Monday, June 29, 2020

Ketchup monsters from outer space

Okay, these roving food shortages are really out of hand.  The grocery store was out of ketchup. No wonder there's rioting in the streets. I can overlook a lot of things, including the lack of toilet paper and the lack of the iced tea I like.  But I can't face not having ketchup.  I can put that on many different foods and it makes life just a little more bearable.  Life may not be worth living if this ketchup problem gets widespread.  

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Money From Heaven

My policy is if there's money on the ground I pick it up and keep it.  I found 53 cents yesterday. I was so impressed.  I usually just find  a penny. This was two quarters and three pennies. I was so happy.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Evil callers

My dad got a very strange call yesterday.  It was someone pretending to be from Social Security. The number actually traced back to a vacant lot here in town,  The caller kept asking strange questions like if he'd ever lived in El Paso.  Then he wanted to "verify" his direct deposit and wanted his bank account number.  Oh no! Fortunately I was over at his house when this happened. I asked for the phone. The caller hung up. It's no wonder the elderly are often the favorite victims of criminals. It never occurred to my father that this was a bogus phishing call.  This one was so bad even my dad was getting suspicious about it. I sometimes am afraid that he has a phone.  Caller ID has become a joke.  We've put robo caller software to block those calls. But a slick talking caller remains a serious threat. To be continued...

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Why Editors Carry Guns

One of the reasons so many editors only do invitation only projects is a small group of writers who just insist on never-ending arguments with the editor.  They don't seem to get that if an editor doesn't like their story, that's the editor's right.  A few days ago I didn't like a title as it's almost the same as a major movie.  Such titles are spent as readers will expect a tie in and get angry when there isn't one. Some people may think such plays are cute--I do not.So I rejected it and said the title made me decide not to even read the story.  Anyway, I got a reply arguing with me about it.  It's not the writer's decision. It is mine and it does not matter if it is fair, it is still not up to the writer.  The writer is free to take his crappy title somewhere else.  Then I got another angry response and invoked the death penalty--that any future submissions will be discarded unread.  I hope that will end the matter. If the writer wants to do a shootout, I have a .357 ready to go and we can shoot it out any time.

As if to further make me wish I had kept things invitation only, I got yet another story, this one using a Star Trek phrase as a title.It was rejected unread as well, although I haven't gotten any sass on this one.

So, buckaroo, if you're an aspiring author, and you are boiling mad at some editor for rejecting your wonderful story, arguing with the editor will accomplish nothing. And you may want to mail me a box with a rattlesnake in it, but do remember that can work both ways.

Plague stories

Back when I was just starting to write stuff I wrote a story about a driver of a converted garbage trunk and the mechanical arm on the side was used to pick up bodies.  And he drove around every morning and picked up dead bodies.  And people had to get body bags at post offices. And this plague was dropping people in the millions.  It got published in one of the many little zines churning out stuff back then.  Most of them are gone now and I'm sure my story is long forgotten.  

As the story went on, the driver was kind of an outcast. People didn't want to go near him.  He started using that to his advantage and got some weird-looking liquid in a spray bottle. The mere threat of it sent people running. And that was my plague story.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Bring out your dead

Arizona is suddenly plague country USA.  There's a shortage of body bags so they're using painter's tarps to wrap bodies in.  Mortuaries are having to rent refrigerated trucks to store bodies in until they get time to embalm and bury them.  Actually I'm lying, sort of.  We really are beseiged by Corona virus but the other stuff isn't really true.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Watering plants

Some folks say no one waters them in the desert, so there's no need to water plants in your yard. My experience is if I don't water them, even native plants like cactus don't do so well.  And my trees would surely die. Hence, this morning will be spent watering stuff.

Monday, June 22, 2020


Yep, the smoke from the fires is in the air all around Tucson.  Boy that's tough terrain over there--the firefighters are earning their pay for sure.  And it's hot, really hot.

Sunday, June 21, 2020


Well it's Fathers Day.  My dad just want to do a cookout and that is what he's getting.  And a card. Our family basically  stopped giving gifts many years ago. It's really better. Nobody gets crap they don't want.  Dad says he doesn't really need anything anyway. 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

We are not amuzed

Well, my dad is getting up in years and going to the store is a bit much for him. So, we thought we'd try online ordering and delivery.  I ordered him ordinary items and of the 40 items ordered only half arrived--the other half were out of stock.  So, the $9 delivery fee starts looking like a rip off with some small purchases.

