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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.

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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.

Huzzah! The AZ Ren Faire! March 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, fantasy, geocaching, weather, writing.
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Wind at 50mph, gusts to 68. Snow. It didn’t look good for my flight out of Abq to Phoenix and the Arizona Renaissance Faire autograph session. But the plane got off quickly (flying into such a wind meant the plane only had to get up to about 70 mph on its own to get airborne, though I am sure the pilot used full power). Great flight, lovely weather in Phoenix.

Mike Stackpole picked me up and off we went for dinner at a new Mexican restaurant. The next night we had dinner with Don Juan and Miguel at a BBQ place run by a friend of Mike’s. Wolfley’s has great food. Great conversation and Ron Wolfley topped it off with free desserts (I was stuffed to the point of potential explosion–and I regretted not being able to scarf up more).

Saturday, all day autographing at Lady Chamberlain’s Book Shop at the fair. Ann Chamberlain said this was her best day ever and she’s been at the fair for at least 5 years, maybe more. Don Juan said the estimated gate was 15,000 and a goodly number came past the store where Mike and I were set up since this was on the way to the joust.

We fielded the usual questions asked of authors at autographing: where’s the restroom? Which way to the joust? Did you write those books?

I sold all but two copies of Ogre Castle, all the copies of Desert Bob’s Reptile Ranch, surprisingly all but one of Stink of Flesh (this is a very heavy family oriented exposition) and, huzzah! No other titles were left. All gone.

Good meeting “Taos” from Second Life. Somehow, those avatars convey nothing about the real person, which is probably the point (though Taos towered over me, which was unexpected). And tea with Don Juan, Miguel, various Tortuga Brothers, the guy running the joust and others was simply fun (and makes me think I need to reevaluate my initial distaste for tequila).

Overheard: A woman telling her kid that the Middle Ages were in the 1800s.

I’ll have more about my geocaching adventure at the fair tomorrow. I leave you with a picture of Miguel and me.

Me and Miguel

Ponderosa-ty October 9, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, gummint, history, New Mexico, nostalgia, weather.
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The morning paper had a front page (with a significant jump) article on how the Las Conchas fire west of Los Alamos has destroyed not only hundreds of square miles of forest but also the ponderosa pine. More than thirty years ago the same area had a massive fire but the ponderosas escaped the worst of that one. Not so this time. From the article, there is no chance for the ponderosa to grow back.

Replacing it will be the oak tree, a scrubby replacement for the soaring pine. And shrubbery, undoubtedly the product of Roger the Shrubber. I won’t live to see the ponderosa grow to any significant height, even if it weren’t extinct in this region, but it is a shame that no one will, either.

Poor forest upkeep (or rather that dictated by law, which is the same thing) kept the fire burning, fed by undergrowth that had never been cleared and the lack of roads and firebreaks. The fire was something that undoubtedly occurred many times in the past and is something we have to expect if we fail to maintain the forests (which is unnatural). So the decision was made: let it be destroyed naturally or be preserved unnaturally.

I wish it were still there.

The ponderosa farther north is crowding out another lovely tree, the aspen. There is nothing quite so lovely as the quaking aspen in autumn, its leaves looking like a turbulent sea of gold and silver in even the lightest breeze.

I didn’t catch all the thought-provoking Life After People. I wonder if they dealt with the effect of massive forest fires on the wildlife. Probably. And it was probably a good show. What will the vegetation look like in 100, 500, 1000 years?

The rain Friday night turned to snow, some of which still remains above the 10k ft level on the mountains to the east. It is cold and I need soup for lunch.

They Gotta Be Kidding? August 19, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, fantasy, gummint, ideas, sci-fi, UFOs, weather, writing.
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They Gotta Be Kidding?

NASA is worried about something more than failing at their Muslim outreach mission? Why, yes, they are. They worry those grays will find us because of global warming and destroy us. Does any of that make sense? Carl Sagan said it was the oxygen that differentiated a populated vs a non-populated planet. He was thinking in terms of higher lifeforms, not slime. Oh, wait, excuse me. Sagan was thinking. That’s the big difference here.

Dumb aliens might be, at this very moment, invading planets with lots of volcanic activity? Or carpet bombing Venus?

I suppose we can excuse NASA since their real mission of manned space exploration is a thing of the past that they have gone a little…wonky. Dotty? Like old Uncle Herk who talks about World War I when he wasn’t even born then, goes on about painting electrons green and wanders about talking to himself a lot? Like ole Uncle Herk, I suppose we have to put up with NASA but the price tag is a lot higher. Uncle Herk at least gets Social Security and might qualify to be put in a home real soon now.

