My Old Neglected Vaccine Could Nail COVID-19

Humanity versus the coronavirus. Who’s winning? So far, advantage COVID-19. But things could change rapidly for the better if a scientific procedure I published 39 years ago is dusted off and brought to bear on this new nemesis. What we lack right now is a vaccine that can stimulate antibodies in our bloodstreams like the one at left, shown grabbing onto a surface molecule of the SARS virus. Remember that bug? In 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome killed quite a few people, though its pandemic was smalltime compared to what we’re facing now. After ten years or so, scientists got a look at this anti-SARS antibody (the white and blue strands) clutching the viral protein (red strands) that gives coronaviruses their spiky appearance. It was a tour-de-force of science to get that image, but of course it came a decade too late to help anyone. So, is there anything we can do to hasten the process this time around?

There is.

Ever heard of the “Hopp and Woods Hydrophilicity Analysis Method?” No. I suppose not, unless you’re a scientist—and then only if you’re a vaccine researcher. But this is a widely used molecular biology method I invented, that has great potential to solve our need for a COVID-19 vaccine. Yesterday, I decided to rev up my old computer program “HYDRO” and have a look at COVID-19 to see what I could see. Wow! Was I surprised!

This Hopp and Woods profile for the spike protein of  COVID-19 may not look like much, but great potential lies within it. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first consider this: the genetic sequence of this virus was published just two weeks ago. Since then scientists have been racing to find ways to make a vaccine, but their best estimates are it may take months or even years to come up with a useful product.

But things could be different this time. It turns out my old method easily spotted a key target on COVID-19’s spiky surface where it can be “neutralized.” The image at right shows the amino acid sequence of the spike protein with the short segment my technique zeroed in on shown in red (Peak 1 in the data plot above). According to Hopp and Woods, this is a prime target for making a synthetic peptide vaccine. A what? It’s a type of vaccine that can be made virtually overnight—well, okay, in three days of hard work and late nights in the lab. Can you imagine the tingling up and down my spine as I stared at the computer screen? Here in this humble plot is the blueprint for a vaccine that could save many lives, starting three days from now, if only I had the lab equipment and chemicals for the task. I’m still getting chills as I write this.

There are many labs around the world fully equipped for this sort of vaccine work. But I’m sidelined these days by lack of government grant support or corporate interest, neither of which ever really “got” my idea. Well, the day has come when their inaction—neglect really, because I’ve laid it all out in my scientific publications—comes with a cost in terms of human suffering and death. I’ve begun making some inquiries, but the wall of doubt and resistance remains. So be it. I’ve decided to lay this out for all to see and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe somewhere someone will pick up this idea and run with it—and wisely so.

I imagined just the sort of pandemic we now face, when I was a grad student at Cornell Medical College in New York City in 1976. I got the idea to use a computer to quickly scan virus sequences and identify the precise spots where antibodies grab on and block the virus’s ability to spread infection. I worked hard and published the method several years later. The Hopp and Woods algorithm is now used by immunochemists around the world to identify “antigenic determinants” that can serve as vaccines. There are now thousands of reports in the literature of immunizations of this type. However, no one ever developed a human vaccine. Admittedly, there’s a reason for that. You see, the immunity to a Hopp and Woods vaccine does not last all that long, only a few weeks or months. So the scientific establishment turned up its nose at my method. But tell me folks—right now, would you settle for a few weeks or months of immunity to COVID-19? Duh!

I see the dawn of a new day for the technique I pioneered so long ago, precisely because we need a COVID-19 vaccine YESTERDAY. With CDC, NIH, and WHO promising vaccines next fall or next year, how about THREE DAYS FROM NOW, folks? As the thrill of seeing how well my technique could work wears off, I’m beginning to get a little frustrated. So, let me appeal for help. If you know someone who knows someone who knows someone else who has an immunochemistry lab, send them my way, all right? We’ll make a vaccine for COVID-19 in three days, or my name ain’t Hopp… of Hopp and Woods. Here’s a link to the original article.

