Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ode to a Blossom

As I was standing knee-deep in the crystal clear water in the plunge pool below HuntFish Falls, I noticed a fallen rhododendron blossom floating past on its way toward the rapids beyond. Here was the bloom of the Catawba rhododendron, so recently on the shrub, illustrating great beauty and fertility only moments before. And now it was hurtling along toward destruction. Ah! The futility of life! The cycling and recycling of all that grows!

I was almost tempted to write a bad poem.

Instead, I feel that it's good to recall Percy Dovetonsils, the worst of the Earth's bad poets, creation of the late, lamented Ernie Kovacs.

Ah, Percy.
We hardly
knew Ye.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Another Dumb-ass Republican


You can't make this stuff up! What is it with Republicans? They're hilarious!


HAW! HAW! HAW! I can't stop laughing! What an illiterate dumb ass! They say his wife is his "intellectual equal". What does that mean? That she spells on a fourth-grade level?! HAW! HAW! HAW!

This picture almost makes me laugh as much as the antics of stupid Republicans.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Special Places

Have you ever been to a place that you didn't want to leave? I've been to a precious few such spots in my life. All park or wilderness locations. The first one was when I was fifteen years old--a little dot on the Appalachian Trail called Liss Gap. I was only there the one time and we stopped to rest. I wanted to stay, but a schedule was pulling us on.

There have been a few others over the years like Liss Gap. I generally stumble on these bits of geography once every five years or so.

But two in one weekend? Yeah. It's true. I'll write more about them later. Just now we need to unpack the truck. Here are a few shots I took at these places.

Big Lost Cove Cliffs, Pisgah National Forest, Curtis Creek Area.

HuntFish Falls. Pisgah National Forest. Curtis Creek Area.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Liked it Best When it was a Secret

There are some things that you realize you just enjoyed more when it seemed as if you were the only one who knew about it. Secret swimming holes. Secret parks. Secret restaurants. That kind of thing. Then everyone else finds out about it and the crowds set in and the yammering begins and...well...things are just never the same.

So it was with my love of the books of Cormac McCarthy. Many years ago I discovered his work when an acquaintance casually mentioned one of his novels--BLOOD MERIDIAN. I'm not sure how early on in his career this book was written, but surely one of the first half dozen or so. I went out and bought a copy blind, on my pal's recommendation.

The writing is pretty much as good as it gets in modern English. It's high art. The chapters are all like the best of what humanity has to offer in the way of displayed skill. McCarthy is probably the finest writer around, to my way of thinking and in my experience. To this day, BLOOD MERIDIAN remains one of my favorite works of art.

Subsequently, I went out and found his earlier work and consumed them in quick order. THE ORCHARD KEEPER, OUTER DARK, CHILD OF GOD, SUTTREE...these were works of wonder for me. It didn't hurt that they were also set in my native South and I recognized both the geography in which they were set, and the folk who lived in those worlds. Here was a writer to be admired and to be ultimately respected and especially not imitated. To attempt to parrot the style of Cormac McCarthy would be to invite disaster and well deserved contempt.

And then everyone else suddenly discovered McCarthy. He changed direction and moved his settings from the deep South to the West. Like America in its early days, he was moving off in a different direction. The newer novels had become exceptionally popular. The masses were on to him. He was my secret, no longer. And not that he had ever been--it just seemed that way to me. And then, of course, the folk in Hollywood found him.

ALL THE PRETTY HORSES ensued as a film. I didn't see it, but of course even a lousy film has the tendency to increase the sales of the books from which they originate. McCarthy was suddenly a hot property and now when I mentioned his name everyone knew who I was talking about. Good for McCarthy, and I hope that he's a very wealthy man, these days.

And then came NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN with an excellent cast and directors and screenwrights who seem to understand the book. More fame. More followers of the author. Now comes THE ROAD...a really good book, and I've seen the previews and I find it hard to believe that the makers of the film understood the novel at all. But it doesn't matter. It has an A-list cast and "the buzz". McCarthy will be even more famous than before. His books are everywhere. They have stacks of them, mountains of them, displays dedicated specifically to them in almost every one of the book superstores I visit.

Like a great swimming hole or a waterfall that only you know about, it all seems different when it's discovered by the crowds. You go one day to take a look and enjoy the sounds of the falling water and you peer down and there are footprints beside the pool. You look again and there are people filling the water. You listen and all you can hear is the squeal of the crowds as they soak up your special place.

It's ruint...

