Thursday, September 30, 2010

Some Things Other Animals Can't Do

Try this, chimpanzees!

And the brilliant Jim Woodring has created a Moebius strip comic!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Raccoons R Us

I was talking about this particular raccoon today at work.

Every time we go to Florida, Carole and I have encounters with raccoons. They are exceedingly common down there, and each park is loaded with them. Because they have become habituated to humans and our foods, they can often be persistent. But it was on a trip to Blue Springs State Park that we found out just how bold they can be.

This one was the boldest of the lot, I have to say.

She came right into the middle of our campsite and plunked herself right down.

When we arrived, she turned over our cooler while we were transferring stuff from the back of the truck into the travel trailer. Our backs were turned and before we could react she had the cooler on its side, had snagged a packet of fresh steaks, and was off into the brush.

Yeah, they look cute. But they have a mouthful of sharp teeth and they are one of the first animals to get rabies when that disease is running its course through an ecosystem.

The next evening Carole left the door to the trailer slightly ajar. We were sitting in bed watching television. We felt the air pressure change and turned to see this same raccoon peering at us from beside the refrigerator. Carole screamed. The raccoon retreated. But not before it took one of Carole's casual shoes that she had sitting beside the door. We never did find that shoe. My feeling has always been that she took that shoe out of spite because we chased her away.

The next day the raccoon returned and came out of the forest into our campsite as we were preparing lunch. She wanted her share, but we don't (intentionally) feed the wildlife. I tried to shoo her away, but she was having none of that. I had to position myself between the raccoon and Carole at the grill to keep the critter at bay. I had a broom in my hands and figured I might have to use it to swat this bear's little cousin. Finally, though, I was able to frighten her off--it was while she was patiently waiting, relaxing there on the ground in front of me that I reckoned that she was pregnant. Either that or she was just one extremely fat raccoon. I suspect the former.

I can wait, she said.

We went to the ranger station to warn them about this particular raccoon, so they brought a live trap and set it up next to the trailer. In the morning, before we left, it had nabbed a possum. We weren't staying over again, so we never found out if they got the raccoon. (And, no, they weren't going to hurt her, just move her to another part of the park.)

Yeah, fat man. I'm all concerned about you and your broom. Almost as concerned as I am over this damned flea.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So-called Free Market Economy

The mega-corporations should be dismantled. As soon as possible. Its executives strung up as mass murderers from the nearest power lines.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


It was over 90 again today. This makes 87 days. I think the record here is 88 and the string is supposed to finally snap tomorrow, so we'll be spared that one, I hope.

The next person who tells me that there's no human-caused global warming is going to likely get my size-13 boot up his ass.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Too Tired!

I wrote yesterday but not last night. I was too damned tired. So close to finishing the new novel. Just a few more days, Jove willing.

This was a raccoon who was spying on us at Manatee Springs State Park in Florida. She wanted to steal our food but we were wise to her. She ended up climbing down from the tree over our trailer and wandering off.

Friday, September 24, 2010

On the Way Out of Wyoming

I took these photos on the last day we were in the Parks. This was on the drive out of the Grand Tetons. We had to stop and get some of these panoramas. It was pretty much worth the trip out there just to stand at the base of these mountains and look up at them. We don't have many ranges in North America that are classic alpine beauties like these, and I feel lucky to have been able to experience them.

This is a stitched panorama I made. Click on the image to see it at full size.

Taken on Jenny Lake.

I feel pretty certain this is the best single photo I took on the entire trip. I was hoping that at least one of the the 3000 or so would come out okay.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cairo is One Year Old

Cairo is, as far as we know, one year old now. Of course, being an adopted cat who we found in West Virginia while on vacation, we can't know exactly when she was born. We only know that the vet told us that she was approximately four weeks old when we found her abandoned in a county park near Cairo, West Virginia. So we assume that she's one year old roughly this week.

Andy and Cairo within minutes of Andy having seen her for the first time. She was immediately a curious and affectionate kitten with no fear at all of people.

We were suckered at first sight. We decided then and there to adopt her and bring her home.

