Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Hunting Ground of BLACK KACHINA


Rising abruptly from the desert floor, the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument reaches an elevation of 10,834 feet at the summit of Mount San Jacinto. Providing a picturesque backdrop to local communities, the National Monument significantly contributes to the Coachella Valley's lure as a popular resort and retirement community. It is also a desirable backcountry destination that can be accessed via trails from both the valley floor and the alpine village of Idyllwild.

The National Monument’s boundary encompasses about 272,000 acres, including 65,000 acres within the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, and 89,500 acres within the Bureau of Land Management’s California Desert Conservation Area. The National Monument includes two federal Wilderness Areas: the Santa Rosa Wilderness which contains 61,600 acres of BLM and Forest Service lands, and 19,470 acres of the Forest Service’s San Jacinto Wilderness. Its boundary also surrounds lands owned and administered by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, California Department of Parks and Recreation, California Department of Fish and Game, other agencies of the State of California, and private landowners. An advisory committee comprised of individuals representing various jurisdictions and interests makes recommendations that help guide management of the National Monument.

The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument was established by an Act of Congress on October 24, 2000 “in order to preserve the nationally significant biological, cultural, recreational, geological, educational, and scientific values found in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains and to secure now and for future generations the opportunity to experience and enjoy the magnificent vistas, wildlife, land forms, and natural and cultural resources in these mountains and to recreate therein” (Public Law 106-351). Establishment of the National Monument reflects the vision of local citizens and national leaders to ensure this special landscape is protected for all time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Visit the Borrego Badlands in BLACK KACHINA


To the heart of southern California's Borrego Badlands, scientists come from all over the world to study millions of years worth of geologic and paleontologic history. According to Desert USA's website, the "stark desert landscape (features) conglomerates, sandstones, claystones and mudstones, compressed and hardened, (and) chronicles a variety of landscapes, fossil life forms and climates that no longer exist at Anza-Borrego."

This view from Font's Point was described by Father Pedro Font in his 1775-76 diaries as "sweepings of the earth." Father Font was the chaplain on Spanish explorer Juan Baustista de Anza's expeditions in the area.

Anybody can get lost in these rugged and dangerous Borrego Badlands.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Still More Stuff from BLACK KACHINA

The All-American Canal carries water from the Colorado River to half a million acres of prime farmland in California's Imperial Valley, and is nine desert cities' only source of water. For much of its eighty miles, the aqueduct runs parallel to California's border with Mexico, and since 1997, more than 550 people have drowned trying to swim across.

Some people south of the border believe the canal was constructed purposefully as a trap, although the revenue of 500,000 prime acres seems a more probable incentive than killing would-be immigrants. Fruits and vegetables are raised in the desert here all year round. But many citizens on both sides of the border would like the US to somehow make it safer.

The water moves dangerously fast. As the largest irrigation canal in the world, the All-American Canal transports more than 26,000 cubic feet of Rocky Mountain runoff per SECOND. Agricultural runoff from the All American Canal drains into the Salton Sea.

And if you're wondering what the lighter area around the Salton Sea might be, it is the outline of ancient Lake Cahuilla, a body of fresh water created over and over again by the Colorado River.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

More Stuff from Black Kachina


Naval Air Facility El Centro (NAFEC) is located in the heart of Southern California's Imperial Valley. It is a two hour drive from San Diego and Palm Springs, one hour from Yuma, AZ, and fifteen minutes from the Mexican border. With our year-round great flying weather and the proximity of several instrumented bombing ranges, NAFEC provides a singularly unique training environment that is appreciated around the world.

The proximity to ranges, ability to accurately simulate night field carrier landing practice and the harsh desert environment are capitalized on not only by Navy pilots, but also by pilots from all branches of the services as well as NATO allies. The ranges are a critical piece in the training cycle and one of the few places left where pilots can “train like they fight” to deliver ordnance to ground targets and are a vital part of the Southern California training complex.

Our mission is to ensure victory in combat through the superior training of our war fighters.

