Thursday, February 28, 2019

Wild Wild West Con

I finally got my programming schedule for Wild Wild West Con.  That's a steampunk con held here in Tucson at Old Tucson Studios.  It's a lot of fun. If you live in southern Arizona you might give it a look.  It runs March 8-10.

As for my schedule,


12 PM doing a cover art event
2 PM Armored Vehicles of the 1800s
4 PM Weird Westerns, The Greatest Genre Nobody Ever Heard of


12 PM Victorian Science & Science Fiction


2 PM Green Cheese & More, stories about the moon in tribute to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Motor Vehicles

The other day I wrote about how I was dreading a trip to the Motor Vehicle Division.  It was actually two trips. First I went to the emissions inspection place.  I waited two or three minutes, then I was signaled in to the testing bay.  The technician was very polite and friendly.  He tested my car and it passed. I got my new  certificate and off I went.  I thought I'd be sitting in line for hours and they'd hassle me over some triviality. Nope, I passed and off I went. 

Next came the dreaded Motor Vehicle Office.  A pleasant lady greeted me and I explained I wanted to renew my registration.  She sent me to an automated kiosk. I guess they're replacing motor vehicle clerks with robots. The kiosk was easy to use and the whole renewal took about three minutes. The machine printed out my new registration and my new license plate tab and off I went.

Not a single thing to complain about.  Everything was handled in just a few minutes. I was kind of disappointed.  I was all set for hassles and to kill the entire morning.  I went down to the coffee shop and had some breakfast.  What a day!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Fallen Angel is Now Available

My novella, Fallen Angel, officially goes on sale today.  It's been available a few days in some forms, but it's now up and available in ebook outlets and can also be ordered through print bookstores.   This is a story about Mabel, a fallen angel who's supposed to be living in hell after being kicked out of heaven. Alas, Mabel gets bored  easily and keeps turning up on Earth. Our story begins during the Civil War where Mabel is working as a photographer.The cover reflects that as it shows Mabel taking a photograph of a Martian as famed General Ulysses S. Grant looks on. Martians?

This is a weird western adventure and the Wild West was never this wild.  Mabel goes on to hook up with her friend Miles O'Malley in San Francisco 20 years later. Events from the Civil War follow her, including her crazy sister and the sinister plans the Martians have for Earth. 

I think it's a fun story. Mabel has appeared in the Miles O'Malley books, now collectively reprinted in one edition called The Devil Draws Two.  Mabel's a bit of a free spirit. She spends money like crazy, but doesn't worry too much since it's counterfeit. She loves to play poker, inviting herself to the occasional poker game in saloons where she's not entirely welcome. But her best talent may be that angels can speak any language--even Martian. And that is one thing of intense interest to the United States government. 

As I've said before, I'm a big fan of novellas. I think they're a fun size. You get a more developed tale than from a short story, yet there isn't the extemporaneous baggage often found in full length novels.  There's a lot of action packed into the pages of  Fallen Angel. I sure enjoyed writing it.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Stamp, A Saucer & Some Martians

Tomorrow I'll be writing a few thoughts about my new book, Fallen Angel. I get asked how I come up with stuff.  There is not any one answer.  My storytelling has returned repeatedly to 1880's California. I like the era and I've studied California's history extensively. So I'm more comfortable writing there.  There's a certain world I've created.  It had a common villain in the form of Ah Puch, the Mayan god of death. He was a nemesis for Miles O'Malley and a little over a year ago businessman Ling Fung took him on as well in Legends of the Dragon Cowboys. Where Miles was based in San Francisco, Ling Fung planted  himself in the mining town of Placerville once he was kicked out of China.  And, though they both know Ah Puch, Miles O'Malley and Ling Fung have never met in my stories. 

But my new story starts out a little earlier and in Mississippi, not California. My inspiration for this was the US Postal Service. Huh? During the Civil War there was supposedly a UFO sighting during the Battle of Vicksburg. This glowing sphere hovered over the battlefield, distracting the soldiers. Supposedly, one colonel had to draw his sidearm and threaten to shoot his men to get an artillery battery to resume firing as the soldiers were all gawking at the glowing sphere hovering above them.  That ain't in the history books. So, I think the 150th anniversary of the battle came along and the Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp. It was a nice stamp depicting an important Civil War battle. The postal folks did a nice job. But, then there's me. My immediate reaction was: "Where's the UFO?" I complained about the lack of a UFO hovering over the battle to some of my friends. I didn't really expect to see a UFO on the stamp, but would've been thrilled to have seen one there.. The post office would've sold more stamps.