Cairo on one of her early trips to the veterinarian.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Signing Events

Well, I need to get back to work on promoting my fiction:

I'm now working with Tor Books to set up some signing events.

Just now I have tentative plans to do a very brief book signing tour from November 11 through November 13. On the eleventh of November, the day after THE FLOCK hits the shops, I'll probably do at least one signing in Savannah GA. The day after that I'll be in Jacksonville FL to do a store appearance. Then, on Saturday I'll do one, perhaps two bookstore appearances in Orlando FL.

I thought that it would be appropriate to do signings in Florida, since that's where the novel is set. And, specifically, part of the book is set in Orlando and much of the action takes place in a mythological setting just north and west of Orlando.

As soon as I can I'll have the signing dates and locations posted here and at my official website.

In February when we flew to Los Angeles for the signing of THE BLEEDING EDGE. Here's humble me with writers Cody Goodfellow, John Tomerlin, Lisa Morton, Ray Bradbury, Norman Corwyn, Earl Hamner, Jr., George Clayton Johnson, John Shirley.

Signing copies of EVERMORE at Mark Rainey's house a few years ago.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Everyone Has a Talent

I'm sure you've heard that old saying many times. Everyone has a talent. I've met some people who don't seem to have any talents at all, but they're actually few and far between. Because most people actually do seem to be able to do something with some amount of skill. Running, drawing, singing, throwing, dancing, thinking, painting, jumping, sculpting, shooting, arguing...seems everyone you meet knows how to do at least one thing well.

After my 53 years on Earth, I've decided something else about people:

Every goddamned one of them is crazy.

It's true. I can meet the most seemingly well rounded and solid individual and later find out something totally insane about that person. One guy I know is an extremely talented artist who has built a career for himself and provided admirably for his family and bought a nice house and travels extensively and is seemingly in almost every way a very pleasant individual. And yet, he's a religious fanatic madman who believes that the Earth is approximately 6,000 years old and adheres to a racist world view that he will argue is not racist with his dying breath.

I met a woman who put herself through school and is bright, funny, packed with knowledge, and yet she's in love with a convicted pedophile. The details are even worse than I make them out, so don't ask.

These are just two examples. Believe me, I could go on all day, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

Whenever I meet someone I eventually learn something about that person that stuns me. This thing usually manifests itself as what some might describe as poor judgment or a moral or intellectual blind spot, but which to my way of thinking is just fucking insanity. I've yet to meet that person who is devoid of such a wacky flaw.

My personal physician, whom I like and with whom I've stuck for twenty years, likes Glenn Beck! It's fucking true! Which proves that just because you're smart enough to become a doctor that you're not also a complete dumbass!

If you know of a completely normal person who does not demonstrate some form of personal insanity, I'd like to know about them. Because so far in my experience, such a person does not exist.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lodging around the Parks

Because Yellowstone National Park is so freaking huge, I didn't want to stay in one location for the duration of the trip and have to drive long distances each day to see each section of the Park. It was better, I figured, to stay in the section of the Park where we wanted to look. Therefore, I booked us lodging in various parts of Yellowstone so that we could concentrate on what there was to see near that particular lodging.

Since the Park is so old and because of its size, there is ample lodging to be had to access each section. Some of the lodging is extremely luxurious and some of it is basic. Of course as I'm accustomed to tent camping and to backpacking, even the most rustic of lodging is relatively posh to my way of thinking. We stayed in everything from very old structures dating back almost 100 years, to pre-fabricated boxes erected in the 1970s.

The best spot we stayed for pure comfort was the Colter Bay Village in the Grand Tetons National Park. The only spot we stayed that we didn't care for was our cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs. The cabin was nice, but the walls are--and this might be an exaggeration--paper thin. When a group of young women arrived at the duplex attached to ours just at bedtime, Carole had to go next door and ask them to shut the fu--be quiet. We could quite literally hear every syllable from them. The cabin itself was okay

This is the hotel where we stayed when we got in to West Yellowstone. It's outside the Park and I've forgotten the name of the place. I'll post it later. One nice thing is that the box for Internet reception was sitting on our windowsill, so we had excellent WiFi connection.

Just outside the room. Apparently they decorate the heck out of this tree every Xmas.

