Alan’s Blog

Louisville Book Festival Experience

I attended my first book festival at the convention center in downtown Louisville. I was one of some 150 authors participating. I shared my table with Wendy Zagray Warren, who wrote a book on how the ‘No child left behind act’ and its negative impact on most students. The tables were a mix of genres from picture books to non-fiction to a broad spectrum of fiction.

At my table at the Louisville Book Festival
At my table at the Louisville Book Festival

At my table, in addition to a supply of The Dragon in My Back Yard, I stapled my business card to a small baggy with a fossil or fluorite chip to promote this website. As conversation pieces, I brought some fluorescent minerals and a UV flashlight (visible in photo) for children to use and for adults a copy of James Bond’s ‘Birds of the West Indies’ and discussed its connection to Ian Fleming, the creator of 007.

Over both days, I sold a full box of my novel and talked to many adults and children – so the event was a success. Too bad it will not be likely to attend again next year as they have a new crop of authors each year.

A small portion of the Louisville Book Festival with authors and visitors.
A small portion of the Louisville Book Festival with authors and visitors.

Now its time to plan smaller events at bookstores and libraries. I organized an evening with four published authors in our Louisville Writers Meet Up group. In October is was at the Jeffersonville library. Dec. 7 will be at Mickey’s Bookstore in New Albany.

My empty chair, Erv Klein, Meghan N Simpson and Darrell Zuercher at the Jeffersonville library on October 12, 2023
My empty chair, Erv Klein, Meghan N Simpson and Darrell Zuercher at the Jeffersonville library on October 12, 2023

Setting up at the Kyana Geological Society Show

November 17 – 19, 2023 is the Kyana Geological Society’s 53rd annual show at Camp Crestwood off Clore Lane in Crestwood, KY. I last set up at the show more than a decade ago. I’ll be bringing Steve Garza’s minerals, Bob Robinson will be there with his minerals and other items, and I’ll have fossils. Show hours are 10 to 5 on Friday and Saturday and 11 to 5 on Sunday.

Tables in driveway full of minerals for the show.
Working on fossils for the Kyana show.

Louisville Book Festival participant & panelist

I’m participating in the Louisville Book Festival on November 10 and 11, 2023 at the Louisville International Convention Center. Carmichael’s Bookstore is handling the book sales. I’ll have a table to talk to attendees. Bringing some business cards attached to fluorite chips and Archimedes bryozoan screws. I’m also participating in a 50 minute panel on debut authors at 2 PM on the 10th.

Check it out at:

Sale of Steve Garza and Bob Robinson collections, Sept 9 & 10, 2023 – Background about the collectors & collections

I’m hosting a sale of minerals from Steve Garza’s collection and minerals and fossils in Bob Robinson’s collection on Sept. 9 and 10. Steve’s minerals will be 50% off and Bob’s 33% off. It will be in my driveway. Contact me from the contact page (or email if you know me) for details.

Steve’s collection I’ve been selling off since 2017. He started collecting in 1965 and stopped with a stroke in 2016. One good days he can help identify specimens that I don’t recognize. His collection filled up a 2 1/2 car garage wall to wall, floor to just below the light fixtures. With more in the pole barn. I’ve learned how to recognize many obscure U.S. mineral localities going trough this collection.

Shelves with boxes of minerals after most have been gone though.
Shelves with boxes of minerals after most have been gone though. In 2017, you couldn’t even see the shelves, much less the back wall!

Bob Robinson started collecting minerals and fossils in the late 1980s and into the 2000s. He did a lot of collecting trips for Arkansas quartz, area quarries and road cuts, even fossils near his house. He also bought many flats of minerals from dealers and put them in the basement. I have barely tapped his inventory. His collection is better organized than Steve’s and better labeled. But if he bought something without a label… it still doesn’t have a label.

Flats of minerals and fossils shelved in Bob Robinson's basement.
Flats of minerals and fossils shelved in Bob Robinson’s basement.

These collections are large enough that I expect to be selling them for many years. The collector’s yard sale has targeted marketing to rockhound clubs. It will take several trips to gather the boxes from both collectors in August, 2023. Reach out to me for information – even if you can’t make it to the sale. The collections will be selling for a long time and new things will come up from the bowels of the storerooms.

