Ground Control to Major Tom…WHAZZUP?!

One of the best parts about writing a novel is getting to do research. I believe it’s the author’s responsibility to make research fun, and I do not take that responsibility lightly.

(By the by, if you ever want to experience pure unadulterated paranoia, I recommend researching government conspiracies on aliens and chem trails while smoking a fat doobie in the dark when no one’s home. GOOD TIMES. (So I’ve heard….) )

So a few weeks ago, I was home alone researching government conspiracies on aliens and chem trails and sm- — for my current alien suspense series The Calico Junction Incident, which, incidentally, if you’d like to read for free, click here! — and I came across Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex located in Ft. Irwin, California, about 40 minutes north of nowhere, about an hour and a half from my house…and they offer free tours!

This goes to show that I may be getting old because I actually lived out at Ft. Irwin for a year when I was 14 and forgot all about Goldstone. It was just another road sign we drove past to get on and off base. I never really looked into it too much, which is funny because I was taking a remote astronomy class at the time. Classic symptomatology of a Clueless Lucy.

Anyhoo, I enlisted my good buddy Ninja Jim to drive out with me to take a tour of Goldstone. (We would have taken my hubby Fat Cat along, but he said NO. Fat Cat is allergic to the desert and road trips.)


I totally resisted Photoshopping in Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner…for now.

Unlike Fat Cat, I love the desert. There is something mysterious and vast and breathless about it that tickles my fancy. I spent high school in the desert. Friends and I have flown kites at night in the desert. I learned to how to ride a horse in the desert. Early mornings and dusk are the best times, and at night, the air feels delicious.

I also love road trips. I love just getting away from my usual coordinates and looking up at the sky from a different point on the Earth. It’s so much fun!

And getting to go on a road trip with my bad-ass friend Ninja Jim while spinning a parallel universe storyline…BONUS.


From the cult classic “To Hell and Back with Bad Kale,” Stoning Rolls writer Ang embeds herself as a roadie on tour with one of the most influential rock bands this generation has never heard of. Pictured here is the iconic lead singer Ninja Jim, right before the tragic mosh pit incident that resulted in several fans losing chunks of hair and one fan peeing their pants, effectively ending his performing career before it had even begun.

Let me tell you a little bit about my friend Ninja Jim. Jim is a legend. We met at a bar back in the day. That sounds edgier than it really was…so I’m just going to leave it at that.

But at the bar, he was known as Dreamsmasher, The Ruiner, and Fuzzy Bunny. He is also the co-founder of the made-up band Bad Kale. He’s a photographer, a gemologist and jewelry-maker, an artist, and he doesn’t digest orange juice very well. He’s also one of the best friends a gal could have.

Today, he was the Captain of our desert ship, piloting his truck through the badlands of the Mojave Desert, beyond the far reaches of Barstow, and across the 10-mile stretch to Ft. Irwin.


From the Stoning Rolls article: “The road to hell was a lonely one. Only Fate knew what was in store for us. All I knew was that for Bad Kale, there was no turning back…. The nearest restroom was 10 miles ahead and I had had a Big Gulp the size of an Olympic swimming pool….”

Traffic is minimal in the Badlands, and we were there before we knew it. One stop at the main gate to get checked in, and then another stop at the Goldstone gate to get checked in again. Ninja Jim narrowly avoided a body cavity search by performing his signature funky chicken. (That was embarrassing.)

*At this point, I should note that for anyone interested in touring the complex, you can get all the info here. Keep in mind you have to arrange a date at least three days in advance, so plan ahead. It’s super easy. I just emailed, and Leslie, their awesome and friendly point of contact, got back to me right away with available tour dates.


Sun-faded posters in the Goldstone gate window. Watch out for mountain lions. Restroom inside — thank goodness!

We were instructed to wait by our cars at the gate for our tour guide. While we waited, I took in the motley crew of folks who traveled all this way to look at a bunch of giant radio dishes pointed at the sky in the middle of nowhere. There was just a handful of people: one old dude with Connecticut plates  and two families with excited kids who knew more about the Deep Space Network than any of us adults.

Before long, Leslie, our friendly and knowledgeable tour guide, arrived via car, and we were instructed to follow her on in!

And so began our strange caravan across the alien landscape of Goldstone. We spotted Echo antenna and the main museum facility as we drove past towards the first stop on our tour…

…the Beam Waveguide Cluster! Squee!


