Sunday, January 31, 2010

Addicted to Snow (not that kind)

It actually snowed here. A fair frozen precipitation event. We got about four or five inches of total ice/sleet/snow. It was kind of weird winter weather. Started as snow, turned to drizzle, then to sleet, then back to snow, then to freezing drizzle/sleet. The roads were really icy. Still are, in fact.

At any rate, here are some photos and video shots.

Just as the snow was beginning to fall. We had to run a few errands.

The photogenic place of work.

My personal postal vehicle. One of the few that has radio (AM and FM!), and air conditioning. It's one of the reasons I haven't gone completely mad in the summer.

Cairo had the right idea. Curl up on a blanket on the couch in front of the fireplace.

Sitting in a parking lot, playing "Addicted to Love" while the snow falls.

Watch the total idiot in front of me. He slows, turns into a driveway. What you can't see is that he backs out (blind!) at high speed and nearly hits me as I pass by.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Len Lye Cartoon

I'm a fan of cartoons. New ones, old ones, anything that even remotely resembles cartoons. Of course my favorites are the cartoons of animation's great days at Warner Brothers, Disney, Fleischer, Terrytoons, Walter Lantz, Paramount, MGM, etc.

One thing about a lot of old cartoons is the level of racism afoot in many of them. No studio, it seems, was free of showing black people, Native people, Asian people, ethnic folk of almost any type in a negative light. With the possible exception of Jews. Since a lot of animators and producers were Jewish, they seem to have escaped this one venue as a target of racism.

So I was surprised to see this following stop-motion animated cartoon by animation pioneer Len Lye. It's the first time I've ever seen a 30s-era cartoon character white guy presented as a monkey. That was generally reserved for the most odious of racist cartoons.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Busy, Busy

Still busy with the 7 til 3:30 job. Plus working on the novel. So I'll post some old photos until the work eases up a bit.

This is a stitched composite I made from photos taken at a really unusual waterfall in Tennessee when Carole and I were there a couple of years ago. It was in the midst of a drought, so the water volume was rather low. When water is normal, this is an even more impressive waterfall.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cairo's Checkup

Cairo went back to the vet last week. She weighs a bit less than four pounds and is just as healthy as can be.

Too busy to post more about hiking, writing, waterfalls. This is a six-day work week for me, plus I'm consumed by the task of writing my new book for Tor.

"What the HELL is this??!!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


A lot of people use the term "hack writer" as a pejorative. I once knew (online only) a writer who referred to HP Lovecraft as a "hack" because he sold his stories to the pulps. This same writer went on to write comic books for Vertigo. Now would be a good time to actually use LOL!

In fact, "hack" writing is merely writing to order. It's writing as a task, generally per order. It's a job.

I admire the so-called hack writers who entertained me in my youth. Anyone who wrote work on contract were, essentially, hack writers. There's nothing wrong with being a hack. The same author who called Lovecraft a hack was wrong on that take. As far as I know, HP Lovecraft only contracted to write a single story, that one for Weird Tales which was ghosted for Harry Houdini. Other than that one instance, HPL wrote all of his work as he felt the inspiration. This is the exact opposite of a hack. And it generally leads to starvation.

Writing as a job is nothing to be sneered at or belittled. Many writers do that. Fellows such as Lester Dent made quite a good living being hack writers. It was a job, and those who did it well earned good money at it.

A few years ago when I was desperate to sell a novel, I began looking around for a job as a hack writer. I'd already written for the comic book series CLIVE BARKER'S HELLRAISER, so I know what it was like to produce fiction by formula. Pretty much all mainstream comics work is hack work. Whether it's for a continuing Vertigo series or for Archie Comics. If you write stories for titles created by others, then you're a hack.

I'd given up trying to get back into comics. The doors were just sealed up too tight. So I looked around for paperback series that I might be able to crack. I settled on THE EXECUTIONER and related titles being published by Gold Eagle. Somewhere along the way I'd gleaned the names of a couple of the top editors there and started inquiring about the possibility of working for them. And I kept writing to them, sending my resume' of published works, emphasizing the comics work. For a long time they ignored me.

Finally, one day I received an email reply from the editor-in-chief there. He told me to work up some plot outlines and to submit them.