I swear it is.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Old Photo

I was searching through my back-up hard drive looking at old photos. And I stumbled upon shots from the last time Carole and I went tent camping. This was in summer of 2005. We were staying at the Standing Indian Campground, which is a National Forest facility not far from Franklin, NC.

The bear population in that part of the state is extremely heavy. There are as many (or more) bears there than in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And that's an impressive number. Understanding that, we were always very careful with food and garbage. We stored all food in the back of our truck, and garbage went into the bear-proof receptacles located all around the campground.

This was our site (#13) at Standing Indian Campground in the mountains of North Carolina. This was probably the day before the bear raided us.

However, a bear who did not know this raided our campsite one night. He was quite the large fellow and proceeded to smash things apart and make himself the resident alpha male. I scared him off, initially, by coming out of the tent during his midnight raid with a flashlight and yelling, "Go away, bear!". He did go away, for a short while, but came right back to finish what he'd started. I wasn't going to try facing him down again, so we retreated to the cab of the truck. When I started the engine, he finally fled for good.

Well, not quite for good. He showed up again within thirty minutes, but was happy to harass the campsites adjacent to ours and leave us alone.

We really had the tent camping thang down to a science. We had everything we needed. Alas, the bears scairt us!

Well, that was our last tent camping trip. After that we shopped around for a few months (two months to be precise) and bought our treasured Casita trailer, which we've named ZOLOFT, due to the fact that I refer to it as our fiberglass sedative.

At any rate, here are shots from that very last trip with our tent set-up. (Which was pretty nice, I have to say.)

Ah, the luxury of our little travel trailer. Now we can play in the sun all day, then retire to the trailer and eat ice cream from the freezer and feel safe inside our solid fiberglass walls. Just don't tell the bears that they can probably break in without much trouble.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Re-Mortimerize Yourself

I've never returned almost directly to a new hiking area after trying one out. Generally, I like to explore a lot and pick out new places to go hiking. But my long weekend in the Curtis Creek area was so much fun that I'm headed back there. It's a great place and I was only able to scratch the surface as far as peak-bagging and viewing waterfalls was concerned. Also, it didn't help that I fell and hurt myself on one of my early hikes.

Kickass mountain peaks.

So Carole and I are going back. We'll probably go tubing in Wilson Creek one day and take it easy and relax as much as possible. I'll take the laptop with me and get some writing in, but probably not as much as I did when I was there alone. I'm currently at work on the new novel, FAMILY, and I'm doing a good job of keeping the words flowing. This will easily be the most productive year of my life as far as fiction writing is concerned.

Great cove hardwood forests.

We've got the trailer just about ready to roll. We've cleaned it up from the last trip and I'll be taking the generator again, since the campground of choice doesn't have hookups. There are some waterfalls I want to hit while we're there and at least one peak is on my list to bag. Unfortunately, we'll only be there for three days, and that's not enough time to really sink my teeth into the maze of trails that are available. I foresee many more trips to Mortimer Campground.

I hope to land one of the campsites in the front part of the campground. We'll see.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

State Parks, an Overview

Carole and I visit a lot of state parks. We’ve hit parks in every state we’ve visited from Maine in the north to Florida in the south. Now, we don’t expect every state to be as good as the next when it comes to their state parks. Some states just have more to offer and have larger budgets for their systems of parks and wild areas. However, some states have done an excellent job with their parks, and others have mediocre parks, and still others are almost criminal in the amount of land they’ve set aside for parks and in the way that they administer those lands.

Highest on our list of park systems is most certainly the State of Florida. It’s not just that their parks are made around places of stunning scenic beauty and high recreational potential. It goes far beyond that. Florida has LOTS of state parks. They’re everywhere. It’s hard to drive more than twenty or so miles without seeing at least one road sign directing you to a nearby park. They’re everywhere. In addition to that, Florida spends a great deal of money ensuring that the parks have adequate facilities for people who are visiting the parks.

Do you like to scuba? Many parks for that. Hike? Trails everywhere. Camp? Not only do most of the parks have campgrounds, those camping areas have great bath facilities that raise the comfort level quite high indeed. Also, the State of Florida has been, since the early 1970s, slowly buying up formerly private parks that were centered around unique natural areas and turning them into public parks. Most of the first and second magnitude springs that were once in private hands are now public. That’s socialism at its finest! So for many, many reasons, Florida goes to the very top of our list of state park systems in the East.

Blue Springs State Park, Florida.