A few years went by and I kept thinking about that stamp and it's lack of a glowing sphere above the battlefield. Well, by golly, I'll just write a story with a glowing sphere above the battlefield. And my glowing sphere lands. Tomorrow I'll talk about Mabel and the Martians in that glowing sphere.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

More Brrr

Usually, when people think it's cold in Tucson it's because they're being wimps. I went outside yesterday. Damn.  It was snowing. It never snows in Tucson. The desert looks kind of pretty with a blanket of snow on it. but, damn.  I went and dug our my Colorado clothes--stuff I hadn't worn since I moved to Arizona.  The snowbirds are all probably wondering why they came down here. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

May God have mercy on you...

Off today to the Motor Vehicles Department.  I cannot register my car online.  Of course you don't get a reason, the website just says cannot be completed.  You can't call anyone and get an explanation. They don't send you any notice of what the problem is. You just have to go down there and wait in line and maybe someone will help you and maybe not.

Then, a couple guys in suits come out of an unmarked door. "Come with us, Mister Riley."
"What's this about?" I ask.
"Just come with us." 
And they take me into a room with  chair under a bare light bulb. "Take off your clothes."
"Surely, you've been strip searched before."
"What's this have to do with my car registration?"
"Nothing. We just like strip searching people."
"Then I grab the bare light bulb and break the bulb against my wrist and the room goes dark..."

Thursday, February 21, 2019


I have oft lamented the narrow range of stories I get for Science Fiction Trails where I am editor.  One thing I've only gotten once in 14 years is bar fights--a western staple.  On a related note, I've never gotten a story about a piano player in a western bar either.  

Nope, everything I get is pretty much some clod wearing a badge.

Oh well, I can always hope.  The next reading period isn't until December.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

well now what?

We survived the cold snap. A lot of my neighbors wrapped their plants in sheets. They don't have anyone to wrap them up out in the forest--ergo I do not wrap mine.  I guess there's more cold weather on the way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


They're saying it may snow today.  I can hardly wait.  Tucson can't handle snow. Watching people slide around; closing schools. I lived for 15 years in Colorado.  They didn't close the schools when it snowed.  I just hope I can make a snowman.  

I write these blogs a few days in advance. It now does not seem like we're getting any snow. Bummer. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Fallen Angel

I am pleased to announce my new novella, Fallen Angel,  will be released February 25th.  It will be available in print and most ebook formats.

Fallen Angel is the story of Mabel, an angel from hell, who accompanies General Grant’s army during the last days of the Civil War only to discover that Martians are watching the Earth with envious eyes and slowly drawing their plans against us. Not only that, but Mabel has to contend with her evil sister,  who wants to have humans for dinner. Although Mabel and Grant get the upper hand before the war ends, the battle of good against evil isn’t won so quickly. Several years later, in San Francisco, Mabel just wants to have fun with her friend Miles O’Malley, when she discovers her sister and the Martians have joined forces with a college  fraternity and humanity may be on the dinner menu. 

Cover art is by Laura Givens.  That's Mabel, General Ulysses S. Grant and some Martian guy on the cover. That's an old time camera Mabel's using. She worked as a photographer during the Civil War. Want to know more, read the story...

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Millions and millions sold

What if space aliens take people's books and reprint them on Vega [that's where the space aliens are supposedly from]? What if they showed up one day and gave the author like a million dollars in gold for back royalties? I'm just sayin'.  It's not like it really happened or anything. I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Cold Wind and the Black Momba

Well, the doves are back.  It's been cold of late and a lot of wind.  The doves like to sit on my car [it's semi sheltered in a carport].  They had been somewhere else.  They must sense more bad weather.  And they poop all over my car.  I went into my shed and found my rubber Black Mamba and put it out on the car. The doves are gone now.

"Hey, that's a Black Mamba, the deadliest snake in Africa," the doves are probably thinking.  "Let's get out of here."

Friday, February 15, 2019

tyrannical despot

Look it up.  Throughout history,when there's been a tyrant who's become a dictator they've usually claimed some sort of emergency and claim they're only using emergency powers to deal with said emergency--until they do it again and try and grab even more power.  It's a well established pattern.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Holiday?

Well, I realize Valentine's Day isn't nearly as exciting as Ground Hog Day--that other February holiday that work doesn't let you have off.  In the local version of a dollar store I noted they had little heart shaped boxes of chocolate for a dollar.  Boy, buy your sweetie that and spend the rest of the winter sleeping on the couch.  Yet, somebody must be buying them.  Is it simply for a chocolate fix in the parking lot or is some moron actually going to give the dollar box of chocolate to somebody?

And then there's the pizza place--selling heart shaped peperoni pizza, on sale no less.  Hi sweetie,  got you a pizza for Valentine's Day. And a dollar box of candy.

I hope people don't give Valentines to their dogs.  Seriously, that dollar box of candy can make fido really sick. Chocolate is bad for dogs.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


In selecting the stories for Science Fiction Trails, where I'm editor, I've found things tend to run in themes. One reading period will be heavy on alternate worlds whilst another might be heavy on professor/inventor type stories. And then sometimes there is no clear pattern, just a little bit of everything. For issue 14 I thought we might be heading into another steampunk issue. Alas, I got a few steampunk stories but I only accepted one of them.