So--it had been a long time since I'd seen any of their books--I went out and bought a stack of second-hand copies of their adventure titles. I was, quite frankly, horrified. There was a powerful gun-crazy right wing tilt to the books. Yeah, yeah. I know. What the hell did I expect? I'm not quite sure what I expected, but I did know that I did not want to write fiction that promoted reactionary gun-mad politics. I'd just forgotten the titles from my days as a bookseller.

I sat down and tried to brainstorm my way into it. I kept coming up with outlines and fleshing them out and they would always end up being...well...right wing rants. And I'm not into that whole scene. The guns. The knives. The subtle racism. The killing. Gods, the killing.

And, in the end, I just let it all slide. I got rid of the books and forgot about the whole scheme.

I just ain't got what it takes to be a hack.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Nature of Nature

There is no better analogy for our planet than the name many of us use to refer to it:

Mother Earth.

She has given us everything. She gives us breath and drink and food. She presents beauty to us every moment of every day. Mother Earth is life and desire and sustenance and mystery. She gives us a reason to wake and roam. There is no better analog for Nature than Woman.

And there is no plainer way to describe what we have done to Nature than rape. Even if we are not directly involved in the brutalities perpetrated against Her, we are a party to it. We stand by and watch and do nothing to stop it. Some of us whine about the way Mother Earth is treated, but we do not act to halt these crimes. No corporate board members are executed. No industrialists are tried and imprisoned. No architects of mountaintop removal are taken out and shot. These vile among us are allowed to enjoy the wealth of their crimes and to die in bed, at the ends of long lives.

Eventually, those brutalities we condone will result in a final death. We will have murdered She who birthed us. We’ll realize one day that the bosom against which we have so long been held so lovingly will be cold and dead.

And we’ll follow the others down into that lightless pit we call Oblivion. We’ll deserve what we get. We will. But the others—the companions with whom we travel this globe—are not deserving of our own fate. The tigers and elephants and rhinos did not take part in our crimes. They did not contribute to the rape and murder of Mother Nature.

But it won’t matter, they'll have been destroyed all the same, preceding us into the void.

I see it coming, and there doesn't seem to be a damned thing to be done about it. There's nowhere to turn for justice. And perhaps that's what our own extinction will be: a cold kind of justice. But no one will be left to call it so.

Whenever I encounter a giant dead or dying hemlock tree that stands alone I usually take its photo. We're the reason that they're all dying, and I just like to record the standing corpses, to acknowledge our collective guilt. This one was well over 100 feet tall, probably as old as our nation. It likely took this tree 200 years to reach this height. It's now dead--I'd say its life was gone this past year. And all because of us. Say goodbye. This is what we're doing to Mother Earth. This is the same fate that awaits us at the end of the road we're gouging into Her flesh.

Monday, January 25, 2010

History My Schools Didn't Teach Me

When I was a kid my mom used to sit me down and show me books with Jews in them. I'm talking when I was reeeeeeeeeeally young. Maybe five years old. She had books with pictures in them of people in various traditional Jewish garb and photos of people living in kibbutzim. Of course at that age I didn't know why she was doing this. Later I learned it was because she was half-Jewish and she wanted me to know a little about shared culture and heritage.

By the time I was eight years old she was teaching me about the Holocaust. Nothing too graphic, but letting me know that one group could try to exterminate another out of pure hatred over differences.

All during these same years I was tagging along with my father and older brothers on Indian relic hunts. That's what we all called them. My dad would load up shovels and earth sifters in the truck and let me know that we were going "Indian relic hunting". I loved these trips! We'd go to various rural spots. Sometimes deep woods, sometimes farms where land owners had given my dad permission to dig. My favorites were when we'd walk through corn fields or bean fields after a hard rain and the ancient tools would be sitting right on top of the ground waiting to be picked up.

My dad taught me that long before our people were here (the Europeans), the native folk had occupied the country. And he explained to me how their lands had been stolen from them and how they'd been exterminated--entire nations. Most kids might not have believed such tales, but I knew it for a fact, for I was walking on acre after acre, mile after mile of the things those ancient people had left behind. Almost everywhere you looked in the open spaces of the rural south one could find the signs that Indians had left. And it hit me:

There had been MILLIONS of these people! And now there didn't seem to be ANY!