Now, if you’ll bear with me, I’ll explain in more detail just how my method draws a bullseye on the coronavirus. This image zooms in on the molecular interface between the antibody chains (blue for the antibody’s heavy chain, white for its light chain) and again the viral spike protein in red. The interaction has two parts. On the left, the blue heavy chain entangles one part of the viral protein. On the right the light chain surrounds another part. Notice how that right-hand side of the red chain has several Y-shaped things standing up almost like hairs in an electric field? Those are two of the amino acids in the sequence I highlighted in red above. It is precisely this sort of electrostatic interaction that the Hopp and Woods method seeks out. And it seems to have done its job exceedingly well in this case. It has led us directly to the most important target on the whole coronavirus.

In my years on the sidelines, I haven’t been completely idle. As an exercise in imagination, I wrote a novel that dramatizes an outbreak of a deadly virus and follows scientists as they come up with—you guessed it—a Hopp and Woods vaccine to try and neutralize the threat. The Smallpox Incident was a forum for me to work out the details of just how such a feat might be accomplished. Maybe it should be required reading for vaccinologists responding to the COVID-19 threat, because it breaks the mold of the old vaccine culture that is currently telling us to wait so long.

Given the gravity of the matter at hand—namely life or death by COVID-19—I think it’s time my old method got a second look. So, again, if you know someone with the ways and means to make synthetic peptide vaccines (there are two or three thousand labs around the world capable of doing this), then send them my way. I’ll help them make it, and then I’ll take the first injection.

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They’re fighting coronavirus with a weapon I designed

Coronavirus. Here’s an image of the enemy. As this killer microbe spreads contagion worldwide, it’s heartening to know scientists are already fighting it with a molecular weapon I created a long time ago. Known to medical researchers by the obscure name “FLAG epitope tag,” it’s essentially a molecular handle they can attach to a virus to manipulate it at the atomic level, pulling it apart and putting it together again (in a biohazard containment facility of course) until they understand what makes it tick… and kill.

It turns out that scientists planted my FLAG on the surface of another member of the coronavirus clan, the SARS virus that caused a lethal epidemic in 2003. Attaching it to one of the protein subunits of the virus’s outer shell, they followed the life cycle as it infected human cells in culture flasks, and learned how that protein, ORF3, does its dirty work.


It seems that ORF3 pokes holes in cell membranes, letting water out as the virus compacts itself and takes on a spherical form as it exits one dying cell to find another victim to infect. The yellow highlight I marked on their summary below pinpoints the crucial role my invention played in their ground-breaking discovery.


I only wish I could say that their research has culminated in a cure, but that day has not arrived just yet. But it is surely coming. Now that scientists know ORF3’s function, they can begin to design drugs that target it, perhaps by plugging the holes it pokes in cells. And when that day comes, humanity will benefit immensely from a treatment now lacking. Many thousands of lives will be saved, thanks in part to a molecular tool I developed so long ago. Even though my career has been sidelined, I am heartened and more than a little humbled to see others still carrying on with my invention. Someday, not only the current CoVID-19 coronavirus from Wuhan, but all its evil kin, will be annihilated by drugs targeting ORF3. Mankind will then be able to add coronavirus to the list of permanently defeated pathogens. Let’s all hope that day comes soon.

I’m retired now and my lab days are over, but my old heart is warmed by knowledge that others have taken work I started three decades ago in new directions I couldn’t have imagined when I first published the method (here’s a link to the original article).

May the day of coronavirus’s death come soon. And long live the FLAG!

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Of Tidal Waves and Tunnels and Highway 99

Here’s something scary I came across while researching my novel The Great Seattle Earthquake. The city’s brand-spanking-new Highway 99 tunnel, which plunges well below sea level near the south end of the waterfront is virtually without protection from a tsunami. Given that a major tidal wave ripped through this area 1100 years ago and we’re about due for another one, I get just a little worried thinking about it. Don’t you?

