Dying Moon

This has been an exciting week. My wife and I were featured in a nice four-page article in our alumni magazine, The Gold Pan from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. The article is a pretty thorough overview of what my wife and I have been up to in science and publishing in the years since college. You can download a PDF of the issue here: Summer 2017 Issue of Gold Pan.

Also, this week, I joined editor David Boop and fellow authors Robert E. Vardeman, Nicole Givens Kurtz, and Peter J. Wacks to discuss the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone on the Baen Publishing Podcast. We talk about weird westerns, steampunk, and our stories. Our conversation lasted long enough, we’re in both this week’s episode and next. Come listen to our conversation at: The Baen Podcast.

Turning to this week’s featured book—ten years ago, I was editing science fiction and fantasy novels for LBF Books. At one point, the owners sent me a batch of novels to consider for publication and one clearly stood out from the rest. It was called Dying Moon and it was written by Shawn Oetzel. What really grabbed me was the seamless way Shawn blended crime drama and fantasy in his debut novel. As the tale unfolded, he explored the clash of elven and human cultures in the modern world and then added in plenty of action to keep me turning pages.

In the novel, an Elf called Dre Fao’lain is intent on the destruction of all his kind and enters into the world of 21st century Los Angeles to perform the magical ceremony necessary to accomplish his mission. Leaving a series of human bodies in his wake, the Elf is pursued by the LAPD. In the meantime the Elves send Kalen Or’Wain, Captain of the Elven Royal Guard, to stop him. Kalen teams up with a special agent who knows about the Elven world, an officer from the LAPD and even a street gang to stop Dre Fao’lain.

If you’re looking for a fun urban fantasy read, it would be hard to go wrong with this book. I bought several copies from LBF after the book was published to sell at conventions. I have a few left that I’m selling at a special clearance discount of 50% off. This makes a great summer read, helps me clear some room so I have space to stock new books as they come in, and helps support new projects I want to move forward. You can pick up a copy of Dying Moon at: http://hadrosaur.com/bookstore.html#Dying-Moon.

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Acting Out a Scam

No one has ever accused me of being a financial analyst, but I once played one on the television series, Unsolved Mysteries. Here’s a somewhat blurry screenshot from the episode. I’m the tall, happy fellow in the yellow hard hat.

unsolved-mysteries

Back in my senior year at New Mexico Tech, while working on my physics degree, I had a few elective hours available and took a class in musical theater. We presented the Lerner and Loewe play, Brigadoon. The musical director was Mike Iaturo, who I gather played accordion on Broadway for Fiddler on the Roof. The play’s director was Carolyn Abbey. Carolyn’s husband, Mike, is the bearded fellow in the photo above.

After graduating, I remained at New Mexico Tech to work on my master’s degree in physics. I also joined a community theater group run by Carolyn and we put on a set of one-act plays collectively entitled The God’s Honest. Working on these plays was good experience for collaborating with editors and artists as a writer and publisher. I learned to listen, be flexible, and take criticism. The collaborative nature of plays taught me the freedom to change lines so they worked best for the scene as played. It helped me to avoid falling so much in love with my own words that I could never change them.

In the fall of 1989, Carolyn called me to say the television series Unsolved Mysteries was holding auditions in Socorro for a segment they would be filming. I went to the hotel where they were holding the auditions and stood in line for a while. The casting director looked me up and down asked if I had a suit and was willing to shave for the part. I answered “yes” to both questions and she called the next person. Since she didn’t ask me to do anything else, I was certain she wasn’t interested. The casting director surprised me a day later when she called up to say I’d been cast as one of the financial analysts who investigated a gold mine scam a few years before in New Mexico.

It was an interesting experience to see behind the scenes of the making of a television series. As I recall, I woke up at 5 in the morning, dressed in my suit and went to the hotel where I auditioned. I met the other actors and extras who were hired and they drove us to a mine just north of Socorro in the small town of Escondida. We were there until about 6pm. All of the extras playing financial analysts hung out together. From time to time, we were called out to play in a scene. When we were not acting, we had access to a trailer full of stuff to eat. As a graduate student, this was like a dream come true.

The segment featured Maurice “Ed” Barbara, who convinced people to invest in his fake cold mine near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Among the people he conned was famed attorney Melvin Belli, who played the Friendly Angel in the Star Trek episode, “And the Children Shall Lead.”

The episode finally aired on December 13, 1989. It was episode number 40, which was part of the second season. Here’s the part of the episode I was in. As you can see, twelve hours of filming was condensed down into about two minutes. I have to admit, it’s something of a thrill to have my actions narrated by Robert Stack.

