Jupiter’s cool blue polar pools

The Juno space probe is looking over Jupiter’s shoulder these days. As we careworn mortals tread the surface of our small planet in day-to-day wanderings of scant consequence, above us in the infinite sky, one of our offspring loops around our solar system’s most majestic giant. And she sends home photos of unprecedented beauty. Click the image for a closeup of breathtaking proportions.

People have never seen Jupiter from this angle before. No one, and no thing, has ever flown quite this course over the cloud-swirling vistas of the King of Planets. No telescope ever saw and no space probe ever recorded such sights–until now.

Juno was sent to Jupiter to capture these images and vast streams of scientific data about the giant planet. And the little interplanetary robot is doing her job as tasked. But that’s not all she is capable of. The imaging systems of Juno were almost an afterthought for the scientists who conceived of her, designed her, built her, and launched her on her billion-mile journey.

But we who wait here on Earth for her deliveries of data packets, doppler shifts, and sensor echoes, know that she is capable of more. She is capable of art. She is capable of discovery. And she is capable of surprise.

Look at her images of the north polar pool of deep blue, cloud-crossed mystery. Is this icy water? No. Ice would become solid as rock and sink out of sight. This is a cool blue atmosphere, thousands of times thicker than the one over our heads. And hundreds of degrees colder.

Alien–but beautifully so. Who could ever have imagined such beauty lay, since before the time of the dinosaurs, waiting for us to reach out and snap some photos of it? Now that we have, the sights can never be forgotten. They will live as the legacy of human ingenuity and curiosity. They are with us now and will never be lost. They are what NASA and the space program are all about: bringing the beauty of the universe home for us to experience.

The images shown here are from NASA via Sean Doran, a computer artist. You can see more of his planetary work at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/136797589@N04/with/38180971386/

And I have tweaked the images even a bit more for this post.

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Moving and Shaking

Seattle's faultThings are really moving and shaking around here. With one book just released and still in its early days, I’m halfway through writing the next. I hope you’ll enjoy them both.

Let me start off with the new project. After months of preparatory research I have begun to write my second natural disaster thriller tentatively titled, “Earthquake–Seattle!” or words to that effect. It’s about… um, do I really need to tell you?

One of the most difficult aspects of researching this story is that there are so many cracks in the ground around Seattle that it’s hard to pick a favorite (or is it un-favorite?). There’s the Southern Whidbey Fault Zone, the Darrington–Devil’s Mountain Fault, the Saddle Mountain and Rattlesnake Mountain Faults, not to mention the Olympia and Tacoma Faults, or the granddaddy of them all, the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a huge fault that runs the full length of Washington State’s Coastline.

Eventually I settled on the Seattle Fault, because, well, it’s closer to home. That’s a model of it above, in which the color scheme runs from green denoting not-so-much shaking, through yellow to orange, where you ask yourself, “What was in that drink? I can hardly keep my feet!” to red, where you are thrown to the floor and your house starts crumpling around you.

The more I research this story, the more I realize we could have a pretty nasty shakeup around here. So I keep writing. It will still be several months before the book is complete, edited, and prepared for printing and ebook delivery. Until then, I urge you to think, “Duck and cover. Duck and cover!”

Kit & friendsBefore I get back to the keyboard (Oh wait, I’m already there), let me remind you that my current offering, Kit Daniels Dinosaur Girl, awaits your discovery and enjoyment. It’s a great escape from the throes of natural disasters, which can be a bit weighty. This story is lighter fare, with much humor and a bit of romance thrown in. Not just for kids, this one is guaranteed to make even the stodgiest adult laugh out loud or shout for joy as Kit takes on the task assigned by her Hollywood film producer. “Ride that Triceratops!”

So what are you waiting for? Even if you are the world’s slowest reader, you can easily finish Kit Daniels Dinosaur Girl long before Earthquake—Seattle is published.

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Book 5 of the Dinosaur Wars series is here!

