Baby Gopher Snake
White sand, not snow
Me next to a tree in White Sands
We took a trip to White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, and just as we were leaving town a road runner dashed in front of the car with a rattlesnake in its beak. It stopped on the side of the road because the snake was still fighting back. I don't know how these birds manage it. They EAT rattlesnakes. It has been so cold here I didn't think anything could slither. The snakes hibernate in the rocks above our house and don't emerge until Spring. First the young ones come out and then, when it is really warm, the older three-foot plus ones arrive. White Sands looks like it's covered with snow, but it is really powdered gypsum. It tastes sour and salty, and melts in your mouth. I don't suppose it's healthy to eat. I want to go back during a thunderstorm and see whether the whole desert dissolves.
To Julia Tiell: I think I met you at a conference in Phoenix or Tucson. I met someone from Ajo who asked me for a copy of my talk. I told the audience about how Harold and I rescued an illegal immigrant who was dying of thirst, took him to Ajo and left him with a bottle of water, a big chocolate bar and twenty dollars. This was while I was doing research for The House of the Scorpion. At that time we had no idea what to do with the man. We couldn't abandon him. Later, we were told to call the Border Patrol, but at that time we didn't have a cell phone. And it was Christmas. And you don't turn people in over Christmas. Unfortunately, the attorney general for Arizona was in the audience. One of the police officers turned to him and said, "You didn't hear that, sir."
To Rya: Fani and Benito both died at El Patron's funeral. Her father, Glass Eye Dabengwa, is an African drug lord who appears in the sequel. He's 99 years old and lives by harvesting clones, but parts of him are machinery. He's called Glass Eye because he never blinks. He's totally scary.
Wow! I woke up this morning to the story about the meteor that exploded over Russia. I didn't think such things were possible, but it probably happened before in 1908, also in Russia. Something exploded over the Tunguska forest in Siberia and knocked down about a billion trees. The current explosion happened in a part of the country that was already cursed. Not long ago the Soviets made nuclear weapons there and flushed all the excess radiation into the local rivers. People back then didn't know how dangerous radiation was. I remember bomb drills in high school where we were told to hide under our desks, as if that was going to save us. When I was nine I used to climb to the top of my parents' hotel to watch A-bomb tests in Nevada. I hope the wind was blowing the other way.
I got Advanced Reader Copies of the Lord of Opium, but the book won't come out until Sept. 3. But I have another little announcement to make. I am going to publish an adult book on Kindle. Harold is putting my earlier books on Kindle because the publishers don't have electronic rights to them. They asked for the rights and offered me 10% royalties, but Amazon pays 70%. Well, duh. So far we have put out The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, to be followed by The Warm Place and Tapiwa's Uncle (the African version of Do You Know Me). My adult book is called A New Year's Tale. It is an OA (OLD Adult) novel and suitable for ages 65 and up, although 40-year-olds can read it with the permission of their parents.
It really isn't for young people. That's not because it's loaded with sex and curse words, but because you look at things differently when you have had years of experience. It takes place in the near future. The U. S. government has discovered that it doesn't have enough money to cover Social Security and Medicare, so plans are made to make the survival of anyone over 65 difficult. This has alarmed the spirit world, from which our ancestors watch over us. They can do nothing, being spirit, but they recruit five seniors to correct the situation. These five have to elude capture and figure out a way to take over the government before the next election. New Omega Laws are planned to cleanse the country of the elderly and to seize their bank accounts.
In spite of the serious subject, the story is up-beat and funny. One of the new laws is the Diminished Culpability Act. If you murder someone aged 21, you go to prison for life. If you kill a 65-year-old you only get two years, and an 80-year-old gets you two weeks of community service.
If the book sells well, I'll put it out for print-on-demand. I'm so excited about the new shape of publishing. ebooks have opened the door for all kinds of authors who are good, but appeal to a small audience or are too unusual.
Now, to answer a couple of your letters: To Paula Sabato, the best thing is to send the letters to the publisher, as you suggested. I don't know your email address, so I can't send you my home address. I'm delighted that your kids liked the book, and especially that they are in Arizona. They would have a good understanding of the issues. One thing I should mention is this: The House of the Scorpion and The Lord of Opium are actually one long novel. Only a few hours separate the end of one and the beginning of the next. The story changes as Matt grows up. It starts from the viewpoint of a six-year-old, which is very different from that of the fourteen-year-old at the end of Scorpion. The Lord of Opium takes Matt to age 15. 15 is an age of great changes where boys become adults. Matt has been handed ultimate power and wealth as well as danger, and he has to mature quickly. That is why the Lord of Opium is listed as a YA, not a children's book.
To Mr. Collins, my heart warmed when you said the book was enjoyed by reluctant readers. It was designed for them. My son was a reluctant reader (and dyslexic, as am I). If I tried to read him a book he didn't like, he threw it out the window. Once, he even tore one in two. (Only once. I don't take kindly to destroying books.) I learned very quickly what interested him. It seemed to me that most of the novels he got at school were not aimed at boys, especially the kind who need frequent breaks to let off steam. I wanted to reach that audience.
A New Year's Tale will go on Kindle as soon as I get permission to use the lyrics of a song. Now I will go back to the internet and read about that meteor over Russia.