It was kind of surreal driving through desert and seeing these massive structures sprouting up like giant and wondrous mechanical mushrooms.


Once we had all parked and gathered round, our tour guide Leslie commenced the tour, explaining the various space objects these immense radio antennae track and how Goldstone works together with the facilities in Canberra, Australia, and Madrid, Spain to form the Deep Space Network.

It’s one thing to see these structures in pictures. It’s an entirely different experience standing next to them.


Radio Antenna in my reality…


…and in Ninja Jim’s reality. (I told you he was an artist photographer.) (Copyright (c) 2016 by Ninja Jim – All rights reserved)


Leslie also explained the strange inhabitants hanging around the station. The place is lousy with burros. Apparently, they did quite well in the desert despite expectations, and now the base is having to catch and sterilize the males to keep the population in check.

They’re cheeky little fellows and paid no mind to us or the honking trucks.

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Then it was back in the car to head over to Mars Station!

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Mars Station is huge. How huge? Too-big-for-my-camera huge!


Big Ass Antenna!

Gazing up at this massive dish that is almost the length of a football field, I wondered aloud if it was big enough to call Ninja Jim’s home planet and have them send the YoMama Ship to come pick him up. He told me to shut up.


“Shut up, Ang.”

I informed him with an attitude like that, it was no wonder YoMama Ship left his beheinie on Earth in the first place.

A quick tour through the live monitoring facility (which unfortunately did not allow cameras, but looked exactly like the control rooms in the movies!), and then it was time to climb back into our vehicles to head to our final stop, Echo Station, where we got to check out the museum and pick up NASA bumper stickers. Win!

20160531-20160531-Nasa-70-2-2 (1)

Echo Antenna – Goldstone, California – Copyright (c) 2016 by Ninja Jim

Inside the museum:


If this post seems a little jumbled and chaotic, that’s because there was just TOO MUCH TO SEE. The museum was an awesome collection of memorabilia, interactive antennae monitoring, and giant infographics. It’s incredible to me that a place like this even exists. Most people don’t even think about what it takes to send a spacecraft into space and communicate with it, but out there in Goldstone, 130 employees clock in each day to maintain and monitor these massive structures to keep track of the exploratory space vehicles we’ve sent out into deep space. It’s an extraordinary effort that continues to evolve to this day. I was more affected by it than I expected. I was just as star-struck as the kids I stood next to.


“We headed back out on Devil’s Highway accompanied by black helicopters and CIA spooks, the truth weighing heavily on the band. It would take months of spin doctoring to climb Bad Kale back into the good graces of the desert folk, who mostly wanted assurances that they would no longer be subjected to Bad Kale’s signature polka rap (as was highlighted and put in all caps in the restraining order). Ninja Jim would never again play the accordion in public. It turned out to be a devastating blow to the polka rap community, and this reporter worried that the incident signaled the beginning of the end for Bad Kale and its misunderstood front man Ninja Jim….”

As we left the base and headed back to Civilian Land, I wondered where humankind will be 50 years from now on that whole faster-than-light travel deal or even anti-grav personal vehicles, and whether or not orbital space tourism will have taken off by then. Will the existence of aliens finally be revealed by governments around the world? If so, how many of them will turn out to have been hiding in Hollywood all along?

The only thing I knew for sure was that all these questions were making me hangry. It was time to eat.


And what better place to stop and eat than at a ghost town? That’s right. Good ol’ Calico!

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We ate at the Calico House Restaurant amid a busload of German tourists. Lunch was reliable Americana cuisine with a choice of tater tots as a side and several sweating mason jars filled with ice cold raspberry tea.

20160531-20160531-20160531-Nasa-200-2 (1)

“Nonplussed by Bad Kale’s crash and burn in the desert, Ninja Jim furiously made notes on his Calico House Restaurant napkin, notes that would eventually become his greatest album yet: ‘My Heart is a Ghost Town.’ The first day of its worldwide release, the album was downloaded 17 times, its lead track “Greasy Carrots” 18 times. Bad Kale was back!” (Copyright (c) 2016 – Ninja Jim)

It was too f***ing hot to explore Calico appropriately. It took three and a half mason jars of tea to rehydrate me enough to be able to leave the restaurant. (I had apparently forgotten how friggin’ hot and dry the desert is.) Ninja Jim was pretty done too.

