Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Trip Report Part 5 (Finale)

May 16--Monday: The Holiday Inn Express where we stayed had a good hot breakfast with bacon, so we ate there. Then we drove into Alamogordo, New Mexico and got a room at another Holiday Inn Express. Bacon will make you like any hotel, I say. We saw a bunch of pronghorns along the way, and nine big dust devils. We passed through the lava fields again. We stopped at the VLA and drove down a road for a better view. We ate Mexican food at a place in Socorro and they had fry bread, my second exposure to the delicious stuff.

After that, we drove for miles along the edge of the White Sands Missile test site. We also passed a giant Pistachio nut statue. I would claim it was the highlight of our trip. But that would be a lie. Once in Alamogordo, at the hotel, we swam in the pool and soaked in the hot tub. My attempt to wash clothes was derailed when I left some paper in one of my pockets. Egad but that made pretty bad mess. (I eventually got them clean at home.) We then went to White Sands, which is a huge area of sand dunes made of gypsum. It definitely looks white. Lana got some great pictures, with sun setting, the moon rising, and the San Andres Mountains in the background. From the glow off the sand, I guess, the sky looked almost like a white out from a snow, but there were a lot of pale purple tinges to it as well.

I spotted a lone beetle making his way up one of the dunes and Lana got pictures. I promptly named him “Beetlelee.” We saw him again as we left and he’d burrowed down in the sand and was already still. I left a little something behind in the dunes, and I brought home a partially rusted spoon that I found uncovered in one of the dunes. It was dark when we left White Sands and we saw some Chuck Will’s Widows flying around. I wanted Long John Silver’s for supper, but by the time we got back to the hotel most things were closed up and I got drive through MacDonald’s instead.

May 17--Tuesday: We left around 8:00 in the morning, thinking we’d drive to San Antonio, which was halfway home, and then get a hotel. But once we got into the rhythm of movement we didn’t want to stop and ended up driving all the way home, arriving around 5:00 in the morning. It was awesome to be home. During our driving we passed through an area in the mountains of New Mexico where large swaths of forest had been burned and fire-fighting crews were still on hand, and then in Texas we saw a number of large dust devils. One rather surreal experience happened when I stopped to pee along a little ranch road in the mountains. As I was taking care of business, I heard Lana laughing. Being certain that she was not laughing at me, I asked her what was going on as I got back in the car. She pointed to a metal sign, which I had noted coming in but had not bothered to translate. Lana translated it for me, and perhaps you’ll be able to do so in the picture I’ve included below.

[If you can’t translate, here’s what it said: “If you use our road to pee, please take your TP (toilet paper) with you.”]

On Wednesday, then, I did little other than alternate resting and sleeping, and by Thursday I was trying to catch up on emails and blogging. You know the rest. It was a heckuva trip. I enjoyed it, but I am glad to be home and able to get into the routine of my writing again. I missed that on the road.

By the way: another member of my writing group has just had a flash fiction piece published. It’s Alvin Burstein, with “The Sound of Silence.” It’s over at Dark Valentine. Stop by if you get a chance. Although Al has published non-fiction, I believe this is his first fiction piece. It’s another good un.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trip Report Part 4

May 14--Saturday: We got up at a reasonable hour to take our Hummer tour, and I polished off Lana’s leftover duck from Rene’s for breakfast. The tour was great. The ride itself was cool. We actually went onto the Navajo reservation and the only road was a rough trail made by the tour itself. The driver had fun terrorizing us but ‘most’ of the time kept all 4 wheels on the ground. The slot canyon was amazing and Lana got many awesome photos.

After, we had a nice lunch at a western themed restaurant in Page with a tour-bus full of French tourists. After that we went to Horseshoe Bend, a very sharp curve in the Colorado River with a huge bluff in the center. It was a long walk to get there in intense heat, with no shade, and both of us were exhausted when we got back to the car. But again Lana got great pics.