Flats stacked in preparation for the Clement Mineral Show. This is a small portion compared to the yard sale show.
Flats stacked in preparation for the Clement Mineral Show. This is a small portion compared to the yard sale show.

Imaginarium Convention in Louisville (Days 2 & 3)

Spent Saturday attending panels, especially with marketing for writers. One of my weaknesses. And yes, blogging is a form of marketing, even if I’m not saying “BUY MY BOOK!”

Attended sessions on:

Increasing reviews (some say its essential, others say it isn’t – what’s a writer to do?), Amazon algorithms (how to be visible amongst the million other books on Amazon), Space operas – Sci Fi or Fantasy? (a fun to listen to panel discussion, but nothing I took notes about), Marketing your book in 15 Minutes, a workshop with Stephanie Ferger (tips to do something, especially since writers don’t know jack about marketing themselves or their books – we are writers!) Q & A with Terry Brooks, the first “famous” author I wanted to meet at the Imaginarium Convention.

Terry Brooks interviewed by Sandy Lender

Sunday, July 16, was my day to be a panelist. In the morning it was “Writing for Children” with Kimberly Hoffman, Carrisa Turpin, and Jen Selinsky.

The Writing for Children panel. What a happy group!

In the afternoon I was on the “Attractive Blogging” panel with Becky Steele, Morgan Hazelwood, Collen Green, and Carl R. Moore. Hmmm… something like this? Turns out Becky Steele (sitting next to me) is an avid Astronomy magazine reader – and recognized my name.

Panelist for the session on blogging

Other sessions I attended on Sunday: Self-editing for writers – a workshop with JoAnn Sky, Hybrid genres (writing novels that incorporate two or more genres (like funnt horror), Building your website, and The magic of middle-grade: Exploring the power and potential of children’s fiction, a workshop with Carrisa Turpin. I enjoyed conversations with with Janie Franz and Stephanie Ferger.

Imaginarium Convention in Louisville (well, Jeffersontown, KY) – Day 1

July 14 marked the first day of Louisville’s largest convention for writer’s – the Imaginarium Convention. This is there 10th one and I’ve been going since 2017, if memory serves. There are many topics from which to choose among the panels and workshops. Today, my focus was marketing. That’s something that I know enough about to know that I don’t know enough! (How’s that for confusing!)

I chatted with the well-known fantasy author, Terry Brooks (and his wife). I’ll try to get a photo of him tomorrow. I couldn’t find any of his books and Barnes & Noble because the conference bought them all for the book signing!

I had a hard time remembering to take a picture while listening intently. Here are a couple of times where I remembered!

Stephanie Ferger’s session on marketing for authors.
Science fiction writing panel

Alan’s Favorite Galaxies

I will post information about galaxies that I enjoy observing. Galaxies are distant masses of stars, gas and dust. Our Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy. Look for additions to this blog as time allows.

The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51 – NGC 5194 / 95) – Canes Venatici – 8.4 / 9.6 magnitude – 8.2’x6.9′ / 6.4’x4.6′ diameters – classification SAbc / Peculiar

Bright enough to be seen in large binoculars (if you know where to look), I observed it in small, medium and large telescopes over the years. In small instruments, it appears as a double smudge separated by a gap. In larger instruments, the spiral structure in NGC 5194 is visible. If you haven’t seen spiral structure through a telescope, this is one of the best to start.

Not all galaxies fit into a classification “shoe box.” Those oddballs are designated as peculiar galaxies. NGC 5195 is one of the brighter examples (although M82 and NGC 5128 are brighter). Here is a galaxy with dust that has unusual placement in the galaxy’s structure. It might be due to interacting with NGC 5194.

Hubble Telescope photo of M51

The galaxy can be found by sweeping four degrees southeast of Alkaid, Eta Ursa Majoris – the end start in the handle of the Big Dipper. It is located close to the vertex of a right triangle of fainter stars (the vertex star is in upper left in the photo below).

A photo of M51 taken by Michael Carter in the nights of film astrophotography. (Days of film astrophotography doesn’t seem appropriate.)

