Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Car Review: Audi Q5

I took my car to the dealer a few weeks ago for routine maintenance and they gave me a loaner, a diesel-powered Audi Q5 "crossover." The term "crossover" means the vehicle isn't quite an SUV, but isn't quite a car. To me it was big enough to be an SUV. But, then again, I like cars, not SUVs or even crossovers.

Because of problems with the service on my car, I kept the Q5 for almost two days and got quite a bit of experience with it.

First the good thing: the diesel Q5 got amazing fuel mileage for a vehicle that. I didn't measure it but I drove 180 miles and the gauge barely dropped below full. The tank was 19.8 gallons so it wasn't because of a huge fuel tank. That's bigger than my car's fuel tank, but only by about a gallon. And to go 180 miles in my car would take half a tank.

But one problem with the diesel Q5 is, you can't buy it right now. You may have heard about Volkswagen (which owns Audi) cheating on the emissions tests for their 4-cylinder diesels? Well, the EPA is also investigating their 6-cylinder diesels (which the Q5 has). So Audi has stopped selling them.

I saw one appeal of vehicles like this: the ride height. You can see over traffic better and have a better view of the road ahead.

Now what I didn't like: pretty much everything else. The vehicle had an auto-stop system where the engine would turn off if the car came to a complete stop. It did so with an annoying shutter. Now, the engine would start again between moving my foot from the brake to the accelerator, but, again, the whole vehicle would shutter. This was worse than the Audi A6 I drove with this feature.

On the interstate the car was fine. It ate up the miles (while sipping fuel). But I took it on a trip on two-lane roads and I learned that it didn't corner at all like a car. I had to slow down for corners I would take at the speed limit (or more) in either of my cars.

It had plenty of power for passing (diesels tend to have a lot of torque) and could get up to speed pretty quickly. But I still found the car boring.

The car was comfortable although it's ride height made it a little difficult to get in and out of. If driving comfort is your priority over driving dynamics, this might be the car for you.

If you could buy it.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Huskies Win Heart of Dallas Bowl

When you talk about this season's University of Washington Huskies football team, you have to say "true freshman" a lot.

First of all, there's Jake Browning, their true freshman quarterback, the first true freshman to start the first game of any Husky season.

Then you have to talk about Myles Gaskin, the true freshman running back who today in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, rushed for 181 yards and four touchdowns. That helped lead the Huskies to a 44-31 win over the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.

The Dawgs finish their season with a 7-6 record, having won their last two regular season games to earn bowl eligibility.

Browning just got better and better all season. In his first game of the season, a close loss to a ranked Boise State, Browning looked like a freshman. But things seemed to turn around with the upset win over USC. We didn't win all of our games after that, but Browning played much better. He did miss the Stanford game with an injury, which we lost but it could have been worse.

While Browning continued to mature, Gaskin came into his own as a running back. In the Heart of Dallas Bowl, he showed his skill with an 86-yard play from scrimmage that went for a touchdown.

With all these true freshmen (and Browning and Gaskin are only two of many), the Huskies will mature, get better, and be a force in the PAC-12, possibly as quickly as next season but most definitely in 2017. After 15 years of lack-luster play and mediocre coaching, it will be a very nice change.

Go Dawgs!

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Speculative Fiction Cantina "Best Of" Show with Diane Student and W.A. Fulkerson

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina a "best of " show with Diane Student and W.A. Fulkerson. And Merry Christmas!

Diane Student
Diane Student

Diane Student is an author, blogger, podcaster and entrepreneur. She began her journey in blogging in 2008. Diane is creator of The Lewis Chronicles, a YA speculative faction series set in a dystopian, steampunk future Earth and author of Book One of that series: The Shattering. She is currently working on Book Two of the Lewis Chronicles: The Janus Seed, as well as some non-fiction works around the haunted history theme. When not writing books and short stories, Diane is writing, producing and co-hosting the History Goes Bump Podcast that delves into haunted history. She lives in Florida with her co-host and wife Denise and two furry kids.

