Saturday, February 29, 2020

It's Leap Day, So What

It's leap day!  I note a number of places here in Tucson are having Leap Year sales that only come around once every four years.  I don't see the point of buying anything like a new bed or furniture since we're all going to die soon from that corona virus anyway. There are some unanswered questions about this epidemic that I never hear about.  For one thing, does it affect dogs?  If the people all die, will the dogs die too or slowly starve as they're all stuck in back yards and have no way out if their owners are dead.  I wonder about things like that.

Actually, that sounds like the makings of a really cool movie plot. I better get to writing, not that anyone will still be alive to read the story. I was also going to write about  not knowing how much ketchup to buy if I'm going to die in a few weeks, but there isn't time to worry about that now.

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Wild Wild West

This time next week I plan to be attending Wild Wild West Con out at Old Tucson.  It's a Wild West Steampunk convention held out at the park every March.  This is their 9th year so it amazes me that a lot of locals have never heard of it. I've been asking people all month and most folks who live here don't seem to be aware of it.  I'm not sure why.  I knew about it when I lived in Colorado but didn't start attending until I moved here to Tucson three years ago.  Anyway, it is a lot of fun--more fun than any other con I've ever been to.  Their schedule is now out and they have a heck of a lot of stuff going on. I really look forward to this event and have found the people who attend are really a nice bunch of folks.

In my own little way I am helping those activities.  I'll be on panel discussions about Weird Westerns, Mystery in Steampunk, Magic in Steampunk and I'll also give a presentation on crackpot inventions in the 1800s.  That should keep me fairly busy.

If you make it out there stop by one of my panels and say hello.

Thursday, February 27, 2020


Came across a beef stew recipe recently.  Seriously, this was the complete recipe.


Place ingredients in a kettle and cook until done.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Got to go for training for poll worker duty tomorrow.  It's some special new equipment they're trying out. The Arizona primary is coming up.  I'm not sure why I'm doing this.  It's a really long day when election day rolls around.  .  

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

wonderful spring wind

Now we've got that wonderful spring wind.  There's a trash can out in front of my house. Tomorrow's trash day and a lot of folks put their cans out the night before. The problem is the can out there ain't mine. I don't know whose it is.  Maybe with luck it'll be somewhere else by morning and I won't have to deal with it.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Exchange Students

I am pleased that my story "the pupil" is in a new anthology called Exchange Students. I'd wanted to do something with my Sarah Meadows character and this opportunity came along.  Now Sarah isn't an exchange student.  She's been in a few short stories and stars in my science fiction novel Bonded Agent.  In Sarah's world Mars is an independent republic with an uneasy relationship with a very militaristic Earth.  She joins the army when Earth is at war with a reptilian race. The thing is, she's fighting on the side of the reptiles.  The new story picks up after the war. Sarah has legal problems and has hired a lawyer to help her.  This lawyer has a new pupil named Prairie Davis who comes from Earth through an exchange program to learn Martian jurisprudence.  The book releases Tuesday although it can be pre-ordered on Amazon now.  Exchange Students  edited by Sheila Hartney. Order a couple hundred copies today.

This is the book's official blurb:

Study abroad! See new places! Meet new people! In our exchange student program, you can literally study anywhere or anywhen you can imagine. We'll send you to new planets. We'll send you to new dimensions and realms of existence. We'll send you through time itself! Don't believe me? This exciting anthology contains many tales of our thrilling and educational exchange student program. You'll read tales of aliens coming to earth and humans traveling to alien worlds. You'll meet a denizen of Hell who travels to Heaven. Some students will discover their super powers on their journey. Other students will have encounters with the undead. You'll meet a law enforcement officer who travels to the realm of the fae to help solve a crime of truly interdimensional proportions. Featuring twenty-two amazing stories by Roze Albina Ches, Jaleta Clegg, Ken Goldman, Paula Hammond, Sheila Hartney, Chisto Healy, Joachim Heijndermans, Sean Jones, Tim Kane, Alden Loveshade, Tim McDaniel, J Louis Messina, Jennifer Moore, Brian Gene Olson, David B. Riley, Katherine Quevedo, Holly Schofield, Jonathan Shipley, Lesley L. Smith, Emily Martha Sorensen, Margret A. Treiber and Sherry Yuan

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Pie Thoughts

I sure wish the University of Arizona Wildcats would change their name to Pie Demons.  I doubt they will, but I'd sure like it.