Our vision is to provide the highest quality facilities, services and products to the Naval Aviation community and all organizations using Naval Air Facility El Centro.

Thanks, ladies and gents of the U.S. Armed Forces. We appreciate what you do.

Friday, September 9, 2011

More Stuff in TFA's Thriller, BLACK KACHINA

In this satellite shot of Baha California and the Gulf of California (also called the Sea of Cortez) please note how the gulf's top seems to have been filled in with sand. Where did you think the Colorado River deposited all that dirt from the Grand Canyon? The gulf's water used to extend past Palm Springs, although that was so long ago, a few sabertooth tigers were probably still around. The blue oblong mark near the top of today's sand pile is California's Salton Sea, the surface of which is 200 feet below sea level. The border with Mexico is just to the south.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Non-Noir Entertainment

Dead Head (Dirty Business, #3)Dead Head by Rosemary Harris
Ms. Harris is a wonderfully entertaining writer, and you will love DEAD HEAD if you enjoy hanging out with odd but appealing characters and laughing out loud. The protagonist Paula -- a financially challenged landscaper -- has a tongue sharp enough to fell trees, knows where to kick aggressive males, and owns a very funny view of the world. You will grin, giggle, and occassionally spit over her comments. Here's one that made everyone stare at me on the airplane: "She made disparaging remarks about my hair and alleged cup size. It went further south from there...still I stayed on the line. I was fascinated by her lung capacity. Perhaps she was a swimmer?"

Paula's sidekick Babe owns the Paradise Diner, and Babe's comments, straightforward attitude, and kind wisdom make your smile widen whenever the story turns back to the hangout. Ms. Harris's series (this is number three) gets lumped into that popular "hobby cozy" sub-genre because Paula is a gardener, but not so you'd notice. Ms. H will work her magic regardless of your assumed tastes.

If you've had enough of Janet Evanovich's same ol' same ol' plots, try Ms. Harris. Rosemary is also funnier.

Friday, August 19, 2011

BLACK KACHINA

With both hands, I lifted Nataska’s mask from the blanket and pulled the Black Ogre’s likeness over my wounded face. A new current of dark strength raced through me, as if the black spirit flowed directly into my heart. I took comfort in the darkness, the cover such a screen provided my inner feelings, perhaps my soul. This was natural. All living things must have a black kachina to go to, a killing spirit of fierceness when they are attacked.

When I looked around in my life, I saw that everything in this world both ate and was eaten. Nature sought us out for slaughter, and staying alive on this earth meant protecting your darkness. We each needed the ability to wage personal war, to struggle for our lives. To run AND to fight.

While the white man and half the world criticized me, saw me as villain, I knew I fought for my people, my culture, myself. I fought for all the forgotten people everywhere in this harsh world. A place where everything is still eaten alive.

I have reached inside my black kachina, mined a vein of lust to kill the white man. I have done it because I must.

And with the determination of a desperate man, I light the candle. I care not if the fire engulfs us all.

A complete manuscript is available from TFA's agent, Grace Morgan. BLACK KACHINA is a 70,000 word thriller.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

TFA Dumps Me for a Doll

So yesterday I'm sitting around the house, thinking up a new adventure for myself and Luis, when the phone rings. It's The Famous Author. To my shock and horror, he says, "Sorry, Austin. You're on the back burner for a while. There's this scary kachina character that needs my attention."

Ok, ok. I've been through this before. First it was Mama Bones with her own series. Then TFA said she was taking over my blog. Ha. I've heard this kachina stuff before, too. TFA has been whacking away at this story for years, actually writing the first sentences back in 2004 at some Oregon writers retreat with people like Elizabeth, Lorin, and Roman. They had me down in the mold-infested basement.

So when TFA says I'm on the back burner, I know better. He can't write anything but Screwball Mysteries. I put the hard squeeze on him. "Come on, TFA, who are you kidding? Has anybody read this kachina story yet?"

"Well, yes. A famous newspaper book reviewer read the first 50 pages and said it was awesome. My beta readers said it was the best thing I've ever done. And yesterday, the agent said this book was "going to make both of us some money."