We wandered around the lower half of town — mostly because we were too lazy and old to climb to the top and check out the silver mine — then climbed into the car to head home. It was only 1:00 p.m., but it felt like we had traveled to another world and back.

As I drifted in and out of consciousness on the way back trying not to snore or bang my nodding head against the passenger side window too much, I dreamt of alien spy satellites and ghost town vittles and really bad song lyrics.

And that, my friends, is how I do research. 🙂

What the heck is all this research for? Why, it’s for The Calico Junction Incident, my new alien invasion suspense series. If you like UFOs, strange desert towns, and government conspiracies, then you’re gonna dig this.

For a limited time, you can get the entire series for free in your choice of .mobi/Kindle, ePUB, or PDF format. Just enter your email below to receive your free digital copy of the first episode Kill Team, and you’ll automatically be sent new episodes of The Calico Junction Incident before they are available to the general public, six in all! 😀


What if they asked you to die for your country…but your family could never know?


So begins the official Week 1 of my six-week experimental launch of The Calico Junction Incident series and already quite a few of you have downloaded and read the first installment. THANK YOU! Initial feedback has been enthusiastic -- whew! -- and I am currently hard at work getting Episode 2 ready for download next Monday.

(If you haven't gotten your free advance reader copy of Kill Team yet, click here.)

But today, we're here to talk about the cover because I promised a bunch of you I'd share the whole behind-the-scenes production process, and so I'm gonna.

Here's my quick and easy guide to making your own book covers:


1. Photoshop

Firstly, just a little caveat because I feel it will be important for those of you who feel intimidated by cover design and specifically Photoshop (or any of its free/low-cost/open source counterparts):

I, too, am fairly new to the fantastical world of PS. The Kill Team cover you see above, that's my second book cover I've ever made.

So be not afraid, friends. I know all those panels and buttons look like they belong on the console of a spaceship -- Transform! Warp! Vector! Rasterize! What be these things?! More importantly, what do I do with them?


That rascally Prince Charles!

Well, firstly, you must always wield your Photoshop powers for good. much as you can restrain yourself anyway.

Secondly, you must be patient with yourself...and be willing to Google everything. Search: "How do I bend lines?" or "How do I make the margins *&^%ing listen to me?!"

And don't forget YouTube. Chances are, whatever miracles you're trying to perform in PS, someone's already done it in YouTube. Start with: "How to make an ebook cover?" That may be all you need. 🙂

Now, listen, in the grand scheme of things, it's often smarter to hire a professional to do these things. There are loads of talented graphic designers and artists out there like Domi who can do your book cover up real nice with original art, detailed customization, and an experienced eye towards your specific genre. Even better, many of designers offer pre-made covers at a discounted price.

So you have to ask yourself what your long-term goals are. If you're interested in getting your book to market with a solid cover as quickly as possible and you have no interest in or experience making book covers, by all means, hire someone. That just makes good business sense.

However, I'm one of those people who wants to do it all by herself...or at least learn how to...and satisfying that desire is an important part of my long-term goals. Plus, I have so many stories I want to get out -- finished stories -- that if I had to hire out that many covers, it'd cost me a small fortune to do it.

That said, I have hired graphic designers when the task exceeded my humble skills, and I no doubt will again. I completely expect that one day down the road I'll have to update this series with new covers, and I'll probably want to do that with covers made by someone more talented and experienced in this regard.

But for now, it's just me, Photoshop, and YouTube. Doing is the best way to learn, and practice is the only way to get good at anything. So I keep doing. 🙂


2. Pick a Compelling Image

Image Credit: _Lonely_/

Image Credit: _Lonely_/

There's plenty of places to find free, high-quality, compelling images for your book cover. Websites like Unsplash and Pixabay are a great place to start if you're watching your pennies.

Personally, I like Bigstock. I've tried other places, but they're my favorite in terms of the size of their collection, the type of images I look for, and the clear-cut licensing terms. I pay for a month's subscription and download my limit of any and all images I can think of that might apply to current and future projects. So far, I've done that twice, and by the end of this second round, I should have enough images to supply my future book covers for a good long while. 🙂

Now, if you look at the cover for Kill Team, you might think, there's really nothing to it. And you would be correct. It's a very basic cover. Basically one image with typography. You can't get much simpler than that.