Kit and companyCAMERA! ACTION! —TROUBLE!

Kit Daniels and Chase Armstrong, the young heroes of the Dinosaur Wars series, have already saved the planet from a space invasion of laser-blasting dinosaurs. You would think they’d have no challenges left to face. But when a Hollywood director and his crew come to Montana to film Kit getting up close and personal with the dinosaurs that live on her father’s cattle ranch, anything can happen—AND DOES! Come join the adventure as pandemonium reigns on the film set. KIT DANIELS—DINOSAUR GIRL is an exciting adventure for all ages and both genders.

Click this LINK to find an ebook seller who carries KIT DANIELS—DINOSAUR GIRL. All the big booksellers do!

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Meet Mrs. T

Mrs TGood news for DINOSAUR WARS fans! I have just about finished writing the newest story in the series: KIT DANIELS — DINOSAUR GIRL. This is the latest adventure of Kit Daniels and Chase Armstrong in a world where dinosaurs live again. I’m just putting the finishing touches on it and expect it to be available within a few weeks.

To ease pain of the waiting, I thought I’d tell you a little about the story and introduce several of the key characters. Each one is prominently featured in the story.

First, there is Mrs. T, seen above with her horns silhouetted against Sandstone Mountain in Yellowstone Country, Montana. Chase Armstrong was the one who named her Mrs. T, though no one knows exactly why. Presumably the T stands for triceratops, of which Mrs. T is a fine specimen. She’s also the matriarchal leader of her herd, much the same way some big female elephants become the central figures in their extended families.

And like a matriarchal elephant, one would be well advised not to rile her up. She’s easily as big as a full-grown pachyderm, and is positively bristling with dangerous-looking horns and a beak that can snap a person in half. Take it from Kit Daniels, who learned the hard way that a Mamma triceratops does not like people messing around with one of her babies, even if the intentions are friendly.

TopsyKit’s mistake was to assume that Mrs. T would stand by idly while she took a short triceratops-back ride on little Topsy, the friendly triceratops yearling whom she had all but tamed. Topsy, being young and inquisitive, seemed at first to enjoy the idea of a human riding on his back. But in Dinosaur Country, things have a tendency to go wrong in a big way.

Before this story ends, Kit will have had the ride of her life and Mrs. T will have demonstrated the full fury of a seven-ton triceratops on a rampage. Hang onto your hats folks. This looks to be one scary thrill ride from the start to the finish!

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Rain City Mystery Writers Seminar

Rain City SeminarAs President of the NW Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, it is my solemn duty to inform you: there are just a few days left until the RAIN CITY MYSTERY WRITERS SEMINAR in Bothell WA, June 24, 2017! If you harbor an interest in writing and selling novels, then this event may be just the thing for you. Folks have been signing up at an increasing rate and space is limited. So you’d better act now if you’re interested, before the remaining places are taken.

Whether you’re a novice or a published author, you can never learn too much about the craft of writing or the art of selling books. Our acclaimed experts in novel writing and book sales, James Ziskin and Beth Jusino, are eager to share their deep knowledge of these subjects. Between them, these experienced professionals cover a wide variety of techniques to accelerate your writing career. Not just for mystery writers, these techniques apply whether you write mysteries, thrillers, romance, science fiction—you name it!

James Ziskin is the author of the Edgar-, Anthony-, Barry-, and Lefty-nominated Ellie Stone Mysteries. A linguist by training, James worked in New York as a photo-news writer, and then spent fifteen years in the Hollywood film industry. Jim will take a deep dive into the craft of mystery writing, from outline to finished work. He will discuss key elements that make or break a story: plotting, characters, style, drafts, revisions—even titles and covers.

Beth Jusino is a publishing consultant, award-winning writer, developmental editor, former literary agent, and teacher who helps others navigate the complex space between writing and publishing. Her book, The Author’s Guide to Marketing: Make a Plan That Attracts More Readers and Sells More Books, helps writers identify their strengths and build audiences even before they’ve finished writing their first book.

