Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hemlocks.

I have posted a few times about the title of my blog. No, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the poison known as "hemlock" and famous in history as the concoction Socrates was forced to ingest as his capital punishment.

The hemlock of my title refers to our native Eastern and Carolina hemlock species of evergreen tree. As I have explained before, they are in danger of extinction from an introduced Asian insect. Yet another example of the harm created by invasive species.

In a nutshell, here is a brief video that shows some good folk treating these two species in a protected property and how they go about it. I have done as they do on my own--both to protect trees in my yard, and to try to save trees that I have found in some of my stomping grounds.

Listen and be educated.


Hemlock tree that has been treated in Linville Gorge.

Hemlock tree that has been treated in my back yard.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

SALE!

My publisher is running a promotional sale on WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of Billy B. right now. Sale price starts at 99 cents for the Kindle version and will go up periodically until it's back at full price. So grab a copy now!

And sales need to be good so that the fans can read the continuing adventures of Billy B and the other hyper heroes of Charlotte, NC! Grab a copy now! You'll get a kick out of it!

Kindle version! Buy it now!

Paperback version for you old Silver Age folk!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Waterfall Bag List

One of my favorite hiking and camping areas of North Carolina is the area around the Wilson Creek National Wild & Scenic River. Much of it is not wilderness in the classic sense because the Wilson Creek corridor has a lot of private inholdings with houses and cabins and trailers sitting beside the river. And there is the main access road: Brown Mountain Beach Road, which is a wide, very well maintained gravel avenue to allow the large crowds that descend on Wilson Creek on summer and holiday weekends.

However, there is actual wilderness beyond the main creek. Wander just a little way off and you find yourself in deep forests, very rugged terrain, and often real solitude.

I ventured into the North Harper Creek Wilderness Study Area on Saturday, March 18 to bag two waterfalls I have wanted to see for a while. Neither of them are particularly spectacular falls, but they are pleasing and interesting, being long, sloping cascades rather than single-drop falls.

There are currently two wilderness study areas in the vicinity. Both are roadless, the main requirement for wilderness designation. However, wilderness areas are not popular these days with legislators and the corporate bosses who pull their strings. So it's probably a safe bet to assume that neither of these will ever make it into the national Wilderness Area program.

However, I did find some actual peace and quiet on this hike. I only encountered two hikers who were heading out as I was going in, and two mountain bikers as I was leaving who were illegally biking the trail, as it was posted only for foot travel. (Such folk should be shot on sight.)

I was able to finally mark this pair of waterfalls off my list. The last time I went to hike there for that purpose, I was halted from reaching the trailhead by a large tree that had blocked the Forest Service Road when it fell in the night. That day I ended up hiking to see some waterfalls that I'd already seen, so it wasn't a total loss. But on this day I made it in to see Chestnut Cove Falls and North Harper Creek Falls. It was a very quiet and relaxing hike, and I did enjoy some actual solitude for a few hours.

Man, it was quiet in there!

Chestnut Cove Falls.

Potholes on Chestnut Cove Falls.

Obligatory selfie at North Harper Creek Falls. I was there for over an hour and saw no one.


North Harper Creek Wilderness Study Area.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Trend, or Happenstance?

I went on a hike Saturday in the Wilson Creek area. I'll post some more details and more photos of the hike in a day or two. For now I just want to put up a couple of videos I produced of parts of the trip (not the specific hike).

Mainly, I took the hike to see a couple of waterfalls that I had tried to see a couple of years ago. On that trip I arrived right after a front came through, bringing very powerful winds. Those winds took down a very large tree that blocked the Forest Service road leading to the trailhead that I wanted to use. This time the road was clear and I arrived at the trail with no problems.

I do want to mention something that has been bothering me for some months. And that is the absence of pretty much all wildlife on my hikes. Now, I know that I can't see a bear or a mink or a bobcat every time I go into the forest. But for over a year I have noted that I am seeing and hearing almost nothing. It has been a while since I've even seen a white-tailed deer or a turkey on a hike. And those are two animals that have been common for me to encounter in recent years. The trees have even been absent bird song.

As I said...maybe it's just the luck of the draw. But I have found it disturbing.



I stopped along the road to take some photos and shoot some video of Wilson Creek from a nice vantagepoint.


After my hike I stopped to see the remains of one of the textile mills--all that remains of the town of Mortimer.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

PREACHER

After I left the comic book industry (as a retailer, as a back-issue dealer, and as a writer), I didn't look at comics for a very long time. But I still had friends in the industry (mainly comic artists) and I would talk to them from time to time. During some of these conversations with several of these folk, a title kept coming up concerning the kinds of books that were appearing on the scene since my absence. That book was PREACHER.

PREACHER was published by DC Comics. Probably their Vertigo line, but I'm not sure and I don't feel like looking it up. At any rate, it was created and written by Garth Ennis, and illustrated by Steve Dillon. It has always been my impression that both of these fellows hailed from Europe, and when I looked into it, sure enough: Ennis from Ireland, and Dillon from UK.

