Planet Mojave – Authors

About the Authors:

Aubin, Allison, has been writing passionately since second grade when her teacher, Ellen Sieffert, revealed to her the secret of the universe: We don’t have to just read other people’s stories, we can write our own! In sixth grade, Allison joined Ridge Writers at the suggestion of her writing mentor, Betty Speckles. During high school Allison returned from attending the California Summer School for the Arts to form a writing club, Writer’s Ink, at her high school. She has written for The News Review, the California Aggie (UC Davis), and Bakersfield Magazine and has accomplished numerous NANOWRIMO wins. Today Ridge Writers offers a scholarship in her name to an aspiring writer graduating from her alma mater, Burroughs High School.

Aubin, Sandy, lives in the Mojave Desert with her husband and her husband’s three cats. Her proudest accomplishments include the raising of her two children, Zach a mathematician, and Allison a food scientist/writer. Sandy has been inspired to write by her daughter who states, “Mom, all you have to do is sit down and do it.” Sandy currently works as a technical writer and in her free time has written for Bakersfield Magazine and the Ridgecrest newspaper, The News Review.

Babcock, Elizabeth “Liz,” loves writing, photography, and graphic design, all of which she is able to share in this book. Liz was involved in technical communication during most of her 25-year career as a civil servant, and she is the author of Magnificent Mavericks, a history of the Navy at China Lake from 1948 to 1958. Today Liz is the copy editor for TheNews Review and the history curator at the Maturango Museum, both in Ridgecrest. As head of the museum’s Publications Committee, Liz has the fun of shepherding books from idea to publication. She is the proud mother of two (a picture of whom she has sneaked into this book) and grandmother of two.

Blanc, Bill, wrote “Save a Waltz For Me,” a teleplay acquired early in his career by Featurette Films, Inc., as pilot for a series starring Sebastian Cabot. By the 1970s, Bill could add to his credits about 20 technical films and slide and multimedia presentations produced by the Navy plus films, slide and multimedia presentations produced by his own company for such clients as Knudsen Foods. After attending a UCLA film esthetics class taught by legendary director Josef von Sternberg, Bill was informally mentored by Von Sternberg in summer 1965. Bill’s nontheater professional writing includes feature articles and a stint as managing editor of Ingest, a weekly local news magazine in San Diego. A pillar of our theatrical community, he applies his extensive knowledge of musical theater to the many shows he directs.

Burnett, Dan, was born in Huntington Park, California, and raised in Southern California. As a child he found some old books that his dad had as a boy, among them “The Mother West Wind Who and How Stories.” He never outgrew those stories of animals and nature. After retiring from a “normal” job he volunteered at the Maturango Museum and started reading stories to children at the county library. Somehow this led to writing poems for a series of Children’s Hour programs.

Butterfield, Autumn, an avid reader since she was 7 years old, has been a student member of Ridge Writers since she was 12. In 2005, she wrote a short story about a girl who is pushed into nuclear waste and gains superpowers. Since then, she has written several prize-winning short stories and poems. With ever more sophistication, she writes about cats, magic, dragons, superpowers, and good versus evil. One of her earliest freestyle poems, “Paper,” appears in this book as a 55-word story. She is now 17 years old and a high school junior. Her favorite subject is science, and she considers herself a “science nerd.”

Butterfield, Maryann Marsh, born in Glendale, California, in 1937 was first published in 1950, and married Richard in 1956. Still happily married, they have two sons and four grandchildren. Maryann has won horse show competitions, has a Pyrotechnic Operator-Rockets license, regularly renews her first aid knowledge and firearms training, and holds black belts in Judo and Shotokan Karate. With the Society for Creative Anachronism, she has fought battles using medieval weapons. From CSULB she has a bachelor’s degree (major in biology, minors in physical science and mathematics), and Life Teaching Certificates covering K-12th grades. In Ridge Writers, she’s a board member and the Youth Coordinator. Her published works include poetry, book and movie reviews, short stories, articles and Arctic Ice: A Novel (

Cooley, Holly Dworken, lives with her husband, two Australian Shepherds, and a black cat named Rasputin on an island named Paradise in a Florida lake, along with ducks, herons, and bald eagles. She has a PhD in medieval and Victorian literature. Her poems have been published in Mythic DeliriumGoblin FruitStrange Horizons, and Dragons, Knights & Angels. Her articles and reviews have appeared in publications varying from The Dictionary of National Biography to The News Review in Ridgecrest. Her favorite writers range widely from Annie Dillard to Charles Dickens.