My best views have been in telescopes of 20″ and up. However, under excellent skies, M51 is spectacular in an 8″ to 12″ instrument. It’s best seen in the spring when the Big Dipper is high overhead. What size telescope was needed for you to see the bridge between the two galaxies?

February was my first visit to the world renowned Tucson Show. Although this blog is much delayed, I want to relay my experience.

My sister has a house in Tucson, so she, my brother-in-law, and nephew greeted me at the airport. It was my third visit to the city -the first with Dave Eicher in 1980 was to visit Kitt Peak National Observatory during a cross-country astronomy junket. The second was in 2000 when the National Association for Interpretation had its national conference there, and the state of Indiana paid for the visit.

Northeast of Tucson – from the window of my Southwest Airlines jet.

This time, it was longer and strictly for pleasure. My sister has a wonderful house in the foothills near Sabino Canyon. Their family was fascinated with the show and spent more money than I did, buying decorative pieces – minerals and fossils – for their house.

My sister’s back yard – with a pool and hot tub, trees and hills covered with saguaro and shrubs.

I did do a little “work” – talking to dealers about buying wholesale for the Falls of the Ohio State Park’s gift shop. I collected business cards and talked to folks. Any purchases were for my personal collection, not for resale. There is an endless array of materials – minerals, fossils, gems, jewelry, art with stone, just to name a few. There are also many individual shows that are ancillary to the Main Tucson Show, hosted by the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society. (Which I’ll talk about soon.)

We started with the 22nd Street Show – tents than run for several blocks with four rows of dealers. This photo scarcely does it justice!

Hundreds of dealers fill this show that runs for 2 or 3 city blocks.

Here are a few photos of things that captured my attention. They were far above my budget!

I’m standing in front of Early Cretaceous paddlefish from China.
A table-size slab of Green River Shale from Wyoming with a tree branch and fish preserved.
Alan with Cambrian trilobite mass-mortality from Morocco (try to say that three times fast!)
A bench for your garden made out of petrified wood from Arizona. I think it was something like $50K.
Carcharodon megalodon jaw reconstruction with actual teeth! And they are all installed backwards!!!

There is a lot of art to be found through the satellite shows. Some of it is pretty, some weird, and some unbelievable! This self portrait below falls in the last category.

An artist with a self-portrait made of beads and polished stones that took him a year to make.

I’m pausing here to explore wildlife I observed in my sister’s neighborhood. The lots are large enough and contact enough natural acreage to maintain habitat. I saw a coyote, quail, and a plethora of other birds. I emailed birder Del Striegel for identification, though some I could identify because they were distinctive.

Pyrrhuloxia in bush – resembles a cardinal.
Townsend’s Solitare – a handsome bird
Phainopepla – a bird with a funny name – common in the neighborhood.
Goldfinch are startlingly bright – America’s canary!
Gambel’s Quail resembles the California Quail, but is a different species. This is in my sister’s front yard – one of a dozen that ran through.
Curve-billed thrasher has a distinctive call.

The Main Tucson Show opened Thursday, February 9. We made the mistake of coming in the morning when the line was extremely long. Since there wasn’t anything in particular I was striving to get, I didn’t need to “beat the competition.” Next year, I’ll come late in the day or on Friday.

Panorama of the convention center and the main Tucson Show.
My name was at one booth. But they aren’t my minerals!
My last name was at another booth. But they aren’t my slabs of petrified wood. Too bad they weren’t next to each other!
An example of vibrant Australia opal. It occurs in a vein a millimeter or two thick so it has to be split open “just right.” Luckily, opal forms a weak surface so it can be done.
Pineapple opal (pseudomorph after calcite. White Cliffs, Australia. Price on request – that means – really expensive!
Polished agate for $928. The slab on the right is Indiana and on the left Nevada. How’s that for an imagination gone wild?
Silver from Germany in herringbone crystal growth. Yours for only $22,500!
Wall sculptures involving triangular polished slabs for mountains, disks of travertine for the moon, and air plants. Pretty creative!

A fossil collection inside a penny.

This is my smallest fossil collection, found at the family farm near Lanesville, Indiana. I collected these from a weathered exposure of Salem Limestone, then washed an shorted them with a microscope.

