The Fireboat Leschi

The LeschiSometimes being a writer of thriller novels causes you to go places and do things you might otherwise never think of. Like the other day when background research for my novel about an earthquake and tsunami in Seattle led me to venture aboard the fireboat Leschi. This powerful and ultramodern ship is the pride of Seattle Fire Department’s fireboat fleet and a force to be reckoned with when fire or other mishap strikes on the waterfront.

Pump engineThe overall impression when you step aboard the Leschi is ‘Man! She’s big!’ At 108 feet long and bristling with water cannon called ‘monitors’ (as in Monitor and Merrimack, maybe?) this vessel was built to eliminate fire quickly and decisively. Below decks, her engine room is filled with four giant engines that you have to see to believe. Hopefully the image at left will help. That’s one of the water-pump engines. To give you a sense of its scale, a six-foot man could stand on the corrugated walkway beside the row of cylinders running down its length, and not see over the top (I know because I’ve been there, tried that). How else can I describe its eminent mass? Bigger than a rhinoceros, smaller than an elephant. Does that help? How about just plain huge? Furthermore, there are four of these things in the engine room, all shiny red and gleaming—and gigantic. Two of them are there to turn the ship’s twin propellers, while two of them draw fire-dowsing seawater through openings under the hull and propel it into the red manifold pipes you see above the engine, which in turn take it to the deck ‘guns,’ which send it arching to the fire.

And who commands all this power? The Leschi responds to emergencies with a fire response team of four people: a pilot to get the boat where she needs to go, an engineer to target the deck guns and manage the ship’s crane and ladder, a deck hand to manage a thousand-and-one other critical tasks, and a captain, who manages communications and makes key decisions when things get hot.

LT Kerns and the LeschiIt was this latter person who showed me around his amazing craft. Lieutenant Robert Kerns is shown here on deck in front of the Leschi’s wheelhouse, from which he and his team command the Leschi’s dramatic, sometimes life-and-death missions. But on this fine Seattle day with no emergency to respond to, he had the time to show an astonished citizen like me around his boat, earning my deep gratitude for his time, and my admiration for what he and his team can do when an emergency beckons.

So, thank you LT Kerns. Be assured that the Leschi and her brave crew will figure prominently in my upcoming novel. And hopefully I’ll get the details right now that you have taken the time to explain them to me!

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A Ride In My Uncle’s Warplane!

Avenger turret gunNot long ago, I got the ride of my life when I climbed aboard the very aircraft that my Uncle Herbert Hopp flew to glory in the South Pacific during World War II — the Grumman Avenger Torpedo Bomber! Not only that, but I got to sit in his very seat in the rear-facing gun turret, seen here with its deadly 50-caliber machine gun seemingly poised to engage any pesky Japanese Zeros that might fly too near (one was overhead at the time).

When I went to Paine Airfield to attend “Pacific Theater Day,” an exhibition of warbirds that had flown in the island-hopping campaigns that destroyed the Japanese Imperial Fleet’s stranglehold on the South Pacific, I expected to get my first glimpse of the famous Grumman Avenger in the flesh — well, okay, metal. But I didn’t expect to find a ticket booth offering rides for a fee. I balked at the steep price for about a half a heartbeat — and my pulse was racing. I hadn’t guessed that I would not only see, but fly in the aircraft that’s central to my novel about Uncle Herb’s exploits, heroism, and tragic crash-landing on a jungle island. I slapped my credit card down and soon was bound for the wild blue yonder.

Taxiing AvengerPilot Micheal Kopp of the Historic Flight Foundation, seen here taxiing for a takeoff with another lucky stiff aboard, has painstakingly restored his aircraft to its original 1945 condition, right down to a five-hundred-pound bomb slung under the wing (the very bomb Herb’s Pilot won the Navy Air Cross for dropping onto the bows of a Japanese destroyer, putting it permanently out of the war). Kopp gives people rides of about 1/2 hour’s duration, which in the event seemed like a blissful eternity to me. He suggested the turret might be little cramped for my long legs and suggested I take a seat in the radioman’s position (as the passenger in the picture is doing). I told him comfort was not a factor. I’d be delighted to shoehorn myself in with my knees up under my chin, just for the experience of being in Herb’s place.

