Monday, November 29, 2010
Generally, when I revisit a novel that has already been written and accepted, the editing process is largely a tedious and sometimes maddening experience. But with THE LIVING END I'm having a good time revisiting the characters and reliving the story.
As a rule, I don't sit around crowing about my work. I know writers who do this and their personalities grind on my nerves. It's a very undignified way to act, and these folk are among my least favorite people. And this is one of the main reasons I stopped attending writers gatherings and genre conventions. I just got sick of the unjustified bragging going on, and I just couldn't tolerate hanging around those ego-mad chumps, each of which were constantly crowing about their rising accomplishments and how they were going to take the media world by storm.
That said, I have gotten a huge kick out of seeing that THE LIVING END is every bit as good as I had hoped it would be. It's a different kind of horror novel. The story is something that I've always looked for in the genre, but never quite found. I rounded up all of the logic holes that appear in this type of story, closed them up, and built a really solid foundation. THE LIVING END is an excellent work that I would compare to the best horror tales around these days.
OK. End of the hype.
For now, at least.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
I read an interesting article about mammal diversification and gigantism that took place after the dinosaurs kicked off. I've always thought it was cool how certain species trend toward huge size as they elbow the competition out of an ecological niche. Or an ecological corridor in the case of something like Indricotherium or Deinotherium. Amazing creatures.
Scale illustration of Indricotherium with a modern African elephant and a human. These guys were getting up toward the general size of a respectable sauropod dinosaur. All that mammals needed was room to spread their wings, so to speak.
Deinotherium was a far larger animal than I had known before I read the recent articles about the early explosion of size in terrestrial mammals.
Hanging out with a tame hadrosaur a couple of weeks ago. Being careful not to step in the dinosaur poop lying around.
Friday, November 26, 2010
I signed with Severed Press (of Australia) for my zombie novel, THE LIVING END. They're looking to publish in early 2011. I'll post more details as I can find the time.
The guys in Australia do know their horror fiction and were early passengers on the zombie bandwagon. Or, heck...they were probably driving it.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Until I get a chance to go back west and visit Yellowstone and other National Parks in those amazing places, I'll be poring over the photos we took and reliving those memories. For years I have realized that our remaining wild lands are existing on the verge of destruction. It's only a matter of time--and I'm convinced short time--until they're all either outright destroyed or ruined beyond only the application of peace and time to restore.
And, of course, restored only in the absence of Mankind.
Looking at our parks and wilderness areas, reduced to relatively small patches of territory around the Earth, I can see now that saving it all is an impossibility and that the final destruction of our remaining ecosystems and the living things who dwell within them is a lost cause. For these artificial boundaries that we set up to indicate a park or national forest or protected wilderness are ephemeral and easily destroyed through the same legislative acts that created these tenuous boundaries.
To see what can and will happen one has only to look to recent history in places like Rwanda and the Sudan. There, National Park boundaries were ignored and overrun by desperate people displaced by poverty and warfare. In short order they became wastelands where animals were nothing but food for the raving hoards of weapon-carrying humans and the forests were felled for fuel and housing, the waters fouled. So much for parks.
Think it can't happen here? It can, and will. Already I read of timber poachers who creep into National Parks to surreptitiously fell old growth trees in the absence of rangers. We can't afford rangers, you see, and there are more than enough desperate assholes in the USA willing to rape their own parks to cut down ancient hardwoods to sell for enough money to buy a big screen TV. Bears are shot for body parts to sell to rich Asians who believe in old superstitions that instruct them that consuming such things will increase their potency and likelihood of conceiving a male heir.
Even in Yellowstone, which showed me the power of Nature, the park is constantly under threat. Land owners and gun rights madders are whipped into a frenzy of insanity over the existence of wolves and bison which they see as threats. These idiots don't understand that they're being used by energy and real estate interests to weaken laws and regulations that protect these creatures. Without those protections rich men can become even richer mining the earth and mowing down the forests and building atop the places that now serve as home for the creatures that are just in the way of their profits.
Our parks are doomed. Our forests will be cut. Our rivers will be fouled. Our fellow creatures will be exterminated. All of this will be done for money.
And the only thing one can really do for it is to see it all before it's gone. So if you want to witness an unspoiled mountain vista free of urban sprawl, then I suggest you get yourself to such a place and hike into it with all due speed. If you want to see a free-roaming herd of bison living as they once did before Man arrived on the scene, then I think you should rush out to one of the few parks left that afford you this chance and lay your eyes upon it. If you hunger to walk through virgin forests of old growth trees then you'd best hurry up and do so, because between timber companies and invasive pests and climate change and mysterious diseases I fear we're going to see the end of such places in quick order.