How old? These are from the middle of the Mississippian Period, about 350 million years ago. Fossils of this size when in massive layers form the building stone known as Indiana Limestone. Most of the Salem Limestone has normal limestone layers or interbedded shale seams making the rock better for aggregate than building stone.

Fossil ID key: 12 to 1 o’clock – crinoid columnals, 2 o’clock – blastoid Pentremites conoideus, 4 to 8 o’clock – various snails, 9 to 10 o’clock – horn corals, 11 o’clock – Fenestrate “lace” bryozoan fragment, by Lincoln’s ear – Globendothrya baileyi – a foraminiferan, by Lincoln’s nose and neck – ostracods, above “2001” a sea urchin socket plate and spine.

Penny fossil collection

The wilds of Florida’s Gulf Coast

The first vacation of the year with my daughters was to St. Petersburg Beach, Florida. The goal was to relax and do some wildlife watching. The weather was partly cloud with temperatures in the low 70s to mid 60s. Warmer than home but not too hot.

Emily & I spent the first full day at Crystal River, about 2 hours north. We went with a group kayaking to see manatees. We saw one.

Manatee barely visible in the water.
See-through kayak

The kayaks we used were clear so we could see the vegetation and occasional fish. Never saw a manatee under it.

I was able to get some great bird photos, including an anhinga, black & yellow-crowned night-herons.

Anhinga doesn’t have oil on its feathers so it has to dry them off after it dives for fish.
Black-crowned night-herons hides in a hollow tree while seeking prey.
Immature yellow-crowned night-heron on the river bank

On Thursday, we went to the St. Petersburg Pier, which this of the the year wasn’t busy. I got distracted by small planes flying over my head doing touch and go at an airport may 1000-ft south of the pier. I looked up and saw a beautiful solar halo in the cirrus clouds.

Solar halo in the wispy cirrus clouds.

From there we wanted to see nature, so we went to the Body Hill Nature Preserve on the south side of St. Petersburg. There was a nice little nature center. Outside, they had caged raptors that were unable to be released. We hiked several trails looking for alligators. (No luck.) We saw a limpkin and snowy egret close enough that a telephoto lens was hardly needed. We also saw a gopher tortoise, but as soon as it saw us it hightailed it back into its burrow. Played tag with a palm warbler for a few minutes trying to get a decent picture. Eventually, it landed in the middle of the path.

A limpkin and snowy egret
Palm warbler on the path

Friday, we went to Egmont Key State Park. The highlight of the trip was on that excursion. After walking around the island and photographing gopher tortoises, my first loggerhead shrike, and other sites, the girls and I settled on the beach not far from the boat that ferried us over. A flock of gulls and terns – like from The Birds” came down around us. Fish were jumping out of the water and some foot-long ones were cruising literally at the edge of the beach.

Note the small fish leaping out of the water on the left while laughing gulls and common terns feast.
Fishing jumping to get away from the shark, right into the mouths of gulls like this one.

I told Emily I thought a barracuda might be around. Not 10 seconds later, a four-foot long shark cruises right in front of us! It circles one more time. I had my camera handy so I could take pictures. Emily shot video.

A four-foot long black tip reef shark about 25-feet from the edge of the beach.

The boat captain and his assistant were on the boat and saw it, too. He told me that it was only the second close approach of a shark to a beach he’d ever seen in all his years piloting boats.

Here are photos of the loggerhead shrike and gopher tortoises. The latter are common in this state park, isolated from the rest of the world. They can move fast when approached.

Gopher tortoise out for lunch
Loggerhead shrike – a bird that skewers its food on thorns
American White Pelicans resting on or near small sandy shoals.
A ship carrying petroleum (probably gasoline) in the channel preparing to enter Tampa Bay. It weaves its way between Fort Desoto and Egmont Key.
Bottlenose dolphin were seen both coming and going, mostly in the calmer waters closer to the small islands away from the open Gulf.

Saturday, I wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere, so we hung out on the beach by the condo.

Folks flock to the beach to watch the sunset.

Sunday, we took Rachel to the Tampa airport and Emily & I went to the Tampa Zoo. The weather was miserable. I bought an umbrella from one of the gift shops. Parking was good – front row. And there wasn’t much of a crowd. The busiest place was the cafe in the zoo! We saw some animal action, but many were out of sight, preferring the warm, dry interiors.

