Win 10 Star Wars Books and Bobblehead Chewbacca!

GiveawayEmailBanner600I’m excited to announce my publisher’s free contest celebrating the similarities between my DINOSAUR WARS series and the STAR WARS books and movies. Entrants can win ten Star Wars books that bridge the gap between RETURN OF THE JEDI and THE FORCE AWAKENS. Another lucky winner will receive the ever-charming Bobblehead Chewbacca for their home, office, or automobile! Use the entry form below. Then use it to tell a friend and get yourself another entry—up to ten chances to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DW1CoverE240AND: Every verified entrant will receive an email with a link to download a free DINOSAUR WARS ebook.

Good luck!

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New books planned for 2016

Always ThinkingI have a number of book projects nearing completion, so 2016 looks like a good year for new titles from me.

Just exactly which titles, I am not sure yet. It takes quite a bit of doing to get each new book out, so bear with me.

Very likely the first book out of the gates will be the one I am just putting the finishing touches on now, my new thriller about people caught up in a volcanic eruption.

After that, I’ve got plans for four new short science fiction stories in the Dinosaur Tales series, followed by a novel as well. They will follow the adventures of Kit Daniels and Chase Armstrong in a world filled with big scary dinosaurian beasts–and some cute little ones too.

After these, I will be overdue to release another title in the Peyton McKean medical thriller series, although which story out of several I’ve been working on, is still an open question.

So it’s going to be a busy year for me. I hope you are ready for some more of my brand of action, adventure, and romance, because these books are overflowing with it!

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This volcano will not be in my next book

Mt. Er, um…I am pleased to categorically deny all allegations that this volcano might in any way feature prominently in my next thriller novel. It won’t.

There, that ought to satisfy the morbidly curious. Rumors that I intend to publish a lurid tale of climbers desperately seeking salvation when this volcano erupts under them are—quite simply—not true.

Nice shot though, huh?

I snapped it from my seat on a jet headed for Cancun Mexico. Of course, I also categorically deny that Shelley and I had a lovely vacation in Cancun while other Northwesterners were sunk under dismal rain clouds. No. We did not. We were an hour south of Cancun in Tulum.

Anyway, I hope this quashes any rumors that I am writing about this volcano. Really folks, I’m not. I’m writing about a completely different one.

Update February 6, 2016: The book’s title is RAINIER ERUPTS! and it is available now for pre-order in advance of the scheduled publication date of April 9, 2016. You can get $1 off the retail price of $3.99 if you order now! Just search for RAINIER ERUPTS! at your favorite ebook seller’s web site. It’s waiting for you.

If you would like to keep up on RAINIER ERUPTS! progress toward publication, join my newsletter group for updates as they happen. Just click the newsletter link above to sign up.

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I can’t discuss my next book

Ka-Boom!I wish to make it clear I am not at liberty to discuss my next novel. By agreement between my publisher and myselves, I can in no way imply, discuss, or indicate by wink or nudge just exactly what’s the subject of my next thriller, due out early next year.

What I can tell you is, it will not be another science fiction book in my Dinosaur Wars series. Nor will it be another Peyton McKean medical thriller. New volumes in those series will appear later in 2016. But don’t fret. This novel will have all the raw adventure and excitement folks have come to expect from me.

It will be the first in a new series of novels that involve natural phenomena, environmental catastrophes, and other manifestations of the awesomeness of the world around us. The title of the new series is–well–that’s a secret too.

Splat!I have been rigorously researching and writing about certain, er, events that have occurred recently, in order to get the kind of realism I like in my stories. But I can’t tell you exactly which phenomenon is at center stage this time around. You’ll just have to use your imagination and make your best guess.

I hope this helps.

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It was a dark and stormy day

Stormy DayThe Olympic Coast of Washington State is a place of extreme beauty—and extreme weather.

Last time Shelley and I ventured out from Seattle to the far reaches of the Olympic Peninsula, we were caught in a pretty savage storm. Not that we weren’t safely ensconced in our car most of the time, but the weather outside the windshield was brutal.

We stopped and braved the gale at Ruby Beach, wearing parkas with hoods up to protect us from driving rain. Down on the beach, high onshore winds smashed titanic ocean rollers onto ragged rocks. The spume that flew up from the wave tops was the color of dark chai, tainted by organic muck stirred up at the mouth of a rain-swollen stream that gushed from an Olympic mountain canyon. Logs, stumps, and colossal tangles of roots vied for preeminence with dark headlands and sea stacks.

Whipped by rain-laden winds, it was all I could do to stand upright while taking my camera from under my coat and shielding its lens with one hand to snap the photo you see here. And as I stood on a slippery tide-wetted log to get a good angle, huge ocean surges did their best to sweep me down among the logs and crush me.

No. Really.

But I got the shot while Shelley watched, aghast at my temerity, or stupidity, or whatever it was that drove me to the brink. But it’s a pretty nice photo if you like scary weather. Click it for a closer view.

Calm DayWe went on our way and stayed the night in calmer circumstances at idyllic Lake Quinault Lodge, where the winds and rains abated during the night.