But let’s think stfnally for a moment. If the dumb aliens want to wipe us out because we generate CO2, according to NASA (we’re the gummint, trust us), why isn’t the reverse equally plausible? The dumb aliens come to earth to *buy* our CO2. They’re CO2 deprived. Earth prospers! Until there is no more CO2 left and we die in an ice age.

“Like fools we have let the devil take command of our souls…”

On so many levels, we seriously need what Jeff Wayne is singing here:

“Don’t Let the Sound of Your Own Wheels Drive You Crazy” June 19, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in cats, conventions, history, ideas, Texas, weather, westerns, writing.
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It’s been like that this week. Tiring driving back and forth to eastern Oklahoma. I missed getting my car pummeled with baseball-sized hail by 24 hours in Oklahoma City. OKC is, by the way, a horror to drive through. One pass through they closed I-40 due to a wreck. Another closure dealt with an ammunition truck overturned. Closures of all but one lane makes for a terrifying Venturi effect along the damned whappa-whappa-whappa concrete slab freeway. If they didn’t have the highway numbers painted on the roadbed, I’m not sure I could ever get through the spaghetti maze of roads.

But there is some benefit staring at the miles of miles in the Panhandle, zooming past the largest cross in North America (Groom, TX), seeing the devastation of drought and fire, seeing the flooding in OK only miles to the east. First time I was in Tahlequah about 6 weeks ago, it was so dry that the lightning bugs weren’t even out at night. This time big ones flashed their cheery greeting since it had rained so much in the interim. Love lighting bugs. Hate bugs. Especially the vampire-sized mosquitoes. One good suck at a vein and I am drained.

But the benefit of driving. This is probably wrong but my brain turns off on empty stretches, and there were lots of them. Not much traffic (except for the idiot woman from Arkansas in a mini Cooper who would zoot past me at 85, then slow to 60 so I’d pass and then repeat. Endlessly. Or the subcompact piled 3 stories high with…who knows what. The cross winds were having a field day with that poor sucker. I won’t even mention the mugger trucker so stoned he could hardly stay in two lanes and a shoulder. Or the semi that got blown over just west of Amarillo.) The benefit of turning off my mind. Yes, I am still groggy from the road.

Ideas pile up and spill out since I don’t have any other distractions. No phone, no cats, no doorbell, that funny noise that wasn’t there a minute before (if I get one of those on the road, I turn up the CD until I can’t hear it any longer) I hit upon a nice fantasy short story idea for an anthology that I hope I’m not too late to submit to. Got to write the story, but it’s a good one, so… Two new western plots. A story line for a new Jackson Lowry novel. Rewriting mentally a story I had just done (wrong pov, I figured, but am letting it stand with only a small amount of additional stuff required). Some mental writing on Hot Rail to Hell. Very productive drives idea-wise. Not once did I think of Pantex blowing up as I passed. But I did think of the helium mines. And of course thinking on the Albuquerque Comic Expo at the end of this week. Wheee!

I leave you with this…

Preparing Me For Mars May 1, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in ghost towns, New Mexico, space, weather.
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I’m referring to the weather, of course. It’s snowing. May Day and it’s snowing and this isn’t even North Dakota. Wind steady at 30mph and gusting to 50. At least it’s not a tornado. Yet.

Mostly I see the dream of space slipping away slowly. Virgin Galactic is in the process of easing away from Spaceport America. Two years now before a manned flight from their White Sands port. The state of NM has plunked down a $100m or better for the facilities so I hope they can find other private companies to get in fast. And no, Sir Richard isn’t on the hook for one sou. VG hasn’t kicked in any money and won’t have to until the flights start. He has already moved on to submarining to Atlantis or somesuch.

The space shuttle launch has been delayed for at least a week. Condolences to Walter Jon Williams who had been invited down by one of the astronauts to see the launch. Hope you can hang in there, Walter. This is the penultimate shuttle flight.

But things spacely abound. Here is a carnival of space with all kinds of intriguing links.

And the promise of a private lunar orbit is cropping up now for only 2x the price Russia is charging the US to get an astronaut to the ISS. Not that I have $165m laying around, and if I did it would be in declining value dollars so…. I love the number of companies going for the Xprize on rooting around on the Moon. But all those fun ‘50s stories notwithstanding, no chance for me to stow away.

What would this country have been like if the pioneers had reached the Mississippi and simply said, “nope, no farther”? I wonder if NM will abandon the spaceport and turn it into another ghost town? There ought to be a story in that. Kids find a perfectly good spaceport and use it to launch their own rocket and…ah, those ‘50’s stories are still with me.

Sorry, going crazy from being snowbound this late in the year.

Driving Into the Middle Ages February 23, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, steampunk, weather, writing.
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Off very early tomorrow morning to go to the Arizona Renaissance Faire. Check my Amazon profile or on Facebook for more info.