Diane's Book:

The Lewis Chronicles, Book 1: The Shattering (Paperback, Kindle)

Diane's Links:


W.A. Fulkerson
W.A. Fulkerson

W.A. Fulkerson is the talented author of the Starfall trilogy and a slew of other novels coming to market soon. He has a passion for foreign languages, outdoor adventure, music, and of course good books. He lives in Los Angeles where he works as a screenwriter for Arbella Studios and consults on various film projects.

W.A.'s Books:




W.A.'s Links:


From Today's Show: New Horizon's Second Fly-by Mission

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone.

Or at least a joyous Winter Solstice celebration.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays Giveaway almost over.

Enter the Happy Holidays Book giveaway for a chance at $200 paypal cash and lots of other prizes including free books. Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends soon, so hurry.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Driving Fast versus Driving Dangerously

I was in Spokane, Washington recently. Spokane is a medium-sized city and Interstate 90 runs through the middle of it. Traffic that day was a little heavy but moving at about the speed limit. I was at my exit and moved over to take the exit and of course, checked my mirrors. I saw coming up behind me fast a white Dodge pickup.

There were two lanes you could exit from the interstate on. He was in the far right one, I was in the left on. Since he was going so fast I just stayed in my lane until he passed me on the right. I said, "In a hurry, much?" to my wife. I thought he was getting off at that exit but he didn't, he moved into the lane I was in, then at the last possible moment, cut left over two lanes of traffic to find a hole to keep going. I estimated he was doing at least 80 mph and the speed limit was 60. One last detail: the truck had Montana plates.

I guess it's sexist of me to assume the driver was male. I didn't see the driver. But I don't think a woman would be driving that fast and that stupidly in that heavy of traffic.

And it got me thinking about driving fast versus driving dangerously.

One time I was driving on the race track. I pulled onto the track and was going "slow" to warm up the car and warm up the brain. I glanced at the speedometer and I was doing 80 mph. But on the race track, that was slow. Next time I passes that spot I was probably going 120 mph on my way to 135 at the end of the straight-away. Using a different (faster) car, I once hit 155 mph on that straight.

I felt safer doing that than with that white Dodge pickup truck slicing through traffic at 80 mph. Because the circumstances were different.

Speed versus danger is not a liner relationship. There is so much more that goes into that calculation. First of all, weather. Rain and snow and ice all make a difference. We all know that. Then there's traffic, road condition, and what's beside the road. If there are houses that could have cars pulling out or kids running out after balls, you're going to want to go a lot slower than on an empty back country road.

Driving 155 mph is more dangerous than driving 75 mph, all things being equal. But driving 155 mph on a controlled, dry racetrack is less dangerous than driving 80 mph in medium traffic and cutting across multiple lanes to find a hole to keep going fast in.

This is why speed limits drive me nuts. They are often based on the mantra "speed kills." But it's not speed that kills, it's differences in speed. The further your speed gets from the prevailing speed of traffic, slower or faster, the more likely you are to have an accident.

Yes, I enjoy driving fast. But I do it as safely as possible.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Sabrina Chase and John T. Biggs

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are proud to welcome Sabrina Chase and John T. Biggs.

Sabrina Chase
Sabrina Chase

Sabrina Chase started seriously writing science fiction and fantasy while working on her doctorate in physics, and now has nine completed novels, several short stories, and another novel in progress. Her physics research included stints at the Naval Research Laboratory in DC, Brookhaven National Laboratory, UC Berkeley, and Ames Laboratory – but now she works in the software industry which has much less radiation. She lives near Seattle in a retrofitted 1930’s WPA bunkhouse with a feline supervisor and a few critical crows that visit now and then.

Sabrina's Books:

The Scent of Metal


Dragonhunters, Gaslamp

Sabrina's Links:


John T. Biggs
John T. Biggs

I’m a broad spectrum writer with about 60 published pieces of short fiction published in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies, and two (soon to be three) novels and a tightly linked short story collection published by small houses (Pen-L Publishing, Oghma Creative Media). Most of my fiction includes a magical element and that element with a strong Native American connection. The tribes I draw from are usually the so-called Five Civilized Tribes who were the first to be removed to Oklahoma. All but one short story take place in modern times. When I moved to Oklahoma and started interacting with the Native American population, I learned that mysticism is still alive and well among the tribes.