The image above shows an overhead view of the southbound lanes of Highway 99 emerging from the tunnel at ground level–and ground level is very close to sea level here, as I have explained before. Have a look at the area from another perspective:


I took this shot standing on a street corner in the waterfront district of Seattle (the spot appears in the first photo in the upper left corner). At first glance, you don’t see much, do you? Just a couple of stadiums in the background. But pay attention to what’s directly ahead if you want to share my heebie-jeebies. That long, low wall is the only protection those emerging lanes have, should a tidal wave come along. It’s about four feet tall judging by the white car just beyond its left end.

That’s it, folks. As I took the shot I was acutely aware that behind me, only about a city block away, was Puget Sound. Next, I took a hike around to get some other perspectives. Nothing I saw inspired confidence. The northbound lanes also drop into a hole in the ground with equivalent protection–that is, nearly none at all.

Here’s a shot of the northbound on ramp, or should I say down ramp? The lucky folks in the SUV passed through the tunnel and went on their way without interference from either earthquake or tidal wave. But look at the city Transit Authority vehicles to the right. They show, again, that the wall is about four feet high. And wait a minute, the spot where I stood to take the photo has no wall at all. The ramp starts right at ground level and is totally unprotected from a wave bigger than an inch or two tall. And tidal waves get A LOT bigger.

Finally, just for the eeriness factor, consider this shot of workers finishing construction of the northbound entrance about a year ago. Imagine an eight- or ten-foot wall of water pouring over the brink of the wall. It would make a thunderous roar comparable to Snoqualmie Falls and it would fill the tunnel far too quickly for anyone on foot, or in a car, to get out.

Maybe it’s time for some city planners to come up with a disaster-preparedness concept here. I’ve got an idea! How about some bigger walls?

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I saw A’yahos, Seattle’s earthquake serpent spirit

Quileute charmIt isn’t often you come in contact with a spirit creature of ancient legends, is it? I know I can count the times it’s happened to me on the fingers of one hand. Well, actually just the thumb. But it did happen once, and I’ll never forget an instant of the experience–terrifying, mind-boggling, astonishing.

I was at my writing desk in the late morning of February 28, 2001, typing away at my latest novel, when the Nisqually Earthquake ripped loose at magnitude 6.8. My writing office was in a renovated attic room in my house. I recall a loud boom, as if a wrecking ball had hit the place. And I felt the entire house lurch sideways at the same moment.

The kind of panic that strikes when objects you consider immovable or almost so, like my heavy writing desk, heave sideways, carrying you along with them–that sort of panic only hits a person a few times in an entire lifetime. That must explain why I totally forgot the good earthquake advice I had been given since grade school, to drop, cover, and hold on.

Instead, I leapt from my chair before it had even settled and sprinted to the stairway, then down and out onto the back deck. Although ducking under my solid desk and waiting things out was the prudent course, I don’t regret my choice to evacuate post haste, because, you see, that’s what gave me the opportunity to meet A’yahos.

Tillicum AyahosI scurried to the deck’s back railing and held onto it with both hands while the house rocked back and forth, creaking, cracking, and groaning under the strain of the quake energy. Stable on my feet for the moment, I had a chance to look around and, man, what I saw!

The entire neighborhood was rolling like a series of waves underground, moving from the south (the direction of the quake’s origin near Tacoma) to the north, where Seattle would be rocked moments later and the Highway 99 viaduct would nearly collapse (it was later condemned and demolished).

What astonished me most was my neighbor’s yard. I could see his wide lawn rippling like a slithering serpent. Two big trees, one on each side of the yard, swayed like two crazy metronome pointers, swinging together, then apart, then together again in tune with the rolling of the ground swells. All this was accompanied by deep a thunderous rumble emanating from the depths of the earth!