Turret gunner's viewI wasn’t disappointed. Tight though the fit was (Jeez! Imagine bullets flying past you every which way! Talk about claustrophobic!), I had the ride of my life when the huge engine roared and we raced down the runway and lifted off. We circled Paine Field, then flew south along the Puget Sound shoreline until we reached Seattle. There, we flew over the Space Needle as if it were a target and then made our way back to the airfield by way of Lake Washington and Sand Point, where Herb had taken his gunnery training.

The photo above is a frame of a cell-phone video I shot along the way. Note the cross-shaped tail in the center and the ominous 50-cal barrel to my left. I had my hand on the joystick that turns the turret and my finger on the trigger, but gosh! They hadn’t loaded any ammo!

GobsmackedThe photo to the right is a bonus shot I got when my cell phone accidentally grabbed a selfie. That expression you see is a man who is gobsmacked, slack-jawed, astonished, and ready to die and go to heaven. And quite a few airmen did just that in this war machine, though their cause was fulfilled through skill, daring, and a bit of luck.

Inevitably, all good things must come to an end. We touched down minutes later and I returned to my mundane existence as a writer of action-adventure stories. But from this day forward, I’ll bet my descriptions of the roar and excitement of military aviation will go up a couple of notches.

Thanks Mike! Thanks Historic Flight Foundation! And thanks Uncle Herb!

What a day!

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Jurassic World vs Dinosaur Wars

Ever get the feeling someone was looking over your shoulder while you were reading a book?

Well, these days I’m getting that feeling as I WRITE my books. I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the people writing the scripts for the Jurassic Park movie series have been keeping an eye on my Dinosaur Wars stories for some time now. That would explain how they keep using scenes I published years earlier in one or another of my books.

Want proof, so you can get into my not-so-paranoid view of things? Have a look at the image above, an out-take from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, now playing at a theater near you. Wait a minute! That’s an exact copy of a scene I published six years ago in Dinosaur Wars: Blood on the Moon, the third novel in my Dinosaur Wars trilogy. Imagine my surprise when I went to a theater and saw something I came up with years ago appearing on the silver screen!

For comparison, here is the scene as it appeared in my novel:

They watched two wet-suited young men ride on the face of a huge North Pacific swell as it rose in the shallows between two sea stacks. “They’ve gotta be crazy to surf in that cold water,” Hebert said.

“They’ve gotta be crazy to surf in the middle of dinosaur territory,” Suarez corrected. Just then, one of the surfers hooked his board hard in an effort to miss an obstacle hidden beneath the surface while the other raced on. Before the first could complete his kick-out, the water near him frothed up and the snout of a big sea creature emerged. The man dove to one side as the beast’s head rose from the water. It was covered with dark green reptilian scales and possessed long jaws lined with savage-looking crocodile teeth.

“Hoo-wee!” Hebert exclaimed. The surfer vanished beneath the water and the tylosaur bit the surfboard at its center, snapping it in two. The monstrous, snakelike creature swirled around in the water and came back to seize, not the surfer, who remained underwater, but the front half of the board. It gulped the mouthful down in a single swallow and then slid smoothly beneath the blue-green surface of the ocean.

A moment later, the surfer came to the surface and swam toward shore at what looked like an Olympic-record pace. And wisely so. The huge sea reptile rose again, riding up and over a swell. It did not, however, go after the unlucky surfer. Instead, it made several convulsive retching motions and coughed up the half surfboard. Meanwhile, the surfer caught a wave and body surfed to shore where his partner awaited him with his board tucked under an arm.

The drama wasn’t over yet, however. As the unlucky surfer stood up and splashed toward the beach, struggling against the undertow, his buddy shouted and pointed beyond him. The man turned in time to see the tylosaur also surfing a big wave to shore. Its jaws were wide open and its thrashing, snake-like body propelled it straight at him!

The man splashed up-beach in the wave wash but went down in the shallows. Then he stood and high-stepped in the shallows like a football player avoiding a tackler, angling slightly to avoid the onrushing jaws, which snapped shut just behind his buttocks.