We then drove to the Cameron Trading Post where we got a room. I was absolutely floored by how lovely the place was. Our room looked out on a little courtyard laden with flowers sweet little benches to sit on. The restaurant was excellent. I had a “Navajo Taco,” which was so huge it filled the plate. It was pretty much taco fixings on a flat piece of fry bread. As Lana will tell you, I’m a professional eater, but I could not finish my whole meal this time. We then bought some stuff at the gift shop. I got a few things for Josh, and a cool Navajo belt for myself. My only regret was that we went to bed very early, around 8:00 in the evening and didn’t get to sit out in the courtyard. But we wanted to get to the Grand Canyon for dawn. Despite our early retirement, neither of us slept terribly well. Lovely as the room was, the walls were quite thin and there was a lot of noise. It didn’t matter. We were excited about the Grand Canyon.

May 15--Sunday: Up a little after 3:00 and Lana drove to the Grand Canyon, which was about an hour from Cameron. She got some great morning shots of the gorge with the sun coming up, but it was freezing cold. Lana was shaking and her teeth were chattering. She’d warned me it might be cold and I had reluctantly brought a thin windbreaker. I was glad for it, and glad for an extra t-shirt later. We watched two elk feeding on the green grass outside one of the lodges, and we also saw a ‘huge’ centipede that I thought was dead until I touched it with my foot. Turns out it was just really cold. We ate breakfast at one of the lodges and got way too much food.

There’s actually a little town right on the edge of the canyon, a tourist town with hotels, restaurants and shops, and even with its own mass transit system. We rode the shuttles around quite a lot, stopping here and there along the rim for photo ops. By now it was much warmer and there were a LOT of people. I enjoyed the canyon immensely but the crowds were a little much for me. We stopped in the visitor’s center for a movie about the canyon and I bought a couple of books at the bookstore there.

We left around 1:30 and drove a good long ways into Show Low, Arizona. Lana saw a dead elk along the road as I napped. We also saw many large dust devils whirling through the red-dust landscapes. It was a bit eerie. We finally stopped at the Holiday Inn Express in Show Low, which was the cleanest place for the most reasonable price that we’d found. Close by was a New York Pizza place and we pigged out.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Space Opera at Novel Spaces

I know I didn't leave the third installment of my trip report up top for long, but it's still one post down. I wanted to let everyone know that my latest blog post is up over at Novel Spaces. I've posted on the topic of Space Opera, which my current WIP, "Under the Ember Star" fits into. Space Opera is faster than light space ships and blasters and star spanning empires. Fun stuff. I hope you'll check it out.

That's my spaceship below, btw. It's not quite faster than light, but fast enough for me these days.

Also, thanks to everyone who visited Beat to a Pulp to read Linda Schenck's story. I much appreciate your support of this fine new writer.


Trip Report Part 3

May 12--Thursday: This was a truly great day. We left early and drove to the Petrified forest and painted desert national forest. I think I appreciated the petrified wood the most, which was piled all over the park and in many places eroding right out of the ground. Lana seemed to like the painted desert the best, and the layers of colored stone were indeed cool. We also saw the ruins of a pueblo here, which was being excavated by archeologists, and they had a small onsite museum that showed off many of the excellent fossils discovered there. We bought a few pieces of petrified wood at the gift shop.

Then we drove to Great Meteor Crater, which was absolutely amazing. It’s a huge place, and we happened to see some geologists down at the bottom of the crater who were as tiny as ants to add scale to the thing. I could imagine being near ground zero when the meteor that caused this one hit. I would not have lived long, of course. Piles of melted rock that had been thrown up by the impact could still be seen. They had fragments of the actual meteor on site, although much of the meteor was vaporized itself in the explosion and scattered over the surrounding miles of desert territory. BTW, the two pictures below are actually faked images of me at the bottom of the crater. This was set up for photographers in the onsite museum.