How come they don't sell pie by the slice? A lot of places sell pizza by the slice.

I make a pie out of seedless grapes. I prefer the black ones but the green ones will do.  They're pretty darn good, actually.

Friday, February 21, 2020


I rarely do reviews and this is not one of them.  A new movie is opening. It's Call of the Wild.  Here's the thing: The trailers and ads look like it's all CGI, and lame CGI at that. It convinced me not to go see it.

For what it's worth, Call of the Wild is a novel by Jack London.  I've heard it has never been out of print and that's pretty good for a book over 100 years old.  London was a highly skilled writer who had a certain fascination with the dogs he encountered when he went up north during the Yukon gold rush.  He turned that fascination into a number of stories. Call of the Wild is kind of his legacy book. 

As I said, the ads and trailers look awful.  And that's why I'm staying home.  


I got my income tax refund in 10 days. I was impressed.  That e-file with direct deposit really speeds things up.  It's nice getting money, even if it is really yours already.  Accountants say you should actually owe a little bit.  Having a big refund is not good.  Well, my refund was not all that big, but I'm still glad to have it.  I'm sure something else on my aging car will soon break and that'll wipe out my tax refund.  That's usually how these things work out. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Please, Hollywood

Here are some movies I wish they'd make:

Mr. Ed:  The Movie
Everyone's favorite talking horse would have some new ways to torment Wilbur.

The Frito Bandito
The famed cartoon icon returns to fight injustice and fix corn chip casseroles

Chess Monsters
Giant chess pieces attack Denver

Voodoo Doughnuts
People go into Voodoo Doughnuts and their lives are magically transformed

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Sliced Bread

There's a saying "That's the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread."  Surely, sliced bread was a marvelous invention.  It allows you to reach inside a plastic bag and procure two well formed sliced of bread that you can make toast out of. You can even use it to make a sandwich.  Arguably, it's the greatest invention ever.  So then, why is sliced sourdough such yuk?  It's true. If you buy sliced sourdough at the store it's not nearly as good as the uncut variety  you get in those paper sleeves. In fact, the sliced version stores sell is barely recognizable as the same product.  I don't know why that is.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Pie in the eye

Back when they called Presidents' Day Washington's Birthday  they had specials on cherry pie. Now they don't. Young George supposedly cut down the cherry tree and then confessed under torture or something like that.  I don't think they even had cherry trees in Virginia back then. They're not native to the area.  I like cherry pie.  Now we just get mattress sales.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Hey Kindle folks

Kindle Unlimited members can get Tales From Dry Gulch for free. That's one hack of a deal for some really neat stories. Yes it is. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

What the heck does Be My Valentine mean?

What the heck does Be My Valentine even mean?  People run around with heart shaped balloons, flowers and such.  But what does Be My Valentine really entail?  I always get a kick out of the kid Valentines that come twenty to a box and kids give them to grandma and maybe even the family dog.  Again, they say Be my Valentine, but what the heck does it really mean?  Certainly giving flowers to a girlfriend or going out to dinner with one’s wife has different meaning than a kid giving one of those silly little cards to some girl in the second grade.

Back in the second grade I sat next to Angela Cartwright.  And, like most boys at that age, I kind of thought girls were sort of yucky.    But Angela turned out to be really nice.  At recess there were a group of kids who played on the monkey bars.  They wouldn’t play with me. But Angela would. She was particularly fond of hopscotch.  She would even sit with me at lunch sometimes. Those other kids sure wouldn’t.  On Valentine’s Day Angela gave me one of those kid Valentine cards.  I thought that was really nice of her. I gave her one, too.  

Then a couple days later Angela said she had to go for an operation. There was something wrong with her stomach.  Well, I’d had an appendectomy the previous summer. I didn’t miss any school because it was summer, but I figured she’d need time to recover if it was anything like my appendectomy.  So that day during recess she drove away with her mother.  I never saw Angela again.  I don’t know what became of her. She wasn’t back the next school year.  I guess her family could’ve moved and she went to some other school.  The more likely answer was the operation didn’t go so well and Angela died. Nothing was ever said about what became of Angela. I’m sure no one had the guts to tell a room full of second graders Angela died.  It was easier to say nothing and hope we forgot her.