“Nice moves!” cried Suarez.

“Gah!” Tlatalko agreed.

When the tylosaur plowed into the sand and came to a halt, both surfers retreated up the beach, no doubt thanking their lucky stars to be alive.

“Now it’s stranded,” said Hebert, watching the tylosaur thrash in the shallow water.

“I don’t know,” Suarez replied as the animal carved its long serpentine tail across the face of an incoming wave and deftly leveraged itself off the sand and back toward the sea. “That thing’s got some good moves of its own!” One more tail slash and the immense reptile vanished into the surf as swiftly as it had appeared.

“Wow!” Hebert exclaimed as the two surfers made for the safety of the driftwood and dunes above the wave-wash. “I guess surfers have a whole new animal to worry about besides great white sharks.”

“Yeah,” Suarez agreed. “And I’d say great white sharks have a whole new animal to worry about too—great green lizards!”

***

Now, as Oscar Wilde once said, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But I’m starting to get annoyed by the frequency with which Steven Spielberg and his team tap my ideas without so much as a byline in the credits at the end of the movie. Not only have they grabbed my Mosasaur vs surfer scene, but there are more instances, and I get the feeling the rate of tapping my ideas is escalating.

Nice girl, Blue!In the previous Jurassic World movie, back in 2015, they did their first grab of Dinosaur Wars by introducing their Mosasaur. Also in that movie, they introduced Chris Pratt’s character, Owen Grady, who is a dinosaur trainer. Well, excuse me, but you should read my Tyrannosaur-training scene right up front at the beginning of Dinosaur Wars: Blood on the Moon (2012), if you want some real heart-pounding, life-or-death dino-training drama. Here it is. Try it on for size, Steven:

The tyrannosaurus was a big one. It stalked across the brushy grassland of the Montana high plains smoothly on two towering legs that somehow moved gracefully despite their tree-like size. The huge carnivore placed one three-clawed foot on the ground almost gently, followed slowly by the other foot in a stealthy fluid motion. The immense tawny-furred animal blended into the tan colors of the grasslands so well as to be almost unnoticeable despite its size. Keeping its head low and its long tail stretched out behind, it was stalking something it smelled on the warm morning air currents. The brown and tan zebra-striped mane along the crest of its neck stood tall with anticipation of a kill. Its nose came up slightly each time it sniffed the light breeze. Then it would adjust its course a little to follow the scent it was homing in on.

That scent was far too faint for a human nose to detect but was easily traced by the powerful sensory system within the rex’s snout, one that rivaled or surpassed that of a wolf’s nose. After a few more paces into the wind the rex sniffed again, adjusted its direction once more—and caught sight of its quarry. Now the big beast accelerated its pace, tracking visually but still moving fluidly and silently on its well-padded feet. It obviously hoped to reach its prey without causing it to flee.

That prey, Chase Armstrong, adjusted the bill of his green National Park Service ball cap to keep the sun out of his eyes. “He’s seen us,” he murmured with just the hint of an edge on his voice. “Here he comes!”

“Oh my God,” Kit Daniels whispered from just behind Chase’s shoulder. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“I guess we’ll see.” Chase rose from his exposed driver’s seat to face the oncoming rex. “Hey you!” he shouted at it. “Want some of this?” He waved his arms to be certain the rex was fixated on him. It was.

As the rex accelerated to a full charge with its feet thundering on the ground, Chase turned around, bent over, and slapped a butt cheek provocatively. “Nice and meaty!” he shouted. “Come and get it!”

“Chase!” Kit cried, watching the rex loom larger with each stride. “I don’t think you should be doing that!” She peered around Chase from where she sat behind him in the second seat of the Kra walking machine. She had planned to stand up with Chase when this moment came, but something about a tyrannosaurus charging in her direction made her too shaky to rise without her knees buckling. After all, it had been she, not Chase, who had escaped the jaws of one of these huge carnivores twice in a single day. And those memories were recent enough that their terror hadn’t faded.

When the rex was within twenty paces, it let out a piercing shriek like the battle cry of a titanic eagle.