Finally we drove into Sedona, Arizona, which was nothing like what I expected. I had no idea you went down such twisty roads to get there, through great forested hills, and I was expecting a lot more desert looking landscape. It’s an oasis within a desert in truth. Lana and I got a room at the Best Western in Sedona, and it was by far the most expensive hotel we stayed in, but also by far the nicest, with landscaped grounds, statues, water fountains, and a balcony area for us to sit and look out at one of the best views in the town. Lana got many pictures right from our balcony of great red rock bluffs. Right next door was an excellent restaurant, where I had a Bison Burger, and for desert we had the best cheese cake I’ve ever eaten. We explored that section of town a bit and I bought myself a replica 1860 Army Colt, a percussion pistol. We slept very comfortably that night.

May 13--Friday: We got up early, not wanting to miss anything, and in the cool, cool, cool of the morning Lana took some pics of me in my western garb with my new “replica” pistol in front of various red rock sites (See top and bottom images). We also found a neat place right across the road from our hotel called “The Trading Post,” and ended up spending a lot of money there on really cool things. We got Lana a Bison skull and some coyote skulls, and I bought myself a bone knife. Later in the afternoon we went to Red Rock State Park and walked a trail around the water. It was very nice. I sat and dangled my feet in the stream for a bit, and it was cold and delightful on blistered feet. We closed off the evening with a visit to some fossil shops where we saw an amazing Smilodon skull and a huge trilobite, as well as all kinds of ammonites and fossilized fish and insects. We had dinner at a very fancy place called Rene, our most expensive meal on the trip. But I loved it. We sat in a quiet little courtyard with birds flying and hopping about, and I had antelope while Lana had duck. Both were scrumptious. It was the first time I’d ever tried antelope and the taste was closest to lamb to my way of thinking.

We then drove about 3 hours into the town of Page. On the way, just outside Sedona, we saw a large falling star, somewhere between a regular shooting star and a bolide. It was strange considering we’d been to meteor crater just the day before. Although Page is a pretty big town, there was some kind of tourist attraction going on in the town and we had hell finding a room. Luck let us find a cheapy room at the Motel 6. That was a bit strange, in fact, because when we came in to the motel there were two people ahead of us. The lady at the desk basically told the first person in line that they just had one room left. The second person was told they had a room but one they wouldn’t normally rent because the bathroom light did not work. We expected that we’d either get nothing or get the boiler room, but the lady gave us a room where everything worked and it was just about 40 feet from the door where we parked. I don’t know why we got so lucky, but I didn’t look that gift horse in the mouth. We both slept well after that full day.

Monday, May 23, 2011


May 10--Tuesday: There were two things we wanted to see in Carlsbad. First was the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. We got there early and it wasn’t open yet, so we drove down toward what looked like a huge bridge but turned out to be an aqueduct, part of the first system to bring water to the area. Nearby stood one of the first dwellings ever in the Carlsbad area, which had served at times as a personal home and at one point as a dentist’s office. After that, we returned to the Living Desert where we saw a lot of local plants, cacti and sage and juniper, among many others. We also saw wolves, buffalo, javelina, pronghorn antelope, elk, desert tortoises, a gray fox, two golden eagles and a bald headed eagle that had lost most of one wing, and a hawk, as well as other birds. The animals were caged, of course, but many were either rescue animals, like the eagle, or part of a conservation effort, like the tortoises.

After that we went to Carlsbad caverns. It was a pretty long drive from the town, through rising hills, but once we got there and went in it was simply magnificent. It took us well over an hour just to walk around inside, and both Lana and I agreed that it was the single best experience of our trip. I have one photo of it on the blog today, but Lana will have many more over time and I’ll let you know when she puts those up. Just let me say, it’s well worth a visit.

On the way out we stopped at one other site. Down the hill from the caverns was a place in the cliffs where Native Americans had lived at various times. There was a stream nearby, dry at the moment. I took some photos and will run them at some point, but there wasn’t much to see, just a narrow overhang and rock beneath. I thought for a long time about what hard living that would be. Put our hotel woes into perspective.

We finally had dinner at a barbecue place in Carlsbad and it was pretty decent. That was nice after the previous night’s fiasco. I finally got a few minutes to read on my Kindle and started Sidney Williams’ new thriller, Midnight Eyes.

