and in the case of the NM wind farm, only 26% of the generated electricity is used–the rest is simply run into the ground since the grid won’t take it. No word if Tres Amigos superconducting grid is progressing.

There are always ideas out there. Take the other side and see how the story progresses. Imagine what the world would be like with turbines whooshing about everywhere. And how this would deplete not only our feathered friends but also fossil fuel stores and rare earths and iron and copper and…

Wow, copper thieves. Iron thieves (they are stealing railroad tracks now).

The ideas are out there!

wind farm outside Willard, NM