Second on our list is West Virginia. Now, West Virginia does not have nearly so many parks as Florida. Historically, West Virginia has been among the poorest states in our union. The lands were long ago denuded of their native forests and the streams polluted almost beyond recall by coal mining and natural gas drilling. The entire place was put up on the tables of the filthy corporate pigs who raped the land and stole the people blind.

How, then, did West Virginia end up with a fantastic system of state parks?

Well, a lot of the credit can go to FDR’s socialist program of the Civilian Conservation Corps. When the program was established, the various areas of the nation cast about for viable park sites where the newly hired laborers could be put to work restoring the woods and streams and building an infrastructure to enable the public to enjoy these newly acquired locations. Once again, this was socialism at its finest. The state took possession of raped ecosystems and slowly, bit by bit, saw to it that the earth was reforested and the streams cleaned up. Cabins were built for overnight stays. Campgrounds were established in secluded spots on ridges, in valleys, alongside streams, beside canyons. Trails were built—engineers laid them out and laborers carved the routes out of rock and dirt. Today, those trails will take you to great views, secluded swimming holes, amazing waterfalls.

Babcock State Park, West Virginia.

While not as impressive as the park system of Florida, West Virginia has shown that a park system can be constructed on a shoestring budget. The main thing is to leave Mother Nature alone and allow her to repair the damage done by the goddamned industrialists and the stinking, greedy, corporate monsters who seem to almost always rule our nation.

The third best system of state parks that we’ve so far encountered on the east coast is that of Virginia. Once again, the state seems to have gone to decent lengths to spend money buying land, building infrastructure, and repairing old damage inflicted by the capitalists who did their best to suck the place dry. They bled it well, but the places have recovered, and the State of Virginia has built a very impressive system of parks. Again, there are not as many parks as I would like to see, but Virginia has a decent number. They haven’t had the will to declare eminent domain where it needs to be applied, for fear of having to go toe to toe with the institutional money. But they’ve done a fair job of it. Each geographical section of the state has a good number of parks, so it’s easy to find a good place to spend your time without having to drive a ridiculous number of miles to do so.

Near Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia.

Now then, I have to say that many states we’ve visited have a piss-poor record of having established and maintained a decent state park system. Among these states are my native Georgia, my current home state of North Carolina, the state of South Carolina, and…well…basically most of the rest of the eastern and southern states. Georgia and North Carolina in particular gall me to no end for their truly lousy state parks. Yes, there are a few jewels in their tin crowns, but by and large those systems are nothing short of a crime.

Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi, and yet it doesn’t have very many state parks. Also, they seem to have allowed the best of their lands to remain in private hands and inaccessible to the general population. Georgia should be ashamed of its state park system. Yes, the parks that it does have are composed of relatively decent sights and have some great recreation and nice facilities. But too much of the state’s special places are in private hands or lie fallow and inaccessible to those who would love to see them.

Lowest of all on my opinion of state parks has to be North Carolina. This place has some of the most beautiful and stunning geology and geography in eastern North America. Here in my current home state we have thermal springs, 6,000-foot peaks, vast barriers island, Piedmont rivers and streams, gigantic cliffs, temperate rainforests, and a dizzying array of native plants and animals. And yet…many of these places are not under the protection of a state park system. And many more of these places are ruined and encroached upon by land development and industrial works. The people of North Carolina should be ashamed of the pathetic state park system with which they must live. (Hey, North Carolina: Hot Springs—declare eminent domain, you fucking cowards!)

Recently acquired State Park land, Chimney Rock Gorge, North Carolina.

Still and all, even the states with mediocre (or lousy) state park systems have much to offer. We can largely thank FDR’s mildly socialist policies for these parks and the trails and buildings that grace many of them. Let’s stop being scared spitless of the money elite who rule over us. Take the unique lands away from them, and put them back into public ownership where they belong.

State Park, coast of South Carolina.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Networking Overload

I spend a fair amount of time on the Internet. More time than I should. There are many reasons for this, of course. Mainly, I get every shred of news that I read over the Internet. I don't read newspapers anymore and I sure as Hell don't waste my time watching corporate-centric TV news. So there's that.

In addition, I do a lot of research for my novels online. I still do some from reference books, but mainly if I need some information I'll look it up on the Internet or get in touch with a friend via email who is knowledgeable about a subject I need to investigate.

Also, I've always done a good amount of networking online. This was most fruitful in the earlier days of the various online communities. In those times it wasn't unusual to open my email and find an invitation to submit a short story to a magazine or anthology; or to find an offer to make a pitch to a comics company. Such days, alas, are over. Most of the print magazines are dead, and I don't know any anthology editors these days.

