A big week for 'The Fracking War' - and it's only Monday

WATKINS GLEN, New York - Just a few days after Adm. Fox and I returned to our upstate NY zip code, our son Dustin Fox put the finishing touches on an author website for me - something that looks more professional than my hacking on websites like these.

He and his friend (professional web designer Kimberly Paternoster) did a very nice job. And they promise there can be more neat things to come. LINK: Michael J. Fitzgerald, Author.

The feature that took a little extra care was an order form so that people could request a book directly from me, avoiding the Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble online stores.

We added it so anyone who wanted to get an inscribed copy of the book can do so. And they can also have it sent directly to someone as a gift, too. (LINK: The Fracking War, inscribed)

More big news came in an hour ago from Sylvia. She arranged it so that Saturday afternoon I will join with other local author types at the Barnes & Noble store in Ithaca, NY to give a brief presentation about my novel and do an honest-to-God bookstore book-signing.

I signed about 25 books at an anti-fracking rally in Sacramento, Calif. then more in Flagstaff at an informal Sunday afternoon gathering at Beth and Mel Tucker's mansion.

But this is a bookstore! And believe me, bookstores are getting quite rare. I know because I'm contacting them to see if they want to carry The Fracking War.

And then there is the Finger Lakes Times, the newspaper for which I write a weekly column titled Write On. (LINK: Write On, Finger Lakes Times)

Executive Editor Mike Cutillo told me today that the newspaper is planning on publishing a story about the book coming out in print, wants to do a video interview with me for the newspaper's website - and also will proudly display The Fracking War on sale in the newspaper's lobby.

Sounds like the war is on!


The Fracking War is out in print - and some life updates

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Since sometime in December, my brain has been totally focused on getting The Fracking War novel out the door.

Thus, no blogs. None, nada, zip, zilch, zero...

But now the book has gone out the door, and is back in, this time as a published paperback novel, with its own Library of Congress designation and everything. Imagine, a book with my name on it in the Library of Congress.

Of course, my name is likely already all over all kinds of NSA documents but that's another issue.

Admiral Fox and I returned from Mexico just a few days ago where we had our usual adventurous moments both in Nuevo Vallarta and Arroyo Seco.

This season, however, for the first time in at least four or five years, I caught a cold. Not just a booger-filled, sneezing, I feel-like-crap cold. No, this was a headbanger with a fever, enough deep-lung coughing for a roomful of cigarette smokers and such low energy I could barely walk up and down the stairs of our condo at Bahia del Sol.

It only lasted about a month, though.

A month. Kee-rist!

All that is just so much water in the sand though as Adm. Fox and I get ready to catch 400 copies of The Fracking War this week, coming via UPS. More than 100 books are destined to be mailed to Kickstar.com supporters. Some will be sold at a March 15 anti-fracking demonstration at the state capitol here. Others will go to various potential reviewers locally.

And on our driving trip back to the east coast, we will be stopping in towns to chat with newspaper editors and radio stations to see if they have any interest in the book.

The book popped up for sale on Amazon.com Sunday night, 48 hours after I gave the nod for Mill City Press of Minneapolis to fire up the machine and start cranking out copies of The Fracking War. Barnes & Noble shows the book for sale now, too.

Can a call from The Daily Show be far behind?

In the meantime, we continue watch the weather in Northeast carefully, comparing it to our Sacramento experiences. Seems like heading east too early means a repeat of some of the foul weather we traveled in getting west in December.

Admiral Fox does have her snow boots with her, but says if she has to don them, there will be trouble.

I believe her.


Sun is up, waiting for the highway to clear...

FAIRFIELD INN, Tehachapi, California - One of the benefits of being stuck here in Tehachapi has been that I finally can spell the name of this small burg.
Tehachapi in summer, much nicer

Others are that the highway is still closed which means we are sitting in a cozy hotel, breakfast is just being served and we didn't sit alongside the road all night in a snowdrift.

Or worse.

Adm. Fox and I will head out when Highway 58 opens and make our way down the mountain, then north to San Francisco and Sacramento where it has been cold, but the likelihood of 100 mph wind gusts and black ice is considerably less.