In the morning we retraced our route heading for home. The weather had cleared and the sun shone. It was the complete antithesis of the day before. So I couldn’t resist stopping at Ruby Beach again to capture this shot of the same scene under happier circumstances. The blue of the sky, freshly cleaned by the storm, and the brilliance of the azure reflections on the water were as stirring and memorable as the raging scene of the day before.

Gone was the rush of the wind in the evergreen forest. Gone was the roar of the ocean. They were replaced by the gentle splash of a much smaller surf and calls of birds that had gone to ground and hidden the day before. Even the giant tangle of logs had somehow been swept away, leaving a smooth and gently wave-lapped shore.

Seattle BlazesIt all amounted to a beautifully refreshing engagement with nature for two often-world-weary urbanites. Our spirits stayed high all the way home, over long highway miles and a ferry ride from the Olympic Peninsula to the mainland. And as we neared Seattle, it seemed the entire city had caught our enthusiasm for life. The skyline lit up with incredible dazzling shimmers of gold at sundown.

Wow. Now that’s what I call a nice getaway trip!

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In The Moon’s Darkest Depths

The Far Side of the MoonAs we move into winter’s darkness here in Earth’s northern hemisphere, I am reminded of my favorite place for scary stories on the Moon. That would be Aitken Basin, one of the biggest excavations on any world in our solar system. No one–robot or human–has traveled there yet, but when they do they will be descending into a dark and foreboding place.

Aitken Basin was blasted out of the far side of the Moon by a huge asteroid impact several billion years ago. It has changed little since then, and so remains a stark reminder of the power of the universe to alter worlds almost at a whim. It is said that five miles of the Moon’s surface were blasted away, exposing interior portions that would otherwise never have seen the light of the sun. And sunlight only comes on a monthly schedule as the Moon orbits the Earth and changes phases. While we watch the Moon wax and wane before and after its glorious full phase, the far side and Aitken are experiencing a night that lasts fourteen days. Then, Aiken is one of the darkest, coldest, and loneliest places in the solar system.

Aitken up closeNo wonder then that I turn to Aitken Basin to inspire tales of darkness, danger, and adventure. In my short story The Treasure of Purgatory Crater, astronauts carry out a desperate mission to rescue the last surviving member of a crew stationed in the depths of Aitken. But they soon find that the deaths there may not have been accidental. Trouble is, they are isolated on the far side in the dark with, well, perhaps, a murderous madman? You can’t phone home for help in Aitken.

And just on the rim of Aitken, at the south pole of the Moon, scientists have discovered ice frozen in the dark depths of craters that never see the sun at all. Now, that’s a great setting for an alien Moonbase. And a great setting for some frightful tales like those I told in books 1, 2, and 3 of the Dinosaur Wars series. While writing those chillers, I figured, where better to face off in a laser-blasting duel with dinosaurian aliens than right there in our local grotto of darkness?

Thank you Luna, for giving me such a fabulously dark and chilling place to set my stories!

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The Islands of Seattle

Islands Of SeattleThey warn us it’s coming. We ignore them. But it’s coming. The ocean doesn’t listen to pundits on TV. It just rises.

I strolled by the seaside the other day down at my aboriginal haunt, Alki Beach. Where once I used to walk along the seawall south and west of the main beach gazing down at wave-washed sands caressed by the swells of Puget Sound, the story has already changed.

Nowadays, its more a matter of gazing across at the sands, and walking along the wave-washed walkway. You see, in the decades since I was a kid here, the Sound has risen enough to surge right over the bulkhead and onto the paved walkway whenever there is a larger-than-average high tide.

Sand washing over the seawall happened when I was a kid. That’s not a new thing. But it only happened once or twice a year when an extra-high tide combined with a storm. Now, the weather can be as calm as you want. The highest tides always wash sand over the walkway.

Seems I read somewhere that the global ocean level had risen by eight inches since detailed records were kept, starting in the 1950s. Well, that’s when my personal record-keeping started, right inside my cranium.

So yep. I can confirm it. The ocean is rising.

That image, “The Islands of Seattle,” is no fantasy. It’s a map of the hills of Seattle with the ocean raised up to the 250-feet-above-sea-level mark. Click it twice to get an expanded view. That’s the height the water will reach if the polar caps melt completely. It’s a common joke around town that, if the sea level rises enough, a homeowner may have the good fortune of going from inland property to a waterfront estate–if he can afford to wait long enough.

But there’s a downside for about half the population–they’ll only be able to go home in scuba gear. It makes me a little melancholy to look over the map and think of the places I lived at one time or another.

The housing project where I spent my earliest years down on the Duwamish Riverbanks in South Park, will be long gone. It will be prime fish territory on the bottom of what the mapmakers call the Duwamish Passage. And the home where I grew up through grade, middle, and high school will occupy the bottom of the Bay of Genesee. And the beach I have been talking about will become shoalwaters overlooked by the heights of the Admiral Peninsula. The den-of-iniquity rental house where I misspent my university years will sink to become part of University Shoals, along with the rest of one of the nation’s great institutions of higher learning.