May 11--Wednesday: We were up early and drove all the way into Arizona, ending up stopping in a little town called St. Johns. This was the worst hotel we’d seen yet, and the most expensive, but the day we had getting there made up for it. We first stopped at the Hubbard Museum of the American West, in Ruidoso Downs. We saw a Colt 45 that Billy the Kid had once owned, and a bunch of other guns (see pics). We saw a Conestoga wagon, which weighs in at 3000 pounds and will haul 5000 pounds. We saw a Pony Express saddle with all its mail pouches. There were historic saddles, spurs, and plenty of Indian artifacts. I took copious notes for background color if I decide to do another western. We had a great breakfast at a little places called Jorges. I had steak and eggs and hash browns. Yum.

We then drove up through tree-green mountains, through a town called Ruidoso. It’s a ski town in season and was just beautiful. Lana and both agreed that it would be a very interesting place to live. By afternoon we were down to the Rio Grande, which had been diverted in one area to form a nature sanctuary called Bosque del Apache. This was an amazing place. Even though it was off season, we still saw huge numbers of birds, as well as a mule deer and a bull snake. We saw two turkeys, a bunch of herons, egrets, ducks, coots and swallows, along with a pheasant and some weird black ibises. After that, as we drove on, we saw a herd of 20 or more elk, and several pronghorn antelopes. We also stopped and took pictures at the Very Large Array. We crossed the Continental Divide, and we saw a tumbleweed blowing right down the road at us. At last I knew we were in the west.


Saturday, May 21, 2011


May 8--Sunday: Our trip begins. We wanted a quick start so we both went to bed very early on Saturday. By 1:00 in the morning, we were up. By 3:00 we were on the road. We made it to Glen Rose, Texas in early afternoon and immediately went to Dinosaur National Park. To get to the dino footprints, you had to negotiate a rather precarious series of rocks through a stream, so Lana entrusted me with one of her cameras and I crossed to take pics. There were two main sets, one of a bipedal three toed carnivorous dinosaur (not T-Rex), and another of a four legged herbivore (similar to a brontosaurus). The three-toed ones were especially cool and I got pics and got back across the water safely. Lana said they looked good. Unfortunately, she downloaded these pics to her laptop that night and the laptop fried itself the next day so the images were lost. (We’ll take the laptop to a computer expert to see if he can perform a rescue.)

We’d also planned to stop at the “Creation Evident Museum,” on the same road leading to the dinosaur prints, but it was closed that day (and most days it appears). Turned out this wasn’t the museum I was thinking of. It was a tiny place and not the major creationist museum I’ve read about. If you’re wondering why I wanted to visit, it’s not because I believe in the nonsense that the world is only 6000 years old and that the dinosaurs drowned in Noah’s flood, but because I’m working on a book on the subject and felt this would be good research material. I doubt I missed much considering the size of the place.

When in Texas, I either eat Mexican or Country Fried Steak. We found a nice little Mexican place and I had the taco plate, which was quite good. The salsa was just spicy enough. Our hotel was cheap and comfortable, although our concierge didn’t seem to care much whether we were alive or dead. Lana and I had some laughs over that. And Day 1 was over.

May 9--Monday: Day 2 did not go terribly well, although it started nicely. There were ruins of some old stone buildings just behind our hotel and Lana got great pictures, including a group of twelve or so buzzards roosting in a tree above one of the ruins. The synchronicity pleased us both. We then drove down along the river that flows through Glen Rose and that area was very lovely. We stopped at a place called Big Rock Park, with huge boulders embedded in the ground along the stream, and Lana got more pics. We saw a fair amount of wildlife as well. Lana put a filter on over one of her lenses but, unfortunately, we couldn’t get it off again. We stopped at a local hardware for some tools, but one fellow there who seemed to know something about cameras and have very large hands was able to get the filter off for us.