What makes the cover work -- I think -- and please comment below if you have feedback, suggestions, comments, or just wish to differ -- is that it's a compelling image. It's really just a few lines, but those few lines add up to an iconic image that everyone around the world can relate to. We all know what flying saucers look like, right?

Not only that, but the color of this particular image is electric and eye-catching. Funnily enough, the digital artist behind this image, "Lonely," did the same image I selected for my first book cover for The Cat Lady, which you'll see next week. I like the way he plays with light in his images, and I'm hoping to find more for the rest of the series.

Abstract UFO background. Illustration contains transparency and blending effects eps 10

With the "UFO" removed.

I definitely feel like I lucked out with this image though. I think I had a concept in my head of combining two images, maybe a silhouette of a special ops soldier in a desert landscape, shooting star or UFO in the background -- ohmahgerd! It's easy to get carried away with cover design concepts, but sometimes simple is better.

My plan was just to erase the word "UFO" on the bottom and continue on with layering the words over it, but once I erased it, I realized the little spotlight beneath the words fit neatly beneath my own book I left it.

If one were to look closely, they could see I didn't do it perfectly. It was hard to erase the bottoms of the letters without skimming the top of that spotlight, but I think it worked out just fine.


3. Use a template.

By KD Cover KitYes, with a little bit of Googling and some patience, I could put together my own template that establishes the size of the cover, the type and placement of typography, and a bunch of other things...or I could just use a template and make my life easier. Plus, working from a template allows you to play with the various elements to see what works and what doesn't in design.

I'm certain there are tons of templates available out there. For my covers, I used a package of templates I purchased from KD Cover Kit. I should point out, I'm not an affiliate, and I don't know the folks running it. I just happened to come across their templates, and I'm pretty happy with the results. They're damn easy to use, and it makes getting started a lot easier.

KillTeamARCI originally started out with this template. It doesn't much look like the final cover, does it? That's okay. Things will change as you get into a project. You won't be able to find the perfect image for your concept, so you'll have to adjust -- or you'll find something better and abandon your first concept. Also, fonts are a still a puzzle to me, and I had problems matching the fonts to the ones used in the I just scrolled through what I had and made it work. Just like life. Lol.

For those of you who are still viewing this whole process with deep suspicion, let me assure you that most of this process is a drag-and-drop situation. True story! I was actually surprised at how easy it is once you get the hang of the controls. I'm hoping to get good enough to Photoshop dancing monarchs into funny kid pictures soon enough.

Just don't be afraid to search for your answers. The truth is out there.

Check it out. This little six-minute video....

...yielded my first 3D book cover. Huzzah! I truly thought doing 3D covers required some sort of special-er software. This took me 10 minutes. Learning this skill gave me superpowers and had me convinced for a full 24-hour period that doing dishes was a waste of my valuable resources. 😉


So I hope this was helpful to y'all. I know it's not a nitty-gritty guide -- nor was it intended to be -- but I hope it encourages those of you who are inclined to DIY and arting around to give it a go yourself. It's great fun! Just remember, you never know until you try.

And if you do try, leave me a link in the comments so we can all look and go, "How pretty!" Seriously! Do that! I love book covers!

Want a free advance reader copy of Kill Team before it goes up for sale? Just enter your email address below, and I'll send you a link where you can download it in .mobi/Kindle, ePUB, or PDF format. 😀




It’s the weekend! Time to relax and spend time with friends and family, and this weekend is shaping up to be a fun one.

I am blessed with an incredible group of friends and family who are awesome in more ways than I can count, but are also obsessively, outrageously, and unapologetically passionate about food. With the summer almost upon us, that means it’s BBQ season! Which means the oven mitts come off to find out who’s the best cook of us all!

So far we’ve had Spam challenges, dairy challenges, potluck challenges, and bring-the-best-sausage-you-can-find challenges. Every time, the stakes are high, the festivities devolve into heated debates about the legitimate use of lobster as an “ingredient,” and everyone wins….cuz we all get to eat.

Check out scenes from our 1st Annual Fry Fest. It was a gas!

I love BBQs in the backyard. It’s a tradition that’s carried over from when we used to have the restaurant, and it’s become an important way for us to connect with our loved ones (and end up with awesome leftovers…mwah ha!).

