Sunday, March 18, 2018

SF Postapocalyptic story collection

I've finished my part the work on my upcoming story collection, Timeless. My proofreader is fairly busy, so it'll be up for pre-order on about April 15 (tax day, in the USA!) and will be available on Kindle Unlimited from at least May 1-July 29 and perhaps longer.

I'm moving right now, first to one place, then to another, and after that to a third, over a period of about three months.

(Why yes, now that you ask, apparently I am totally nuts!)

As a result of that, the blog is likely to be a bit skimpy for a month or two. Wish me luck in finding a dream house (including a tiny house, four acres, mature fruit trees, and a nice south-facing roof for solar panels.)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Oil Apocalypse 4: Parched

Oil Apocalypse 4 is up on preorder at Amazon. The release date is March 22!


It will be on Kindle Unlimited, as is the whole series again.

Thank you so much for reading!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Update on El Faro sinking

Because news has been so crazy this past year, stories like this tend to sink under the rough seas of the news cycle. But I posted about it when it happened, wondering why they'd kept steering into the hurricane, and here's the NTSB press release of six weeks ago on it, verbatim. RIP, crew

​WASHINGTON (Dec. 12, 2017) — The deadliest shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than 30 years was caused by a captain’s failure to avoid sailing into a hurricane despite numerous opportunities to route a course away from hazardous weather, the National Transportation Safety Board announced during a public meeting Tuesday.

The 790-foot, cargo vessel, S.S. El Faro, en route from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, sank Oct. 1, 2015, in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Joaquin, taking the lives of all 33 aboard.

“We may never understand why the captain failed to heed his crew’s concerns about sailing into the path of a hurricane, or why he refused to chart a safer course away from such dangerous weather,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt.  “But we know all too well the devastating consequences of those decisions.”

NTSB investigators worked closely with the U.S. military and federal- and private-sector partners to locate the wreckage, photo- and video-document the ship and related debris field, and recover the El Faro’s voyage data recorder from more than 15,000 feet under the surface of the sea.

The ship departed Florida Sept. 29, 2015, and had a range of navigation options that would have allowed it to steer clear of the storm that later became a Category 4 hurricane.  The captain, consulting outdated weather forecasts and ignoring the suggestions of his bridge officers to take the ship farther south and away from the storm, ordered a course that intersected with the path of a hurricane that pounded the ship with 35-foot seas and 100 mph winds.

As the ship sailed into the outer bands of the storm, about five hours prior to the sinking, its speed decreased and it began to list to starboard due to severe wind and seas.  In the last few hours of the voyage, the crew struggled to deal with a cascading series of events, any one of which could have endangered the ship on its own.

Seawater entered the ship through cargo loading and other openings on a partially enclosed deck in the ship’s hull, pooled on the starboard side and poured through an open hatch into a cargo hold.  The hold began to fill with seawater, and automobiles in the hold broke free of lashings and likely ruptured a fire main pipe that could have allowed thousands of gallons of seawater per minute into the ship – faster than could be removed by bilge pumps.

About 90 minutes before the sinking the listing ship lost its propulsion and was unable to maneuver, leaving it at the mercy of the sea.  Although the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship when the sinking was imminent, the crew’s chances of survival were significantly reduced because El Faro was equipped with life rafts and open uncovered lifeboats, which met requirements but were ineffective in hurricane conditions.

The NTSB also said that the poor oversight and inadequate safety management system of the ship’s operator, TOTE, contributed to the sinking.

“Although El Faro and its crew should never have found themselves in such treacherous weather, that ship was not destined to sink,” said Sumwalt.  “If the crew had more information about the status of the hatches, how to best manage the flooding situation, and the ship’s vulnerabilities when in a sustained list, the accident might have been prevented.”

As a result of the 26-month long investigation, the NTSB made 29 recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, two to the Federal Communications Commission, one to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, nine to the International Association of Classification Societies, one to the American Bureau of Shipping, one to Furuno Electric Company and 10 to TOTE Services.

