Send In The Redshirts

There’s a new trend among the sci-fi/fantasy writers crowd called: Redshirting.


Never wear the red shirt in 22nd Century Starfleet.

It is based on the old Star Trek: The Original Series trope that whenever someone in a red uniform (Other than Scotty and Uhura, of course) ventured on an away team with Captain Kirk that Redshirt was a dead man. Every week it seemed like a Redshirt met his maker on the show.

So recently it has become a thing for a writer to call out for volunteers amongst his/her fellow writers. The process is simple. You volunteer your name to be used as the name of a character in an upcoming book. Said character is going to die, usually in a most embarrassingly silly fashion.

I myself have volunteered to be redshirted in upcoming books by Daniel Butler, Dawn Witzke (I think I live in this one though) and have been informed by Richard Weyland that I am an assassin who bumps off a major character in his novel.

4mjec6I get to be the bad guy? Sweeeeeeeeeeeeettttttttt! And I think I survive this book too.

It’s all in good fun and I am looking forward to reading my first demise soon.


Redshirts: Old West Style

I found myself in need of nine names for my gang of bad guys in The Last Lonely Trail, co-written with Jim Christina. None of the nine were going to live to see the end of the book. So I decided to put out the call for an Old West-style Redshirting. Boy, did I not see the response that I got coming.

Within minutes I had my nine names. I also had a surplus of names – which I decided to use on other minor characters. I also found myself in a bit of a dilemma.

Tombstone20Im20Our20Huckleberry20Doc20Hollday__16211.1449674369.380.500You see, several of my writer-compatriots are female. And they wanted in on the fun. Now, despite what Hollywood tries to imply – there really weren’t gangs of women roaming the West, robbing, looting and pillaging. Not to mention shooting the towns up and all of the other not-so-nice things that my nine bandits were going to be doing.

My solution was to make them saloon girls at various stops along the way. Then I really had a problem. My wife.

It isn’t what you think. She wanted in on the action too. And if you think I was about to make my wife a saloon girl – even a fictional one – well you’ve got another think coming 41FG8bWR4JLmy friends.

I made her the madame of the cathouse in Wellington, Kansas. At her request.

So, as you are reading the book, just know that some of the names are real folks assigned to fictional people. Some of the people that appear in the book are actual people who lived in the time period (Texas Ranger J.B. Armstrong, the El Paso County Sheriff in Colorado Springs and the Judge in Santa Fe, New Mexico just to name a few).

And for you fans of Jon Del Arroz, you’ll find him tending bar in Wellington, Kansas. Don’t worry, he lives to see the end – of this book. He’ll pop back up in my next western project though and fate may not smile so nicely on him this time.

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Dispatches From Omaha: June 21, 2018

My grandson loves trains. Been crazy about them since before he was two years old. He started out with Thomas Train – my personal favorite is Percy (don’t laugh at me) – graduated up to Chuggington and on to the real thing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHis third birthday was celebrated in Old Sacramento’s California State Train Museum. The place is huge with exhibits ranging from train-related items, to small-to-large scale layouts and on up to actual-sized locomotives and passenger cars.

Needless to say, he had a blast. Getting him to leave the museum required a bribe of ice cream.

Sacramento Is Nowhere Near Omaha, Son.

Ok, so why am I bringing up a long-ago trip to a museum 1,600 miles from Omaha? Well…

When said grandson visits next summer there are two places we’ll be taking him almost as soon as he arrives. The top destination lies about two-and-a-half hours south in Atchison, Kansas. (Ironically, that was the average time it took us to drive from our home in Central California to San Francisco to visit him back when he was three.)

Once there we will find the Atchison Rail Museum with a collection of trains, cars and layouts I hope will rival the one he toured in Old Sacramento. Only this one he’ll remember. While there we’ll duck into the Amelia Earhart Museum, because I’m a history nut and I think he should check out some of the exhibits there too.

Closer, But Omaha Isn’t In Kansas, Dude

Once back in Omaha though – and this goes for any of you thinking of visiting my new hangout – an outdoor exhibit awaits any train aficionado right across the street from TD Ameritrade Park. I stumbled across it while walking from my car to attend the College World Series.

In an enclosed park – I did not see anyone charging an admission price to enter – are two IMG_1814Union Pacific locomotives and a long string of older-style passenger cars. Think of the train Cary Grant met Eva Marie Saint on in the Hitchcock classic, North By Northwest, only with all-yellow cars.

