Though I have published a small number of magazine articles, most of my publications have been in scientific journals.
I never thought I'd ever write a book like Nuking Mecca. Back in the nineties, I started working on a grand sci-fi space opera which today is a half-a-million word mess. I doubt I'll ever finish it. Nuking Mecca, on the other hand, was something that just happened to me - or at least it seems that way. I just sat down at the computer and the book really wrote itself.
I think Nuking Mecca was catharsis for me. It all started with 9/11. I knew four people who worked at the World Trade Center and one who worked at the Pentagon. One of those people died on 9/11. The rest either were not at work that day or were lucky enough to get out alive, including a former boss of mine who was a survivor of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
After 9/11 I picked up a very strange behavior. I would go through the news coverage of the World Trade Center over and over again, looking for faces of people I knew. I did this for about two years. It drove my family nuts. Then I started working on Nuking Mecca and the world returned to normal. Yeah, definately catharsis.
My father got into the nuclear industry at the ground floor: he worked on the Manhatten Project and spent his entire career dreaming up and building bigger and more deadly toys as a bona fide cold warrior. He would often arrange business trips on Fridays so he could take our familiy to New York City, where he would meet with people at General Dynamics and General Electric and my mother would take us shopping on 5th Avenue. Sometimes we would get invited to someone's New York penthouse or Greenwich Connecticut mansion where the conversation would revolve around nukes and missiles and submarines. The world of nukes is something that's very familiar to me. I grew up in it.
I've encountered very mixed reactions to Nuking Mecca. I've had more than one friend ask me not to write this book - or when I was done writing, asked me not to publish. On the flip side, other friends have had the opposite reaction, waiting patiently for me to hand out the latest installment while I was doing the actually writing. I know that one of the early book drafts I handed out got passed around among members of law enforcement in one small town where I used to live.
I do know that writing Nuking Mecca was nowhere near as difficult as writing my dissertation for my doctorate but I have done a non-trivial amount of work dealing with fate of stable and radiogenic isotopes in the environment. What's a little scary is that my friends who have seen the book have never doubted that I really could design a workable nuke. I'm not really sure if that's a good thing. It certainly is not something you put on your resume or vita - unless, of course, you're looking to work on bomb design at Livermore, Oak Ridge or Los Alamos. One member of my science fiction writing group in California was quite relieved when he figured out that the bomb design in the book would be a fizzle and that obtaining U-233 was impossible without a large nuclear reactor. To be truthful, I actually didn't know with any certainty that you really needed a reactor or big accelerator to get enough U-233 until I crunched the numbers while working on the book. That's one of things that scientists do: good scientists don't take someone else's word for things - good scientists go and independently verify the statements and results of other scientists, and I humor myself that I am a good scientist. Like my friend in my sci-fi writing group, I too was relieved that my own calculations showed for sure that the transmutation of thorium to bomb-grade uranium is out of the reach of even the most savvy of garage chemists.
As I got deeper into the project of writing Nuking Mecca, one of things I tried to do with the book was to show people what might actually be within the reach of a small-time backyard-scale terrorist and what would be impossible too. I really did not write the book to bash Islam. One of my oldest and dearest friends is a lovely lady of Moroccan descent who is a Muslim and who acquainted me with Quran and Islam more than twenty years ago. Islam is not the problem. It's the one-sided selective interpretations of the Quran that are used to justify violence that are the problem.
So let's talk turkey now. My family is not really happy with this book. With visions of fatwas dancing through her head, my mother is terrified that the terrorists will come and get us if I use my real name. Frankly, I'm more frightened of my mother on the rampage than I am of any possible terrorists. Doc Cleirech is a pen name and I think it should be obvious why there's no real photograph attached. Using a pen name and staying out of the public eye is a real probelm, however, for generating sales of a POD book. So far, most of my very modest sales for Nuking Mecca have been generated by word of mouth. I wouldn't mind seeing better sales of the book. It would be nice to at least recoup my research costs since I invested a lot of time and money on the project. I make decent money so getting rich off my writing isn't what I'm after here (though I wouldn't complain about making a modest profit). Right now, Nuking Mecca is a POD book so it's a bit more expensive than the cheapest books in the bookstores but it's less expensive than many others. I've tried to keep the price low. If you're unsure about diving in and getting a copy, you can preview the book on Google Books to get an idea what's it's like.