"She always says that."

"Not really. In fact, she thinks stockbrokers are about as saleable as spoiled milk. You're a pariah, Austin."

"So who's the star of this new book? Your agent?"

"Ha. Nope. This is a story about a guy who dresses up like Nataska, The Black Ogre, and then wrecks havoc on Southern California."

"Sounds boring."

"My agent doesn't think so. Says we're hitting three NY thriller publishers with it next week."

"Phooey."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chilling Bluegrass in Prose Form

The Famous Author loved Scott Montgomery's review so much, he made me steal one of the best lines and print it here: "An album of chilling blue grass tunes in prose form."

If you want to read the whole review of Frank Bill's CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA STORIES, you'll have to go to the website of this Austin, Texas bookstore (and community) where Scott's review and Pick of the Month was featured in the newsletter. Read another review that compares Mr. Bill to -- gasp! -- Cormac McCarthy.

Clicking on my blog's headline works, too.

TFA says Farrar, Straus and Giroux doesn't print everybody's short stories. Perhaps we should have a look. Heck, if we can get TFA to spring for the cash, we might even buy a copy from this nice Texas bookstore.

TFA and other short story writers ought to at least take a peek at the style and wit that landed a top agent and then this FSG contract. Sounds like Frank Bill has provided TFA and other fiction-hacks with an entertaining form of education.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Spiral Piece of Mystery


This spiral galaxy lies in the constellation Ursa Major, about 46 million light-years from Earth. The orbiting Hubble Space Telescope snapped this photo of the galaxy NGC 2841, one of several chosen for a new study to observe stellar nurseries. Newborn stars are bright blue.

CREDIT: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration; M. Crockett and S. Kaviraj (Oxford University, UK), R. O'Connell (Univ. of Virginia), B. Whitmore (STScI) and the WFC3 Scientific Oversight Committee.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Protagonist Inside

Dear Publishing Company Acquisition Editor (you probably don't know who you are):

My name is Austin Carr. I'm a fictional stockbroker buried deep in your slush pile, dropped there last year by my hard-working, persistent agent. She's about given up on you (and me) and last week suggested I ought to think hard about self-publishing, adding my third adventure to the two that were published in 2007 and 2008. She says nobody likes stockbrokers. I'm a pariah.

Well, sor -- rey! I was just trying to make a living, and my boss said those collateralized default swaps and mortgage-backed bonds were golden investments. How was I supposed to know they loaned money to a bunch of deadbeats? But the truth is, all those bad investments that bankrupt our country and wiped out TFA's retirement income also made for great fiction. Think of all those angry customers. What conflict!

Anyway, Ms. PCAE, could you please just take a quick look at BIG MOJO down there? It has more laughs than a Conan O'Brien show, a great insider trading plot, and a knife-fight between Luis the bartender and a bad guy that'll make your knees quiver. Take a peek, will ya? I'd really rather not do this alone.

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Resource for Mystery Writers

Hey there, Austin Carr fans.

My name is Tom Adair and I am a retired, internationally recognized, forensic scientist/CSI in Colorado. I am contacting writers of mystery/crime thrillers to let them know I have recently launched an informative blog called FORENSICS4FICTION.

I thought you and other mystery/crime writers you know might be interested in the information. I make an effort to explain the basics of forensics for authors of all experience levels. I have just started a section on historical forensics, and soon will be adding some fun categories for the science fiction and fantasy/paranormal writers as
well.

I love to answer questions about forensics and law enforcement in general so feel free to fire away if the need arises. Thanks for your consideration.

Thanks, Tom. Consider the word passed around. We've been to the site and found much to read. Check it out.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Redhead of the Week Has Cold Feet

Emily Samuelson is a 21-year-old American ice dancer, the 2009 U.S. silver medalist, the 2009 Four Continents bronze medalist, and the 2008 World Junior Champion. Her male partner is some guy named Bates.