All signs point to an educational and entertaining day for pros and novices alike. Registration includes coffee service and lunch. And there will be a raffle with great prizes, like signed copies of some of MWA-NW’s authors’ latest books as well as other cool stuff.

So don’t be left out. Seats are filling up. Last-minute registrants will be accepted if places are available. $110 per person.

This is an official MWA University Event. To learn more, click HERE

To register, click HERE

Location: Hilton Garden Inn
22600 Bothell-Everett Hwy
Bothell, WA 98021

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Earthquake Warning

Bremerton Quake StormSometimes when you’re writing a novel, there are little signs you may have something special going on. So swarms of small earthquakes that have shaken Bremerton Washington lately seem like early-warning signs to me.

You see, I am halfway through writing the saga of a big earthquake hitting the Seattle area in the near future, and a nearby storm of small earthquakes is exactly how my story begins. So, in this case truth really might be stranger than fiction. Let’s hope things don’t get out of hand any time soon, though.

CascadiaMost people know Washington State is a geologically active place, with earthquakes and volcanoes often in the news. My most recent novel, Rainier Erupts! was focused on the volcanic dangers faced by the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, and it has been my most successful book so far. May I suggest you grab a copy and read it soon, before my earthquake tale eclipses it?

Washington owes its proneness to volcanoes and earthquakes to the fact it lies across the Cascadia Subduction Zone, where the crust of the ocean floor is dragged beneath the ever-moving crust of the North American Continent. Although the motions of the ocean floor and continental crust occur on a geological time scale of millions of years, the accumulated stresses build up until the ground itself cracks open, unleashing earthquakes and volcanoes to threaten local humanity with disasters large and small.

Seattle's FaultSuperimposed on the giant Cascadia Subduction Zone are myriad smaller, but still immense, faults that crisscross the landscape of Western Washington giving rise to many of its landscape features including the hills, valleys, and bays of Seattle itself. My house sits right atop one branch of the Seattle Fault, so you can imagine I occasionally wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “Boy, what if it ripped loose right now?”

I grew up in West Seattle, right on top of another stretch of the Seattle Fault. My memories of old times are of a placid community and a happy childhood. But when I was fifteen, things were not-so-nice. The Seattle Fault ruptured with a 6.7 Richter Scale quake right under my feet. To say I was shook up would be an understatement. People were killed. I was at James Madison Junior High School when the whole building lurched sideways in an instant. Heavy light fixtures crashed from the ceiling not far from me. I was in the Boys’ Locker Room, where long rows of metal lockers crashed against one another like falling dominoes. And a long crack opened in the floor almost directly under my feet. It spread about six inches wide, affording me a terrifying glimpse down to the basement below, and then it closed. And then it opened and closed again. Although there were no fatalities where I was, the shouts and screams of kids still reverberate in my memory.

Full-Rip 9.0My research for the book obviously draws heavily on my personal earthquake experience, but that source was aided and abetted by a phenomenally interesting (and scary) book by a Seattle Times investigative reporter, Full-Rip 9.0, which details the factual evidence about faults, subduction zones, and earthquakes in the Seattle Area. Author Sandi Doughton has really done her homework and the book stands as a clear and detailed description of the dangers we face.

I’d like to tell you more about my Seattle Earthquake story, but that’s not possible right now for one simple reason: I haven’t written the final details yet. So, who falls from a crumbling building, or who gets swallowed up by a giant crack in the ground, hasn’t quite been figured out yet. In fact, I have been shuffling heroes and victims around so rapidly that you’d think there was an earthquake going on inside my head. And in a lot of ways, that’s true.

After all, I’ve been-there-done-that.

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My Astronaut Application

NASA receiptGround Control To Major Tom.

Not too many people have one of these, I suppose. Or at least, not too many people will admit to having one.