The only old haunt that seems likely to survive is the home I built on the south side of Genessee Hill, which looks like it may end up as that proverbial waterfront property. That was a smart choice. Too bad I sold it to move up to high ground on Cougar Mountain. Which, I see, will still be well above the tideline in that not-too-far-off future. Another smart choice.

Meanwhile, I intend to keep visiting Alki Beach while I still can. I guess that means I’ll need a new pair of wading boots. Better make them hip-waders.

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Walking with my rex

Rex at my sideA photo of me and my tyrannosaurus out for a stroll on a lovely day. The shot was taken at Prehistoric Gardens on the Oregon Coast near Port Orford. Rexxy was on his best behavior and only snapped up a couple of passing tourists. Most of the populace was spared further mayhem.

I think it was my firm, commanding voice, when I said, “No! No! No! Spit him out!”

You just have to speak loudly. And whatever you do–do not let him smell fear on you.

It’s sort of like ordering velociraptors around at Jurassic World.

Or Chase Armstrong giving rexes human-aversion training in Dinosaur Tales.

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Now THAT’S how to get to Mars

Mars from PhobosThe Planetary Society has just released its vision of how humans will first arrive at the Red Planet. And I am totally on board with them. As is always true of the Planetary Society, they have adopted both a reality check on what can be accomplished in the face of political opposition, and an informed view of the technical difficulties of the journey.

In a 45-page report, a team of space scientists convened by the Planetary Society has laid out a very sensible and detailed approach to the first manned mission to Mars. You can grab a pdf copy of it here: PlanetarySoc Humans Orbiting Mars.

Watney waitsThe gist of it is that we should plan to orbit Mars for quite some time before we land. There are many reasons why, but the most compelling is that you don’t need anywhere near as much rocket fuel to come and go from the Martian moon, Phobos. A base built there would become a center for studying Mars up-close-and-personal, and a staging area for the final push down into the “gravity well” of Mars. Gravity wells are notoriously hard to get out of–sort of like falling into a well on Earth–so the Society proposes to only do this after an orbiting station on Phobos is already fully functional and capable of helping the Earthlings to get back up from the surface. Such matters are a substantial issue in the movie The Martian, in which getting up from the surface is one of the major problems facing stranded astronaut, Mark Watney. In my view, the way the Society proposes to handle such matters is eminently sensible, different from the movie, and probably much more practical. As anticipated by the Society, Watney would have had a rescue team in orbit four thousand miles above him and ready to respond. That seems much more realistic than waiting for rescue from earth, 40 million miles away.

I am proud to be a Charter Member of the Planetary Society. That is, I was one of those folks who made the initial cash contributions to get the organization started. I am proud to see what they have accomplished in the decades since then.

And I guess you could say my original contribution has paid me an unexpected dividend. Among the science fiction novels I am currently working on is an adventure set on Mars during early colonization times around the year 2090. You can bet I’ll be factoring this new roadmap (orbit map?) into the “how we got there” part of my book. One vision illuminates the next.

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Natural Beauties of the Olympic Mountains

Sol Duc FallsIt isn’t just the coast of the Olympic Peninsula that shelters natural beauties. Other wonders are found in secluded mountain valleys and along the streams that plunge down from the craggy heights. Under deep forest cover, you come across sights like dazzling Sol Duc Falls. Fed by snow melt high above, the falls roar in multi-channeled splendor, plunging into a serpentine gorge crisscrossed by fallen giant forest trees. Its mighty rumbling roar summons spirits from old half-forgotten Quileute Indian legends. Here, it is said, the great dragons Elwha and Sol Duc fought over ownership of the valley. Neither could prevail against the other and so they vanished into the land, becoming these falls, whose name means Magic Waters, and the nearby bubbling, boiling Sol Duc hot springs. If you stand in the swirling mist and close your eyes, you can still hear their mighty struggles and feel the earth tremble beneath your feet.

Marymere FallsOther falls are smaller and more graceful. Frail trickles like Marymere Falls splash onto cliff sides, sharing their waters with thirsty ferns and mosses. Dippers–crazy little brown birds that build their nests right under the falls–fly into and out of the falls’ wet spray, where sheltering crevices foster their nests and babies. You’ll see them hopping around on river rocks or wading into and under the flowing waters below the falls to fetch bugs to feed their broods. All the while, delicate Marymere, daughter of mighty Storm King Mountain high above, patters down her protective shower.

Shelley at the fallsI’m not the only one around here who is charmed by these moving mountain waters. Here’s a snapshot of Shelley in her element. She loves to stand near enough to falling water to catch the spray on her face, to feel the cool joy of the clean wet stuff and breath in soft air that can only be found near the base of a falls. She’s a natural beauty, too.

Whenever we travel to the Olympic Peninsula, there is at least one hike to a waterfall and often two or three. Falls abound among these rain-washed mountains. And a person can never really get too much of such enchanting places. Wet. Magical. Cool. Beautiful!

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