“Enough is enough, Chase!” Kit cried. “I’ve been here, done this!”

“He’s gotta get closer.” Chase’s voice remained calm somehow, though Kit’s heart was racing crazily. Maybe Chase’s years as a park ranger dealing with angry grizzly bears had prepared him for this challenge. “Gar says we need to give him a good look at us and make sure he knows it’s humans he’s trying to eat.”

“It’ll be humans he does eat if you don’t do something, quick!”

“Just let him get a bit closer.”

***

And you might have noticed another story element that Jurassic World lifted from me. In contrast to the older, dry and loveless Jurassic Park movies, Jurassic World introduces a budding romance between two characters, Owen Grady and Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Yeah. Uh-huh. That would be like harkening back to my original Dinosaur Wars story from 2000. In Earthfall, I immediately introduced both Chase Armstrong and Kit Daniels right up front as the lead characters, who very quickly became romantically involved. A little slow on that one, Jurassic World, but okay, you’re catching on.

And finally, there’s that bit toward the end of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, showing dinosaurs escaping Isla Nublar and invading the mainland. Jeez, JP. What took you so long? As I sat in the theater watching Jeff Goldblum speak Ian Malcolm’s last line, “Welcome to Jurassic World,” I felt a strong sense of irony and just a little irritation. My whole concept for my Dinosaur Wars series has been “Dinosaurs in your backyard!” And now we see the velociraptor, Blue, overlooking the glittering lights of Los Angeles.

So, I guess Mr. Spielberg and his buddies are making me a promise. After twenty-five years of dallying around on a tropical island, they are finally going to come ashore and take over the space my dinosaurs have been occupying since 2000. The least they could do is recognize the source of their idea. Or better yet, engage my services to help them do a really good job of it!

Hey, Steven Spielberg! Why don’t you just go ahead and hire me as one of your writers? That way you won’t have to bring up the rear anymore. You won’t have to eat my tyrannosaur dust. You can stay up to date with my latest ideas. I wouldn’t mind. Especially at YOUR pay scale!

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A feast for mystery writers

On Saturday, June 30th, mystery writers in the Pacific Northwest are in for a treat when the Northwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America presents: MYSTERY WRITING, THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT. Two top-caliber writers of novels and short stories will join us in Gig Harbor Washington to explain the ins and outs of the publishing business with emphasis on the art and craft of mystery storytelling.

Jeffrey Deaver’s mystery novels have been perennial bestsellers, and have propelled him to the number one position on the New York Times bestseller list, as well as others. He’ll discuss ways to improve your fiction writing and take it to a higher level, whether you are a seasoned pro already or a new writer aspiring to your first short-story sale to a mystery magazine. At this year’s Edgar Awards Ceremony in New York City, I had the pleasure of watching him M.C. the event in his role as President of Mystery Writers of America, which is quite a credential in itself. I can attest that he is a master of public speaking, as well as writing. Attendees of our seminar can expect both wit and wisdom to be amply in evidence when Jeff makes his afternoon presentation. I have read a number of his works, and I’m midway though his James Bond novel Carte Blanche. I am finding it to be a clinic on how to weave convoluted plots, dish up characters of great interest, and ratchet up the suspense at every turning of a page.

Eric Witchey is a renowned teacher of fiction writing who frequently lectures at writers conferences in the Pacific Northwest. Having attended several of his mesmerizing sessions on such matters as coming up with fresh plot ideas and the creation of characters who seem to leap off the page at you, I thought it was time we had him work his magic for us in our morning session at Gig Harbor.

So, why not consider joining us June 30th? Gig Harbor is a place of great natural beauty and worth a trip from places far and near. And the combination of two prominent and accomplished speakers and writers of fiction is a rare event.

And while my attendance is mandatory to fulfill my obligation as MWA Northwest Chapter President to introduce our speakers and M.C. the proceedings, you can be certain I will keep pen and paper close at hand. I’ll be taking notes to capture as much of this great store of wisdom as I possibly can.

See you there?

Here’s a link to a PAGE where you can get more information on the who, what, when, where, why, and the how-much of it. Or if you are already convinced, then click the following link to REGISTER today. Seats are going fast.

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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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