Not sure of the snow conditions in Flagstaff so am going the southern route. Getting through Tucson, according to 3 different directions gizmos (mapquest, google and yahoo) looks to be a nightmare, but We Shall See. I can’t believe they’ve repaired *some of I-10 since I was there 3 years ago (or was it 4?)

I expect to have some stories to tell when I return, so be prepared. Until then, check out Career Guide to Your Job in Hell (both print and e-book–right now B&N has it at a super price). And coming up on March 5 in Albuquerque is the autographing for Golden Reflections (Amazon has the best price at the moment). I wish I could stay in AZ for a week but the GR autographing would conflict with what looks to be a superfantasical steampunk convention in Tucson.

See you on the other side, as they say. Who this might be is questionable, but it sounded good. No blogs or website updates until next week sometime. Until then!

A Novel Idea February 5, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, fantasy, geocaching, gummint, ideas, iPad, VIPub, weather, westerns, writing.
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Generating ideas for a book is easy enough. Just look at the world around and twist it a bit. Or a lot, depending on how twisted you are. The more the better, actually. Finding the time to work on everything I want to do is the big problem. Ideas bubble up constantly, but the demands of VIPub take me away from the actual writing and direct me toward other pursuits.

This time of year is especially bad since the income tax stuff is pouring in. Worst of all, some of it won’t show up until the end of March, leaving little time to bundle it all up and drop it on the accountant’s doorstep. The one time I did my own taxes, I filed the short form and cheated myself. (I found this out years later when I went to an accountant because of increasingly onerous paperwork). Tax simplification will never happen since this is one way the gummint keeps control of us. Not that this is any kind of a new idea. But you can run with it if you want.

I’ve spent the past four days plugging Sonora Noose and Golden Reflections in various venues and now that A Career Guide to Your Job In Hell is live, as they say, my time can be turned to a new western synopsis with all kinds of crazy stuff tossed in.

Letting it churn and bubble while I did other things (including considering myself lucky I didn’t have to venture out in the sub zero weather) was a good thing since tasty lumps have coagulated in the mental stewpot and it feels right to begin writing. There are all kinds of ways to let the ideas flutter about. Hiking is one of them (well, geocaching) but this is an arctic pursuit at the moment and I am a slacker creature of the 21st Century. Standing under the hot shower is a bit of a guilty pleasure I have eschewed until folks north of me get their gas turned back on. But the pleasure of reading for pleasure also works, though in a different way. The other two pursuits let me freewheel the brain. Reading triggers the “they should have done this!” syndrome. On the iPad, I am about finished with the first provocatively titled of Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru books, Nude In Mink, and new ideas slither and flop from about every page. More on the project that came to me as it develops.

I leave you with this little animation making the rounds…

Playing With My Writer’s Blocks February 3, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, e-books, New Mexico, VIPub, weather, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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I don’t actually get writer’s block as it is usually described. There are always a dozen projects waiting for me and ones which I am eager to do. What happened the past few days is unusual since I am not a pack animal–and the pack is rather isolated.

The temps here in Abq have been the worst since 1971 when it hit -18F. I remember going out to get my car started in -15F and thinking it didn’t feel the least bit cold. For the hell of it, I took off my coat and stood stock still. Warm enough. Then a teeny puff of wind came by and I almost died on the spot. My heat bubble had been burst. This year there’s no chance I will try that since the wind has been blowing a nasty 20-30mph, pushing wind chill down to the -40 (both F and C) range at times. Down in Alamogordo two nights ago it hit -50F.

The town came to a halt 3 days ago from the snow and icy roads. I don’t have to go out and didn’t. But the city was on “vacation” and somehow it seemed that I ought to be, also. Yesterday everything was closed by the lingering snow and intense cold. Ditto on getting work done. And today? Intense cold has closed everything down. But I need to work. I can blame frozen fingers but they aren’t. (I have gloves with the fingers cut out for days like these–call me Ebenezer)

Gas service to Bernalillo (the town) has been cut due to line pressure falling farther north (also in Taos–*that* would be brutal since they get cold there up in the mts). Some power outages around town and it is a standing joke about water lines breaking. Since I was in Ruidoso early in Oct there has been a water main a day break in town. When it is (wow, it’s heated to 7F deg now!) cold like this week the repair work must be nigh on impossible.

Denver has been breaking cold records the past few years and I always wonder about how the old timers in the 1800’s coped. Could be they were tougher or maybe they just froze to death and nobody noticed. Maybe they went the way Baby Doe Tabor did in Leadville.

Not wanting to freeze to death waiting for my Matchless to pay off, I must return to work. (And you can stay warm with….