And you are actually allowed to climb aboard and check them out. Having traveled by train on Amtrak a few times from New Mexico to California, I’m curious to see the difference between the 1950s trains and the more modern-day cars.

Knowing my grandson, he’ll be more interested in the locomotives and trying to figure out how to drive one of them back home.

Speaking of train rides, my publishing partner-in-crime, Jim Christina, and I wrote a western that features a couple of train rides. If you’d like an idea of 19th Century train travel to compare to more recent eras, give our book, The Last Lonely Trail, a read. You can find it in print and in e-book format on Amazon.




So I am trying very hard to do a post here every day. But a funny thing happened on the way to the blogosphere.

My left ankle is now the size of a watermelon (okay, I’m exaggerating a bit but it is very swollen and I still don’t know how it got injured in the first place) and in between other projects that needed dealing with and switching out ice packs I forgot to do a post.

So, this counts as a belated post for today and I promise to have an interesting Exploring Omaha- related post for you tomorrow. I have a Redshirt post in the mix too. Hopefully, that will be up on Friday.

Now then, where’s that ice pack…


Dispatches From Omaha: June 19, 2018

Now that I’ve been in my new hometown of Omaha, NE for a month I’m starting to check the place out. What to see, what to do, etc. And I figured I would share my explorations here with you.


The main entrance to TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, the home of the College Baseball World Series.

So today, for the first installment of the Dispatches From Omaha, I decided to go check out the big annual event here: The College Baseball World Series.

Taking in the (originally scheduled for 1 p.m.) Game 7 between Florida and Texas which began at 2:39 I settled in down the first base line and took in my first Division I college baseball game ever.

The highest level of college baseball I’ve covered was D-II Stanislaus State in Turlock, CA  (I have covered D-I football). So sitting in the stands instead of the press box is still an odd transition even after eight years.


Yours truly decked out in Texas Longhorns hat and orange shirt. It didn’t help as Texas lost 6-1.

The weather was warm and humid with threatening grey skies above. The rain held off long enough for the Gators to eliminate the Longhorns (the picture should tell you what I thought of the result).  As an aside, as I look at the picture, where did all that white come from in my beard?

The CWS used to be played in Rosenblatt Stadium and that is the field I’ll always remember whenever I think of the CWS, But Creighton University went and built this huge modern stadium for its baseball team and that was the end of Rosenblatt and all of the history therein.

The new place was nice, the seats were comfortable, the hot dogs better than most stadiums I’ve visited. They have something called a Berry-kabob. I meant to snap a photo of it but forgot. It’s basically skewered strawberries dipped in milk chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate. I almost went into a diabetic coma just thinking about getting one. Maybe next time.


Yes, those are the tallest buildings in Omaha. Yes, I like that about the city.

To be honest, the first time I saw the stadium from the outside I assumed it was the home of the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

But their stadium, which looks nice too, is located south of Omaha near Pappilion. I’ll be taking in a game there soon and we’ll compare Omaha’s two baseball stadiums properly then.

So my first-ever CWS is in the books. I have a pin and a souvenir cup to show for it. I wasn’t feeling the need to shell out $15 for a souvenir baseball or bat. We won’t even discuss the prices on the hats, shirts and other gear.

I also have some kind of stretchy material, covered with the CWS logo, that is 18-inches in length and is sewn so that it looks like a tube. They gave those out for free as you walked in. I have no clue what the hell its purpose is. Had I opened the package it came in before I had left the stadium I could have asked. We’ll save this mystery for next year.

But, compared to the arduous journey through hell needed to be undertaken to get to either Dodger Stadium in L.A. or AT&T Park in San Francisco, it was a fun afternoon of baseball in Nebraska.



My Other Gig…

So my other job – when not writing new novels or stirring the pot on social media – is serving as the Managing Editor of

It is a website devoted to stories, movies, TV shows and factual information regarding urban legends and the new genre of urban fantasy. I say that it’s a job but in reality its a load of fun.


Yes, there really is an urban legend in Illinois based on the In Living Color character, Homey The Clown (1990-94, FOX).

For example, we are currently running a daily series of urban legends by state in the United States. We’re going in alphabetical order and today’s post was on Indiana and boy do those Hoosiers have some urban legends.

But I was kind of partial to yesterday’s post on Illinois. I found an interesting set of weird coincidences involving Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. While it was borderline U-F, it was just weird enough that I couldn’t resist tacking onto the bottom of the post just for fun.