Less Internet Super-Highway and More of the Real Thing.

But the networking continued, even though it did me precious little good and sometimes some harm. In recent months I've had accounts at MySpace and Facebook. Then there was Twitter. I drew the line at Twitter. I've heard of it, but I'm determined to let it go no farther. For personal reasons I canned my Facebook membership. I'm seriously considering doing the same to the MySpace account. I still have a group of friends and professional contacts with whom I communicate online, but I tend to do these things via direct emails and on my personal blog.

That's where I think it will end up, though. I'll keep this blog for one very good reason: it keeps the creative juices flowing. I tend to write more and write more effectively when I've been most active on this blog. So I'm very close to shutting everything else down and leaving just this one online presence standing. We'll see.

But no more online instant messaging boards. No more palsy-walsy fellow professional writer websites. Goodbye to all that.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Another Lincoln Log on the Fire

Well, yet another Republican is caught with his genitalia out of his trousers. So he quits his post on an important committee.

Frankly, I don't care what you do with yer dangly bits, as long as you're honest about it. And as long as you don't browbeat and scapegoat others for what you are basically doing yourself.

It reached the point where, when someone says, "I'm a Republican." My response is, "So. When did you realize you were gay?"

John Ensign: Cheating Sack of Shit.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's okay to be a gay politician. Just don't create havoc for the gay community while humping your way up to the top of the political meatpile.

Gay. Straight. Bi. Neuter. I don't freaking care. And guess what? Neither do most Americans!

David Vitter is a hypocrite sack of shit. He claimed to be this upstanding pillar of Christian morality, all the while he was paying hookers to fuck him. And I don't care if he was paying diseased hookers to let him stick his wee willy winky in their nether regions. It does not matter. What does matter is that he's a stinking hypocrite and I only hope he didn't bring home a communicable disease to his unknowing wife. (Mrs. Vitter, check for any lesions or lumps that may have appeared in recent months.)

David Vitter: Cheating Sack of Shit.

Yes, there are plenty of politically progressive folk who similarly can't keep their tallywackers in their proper places. But they don't, generally speaking, make an issue of browbeating others over the sexual things they do in private. Lefties are pretty much open about their sexual orientation. Or, if they're not open about it, they don't try to pass legislation scapegoating their fellow gays and lesbians and horny straights.

Larry Craig: Cheating, Closet-case Sack of Shit.

The bottom line is this---go ahead and be a Republican and screw to your heart's content. Do it with same-sex partners. Do it with the opposite sex. Do it with your best friend's spouse while he/she isn't looking. Hell--bang ducks, for all I care! As long as you don't create problems for those in society who are doing the same damned thing you're doing, then no one will care when they find out you do it, too! (And they will find out! Oh, be assured of that!)

Human beings are probably the most sex-loving bunch of mammals that ever crawled up the evolutionary ladder. We do it all the time. We do it with wild abandon. The planet is heavy to overloading with BILLIONS of us because we screw so often and so well. Here's some advice Republicans:

It's okay to screw!

Just don't go around claiming that you don't. (And please, for the sakes of Mrs. Vitter, Mrs. Craig, and Mrs. Ensign...wear a condom!)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Killer Diller

My next two novels have a shared character central to both, but the protagonist of neither. His name is, simply, Killer. Because that's what he is--a government assassin. Unlike every other government assassin, this one can see aspects of his own future. Which comes in handy if you're a button man. You know where to be and when to be there. More importantly, you know who to avoid and where not to be when you shouldn't.

Strangely, Killer is also not the villain of either story. He's a strange critter, Killer. He has motives that are neither noble nor pernicious. But his motives are his own, and there is good reason for them. But I'm not telling too much. I hope to sell these two novels, and I'm only 20,000 words into the first one. Probably 80,000 more words to go before I can write "The End" on it.

It's called FAMILY. As the word implies, it'll be fully dysfunctional.

Here's a bit of fiction about Killer, by way of introduction.

Killer Diller

Copyright 2009 by

James Robert Smith

The cell phone went off, an almost silent beep accompanied by a modest vibration. Although he carried the cell with him pretty much everywhere he went, Killer never used it to call out. And only one person had the number. Of course, he’d known the call was coming. He was special that way.

“Hello, Agent Nobody,” Killer said, his voice as cool as the opiates running through his blood made him feel.