Kwakiutl dancerThen it was over. The land settled and the neighborhood went back to its serene suburban balance. There might have been a dog barking, or a human voice somewhere far off, but peace had returned with little harm done to our home. Some small splits in walls and ceilings, a brick loosened in the chimney, but no major repairs needed. Elsewhere around the region, there were injuries from fallen objects and one death attributed to the quake. We got off easy.

But I’ll never forget the ripples underground or the accompanying thunder on the day I met A’yahos, the Duwamish Tribe’s legendary earthquake serpent spirit. I’m a believer now, because I saw him slithering with my own eyes!

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More info on The Great Seattle Earthquake

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How Earthquakes Shaped Seattle’s Landscape

Most people are aware that San Francisco’s north-south trending landscape was shaped by the San Andreas Fault. But who thinks of Seattle that way? Not many. Well, I’m here to tell you otherwise.

As you can see on the map (taken from my novel The Great Seattle Earthquake), the City of Seattle happens to have an earthquake fault running right through it. Fortunately for us, this nasty rip in the fabric of the earth hasn’t let loose a major shakedown in recent history. But the evidence of its past conniptions is there to be seen, and scientists have eyed these landforms with growing concern in recent years. That’s part of what motivated me to write the what-if tale of terror that is The Great Seattle Earthquake. The landscape-altering Seattle Fault is STILL as active as the San Andreas.

Look closely at the map (click or tap it for a larger view). See how Alki Point and Restoration Point on Bainbridge Island seem to point at each other? Of course they do. They are uplifted sections of the Puget Sound seabed, raised in a massive quake that stuck at around 900 AD.

Restoration PtTake a look at these two images of Restoration Point (again, click for a larger view). See those stripes of rock? They might seem reminiscent of geological strata, laid down flat, one on top of the other, then tipped sideways, as is often seen in mountainous regions. But they are not strata. This was a flat portion of the sea floor when the Seattle Fault heaved upward in 900 AD, raising it twenty-five feet into the air. Furthermore, the force of the quake shattered the land in rippling patterns you can still see in these rocks. Wow. What an incredible force it was that moved so much of the earth’s surface up so far, so fast, and did the same on the Alki side of the Sound. Perhaps these ripple marks inspired the legend of A’yahos, the Earthquake Serpent, who Native American storytellers describe as rippling under the surface of the land.

Restoration overheadHave a look at Restoration Point from directly above. Not only are the ripple patterns clear, but notice how some of the strips of rock are jumbled at odd angles. This is the result of what tribal storytellers call “The Day the Rocks Exploded.” And this was long before Europeans arrived with their gunpowder and dynamite. The mind boggles at what the ancient Native Americans saw. Titanic boulders leaping skyward and falling back like scattered hay straws. You can still see these today at Restoration and Alki Points. They form great tide pools where I used to play as a youngster, unperturbed by any notion of their violent origins.

Alki PtThere are other signs of the Seattle Fault’s might and its effect on the area’s inhabitants. At West Point in Discovery Park lie the archeological remnants of Native American camps that span several thousand years of continuous occupation–with a notable hiatus at around 900 AD, when the shell middens and stone tool artifacts disappeared for a century or so following deposition of tidal wave sands several feet thick. That’s right, a tidal wave generated by the earthquake that uplifted Alki and Restoration Points swept over West Point, no doubt drowning any inhabitants and submerging all traces of the encampments there. Furthermore, West Point was once a much larger point, comparable to Alki Point. But the overthrusting of the southern side of the fault drove the lands to the north downward, sinking West Point by several feet, most of it never to rise above tidewater again.

There’s more evidence in our landscape of the rising southern side and sinking northern side of the Fault. Elliott Bay itself is a sunken basin, pushed down and filled with water by the overriding southern heights of West Seattle. And, where is the highest point in all of Seattle? You guessed it, right at the top of West Seattle’s Gatewood Hill.