This was our place at Lake Village. This was the most traditional lodging we used in the Park. It wasn't any different from staying at a big chain hotel, save for the absence of TVs.

Inside our room at Lake Village.

We didn't actually stay in Old Faithful Inn, but I wanted to take a photo of it. I really disliked this place. I'm sure that it has tremendous charm, and I understand that it is, architecturally, a gem of a structure, but the crowds there were hideous. You could--and I am not exaggerating--easily get trampled trying to get in and out of the main lobby. Maybe someday I'll go back in there during an off-season.

This is looking into our cabin at Old Faithful Inn (see my post from two days ago). I can recommend these, but I can't say that staying and/or lingering at the Old Faithful site during high season is a good idea if, like me, you can't stand crowds.

This was the inside of our cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs. It was very nice and very clean. It even had a porch outside with chairs for sitting and relaxing in the fresh air. However...these are duplex cabins and the walls between rooms are like tissue! You can quite easily hear everything your neighbors say and do, right down to and including farts. If we go back there I will definitely try to get room inside the main Inn and not in the cabins.

Our rental car parked in front of our cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs.

This was our cabin at Colter Bay Village in the Grand Tetons National Park. This was without a doubt the nicest lodging we had on our trip. The cabin is old, but solid and updated. It had its own bathroom so we didn't have to use a public bathhouse. I don't have a problem with communal showers and toilets, but it's nice if your lodging has its own bath facilities.

Inside the cabin, which had three beds. This was the bed that Andy ended up using.

Carole standing in front of our bed. We left the third bed made which, I'm sure, the maid service appreciated when we left.

I'm missing photos from our stay at Canyon Village, which I'll try to post later. That was the best place overall that we used in the Park. When we go back I'm going to stay there again unless we go by way of our truck and pull our travel trailer along.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Internet Exploration

One more reason I like the Internet.

This is a photo I snagged from a US government air quality webcam that you can see here. This is Denali, one of the world's "tallest" mountains. Also the highest point of land on the North American continent at over 20,000 feet. The only peak over 20K feet on our continent. One of these days I hope to see it in person.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I need to do a detailed blog about our lodging in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. As soon as I can find the time I'll crank one out.

This was our cabin at Old Faithful. They're located behind the main Inn. Just a short stroll away from Old Faithful itself and the extensive geyser basin. Strangely, despite the proximity of the cabins to the crowded madness of the area, the cabin section was seductively quiet. Also, just behind the cabins are not only forests and ridges, but other smaller geysers and hot springs sprinkled all around. It was a strangely pretty spot.

I capture Andy exiting the cabin.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yellowstone Lake

One day we spent wandering around Yellowstone Lake. This place is gigantic, like everything else in the Park. You can see across it, barely. It is surrounded by wilderness. Because of the presence of the lake, this is one of the largest wilderness areas in the lower 48 states. At points you can see for more than thirty miles without being able to detect the hand of Man. No cities, no roads, no lights, no houses.

My kind of place.

I messed up the framing and got the top of Carole's head in this one. That's Andy wandering around along the shore. The woods were full of critters. Even bison were moving in and out of the woods a little farther down.

I am laboring like mad on the novel. I am very frustrated that it's not done, and doubly so because I am so close to putting "The End" on it. Just a few more days, I sincerely hope.

It was like standing on the ocean during a windstorm. But it wasn't an ocean: it was Yellowstone Lake

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Great Day of Writing

Wow. I had a great day writing yesterday (Wednesday). It was, as they say in the USPS, my "non-scheduled" day. That is, it was the day of the six-day work week that I was not scheduled to clock in and carry mail.

So, after sleeping very late I got up, shaved, brushed my teeth, got dressed, and headed out to the barber shop to get a haircut. After that I drove straight on to the Mint Hill branch of the library. I did that to write. Carole was at home sleeping (she works at night and sleeps most days), so I didn't want to hang around the house making noise and disturbing her sleep. Instead, I decided to go to the library with my laptop computer and write.

This is what I did. For several glorious hours I was able to write in relative quiet. I produced about 5,000 words of fiction. I came much closer to finishing THE CLAN and putting that project behind me.