Emily was born in Southfield, Michigan and currently lives and trains in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She graduated from Novi High School in spring of 2008 and entered the University of Michigan that fall. She began skating at age five, competed in single skating through the Intermediate level and tested up to the Novice level in the USFSA testing structure. When she was nine, her coach, Karen Lingenfelter, recommended that she try ice dancing, and Sameulson briefly paired up with Lingenfelter's son Kurt and competed with him a local competition.

She began competing with Evan Bates at the Juvenile level in 2000 when they were paired up by their coach Gary Clark. At the 2001–2002 U.S. Junior Championships, they won the intermediate national title.

Thanks Emily and Wikipedia.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dave County Headlines Debut Publication

Speedloader is the debut title of Snubnose Press.

From the trenches of WWI to the abandoned rowhomes of Baltimore; From a rural charnel house to the Texas-Mexican border these six stories explore the dark heart of crime fiction today. All for 99 cents!

Speedloader features stories of…

…revenge that will challenge you to a game of uncle that you may not win and will haunt those who are able to finish it.


…clashing motives on the Texas Mexico border
…a slide into an alcoholic haze
…a struggle with the weight of a personal choice when confronted with the sins of the past
…getting caught up in actions far beyond one’s control
…small crimes covered up and lost amidst larger forces

Speedloader is six stories slammed home and ready to kill

With all new, original stories from Richard Thomas, Nik Korpon, Nigel Bird, newcomer WD County and Spinetingler Award winners Matthew C Funk and Jonathan Woods.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

OMEX Reaching New Highs

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (OMEX0 is engaged in archaeologically sensitive exploration and recovery of shipwrecks worldwide. It employs advanced technology, including side-scan sonar, magnetometers, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and other advanced technology that enables the Company to locate and recover shipwrecks. It's wholly owned subsidiaries include Odyssey Marine, Inc., Odyssey Marine Services, Inc., OVH, Inc., Odyssey Retriever, Inc. and Odyssey Marine Entertainment, Inc. In November 2009, Odyssey acquired a 25% interest in SMM Project LLC.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Big Bird Eats Wolves


The Golden Eagle is an awesome bird. AKA Aquila chrysaetos, this bird of prey exists across Eurasia, North America, and parts of Africa, the highest density of nesters right now being in Alameda County, California.

Powerful talons allow the eagle to catch and kill rabbits, foxes, cats, goats, and young deer. According to Wikipedia, "The Eurasian subspecies is used to hunt and kill wolves in many native communities, where their status is regarded with great mystic reverence."

Wing spans can reach eight freaking feet. They nest in cliffs, trees, or telephone poles.

Watch out up there in Alameda!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The World Could Change Today

Another ho-hum shuttle launch today? Not so ho-hum, it turns out. SPACE.com reports the US is launching a bus-size collector of cosmic rays. Nobody has much of a clue what it might catch out there in space. But you can bet whatever we DO discover will change life on earth. Clara Moskowitz's full story can be read HERE.

By Clara Moskowitz
SPACE.com Senior Writer

When the space shuttle Endeavour lifts off one last time on Monday, it won't just be the culmination of the orbiter's career. It will also bring to fruition a 15-year, $2 billion quest to launch a device called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to space.


The bus-size Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) is an astrophysics experiment that will use a magnet to detect cosmic ray particles. These particles could include bizarre antimatter or other exotic species that scientists hope will shed light on some of the greatest mysteries of the universe, such as the puzzling dark matter thought to pervade space.

SPACE.com spoke to AMS's principal investigator Samuel Ting, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

SPACE.com: What question do you most hope the experiment will answer?

Ting: For us as experimental physicists, the most important thing to realize is really, now you are entering a new domain where people have not carefully explored before. What we really will see, nobody will know, because you open the door into a new region.

SPACE.com: How likely is it that AMS will find dark matter?

Ting: For experimentalists, the most important thing is to not offer bias. My opinion and your opinion is the same. Unless you do observations, you will not know. Physics doesn't depend on vote.

SPACE.com: Why should people care about dark matter and antimatter?