I gather there was a follow up in episode 64, but unfortunately, I never saw that. If anyone has ever heard what happened to Ed Barbara, I’d be interested in hearing the end of the story. At the end of the episode, they said he had fled to Canada.

Hope my readers in the United States are having a good Thanksgiving weekend and staying away from scams on this busy shopping weekend!

Scientists of the Wild West

I’m a proud graduate of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology located in Socorro, New Mexico. The school was opened in 1893 as the New Mexico School of Mines. The first president was a chemist, Dr. Floyd Davis. Of course, in 1893, Socorro was still very much part of the wild west. For that matter, New Mexico and Arizona wouldn’t achieve statehood for nearly two decades. Now, I’ll hazard a guess that when you picture the wild west, your first image isn’t of scientists. Nevertheless, there were many scientists who found the west an attractive place to work. Among them was Mr. Steampunk himself, Nikola Tesla.

Tesla in Colorado

Tesla opened a laboratory in Colorado Springs in 1899 so he would have room to conduct his electrical experiments. He conducted experiments in wire telegraphy and electrical generation. At one point, he is said to have generated an artificial lightning arc over 135 feet long that created a thunder boom which could be heard over 15 miles away.

At one point, Tesla aimed his wireless receiver at the night sky and was surprised to hear faint beepings. Tesla believed he was picking up evidence of extraterrestrial communication and the press reported it as evidence of life on Mars. The truth might be far more interesting. It turns out that modern scientists who have experimented with Tesla’s designs have discovered that Tesla’s receiver was outstanding at detecting any kind of electrical discharge. People have used Tesla receivers to detect lightning on Jupiter, for instance. Such lightning is hard to distinguish from a telegraph signal, so it’s possible that Tesla actually made the first detections of extraterrestrial lightning.

Percival Lowell

Another scientist who was very interested in the possibility of Martian life was Percival Lowell. A former foreign secretary to Korea and scion to a wealthy Eastern family, Lowell could build an observatory wherever he wanted. Traditionally observatories had been built near the universities that housed astronomers such as Harvard, Yale, or Cambridge. Lowell decided to conduct one of the first surveys to determine the place where he could obtain the most clear nights on sky with a telescope. In 1894, Lowell decided to build his observatory near Flagstaff, Arizona. Lowell observed Mars extensively from the site. Years later a young astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh would discover Pluto while working at Lowell Observatory.

The wide open spaces and clear skies of the west clearly appealed to certain scientists in the late nineteenth century. In fact, Dr. Floyd Davis’s closing remarks from his inaugural address as president of the New Mexico School of Mines could, with only minor adaptation, apply to many homesteaders and ranchers of the period. “Education for such professional service is a knowledge of how to use the whole of one’s self, to apply the faculties with which one is endowed to all practical purposes. A liberal technical education broadens our views, removes prejudice, and causes us to welcome the views of others, and we no longer consider our methods the only ones worthy of adoption. It keeps us out of ruts and makes us desirous of being benefited by the experiences and teachings of others. SummersLightningWolves It stimulates great mental activity, and thus leads to skill, investigation, discovery and improvement.”

If you’d care to read about my fictional wild west scientists, check out Owl Dance and its sequel Lightning Wolves. The novels are available both in paperback and as ebooks.

Away to College

Today finds me in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I’m leaving my daughter to start her college career at Tulane University. It’s an exciting, bittersweet time and I find myself remembering when I went away to college thirty years ago. I grew up in Southern California and, like my daughter, wanted to experience some place different when I went to school. Of the schools I was accepted to, I decided on the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in the small town of Socorro. One of its strong appeals was that the offices for the VLA radio telescope were on campus. Moving from a city sixty miles east of Los Angeles to a town of 8,000 people was a huge change. Here’s the view from my dorm room.

dorm-view

I remember the combination of nerves and excitement from my first day. I looked forward to meeting new people. I hoped I would do well in classes and that the classes would actually be engaging. I remember the uncertainty about meeting my roommate for the first time. It turns out we got along rather well. Our relationship was not without difficulties, but I’m pleased to say we’ve remained friends even over the distance of time and space. New Mexico Tech proved to be an extremely difficult school, but I graduated in four years and I even spent my senior year working at the VLA doing preliminary site survey work for the telescope that would become the ALMA Array.

While working on my physics degree at New Mexico Tech, I pursued my writing. I worked on short stories and even a Star Trek novel I hoped one day to sell to Pocket Books. When I realized that would be a challenge, I created a new universe for that story. That work laid the foundation for The Pirates of Sufiro and its sequels. After graduating, I stayed for graduate school. During that time, I found my first writer’s group.

