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!

Posted in Author, Guadalcanal Aviators, Northwest Tales, Uncle Herb | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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!

Posted in Author, Dinosaur Country | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Jurassic World vs Dinosaur Wars

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.

Posted in Author | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on A feast for mystery writers

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.

Posted in From Outta Space, Nature | Comments Off on Jupiter’s cool blue polar pools

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!

Posted in Author, Dinosaur Country | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Meet Mrs. T

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

Posted in Author, Seattle | Tagged , | Comments Off on Rain City Mystery Writers Seminar

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.

Posted in Author, Nature, Northwest Tales, Seattle | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Earthquake Warning

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.

Posted in From Outta Space, Health, Real Science | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on My Astronaut Application

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.

Posted in Author, Nature, Northwest Tales | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on 2017—Pressing The Reset Button

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.

Posted in Author, Northwest Tales, Peyton McKean | Tagged , | Comments Off on My Appearance at the Burien Library Saturday