“We have something for you to do,” the agent told him. The agent’s voice was not quite so cool as his own, owing to the fact that the gentleman on the other end wasn’t high on heroin. Killer had met the fellow on a few occasions, and he seemed as humorless as a hangman. Which is, really, exactly what he was. The only difference was that the agent didn’t use a rope—he used a cell phone, and someone else pulled the trap door for him—and they knew who that was.

“What is it, this time?” Killer asked. He reached out with a pale left hand and retrieved his coffee cup. It was filled with heavily creamed coffee and lots and lots and lots of raw sugar. Quite often, this was his breakfast of choice. He knew that he should eat something more substantial, but...well...who was going to bother an assassin about what he ate for breakfast?

“I’ll need to see you about this one. It’s a special case.”

“Aren’t they all?” He smiled, although no one was in his house to see him smile and he supposed the agent on the other end could only imagine that he’d smiled. However, he liked to think that his voice had conveyed the image through the ether that connected them across so many miles.

“Well, this one is extra special,” the agent said. And Killer did not need to see the man to know that he was smiling. He knew that the government man did not like him. It was possible that the agent even found his station in life to be distasteful. Killer wasn’t sure about that. After all, he wasn’t a mind reader. All he could do was tell the future.

“I figured as much,” Killer said. “I just had a feeling.”

“I wish you’d volunteer more about these feelings of yours,” the agent said. Then he sighed, and immediately regretted the remark. They’d done all that they could back in the halls of government to figure out what made Killer tick. Everything short of hacking him open to see if there was something inside him that made him able to do what he did. And there had been those agitating to do precisely that. But cooler heads had prevailed. An assassin who could tell what was going to happen before it happened was not something to be wasted like a vivisected rabbit.

Killer, however, did not wish to pursue that old line of conversation, and he was quiet barely long enough to make the agent a little bit uncomfortable. Finally, he spoke. “What time, exactly, will you be coming to see me?”

“As soon as I can,” the agent said. “Just wait for my next call. When it comes, I’ll be very close indeed.” And there was dead air.

Killer closed the little red cell phone and put it in the loose spaces of his front pocket, pausing for just a second to mock the agent. "Close indeed," Killer squeaked. As if his talent would allow him to be surprised by a pisher like the agent. He knew pretty much when the agent would arrive. The threads he’d followed that morning in his first waking minutes had all included the agent. Each of them led him pretty much without incident to a drugstore at the corner of Darling Road and Carole Avenue. Each of them had the pair sitting at the last remaining drugstore lunch counter in that entire side of the state, both of them eating hamburgers and fries and drinking chocolate shakes, the glasses frosted with the cold.

But he didn’t know what the agent was going to say to him, exactly. And he didn’t know where he was going to end up. His talent didn’t work quite that way. Sometimes he had to wait to see what was going to happen and which thread he had to follow and which ones to ignore. And which ones to avoid at all cost, of course. He sighed, took a sip of the wonderful white coffee and wondered why his special ability had not kept him from injecting that first hit of heroin into his arm fifteen years before?

“The world is a mysterious place,” he said to the house, empty but for him.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Curse of the Double Hockeysticks

My friend Wayne Allen Sallee some time ago informed me of the "Curse of the Double Hockey sticks". I don't know if I should even try to explain it, and I'd rather Wayne do the 'splainin'. But it deals with the following number cropping up in one's life:

"1111". The old "Double Hockey Sticks" as they're called.

So after hearing about the "curse", I began to think about the important dates and addresses and encounters in my life. I could think of no obvious encounter, either for good or bad or neutral, with the curs-ed double hockey sticks. I told Wayne just that.

The next morning I walked into work. When you do the routine it all becomes robotic. So it is with me at my USPS job. Wake up. Shave. Brush teeth. Get dressed. Drive to work. Go inside. Clock in. Walk to case...

And there it was, staring me in the face as it has for several years.

My route number.

Route 11. Zone 11.

In no less than three places on my work station, the double hockey sticks. They've been there since the day I took over the route and I just had never taken a second look at them.

The only problem is the "curse" aspect. It's a pretty good route, all things considered. Much easier on my knees than previous routes, so I can't complain along those lines. My current management team allow me to do my job (well and efficiently, I must brag) without a lot of interference. So it hasn't been much of a curse, at all.

Double Hockey Sticks! Twice!

Unless, of course, one thinks of having to show up and work eight hours a day as a laborer. But I'm not complaining.

Hockey Sticks

The job has allowed me to feed and clothe and house my family. It has allowed me to take decent vacations. It has allowed me the leisure time to write novels, one of which I've sold, and one of which has been optioned to the movies.