Ting: The difference between humans and animals is curiosity. It's curiosity that drives a physicist forward to search for the unknown. Let me give you another reason. A hundred years ago, the frontier of science is the discovery of electrons, and the discovery of X-rays. At that time, nobody cares. It's only from 1930s onward people know you can use for medicine, you can use for doing electronics. In 1920s, 1930s, the frontier of science is quantum mechanics, quantum physics. At that time people asked the same question, how do we benefit from this? Now, your IT, your telephone, your television, almost everything in daily life, is from the work around 1930s.

SPACE.com: Will you open a bottle of champagne?

Ting: To start with, I don't drink. It's very important to be very calm, to know that your ability is limited, to do it slowly and carefully. Not jump up and down.

Read the whole story and interview HERE.
You can follow SPACE.com Senior Writer Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcomand on Facebook.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spinetingler Gets Anthony Nomination!

Winners of this year's Anthony Awards will be announced at Bouchercon in St. Louis, but today the nominees were announced and TFA's own Spinetingler Magazine was nominated for Best Website/Blog. These are fan nominations, kinda like The Peoples Award. TFA is very proud to be working for Spinetingler and it's founder, Ms. Sandra Ruttan.

Here we are, named with the best websites in crime and mystery:

Jen's Book Thoughts - Jen Forbus
The Rap Sheet - J. Kingston Pierce
Sirens of Suspense - Chantelle Aimée Osman
Spinetingler - Sandra Ruttan
Stop. You're Killing Me - Surber/Ulrich

Okay, you know what's next. If you're going, vote for us.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Redhead of the Week Works Downstairs

This lady's name is Rose Eleanor Arbuthnot-Leslie, our Redhead of the Week.

Rose is 24, Scottish, and learned acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She appeared in the role of Gwen, a housemaid, in 2010 in the British television series, Downtown Abbey. Last fall, she appeared at the Globe Theatre in Nell Leyshon’s play Bedlam. Thanks to Wikipedia and Anne O'Dyne.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Austin Runs to Prague

The Famous Author here, checking in to report that my fictional stockbroker Austin Carr has turned up in the Czech Republic after disappearing for more than a week. I'm not sure when he's going to blog again, so I'll have to fill in when I can. If all of this seems too strange, go with it a minute. You're going to like where Austin went last night. Here's a taste:

"In Prague at the intimate Rekomondo record shop and bookstore, Eugene S. Robinson will be reading from his latest book, A Long Slow Screw."

Sounds like exactly the kind of literature Austin would enjoy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Music Academy Screws Up This Year

Maybe you missed the news because they never show the VIDEO OF THE YEAR award on the television show, but my buddy Roman White should have won the top prize for film at last nights Academy of Country Music annual awards show. Roman directed 'Hillbilly Bone' by Blake Shelton, and featuring Trace Adkins.

His video lost to Miranda Lambert's, who led the 46th Annual Academy Awards winners with three trophies: Top Female Vocalist, Single of the Year and Video of the Year for her huge hit, 'The House That Built Me.' But it's our pal who makes the news around here. Go Roman! You definitely should have won like you did a couple of years ago for that cheatin' song by Carrie Underwood.

Check out Roman's incredible website here.

"Born and raised in a small suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, Roman White enjoyed a childhood filled with imaginative adventures, including his rise to world-renowned Bigfoot hunter. As an adult, he continues to use his penchant for the unordinary in his writing, directing and artistic endeavors," says his website.

"Working with such artists as Reba McEntire, Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus and Alan Jackson, Roman has been nominated for eleven Emmy awards and has taken home three in addition to winning CMT’s Director of the Year for 2007 as well as the 2007 ACM Award for Best Music Video along with numerous other industry honors for his directing and special effects work in television and film. He most recently directed all nine music videos for American Idol winner Carrie Underwood, including the number one video of the year for “Before He Cheats.” Roman is also hard at work on his first feature film documentary titled Big Boned and his first feature film PRIMAL."

Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's Baseball Season!


The Famous Author and I are staying home today. (Like we ever go anywhere). The 2011 Major League Baseball season starts today -- the 111th involving both the American and National Leagues. The Yankees begin their drive for a championship after last year's loss to Texas in the ALCS.