This image is a front-and-back look at the receipt I got from NASA for my application to join the shuttle astronaut program back in 1980. I was trying to get accepted to the Mission Specialist position, and I proposed to do studies on bone metabolism in space. I was a recently-minted PhD researcher in biochemistry, doing post-doctoral studies in New York City. I was supported by my Washington State Senator, Scoop Jackson. And I nearly made the grade, only being surpassed in the final rounds by Judy Resnik, who got the job I had dreamed of.

The riddle of how and why astronauts lose calcium and their bones become brittle in space has never been fully unraveled. Who knows, maybe if I had gotten my chance, I could have figured it out by now.

Judy ResnikOr perhaps not. I will never forget the day of the Challenger launch disaster, in which seven brave astronauts lost their lives. I arrived at work and they had a TV going in the lobby, showing rerun after rerun of the explosion, with newscasters saying the fate of the crew members was still unknown.

People gathered in a somber group were surprised when I murmured, looking in horror at the screen, “That could have been me!” I was trembling in agitation and grief. I knew well that aboard that shuttle, falling from the brink of space into the Atlantic Ocean, was Judy Resnik, the astronaut who had gotten my job.

All these things happened a long time ago. I found the NASA receipt while digging through a drawer of dusty old documents the other day. Strange, how life turns a page. I might well be dead now, had I gotten the opportunity I so craved when I was thirty years old. But now I am older, wiser, and more philosophical than ever about humanity’s future on and off this planet.

And my dream of finding a cure for bone loss in space? It’s not gone and forgotten. On the contrary, I published a possible solution several years ago in one of my science fiction novels. In Blood On The Moon, I described a “gravity pill” that astronauts could take to counterbalance weightlessness or low-gravity environments like the Moon or Mars. And based on my many years of scientific training and research there might actually be something to the pill I have imagined. I even gave a recipe for the types of molecules that ought to be incorporated into such a tablet. Who knows, maybe someday the formula I dreamed up will actually help astronauts overcome a critical health problem by simply popping a pill.

The discovery of that old slip of paper from NASA triggered some lost memories and showed me how life can come full circle. If my insights about gravity pills ever have an impact on space exploration, then I may have accomplished what I set out to do when I was thirty—just in a different way. And none of it would have happened if I had aced out Judy Resnik for the Mission Specialist position instead of the other way around.

Rest in peace, Judy.

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2017—Pressing The Reset Button

Pretty craterI took this photo at Crater Lake National Park two summers ago while I was on a research trip gathering information and inspiration for my natural disaster thriller, RAINIER ERUPTS!

Nature greeted Shelley and me with resplendent beauty at every turn of the road. Everywhere I looked there was another vista of both compelling loveliness and awe-inspiring revelation about just how powerful the forces within the earth can be.

Wizard IslandWhen Mount Mazama blew its top seven thousand years ago, it devastated the land for sixty miles in every direction and left a yawning hole in the ground more than a mile across. When it first formed, there was no lake in the hole. There was just a barren, craggy landscape devoid of life, swept by sulfurous fumes, and punctuated with a central lava vent that spewed out a whole new mountain over the following years—a cinder cone that somehow looks small within the crater now, but which would make a grand summit if it stood elsewhere on the landscape.

Over the millennia since the big blast, life has returned to the crater, and trees even dot the cinder cone, which goes by the name of Wizard Island now that rainwater has filled the hole up to about the halfway level. That water has a legendary deep blue tint to it, something that scarcely comes across in a photograph and really has to be seen to be believed.

Colorful crater At the end of RAINIER ERUPTS, a new vast hole in the ground existed where mighty Rainier had once stood. But ever-nurturing Nature was already raining down torrents of water that would someday work a similar transformation from devastation to heavenly beauty. That slow-but-sure process would, however, take thousands of years to accomplish.