A curse?

Well, not so far.

But there you are. The influence of Wayne Sallee's double hockey sticks.

The Worker's Paradise.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Old is New is Old is...

Not long after I got married and began the never-ending struggle to create a home, one of the things that I laid aside and did not pick up again (for the longest time) was music.

I never was a musician. Tried it and realized early that I had no talent in that direction. But like almost all human beings, I developed a love of music. I liked a lot of pop music. Everyone has their favorite type of pop music, I reckon. But I developed a keen affection for rock-a-billy and ska. Relatively disparate types, I know, but I would switch easily from one to the other as I listened to the records on the turntable. (Yes, the old turntable.)

And so, in the early years of my marriage and during the days of raising our son, the music was just something that I never bothered with. Not for ages. Me musical brain was stuck somewhere in the late 80s. I passed through the decades and to me the "new" guys were still folk like Madness, Squeeze, Nick Lowe, etc.

I was, as they say, behind the times.

Eventually, though, I started listening to music again. One reason was the late, lamented Napster. Jove, I do miss that website. I could nab all of the tunes I wanted and all it cost me was time on the www. Alas, it's gone.

So here are a couple of my favorite musicians. Well, groups, I guess. I like them because they understand an older, established type of music, and they have reestablished and embellished that older type. I never get tired of true love, I guess.

And, yeah, they're old news. I know that. But so am I.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

The Great Dave Edmunds.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Planning a Birthday Trip

Good ol' Wilson Creek.

We were planning on heading to West Virginia for my birthday weekend to go whitewater rafting. But now we're thinking that we'll just stay closer to home. There's a good possibility I'll head back to the Wilson Creek area and camp out at Mortimer again. Lots of great trails for me to hike and Carole and I will probably go tubing down the creek if the hot weather holds up.

Carole and I do a lot of canoeing, but now we're looking into buying a pair of kayaks. We won't be able to do any of the extreme stuff like the guys in this set of photos I took on Wilson Creek, but maybe up to Class II stuff.

I like this photo a lot. I think it's got good composition and color, but I seem to be in the minority when I show it around. Oh, well.

Some people like this one better than the first one! I don't, but I seem to be in the minority. Alas!

There were quite a lot of kayakers on the creek taking advantage of the high water on May 31, 2009. From what I've been told, this is the first time in over two years that kayakers have been able to negotiate the river. The previous three years drought had reduced Curtis Creek to a small stream that was not navigable at all--not even by kayak.
More my speed. Putting on a pair of water shoes and soaking in the creek water.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Leaving Mortimer

My hiking pal, Jack Thyen, had told me that I was really going to enjoy the Mortimer Campground in the Wilson Creek Area of the Pisgah National Forest. He was right.

I spent three days there trying to put the finishing touches on my novel while managing to fall off a waterfall and hurt myself. (Went to my physician yesterday so that he could examine the persistent knot on my upper thigh--it's a severe hematoma and should heal within the next two weeks).

As Jack had warned, I did pretty much fall for the place. It's just a really wonderful spot to camp, and the hiking trails that are nearby are phenomenal. And when I needed peace and quiet to write, it provided me with that, in spades.

So, here are some parting shots of my last few hours at Mortimer Campground last week.

This pool is on Thorpe Creek just a short stroll up from my campsite. You can't see them, but it was full of native brook trout.

The cascade that feeds the trout pool. Ah, my southern Appalachians are so green!

This waterfall was just a few minutes walk from my campsite! So easy even someone on crutches could do it! (Well, maybe...)

I took this one right after I got the trailer hooked up and everything stored away. I was very sad to be leaving this place.

One parting shot as I was leaving the campground. I can't wait to go back!

The Falls on Thorpe Creek.

The Cascades on Thorpe Creek that feed the trout pool.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I have a really lousy memory. I always have, even way back into my early childhood. This has been mildly frustrating, and as to its source or solution, I cannot say.

It may have something to do with the fact that my imagination is always working in overdrive. This has ever been the way of it, even when I was just a very little kid reading comics, watching movies, or pursuing novels. I reckon I can blame it on Jack Kirby, Willis O'Brien, and Ray Bradbury.

Having a crappy memory leads to a lot of social problems. I tend to forget faces, names, appointments...that kind of thing. But the worst of the social crimes of which I am guilty is that I cannot recall any birthday or date, no matter how important those birthdays or dates are to other people. Is it that I'm an asshole? Well...I'm not vindictive that way. I just can't recall birthdays--not even my own.