As there's no way to tell if something is in stock until they pull the item, there's no way to substitute. I sure as hell ain't letting the store substitute.  So, it's pretty pathetic. I can't believe this  country is still facing so many food shortages.  

Back to the Drawing Board

Friday, June 19, 2020

Horrible car battery

My car battery is shot. It's always something.  For some reason, just as we've had food shortages all spring, size battery I need just is not available in Tucson. No one knows.  Some place in Phoenix is bringing one to my mechanic later today, I hope.  Otherwise, it'll be an interesting weekend as I wanted to go up into the mountains. It's always something. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

As predicted

As predicted I got a couple of angry responses from writers who claimed I shouldn't have rejected them. These are just like the students I had in the one class I taught at the college level.  They complained loudly about their poor grades. Then I opened the attendance record and pointed out they'd attended class less than a fourth of the time.  Maybe, just maybe, that might have been a factor.I want to be  clear, we don't do critiques, these folks were outraged at how we could reject their story.  "But I followed the guidelines."

Nope, it was my fault the students didn't learn nothin.  And, the writers who attacked us for rejecting their story were, without fail, in the bottom ten percent of the stories we got--not even close to getting published.

I think my next anthology, if there even is one, will go back to invitation only.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

That Horrible Guy

Today I made some folks unhappy.  I sent out a bunch of rejection notices concerning the anthology I am editing.  Most of them are basic, impersonal rejections. They were once called form rejections when submissions came through the mail. Now, they're the same thing, just digital.  Editors rarely give out personal replies for a few reasons.  One is writers invariably just send back an angry response "How dare you criticize me." or they just ignore what you told them and send out their  story someplace else.  So, editors just say why bother and send out generic rejections.  That's the way the system works.

Then some of the writers will reply to that rejection with messages like "No problem."  As if the editor cares what they think.  An editor is not your pen pal. He is not your teacher. And he is not your critique group.  An editor is simply looking for stories for a particular project.  It's nothing personal. The rejected story simply isn't what the editor is looking for,

Sunday, June 14, 2020

In the Cards

I was rattling on about card  cheats in yesterday's blog.  I mentioned I rarely see stories about gamblers or card sharps [it's sharps in the 1800s, sharks is how the term evolved later].  And the angel Mabel wouldn't dream of cheating at poker, although she pays for most debts with counterfeit money. Some women are hard to figure out.  Especially since her gentleman friend, Miles O'Malley, is a Treasury Agent.  The fact Mabel shamelessly counterfeits money troubles him.  But he also knows no jail could hold her. She need only snap her fingers and she's gone.  

But Mabel loves poker.  And she smokes cigars. And this shocks a few people in 1880s America.  But that's Mabel.

By the way, cards back then rarely had the denomination on them, like Q or 9. They just had the picture of Queen Victoria or nine diamonds or hearts or clubs.  I don't know why.  Stud poker was the likely game cigar chomping men [and Mabel] were playing at a table.  Draw poker appears to have existed, but was not very common back then.  

The other major card game was faro, which was played against a dealer.  The Earps in Tombstone owned an interest in the Oriental Saloon.  They had a faro game running there.  One thing about faro was, to be successful, you had a female dealer. Lonely prospectors and cowboys were far more willing to give their money to a nice looking woman than  some scruffy dude.  I gather a good faro operation could be quite profitable for a saloon.  For some reason, it doesn't rally exist any longer. I'm surprised, with all the casinos out there, someone has not tried to bring it back.  

Saturday, June 13, 2020

How Great I Am?

One of the things you notice quickly when editing books is a lot of "Original" ideas aren't.  The contributor may think it's new and different but after having read the same idea many times--it ain't. So, the difference is in the telling.  In Tales From Dry Gulch one story deals with being buried alive. That's been done before. But her story was different in that a coffin salesman was demonstrating the features on his coffin and ends up getting buried.  Well, the criminal extorts money to dig the guy back up,  Then he tries to kill him and bury him again.  Not to despair, the alien piano player comes to the rescue.  The crook, well he's already a cheater at cards, so the  piano player is not looking kindly on the fellow.

That's a different buried alive than someone like Poe would do.  I liked the story. But the author didn't think it just involved being buried alive.  Alas, too many stories that come in are little more ideas. Touches like the guy cheats at cards, too aren't included.  

Likewise, an army of hundreds of undead riders roaring into town is not particularly new, either.  But if someone worked a card cheat into the story, then I might be more kindly disposed toward it.