The title was set in the USA, specifically the state of Texas. And it dealt mostly with Americans and USA situations and locale. Despite the fact that these two hailed from outside our nation, they pretty much seemed to have a grip on the seamy underbelly of life in this country. The book was well written with clever dialogue from Ennis, and illustrated cleanly but with a fine, twisted line by Dillon.

But I didn't care for the book.

It should have been at the top of my list of favorite reading material, but I had become so alienated from the comics medium that I just couldn't formulate any enthusiasm for the title. Yes, I picked up a couple of the multi-issue collections to get a feel for the work, but I couldn't stay with it. Part of the problem was that I was getting older and things that had once thrilled me now bored me. Also, I found the nihilism present in almost every page to be bothersome and almost sophomoric in the book's attempt to shock and outrage the reader.

PREACHER was ugly, it was disgusting, it was crude, and it was damned near nauseating. I read about seven issues and grew bored with it.

Then, AMC announced that they were producing it as a television series. My thought was that there was absolutely no freaking way they could do this. How could you show that much violence and that caliber of nihilism in a TV series? It couldn't be done and be allowed on a television show.

I was wrong.

There it was, in all of its horrific glory. Arseface. Jesse Custer. Tulip. Cassidy. And the rest of the whole, sorry, worthless lot. Blood. Broken bones. Murder. Torture. And lots and lots and lots of blasphemy. Tons of blasphemy. Blasphemy in almost every line of dialog and every frame of video.

And I like it. A lot. For some reason, what did not appeal to me in four color comics suddenly made all the sense in the world on my big flat-screen TV.

Why? Fuck if I know! I could not tell you why. The simple fact is that what I found boring and pedestrian in comics format was transformed into humor and attraction on the TV screen. Yeah...I know: it makes zero sense. The lines were similar from the comic to the teleplay. The images were almost spot-on when it came to recreating the characters from two dimensional renderings into human actors. But whatever it was, I found the show to be funny, and sarcastic, and entertaining.

Part of it could very well be the cast and how the writers chose to translate the story. It doesn't hurt that Ruth Negga (as Tulip) is achingly pretty. And both Jesse Custer and Cassidy are portrayed with a clever combination of humor and pathos. Whatever it is...I enjoy watching the show.

It works.

I like it.

PREACHER, the comic book.

PREACHER, the TV series.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Audiobook

I've been published in hardback format, various paperback types, in comic book and graphic novel, magazines, chapbooks, anthology, and in ebook. I've even had some of my work optioned for film, even if none of those options have so far resulted in reaching the screens.

Now, my latest book--WORKING CLASS HERO--is headed for audiobook. Beacon Publishing will be producing the audio version. So far, that's about all I know, other than that it will also be available through Audible.com. As near as I've been able to find, release will be "in a couple of months". April? Early May? I'll post any details as they come to me.

Until then, you can pick up the novel in two of those already mentioned formats: paperback or ebook. And you can also buy a cool 5400-word WORKING CLASS HERO short story in strictly ebook format for less than a buck!

WORKING CLASS HERO--When blue collar Joes become superheroes.


A WORKING CLASS HERO short story.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Promotions

Back in the day, promotions were easier. I had a much simpler job of promoting my work when--according to modern experts--the system was more disjointed and less well connected than it is now.

For instance, promoting my first novel, THE FLOCK, was a simple job for me. I sent out review copies, and I got in contact with various bookstores and libraries and magazines and got the word out. It worked well and I had a decent amount of success. It was more impersonal than things are now, but the results were good. (And, no, for those who ask, not even Tor Books did any advertising for the book. It's up to the writer to walk those miles.)

These days there is the Internet. And almost all publishing today is done electronically. Fewer and fewer people buy and read books. Bookstores are vanishing. Libraries seem to be simple hangouts and little more. The traditional publishers who remain don't advertise the books they buy--they expect the authors to spend their advance money publicizing their novels. (Admittedly, this was even the case when I sold my first traditionally published novel.)

Publishers have decided to let the writers do the leg work.

No publisher I have ever signed with has done any real advertising. Zero. Not one, thin dime.

So it's on the writer's head to get the word out and to try to push the sales figures in the right direction.

But it is a tedious job. For some, it's just overwhelming. Recently I was reading a blog from a moderately well-known author and he claims to spend up to sixty hours a week promoting his fiction. That's a week and a half of labor for a man with a normal job.

I hate to be blunt...but fuck that.

I suppose I will continue to write, and I will be forced to promote my own work since publishers have no budgets for that in these times of shrinking book sales. In their case, it's pretty much a self-fulfilling doom prophecy.

And even though I don't spend anywhere near sixty hours a week promoting my fiction (I have to have time to live and, yes, to write) I still feel that I expend far too much time in promotions. To paraphrase Bones McCoy, "I'm a writer, damn it! Not a salesman!"

And, now, having made that point--shameless promotion time. If you enjoyed my novel WORKING CLASS HERO, you will want to buy the short story "A Turn of Events" which is available in ebook format only. And if you haven't yet bought a copy of WORKING CLASS HERO, you can get an idea of what it's all about by reading this low-cost story of 5400 words.


"Turn of Events" a story of WORKING CLASS HERO, Billy B.