So next time you’re driving, walking, bussing, training, or biking around our beautiful city, give a thought to how it all came to be. And also give a thought to where you’ll drop, cover, and hang on if a landscape-shaping rupture of the Seattle Fault strikes again.

I have put together a slideshow presentation of this and much more information about the earthquake and tsunami history of the Seattle Area. If you or your group are interested in learning more, you can find further details and contact information HERE.

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ShakeOut! Did Seattle’s Earthquake Drill Make A Deadly Mistake?

With a title like that, I’d like to start by saying I appreciate all the great work being done by earthquake planners in our shake-prone region. And to underscore my enthusiasm, let it be known that I participated in this year’s Great ShakeOut, an earthquake drill on a massive scale that happened just this last week. In so doing, I learned a lot about earthquake preparedness and safety. But I’ve got to say, some of what I saw and read was, to my way of thinking, not such good advice. In particular the explicit recommendation that people should exit stadiums after a quake could, instead of saving lives, cause death on a massive scale. No. Really. Keep reading.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of earthquake preparedness, and I respect the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) advice in general. Last Thursday I dropped, covered, and held on, just as they suggest in their poster (click it for a better view). Right at 10:17 AM, according to plan, I joined millions of people around the world doing the earthquake drill at the same time in a vast number of locations. I was in my writing office. Others were in their homes, workplaces, or schools.

I took a few moments to scramble around on the floor imagining the walls rocking to and fro, but afterwards I got to thinking. I re-read their plan and confirmed a problem that worried me. It’s specific to the Seattle Area, so everyone else, don’t worry. If you’re in Denver’s Mile High Stadium when a quake strikes, you’ll probably be fine following the plan as stated. But if you find yourself at a major league baseball or football game in Seattle, you should avoid what I think is the opposite of good advice given in point Number 9. Following that point to the letter in the Seahawks or Mariners stadiums might be lethal for a very large number of people.

Here’s the problem. The two stadiums in question, the Mariners’ T-Mobile Field baseball stadium, and the Seahawks’ CenturyLink football stadium, are located in the flat SoDo district of Seattle. The area is flat because it was built on landfill atop the Duwamish River mudflats. The present mile-wide, perfectly flat landscape sits about sixteen feet above average sea level on Puget Sound, and only about eight feet above the highest tides. That’s exactly why FEMA’s advice does not ring true to me.

In Panel 7 of their presentation, they suggest people near beaches should drop, cover, and hold on, just like people in other situations would do. Then they tell you to quickly walk to higher ground. Here’s the rub, higher ground is about a quarter mile away for CenturyLink sports fans, and nearly a half mile away for T-Mobile patrons. Much easier said than done. But that’s not the worst of it.

Panel 9, which is more specific to stadium-goers, gives advice that is arguably worse. After correctly showing people dropping below the level of their seats to protect from objects falling from above (I wrote about this in my book), it then goes on to make a huge mistake: TELLING PEOPLE TO WALK OUT OF THE STADIUM.

But as I described in vivid detail in The Great Seattle Earthquake, that maneuver would put masses of people directly in the path of a tsunami that would wash completely over the SoDo district within 5 to 10 minutes after the end of shaking on the Seattle Fault.

And adding a dose of panic, a lot of those people will be running. In my view, that will only serve to increase the number of people who reach the streets just in time to meet a killer wave, taller than a man, as it roars ashore. Such a wave will sweep up everything in its path, including any unlucky people who happened to have left the stadium—on FEMA’s advice!

As I described in gruesome detail in The Great Seattle Earthquake, leaving the stadium after the shaking stops is most definitely a dangerous idea. Quakes on the Seattle Fault can propel huge surges of water into the Seattle area. It has happened before. An entire Native American camp was swamped and buried in tsunami sand on Discovery Park’s West Point—right in town! This sort of thing is also retold in Duwamish Indian legends of the earthquake serpent spirit A’yahos. I researched and wrote about all this in the book too, so I’m starting to feel like some sort of expert.