I also got a few little green men stories.  And I liked them.  I've always been a sucker for stories with little green men in them. They don't literally have to be green, but merely aliens from outer space. I'm not really sure why I like these stories. But I do seem to like tales of flying saucers and space aliens--especially if they're doing something interesting.  I'm still haunted by the time I got a ton of aliens in caves and mines for no explicable reason.  

What I wish I could get are more stories from the ologies.  By that I mean geology, biology, paleontology and so on.  Too many submissions fall in a very narrow and often predictable range. I can always hope.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What's in a name?

Naming  characters is something little attention is given too.  Writers are seldom asked how they come up with names. Charles Dickens actually kept a notebook that he'd write down an interesting name if he came across it.  

Then there's me.  They just kind of pop up. I envision a character and start thinking about that character--does she drink too much? Is she cute?  Is she smart? And, voila, Sarah Meadows is now a character [Bonded Agent and misc short stories].  

The only character I've ever really gotten a backlash on is Paul.  People do not seem to like the fact that Miles O'Malley's horse is named Paul.  It bothers them. They do not think Paul is a suitable name for a horse.  They may be right. I've certainly gotten a lot of static about it.  But now that he's been in all these Miles O'Malley weird western books, I'm kind of stuck with him.  I can't get rid of Paul anymore than the Lone Ranger could send Silver off to the glue factory.  It just isn't done. And Paul will be in my new book, Fallen Angel.  Of course he is.  If Miles O'Malley is in the book, Paul is certain to show up. 

Mabel?  She kind of appeared in the first Miles O'Malley book, The Two Devils. I fell in love with her right out of the gate. She's been a real hoot, but this time it is Mabel who is the main character and Miles who has a tag along role. Miles isn't even present in the first third of the book.  I wanted a name that's authentic to the period [1800s]. but not too common these days.  My grandmother's favorite china head doll was named Mabel, so this one didn't entirely just pop in my head.

Then Kevin? Mabel's sister, in Fallen Angel, is Kevin. She's a girl, but Kevin is a boy's name? Well, I envisioned this blond girl angel and Kevin just popped up.  It seemed just right for her. This girl is just plain nuts. Now I'm not saying giving her a boy's name is why she's nuts, but it just kind of fits her. You don't want to mess with Kevin.  She is not to be trifled with. 

Into this mix, we have the town drunk Moses.  I've named other characters in other stories Moses, They were all loosely based on this drunk homeless guy I once knew, although this Moses has a lot more shit all over him. I think we'll see more of him in future stories.  

And we add three real people for color and authenticity.  It's hard to just stick entirely with made up characters and not cross paths once and a while with authentic folks.  Sioux Chief Rain-in-the -Face gets things going. We meet Deadwood Marshal Seth Bullock, who became marshal after the murder of Wild Bill Hickok. And General Ulysses S. Grant performs a substantial role. 

And there, without any spoilers, I have discussed the major characters in Fallen Angel by simply discussing the naming of characters. Shameless self promotion or objective writing discussion? Hmmm.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Fallen Angel

The publisher advises the release for my novella Fallen Angel will be February 25th. I'm not sure when I can show the cover. I hope people like it.  It's a novella.  There are not a lot of them published. I don't think readers are used to reading them, hence my concern. I think it's a good story and I have become a big fan of this sized story.  But what I like and what the general public likes are often at odds.  Well, I hope to start promoting the release soon.  It would be nice if folks actually bought copies. One concern I have is libraries.  Libraries do not seem to like novellas and most of  them don't like weird westerns--so a weird western novella. Yikes?   

Sunday, February 10, 2019


Living out in the sticks has it's advantages.  It's quiet. You can see wildlife. But there are drawbacks. For one thing, we lack a decent restaurant. For another--we lack a grocery store. It's a half hour drive to Kroger, even farther to Costco.  Now, those distances aren't insurmountable. On the other hand, if I just want some tea or orange juice, it's a pain. Hence the dollar stores. We have them.  I don't like them. Alas, I was able to procure some ketchup and some iced tea yesterday without driving all the way into town.

My point?  I wish we had a grocery store.

Friday, February 8, 2019


My insurance has made me change my pharmacy from a crappy awful pharmacy to a really crappy awful pharmacy and I am not happy.  I can't sign in to their web portal.  I can't get my prescriptions filled.  They say they haven't got them yet doctor's office sez they were sent. It is a nightmare.  I sure miss the days when the doctor just gave you a slip and you gave it to the pharmacy.  Now, you have to go through this electronic clearing house and it never gets handled right, just so the government can monitor doctor's prescribing habits. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Itchy Trigger Finger

I am hoping I can soon start telling everyone about my new novella.  The cover art is done and the editing is done and the finishing touches like the book's layout are being wrapped up.  Still don't know what the price is going to be or when it goes on sale.

