Update. Next Publication is: Under Strange Suns, available digitally August 2015, print version due December 2015, Twilight Times Books.

May the Fifth

Let’s clear this up right away: Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day. That falls on September 16. Instead, the fifth of May is a celebration of the Battle of Puebla and is not a national holiday. It commemorates the 1862 battle in which the Mexican army defeated a larger French army that was deployed in a convoluted affair involving a grab for Mexican silver and an attempt by the Austro-Hungarian Empire to place a supernumerary Hapsburg on a throne.

Me, I’m happy for any excuse to eat tacos and drink beer. But I like to be an informed glutton.

Ahem! Announcements.

I played coy a bit ago, teasing some news. That’s because I don’t like to offer news only to later have to issue a retraction. Now it can be revealed. (Passive voice, ugh. But in context it does read better than “Now I can reveal it.”) Both parties signed the contract rendering this news legit. So, without further blather:

Oregon Coastal Standard

Mention a day at the beach and most people imagine blue skies, bright sun, white sands, and warm ocean waves. I live in Oregon. A typical day at the Oregon coast involves none of the above. I took MBW and the HA to Cannon Beach on Saturday where we enjoyed the Oregon Coastal standard. In between drenching squalls we wandered down the sand toward Haystack Rock braving wind gusts.

Glorious. A fine afternoon.

No, I’m not crazy. (Of course, I might be. How would I know?) Look, I appreciate cloudless skies, palm trees, hammocks, and bare feet as much as the next guy. But a sort of generic, homogenous ideal gets boring. Y’know, eventually. Driving over the mountains in the face of near-blinding horizontal rain in order to bundle up against the cold and comb the beach is most decidedly not boring.

Borderline perfection is nothing to turn your nose up at. But as a writer I have to consider it poor stuff. Who wants to read about an idyllic day frolicking in the sun? Where’s the drama there? No, you need to chase hats blown down the strand, you need to huddle beneath the overhang of a restroom, waiting for a lull in the tempest. You need a clueless driver in front of you to make a sharp left across traffic without a backward glance (good brakes help there.) This is fodder for tales. Sunny beaches make for anecdotes at best. The typical Oregon beach lends itself to stories.

Why the long face, Ken?

Life is Early Spring

Life is never unalloyed happiness. At least not in my experience. If it can be I wouldn’t mind taking it for a lengthy test drive, see how I like it. But the way I see it you never get particularly extended periods of happiness without something or other interrupting it. It’s like early Spring with stretches of blue sky and patches of rain-dumping black cloud intermingled. I’m building a metaphor here, so just hold on.

Yesterday — Saturday — was one of those beautiful Spring days. Temperatures hinting at warmer days to come. Mostly blue skies. And I woke to good news. I can’t get into details until it’s official. I’ll tell you later. The point is it was good news. The kind requires celebrating. So, I did. Good day. Suffice to say beer was involved.

But then there’s today, Easter Sunday. Cloudy, windy. Might sprinkle a bit, though I hope not before the Heir Apparent gets outside to track down and apprehend a band of fugitive ovoids. And then there’s the irritation. Not necessarily a pain, though it flirts with it. But definitely an aggravation. I’m not going to get into it. Nothing’s as boring as someone else’s maladies. But it has been nagging me for several months now, some days worse than others. Tends to make me a trifle irritable. The doctor has me on a temporary regimen of steroids, so beware — I may Hulk out at any moment. The thing is, it’s like the ‘downs’ in the up and downs of early Spring, damping my happiness, refusing to allow me unadulterated satisfaction.

So who is pissing in my Cheerios? Life, I suppose, same as it’s piddling in all your cereal bowls. I’m hardly special in that regard. It’s early Spring is all. The sun will peek out again.

Metaphor complete.

Don Pendleton’s Science Fiction?

You may have known it, but it came as a surprise to me: Don Pendleton wrote science fiction. Mind blown, right?

Wait, maybe I should back up a step. I’m proceeding under the assumption that you are all familiar with Don Pendleton. That could be a mistake, what with the assuming and all. Don Pendleton is known for writing the long-running men’s adventure series The Executioner. You may remember seeing these paperbacks in the checkout aisles at grocery stores back in the eighties, the covers featuring a dark haired man with a gun (that would Mack Bolan himself, the eponymous executioner), a hot chick in the mid-ground, and maybe some armed baddies in the background. The books were probably shelved next to others with such titles as Stony Man, or Phoenix Force.

I think I’ve read a couple of the Mack Bolan books. I vaguely remember reading one in a library in Hawaii. And I think I read at least one of the related titles. I seem to recall reading one back in high school, about the same time my friend up the street was running me through solo Top Secret adventures (though that may be trick of the memory creating false cross-references.)