Mother Nature does fine art with super-heated water and mineral deposition.
This huge buffalo was using a dust wallow on a steep slope above the valley.
It was the beginning of the rut and this bull was staking out this cow and warning everyone away. Later that same day, I watched a group of motor bikers pull up beside an enormous bull bison sitting in a wallow beside the road, walk up to him, surround the animal, as one of the idiots reached out to touch the almost one-ton buffalo. Humans can, and will, destroy everything that they can get their mitts on.
Telephoto shot of part of one of the enormous herds we watched in Hayden Valley.
A bit of the hundreds-strong herd in Hayden Valley. Once upon a time, the west was all like this for thousands and thousands of miles. We've destroyed 98% of it, but that apparently is not enough. That remaining 2% must, apparently, also go away.
View of 10,300-foot Mount Washburn, which I had climbed a day earlier. It has one building on it, and would, some would argue, be better off if it could be covered in subdivisions and gas stations. I am reminded of Highlands NC and the hideous sprawl of houses wrecking the slopes every time I look at an unspoiled mountain.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The birds in my novel THE FLOCK are Terror birds, also known as Phorusrhacids were an extinct form of the modern type we know as ratites. These are almost all large birds that are flightless. Most of them today are much smaller than the Terror birds and are herbivorous rather than carnivorous. Why the herbivores thrived while the flesh-eaters died out is a matter for paleontologists to puzzle. About the closest we have to the Terror birds these days would be the Cassowary which is considered the most dangerous living bird, having killed a total of two human beings in the past few hundred years. I've read that they do occasionally chase down and consume insects and small reptiles, thus making them omnivorous rather than strict herbivores. Like most of today's amazing creatures, they're near extinction.
Recently, I read that the eggshell of the extinct Aepyornis, the heaviest bird known to have ever lived, gave up its DNA. This is, I suppose, something of a genetic coup, but I don't know if it means that the species can be resurrected. From what I've read on the subject, I rather doubt it. Still, it's interesting to know that the DNA of these critters can be recovered and studied, if not actually used to recreate the lost animals. Which is a shame, of course, because unlike the Terror birds who exist only in my novel, ratites such as Aepyornis and the moas of New Zealand were killed off by humans and not by the normal means of Natural Selection.
Monday, November 22, 2010
So it goes.
Looking forward now to some signing events out of town. We're planning Atlanta, Asheville, Boston, etc. Better luck points north, west, south and east than here in Charlotte.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Since my tree knowledge is horrible, I'm not always sure what I'm looking at. I could remedy this by taking a few classes at a local college or finding a study partner. My own ability to learn this stuff is a lost cause. Outside of my writing, I don't have the discipline to teach myself such things--my mind constantly wanders. It's at times like finding this tree that I regret not paying attention to my dad when we'd go hiking in the woods when I was a kid. He knew every tree we'd see. It didn't matter if we were in the low country or in the mountains--he knew them all. He'd point out a tree, tell me how to identify it, and the information would go into one ear and quickly out the other.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Once upon a time there were some heavy industries there that provided relatively decent wages and secure employment. But over the years many of those businesses closed down or went belly-up. And many of those industries left behind a legacy of poison and toxic waste which will have to be dealt with over the decades, if not actually for centuries.
On my subsequent visits to Brunswick I have searched in vain for a "nice" section of town. Somewhere the houses are pretty and the lawns in good order and the streets are well kept. Such neighborhoods seem to be completely absent from Brunswick. I suppose all those who could afford such dwellings lived on Saint Simons Island or Sea Island or Jekyll Island or points north or south or east of Brunswick. Preferably upwind of the poisonous lands where chemical companies and pulp mills dumped their stenches into the air and water and earth.
Strangely, the one place in town where even the most bitter of inhabitants could view genuine beauty were the grounds of the county courthouse. This place where one had to go for licenses of every type, where one would be arraigned, where the business of everything legal (and corrupt) went down. The town apparently collectively knew how hideous Brunswick was (and is), and so somehow some effort was made to ensure that the one square block of county courthouse property was absolutely draw-droppingly gorgeous. It always was, and remains, the Stupefyin' Jones of courthouse grounds. I challenge any town to prove its courthouse environs are more pretty to behold.
We took a very slight detour on the way home so that I could stop at the courthouse and take a few photographs before we headed on to Charlotte. It was worth the side trip and the half hour we spent.
I was reminded of a line from a Karl Edward Wagner novel:
"...like an onyx in a maggot pile..."