This is the kind of day that lets me know--just a little--of what it might be like to to write full time. It was a very nice feeling. One day it's what I'd like to be able to do.

While my mind percolates and contemplates the filling in of the gaps remaining in the manuscript, here are a few photos from Yellowstone National Park:

On our first full day in the Park, we went to see a spot called Lewis Falls on, appropriately, the Lewis River. At the parking area there was the remains of a huge log jam. This log jam provided a kind of stage where you could stand and look upriver at the falls. To my surprise, Carole chose to walk out on the logjam to get a view of the waterfall. Here was Carole surprising the crap out of me with Andy helping her along.

Andy standing on the log jam while I take his portrait in front of the falls.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Change in Vacations...

Carole and I were discussing what we're going to do on our vacations next year. We'd seriously been considering going to Glacier National Park or Yosemite National Park or maybe Crater Lake National Park or maybe the Adirondacks.


We also know that I am going to have to stop avoiding the literary and media shows I once attended when I was younger. Back in the day, when I was a retailer of collectibles and, later, a budding wanna-be author, I went to lots of such shows. Major comic book conventions, big science-fiction conventions, and media shows. But I got sick of those and pretty much stopped attending them, going cold turkey. I didn't miss them, at all.

In the intervening years I got even more serious about my writing, stopped creating comic book scripts and short stories and concentrated on novels and novel pitches. I found some success and I did it without attending science-fiction or media conventions.

Now, however, I have a book appearing in 2010 from a major publisher, to be followed in 2011 by the book's sequel. And of course my agent is trying to sell other novels that I've written and which are under his wing. The bottom line is that I need to get out into the old convention scene to push my work. I'm going to have to start going to the shows again.

This means that I'll have to cut back on my trips into the parks and wilderness areas. I don't like that, but I feel that it's a decision that has to be made. It's part of the writer's game, and that's where I need to live, at least for the time being.

And maybe I'll be able to divide my time and still get in some trips to some of those parks and wild lands.

We'll see.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010


I've been reading some Jack Kerouac. I've read most of the stuff he left behind, so very little of it is new to me. Just now I was going back over BIG SUR which remains, to me, the most honest of his autobiographic novels. And it's honest in the way that he acknowledges his insanity. That's not something I've ever seen out of any other writer.

Still carving away at the concepts and final words of THE CLAN. I'm a stickler for logic in my novels, even when my novels deal with the impossible and the improbable. If the bits of the puzzle don't fit, I have to craft another piece that does fit.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

BBQ Festival

Friday night Carole and I decided to attend the big BBQ festival in downtown Charlotte. We don't drive to downtown as often as we did when we were younger. It's kind of sad that we don't, when I stop to think about it. When we were young we'd go downtown for all kinds of things--plays, museums, concerts. But now we're mainly old sticks in the mud.

We had a really good time just walking around. The main reason was to sample some good barbecue, and we did that. We also had some rum cake with fresh peach ice cream made on-site at one of the booths. That was really good, too!

The funniest thing was watching the baby pig race, though. They were so darned cute and smart! It's sad to think that the four piglets we watched running around and being so affectionate toward their handler will end up murdered and eaten by the humans they trust too much. Alas.

Sometimes I tend to forget that Charlotte is a city with big buildings. We were once a major banking center, until the Bush administration allowed the bankers to steal their companies into oblivion. Now none of the major banks that were here even exist anymore. They're all gone, gobbled up by other companies.

One of the side streets we walked up to get to the site of the bbq festival.

I like looking up at the skyscrapers. We have some good ones in Charlotte.

Soon we were getting to the booths and temporary restaurants.

In the middle of things it got really crowded.

This is where we sat to eat after we nabbed our sandwiches. They were pretty good! We were very lucky to nab a table.

The view from our seat.

After we ate we went to watch the piglet race.

On your marks...

Those little cuties were flying!

I took a flash photo to freeze them in time.

What's a downtown without a horse-drawn carriage?

This band was playing live outside the Burger and Brew. They were pretty good!

Our truck was parked beside a cemetery. So of course I had to get a morbid shot of that.