Our family comes, our friends come, sometimes the family of friends come — they’re all family — the cats skulk around waiting for things to slip from the BBQ tongs, and the kids run around and play underneath the big pecan tree. BBQs make me so happy. 🙂

This weekend we have a new challenge: The Iron Chef – Yo Mama! Whoo hoo! Entries must be from handwritten 50+ year old recipes in celebration of Ninja Jim and Katyusha’s birthdays! Kat will be 2, and Ninja Jim will be…well, old. 😉 (Just kidding, Jim!)

Anyway, make sure to come back tomorrow night to see pictures of the best of the best of Iron Chef – the Yo Mama Challenge!

So what do you guys have cooking this weekend? Anything yummy?



In light of my recent interest in all things extraterrestrial, Fat Cat got me this awesome book, and it is out of this world!

It covers UFO sightings and incidents from around the world. Definitely cool to see how other cultures view UFO phenomena. It never occurred to me what UFO lore is like in, say, Australia or South America. Plus, it’s got killer pictures.

Check this out! It kind of reminds me of a scene from The Calico Junction Incident, my current series in progress. How would you like a bunch of these guys hanging around your house? Brrr!

World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters

From “World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters” by John Spencer ~ Reed Books Limited ~ All Rights Reserved

I love all the old photographs in the book. I find it incredible that UFOs have been around since the Dawn of Man.

And check out the retro scifi book cover in the top right-hand corner in the image below entitled: Flying Saucers Have Landed.

From "World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters" by John Spencer ~ Reed Books Limited ~ All Rights Reserved

From “World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters” by John Spencer ~ Reed Books Limited ~ All Rights Reserved

Can you imagine if that really happened? I wonder how the media would spin it. What would that look on the front page of The Huffington Post or The Los Angeles Times? How quickly would the riots start? (It’s so much fun to think about. Humans are curious lot.)

From "World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters" by John Spencer ~ Reed Books Limited ~ All Rights Reserved

From “World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters” by John Spencer ~ Reed Books Limited ~ All Rights Reserved

I’ve always held a strong fascination for UFO lore, but in researching The Calico Junction Incident, I realize that I actually know very little. Most of what I know come from The X-Files, which actually is not a bad place to start and a damn fine series.

But I’ve been trying to remedy my lack of knowledge by watching alien and UFO documentaries on Netflix (and there are lots to choose from) and, of course, the interwebz, which is rife with some of the most amazing, crazy, and outrageous stories…all of which I find immensely entertaining.

It’s not so much people believing in UFOs that’s entertaining — it’s the crazy fringe culture that has sprung up around that belief. It’s like marijuana culture with the sort of cartoony crackpot hippy fringe vibe — yet, given the number of abduction reports around the world and their striking similarities and the vast number of UFO sightings, it’s difficult to dismiss their validity. Of course, if the government knows anything definitive about the existence of UFOs, they’re not going to talk about it. Last thing any government wants is a populace afflicted with the heebie-jeebies and demanding answers that they probably don’t have.

There are even YouTube channels dedicated to posting recent sightings caught on video, and while there’s quite a few that look straight-up legit, there are some that, while not so legit, are certainly spine-tingling to watch. What if….?

Crazy, huh?

So in the name of research — and because we want to get take pictures of ginormous radio telescopes — my buddy Ninja Jim and I are heading out to the desert next week to take a tour of the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in Ft. Irwin, California, my old stomping grounds.

I asked Fat Cat if he wanted to come, but he’s allergic to road trips…and the desert. (He belongs in more tropic climes.)

What do you expect to find out there? he wanted to know.

I looked him in the eye and said: The truth.


So tell me, Good Reader, do you believe in UFOs? Leave a comment down below. And if you’ve actually seen unexplainable lights in the sky, I definitely want to hear from you. And if you’ve experienced an alien abduction, then I really, really want to hear from you!



This is Kat…my cat. She is just the right amount of naughty.

Dear Handsome Readers,

How the heck are you guys? I hope wonderful.

I’m doing pretty good myself. Life is good, am I right?

So the time has come for me to return to Earth. I have been on many adventures since last we talked story. I have traveled from the Great North to the Tasty South; lost 10 pounds and found it again — twice! (in the Tasty South, natch); earned a dozen new wisdom hairs; and have been adopted by a cat named Kat.