Maybe this has something to do with the fact that for many years my parents had my birthday on the wrong date. When your mom was the mother of eight kids (plus two miscarriages), then I can understand how it's super-difficult to keep up with something as mundane as a birthday. In my case, they only had it wrong by a few days, but wrong it was. Finally, when I was nine or ten years old, they dragged my birth certificate out of the box and realized that it was June 28, 1957. I think that they had the year right...it was just the day that they kept getting wrong (when they recalled it at all).

There have been times when I don't even remember my birthday myownself. Many have been the years when, around the second week of July or so, I will suddenly recall..."Hey! My birthday was two weeks ago!" No one else remembered it, so I was left to ignore it, too.

It's no big deal.

But from time to time over the years I've had people make a deal out of my birthday. My wife, sometimes, and my sister, sometimes. But I can't recall their birthdays, at all. When are those birthdays? If you told me, I might know. The only reason that I can remember to mark my wife's birthday is that she constantly reminds me as the date approaches. There are occasions when I'll remember to do something nice for her on that day in March. (Don't ask me what day...I can't recall. She'll remind me again starting in January.)

Unfortunately for those around me, my head is constantly ringing with ideas and plots for novels and short stories and scripts that will likely never see the light of print. Is this selfish? I don't know. It may be. It's definitely compulsive and not something that I can help. The world, apparently, would be much poorer if not for folk who suffer this malady. Without them, there would be no novels or movies or paintings or sculptures or comic books. Well...maybe some how-to stuff.

At any rate, that's the way it is with me. I apologize for the troubles and bruised feelings it's caused over the years. I've tried everything: notes of reminder, calendars, bulletin boards, what-have-you. The trouble is that I tend to lose track of such things. (Of course!) What good is that notebook reminding you of someone's birthday if that notebook was misplaced ages ago? Alas.

So here I sit, wondering about it all. I've just finished writing my latest novel. Ben Whitaker and Amy Braun and Sheriff Brace and Billy Sothern and Ghost Boy Tommy and the bad seed are all in their places in 108K words. I've consigned them to their fates. I spent a lot of time with them--almost as much time as I've spent with real humans over the course of the writing of that novel.

And now I'm at it again. There's a nameless assassin whose precognitive abilities aid him in hunting down chemically alter
ed berserkers escaped from a corporate prison. The personalities and actions of these folk will fill my head for the next few months. There's nothing I can do about it. They talked to me one day while I was daydreaming and their voices were loudest and foremost in my mind. I can see them. The color of their hair; the cut of their clothes; how they react to the heat, the cold, with being afraid, happy, alone, on the run...it goes on endlessly.

My 25th wedding anniversary is coming up. I'll have to ask Carole the exact date. I keep getting it mixed up with my birthday and my son's birthday and Father's Day and some Holiday that falls around that general time period.

But the 25th anniversary. Damn. I'd best not forget that one.

Clueless in North Carolina.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I can't believe it. After years of false starts. After months of hard work since deciding to complete the project, my horror novel BEAUTIFUL BOY is done.

Just a little bit of polishing and I can send it on to my literary agent.

It stands in at 106,000 words just now. That's 6,000 words longer than my previous novel THE LIVING END. And it will probably increase a couple thousand words or so by the time I'm finished editing it for inconsistencies and to add a bit of background.

I thought it appropriate that I publish this artwork by Bernie Wrightson, one of the greatest comic artists of the 1970s. This illustration is, as far as I'm concerned, the best werewolf pictorial of all time. He captured the feel and horror of the monster like no one else. I think it subconsciously stayed with me all through the writing of BEAUTIFUL BOY.

The werewolf from SWAMP THING #4. Art by the incomparable Bernie Wrightson. Copyright (alas!) by DC Comics. (I challenge anyone to show me a more beautifully and fully realized delineation of a werewolf.)

Now it's time to start working on the next novel. For the first time since THE FLOCK, I won't be writing a straight-up horror novel. And since I haven't sold anything since THE FLOCK, maybe this is a good thing. The plot's already roughed-in. I even have about 17K words written that will feature prominently in the book. No rest for the wicked writer...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

My Garden, m-hm

On Sunday we went out to the country where we keep our travel trailer. We washed the Casita and started getting her ready for our next long camping trip. We like to get things going well in advance of our departure dates.

Our Casita. We finally named her: Zoloft.