This is the first time a season has started on a Thursday since 1976. The season ends Wednesday, September 28, with the All-Star Game set for Chase Field in Phoenix July 12. The 2011 World Series is scheduled to begin on October 19, and will end no later than October 28, says our source for all the above, Wikipedia.

Hey, B, where's the popcorn?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Win $1,000 for Your 20,000-word Mystery

Some devoted fans of Rex Stout and his character Nero Wolfe -- they call themselves The Wolfe Pack -- sent The Famous Author an announcement this weekend, and while TFA seems disinterested, I can tell you the news has me thinking.

Do you smell smoke?

Mr. Wolfe wasn't the kindest of souls, but first, here's the announcement: The Wolfe Pack/Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine's annual Black Orchid Novella Contest is underway. The deadline is May 31, 2011. The winner receives $1,000 and publication in AHMM. We'd welcome your submissions.

Details are at The Wolfe Pack's den, but here's the Contest Entry Qualifications:

Each entry must be an original unpublished work of fiction that conforms to the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series.
The mystery should be "traditional" in flavor.

The crime must be solved using the deductive abilities of the sleuth. No coincidences.

The killer must be known to the victim. No random pycho shootings.

The characters (male or female) must have an engaging relationship.

There needs to be some wit.

The timing could be retro or current.

There should be no explicit sex or violence.

The detective could be a professional or amateur.

The setting could be NYC or Boston or wherever.

We're not looking for anything derivative of the Nero Wolfe character, milieu, etc.

Fer-de-Lance, Stout's first Nero Wolfe novel, appeared in 1934, according to The Pack's website bio. "More than seventy other Nero Wolfe books and stories followed. During World War II, Rex Stout waged a personal campaign against Nazism as chairman of the War Writers Board, master of ceremonies of the radio program, "Speaking of Liberty," and member of several national committees.

After the war, he resumed writing Nero Wolfe novels. In 1959 he won the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award. Rex Stout died October 27, 1975 at the age of 88. A month before his death, he published the final Nero Wolfe book, A Family Affair."

So why am I, Austin Carr, interested in The Wolfe Pack's novella contest? I've never written anything but bad checks. Well, I met this young lady at Pazzo's in Red Bank last night. Happened to mention I was a character in my own series. You know. It just slipped out. Anyway, it turns out this fiery-haired woman named Lorraine is a writer, and she has this novella. It starts out like this:

Men were trouble, dead or alive.

I'm Never Going Shopping Again

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Barry, Amanda -- I'm Confused


For more than $1 million, self-publishing genius Amanda Hocking is looking to go legit.

Ace thriller author Barry Eisler says he turned down $500,000 to self publish.

Plus, Barry was In Menlo Park this week talking to The Famous Author's ex-wife. Dude, we need to talk.

I am very confused.

Scott Kline took the photo.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What is the NRO Up to Now?

By Denise Chow
SPACE.com Staff Writer


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A new U.S. spy satellite soared into the sunset sky above Florida yesterday on a clandestine mission to preserve national security.

The satellite launched into space atop an unmanned Delta 4 rocket that lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:38 p.m. EST. High-altitude winds above the Air Force station's Launch Complex 37 delayed the satellite's launch by nearly a half hour, but cleared in time for a dazzling twilight blastoff.

Rocket launch provider United Launch Alliance orchestrated the satellite's trip to orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office. The Chantilly, Va.-based NRO is responsible for the design, construction and operation of the country's network of intelligence-gathering spy satellites.

"This mission helps ensure that crucial NRO resources will continue to strengthen our national defense," said Col James Ross, 45th Space Wing vice commander, in statement released by the Air Force Space Command.

The new satellite is part of the military's national defense program. Due to the classified nature of the mission, which is formally known as NROL-27, very few additional details about the launch or the satellite's purpose are publicly released. The mission went into a media blackout shortly after its successful liftoff.