Mostly, though, I’ve been hermitting — hiding out in my smelly old writer’s cave writing and illustrating stories. And today — yes, that’s right, you gorgeous reader you! — today is the day I get to tell you what I’ve been working on!

Shenanigans mostly…but also lots of science fiction, conspiracy theories, and podcasts — oh, my!


So for those of you who don’t know, this past year and a half, I have been writing the show notes for the awesome Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast hosted by the equally awesome and golden-voiced Simon Whistler.

What makes Simon and the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast…well, so rocking is that he conducts in-depth long-form interviews with some of the most creative and successful indie authors working in the space today. Simon really takes the time to delve into their background, drill down into their strategies and techniques, and explore their journey from zero to hero. You’d be hard-pressed to find an indie author, aspiring or otherwise, who hasn’t found inspiration from one of Simon’s interviews.

He’s also been gracious enough to invite me as a guest on the show, a newbie writer! Three times now actually. Isn’t that wild? It’s not what you think though. It’s not because I’m a hero-status author, but the other thing. I’m practically brand-new! A little baby indie author. How cute!

Simon thought it might be something fun, different, and hopefully instructive (Here’s what not to do, little baby indies!) to follow along on my own indie author journey to full-time writer. Hopefully, he’s right and his listeners find our chats to be all those things…because doing these interviews has been all those things for me and more.


It’s kind of crazy how it all happened. He had joked with a guest on the show about needing a podcast assistant, so I emailed him offering to assist, and we’ve been working together since.

It’s been a world-class education for me. I have listened to and written the show notes for almost 70 episodes now, and it’s been eye-opening and incredibly inspiring. Truly, I have worked at and studied harder at this show-notes gig than I ever did in college. I want this writing dream bad.

It’s been more than just a working relationship though. I count Simon as a good friend. Thanks to his kind encouragement, smart advice, and scheduled-in-orange kicks in the pants (yipe!), I am now ready to launch my first series.

– – –

Last summer I wrote The Cat Lady, a stand-alone short story — or so I thought — about a woman living alone in the desert and taking care of — well, she calls them kitties, but they are definitely not kitties. I just wanted to write a fun story that takes place in the desert. I love the desert and I love glowing eyes in the windows at night, so that’s what it was.

Well, Simon read it, liked it very much, and asked when the next one would be out.

What’s that now?  I hemmed and hawed.

What happens to Chris, the guy who gets his leg ripped off?

Me: Huh. I don’t know. I guess I should go find out.

– – –

What I discovered is that The Cat Lady was not, in fact, a stand-alone story at all…but Episode 2 in a six-part episodic alien invasion suspense series called The Calico Junction Incident.

Who knew?

So great! I’m thinking. I’ve got the story all figured out — and it’s a doozy! I’ve got three episodes finished, and I’m jamming pretty fast through the rest of it. At this point, I’m thinking I should start getting together a plan to put these stories out.

Then Simon reminded me it had been six months since we last chatted on the podcast and would it be a good time to catch up?

Well, yes, of course, that would be just lovely, I told him.

But the truth was, I dreaded getting on the show and having to admit I had been bobbing along for the last six months with barely a plan and with only a bunch of half-finished rough drafts and excuses to show for it.

So when Simon asked during our interview what I was up to these days, I told him — and his very smart, very creative, and very large audience of listeners — that I would be launching my series free to my blog readers…starting next week!

Yay! Yeek! Same diff, right?

[You can listen to the madness here, if you enjoy such things. Although, if you’ve read this far, that’s probably a silly question.]

– – –

So every week for the next six weeks, starting this coming Monday, I will be releasing a new episode of The Calico Junction Incident, my six-part episodic alien invasion suspense series that covers the fall-out when a UFO is shot down over the Mojave Desert by special ops soldiers and crash-lands in some lady’s backyard.

Each episode will run 8k-15k words, feature pen-and-ink illustrations by me  :D, and be available as a free download to readers on my mailing list. Any feedback, corrections, suggestions, criticisms, baked goods, or high-fives by Readers will be gratefully acknowledged in the final published ebook that will go live at the end of each week on all the major e-tailers…and of course, contributing Readers will get a copy of that too!