Since college, I’ve been constantly employed either in the astronomy or writing fields. I feel like my time in college set me on a good path toward a sustainable career and I feel good about the education my daughter will receive at Tulane. I will miss my daughter terribly, but I’m also excited for the opportunities ahead of her.

Now some people may read this and think that since my daughter’s attending a private university like Tulane we must be very well off, indeed. In fact, my daughter is able to go through a combination of scholarships and grants. My choice of career has had many rewards, but a top-dollar income isn’t one of them. What’s more, I may have full time employment at an observatory, but writing is a significant part of my income.

I hope you’ll take a moment to browse my books page to see if there’s something you’d enjoy. Each title and cover will take you to a page with more info and buying links. Of course, not only will you be helping us out as our family goes through changes, you’ll be getting an exciting, thrill packed story in return.

Fabulous Blog Ribbon

Emily Guido, who has been a wonderful supporter of this blog, has honored me with a new blog award. This one is the Fabulous Blog Ribbon.

Emily is the author of the Light-Bearer Series and I was delighted to hear that she’s just signed a deal with PDMI Publishing. Her blog is in the process of moving over to its new home at http://authoremilyguido.com. If you’re into paranormal romance, be sure to bookmark her page so you can learn about this exciting series.

Having received the Fabulous Blog Award, I need to tell you about five fabulous moments, five things I love, five things I hate, and five blogs you should check out.


Five Fabulous Moments

  1. Holding each of my daughters for the first time. Admittedly, this is really two moments, but they were both equally fabulous. Nothing else even comes close.
  2. Receiving contributor copies of the August 2001 issue of Realms of Fantasy Magazine. Not only did it include my first professional sale, it was illustrated by the brilliant Mark Harrison and my name was on the cover between Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster.
  3. Spending a day with Ray Bradbury when I was 16. The highlight of the day was when I told him about a story I had written and he looked at me and said, “Send your story to a magazine now!” I have been sending my stories to publishers ever since.
  4. Performing in Brigadoon during my senior year at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. I got to sing, dance, speak in a Scottish accent, and wear a kilt on stage. It was absolutely exhilarating, especially when I drew laughs and cheers for my performance.
  5. Returning to that same stage exactly twenty years later as a professional science fiction writer alongside people I admire, including Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek, Walter Jon Williams, S.M. Stirling, and Jane Lindskold. How many times do you get to return to your alma mater and see your name in lights? That was truly exciting!

Five Things I Love

  1. My two daughters. They are brilliant and beautiful. Truly they are my greatest inspiration.
  2. My wife, Kumie. She also is brilliant and beautiful, and strong, too. She keeps me in line and its her faith in me that keeps me going even in the darkest of times.
  3. Chile peppers. I absolutely adore flavorful and spicy food.
  4. Chocolate. I’m especially fond of dark chocolate and I even like it when you mix it with chile. One of my favorite foods is chicken molé, which is chicken in a rich sauce of chocolate and chile. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
  5. I love writing—especially that transcendent moment when I no longer feel like I’m sitting behind a computer typing on keys, but feel like I’m experiencing a set of events and relaying them as they’re happening.

Five Things I hate

  1. Being sick. Not only do I feel miserable when I’m sick, but I often lose precious writing time. The last time I was sick, I had so little energy, I couldn’t even read. That was horrible!
  2. Irrationality. That’s a catch-all for everything from prejudice to people who simply won’t consider the opposing side in a debate. We have far too much of this today and it drives me crazy.
  3. Being trapped. At one time or another, I’ve been stuck in a broken elevator, stranded alongside the road in a car that has broken down, or otherwise felt like my freedom was severely limited for some reason. To me, being trapped is a terrible sensation.
  4. Writing rejection letters. This is a necessity as an editor of short fiction but as a writer, I know how it feels to receive a rejection. I’ve received enough now that the sting is pretty minimal, but it’s still there. The problem is, not hearing a response is even worse. Still, I find the process of writing rejection letters one of the most draining and difficult things I do.
  5. Olives. As I’ve grown older, my tastes have matured and I’ve learned to like a lot of things I hated as a kid—not the least of which are Brussels Sprouts. But for some reason, I have just never warmed up to olives. (I do like olive oil, though. Go figure!)

Five Blogs You Should Check Out

  1. http://wyrmflight.wordpress.com – a blog for dragon lovers.
  2. http://dabofdarkness.com/ – reviews of books and audiobooks, plus book discussion.
  3. http://ginikoch.blogspot.com/ – my favorite red-headed cowgirl and a darned good writer.
  4. http://mrockwell.livejournal.com/ – talented poet and novelist, Marsheila Rockwell.
  5. http://skywarriorbooks.blogspot.com/ – one of my favorite publishers and many good tips for writers.