"Congratulations to the NRO and to all the mission partners involved in this critical national security launch," Jim Sponnick, ULA's vice president of mission operations, said in a statement. "Our launch team understands the importance that these missions play in protecting our freedoms and supporting our brave men and women deployed around the world."

The liftoff comes less than a week after the U.S. Air Force launched its second secret X-37B space plane on a similarly hush-hush mission. That spacecraft lifted off on March 5 atop an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket, also provided by ULA.

Since September, five different NRO satellites have been launched into orbit, including today's. On Nov. 21, a Delta 4 Heavy booster – the United States' biggest unmanned rocket currently in service – delivered a huge spy satellite into space. The rocket used in today's launch is considered a medium-class version of the Delta 4 Heavy, officially a Delta 4 M+(4,2), according to Spaceflight Now.

"We have had an amazing five successful launches in the past 12 months, two in 2010 and three this year. I am looking forward to the launch of NROL-34 in April, which will conclude our most aggressive launch schedule in over two decades," Air Force Col. Alan Davis, director of the NRO's Office of Space Launch, after the successful liftoff.

The sixth NRO satellite is slated to launch April 12 on an Atlas 5 rocket out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

A Delta 4 rocket stands 205 feet (62.5 meters) tall and is made up of one main booster with two small solid rocket boosters strapped to its side.

The rocket is built and launched by the United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. It made its first flight in 2002 and is capable of launching payloads of up to 13.5 tons into low-Earth orbit and 6.6 tons toward the geosynchronous orbits used by communications satellites.

This is the third launch of the year for United Launch Alliance, and the 16th flight of the Delta 4 family of rockets.

You can follow SPACE.com Staff Writer Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Don't Miss JUSTIFIED Tonight

Like The Famous Author, myself, and at least half the men in America, USA Today's TV Ace Robert Bianco is a fan of JUSTIFIED, the hit, hot, new FX television show based on a novella by Elmore Leonard.

"Looking for great acting rather than singing? (Bianco also likes American Idol) Look no further than yet another fabulously entertaining episode of Justified (FX, 10 ET/PT), which offers a tour de force of terrific TV acting, along with its quota of twists, jolts and shocks."

Bianco continues; "Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) follows the trail of some bad checks, while Boyd (Walton Goggins) deals with his scheming co-workers and Maggs (Margo Martindale) disciplines her wayward children."

Thanks, Robert. We'll be tuning in tonight as well. Shoot'em Ray!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lacrimating Today

Crying (also known as sobbing, wailing, weeping, bawling, or blubbering) is shedding tears as a response to an emotional state in humans, says Wikipedia. The act of crying has been defined as "a complex secretomotor phenomenon characterized by the shedding of tears from the lacrimal apparatus, without any irritation of the ocular structures."

The medical term for this is to lacrimate, which also refers to non-emotional shedding of "tears". A neuronal connection between the lacrimal gland (tear duct) and the areas of the human brain involved with emotion was established. No other animals are thought to produce tears in response to emotional states, although this is disputed by some scientists.

In many cultures, Wikipedia goes on, it is more socially acceptable for women and children to cry, and less socially acceptable for men to cry. Tears produced during emotional crying have a chemical composition which differs from other types of tears. They contain significantly greater quantities of the hormones prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, Leu-enkephalin and the elements potassium and manganese.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Charlie Gets Shut Down

"All those people told me to clean it up. Well, this is me, cleaning the f--k up. F--k you!"

Stranger Than Fiction

So The Famous Author saw this picture on Facebook yesterday -- the old prospector's name is Clark -- and TFA remembered a story from four decades ago, a story so strange, he has refused to repeat it the last three. No one ever believed it, he said. Why make a fool of himself by standing up for the Truth?

I don't know about you, but I had to hear the tale after that. I wanted to make up my own mind about whether to believe it or not. Let's face it. TFA has been known to exaggerate. And so late last night, after several large tequila sours, our friend the bozo author said something like this:

"Clark and his wife lived in San Francisco. My wife and I were visiting for a week from Los Angeles, staying with them. Since the wives were ditching us all day anyway, Clark and I decided to go salmon fishing on the spur of the moment. Figuring we'd rent everything we'd need, we jumped in his truck and took off north on Highway 101.

