Tucson and Las Cruces this weekend!

This coming weekend I’ll be signing books in both Tucson, Arizona and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Details about both events are below.


Saturday, September 16 – Tucson, Arizona

    Time: 1-3pm
    Location: Bookmans East at Speedway and Wilmot


I’ll be participating in the Free Thought Fest at Bookmans East. From the Bookmans’ website about the event: “Literature is all about expression, ideas and the sharing of reality. The brilliance of a great writer is that they can carry the reader into foreign soil, territories only traversed in the mind. The reader becomes an interloper, an explorer, an omniscient being that careens through landscapes of imagination carried by the whims of our creator—The Author. Bookmans stands firmly in the belief that no one has the right to inhibit your travel. Only you should be able to decide how your passport is stamped. So if you are looking for experience, adventure, education and expansion of the mind, help us support some of Tucson’s finest local authors at our Free Thought Fest.”

Among the authors on hand will be Jessica Feinberg, Natalie Wright, and Natasha Cover. There will be many other authors as well. From past experience, it pays to arrive early to the event so you can have time to browse all the authors’ work. Also, don’t stop with the authors at the front of the store, Bookmans often places authors throughout the building. If you come to have books signed and don’t see me at the front of the store, please come looking!

For more information about the event, visit: http://bookmans.com/events/free-thought-fest-anti-censorship-month-bookmans-east/


Sunday, September 17 – Las Cruces, NM

    Time: 2-4pm
    Location: Thomas Branigan Memorial Library Roadrunner Room

The Celebrate Authors Event publicly celebrates the talent, hard work, and achievements of southern New Mexican authors. Booktalks, displays, and book signings by authors will promote the diversity and excellence of literary talent throughout our community. Refreshments will be provided as well.

There will be twenty-four authors attending, including Stan Blitz, Win Jacobs, Deanna Dickenson McCall, and Michelle Wing. I attended this event last year and it was a great chance to meet authors from Las Cruces who work in many different genres and learn about their work.

For more information about the event and to see photos from last year, visit: http://libraryfriendslc.org/celebrate-authors/

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Working on the Holidays

There has been a lot of backlash lately against retailers being open on Thanksgiving in the United States, and I’ll admit, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Scrooge-like corporate executives who fear making a little less profit because they’ve given their employees some time with family. However, even if every retailer remained closed on Thanksgiving, there are a lot of people who would have to work, and I’m truly grateful for them. Some of those folks are pretty obvious, such as the doctors and nurses who work in the Emergency Room, fire crews, and utility workers. Will you be watching one of the big Thanksgiving ball games or perhaps the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Marathon? If so, be grateful for the people running the television stations and keeping the Internet up and running. Speaking of those games, there are the people who keep the stadiums clean, run the concessions, and sell tickets.

WIYN-2

As it turns out, Kitt Peak National Observatory does not close down for Thanksgiving either. The universe doesn’t take the day off, and neither do the astronomers who study it. This year, I lucked out and my schedule gave me the entire Thanksgiving weekend off work, which is a nice change of pace. I’ve had plenty of years where I’ve had to work all of the weekend or part of it. The photo above is from Thanksgiving 2013, when my daughter kept me company in the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope’s control room. The observer, Dr. Louise Edwards, was working remotely from Yale University taking spectra using the computer. Dr. Edwards communicated with us using Skype and it actually provided a neat opportunity for my daughter to interact with a woman who not only works in the sciences, but was featured on a Canadian postage stamp.

This brings me to one last group—those who work on the holidays simply because they enjoy it. I may have the weekend off from the observatory, but I’m in the home stretch of working through edits on The Astronomer’s Crypt and I have an exciting story idea that brings members of the Clockwork Legion and the Scarlet Order together that’s clamoring for me to write. Yeah, I’ll be making some quality time to hang out with family and friends, but you can bet that I’ll also spend some time working on these projects because, darn it, they’re fun. In fact, not getting a chance to work on these projects would almost feel like a punishment.

Another thing I enjoy is getting out to meet all of you. Because of that, I plan to be in Tucson on Saturday, November 28 at Bookmans on Speedway Boulevard from noon until 2pm for Tucson Writes. November is Shop Local-Give Local Month and Bookmans is celebrating by bringing in a number of local authors to sell and autograph their books. This is a great way to do some shopping for the holidays and get to know many local authors. I’ll have copies of all my novels there. If you’re in Tucson next weekend, I hope I’ll see you there!

Summer at Kitt Peak

In a typical year, July and August bring monsoon rains to Arizona and New Mexico. The rain is much needed in the desert, but it does mean poor observing conditions for most of those two months. Because of that, the observatory typically shuts down its major telescopes for ongoing maintenance and upgrades that help keep them state of the art.

WIYN in Rain

Those of us who work principally at night, often get a more relaxed schedule, which enables us to take vacation time. When we’re at work, we often get a chance to lend a hand on projects around the observatory. This past week, I worked during the daytime, helping with a couple of projects at the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope. One of those projects was cleaning, tuning, and testing the actuator control cards on the back of the WIYN telescope.

Actuator Work

Here you see the back of the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope. Each of those disks at the back are attached to a motor and a rod, which deform the telescope’s primary mirror so it has the optimal shape, no matter where it’s pointed in the sky. With time, the electronics in each of those actuators becomes less reliable.