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
As most of you probably know, I don't like crowds. So amusement parks are definitely not on my list of favorite places. I also don't care for zoos. You can argue about preserving animal stocks and all that, but my feeling is that the expense would be better served using the money utilized by zoos for habitat preservation. That would save a lot more species than cramming some poor individuals into small spaces where they can go stir crazy. Those are my principal gripes about zoos.
Combine a zoo with an amusement park and you're really starting to piss me off.
But life is short and Carole wanted to see this place, so we went.
It wasn't a total loss for me. They had a really fun roller coaster ride. Also, I was able to do some research for one of my novels by just watching some of the animals. I was actually looking forward to part of the park that takes you into enclosed habitats in large range-rover type vehicles. So it's almost like being on an African grassland. But the hype and expectation did not live up to the reality of it. I guess it's better for the animals to be able to roam around on a nice patch of green acreage. But it's not like seeing wild animals standing amidst mile after mile of open wilderness.
Yellowstone spoiled me.
Part of the large-animal paddock where they can actually roam around as if they're free. It could be worse, I suppose. The giraffes seemed happy.
But, we spent a few hours in the park, Carole got to see the place. It was the only amusement park there in Orlando where she'd never been. She bagged it. I got to fill my head with information for another book.
But I won't ever go back.
I really like Komodo dragons. I saw some way back in the 90s when I visited the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Yeah, another zoo. This guy was pretty big--about 100 pounds or so I was told. They're amazing creatures.
Stitched panoramic shot of a Carnatosaurus. From the only so-far discovered skeleton of this really impressive theropod predator. One of the most truly wicked looking meat-eating dinosaurs to ever walk the Earth. This guy had to have been truly frightening to see. Yeah, part of the park was devoted to dinosaurs. The little kid in me loves this stuff.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
My mother's father and mother. Grandmother Kurtz (formerly Clifford), through whom I am directly related to John Greenleaf Whittier, noted American poet, abolitionist, and Quaker.
Monday, November 15, 2010
At any rate, this photo is, as I said, one small corner of the park. As you may be able to notice, the photo indicates a low area in the center of the picture surrounded by relatively high terrain all around. My dad was convinced that this was a meteor crater. No, it's not much when compared to a major meteor site, but he may have been right. The other possibility is that it's the remains of a sinkhole, but I've seen old sinkholes in the low country, and this doesn't resemble those. And most sinkholes are underlain by limestone and this is not. This is all sand and soil with the saltwater marsh being less than a quarter of a mile east.
Very rough outline. The central (black) line shows the low area. This fills up with water during heavy downpours. The red line indicates the raised area where debris would have piled up after the impact. Or so my dad theorized.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I'll post details when the ink is dry on the contracts and everything is cool to announce.
Artwork that my pal Mark Masztal did for a proposed illustrated version of the manuscript.
There was just the man, the boy, and the dog.
The boy was ten years old. He was standing there, holding his left arm out and there was a big lump on the top of that arm, turning blue, and swelling a bit more as the boy and the man and the dog watched.
The man was sixty-six years old, tall, thin, gray-headed, dressed in jeans and red flannel and boots. You could see his breath puff out in great mists from his heaving lungs.
The dog was eight—or so the man figured, as he’d saved him from death at the pound when the animal was six months old. Well, that was what the attendant there had told him. The dog was big and heavy and black. He looked confused, his eyes glancing up at the man and then to the boy.
“Who’s your dad,” the old man asked.
The boy, who didn’t want to seem to tear his eyes from the sight of his swelling arm held out tentatively said, “I ain’t got a dad.”
There was a look in the old man’s eyes; nothing much to betray an emotion, but a barely noticeable widening. “Then who’s your mom? Where is she right now?”
Finally, the sight of the pounding blue egg of pain growing above his wrist was something he didn’t want to look at any more. “I ain’t got a mom either,” the boy said; sweat dampening the thin red hair, which hung limply down into his green eyes.
Exasperated now, the old man asked, “Then where do you live, son? Who takes care of you?”
“I live at Fire Station #2, in downtown Beckley West Virginia. Right over yonder.” And he indicated the top of the hill behind them with his good arm. “The Men of Fire Station #2 see to me.” And then he fainted, falling delicately in a heap at the old man’s booted feet.So it was Calvin Ramseur cradled the boy in his arms and walked him over the
hill to Fire Station #2 and The Men Who Saw to Him. Along the way, the old
man bothered to glare down at the dog, whose head was bent in something
akin to shame. “Dog, you are a very bad puppy. Don’t go jumping up on small
kids who don’t know you." They walked a few more paces before the man
added, "Bad! Bad, bad puppy!"