Black ice, tractor-trailers and a guardian angel helps out

FAIRFIELD INN, Tehachapi, California - Admiral Sylvia Fox and I were breezing along in our Prius on California Highway 58, crossing through the Tehachapi Mountains on our way from Flagstaff to San Francisco, when we ran into a weather phenomenon I haven't seen in years.

A snow whiteout.

10 minutes before the whiteout
We were driving about 15 miles per hour and within a few miles of the summit in blowing snow when suddenly the tractor trailer 100 feet in front of us disappeared in the snowstorm.


And when I glanced in my rear-view mirror, the tractor trailer who was tailgating us disappeared also.

We will get back to that tailgating in a minute.

In maybe 15-20 seconds, the visibility cleared slightly, then lifted more, revealing a freeway littered with cars that had probably slammed on their brakes when the visibility went to zero.

And they were on black ice.

I am sure about that black ice because as soon as I saw the cars in the ditch, cars off the side of the road, cars in the median and lots of people with totally stunned looks on their faces, I gently tapped my brakes to avoid colliding with the semi in front which was shuddering to a stop.

We did a really neat skid, but stayed straight. And I thanked all those years of skidding and sliding in upstate New York growing up.

Then I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that the semi behind me - the one tailgating, remember? - had gone into a locked-wheel skid and his trailer was starting to pass him, very slowly, but definitely swinging around.

I don't think I would have been more terrified to see a platoon of zombies from World War Z closing in.

I didn't mention this little problem to Adm. Fox who was marveling at all the people in their cars and commenting on how fast some people were still driving.

But the guardian angel who travels with me most days decided to goose the semi in front of us just enough forward  so I could give our Prius gas to keep the semi behind from turning us into a Prius pancake.

It was close, but we proceeded on the black ice, making between 5-10 mph between skids.

We got off at the Tehachapi exit just as the California Highway Patrol was closing the highway's west bound land, a sure sign that things were unraveling. Within a half-hour they closed highway completely.

And as I write this, we are ensconced in a comfortable suite at the Fairfield Inn with quite a few other pilgrims who decided that with the sun going down and snow blowing hard a warm bed and cold wine was good alternative to black ice and cars in the ditch.
Pool at the Fairfield Inn

Oh! And this Fairfield Inn has a nice Jacuzzi and swimming pool which we have already tested out.

And the wine is chilling in the ice bucket.


Snowstorm slows progress towards California...

SANTA FE, New Mexico - Admiral Fox and I spent a great afternoon and evening in Santa Fe, New Mexico capped by an excellent dinner at a restaurant called The Shed with amigos Randy and Karin, California transplants who own a fabulous casa near a Santa Fe college.

We are getting to know their casa well as we wait out a raging snowstorm that has snarled traffic on the interstate highways.

Just like upstate New York

Today we expected to arrive in Flagstaff, Arizona this afternoon.

But given that it is snowing horizontally and the snow is supposed to continue into the night, Randy and Karin have put out the welcome mat.

Santa Fe is a very interesting town with museums, artists, and restaurants of all shapes and sizes. You could drop a lot of money here - pretty fast - on some beautiful handmade items.

Seeing the city covered in a mantle of snow is apparently a rare thing. We hope that mantle lifts by morning


From Whole Foods to Whole Foods across the USA

TULSA, Oklahoma - Admiral Fox and I seem to be traveling on this trip from Whole Foods to Whole Foods, Trader Joes to Trader Joes.

It's pretty healthy, except for the wine.

But we continue our quest west in a few moments, landing tonight in Amarillo, Texas before soldiering on Wednesday to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

There is a hellacious snowstorm ahead of us, which we think we will use age and treachery to outwit.

If not, well, we will try to get stuck in a hotel near a Whole Foods and across the street from a Trader Joes.

More from Amarillo tonight, depending on what time cocktail hour starts.


Heading for Sullivan, Missouri; gasoline costs $2.98 a gallon

ON I44 West of St. Louis - Adm. Fox and are are 974 miles from Santa Fe, New Mexico, our first stop (well, stop with friends) on our sojourn from Watkins Glen to California.

