Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hail Mark Martin!

Featured here is the latest addition to my somewhat jumbled attempt to reclaim the toys of my first childhood as I enter my second childhood. Years and years and years ago I had tons of plastic models kits and toys and giant piles of comic books. Of course I destroyed and lost the toys as I got older and sold the comic books for food money when I grew up.

Slowly, and haphazardly, I began to reassemble both the toy and comic book collections of my youth. Recently, at the web log of noted funny man/comic book creator/graphic artist Mark Martin, I saw a collection of classic Universal monster toys he’d found in a dump. I expressed some interest in the figures. As he had an extra Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the heart of a young boy (which resides in his chest and not in a jar on his desk), he mailed me the inert menacing orange critter. Out of kindness.

Mark Martin, King of Funny Books!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Blackwater Canyon, West Virginia.

Blackwater Canyon is located in the Allegheny highlands of West Virginia. Cut by the Blackwater River, the gorge averages well over 500 feet deep and it remains a relatively pristine area filled with a vast forest of hemlocks, pines, poplars, and oaks.

A bit over 2,000 acres of the canyon is preserved as Blackwater Falls State Park, one of West Virginia’s premiere parks. There are a number of canyon rim trails, a ski slope within the park, a lodge, cabins, and a campground. For sheer physical beauty, this is one of the most beautiful parks in the Southeastern United States.

There are a number of spectacular waterfalls here, most notably Blackwater Falls, a 57-foot drop that displays the dark water for which the river and canyon (and falls) are named. The water is darkened not from soil runoff, but from the tannins created by the mildly acidic effects of the many hemlocks trees that clothe the canyon’s slopes. While the hemlock wooly adelgid that has decimated the forests farther east have recently been reported in the park, they have so far not destroyed these trees. However, unless there is a wide-scale application of the insecticide imadacloprid, these forests will fall to extinction as have those from Virginia south to Georgia.

No official trails find their ways to the canyon floor, and travel into the canyon itself is not encouraged. However, there are a number of unofficial trails and manways that weave down from the canyon rim and to the floor of the gorge. The best of these descends from Pendleton Overlook and is relatively easy to follow, if not so easy to negotiate. Some scramblers periodically leave nylon ribbons along this manway to keep hikers from straying too far into the maze of rhododendron hells. Use of these manways, while not encouraged, is not prohibited. Just use common sense when climbing down the extremely steep slopes into the rugged canyon floor.

Over the past few years, the canyon has been at the center of a drive to protect the lands that are not currently within the boundaries of the Blackwater Falls State Park. Efforts to preserve several thousand additional acres failed when the landowner sold the property to a timber company which desperately wants to log the canyon of its timber and leave the place devastated and unsuitable for a park. Additionally, this company is even lobbying to be able to move the timber from their logging operations through the existing park. Only time will tell if conservationists will prevail in creating a new National Park in this place, or if yet another corporation will succeed in raping the land for short-term profits.

There are a number of rare and endangered species that live within the Blackwater Canyon, and hopefully the presence of these living things will aid in stopping any further logging operations by the Allegheny Wood Products company. It would be a shame and a crime to lose this phenomenal landscape to the depredations of another greedy corporation.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Flock promotional.

(It's been almost a year since publication of my first novel, The Flock. In honor of that publication, here's the promotional packet that saw the novel through to a sales success.)

SALUTATIONS USA is the ideal town built by Berg Brothers, the studio that for generations produced family films. Constructed on a parcel of the decommissioned site of what was the Edmunds Bombing Range, it is the great Studio's intention to create a place that is what America once was, with room to expand.

But the land beyond Salutations is wilderness--450, 000 acres protected from development because of its former military status. Other forces struggle against the company for control of those acres. Vance Holcomb, billionaire ecologist wishes to construct a research center, saving the rare habitats. Winston Grisham, retired Marine colonel, wants all parties away, capitalist exploiters and meddlesome tree-huggers alike; he and his militia wish to be left alone. Ron Riggs, Fish & Wildlife officer wants to know what is lurking at the edges of Salutations. And the lawyers slug it out in the Florida courts.

Unknown to most, this backcountry is home to the last population of a creature believed extinct: Titanis walleri, a predatory ground bird of saurian form. The creatures, possessed of near-human intelligence, have hidden since the first Native Americans came from the north. With humans on the doorstep, knocking to come in, the Flock does not wish to be disturbed.

The Flock is the story of the conflicts between developers and protectors, between warriors and thinkers, between Mankind and a creature not unlike the theropod predators they so resemble in body and spirit; an adventure and suspense novel of epic proportion.