I’ve had some luck with contests, especially with short fiction. I’ve won a People’s Choice award from the Storyteller magazine, a Crème de la Crème award from a regional writers conference, third place in the Lorian Hemingway short story contest, and (most notably) Grand Prize in the 80th annual Writers Digest competition. My novel, Popsicle Styx was finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award.

John's Books:

John's Links:

From Today;s Show: Space Elevator Made of Diamonds.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Guest Post: J.M. Scheirer and Black Dragons

Today we are happy to have J.M. Scheirer take over Writer's Thoughts. J.M. has a new short story out called "Black Dragons."

We've always called it the Cluster of a Thousand Suns. Are there truly a thousand stars with inhabited worlds within the cluster? Perhaps, but I doubt anyone has made it a point to count them all. We much rather prefer the romance of the name to its reality.

Still, as we look to the night sky, and all those points of light, we have to wonder about the worlds that surround us. What are those other people like? What stories do they have to tell? A thousand planets means billions of possibilities...

The Thousand Suns Saga's story begins almost 15 years ago. Inspired by Star Wars, my partner, Tim, and I started by creating a couple of imaginary worlds where magic and technology lived side by side. Almost every day, we've added something new, building on the lore and mythology.

When asked to write a story with assassins as the theme, my mind immediately flew to the cluster's most notorious band, the Black Dragons. But what tale could I tell to best reflect their nature?

"Black Dragons" deals with the struggles of secrecy, of duty, and of failure. Does our heroine manage to overcome her hurdles, or is she destined to become one of the deceased herself? Find out for yourself, if you dare.


As the most feared group of assassins within the cluster, the Black Dragons rarely have reason to worry. When their reputation is threatened by outsiders, it's up to Selena Olian, prostitute by day, Viper by night, to stop them. However, she discovers that even the most talented of assassins sometimes fail...

Find "Black Dragons" on Amazon.


The door was the same non-descript metal as the others that dotted the stone hallways. Selena pressed the access pad on the side and waited for the distinct “chink” of it unlocking. The door slid to the side.

Master’s office was a good-sized room dominated by a large, dark wooden desk near the opposite wall. The only real decoration was a stiff black rug beneath the desk. It extended out to rest beneath the two chairs on the reception side and the few weapons of the trade that hung on the walls. Master himself sat in the more comfortable executive chair behind the desk. He wore the close black outfit and mask of the order, so she could never make out much about him except that he was shorter and stockier than her. He looked up from the datapads scattered over the surface of his desk when she approached.

Viper.” He greeted her in quen’nare, the modified voice low and grumbly. “Please, come in and sit down.”

Selena approached, offering a bow before she sat. “How did you know it was me?

I would not be a very good leader if I did not recognize those under me… And Fox called to let me know that you were here. Now, what can I do for you?

The imposters are getting bolder, Master. I had one openly brag that he was a Black Dragon when I saw the bad replica of a tattoo on his skin.

I assume you took care of the problem.

Selena dipped her head. “He will not be making that claim again.

Good. The imposters need to know that we will not tolerate them besmirching our name. Our profession may not have the most favorable impression, but we have a long, honorable history and a reputation that we have well earned. I will not let that falter under my watch.

Selena nodded. Everyone in the surrounding systems knew about the Black Dragons, and she had heard their name spoken in both fear and awe even before she joined. If you wanted someone dead, you went to the Black Dragons. “I understand, Master.”

Master sat back in his chair, draping his covered arms over the armrests, and sighed. “See if you can find out where this imposter was inked. If you do, do not kill the artist. See if he or she inked others, and make it very clear to this person that further marking will not be tolerated.”

Selena nodded again. “Of course, Master.”

I am very pleased with your work, Viper. I do not regret welcoming you into our Brotherhood.”

Even though I am a Sister?” she smiled back.