So I faced an authorial dilemma. In writing a sequel to RAINIER ERUPTS, was I going to start with a State of Washington that had a gaping hole in it, or would I start with things the way they really are today, with Mount Rainier standing tall, white, and beautiful on the horizons of Seattle and Tacoma?

My next natural disaster story is likely to be about an earthquake, a tsunami, or an asteroid impact—I haven’t quite decided which yet. But what about Rainier in those stories? Will she be present or absent?

I decided to press the Reset Button.

Rainier will be officially restored to her former majesty and all the destructive forces she unleashed will be undone. That way, the next book in the series can take a look at a whole separate scenario of Nature venting her wrath against an overconfident, complacent civilization that is as yet untouched by disaster.

Never fear. Even though I am determined to look into every dire situation that might arise and put my home state through some major changes that actually COULD happen, it remains true that Nature and time have the power to heal the land and restore the world-renowned beauty of the place.

Conveniently, as an author I can just hit the Reset Button.

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My Appearance at the Burien Library Saturday

mysteryLooking for something to do this coming Saturday, November 19? How about coming to the Burien Library to join me and three fellow mystery/thriller authors as we present our latest works? From 1 to 3 PM, we will be talking about our books, reading from them, and signing copies you can buy from the library’s partner, Page 2 Books.

The library has asked me to emphasize my medical thriller, The Neah Virus. In addition, I’ll be presenting my latest thriller, Rainier Erupts! So you’ll get a double dose of my most recent writing.

Here’s a quote from the jacket notes for The Neah Virus:

“When a lost grave is opened on the Makah Indian Reservation at Neah Bay, Washington, a deadly new disease strikes. Paradoxically, the lethal virus kills non-Natives while locals are spared. As the disease spreads, Dr. Peyton McKean races against time to save humanity from a worldwide epidemic of madness, fever, and death.

On the reservation, McKean confronts an old Makah who is steeped in shamanistic lore. Gordon Steel claims this is the legendary Lost Souls Disease, created by Raven to punish outsiders. As the death toll mounts, Peyton McKean must learn the old shaman’s secrets and find a cure.”

And here’s a quote from Rainier Erupts!:

“Enter a world gone mad with explosions that dwarf nuclear bombs, giant mudflows, choking ashfalls, and spouting red-hot lava. Flee in desperation with mountain climbers caught in the first outbursts. Experience one family’s struggle to survive when their home is swept away by a lahar mudflow. Fly with helicopter crews risking their own lives to save others. Learn Nisqually Indian legends of this White Mountain called Tacobet. Observe scientists predicting the volcano’s next outburst. Follow government officials trying to stave off catastrophe.

RAINIER ERUPTS! is a heart-stopping true-to-life look at the horrors and heroism that would mark such a day of disaster.”

So, what do you say? Come on down to the Burien Library and grab a copy or two, signed by the author. And maybe a couple of spares as holiday gifts? That would be a great way to spend this coming Saturday afternoon!

For more information and directions, CLICK HERE.

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Trump Blames Hillary For Volcanic Eruption

Byebye SeattleOkay. I made that up. But may I suggest you take a break from all the political falderal and read a good book? My latest novel, RAINIER ERUPTS! has been riding high on the charts for months. Now might be a good time for you to grab a copy of the ebook or paperback and escape the debates, name calling, and blather, and immerse yourself in a good natural disaster story.

RAINIER ERUPTS! will sweep you away from it all and into a world gone mad with red hot lava, titanic explosions, and choking ash falls. What’s not to like about people fleeing for their lives, heroic rescuers racing into action, and even some love in bloom amid the ruins of Seattle and Tacoma?

My publisher has agreed to a limited time deal of $1 off the regular price while supplies last. Click HERE to get a copy now. There will be plenty of time to get back to the blithering politicians, pundits, and newspeople once you have read all about surviving a modern-day Pompeii. In fact, after you read RAINIER ERUPTS!, all the calamities people are shouting about will seem distant and not quite so bad after all.

Enjoy!

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