Deits, Frank, as far back as he can remember, has had “an intense interest in how thingswork. How I worked was mysterious. Then in the late ’60s I fell into one of those personal growth groups, and discovered a hidden side of myself. Life changed! The rest is a long story.” “Engineers Have Feelings Too” was written in the mid-’80s as an introduction to a Stress Management Seminar for a major electronic firm when Frank’s wife, Mary, as presenter was faced with a group of mid-level engineers who were known to be hard-core skeptics.

Giles, Merrie, who moved to Ridgecrest in 1984 directly from spending a year in Fairbanks, Alaska, vows to stay in the desert as long as the sun does. Currently the Budget Officer for the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, which includes both Point Mugu and China Lake sites, she has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and has received the Commander’s Award twice in her 25-year civil service career. An avid hobbyist, Merrie has dabbled in photography, painting, and woodworking, and has donated mosaics to the China Lake Museum Foundation for auction each year since 2005. Her husband Daryl, son Steven, daughter-in-law Brandy, and daughter Beatriz, support her efforts. She loves spending time with her grandson Kaiden, whose antics continue to provide material she enjoys including in her writing.

Goodson, Charlotte, a transplant from the Midwest and Texas, feels that a quarter century in Ridgecrest qualifies her to be considered a denizen of the desert. A retired elementary school teacher, she continues to work with young children through storytelling, nature activities, and the local Maturango Museum’s docent outreach programs in area classrooms. Coordinating the museum’s Annual Wildflower Show and often volunteering at the Kern River Preserve’s festivals, Charlotte never runs out of interesting things to engage her. Rounding out the mix are writing, birding, reading, and cultural history pursuits. Last but most certainly not least, is a brand-new granddaughter!

Haberman, Anthony, is a local student and aspiring author interested in any kind of writing he can do. His other interests are broad, including languages such as Latin and American Sign Language, studying and composing music, and computer programming. Anthony took part in the Stories in the Sand student photo-essay program at the Ridgecrest branch library for three years in a row. He has also written pieces for The News Review. You can find “a very slight amount more” about him at his homepage:

Hareland, Fredrick Gary, currently serves as the president of Ridge Writers. He is also a member of the Los Angeles Adventurers’ Club, which explains his nautical interests and writings. Fred has published technical articles in the nautical magazines Professional Mariner and Marine Electronics Journal, and writes the online Marine Electronics Newsletter for Ocean Navigator magazine. He has also written sea stories documenting his Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine activities for the Adventurers’ Club NewsSteamboat BillSea ClassicsPowerShipsDestroyer EscortSailors Association NewsTin Can Sailor, and the Titanic International Society publication Voyage. Fred lives in Ridgecrest with his lovely wife Thelma of 23 years and works at the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station as a Microwave Communications Technician.

Howell, Norma, edits for Omega Publications, a publisher based in Palm Springs, California. She has five stories in an anthology, Mosaic: A collection of short stories, published by Omega and available on as both a paperback and an e-book. Her first novel, My Enemy My Friend, will be published sometime in 2011. Several of her essays on fiction writing have appeared in The Muse Marquee, an Australian e-zine.

Keenan, Megan R., is a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she pursues French and Asian studies. “I became enamored with the written word at a young age,” she explains, “learning to read along with my mother during our nightly story times. When I was eight I wrote my first poem (which I was convinced deserved a place among the canon of great literature since it rhymed), and I have been writing ever since.” One of her childhood poems was published in Highlights magazine, and she has contributed several pieces to The News Review. Her hobbies include crocheting, jewelry-making, and “other similarly crafty pastimes.”