Master waved it off with a hand. “There is a reason we keep our sun lives separate from our moon lives. Do you know how many people would be all too happy to arrest us, even kill us if they recognized us?

I imagine it would be quite a few. I understand the reasons for all the precautions we take.

Of course you do, Viper. Is there something else you need to discuss with me?

Selena shook her head. “I came here right away to let you know. I did not think it was something that should wait.

No,” Master agreed. “We operate on information. You have done well, Viper.”

She dipped her head to him. “Thank you, Master. By your leave.”

Master waved a dismissive hand at her before returning his attention to ’pads in front of him. She stood, bowed, and turned to leave. It wouldn't be easy to track down the tattoo artist, but she was a Black Dragon. If Master wanted it done, it would be done.

About J.M.:

On a cold day on Hoth…er…in Eastern Pennsylvania, in the depth of night in the year of 1978, J.M. emerged into the world.  She moved to Endor…er…Southern Maryland as a young child, where she began the process of creating worlds and stories about them.  As an adult, she moved to Tatooine…er…Eastern Washington to spend the rest of her life with her soulmate (aka Tim).

There’s not enough time in the day for everything she tries to fit into her life.  On any given day, you can find her reading and/or writing and/or playing video games and/or watching TV shows and movies and/or sewing and/or baking.

Find "Black Dragons" here.

Find J.M.'s website here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How does Ant Man Breathe?

I watched the movie Ant Man last week. Not a good movie to watch if you suffer from myrmecophobia because not only is there Ant Man, but there are his ant minions. Lots of them.

And while it was enjoyable and fun, I had one big question: How does Ant Man breathe?


Ant Man uses a suit (invented in the 1980s, but never mind that) to shrink himself down to the size of an ant. But he retains all his strength when he does so. Okay, I can deal with that.

But the problem I had was, how does Ant Man breathe. Here's the problem. Humans breathe oxygen. In the air, oxygen is a molecule of two oxygen atoms, or O2 (I can't subscript). Our lungs are designed to use take oxygen molecules from the air and pass them into our lungs through osmosis. That means the tissues between the lungs and the blood vessels have to be able to let the oxygen molecule pass but not the blood.

So Ant Man shrinks down to the size of an ant. Suddenly, the oxygen molecule is huge compared to his tissues. I doubt it would make the lung-blood transition anymore. Insects, such as ants. have tubes that bring in oxygen because they evolved to breathe even being so small. Humans did not.

Okay, then at one point in the movie, Ant Man shrinks down to be small enough to slip between atoms of titanium. So now he's smaller than an oxygen molecule. Yet he still breathes. He continues to shrink until he's smaller than a proton, and yet he still breathes.

Now, if he had an oxygen tank on his back and the oxygen shrunk with him, it would work. But he didn't (this could also be another restriction on his ability: "You only have 30 minutes of oxygen!").

So, I'm still pondering: how did Ant Man breathe, especially when he was smaller than an oxygen atom.

Yes, this is the kind of thing I think of while watching movies.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Alex Azar and Alastair Swinnerton

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are pleased to welcome writers Alex Azar and Alastair Swinnerton

Alex Azar
Alex Azar

Alex is an author bred, born, and raised in New Jersey.  He had aspirations beyond his humble beginnings, goals that would take him to the skyscrapers of Metropolis and the alleys of Gotham. Alex was going to be a superhero.  Then one tragic day, tragedy tragically struck.  He remembered he wasn't an orphan and by law would only be able to become a sidekick.  For now Alex bides his time writing about the horrors and mysteries he aims to one day valiantly tackle.

Alex's Works

“The Taste of Blood” in Strangely Funny

“Under the Hood of Winter” in Undead of Winter

Nightmare Noir

Alex's Links:


Alastair Swinnerton
Alastair Swinnerton

I’ve been writing most of my life, but I’ve managed to make a living out of it for the last twenty five years or so. I started out wanting to write novels, but got distracted by the animation industry, and worked on many well-known shows, including ‘The Wombles’, ‘Sabrina, Secrets of a Teenage Witch’ and my own series, ‘The Baskervilles’, which has become a bit of a cult. I was the co-creator of Lego® Bionicle®, and even got nominated for a Bafta, for writing and co-producing the CBBC Christmas Special ‘The Tale of Jack Frost’. But now, twenty five years later, I have returned to my first love, novels. My first one, The Multiverse of Max Tovey, a children’s and Young Adult fantasy novel, was published on August 31st 2015 by European Geeks Publishing.