As regular readers of this blog may have noticed, I tend to rail on editing things a lot when I'm actively reading for something as I am now.  When Six Guns Straight From Hell 3 is wrapped up then I'll likely fixate on garbage and Tucson's mediocre restaurants.  

Speaking of cheating at cards, the Angel Mabel [Fallen Angel]  has certain powers.  But she wouldn't dream of cheating at poker.  She thinks card cheats are the lowest form of scum on earth--from an angel cast out of heaven and sort of banished to hell.

By the way, I hardly ever see card cheat or stories about gamblers. I don't know why.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Truth and Fiction

One thing about writing fiction is you can play around with worlds that aren't like ours.  A pandemic might be dealt with by armed airships who open fire on anyone outside spreading disease.  After all dead bodies don't transmit disease.  Actually, they do. That was a major way the ebolla virus was spreading.  The people burying the dead bodies were spreading the disease.  When the WHO  got the burying folks to change how they did it and gloves and stuff, transmission rates dropped sharply.  I don't know if dead bodies in restaurants and places are a cause for Corona virus or not. The media seldom talks about the dead people on subway cars or in restaurants and how their bodies are handled.  There I go again, making stuff up. The part about ebolla was true.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

bunker guy

I once lived next door to some guy who lived in an underground bunker. He had a TV camera and it would follow  you around. God forbid anyone should step on his precious property.  I used to make fun of him. Now I don't. He doesn't have to worry about viruses down in his little underground lair. Then again, if he's still there, he probably had freeze dried something. I had some really good burritos for supper.  I wonder if you had a dog in one of those things. Where would it go for its walk and where would it poop?

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


One thing that surprises writers who contribute to books I'm editing is it is not uncommon to get a question about something in their story.  It might be about the Pony Express actually going someplace or it could be about firearms.  I try and keep things as accurate as I can. I think the fantasy or horror works better when the other aspects of the story are realistic.  I recently had someone who made certain assertions about Little Bighorn that simply weren't true.  To my surprise, he sent me some article about the famous battle.  What was odd was he remained adamant that things happened that simply did not--and his article did not make the claims he was.  So, I thanked him for his submission and rejected the story.  

That is quite rare.  Usually inconsistencies on fact can be resolved.  But not that time. I don't know everything, nor would I want to. But I do wonder why someone would argue over trivial points.  On the other hand, many years ago I put a reference to the Epitaph in my novel The Two Devils.   I consider that the coolest name for a newspaper in the history of the world.  Well, the editor changed it to newspaper.  Just newspaper.  I was quite angry over that.  I'm still mad about it a decade later.  So, I have been on both sides of these things.  But, at the end of the day, someone needs to make a decision and that is usually the editor..

So then, the angry writer submits another story.  And it had historical problems as well.  What to do? It will be rejected without any comment from me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020


I note another science fiction  con has been cancelled. This one is Mile Hi Con in Denver, which is one I was planning on attending.  We're all afraid to congregate anymore.  I guess they may have some virtual thing in its place, but I doubt I'll bother to participate.  These cons have been collapsing one by one.  

Monday, June 8, 2020


Anyone eat out recently?  Boy howdy.  Prices have gone up quite a bit.  Of course the places that opened their dining rooms are running about half capacity with all the rules they're under. Dang, my lunch the other day was quite a load from a restaurant that's not particularly remarkable. 

Few restaurants around here have opened their dining rooms.  I'm not sure why.  The prices on the menus are eye catching.  I guess the thing to so is stay home, which is what they want people to do anyhow.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

cooler weather

They say we have a cold front coming through. We might even get down to 96 or so.  Only in Arizona is that a cold front.  And that's only for a day or two then we're back up to our usual 107 or so.  

Saturday, June 6, 2020


I've been watching Alone from last season, which I missed.  That's the show where they drop you off in the wilderness and wait for you to go insane.  Some years ago there was something called the Joe Schmo Show or something like that. It was bogus and the only contestant didn't know it was rigged and everyone else were actors.  It occurs someone could really mess with these wilderness folks big time.

You could keep putting human footprints around their camp when they're out foraging.  And have stuff missing, yet there's no one around.

You could get some guy in a Bigfoot outfit and have the schmo keep seeing him.\\

Or you could just play little mind games like  move his camp or move equipment and let him think he's losing his mind.