I’ll go a step further and warn you: unless the stadium is crumbling all around you, STAY PUT despite what the FEMA guidelines say. As other experts might tell you, Shelter In Place.

And things could get even worse. In my story, I describe something no expert seems to have addressed, or perhaps even thought of. What if Harbor Island were to collapse like what happened in Valdez, Alaska in 1964’s Great Alaskan Earthquake? There, a mudflat landfill like Harbor Island slumped entirely into the sea, producing a tidal wave 30 feet tall that killed scores of people in that sparsely populated area. God forbid such a monster wave should strike SoDo with fifty thousand people in a stadium. But one really could.

There. I’ve said my piece. Take it or leave it. Someday, it may be your life on the line.

So what’s to be done? I think a couple of things are obvious. First of all, decide right now, and bear it in mind, that if you experience an earthquake while at a game in Seattle, you will not immediately leave the stadium, unless the place is coming down around your ears. Stay put and shelter in your seat like the folks in Panel 9. Think long and hard before going out onto the streets. Even the playing fields themselves will flood. So, hey, team, don’t hesitate. Climb into the stands as if your lives depended on it. They may.

Secondly, I think Seattle should take some initiative beyond what FEMA provides in their very general document. I believe Seattle would be wise to install a tidal-wave detecting system on local waters, especially near SoDo. Timely information could be critical if a wave is on the way within minutes. The decision to leave a damaged stadium or to stay in it will be a fateful choice. Knowing whether a wave is on the way could make the difference between life and death for hundreds—or thousands—of stadium-goers.

Click HERE to download a full pdf version of the FEMA plan.

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Rugby Daze

I have a life other than authoring natural disaster thrillers like The Great Seattle Earthquake. While watching the royalties and reviews of the new book come in, I have kept tabs on the Rugby World Cup, which is currently playing out in Yokohama, Japan. Once upon a time, I was a rugby player, not a watcher. For eight years, encompassing sixteen seasons, I played the wing and lock positions for Cornell Med in New York City. I was about the scrawniest member ever of a sport well known for brawn, brawling, and beef.

But no one could call me faint-hearted. In one game, I fielded an up-and-under kick, where the ball arched high and I jumped high to catch it only to be slammed down by a chest-high tackle that rattled my head on the ground and knocked me out cold for a few minutes. That happened in the first half, but I was back in the game for the second half, dishing it out as well as I had taken it. There were no cell phones back then, so no footage survives.

However, in another game several years later, I got involved in a head-on collision in a loose ruck. Going in for the ball, I met an opponent doing the same, and a clash of skulls ensued. That’s me at half-time, with a stream of blood splattering down my face from an eyebrow laceration that made me literally see red. It required five stitches later, and left a split-eyebrow scar that I’m still proud of. But at least I finished the game. Not so, the other guy.

Here’s a shot of him leaving the pitch (field) a little early. Well, you can’t see him because he’s already laid out in the back of the ambulance. Too bad he had to go, because we had a great party after, which is a Rugby tradition centered around a keg of beer and many a ribald song and raunchy poem. I ought to know, I often recited Rugby Dick to help Cornell–also known as Big Red–to win the party after if not the game.

If you’d like to learn more about this rough and tumble sport, check out the World Cup at this LINK. It starts with a performance by the New Zealand All Blacks of their legendary challenge to opponents, an authentic Maori Haka chant. Fun stuff.

Bet you didn’t know I was such a brawler in younger years. I’ve set aside the cleats, cup, and jersey, given my advancing age, but those were eight great years of unforgettable, hard charging, high impact, hyper-masculine stuff. Ernest Hemingway, you weren’t so badass.

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EARTHQUAKE!