Alastair's Book:

The Multiverse of Max Tovey

Alastair's Links:


From Today's Show: Ice Volcanoes on Pluto.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Last Sunday I was watching the Seattle Seahawks defeat the Minnesota Vikings and I had a reminder of why I enjoy football.

Of course, I'm talking about "American football" not "futbol" where every time there's a goal a South American village is razed. Can't stand watching that as it makes baseball look interesting.

Now, I'm not a rabid football fan. I watch games by the teams I like: the University of Washington Huskies and, when they are winning, the Seattle Seahawks.

So, last Sunday I was watching the Seahawks play the Vikings and Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson threw and long bomb to Lockett (I don't remember his first name). And despite having two Vikings right on top of him, Lockett caught the ball and then, after getting hit hard (so hard there was a penalty), he hung onto the ball for a catch. And the athleticism and skill to do that just amazes me.

It's like ballet, with hitting. There is precision and grace and athleticism, and then somebody gets knocked to the ground.

And, of course, there's the fun and excitement of your team winning, which is actually starting to happen more regularly for the University of Washington Huskies. But I think it's the grace and athleticism that truly pull me in.

And somebody getting knocked to the ground.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Stephen Schwertley and P. H. Solomon

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are please to welcome writers Stephen Schwertley and P. H. Solomon.

Stephen Schwertley
Stephen Schwertley

A graduate of Arizona State University with a B.S. in Biology, Schwertley early beginning’s were as a salesman in the medical equipment industry, progressing to a National Award winning salesman in the reprographic, semiconductor, automotive software marketplaces. As Schwertley’s professional career blossomed, he achieved positions as National Sales Manager MGI Systems, Director of Sales for BL-Systems, and National Account Manager for Kwik-Way Products, Inc. Schwertley is known for his is quirky sense of humor that permeates his life. Schwertley lives in Cave Creek Arizona with his wife Joy and their two Yorkies Jack and Foxy

Stephen's Books:

Enemy I the Heartland

Revenge Unleashed

Stephen's Links:


P.H. Solomon
P. H. Solomon

P. H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. The Bow of Destiny is his first novel-length title.

P.H.'s Books:

Trading Knives

What Is Needed

The Bow of Destiny

P.H.'s Links:


From today's show: Electric sails plying the solar wind

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I Won NaNoWriMo

Well, NaNoWriMo* is done. Finished. Kaput. The goal of writing 50,000 words in November is over. If you didn't make it, it's too late now.

I did make it, but with a caveat. My personal goal was a novel first draft of at least 60,000 words.

I wrote 54,498 words, finishing yesterday.

Compare to last year when I finished on November 25th with 63,388 words.

Last year, my biggest day was 3,666 words (the day I wrote the climax). This year my biggest day was 2,800 words on the 11th day of NaNoWriMo*. Last year I averaged 2,536 words per writing day (since I didn't write the last five days as the first draft of the novel was finished). This year I averaged 1,817 words to finish that first draft.

This year, I was writing the third novel in the "Treasures of Space" series. The first novel, Treasure of the Black Hole was published (self-published) earlier this year. The second novel, that I wrote last year, Treasure of the Pirate Planet, is in edits. And this year I wrote Treasure of the Derelict Ship.

Now I can hope that the novel will get longer in edits. My novels always do as I decide to add more description or detail. But I doubt I'm going to get 5,500 more. Maybe. But I doubt it.

But the good news is, I won NaNoWriMo* for the third year in a row. The bad news is, I have no idea what to write next year. But I have eleven months to figure that out.

*NaNoWriMo is the "National Novel Writing Month" wherein you pledge to write at least 50,000 words of a novel in November. For more thoughts on NaNoWriMo, see here.