The complete accident report will be available in several weeks.  The executive summary, including the findings, probable cause and safety recommendations is available at

Additional information related to this investigation, including news releases, photographs, videos, and a link to the accident docket containing more than 30,000 pages of factual material, is available on the El Faro accident investigation page at

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Almost done with Oil Apocalypse #4

I wanted to update you on what I'm up to these days. I'm proofreading Oil Apocalypse #4, Parched, and I'll turn it over to the pro proofreader on March 1. I think I should be able to get it out around March 20 with a three-week pre-order period.

I'm not 100% sure where to go from there in the tale. I had outlined a book 5, but it was going to be a terribly bleak story, and I'm not in the mood to do that at this moment. (It gets harder to kill characters the longer I live with them!) So now I'm dithering. (You can stop at book 3, or you can stop at book 4, and it should feel like a complete series, no matter what I end up saying in book 5.)

I have a related series planned for longer after the end of oil, hundreds of years later, with a distant descendant of Sierra in the lead role. Have you ever seen the TV shows about Life After Humans? (there are two or three.) This fascinates me, how humans might be rebuilding while around them, there is rusting steel from collapsed bridges, crumbled skyscrapers, and other old tech that still exists, doesn't work, and creates something of a puzzle for the survivors. I've done quite a bit of reading about simple tech--building a wooden windmill to grind grain, blacksmithing, and so on. I plan to write that three-book series in 2019...unless some new, shiny idea jumps up, raises its hand, and demands to be noticed.

Ideas, by the way, are never my problem. I have files stuffed with ideas for novels, stories, and probably a dozen first chapters that wouldn't make half-bad books were I to continue them. I woke up a month ago with two great ideas for books I'll probably never have time to write. I'm an idea factory! The difficulty is in choosing between them, finding something I believe my fans will like but that won't bore me by being too similar to what I've already written.

In personal news, I'm moving halfway across the country in March, with the dates not yet set in stone (partly because of weather). What this means is that I might not be able to blog every single Sunday in March and April, but I'll get some articles up on some Sundays.

For those of you looking forward to spring, enjoy the weather, and for those of you entering autumn soon, enjoy the end of the awful heat you probably have had. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018


(This is a reprint of an article I wrote three years ago.)

Arguably the most famous of volcanic eruptions was the Krakatoa eruption in Indonesia. In the last week of August, 134 years ago, the volcano entered its final phase of eruption, an event that had been building for six months. With a force much more powerful than any nuclear weapon ever detonated, its final eruption sent an ash plume 50 miles into the air and burst the eardrums of people 40 miles away. It was heard clearly in Australia, Manilla, and in islands just west of Madagascar, and the shock wave was recorded on barographs as it swept around the world seven times.

Over 36,000 people died. Pyroclastic flow killed islanders nearby, and a hot rain of ash and stone killed more people 30 miles off. The following tsunami resulted in most of the deaths, and some argue that it caused well over 50,000 deaths not included in the 36,000 figure.

For months afterwards, there were spectacular sunsets from the particulates in the air, as well as changes to weather that lasted five years.

If you had been hanging out on the planet Mars at the time, you would have seen the Earth get--and remain for years--considerably brighter as the particulates increased the albedo of the planet's atmosphere.

Westerners living in the area or sailing nearby took notes that reached newspapers on the other side of the globe quickly. It was the first natural disaster that was reported so quickly, and widely. We take this for granted today, but the technologies for communication were new then.

While not the biggest volcanic eruption in the past 1000 years, it happened when communication and science technologies had progressed to such a point that its importance to the science of volcanology could hardly be overstated. It also revealed to meteorologists new information about high-level winds.

In 2003, Simon Winchester wrote a terrific non-fiction book about it, well worth reading if you're as into natural disasters as I am. Also, you could mosey on over to youtube and look for uploaded TV specials on the topic