I took a good look at the awning that was damaged yet again during a torrential downpour. The first time the right side of the awning was damaged, and this time it was the left side. I've got it working in a kind of jury-rigged way, but I see what I'll have to do to fix it right. And to do that I'm going to have to remove the entire awning from the trailer and work on it on a level surface free of the Casita. I need a list of tools that I'm going to have to use, plus some rivets to effect the repairs.

This here's my garden, m-hm.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Da Moon

The Moon over my campsite, the night of May 31, 2009.

Da Moon.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


Here in the Southeast, our mountains are pretty much walls of green. They are covered from base to summit, end to end, cove to ridge in the most vigorous temperate forest one could imagine. These are forests to rival any in the world.

Hell...in the Great Smoky Mountains alone there are over twice as many species of trees as there are in the entire continent of Europe. We have trees and shrubs and flowering plants of a dizzying variety.

And I challenge anyone to show me anything as beautiful as a mature cove hardwood forest of the southeastern USA. These forests are majestic. They are peaceful. They are packed from root to canopy with life.

And so, since it's such a rare treasure here in the South, most of us hikers and backpackers and waterfall wanderers are constantly searching for that isolated summit that is exposed, that is bereft of our precious forest cover. We search for them on the highest points, and along clifftops, and even on the false summits. When we find them we are actually happy to have them.

An unobstructed view is precious in our southern highlands.

And so, in my rambling in what we call our high country here in the East, I am always on the lookout for rock. For places where the bones of our ancient mountains are exposed to offer up the panoramas for which we hunger.

My hat's off to Southern rock.

Water keeps eating away at the most stubborn of caprock. It doesn't matter what it is or how high it is or how long it's been here. Eventually it'll all erode away and end up as sand on the coast.

Just before I took this photo a group of young rock climbers came picking their ways up the cliff face just beyond. Not my cup of tea, but I admire the folk who do that kind of thing. It takes nerves and guts and strength.

I love standing out on these rocky peaks. Nothing like looking at a 6,000-foot southern monster to make you feel small.

From Little Lost Cove Cliffs you can see the majestic peak of Tanawa/Grandfather Mountain. The highest in the Blue Ridge (5,964 feet above sea level.)

From the lower of the two Little Lost Cove Cliff peaks looking at the higher one.

A gnarled Table Mountain Pine struggling to earn a living on this exposed peak.

This is why there are so few panoramic views in the Southern Appalachians. Almost endless forests--among the most diverse and vigorous on the planet.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Wilson Creek Gorge(d) On Humans

Wilson Creek Gorge(d) on Humans
copyright 2009
James Robert Smith

Easy access via roads,
the rednecks arrive
by the
They pack the two miles of Wilson Creek
that are the most rugged,
the most beautiful
that are not privately owned.

They gather like troops of apes.

Big-bellied biker bitches
with their tits hanging out
of size four bathing suits
pulled lard-tight around
size sixteen torsos.

Beauty as only the USA can produce it.

Tattooed shit-kickers,
some skinny, some fat,
all stupid,
their stomachs full of cheap America beer
and cut-rate
from Wal-Mart.

Something called "Dr. Thunder". The cans were left all along the river.

Noise everywhere.
Motorcars and four-wheel drive
and jeeps tearing
up and down
the one-lane road.
Only the constant presence of the Sheriff’s deputies
keep them in line
and their occupants out of the

One of jillions of abandoned trashpiles along the creek.

Screaming country boys hooting
the naked apes they are.
Their ugly redneck women
in kind.
They set up temporary camps
on the rocks,
on the beaches,
with campfires and plastic bags packed
with bad food and bad drinks.

By nightfall, they’re mostly gone.
They leave their filthy trash behind.
Their shitpiles of feces can be smelled
around the edges of the woods,

toilet paper smeared brown and black
blowing in the wind.
That pit toilet you saw?
Don't go in there.
For God's sake,
don't go in there.

Don't need that towel anymore? Leave it in the middle of Wilson Creek.

Ah, Wilson Creek,
I would like to sing the praises
of your natural beauty.
I would like to announce the spectacular cascades
and the huge boulders of white and

I would love to tell about the steep slopes
sweeping down to the rushing water
crystal clear one could drink it down
were it not for the redneck shitpiles
steaming along your shores.

The local scum laugh at the rules.

Wilson Creek Gorge
gorged with humans,
The too-many, the lowest of the low,
the ignorant, the destructive,
uncaring, the stinking, the loud,
the unfortunately-not-few,
my fellow Humans.

Maybe the Marines will take you.