More About the Author
Greetings! My name is Cathy Cobb and I am the author of five books on chemistry and the history of chemistry for the lay reader:
Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth;
Joy of Chemistry (also in Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic);
Magick, Mayhem, and Mavericks;
Creations of Fire; and now, I am proud to say, my latest effort
*********************** The Chemistry of Alchemy ***********************
perhaps my favorite so far.
The Chemistry of Alchemy is a book of reenactments of alchemical practices including growing gold and silver trees; producing the philosophers' stone, complete with peacock's tail; and, of course, transmutation. My coauthors and I decided to do the book because we found our intellectual ancestors, the alchemists, to be passionate, freewheeling visionaries, willing to risk the gallows, prostitute their intellect, and impoverish themselves and their families for the sake of a dream--and we wanted to know why. Why did they think they could make gold, and what kept them at their fires failure after failure? We knew answers would not come from words or old engravings, but had to be experienced first-hand, which led to the development of the demonstrations of alchemical procedures--and also led to substantial problems.
We found recipes, recopied by medieval scribes, with errors or omissions. We found several different ingredients had the same name and several names for the same ingredient. We found frustrating poetic descriptions rather than step-wise procedures and ironically, as a result, we succeeded in our quest to experience what the alchemists experienced: we spent hours over boiling beakers, tried many methods that didn't work, reasoned, guessed, and then finally threw everything in the pot out of desperation--took deep breaths and regrouped, returned to the books, searched for hints and explanations--and finally, after many fruitless hours--experienced moments of glorious success.
We witnessed magnificent reactions with amazing colors, astounding evolutions, and fascinating promise. By seeing some of what they saw, feeling some of what they felt, and suspending for just a moment our critical, informed, perspective and embracing the wonder of the unexplained, we beheld magic--and gained our answer to what kept them at the fire: the love of the smell, the smoke, the heat, the fumes, the foam, the fizz, the colors, and the gleam--in short, for the love of chemistry, which we love too.
So in this book we invite you: be the alchemist! And you'll love it, too.
But I haven't always been a chemist (or alchemist for that matter) and by my estimate, I've had a very interesting life. Seventeen in '67, the Summer of Love, I've been a waitress, a secretary, cook, clerk, hippie, hitchhiker, bartender, dancer, teacher, truck farmer, and mom. And through it all, I've been a writer because I love telling stories.
As a kid, I told stories to teachers, neighbors, strangers--anybody who would listen. I started sending stories to magazines--and collecting rejection slips--when I was twelve, and finally, in my thirties, I sold my first story to Easyriders.
I worked with an excellent editor at Easyriders by the name of Savage. He schooled me in grammar (in no gentle terms) and told me to write for my audience, but never sell out. Because of his grudging guidance, I have the following credits at Easyriders and other biker magazines.
Easyriders, April 1993, p. 137.
Easyriders, April 1991, p. 109.
Easyriders, August 1989, p. 77.
Easyriders, February 1989, p. 37.
Easyriders, July 1988, p. 37.
Easyriders, November 1988, p. 55.
Outlaw Biker, April 1991, p. 33.
Biker, April 1990, p. 29.
Biker, December 1990, p. 28.
Biker, August 1990, p. 29.
American Iron, March 1991, p. 24.
American Iron, January 1991, p. 50.
American Iron, December 1990, p. 50.
American Iron, August 1990, p. 24.
American Iron, July 1990, p. 28.
American Iron, April 1991, p. 50.
American Iron, June 1990, p. 4.
American Iron, February 1990, p. 52.
American Iron, July 1990, p. 28
Harley Women, February 1991, p. 26.
In 1993, I sold my last story to Easyriders because I signed the contract for my first full-length book. Surprise! It wasn't about bikers; it was a history of chemistry. You see, between the ages of 30 and 38 I decided I needed a day job, so I went back to school and ended up with a PhD in chemistry. Hey, you never know . . .
My editor at Plenum and then Prometheus, Linda Regan, was another taskmaster. Apparently writers need people of steel to tell them how to write, and Linda performed this function for me. With Linda's prodding, I produced four full-length works: two on the history of chemistry (Creations of Fire and Magick, Mayhem, Mavericks) and two elucidations of chemistry (Joy of Chemistry and Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth). My friends and coauthors have been Harold Goldwhite (Creations of Fire, The Chemistry of Alchemy); Monty Fetterolf, who also fulfilled the function of husband; (Joy of Chemistry, Crime Scene Chemistry, The Chemistry of Alchemy); and Jack Goldsmith (Crime Scene Chemistry). Linda Muse was our excellent illustrator, and my other partners in crime are my sons--Mathew, Benjamin, and Daniel--who managed to put up with their eccentric mom.
So, in my sixties, I'm ready to return to my roots. I have restarted writing short stories, but my biker days are done. Now, a bit closer to the grave, I'm writing suspense and horror and having a ghoulishly good time doing it. Linda Muse, who is responsible for the creepy cover art for these shorts, gave me the idea to incorporate the history of chemistry because, believe it or not, there are some pretty lively--and deadly--characters in chemistry.
So there you have it, my life, and it's time for me to get back to writing stories so I can share them with you. I hope you buy them, enjoy them, and pass on my name. I hope they amuse you and encourage you and you have a long and interesting and eccentric life, too.