The possibilities are endless. Ah, if only I had a production company full of like minded evil people.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Hot Stuff

It was 107 where I live.  Ah, summertime is here.  And I locked my keys in my car yesterday.  What a time to do it. So I called the road service number I subscribe to. And they sent some guy over in about ten minutes.  It's kind of scary how fast these guys can get in your car. I had my keys back in about a minute after the guy drove up.  

Thursday, June 4, 2020

There's something wrong with me

President Obama gave a speech yesterday on policing and the current situation.  He was sitting in front of  book shelves.  I found myself trying to figure out what the books were. I couldn't quite make them out.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

too damned stupid

I thought I'd get something for supper last night at a fast food place. In spite of repeating my order four times, the ding-a-ling still couldn't get it right.  I got to the window and asked what it was that made her so incredibly stupid.  Then I drove off.

Should I feel guilty for behaving like that? Probably.  But I don't.  They shouldn't put idiots on the window. She should've been taking trash out or mopping the floor. Enraged customers are bad for business.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Editors Desk

Editing a book is way different than writing one.  A lot of people can't switch between tasks. I've never found that any more of a problem than jumping from science fiction to weird westerns.  They're just words and are processed accordingly.  Words are our friends. Using words is good.

The current project is coming along well. We have record submissions and some really good stories. Alas, with record submissions also comes record, uh, well, stories that aren't so good.  Now some of them are okay, just not quite what we're looking for.  Some are what we're looking for, but we just like other stories better.  Then there are the, uh, well, stories. These are the ones where the writer is delusional if he thinks he'll ever get this thing published.  These are the stories which show a complete lack of writing ability on the part of the creator. They are stories that are why so many editors only do invitation only projects.

Oh well, it's part of the job.  We've seem plenty of the latter.  

Word to aspiring writers.  You suck.  You may not suck as bad as some other writers, but you still suck. I just mean that most writers starting out can still improve. You don't really suck, but you're not as good as you think you are. Keep working at improving your craft.  I have mixed feelings about these groups that do critiquing. Most of these folks have dubious qualifications. On the other hand, they are better than relatives.  Relatives try and be encouraging. They get you to send out stuff that inspires me to do blogs like this one.  I am highly qualified with lots of editing experience and a masters degree. Yet I don't touch critiquing with a ten foot pole, unless you're a very good friend or I owe you money. So don't ask me to critique your story.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Green eggs

There's a children's book by Dr. Seuss about green eggs and ham and some guy named Sam I am.  The point of the story is the guy doesn't want to try green eggs and ham because it's likely disgusting.   Then he relents and tries them and decides he likes green eggs and ham.  

Now, I'm a tireless advocate for the weird western genre.  I often refer to them as the greatest genre nobody ever heard of.  I also call them the unwanted bastard stepchild of literature.  One thing I am is a tireless advocate for the genre.  When given the opportunity, I do talks on them at cons and will speak to book groups or anywhere a willing audience assembles.  The thing is, when I talk on weird westerns people are surprised to learn this is a 100 year old genre and they're amazed at how many stories there are.  And there are sub genres in weird westerns.  My evil plan in all of this is to get people to read weird westerns.  I believe if people will try one or two they might actually like them.

Take Dry Gulch, Colorado. That's a town I invented and invited a few other writers to visit. The result is Tales From Dry Gulch. Here's the  thing.  You have a green alien from a far away planet who plays piano in the local saloon..  If you had an alien playing a piano in Star Wars folks would say, cool there's an alien piano player.  Put same alien in Dry Gulch and "Ewe there's an alien in my western."
If you like alien piano players the fact one is in 1880's Colorado shouldn't be any big deal. You still get an alien piano player.  Well, that's my thinking.  I think these stories are fun, but it's easier to pull teeth out of a  tiger than  it is to get readers to try some of these.

I'll recommend a  few that I think are pretty good.  Baen published a three book series. Straight Outta Deadwood, Straight Outta Tombstone and Straight Outta Dodge City.  I have no skin in any of these books although I've known the editor, David Boop, for some time.  Get one and try a few stories. Uncle Dave wouldn't steer you wrong. Libraries have them and your local bookstore can order a copy if you ask nicely.  I favor Straight Outta Dodge City because the introduction makes me seem like some kind of Weird Western guru.  

And then there are two of my works.  Fallen Angel and Legends of the Dragon Cowboys.  There's also The  Devil Draws Two which is a big book combining all three of my Miles O'Malley adventures.

So take that first bite of weird westerns as you eat you green eggs and ham.  I don't think they'll disappoint.