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Each entry must be an original unpublished work of fiction that conforms to the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series.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 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 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.