So, for example, the WIYN primary mirror weighs about 4200 pounds. When working properly, the actuators should measure that weight pretty accurately. However, with wear and tear, they reached a point where they were measuring the weight as 4570 pounds. As I write this, we’ve tuned about about one third of the cards and now the weight is reading 4370 pounds, much closer and an indication that we’re doing much-needed work. Here’s one of the control cards in its test bench setup.

Actuator Card

Another project I helped with this week was upgrading the drives for the filter arms on the One-Degree Imager at WIYN. In essence, the whole objective of having a camera on a telescope is to accurately measure the amount of light coming into it from distant stars and galaxies. However, visible light is made up of all the colors of the rainbow. Red light, blue light, and violet light are all jumbled together. So, the best way for us to measure light accurately is to take black-and-white pictures with colored filters in front that allow light of precise frequencies to pass through.

The One-Degree Imager has filters that are approximately one-foot by one-foot square. It takes a lot of force to move those pieces of glass and hold them rigidly in place.
ODI-Filters In the photo on the left, you’re looking down on the filter arms. The filter arms used to be held in place by a series of gears. However, the force required to move those arms was so great, the gears were literally grinding themselves to dust. So the gear system has been replaced by a system which utilizes a chain drive like that you might find in a motorcycle! You can see the chain on the bottom of the photo. I’m looking forward to the new observing season when we get to use this new filter drive system. It promises to move and hold the filters much better than the old system.

Another project that’s moving forward is the Extreme Position Doppler Spectrometer which NASA is contracting for the WIYN telescope in order to support space missions searching for planets around other stars. This week, I was asked if I would provide input into how to practically operate this device. It sounds like I’ll learn more this autumn, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and hoping I’ll have something good to contribute which will both help achieve the mission objectives and make it a user-friendly instrument.

In the meantime, I have not forgotten my literary endeavors. I just finished editing a four-short story collection called Sugar Time written by Joy V. Smith. Hadrosaur Productions published an audio book edition some years ago, but this will be an ebook and chapbook containing the four original stories with new cover art by Laura Givens. Look for more details in next week’s blog post.

Also, if you live in New Orleans or will be visiting on the weekend of August 22, please drop by Boutique du Vampyre in the French Quarter between 3 and 6pm, where I’ll be signing copies of Vampires of the Scarlet Order and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.

Phoenix Comicon 2014

Dave-Comicon-2013

Phoenix Comicon will be held June 5-8, 2014 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Guests include Stan Lee, Bruce Campbell, Nathan Fillion, Adam West, Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, and many many more. Once again, I’m honored and humbled to be there among such a great lineup. You can get all the details about the event at phoenixcomicon.com.

I’m doing a mix of science, steampunk, and poetry programming. Here’s my schedule as I know it. I’ll update this as it evolves and be sure to check in at the event for any last-minute updates. I expect to be on hand for the entire event. When I’m not at a scheduled event, look for me at booth 2429 in the exhibitor area.

Friday, June 6

  • 1:00-2:30pm – Signing – AZSPS/WWWC Exhibit. I’ll be hanging out with the Arizona Steampunk Society for a little while on Friday to talk about my steampunk books and sign them. I expect to have copies of the new edition of Owl Dance on hand and hopefully some news about Lightning Wolves.
  • 6:00-7:00pm – Celebrity Nerd Poets – North 127ab. Just how does one become a “Celebrity Nerd Poet”? Come on out and ask the Celebrity Nerd Poetry slam judges that very question. They’ll talk about their writing, the history, the local community, and poetry slams.
  • 7:30-8:30pm – Nerd Poetry Slam – North 127ab. Tthe Nerd Poetry Slam provides everyone the opportunity to share their love of pop culture in verse. Hosted by The Klute, everyone is encouraged to write a poem.
  • 9:00-10:00pm – Future Exploration – North 124a. What missions does NASA have planned for the near and far future?

Saturday, June 7

  • 10:30-11:30am – Science Fiction and Fantasy Poets – 127c. Join this panel of science fiction and fantasy poets for some samples of their poetry and discussion of the craft.
  • 1:00-2:30pm – Signing – AZSPS/WWWC Exhibit. I’ll be hanging out with the Arizona Steampunk Society for a little while on Saturday to talk about my steampunk books and sign them.
  • 7:30-8:30pm – Careers in Science – North 122ab. For those aspiring to have a career in science, technology, engineering, or math, advice on schooling, the outlook on career opportunities, and what life in those fields can be like.
  • 8:30-11:00pm – Drinks With Authors – Salon 5-8. Join many of the convention’s author guests for a glass or two in an informal setting. There will be door prizes and other giveaways from our participating publishers.

Sunday, June 8

  • 12:00-1:00pm – Crowdsourced Science – North 124b. Want to search for exoplanets? Discover cures for diseases? Look for alien signals? Believe it or not, these are real scientific endeavors that you can participate in! Learn how!
  • 1:30-2:30pm – Signing – AZSPS/WWWC Exhibit. I’ll be hanging out at the Arizona Steampunk Society Exhibit for a little while on Sunday to talk about my steampunk books and sign them.