So anyway. That Don Pendleton. He also wrote science fiction. I just finished The Guns of Terra 10, a 1970 paperback that almost reached 190 pages in length. How was it? Really, not as bad as you might think. Pendleton was actually playing with some interesting themes. Or perhaps he’d just finished reading A Brave New World while sitting through re-runs of Star Trek. But to give him credit, he did seem involved in the idea of human genetic engineering and its potential long term consequences. He also worked out his own baloney FTL concept instead of relying entirely upon handwavium engines. I particularly enjoyed his idea of twin guns, one firing matter, the other anti-matter, with the two meeting at the aiming point. Pretty cool.

I won’t go so far as to recommend it. But if you have the hankering for the sort of fiction in which fist-fights lead to friendship and understanding, or are in the mood for loving, extended descriptions of breasts, or want to enjoy a crew of uneducated, agricultural yokels essentially dropping into the bridge of the USS Enterprise and working the controls with no appreciable concern for the learning curve — then, hey, this might be the book you’re looking for.

Technical Difficulties

Ahh, automobiles. I don’t give mine much thought so long as they are operating properly. Keep them fueled, take them in for a regular oil change, and other than that simply expect comfortable transport from point A to point B.

Used to be easier to maintain these things yourself. I declined the oil-change franchise’s offer to replace the air filter in my wife’s Lexus. Why pay twice what the part is worth? But I’d forgotten what a pain it is to perform on a newer vehicle what used to be a simple operation. Twenty minutes later, a bolt lost in the depths of the engine compartment, much profanity, and a tool tossed in anger across the garage — job done.

Much easier in my old Durango. Two minutes from start to finish and much less swearing. Unfortunately the Durango is showing signs of age. A couple miles from home Friday evening the Durango lost the ability to reach more than twenty five or thirty miles per hour. As shifting down to low failed to produce any noticeable difference in RPMs, speed, or engine noise I fear the transmission is the culprit. I hope not. I’m woefully inexpert at all things mechanical, but I’m pretty sure anything to do with the transmission will be jaw-droppingly expensive. I’ll take it to a mechanic Monday for a diagnosis. And maybe an exorcism.

I’ve been putting off replacing the Durango. It’s been paid for since 2008. I’d really rather not acquire another car payment. One is enough. I suppose I need to sell more books. C’mon people, pick up the pace. Buy, buy, buy. Well, not those of you who’ve already bought my scribblings. Good on ya. You rock. Though it should be noted that books do make wonderful presents. Just saying.

Well, wish me luck. Here’s hoping the issue is something simple. Like replacing the sparkplugs. Or shaking the chicken bones and spitting over the left shoulder.

Fingers crossed.

NanoCon Mark IV Report

I’ve returned from NanoCon Mark IV and my stint as GOH. How about that?

It was a fun little con, held at the Longview Community College, just across the river from Rainier. I’d guess attendance came in at about two hundred. I’d consider it a success. I sold out of Under Strange Suns. I cut my inventory of Reunion in half. I met a number of intelligent and interesting people.

Among these I’d count James Wells, the great grandson of H.G. Wells (or the great man himself with a time machine and a convincing American accent.) We exchanged novels, so I have The Great Symmetry on my to-read pile now.

I had an engaging chat with James Omelina who runs several escape rooms in the southwest Washington area. I’m intrigued to check one out. I hear good things about the entertainment value of well-designed escape room, and James appears to have the design aspect dialed in.

I even managed lunch at the Ashtown brewery, a few blocks away from the convention. Well worth it.

The organizers were kind enough to invite me to return next year. I do hope my schedule allows it.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Once again I write from one of the dreary hardship stations where I toil in the phrase fields, reaping sentences and paragraphs for your entertainment. This particular gray, danksome locale is Playa del Carmen, Mexico. That’s right, I’m suffering the horrors of the Mexican Riviera on your behalf.

For example, just to the south is Tulum, where the Spanish first landed, assaulted the Mayan town, and were routed by that metropolis of 10,000 or so. Of course, a couple years later when the Spanish returned there were only 400 left alive in Tulum. So, whether the Mayan’s should count that a victory or not is certainly up to debate. The point is, I had to visit that nghtmarish scene of battle and disease, under the blue sky, against a backdrop of turqoise Caribbean waters. Excruciating.

And more ruins awaited. I was forced to scale the crumbling, hazardous steps of the pyramid in Coba, sight of ritual sacrifice. In this case, I sacrificed for you. I then further endangered myself, plunging into the bottomless depths of a cool, refreshing cenote, some fifty feet or more below ground. I could have drowned, assuming I suddenly forgot how to swim.

In between these labors I sit outside and write. That’s correct, I don’t even allow myself to sit indoors while working through the second draft of Boss. I mean, c’mon. I’m from Oregon. I’m not used to this sort of heat. I must resort to wading through the surf or plunging into the swimming pool to relieve the misery.

I even faced death herself in order to free bottles of tequila from their imprisonment. This I do for you!

And I haven’t yet completed writing the talk I’ll be giving next week at NanoCon Mark IV. That’s right. I proceed from one task to the next.

For you, dear reader. For you.

Well, back to the fields.