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
I'm looking forward to getting out and climbing some mountains this year.
Until then, here are a few shots from earlier trips:
Down there in the haze was the San Andreas Fault. I took this one from near the summit of the highest peak in Joshua Tree National Park. I've forgotten the name of the mountain.
This is a rock that I picked up right at my feet where I took the middle photo. I would loved to have brought it home with me, but one is not allowed to muck about with National Park objects...not even rocks. So I did the next best thing and took a photo. Some type of volcanic rock, I assume. It looks like common slag.
Monday, November 08, 2010
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Ate breakfast alone. Took Lilly outside in the cold air and let her romp around in the yard. Drank some coffee. When Carole finally wakes up we're going to visit her mom since we haven't seen her in two weeks and she's getting lonely.
Some day, I hope, we can retire and travel about as we wish. Of course this is the USA, where retirement is largely a pipe dream.
Cholla cactus in Joshua Tree National Park. Pretty to look at, but don't you dare get stuck by one. Takes pliers to get the needles out!
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Friday, November 05, 2010
My dad, who is also dead, had this to say about ghosts--we were sitting in the forest in the mountains of north Georgia just looking at the trees. And he suddenly said:
"You know how I know that there's no such things as ghosts?"
Since I was twelve at that point and had not believed in gods or the supernatural since I was eight years old, I already didn't believe in ghosts. But my dad was sharp and almost always had something interesting to say, so I bit.
"Nope. Why?" I asked.
Then he swept his arm to indicate the forest all around us growing on the steep Appalachian hillsides that had once been part of a vast Indian Nation but which (at least this 120 acres on which we sat) now belonged to him.
"Because this was once all Indian land, before we slaughtered them all. If there were such a thing as ghosts, they'd rise up from here and kill every fucking white man around."
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Since I'd never read any Truman Capote material except for a single short story some years ago, I grabbed up an old paperback edition of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S. At an original cover price of sixty cents, I think it's a mid-60s edition, but I can't be sure. Might be as late as early 70s.
When I opened it to start reading it, a bit of airline ticket fell out. It looked to have been used as a bookmark. It was for a flight from Atlanta to New York City/Laguardia Airport. Issued to someone named "Dailey/Jeffery". How long had that ticket stub been in the book? Did he buy this book to read on the flight? Where is he now? What was he doing in New York City? Or had he lived in New York and was returning from a visit to Atlanta?
I'm sure I'll file it all away and, perhaps, use it as fiction some day.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
This mountain is also one of the summits of the Black Mountains, which comprise the highest mountain range in the eastern USA and which include Mount Mitchell and Mount Craig, the number one and number two highest peaks on this side of our nation.
Along this trail I encountered a large expanse of red spruce trees. These trees only grow on North Carolina's highest mountain ranges and they're very beautiful places. However, these forests are my real Kryptonite when it comes to hiking and backpacking. Somehow, I almost always manage to get lost when I hike through these damned forests!
And I know why this is. Most of these stands were logged at around the same time--roughly seventy to one hundred years back. Because of this, the trees in these groves are pretty much all the same age. When you stand in the woods and look around, it all runs together and one spot looks almost exactly like another. If the trail that takes you through these patches runs out or vanishes beneath the rusty old needles of last year's crop, then you can really got lost in a short time.
Well, at least I can get lost in a short time.
And I do.
This trip was no exception. On the way back to my truck I lost the trail in a rough patch of dark, shadowy spruce forest. I not only lost my way, I got turned around and found myself headed away from where I wanted to go! This happened because, as has occurred a couple of other times when I find myself in a spruce forest, I succumb to panic attacks. Now, it's almost impossible to get totally lost in the eastern USA. If I ever did find myself hopelessly off the trail I know enough to find a road. Here in the eastern USA (outside of our swamps) all you have to do to locate a road is walk downhill or follow a creek. Within a mile or so you'll almost certainly find a road.
But damn! Those red spruce forests get me confused!
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
The book officially hits the stores on November 9. We head off for the first book tour on November 10. We were supposed to have had a signing in Savannah Georgia at a Books-A-Million, but it fell through. So the first store appearance will be in Jacksonville Florida on Friday, November 12 at Barnes & Noble # 2683, 11112 San Jose Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32223. Then, on Saturday, November 13 we'll be at Barnes & Noble # 2704, 2418 East Colonial Drive Orlando, FL 32803.
If any of you guys are in either of those areas I'd be thrilled to meet you and autograph your copy of THE FLOCK.
Some other publishing news looming. I'll post details as soon as I have them in hand.