Especially since one of Illinois’ urban legends surrounds a creepy clown based on a real TV show from the 1990s.  Here’s an excerpt from yesterday’s post:

“Lincoln was first elected to Congress in 1846 and to the Presidency in 1860. Kennedy was sent to Congress in 1946 and to the White House in 1960. Both men were killed by a bullet to the head and both on a Friday.  Both were killed by Southerners and both were succeeded by men named Johnson who were both from the south. Lincon’s Vice-President was Andrew Johnson, who was born in 1808. Kennedy’s VP was Lyndon Johnson, who was born in 1908.

The last name of Lincoln’s secretary was Kennedy. The last name of Kennedy’s secretary was Lincoln. Lincoln’s killer, John Wilkes Booth, was born in 1839. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was born in 1939. Did you notice both assassins were known by all three of their names? And take notice that each of their three names totals 15 letters. Did you know that both assassins were killed before they ever went to trial for their crimes?

Lincoln was shot inside a theater called, Ford. Kennedy was shot while riding in a car named, Lincoln, which was made by a company called, Ford. After shooting Lincoln, Booth ran from a theater and took shelter in a warehouse. After shooting Kennedy from a warehouse, Oswald sought to hide in a theater.

And if I haven’t completely turned your brain into a pretzel yet: Seven days before being shot Lincoln was in Monroe, Maryland. The week before he was shot, JFK was with Marilyn Monroe.

What is the takeaway here? Anyone who is a Congressional freshman in 2046, should not run for the White House in 2060 with a running mate born in 2008.

I’m not saying, I’m just saying…”

If you like this kind of thing, we have plenty more where that came from. Give the site a look-see and be sure to leave a comment so we’ll know what you think and what you’d like to see more of from us in the future.

CoverDraft2And if you are looking for some excellent stories around the urban legend of stairs in the woods, pick up a copy of Secret Stairs: Tribute to Urban Legend. My story, Nothing Ever Happens Here, is the first of over 30 very entertaining short stories that will keep you up at night.

CalExit – t+ One Month

At 10:43 a.m. (PDT) on May 14th my trusty silver steed (aka the 2013 Chrysler 200 pictured here) carried IMG_0081me across the California/Nevada state line just a few miles west of Reno. We’d left Turlock, California around seven that morning.

Our arrival at the state line was delayed by an additional stop at McDonalds when about five miles down the road we discovered that the egg mcmuffin we ordered was actually a sausage biscuit in an egg mcmuffin wrapper.

Good job, Morning Crew in Turlock.

Anyway, it was day one of a three-day drive along Interstate 80. As an aside, the Wendy’s crew that night in Salt Lake City managed to tell the Turlock crew to hold their beer when it came to screwing up an order.

But that was the official CalExit for our little group of three – myself, Cheryl and our


The House Hound was a lousy navigator.

house hound, Waldo. We are now a month out from the departure and loving every minute of our new hometown here in Nebraska.

We’ve already had a bunch of thunderstorms – we estimate we’ve seen more rainfall in the past four weeks than we saw in 2-plus years in Thousand Oaks – and our first tornado watch. Have I mentioned we really love honest-to-god weather?

But when people ask me why we decided on Nebraska I simply point out some financial reasons:

Our rent w/storage unit in Thousand Oaks = $2,100 per month

Our rent here in Omaha (w/garage) = $1,100 per month. Oh, by the way, the Omaha apartment has twice the square footage as our place in Thousand Oaks did.

A gallon of milk in Thousand Oaks = $3.99. In Omaha = $1.77

An 18-count carton of large eggs in Thousand Oaks = $3.49. In Omaha = $1.18

A gallon of gas in Thousand Oaks = $3.49. In Omaha = $2.69

The people here are friendlier. The pace is less frenetic and when I look up into the sky I see dark blue and not a brownish-gray haze.

So yes, one month into CalExit and I couldn’t be happier. About the only thing I wish was here are my kids and grandkids. But I figure eventually, as California keeps raising taxes, passing assinine laws like limiting each household to 55 gallons of water per day and ruining what used to be a great state to live in, I figure they’ll move out too.

I hear they are voting to split the state into three new states come November. I don’t think that will do much good even if it passed and the state legislature and the U.S. Congress approved the plan. The state jumped the shark about two decades back and has been in a death spiral ever since.

But as a now ex-Californian, it should be interesting to watch this train wreck play out.

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