I’ll never know what actually happened to her.  But I never forgot her. Over 50 years later I still remember her and find myself thinking about her when Valentine’s Day rolls around.  She gave me a Valentine’s card. I don’t remember the card itself, just that she gave me one.  

Oh, the kids on the monkey bars never did let me play with them.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


Had a good rain yesterday.  Now it'll be cold for a few days.  Our plant friends need the moisture and in Arizona you can go quite a while between rains.  Alas, each time it rains it beings out more weeds in my yard. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Phobia of the Month

Image result for ants

It's time once again for our new feature: Phobia of the month.  This month's phobia is myrmecophobia It is the inexplicable fear of ants. It is a type of specific phobia.  

Monday, February 10, 2020

Robert Conrad

I note the passing of Robert Conrad.  He had a long and respected acting career.  I thought I'd mention one of his legacies he seems most remembered for was his role on the Wild, Wild West.  It's no secret that I have a longstanding involvement with the weird western genre as both an author and publisher. So it's not surprising that I've talked to a lot of people about weird westerns--both writers and fans of the genre.  What has come up in almost all of those conversations was these folks were fans of the TV show.  Without a doubt, Conrad's Jim West character made a huge impression on a lot of people that carries forward to today. If you're too young to remember this TV show, I'm sure it's available for viewing and I highly recommend it. My point is simply that Conrad touched a lot of people with this character, as I'm sure he did with some of his other roles.  

Sunday, February 9, 2020


One thing I don't completely understand is prescriptions.  Most doctors send them electronically to the pharmacy these days.  That's so the government can spy on the doctor and see what he's prescribing.  Yet my eye doctor handles my prescription by handing me a written prescription on a prescription form.  You don't see that too often anymore.  They still keep file folders instead of electronic records, too.  That'll show the government.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

poke in the eye part 2

Well, yesterday's eye exam went well. My eye pressure was quite good and there were no changed in my vision  And that's that. I was kind of relieved because I've had so many health problems lately, at least I didn't get another one.

It occurred to me after they dilated my eyes that you could really mess up somebody if you could get your hand on the requisite eye drops.  If you sleep with someone and that person is a heavy sleeper you could dump some of those eye drops into their eyes in the morning before the alarm goes off.  "What the heck, I can't read the paper?" your wife would be saying. "Dang, it's bright out here, where's the car?" and so on.  I think of things like that.

Friday, February 7, 2020

poke in the eye

Off to the eye doctor today.  I have high eye pressure and have to have it checked twice a year.  It's not a great way to spend the morning, but my doctor is pretty good and it's important.  Had this not been caught early I could have developed full blown glaucoma, but I take eye drops to control my eye pressure and that's worked so far.  

Thursday, February 6, 2020


Ywp, tis weed abatement time again.  Yesterday I got a letter from the homeowners association. I thought it was another weed notice.  I get them as they seem to think weeds in my yard are a bad thing.  It's just nature having a little joke.  So, I tried spraying some crap on the yard. Nothing seems to work for long.  I'd been using propane but that doesn't last long.  I decided it was time for some cancer causing chemicals to keep my yard free of weeds. So far, the weeds are still out there and appear unscathed.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Exchange Students

I just got my proof copy of Exchange Students, a new anthology edited by Sheila Hartney.  I'll post again on this site when the actual release comes and by then I should be able to include a look at the cover.  

This is the sort of story collection I would tend to pass over, at first glance anyway, as I have little interest in writing about students. But the timing of this book was perfect.  .And the requirements were rather open minded and hardly just taking place at some futuristic high school--learning can take many forms. After reading the guidelines a couple of times I decided my story idea was close enough to the story guidelines I give it a go. I'd wanted to do something with my Sarah Meadows  character and was kicking around an idea I had.  "The Pupil" picks up after my novel Bonded Agent, where Sarah has returned to Mars and resumed civilian life. Unfortunately, all is not forgiven about the fact she fought on the side of the reptilian Tau in their recent war with Earth.  Sarah finds herself with legal trouble and hires barrister Hugo Green to represent her. Hugo Green has a new pupil coming to learn how to be a barrister. And that's how Sarah Meadows becomes involved with my take on an exchange student in the form of Prairie Davis, just arrived from Earth.