A family of young Red Wolves don’t mind the cool rain at all.
Koala nibbling on a eucalyptus leaf. Both were active. Usual I see them sleeping.

We stopped at IHOP for breakfast before heading to the Tampa airport and the flight home. Emily spent her birthday at 3 airports and 2 flights. She and Rachel had seafood at most meals except breakfast. Me? I’m not a seafood consumer. I had more standard fare.

National Fossil Expo

I attended the National Fossil Expo sponsored by the Mid America Paleontological Society October 21 – 23. My last visit was in 1987 when it was in Macomb, Illinois! This year it was located at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, in Springfield – a couple of hours closer.

The drive from Louisville to Springfield was about 6 hours with lunch and bathroom breaks thrown in. I decided to take I-64 almost to East St. Louis, cutting north to I-55 via Illinois 4. Traffic was light and construction was limited to about a half-dozen bridges on I-64 in Illinois. I found out later that if I had taken I-65 to Indy and I-74 west, I would have had dozens of miles with construction lane restrictions. I lucked out!

When I arrived and got out of the car, my luck continued – I looked around and saw a bald eagle flying over! It stayed around long enough for me to pull out my camera and put on the telephoto lens. How often does that happen?

Bald Eagle flies over the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds

When I checked in, my two tables were assigned to the northwest corner of the building. I put my folder there and went to my car to start unloading. When I returned, someone else was at my tables and my folder was gone! What the heck?

I tracked down the show chairman who apologized and said someone else needed five tables so they moved mine and another dealer to a new spot on the far side of the large building – about as far as one could get from the original location! On the positive side, I was able to drive in and unload the boxes of fossils right next to my new space (see photo). They also through in another table at no charge. I set up my space of two and a half six-foot tables primarily with fossil corals. I was next to a couple selling paleontology books that used to be in Charlie Oldham’s library.

Alan Goldstein’s Universe at the National Fossil Expo.

Set up completed, I met up with some friends also at the show. I also had time to visit other tables and gawk at lots of interesting (and expensive!) fossils. I ignore price since my interest in acquiring expensive fossils has never been a goal. I’m happy with obscure and cheap! (As long as it has good data…) Photos below are examples of expensive fossils. Preparation for display is what makes them expensive.

Borucrinus and Rhodocrinus from Montana
Illaenus trilobite mass-mortality from the Ordovician of Oklahoma
Mass-mortality of Waldron Shale Eucalyptocrinites elrodi

There was a privately organized fossil & mineral show at the Northfield Hotel where most of the dealers and Expo organizers stayed. (The Fossil Expo doesn’t allow minerals to be sold.) The rooms had dealer names visible from the hall. There were probably 20 rooms with dealers but some I never saw an open door. I believe that show opened on Wednesday or Thursday and went through Saturday. I got most of my fossils from a couple of dealers in the hotel.

On Friday, I did a presentation on the fossils of the Waldron Shale, focusing on the fauna in Clark Co., Indiana, which is a bit different that the classic Waldron localities (photo below). On Saturday, my topic was the Falls of the Ohio. Hmmm. I wonder why?

Presenting at the MAPS Fossil Expo. No the screen isn’t tilted!

So what did I think of my first National Fossil Expo in 35 years? As shows go, I’ve attended and set up a few that were busier. When I asked people what they were looking for, most said dinosaurs. No surprise. I’ll freely admit that more people are interested in dinosaurs than corals. But my inventory consisted of inexpensive, beautifully preserved specimens. Sales were sufficient to cover all of my expenses and I picked up some cool fossils for my collection. (I’ll post photos of those later.)

Will I return next year? You bet! I’ve already been asked to write an article for next year’s Digest. (Dr. Kate Bulinski & I wrote an article on the Waldron Shale fossils for this year’s publication.) Dale Brown & I came up with a laundry list of activities that would boost attendance at next year’s Expo. There are plenty of marketing improvements to be made. There are also program and activity ideas that won’t cost anything to incorporate. The first marketing effort is this – come to Springfield, Illinois, next October 20 – 22, 2023!