"Late that afternoon, maybe six or eight hours of driving, we reach the Klamath River. It's in California, but almost Oregon. The river banks are elbow-to-elbow with guys in waders and poles. The river inself looks like the Yankees parking lot on a game day, packed with rowboats.

"Clark and I decide to have a drink, figure out what the heck we're gonna do, maybe find out where to rent stuff. We order a cocktail. Clark suggests we play a hand of dice poker to see who pays. He rolls. I roll. I pay. I pay and I pay and I pay. Twenty-two carefully measured rounds later, I have no money. I have paid for forty-four shots of scotch and bourbon.

"I don't remember much after that. Clark took me to a party. He knew people up there (maybe the bartender?). I slept in a corner until he drove us home in the morning. We told the wives we gave away all the salmon we caught to some poor hungry kids."

Austin's Note: Top this with a true story in the comments section, I'll have TFA send you a signed book -- his, or maybe Dennis Lehane, S.J. Rozen, Jeffrey Cohen, Chris Grabenstein, and others. He has a few.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Murphy



FOUR FEET

I have done mostly what men do,
And pushed it out of my mind;
But I can't forget, if I wanted to,
Four-Feet trotting behind.

Day after day, the whole day through--
Wherever my road inclined--
Four-Feet said, 'I am coming with you!'
And trotted along behind.

Now I must go by some other round--
Which I shall never find--
Some where that does not carry the sound
Of Four-Feet trotting behind.
--- Rudyard Kipling

Monday, February 14, 2011

Another Broken Heart

The Famous Author never tells me anything, and being a fictional character, it's pretty hard to read newspapers or watch television. So it was a shock and a surprise to learn this morning that ... gasp ... Shania Twain has remarried, and if you don't believe me, just click on the link to see pictures.

I don't know who the guy is. His name starts with a T.

Bastard. Swept Shania off her feet before I even had a chance. If TFA had only found a home for my novels, gotten numbers three and four out there, I know Shania would have fallen for me. I know it. I mean, come on, look at that picture in the sidebar. Don't I remind you of that actor, Johnny Depp? Shania would have rolled in a second.

Alas, my dream must again be placed on hold. Married chicks hold no interest. I feel like saying, "Here's hoping this one doesn't last as long as your marriage to Snuffy, or Sticky, or whatever his name was," but I don't mean it, Shania. I want only happiness for you.
Love, Austin

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

JUSTIFIED's Second Season Tonight!

Tonight. 10 pm Eastern and Pacific. FX Networks. JUSTIFIED begins it's second season. I cannot wait.

Timothy Olyphant (Remember DEADWOOD?) stars as Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens, a character created by none other than our favorite fiction ace, Elmore Leonard.
Givens is a character returning to his home town in Harlan County, Kentucky, packing Elmore's favorite kind of justice -- swift and terrible.

Last year ended in a wild gun fight that killed Bo Crowder, and this year, the creeps, including the drug-dealing Bennett Clan, led by Mags Bennett (Dexter's Margo Martindale), move in to fill the vacancy. One of Mags' boys – a former high school rival of Given's -- gets some good scenes, plus, Bo's nutty son Boyd (played by Walton Goggins) offers new complications.

And on top of all that, Raylan could be falling in love.

Oh, boy. See you tonight!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Brrrrrr ...

Snow is a type of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. (Duh!)

Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. (Not at my house. It's poison!)

It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by external pressure. Snowflakes come in a variety of sizes and shapes. (All of which suck.)

The process of precipitating snow is called snowfall. (Really?)

Snowfall tends to form within regions of upward motion of air around a type of low-pressure system known as an extratropical cyclone. Snow can fall poleward of these systems' associated warm fronts and within their comma head precipitation patterns (called such due to the comma-like shape of the cloud and precipitation pattern around the poleward and west sides of extratropical cyclones).

Oh, yeah? Thanks to Wikipedia for the info, but you know what? Snow just sucks.