In fact, I'd never seen a real Indian. My dad had once had a friend named Ben Gess who was a Cherokee, but he'd moved away. And my oldest brother's father-in-law was half Cherokee, but I'd never met a real Indian, nor seen one.

We'd killed most of them, and I knew it.

Not too long ago I went for a hike in a local state park. This park has exposed rock in it made of rhyolite which is volcanic in origin and very hard and very brittle. It makes good tools. With just about every step you take in that park you are treading on the remnants of tools. For thousands of years Indians went to this place to mine the rhyolite and make tools with it. The flakes of their industry are simply everywhere the dirt has been turned.

As I was hiking down a trail I spotted a big pine tree that had recently blown over. I decided to look into the root ball to see if there was anything interesting lodged there and pushed up by the fall of the tree. Reaching in, I immediately found what is known among the archeological set as a "blank". That's a bit of worked stone that can be turned into any one of a number of tools. It could be a hand axe, a knife, a spearhead, a drill, an awl, a scraper, a get the idea. This was a particularly good blank. For some reason the craftsman who'd made it thousands of years before had cast it aside. Why? Hell if I know. Maybe he had enough material to work with already. Maybe he was a perfectionist and there was some kind of minor flaw in the stone. I don't know.

What I do know is that this land was once filled with different nations than my own. And now they're all gone.

And because my parents were who they were and taught me the things they did, I know why those people are no longer here:

The Holocaust was not a new idea.

When I was finished looking at the blank, I put it back into the Earth.

And for those of you who get your news and history from the USA propaganda wagons, do yourself a favor and read this brief bit about Haiti.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Photos By Jack

I thought I'd post some photos from the hike I took with Jack Thyen on MLK Day. He was nice enough to send me several shots that he took of me.

A guy and (not) his dog. This was good ol' Spot, the dog who led us to the falls, watching out for us all along the way. What a great companion!

Jack took this one of me through the window of the abandoned hydro station. Long out of use, even the outflow channel has been inundated with soil and debris.

The log bridge at the old hydro station. This was the only place to cross the stream without getting wet.

Me, climbing down from the Upper Catawba Falls. A dicey climb, especially with patches of hard ice all over the place.

Later in the day, near the summit of Brushy Knob in the Montreat Community.

This was probably the best view we had on the hike in Montreat. Looking westward toward the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Black Mountains.

What's better than hiking in the snow? Hiking in the snow when it's 60 degrees! I had to switch to shorts--thank Jove for convertible pants!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Trunk Fiction and Surrender

I tried for many years to become a professional writer. Now, there are lots of different definitions for "professional writer". Most writers organizations have settled on a definition that essentially says that a person has made a certain amount of sales at a rate that has been agreed upon by its members as being "professional rates". It's all a matter of coming to an agreement among the founding members and, perhaps, amendments by officers at a later date. Many set a rate of, say, five cents per word as a professional rate. Or fifty dollars per page for some kind of script. Or one thousand dollars for a novel advance. (These numbers are all arbitrary on my part...don't hold any group to them.)

I considered myself having become a professional writer when I had sold stories and scripts to national publications for money that made a difference to me. But I never felt that I had reached my actual goal until I sold my first novel which was published by Five Star Books in 2006. That was when I felt I'd crossed a certain threshold.

This year, I stand to make as much or more through writing than I do in my regular 40-hour a week job as a government employee. For the first time in my writing life I feel that I've really surpassed most definitions for being a pro writer. Save one, of course.

The last wall to breach would be to be able to make my living writing full time. That's a really tough nut to crack. Writers rarely have enough money to kick the day job, and they rarely are in a position to be able to afford health care and such on the money they earn from their prose. I'd like to hit that point, but it's going to be the most difficult goal for me to reach. It's possible that I could do it, and for the first time in my life I feel that there is a good possibility for me to be able to do that. Nothing would make me happier than being able to walk away from the daily grind to create art full time.

One reason that I've been able to get this far is that I never quite gave up. I got really discouraged all along the way. In fact, a couple of times I actually did give up. These surrenders lasted a few months each time, but I always got over my depression and started writing again, and started submitting work again, and kept trying to locate a good agent or squeeze my way into the next market at which I was aiming.