Yup. That’s the plan. (Thanks, Simon! 🙂 )

KillTeam3DSo to kick things off a little early, I’m making Kill Team: Episode Zero of The Calico Junction Incident available for download today! Yay!

That’s right. I’m starting at zero and moving to hero, baby!

So please be sure to come back next week to check out the pen-and-ink illustrations I’m doing for the book, and to let me know what you think about the story or the project, or even swing by just to say hi. I like getting hi’s. 😉

Thanks for reading, guys. I hope you all enjoy the series.

To get your free copy of Kill Team, just enter your email down below, and I’ll send you a link where you can download it in .mobi/Kindle, ePUB, or PDF format. 😀

NaNoWriMo 2015 – Day 2


Solo, my Solo…

A fellow writer and good friend recently expressed his annual lament that if only NaNoWriMo weren’t set during the most busy month of the year. It’s a reasonable lament, I suppose, being that November is wedged right in the middle of the busy holiday season and has a high concentration of birthdays, highly-anticipated box office releases, and coincides with National Desk-Cleaning Month, Daylight Savings Time…plus, all the obligations of everyday life.

But that, I insist, is what makes it a challenge. Further, keeping in mind that I am an individual riddled with chronic optimism, I feel that the busier one is, the more efficient and productive one can become…unless, of course, one lies down belly-up and decides to binge-watch Netflix until the fervor passes. That happens too.

So I figured there was no better way to end my most recent hermitage than to take on an ambitious challenge during this year’s NaNoWriMo. Not only am I going to write as much as I can of my 250,000-word science fiction novella series Pacifica this month (5,952 words in!), but I am going to make art every single day this month and post it here.

Yesterday, I participated in a little Bill Watterson fan love. Today, since dogs feature heavily in my current story I’m writing, I thought I’d pay homage to Solo, the best dog I’ve ever known. He passed away on September 1, 2015, at the ripe old age of 14 and a half, and I still hear him around the house, look for him in his favorite corners, and miss him terribly. (He is also depicted on the cover of not-yet-released Lookaway Dogs, illustrated by my brother Jon, and set in the same science fictional universe, along with the other best dog I’ve ever known, Dixie.)

Dixie, bless her sweet little heart, passed away a few years ago. After her passing, Solo took to traveling with me everywhere. I bought him a safety harness, and he rode in the front seat of the car with me everywhere. I took him on errands, endless hikes, and twice to the ocean, which was just fine by him.


My almost-seven-year-old is all for the art challenge and has sat with me at the dining table the last two days to enthusiastically create art with me. Here’s her version of Solo. They were great friends, those two.


So there you have it. I have emerged from my self-imposed hermitage to make art and share art, and I invite everyone to join us! If you make a painting, a drawing, a sketch, a doodle, share it in the comments or Tweet me. If you, too, want to add writing a novel to the challenge of getting through November in one piece, come be my buddy over at NaNoWriMo; I am known as squishyang, my forbidden Ninja name. We can cheer each other on. 🙂


A naked hula hoop is not much to look at. This lady used to be neon-rainbow-striped with a spiral of glitter in between. The look served her well for many years, but like all favorite outfits, it eventually sprouted loose threads and wore thin on the elbows. It was finally time for new tape! Yay!

I had been waiting for this moment ever since my sis-in-law Em got me this awesome fantastic box of hula hoop tape. This hula hoop has been with me since I took a Hoopnotica class circa 2005 (!), and the tape lasted forever!

For this first attempt, I turned to Lara Eastburn’s handy “Five Simple Tips for Taping a Hoop.”
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I was 15 years old the first time I went to hear Ray Bradbury speak. I rode with a friend and her mom out to a cramped little library in the middle of the desert, to a tiny town called Lucerne Valley. It was so old-school you could still see where they used to park the covered wagons.

And it was packed.

We had to park way out among the Joshua trees and walk like concertgoers through rows of cars up to the brightly-lit library. We wormed our way through excited book nerds and squeezed in, ducking beneath a latticework of elbows until we reached an open spot on the floor near the front, where we sat cross-legged like good little children.

I couldn’t believe it. There he was! In the flesh! Mr. Ray Bradbury, Celebrated Storyteller and National Treasure—the guy who wrote Fahrenheit 451!—with his gleaming white hair, thick black glasses, and the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on a human.

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