There are some things I can say about it.  It's from the same 1880s universe my last novella, "The Venerable Travels of Ling Fung" takes place in.  Only thing is, Ling Fung and Mabel have never met. The new book is about Mabel, a fallen angel kicked out of heaven and living in hell, well sort of. She keeps turning up on earth. And it's a good thing, too.  Bad forces are at work and she has unique abilities.

I sure liked writing this story and I do hope people like reading it.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Mattress From Outer Space

I note that President's Day is approaching. That means mattress sales. Betcha can't wait.  

Just bought a mattress.  I looked at those ones from certain companies that advertise a lot. Boy howdy. They're expensive. Ergo, I purchased one from the folks at Wayfair.  Damned good price. It came in a box. You cut the plastic wrap off of it and it unrolls and poof--one queen size mattress. I don't know how well it will hold up. Only time can tell that. I can say it is remarkably comfortable.  This one has memory foam on top and is quite nice and was a fraction of the price of most other places. I like it. Yay!

Then I had to get rid of the old crappy mattress.  Called up the local trash company.  They were quite happy to take care of it for me. Yay!

I wonder if space aliens sleep on mattresses.

Monday, February 4, 2019

I Survived

Now that the Super Bowl is over and Ground Hog Day is past me, I guess it's time for Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day.  At least you don't really have to get people gifts for St. Patrick's Day.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Have computer, won't travel

Science Fiction Trails 14 just ended its reading period.  Alas, we just do not get very many stories. The simple fact is that writers whine constantly about the lack of markets.   Yet many markets go begging for stories--it's not just us.  Fiction oriented serials, as librarians call them, have been on the decline but anthologies still get cranked out.  And many of these markets go begging for submissions.  Why?  I don't now why.  Some of the books I've edited paid something in the neighborhood of pro rates, yet few writers bothered to submit anything.  The forthcoming book Hotel Haunted  pretty much just pays royalties and is not expected to be a big money earner.  We could barely get enough stories for a book. 

If it's not money, what is it?  Well, I don't know.  But I do know this: there is amazingly little risk taking in the stories I get, be they horror, science fiction or weird western.  The weird westerns pretty much all follow the formula of some guys get together and go somewhere and something bad happens and most everyone gets killed because the vampires, aliens, or zombies don't like them. They're always led by some sheriff, or ex-sheriff turned bounty hunter. And they're going to this Possum Gulch because there's some reward, or someone's pissed off and wants revenge. And, clearly, whatever draws them there isn't any of their business. And the overriding question is: why didn't these people stay home?  No, let's go off to this strange town and get half our party killed.

Hey, this blog ain't called Rants & Raves for nothing.

Then there's the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  What about them?  I've NEVER, in all of the projects I have edited, had one story with a Mountie in it. What about the Mexican Federales? Never once seen a story about them. It's always the damned sheriff.  What about the local Indian chief? I had one once. [There's one in my new forthcoming novella Fallen Angel]. 

The dullards are wining the race to mediocrity. 

Speaking of mediocrity.  Westworld, in my opinion, is just about the most bizarre TV series I've ever seen.  It has Even Rachel Wood, who is the hottest woman I've ever seen, so that certainly makes me hate it less, but it's a strange one.

At least I didn't get any stories with aliens in caves for some inexplicable reason. Thank heaven for small miracles.  I'll get off my soapbox now.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Ground Hog Day

Yay! It is Ground Hog Day.  I sure wish the government would cancel some other holiday and close the banks and post offices for Ground Hog Day.  It's my favorite holiday.  And to celebrate it I always have sausage.  Sausage? Yep, sausage is made out of ground hog.

As Linus sits in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin whilst being ridiculed by his friends, I tirelessly advocate revamping this obscure holiday by making it more festive with the consumption of sausage,  What kind of sausage? Any pork sausage will do. Turkey sausage is out because it's not made out of ground hog. Simple enough.  I once wrote to that company that makes Jimmy Dean sausage to try and get them behind the celebration. I never heard back from them. They probably thought I was some sort of kook. 

Eat sausage. It's Ground Hog Day!

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Two Devils

Way back when, my first foray into writing weird western books was a book called The Two Devils.   There are a limited number of print copies of the original book available through Hadrosaur Productions at . And they're on sale for $7.50 each.  This is the first look at the angel Mabel, and a few other angels, which I mentioned in yesterday's posting.  This is a very good deal while supplies last. This book is out of print, so new copies of it are getting hard to find.  This is one heck of a deal. Get yourself primed for the release of Fallen Angel.  The Denver Post called this book "irresistible as a bowl of popcorn."