I tend to look back at a story I wrote as an example of why it's good never to give up and never to lie down and let the bad guys win.

When I was 26 years old I wrote a story based on some notes I'd jotted in a notebook when I was 16 years old. I kept that notebook around and kept seeing those notes every so often when I'd go through my plots and scribblings. It was a good idea but I never could quite figure out how to turn it into a complete story. Finally, by the time I was 26 I had written it down as good prose and started submitting it.

Back then, I had no name among editors at all. No one really knew me, but now and again I'd sell a short story or a comic script. So when "Visitation" started making its rounds I had a hard time selling it. Most editors seemed to like it, but not enough to accept it and pay me professional rates. I made a huge list of all of the magazines and anthologies that might be in the least bit interested in such a horror story and mailed it out time and again. This was in the days of submitting via the post office with return postage affixed. So the story kept going out and back and out again incessantly. I had a lot of faith in that story and I just didn't want to give up on it.

Finally, after several years of trying to sell it, I decided that enough was enough and I filed it away as a "trunk" story. That is, I put it in that dusty bin with the other stories that I'd written that just weren't good enough or lucky enough to move. But I put it on the top of the stack.

Years would pass, and I'd take it up and send it out. Not very often, of course, but now and again. Three times a year. Twice a year. Once a year. A year or two came when I didn't send it out at all. Then, in 2001 I got word that editors were reading for an anthology that I figured the story would fit. So I hauled out "Visitation" and dusted it off, altered it a tad, and sent it out. It sold. Eighteen years after I'd written it I was paid very well for that short story. It appeared in the Pocket Books anthology CHILDREN OF CTHULHU edited by Benjamin Adams and John Pelan. The story had sold, and finally saw print in a fine anthology in hardback and in mass market paperback.

I had just not given up on that story. It took me almost eighteen years, but I sold it.

Just like I never (really) gave up on becoming a novelist.

My dad used to keep a little poem in his wallet. It was called "Just Keep On Keepin' On". I've heard this poem attributed to Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers and other recording artists. But my dad had that poem on a tattered page that he kept in his wallet years before any of those guys got going (the Allman Brothers, in fact, lived down the street from us in Macon GA--I used to hear them jam every once in a while). My dad liked that poem and he'd read it aloud from time to time. It must have stuck with me.

Keep On Keepin' On

By Anonymous

If the day looks kinder gloomy
And your chances kinder slim,
If the situation's puzzlin'
And the prospect's awful grim,
If perplexities keep pressin'
Till hope is nearly gone,

Just bristle up and grit your teeth
And keep on keepin' on.

Frettin' never wins a fight
And fumin' never pays;
There ain't no use in broodin'
In these pessimistic ways;
Smile just kinder cheerfully
Though hope is nearly gone,
And bristle up and grit your teeth
And keep on keepin' on.

There ain't no use in growlin'
And grumblin' all the time,
When music's ringin' everywhere
And everything's a rhyme.
Just keep on smilin' cheerfully
If hope is nearly gone,
And bristle up and grit your teeth
And keep on keepin' on.

Maybe not the highest peak, but it's pretty darned good.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Four Color Memories

I'm not sure just had to do with something more than just distribution...but the first two comic books that I can recall reading were Fantastic Four #4, and Fantastic Four #12. I got the #4 from a barber where I was getting my hair cut with my mom when I was five years old. The book fascinated me so the barber ended up letting me take it home. (He had batches of comics for the kids getting their hair cut.) I recall reading the damned thing to pieces and I assume it was tossed out or traded.
A few weeks later my mom took me to a used bookstore/fish store down the street from where we lived. No, I'm not making this up. The store sold pet fish (and bait) and used books. On one side it had huge concrete tanks full of fish and on the other side used books, magazines, and comics. It stank like Hell, but I liked going in there to search for comics. And this was where I encountered Fantastic Four #12. My mom bought it for me--probably five cents--and I took it home and read it to pieces just like the previous one.

Within three years of that my dad had sold his grocery store and hauled us to Atlanta where he opened up his first bookstore. By the time I was eight years old he had tens of thousands of comic books accumulating in his warehouse and I got to take and read anything I wanted. And the next book to fascinate the heck out of me was Fantastic Four #28. I don't recall the story being anywhere nearly as fun to read as the tales in the two previous issues I'd seen, but that cover just carried me away! For some reason after looking at that cover I just HAD to take that comic home and read it.