I anxiously await the release of this book.  I'm amazed at the variety and quality of the stories contained in Exchange Students. Folks, you'll definitely want to grab a copy of this one. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 3, 2020

That's All Folks

Well, this past weekend saw the end of my publishing business.  For the last 20 years or so I've put out  14 issues of Science Fiction Trails and before that seven issues of Trails: Intriguing Stories of the Old West.  We published various horror and weird western anthologies like Six Guns Straight From Hell and Gunslingers & Ghost Stories  and our most recent product, Tales From Dry Gulch.  We put out a couple of issues of Steampunk Trails, but that never caught on and likewise Story Emporium which also sputtered.

Some of these projects did better than others.  There were none of them I was ashamed of.  We paid artists and writers for their work.  I put up with an amazing amount of guff from some of these people, but looked past missed deadlines and plagiarized stories to the fact that most of the people I've worked  with were a true pleasure.

In particular, I'd like to thank a few folks who were true friends of our endeavors. Laura Givens not only illustrated a heck of a lot of covers, but provided her wisdom as well.  Julie Campbell worked as editor and co-editor on a number of endeavors for little pay. She never complained once when I felt we needed to change direction for business reasons. Then there are writers Sam Knight, Joel Jenkins and Henry Ram who supplied remarkable stories through thick and thin and deserve a special thank you. Plenty of others contributed over the years and I thank you all as well.

But I've seen a sharp downturn in sales which has made small press publishing quite challenging. It's getting harder to get reviews. But the most devastating problem that I cannot overcome is the nosedive in story submissions. Writers don't seem to want to bother anymore.  They line up in droves for small publishers who rarely honor their contracts and go out of business with the changing seasons. Yet Science Fiction Trails Publishing has been around for over 20 years and we've seen most of these operations come and go.  Now it's time for us to go. I can overcome a lot of challenges, but the lack of story submissions is one problem I cannot solve.

The recent effort to do a sequel for the  Dry Gulch anthology was the last straw.  Only three stories came in. They were great, but not nearly enough for a viable book.  With that I give up.  

Sunday, February 2, 2020


It's Ground Hog Day!

I've already extolled the virtue of eating sausage. I've lamented the lack of greeting cards for the holiday.  I sure wish Congress would make it a paid holiday. Now, it's the unwanted bastard stepchild of holidays ranking somewhere between Columbus Day and Arbor Day in participation.  

Some ways to increase the fun:  Get your own ground hog and let it live underneath your house. Yank it out on Ground Hog Day and see if it sees its shadow.  Get a big ground hog suit and let children sit on your knee and tell you what they want for Ground Hog Day presents.  

Sell sausage door-to-door to get people to eat sausage for Ground Hog Day.

Go out and chuck some wood around. Woodchucks and ground hogs are the same animal.

Be sure to send your Ground Hog Day ideas to the president in Washington.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Happy Ground Hog Day!

Tomorrow is Ground Hog Day.  I've spent the last eight years trying to get people to celebrate by eating sausage. Why sausage? Sausage is made from Ground hog.  What better to eat on Ground Hog Day?  Now, some dullards think I'm advocating eating Ground Hogs, also known as Whistle Pigs and a few other aliases.  I am not. But sausage is made out of ground hog, as in pigs. What's that got to do with some marmot with a phobia about shadows? Nothing, really.  But it sounds the same. It's a phonetic kind of thing.  Ans that's why we eat sausage because they make it from Ground Hog

I once wrote to the folks who make Jimmy Dean and urged them to promote Ground Hog Day. I never got a reply. They probably thought I was some sort of kook.  The greeting card people haven't done much with Ground Hog Day, either.  Compare the selection of Ground Hog Day cards to Valentines Day and St Patrick's Day cards at your local store.  Heck, most stores don't have any. A few stores might have one card.

Alas, I feel much like Charlie Brown's friend, Linus, sitting out in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin.  I have had few converts in my quest to reform the holiday.  But, rest assured, come tomorrow, I'll  be eating sausage.