Then we drove through West Texas into New Mexico to the town of Carlsbad. The drive was long, through very flat, dry land with lots of mesquite. We saw the marks of multiple fires. We also saw some big dust devils, larger than I’d ever seen before, and a lot of slag heaps of dirt and gravel piled up. It wasn’t a pretty area. We did sight our first longhorns. One other good thing was seeing some large fields of wind turbines set up to generate power. This was a great place for them considering how the wind never ceased.

The town of Carlsbad was a disappointment. About half of it seemed to be torn up for road work, and we looked in vain for a good local restaurant. We finally ate at a place that claimed to serve the town’s best Mexican and Chinese food. I had Mexican, Lana had Chinese. Neither claim was correct, and Lana had a memorable quote about the place’s atmosphere. She said, “if that place had any atmosphere, it would be suicidal.” We got most of our food to go, so as not to be rude, but I tossed it in the garbage later. Our hotel looked nice from outside but the inside had clearly seen better days. Still, it was comfortable enough. If Lana’s laptop hadn’t fried we’d have probably considered the day to be decent.

Once the computer died, though, I decided we were going to buy her another one at Best Buy. Carlsbad didn’t have a Best Buy so we went to Wal-Mart, but we didn’t like anything there so we ended up buying more memory cards for Lana’s cameras and figured we’d wait till we got home to download the pics. Neither of us was feeling all that well so we hoped this day was going to be an anomaly on our trip. Turned out it was.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'm Back!

Well, I'm back, although I'll be digging out from under emails and snail mail for a good while. I had 935 posts backed up on blogger and decided I didn't have the strength so I had to mark them all as read. I'll start visiting blogs again today. It'll take a bit to get back in the swing of things.

If you're wondering about my "hiatus," Lana and I had a vacation, something we haven't had in quite a long time. We took a road trip through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. We saw dinosaur footprints, petrified wood, painted deserts, meteor craters, giant caves, small canyons and giant ones, sand dunes and dust devils, tumbleweeds and massive human-made artifacts both old and new, and lots of varied wildlife. Lana took a couple of thousand pictures so you will be seeing some of those here as I start posting occasional details about the trip. I honestly didn't post that we were having the trip in the first place because these days you can't be too careful about who might be paying attention on the internet. We didn't want to come home to an emptied house.

Despite the fun of the trip, I am most glad to be home. One thing good that happened while I was gone was that the book Dreams in the Fire was published. I have a story in it called "A Gathering of Ravens." This is a charity anthology, with fiction and poetry inspired by the works of Robert E. Howard. The proceeds go to the Cross Plains, Texas group called "Project Pride," which consists of some of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. Project Pride maintains the Robert E. Howard house and museum in Cross Plains. There are plenty of professional writers in the anthology, as well as some new voices. All authors are associated in some way with Howard fandom. If you're fan of Howard or just a fan of good fantasy and adventure stories, this collection might be for you. It's available at Lulu. I've posted the cover below.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Over at Beat to a Pulp today

And magically, I appear here again. Even though I’m still on hiatus and away from the net, through the sorcery of pre-posting I can bring something interesting to your attention today. That is, Sunday, May 15.

Over at Beat to a Pulp, a friend of mine named Linda Schenck has her first published story up on the site today. It’s called “Nobody’s Listening” and is only about 750 words long. It’s an excellent story, a quick read, and I’d love it if folks could drop by for a quick peruse and comment. It’s great to welcome a newly published author into our ranks!

The link will take you to the Beat to a Pulp main page. If you then click on “Weekly Punch” on the right side you should be directed straight to Linda’s story. The Leave a comment link is at the bottom.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Refilling the Well at Novel Spaces

I’m still out of touch with the net, but through the magic of pre-posting, I have something up over at Novel Spaces. Even though I haven’t visited your blogs in a while, I will return soon and I hope you’ll drop by Novel Spaces when you get a chance.

The Novel Spaces post is on "Refilling the Creative Well" and will be up through 5-11-11, and will then move down on the page each day as others post.

Thanks for holding down the fort.