Jack Kirby was probably the single greatest creator of kids comics that ever was. He was hip to what fascinated American boys of the 1960s and kept us occupied reading the books he produced. There should be a monument somewhere to Jack Kirby.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Montreat Trails, A Sample

For years when I was looking at my trail maps I would see trails that went out of the National Forest and into an area called "Montreat". I later learned that Montreat was a private community featuring high-dollar houses, vacation cabins, a Christian-based liberal arts college, a community center, and the home of evangelist Billy Graham. I figured the area was off limits and that those trails were meant only for the residents and their guests.

Panorama from just below the summit of Brushy Mountain. (Click to embiggen this photo.)

Well, I was wrong. The trails are open to all who are willing to be courteous and who obey the rules. They're foot trails only, which means no bikes, no horses, and absolutely no motorized vehicles.

The thousands of acres that are locked up in conservation easements around the community are really good hiking territory. These lands encompass some great streams, forests, and peaks. Some of the mountains here soar well over a mile above sea level and lead up toward Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the eastern USA.

There was still a lot of snow on the ground as we climbed higher.

After Jack and I had hiked to Catawba Falls we headed over to Montreat to see what it had to offer. Neither of us was up for a long hike, so we opted for a shorter, simpler one. We finally settled on a loop hike that would take us to the summit of Brushy Mountain and then down and back to where we'd parked our vehicles. We drove through Montreat admiring the college, parks, homes and facilities. It would be a very nice place to live if you have the money to afford it. (I don't.) Eventually we drove up to the trail head and parked our trucks and headed up.

The hike we took was relatively short and brisk. It gained a fair amount of elevation in quick order and around lunch time we found ourselves at the top of Brushy Mountain. We took this opportunity to sit on the summit and have something to eat. After that we slogged through the snow toward a gap and then to the trail that would make a our hike into a loop that would take us back to our vehicles. The snow on the western facing slopes was a lot deeper than I had figured--in some places it was shin-deep. It felt weird to be hiking through snow so deep when the temperatures were warm enough for shorts.

The west facing slopes still had a substantial snow cover.

After we climbed down from the summit we began to encounter quite a lot of deadfall. Apparently the recent ice, snow, and wind storms have been too much for the trees. There were lots of downed oaks. Every few meters we found ourselves detouring around large trees and branches that had collapsed from the recent severe weather. It made the going slow and the progress frustrating. I feel sure that these trails are maintained purely by volunteer efforts, so there is going to have to be quite many hours put in to get them straight when Spring rolls around. As it is, hiking them is really tough, and I wouldn't recommend it to any casual hikers.

This was an easy patch of deadfall. It was everywhere and some of it was tough to negotiate.

We did find that the area is nice enough and the welcome open enough so that we'll both go back to try other hikes. Next on my list at Montreat is to hike to the summit of Graybeard Mountain. It rises to over 5,400 feet, so it's definitely on my peak-bagging list.

The summit of Brushy Mountain, where we had lunch. The white coloring behind me are from snow covered shadowed slopes.

And a last, lingering video of the Upper Catawba Falls. The sound of water rushing down the gravity well is soothing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

See Spot. See Spot Lead.

Spot Leads the Way

Falls below the breached dam along the Catawba Falls Trail.

When Jack and I started our hike I saw a solid black blur of motion coming at us. It was a huge, playful, black Lab. She was soon leaping and jumping beside us, apparently eager to go hiking.

Jack told me that he'd read about this dog and that it was reported to join along in the hike. Sure enough, she did join us. Or, rather, we joined her. According to the big red collar on her neck, her name was "Spot". She was extremely friendly and seemed eager to show us the way to the waterfalls.

All along the way she would rush ahead and then wait for us at places where, I reckon, she assumed we might take a wrong turn or get lost. At the first creek crossing she led us to the water and looked back at us to make sure we were coming. However, Jack figured there would be an easier (drier) place to cross upstream and so we went that way. I'm sure Spot thought we were a couple of sissies, but she went with us to where we found a dead hemlock across the creek and went over there.