Kilikauskas, Andy, lived in the eastern U.S. and Germany before coming to Ridgecrest. Our area’s weather and terrain enabled him to pursue his goal of extraordinary fitness by riding his bike outdoors year round, and accomplishing the 100 hardest bicycle climbs in the U.S. (over one-third are in the Eastern Sierra region). Local mineral wealth led him to become a gemstone miner and cutter specializing in sunstones. Learn more at He is currently working on a book with his wife Michelle (a world champion athlete in powerlifting and a certified kettlebell instructor). It details how to combine weightlifting, cardio training with a bicycle, and kettle bell lifting to achieve superior fitness with an ordinary commitment of time, even at age 40 and above. Andy can be contacted at

Luebs, Margaret, is a California native and a UC Berkeley grad, but she left the state in 1988 to do a PhD in linguistics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She has taught technical, scientific, and business writing, and worked for many years as a technical writer/editor in Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 her husband accepted a position at China Lake, and they moved back to California with their twin sons. Margaret is the secretary of the Ridgecrest branch of the California Turtle and Tortoise Club and has never known anyone who would harm a desert tortoise.

Marshall, Jeanette, applied both wisdom and humor to her written memories of a childhood full of travel and adventure as an “Air Force brat.” During her college years at the University of Arizona, she met and married her husband Richard. The Marshalls and their five children arrived in our valley in 1985. A talented teacher and writing coach at James Monroe Middle School, Jeanette shared her insights on how to start and end stories in a special workshop she and Mimi Merrill conducted for the Ridge Writers in 2008. Jeanette was only 58 when she died on March 11, 2009, leaving behind a gift for writing that she must have passed along to her daughter, Vivian, one of the winners of our 2005 Young Writers Competition.

Martin, Judith, has been a freelance writer since 1988. Her articles have appeared in Law and Order MagazineEarth Observation MagazineSierra View, and The News Review.  She is a charter member of Ridge Writers and served as club president in 2000. In 2002, she was awarded the California Writers Club Jack London Award. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from California State University, Bakersfield, and has completed writing courses at UCLA. She and her husband reside in Ridgecrest.

Merrill, Mimi, has described herself as “a writer and an artist, primarily a journal-keeper now, once a poet, a woman who fills up sketch books with designs that defy description, and a columnist.” A graduate of California State University, Bakersfield, she took every writing class the school offered, then was a writing skills specialist there for a dozen years. Mimi has often used her writing talents to share political and artistic insights in the local press. She has been an avid journal-keeper since 1973 and now has around 50 4-inch-wide notebooks of her writings. In 2008 our Writers of the Purple Sage serialized her vibrant “Daughters of Rebecca” story, which described forceful, daring Jewish women throughout history — her ancestors and ancestors-by-selection.

Robinett, Linda, calls herself a desert rat by birth having been born in Lancaster, California.  She spent “20 years in exile” on the coast of California working at Point Mugu and returned to the desert to finish out her civil service career at China Lake. She is a lifelong fan of science fiction and other weird tales, and her book reviews have appeared in The News Review.

Rosenthal, David A., a writer, photographer, California National Guard pilot, astronomer, and adventurer traveled to Hungary, Venezuela, Paraguay, and Mexico photographing astronomical events. His long military career included a tour of Vietnam and service as a MEDEVAC helicopter pilot in Bosnia. A regular contributor to QST magazine, Dave specialized in setting up amateur radio communications in remote and dangerous places. He often provided images to accompany wife Donna’s travel articles, and won the Northern Lights Award for travel photography. Diagnosed with Stage IV colorectal cancer in 2002, he entered a vaccine trial ( and survived for another five full, active years. Dave died on March 16, 2007.

Rosenthal, Donna McCrohan, who has written for newspapers throughout California, as well as Bakersfield MagazineRedbookCosmopolitanAAA Car & Travel Monthly, and other magazines, has organized, researched, interviewed for, and authored over a dozen books that have preserved popular culture and oral history for the public record. One, The Honeymooners Companion: The Kramdens and the Nortons Revisited, enjoyed four printings and remained in print for over 20 years. She has appeared on A&E Biographyand Oprah, and her speaking engagements have included the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of Television and Radio. She has served on the local and state levels of the California Writers Club, and she received a Jack London Award in 2003.

Schneider, Gene, has “an eclectic background typical of someone with ADD.” Formally, she has a three-way B.S. in zoology, psychology, and computer science. She wanted to build life support systems for NASA and go to Mars. Instead, she worked for the Navy for 32 years, building user-centered software, databases, and webpages, and became a well-known expert in the area of Human Factors in Computer Systems. She acquired a masters in computer science along the way. Retired in 2004, she started developing and maintaining webpages for several nonprofits and set up Ari’s Attic to sell curios on the Internet.