We rolled out early this morning, discovered that the complimentary breakfast at our Best Western was unlikely to be complementary to our digestive systems and so left immediately to cross Ohio, Illinois and now Missouri.

The sun is out here at 5:30 p.m., temperature a balmy 60 degrees.

Yup, northeast amigos, that was not a typo - 60 degrees.

For mileage afficionados, the Prius is getting more than 50 mpg and seems to like going 75 mph, particularly if there are no state troopers nearby.

We are looking forward to touching down somewhere east of Springfield, Missouri in an hour or two. We bought a few bottles of wine at Trader Joe's today so we can save  all the NY wines we brought to share with California amigos.


Somewhere north of Columbus, Ohio...

NEAR COLUMBUS, OHIO - Admiral Sylvia Fox and I sat in a barely moving traffic jam - on and off - for about two hours tonight before packing it in and grabbing a room at a Best Western Inn.

It was not what we thought our first night on the road to California would bring. But then we didn't leave until noon and even ran into some snow near Jamestown (of course, it's Jamestown).

But we are all fed, wined and ready to get up early to pile on some miles on our quest to get to Santa Fe, New Mexico by late Wednesday, Flagstaff, Arizona Thursday and then on to Sacramento, Sunday.

At least that is the plan. Right now.

The Prius has been getting about 50 mpg so far - and gas prices in Ohio are $3 per gallon. Yup, $3 per gallon.

Wine's cheap, too, but that's another story.

On the road to California - and Mexico

ERIE, Penn. - Admiral Sylvia Fox and I are tooling along at 70 mph outside Erie on our way west and south.

We left Watkins Glen at about noon after several stops and starts.

The biggest stop-and-turn-around was when we crested a hill and could see a beautiful lake. I remembered I had left my camera on my desk.

But a quick run back home solved that.

More later as we move down into Ohio and I can do this on my laptop, not this iPad...


A whopper of an endorsement for 'The Fracking War'

WATKINS GLEN, New York - When your writing is referred to in the same paragraph as a book by John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath) and another by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom's Cabin), there is only one rational response: You blush.

So Sunday afternoon I had a thoroughly beet-red face for quite a while after I read a book-jacket blurb kindly offered by environmentalist, biologist and author Sandra Steingraber.
Sandra Steingraber
"It was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, not economic data, that turned the page on slavery.  It was The Grapes of Wrath, not demographic reports that opened a nation's eyes to Dust Bowl dislocation.  Out of that tradition comes Michael J. Fitzgerald’s The Fracking War.  Here, within a smoldering crucible of social crisis, is a tale of power, money, fateful choices, and consciences aroused.   If you like your drill rigs served up within the context of a fast-moving plot line, you’ve got what you want right in your hands.” 
  —Sandra Steingraber, author, Living Downstream and Raising Elijah

The beet-red blush was also because Sandra Steingraber is one of my heroes. Working here in New York as a journalist, I've published reams about her courage in fighting the hydrofracking menace, helping to lead the struggle against a manifestly dangerous propane storage project in Watkins Glen, and her arrest and jailing earlier this year on trespassing charges following a protest.

So to have her praise The Fracking War so highly, well, I'm blushing again.
Book cover art by Will Sweeney

All of the pieces have fallen into place - with a little pushing - for electronic publication of The Fracking War this week. There may be some last-minute surprises from the publisher to delay the e-launch. But as they say at NASA, 'Confidence is high.'

And the print version is on track to be available in early 2014.

By the way, my sincere thanks to all the folks who supported The Fracking War through the Kickstarter.com campaign. We made our goal. And right now Adm. Sylvia Fox and I are scrambling to get the promised T-shirts done and mailed out. I'm also trying to put together an author's website.

At a fabulous end-of-the-season party last night at The Stonecat Cafe in Hector, several people asked me about a sequel to The Fracking War. The answer is yes, there will be one. But I won't say much more about it until Wednesday at the book publishing celebration at the Hector Wine Company, which not surprisingly, is in Hector, too.