Sometimes she would disappear for a few minutes while Jack and I stopped to take photographs. But she would always come back to see what was keeping us, or to poke around to see what the heck there was that we found so interesting about hanging out in one place.

Soon enough, though, we were at the Catawba Falls. It's a really nice waterfall and the water volume was high due to all of the rain, ice, and snow we've been getting in western North Carolina. The noise of tumbling water was great and the views were tremendous. But Spot wanted to keep going and pretty soon she was leading us along the steep and treacherous semi-trail to the Upper Catawba Falls.

It must be easier to climb and scramble on four legs rather than two. Because Spot raced ahead of us in places where we had to pick our ways very carefully and tentatively on rock faces, along ledges, and over slick patches of ice. Spot just dug in and hauled ass and was waiting for us as we topped out. When I got to the upper viewing spot she was sitting there looking at the waterfall. "See? Ain't it beautiful?" she seemed to be saying. Indeed, Spot, it is a great place.

Spot stayed with us while we took dozens of photographs and lauded the handiwork of Mother Nature. And then we began to carefully pick our way down the rough trail to the lower falls. Spot was right there with us, trying to show us how it was done. And later, she followed us all the way back down to the trail head. By then, other hikers had arrived and were beginning to trek up to the falls. But Spot seemed to have had enough for one day and merely watched the others for a bit, then walked across the road to where she lived.

Good job, Spot!

The Upper Catawba Falls. One heck of a tough scramble to get to them, but well worth the effort. One of the most spectacular waterfalls I've ever seen.

Catawba Falls. The lower of the two. Very nice in its own right.

Jack coming down from the steepest part of the scramble to the Upper Falls.

Anchor and bolt for the rope. Don't use it to support your full weight. Not advised.

The Southern Appalachians have to be one of the greenest places on Earth. Even in winter.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Catawba Falls Trail

After Jack and I met up at the McDonald's in Old Fort we drove to the nearby trailhead to begin our hike to Catawba Falls. Neither of us had ever seen this waterfall, but we'd both read plenty about it. Until recently access to the falls was difficult. While the waterfall itself is solidly on public property (Pisgah National Forest), the trail passes through private property right at the start. The landowner had forbidden any trespassing at all, and so the only way to get to Catawba Falls was either via an arduous bushwhack, or taking yer chances and trespassing on private property.

Finally, though, an accommodation was reached and now access through the bit of private property is now allowed for hikers.

The trail is pretty easy and straightforward. There are about three water crossings, but only one of them can get you very wet, and we found a way around it by hiking upstream to a log bridge formed by a dead hemlock tree. Lots of dead hemlocks in those forests, of course. The place is soon going to be lousy with fallen hemlocks.

The best known of the three major falls on the hike are the ones generally called Catawba Falls. They are, in fact, best labeled "Lower Catawba Falls". For while they are the higher of the trio of big waterfalls, they are not the most spectacular. Still, they're worth the hike if all you do is travel to the base of the lower falls and look on. They are quite impressive.

Before you get to those you pass an unnamed waterfall below an abandoned dam. The dam once produced electric power pre-Depression. But it has long since been abandoned and breached and now is just a very dangerous spot where (stupid) people can crawl atop it and fall to their deaths. You can hike a trail to the base of these falls for a good look up at them.

But the best waterfall on the trail is the ones that lie far above Lower Catawba Falls. Access to them involves negotiating an extremely steep and rugged trail that follows the right side of the lower falls. It hugs close to those falls and often involves the use of all four limbs. At one point there is a rope that someone has installed to aid in getting up a rock face. The help is good, but I wouldn't trust the rope with full weight. As others have advised, just use it as an aid.

Once you reach the top of the trail you are rewarded with a grand view of what has to be among the finest waterfalls in all of the southeastern USA. There are few waterfalls that I've encountered that equal this one is sheer beauty. I would dearly love to revisit this spot in summer to go swimming in the plunge pool at the base of the falls.

I reeeeeally need to revisit this waterfall.

The falls at the abandoned dam.