Shatto, Olivia, has Midwestern roots that stem from Chicago, Illinois. After 27 years of harsh winters followed by humid summers, she chose to transplant herself to sunny California.  She soon after met her Oregonian husband and moved to Ridgecrest. She embraces the desert climate and wearing sandals 365 days a year. Since moving to Ridgecrest, eight years ago, “I have multiplied: I am the mother of two beloved young sons. Aside from embracing motherhood, I currently teach in the local school district. I am just starting my publishing credits: I became a contributor to the Yahoo! Contributor Network in December 2010, writing short stories and op-ed pieces. In addition, I have Planet Mojave to claim. I plan to write that proverbial ‘Great American Novel’ in the form of a family memoir (a work in progress).”

Speckles, Betty Lee, was a founding member of Ridge Writers and a much-loved creative force in the Indian Wells Valley. When she died on Feb. 22, 1999, she left a legacy of creativity that touched hundreds of lives and numerous organizations. “If I know Betty, she’s probably teaching the angels how to paint,” said her pastor, Dr. Edward E. Jayne. She came to our valley in 1945, and after 20 years and five children, she went to work at China Lake, where she met and then married Milton Speckels, who encouraged her to take up photography and then painting. As her 60th birthday passed, Betty added writing to her list of accomplishments, later publishing numerous short stories, poems, and reminiscences in local and national publications.

Stallings, Daniel, a young writer, director, and photographer, plans to “always push the envelope even further and think about the future of art and creativity. Never satisfied with what’s safe or profitable, I like doing my own thing and showing people the beauty in odd things.” His first book, That Monster, a collection of poetry and short fiction centered on 10 modern concepts that could be interpreted as “monsters,” appeared in April 2010. That August he established his own production company, Warehaus Productions, to bring fresh talent to art through media such as film, photos, and live presentations. The Warehaus films can be viewed on YouTube ( and his personal website. In October he created the charity Robin’s Message, which promotes the healing power of art and its importance to younger generations. For more, visit MonsterBook and — key search: That Monster by Daniel Stallings.

Webb, Joy Extine, a Mississippi transplant, has lived in Ridgecrest since January 1984.  Her fascination with writing began “when I was but 11 years old and it has become a lifelong passion. Originally my efforts were limited to poetry, but over the years I’ve explored many other venues as well.” She has written a one-act musical, Here I Am, which was locally performed under her direction; a screenplay, The Hidden Power of Al’Thace; several novels, including Such Things Happen, which is available at http://www.RiveR-SongS.orgin e-book format; along with other shorter works of fiction. Joy says, “I am forever grateful to my Creator for the extravagant gift of words, as I truly believe He uses them to bring life, hope, and healing to a needy world.”

Wersan, Francine “Fran,” was the holder of Ridge Writers’ special Charmian London Award, created just for her to recognize her bond with her husband Steve (to whom she was married for 51 years) and her special talent for sharing her family with us through numerous delightful articles published in our newsletter. Fran died on Feb. 5, 2011, just as this book was being finished. She will be remembered for her creativity and her special touch with children. A desert-dweller since 1989, Fran was involved in numerous arts, social welfare, and community organizations.

Wersan, Stephen J., holds degrees in mathematics and physics and a doctorate in civil engineering. He spent his career in software development for computer and defense electronics manufacturers. Yet his right brain refused to quit. His interest in poetry dates back to the 1980s and resulted in his book Smooth Stones on the Bottom. He has given speaker programs at several CWC branches, has penned book reviews for The News Review, and has served on the Ridge Writers board of directors. With Fran, he co-wrote, directed, and performed a puppet show that that broke Ridge Writers attendance records. In 2009, he received the CWC Jack London Award.

Wilson, Casey, after 37 years working for the federal government, changed careers in May 1993 to become a full-time freelance writer. His first commercial publication appeared in the January 1969 issue of Electronics World. Since 1993, his articles and photographs have appeared in newspapers and several national magazines. Casey has written scripts for and worked as production manager for television public service announcements. In addition to his writing, he teaches writing and photography workshops. He edited the first CWC branch anthology Images, was one of the Ridge Writers founding members, and served as president of the California Writers Club corporate central board of directors first from 1999 to 2002 and again from 2008 to 2010. Casey has been awarded both the CWC Jack London Service Award and the CWC Ina Coolbrith Award.


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