Da bookThe day foretold has finally arrived. The Great Seattle Earthquake has come–to my doorstep, delivered by overnight express. And it’s a fine and handsome book, the culmination of three years of painstaking research into subjects as diverse as geophysics, government disaster preparedness, and even local Native American legends.

The story line of this thriller follows the fates of a small collection of characters whose experiences are portrayed in great detail, while society as a whole is shaken out of its earthquake complacency by devastating events on a grand scale.

To the best of my ability as an author, I have striven to both entertain–scare, that is–and educate. Did you know a huge earthquake fault runs directly under the City of Seattle? Did you know it snapped around 1100 years ago, raising portions of the sea bottom and sinking a village of the Duwamish Tribe under tsunami sand? Do you know what Mariners stadium evacuation plans call for in case of a quake? Well, I do, and I wrote tons of factual information in and between scenes describing the characters’ desperate struggles to survive.

Curious? Follow this LINK to a page that lists every available version, from Kindle to Nook to iBook to paperback.

I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.

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Shaken before I stirred

Three Lakes shakerThe other night I was nearly tossed out of bed by an earthquake. That would be the Three Lakes Earthquake, epicentered just north of Seattle, July 12, 2019, 2:51 a.m. At magnitude 4.6, it wasn’t one for the record books, but it shook me pretty good. It was kind of a sideways heaving roller that really did almost throw me off my mattress. It didn’t last long, but in the darkness, listening to the metal gutters and downspouts rattling against the side of my house, my heart rate went up quite a few notches.

I got up and went for my computer, coffee cup in hand. Sure enough, the USGS already had the quake pinpointed and mapped on its Pacific Northwest Seismic Network website.

All this shaking and rattling serves as great last-minute inspiration for me to complete my latest writing project. That would be my new novel, The Great Seattle Earthquake, now scheduled for release on July 31. Mark your calendar!

Seattle FaultAnd while the other night’s temblor caused some excitement, it pales in comparison to the magnitude 7.8 terror I dreamed up for my story. Keep an eye out for future announcements and the book release, coming soon!

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The Great Seattle Earthquake is on its way

Scary headline, huh?

But The Great Seattle Earthquake is on its way for sure. You see, it’s my latest novel and I’m in the middle of the 4th draft. At some point soon, I’m gonna call a halt to all the revisions and just publish the dang book!

Wow! This book is both the scariest story I’ve ever tackled, and the most difficult to write. I’ve been at it for more than two years. Things have gone on for so long that my Art Department has outstripped my Editorial Staff. I gotta say, I like their artwork. Click on the cover image to magnify it. See how that jagged white line cuts right through Seattle? That’s the Seattle Fault. Formerly poorly understood, it has recently gotten some attention from geologists and city planners—and they’re getting nervous.

Not only does the Seattle Fault represent a pretty substantial threat to all of us who live on and around it, but it is responsible for a second, possibly nastier problem. It has put a huge wrinkle in Puget Sound Country to produce a thirty-mile-wide sediment-filled hole called the Seattle Basin that underlies Seattle, Bellevue, Bothell, and surrounding areas from the Cascade Foothills to Hood Canal. These softer sediments can shake like a bowl of Jello in an earthquake.

That bodes poorly for high-rise buildings in the area, as explained in this Seattle Times article by investigative reporter Sandi Doughton. Ms. Doughton, who is a major information source for me in earthquake-related matters, states that although city and state officials are studying the new threat and beginning to tighten regulations on skyscraper construction, many tall buildings on our skylines are of uncertain strength when it comes to the sort of shaking that might occur within the Seattle Basin.

So, how does all this fit into The Great Seattle Earthquake? Very nicely, thank you. You see, my mission in writing the novel is both to provide scary entertainment, and to inform readers about the very real dangers that will confront us all, when and if that day comes.

I expect The Great Seattle Earthquake to be released in early 2019. Let’s hope the Seattle Fault doesn’t release its pent-up power anytime soon.

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