Sunday, May 08, 2011


It was bound to happen. I’m going on hiatus for a couple of weeks. Unless some semi-miracle occurs, I won’t be visiting any blogs or even responding to emails for a bit. There’s nothing wrong. In fact, things are quite good at The Hermitage, otherwise known as Gramlich central. But I have reasons for taking the break, and will reveal those in due time. They are not terribly exciting, but they are mine.

I’ll miss visiting everyone but will pick up again in a couple of weeks right where I left off. Take care all.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Under the Ember Star

A week or so back I posted about a couple of scenes that had popped into my head from a new story. Both featured a female character who, at the time, I was thinking of calling “Ember Starr.” The character name didn’t stick, but it remains part of the title, and the character and scenes certainly did stick. I’m looking at this thing as a novella now, and have a potential market in mind. It’s largely a space opera, set on the planet Kelmer, which lies “under the ember star.” The character’s first name now is “Ginn,” and I haven’t decided on a last name. Maybe it’s not needed but I’m keeping my ear open for a good one. I’m leaning toward a short “H” name, like Hollis, so if anyone has a really cool, tough sounding suggestion I’d love to hear it.

Kelmer rotates around a red dwarf sun called Gatari, but which is almost always called the “Ember Star.” Life would not be possible on Kelmer without two huge artifacts in orbit that are called the “Collectors.” These amplify the sun’s low energy output and radiate it onto the planet’s surface. Because of these, the planet is fairly cold and dim, but livable, at least in many areas. There is a native race on the planet, although at a very low technological level because Kelmer largely lacks metals.

Ginn’s father was an astronomer who brought her from Earth to Kelmer so he could study the artifacts, which are alien in construction. He died in his search for the answers when she was 14, leaving her alone on this strange world. Eventually, the story will have Ginn solving the mystery her father couldn’t, though I have no idea what the solution is myself yet. That’s part of the fun of writing. But before Ginn can solve that mystery she has another mystery to deal with, a being who comes to hire her for a job who appears to be someone who could not possibly exist. And, it seems the local war/drug/crime lord wants the being dead. Action and violence ensue. You know I love ‘em.

Probably the closest influence on my story would be the Northwest Smith tales of C. L. Moore, or the novel The Sword of Rhiannon by Leigh Brackett. Both of these women wrote about male blaster-toting characters, so in their honor I’m writing about a female blaster-toting character. The work will be dedicated to them.

I’ll leave you with a brief passage from what I’ve done so far. This is the realization of the scene I described before for you, where Ginn wakes up with an apparently bad hangover. Not long after this a strange visitor arrives. And then all hell breaks loose.

Ginn tried to spit. And found she had no saliva. Then she tried opening her eyes. One of them worked. A moment’s rubbing got the other one open too. Her head ached. Even the dim sun coming through the skylight above her was too bright for her eyes, and the fact it was morning told her she’d slept a long time. She’d gone to Red Jac’s almost fifteen standard hours before the Ember Star was due to rise for its fourteen day reign.

Sitting up, she thrust blonde hair back from her face, let her bleary gaze take in her surroundings. She was at home, in her own bed. She’d managed to get off her light-lenses, boots, and blasters, but little else.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Season of Rust Reprise

Some of you may remember a piece I published here on the blog a bit ago called “Season of Rust.” An edited version of that is out now in the latest issue of The Illuminata. If you follow the link, the issue is free for download. It’s near the top, Volume 9, Issue 1, April 2011. There’s a number of good reviews in there of SF books as well. And don’t forget to check out the Tyrannosaurus Press dot Com website for more goodies.

In writing news, I’m very happy with much in the past few days. I’ve started working on “Under the Ember Star” and it is going very well. I missed yesterday because I gave my last test and had to get that graded and turned in. But in the couple of days before that I’d made great progress on the piece, which I’m envisioning as a novella. It’s so amazing what one can accomplish when you have a few focused hours to string together. And by day 2 my sheer joy of writing fiction was starting to come back to me. It’s not easy to experience that joy when you only have a few minutes here and there to produce a paragraph or two. To really immerse yourself in the story and its world is where the pleasure comes from.

Have a great Sunday. Lana and I are planning a picnic today.