The Lower Catawba Falls

The Upper Catawba Falls

Monday, January 18, 2010

Catawba Falls

I went hiking today. To get the blood flowing and to help me think. Outdoor activities generally aid my ability to write prose. I met up with my hiking pal Jack Thyen in Old Fort NC and we hiked two trails. The first was to see the Catawba Falls. I'll post more about the hikes later.

For now, here's a shot of me at the lower Catawba Falls. After that, we hiked (scrambled/climbed) to the Upper Catawba Falls. It was even more spectacular.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

LA Trip

Carole and I are planning a trip to Los Angeles in February. It's been a very long time since I've visited California, and I've never been to LA. So this will be all new territory for both of us. While there I'll get to meet Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Earl Hamner Jr., John Shirley, and a host of other area authors whose work also appeared in THE BLEEDING EDGE.

I'll post more later.

The novel is going to be keeping me extremely busy over the next weeks (and probably months). Not sure how much I'm going to be able to post here on my blog. We'll see.

Earl Hamner, Jr.

Ray Bradbury

Richard Matheson

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Some months ago Jason Brock and William F. Nolan announced that they were going to be editing a new horror anthology entitled THE BLEEDING EDGE (Dark Barriers, Dark Frontiers). It would feature stories that were to be cutting edge horror with themes that pushed the envelope of the genre. I had a story that I figured would qualify and submitted it. They bought "Love & Magick" from me and soon paid full pro rates for the tale. Bill Nolan had me make a few changes, but having my work edited has never been an issue with me.

Last week the book arrived. Jason worked long and hard putting this anthology together and ensuring that it would be an impressive book when it was off the presses. I have to say that I am impressed with the look and feel of the package. The paper quality is grand, as is the binding. The book is bound in blood red stock with appropriately black title.

The contents, too, are excellent. The lineup of authors is impressive, with stories by some of my favorite authors and many professional writers from my youth. Some of the names present are William F. Nolan, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, John Shirley, Earl Hamner, Jr., Joe Lansdale, Gary Braunbeck, Steve Rasnic Tem, and others. Brock and Nolan included not just stories but also teleplays. It has been a long time since I've seen that format presented in a fiction anthology.

I've now received my copies of the trade hardback version, but the signed and numbered limited edition won't be release until later in the month. I look forward to seeing it. Thus far, quality-wise, this is the best anthology of which I've been fortunate enough to be a part.

You can order the book at Amazon, or directly from the publisher.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Over the past few days I've begun working with my editor at Tor Books. This has been a bit different, so far, to my experience with Five Star. I filled out a relatively detailed questionnaire for the folk in the promotions department. Now I have to send a photo. I'm pretty sure I know which one I'm going to send's one that Carole took of me when we were in Key West.

Got the desktop up and working so that I can do the scans for the post I've wanted to do for two days.

More tomorrow...

This has nothing to do with the subjects on my mind. But I just stumbled across this photo I took when Carole and I were on a hike in Beartown State Park in West Virginia. It was the first bear we've ever encountered while hiking.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Phil Ochs

I wanted to post about the new anthology THE BLEEDING EDGE, in which I have a story. But my desktop computer is on the fritz again and I don't enjoy doing scans and such on my laptop. So I'll try to post about the new book tomorrow.

For some reason today I was thinking of one of my favorite folk/political musicians, Phil Ochs. I only vaguely recall Phil Ochs from my childhood. I'd heard a couple of his more popular songs, of course, but he was just a minor memory until he committed suicide when I was in high school. And it wasn't until I was in my forties that I actually sat down and began to listen to his music with any kind of concentration.

He was a courageous writer and performer. I guess the stress of constantly being on the losing side was just too much for him.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Most Violent Minority

Whenever some asshole starts whining to me about "illegal aliens" or some minority that they claim commits more crimes or controls the most money, I generally remind them about another segment of the population.

This segment commits 91% of all homicides.

They engage in 98% of all sexual assaults.

93% of all armed robberies are done by them.

89% of aggravated assaults come from this group.

Even lighter violent crimes such as simple assaults are theirs 82% of the time.

Who are these assholes?

They're men.

Maybe these ants figured that out?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mark Masztal's THE FLOCK bookmarks.

Mark has now penciled and inked and lettered the two versions of THE FLOCK bookmarks. I love both versions!

Version One Front.

Version Two Front.

Back of Bookmark.