Monday, October 31, 2011


Apparently my next appearance in print will be my short story "Translator" that will be in the horror anthology HORROR FOR THE HOLIDAYS. It's a themed anthology, this one being that all of the stories have to be centered around a holiday. It's edited by Scott David Aniolowski for whom I've written before.

I was told right off the bat not to choose any of the more obvious holidays. And I wouldn't have, anyway. What I ended up taking was VJ Day, a holiday no one even bothers to celebrate at all anymore, and barely even acknowledge. Once upon a time that day made a lot of folk pretty darned happy.

At any rate, here's the really cool cover for the book, featuring the Germanic version of a kind of evil Santa Claus we all know as Krampus.

Cover art for HORROR FOR THE HOLIDAYS from Miskatonic River Press.

And while you're waiting, buy my novels!

THE LIVING END from Severed Press.

THE FLOCK from Tor/Forge.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Our plans were suddenly changed yesterday. On the road already and not really wanting to head back to the house, we decided to head for the mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains.

So I punched in some information into our GPS device and in nothing flat we were headed for the Cataloochee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Because of the way our most popular park was created, one of the things promised about it was that there would never be an admission fee charged. So you never have to think about that if you head over there.

I like Cataloochee for many reasons, but the thing which draws most people there these days are the elk herds. This was the part of the park chosen for the reintroduction of elk to the Appalachian ecosystem. If you travel or hike much around the southern Appalachians you will immediately become aware of the many places with the word "elk" in their names. Once upon a time there was an eastern species of elk which was exterminated due to overhunting and habitat loss. The last of our eastern elk were killed off by Europeans along with the eastern woodland bison, the red wolf, and too many other creatures to list here.

However, it is possible to return some animals to their former niches within the ecosystems. The elk was one of these. It's a rather large creature, but not of a disposition that would alarm most people who live around the park and who visit the park. And so the effort was begun, first with an infusion of elk from The Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky where a reintroduction had already proved to be successful.

True, these aren't actual eastern elk--those are gone forever, into the sucking pit of oblivion. But they're likely so similar that, left to time and Nature, they will revert to that same form that gave its name to so many spots in my native Southern mountains.

Entrance to the Cataloochee area of the park.

The first thing we saw were huge flocks of wild turkey. When I was a kid hiking in the Smokies you NEVER saw them. You knew they were there, but their numbers were such that they just were rarely seen. Finally, because of strict enforcement of hunting laws, their numbers are much greater than the days when they were on the brink of extinction in the South.

You vant elk? Ve got elk.

This was a weird-looking sycamore tree growing behind one of the historical buildings in Cataloochee.

The Caldwell House in Cataloochee. Cades Cove gets most of the attention in the Park, but Cataloochee was the largest town that had to be evacuated to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It had a population of over 1200 people, more than 200 substantial buildings, two post offices, general stores, etc. The hills around the valley were--in the day--covered in apple groves. It was mainly the apple crops that sustained the town and it was known far and wide for its high quality apples. Now all that remain of the town are a few buildings that are preserved by the Park Service.

Carole, inside one of the upstairs rooms of the Caldwell House.

Because of the way the Park was created, horesback riders are allowed almost unfettered access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and most of its trails. I have grown to hate the horses and their riders. There's not a ruder, louder, more obnoxious group than horseback riders in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And there's nothing more unpleasant than having to hike on trails that have been utterly destroyed by horses. Unfortunately, I don't think that there's anything that can be legally done to curtail the access to this park by this destructive group of assholes.

Near the Palmer House we encountered this trio of really big bulls. One of the rangers told us that these three hung out together now that the rut was over. They can't get laid again until next September and have chosen to chill out as three good ol' boys. Of course come next September they'll be smashing those racks together trying to get the pick of the babes.

One of the bulls who wandered pretty close to me. You're not allowed to approach the elk, but this one moseyed over my way.

We stopped at Big Creek to look at the water before we left the Park and headed home.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Andy & Shayna

I'm heading down to South Carolina to watch a college football game with my older brother, Timmy. So here are a few photos of my son and his long-time companion, Shayna Evans. All photos are by Shayna who has a really nice SLR camera her dad bought her.

Andy and Shayna at Mingo Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains, located on the Qalla Reservation (Eastern Cherokee Nation).

Portrait of Andy & Shayna.

Andy in downtown Cherokee. Like his old man, he loves the mountains.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Return to Helvetia

Carole and I love to visit small towns when we go to West Virginia. The state is home to some truly wonderful small villages, many of which we have toured and a few of which we found so charming we have to go back to them.

One of these places that drew us back was Helvetia. This little spot is very tiny, even by most ways one would measure a town. However, it's truly a grand place in so many other ways. Settled in 1869 by mainly Swiss and German immigrants, it retains to this day that Germanic quality if not by descent, then definitely by design. If I ever could, I'd live there. The place exudes charm and peacefulness, and shines with natural beauty and with the careful hand of its modern inhabitants.

If you get the chance, I heartily recommend a trip to Helvetia where time is in a holding pattern, where a hearty appetite can be satisfied, and where silence and calm are constant companions.

One of the great shops in Helvetia.

Sign for The Hutte, the signature restaurant and business of the village.

The food in this place is absolutely wonderful. Bring your appetite. They serve traditional German and Swiss fare in addition to other types of meals. If you go on Sunday, they recommend reservations. We arrived on a Sunday without such, but they fit us in. The place was packed to capacity, but they found time to find us a spot at a table and to make us feel most welcome.

The buffet board in our section of the dining room the Sunday we were there. The food was great! My favorite was the traditional kraut. My goodness, it was delicious!

A brief look into one of the other dining rooms. That one was where we ate the first time we visited The Hutte years before.

Dance hall where performances are regularly held. Quiet the day we were there.

The bridge leading across the creek to the public library and the history museum.

This has to be the single coolest looking library in North America. It has expanded a tad since we were last there.

The local history museum. It has never been open when we were there, so Carole took the occasion to peek through the windows.

This place was once owned by the town. When we last visited, the place was the subject of sealed bids. Someone landed it and now it's a private home.

The general store and post office of Helvetia, WV.

The post office. I'm not sure what the busts were all about, but I assume it was part of a historical representation.

Helvetia WV souvenir clothing. Another of the busts. I should have asked who the sculptures represented, but I was too busy taking photographs.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

HISSMELINA on its way...

My novel HISSMELINA will be seeing the light of publication very soon, in both ebook and trade paperback versions.

In Elijah, high in the Carolina mountains, police officer Frances Jennings is drawn into a mystery involving several missing persons and the return of local matriarch Hester Keener. While Frances battles city fathers over her position as Elijah’s first female officer, her boyfriend is seduced by the power that emanates from The Crag, the peak that dominates Elijah, by his attraction for that place and for Hester’s young heir. What dark forces are at play? Who, or what, is the twisted form called "Hissmelina"? Frances peels away the layers of darkness to find an answer she may not wish to know.

Stay tuned here for details.

In the meantime you can still buy THE FLOCK (from Tor/Forge Books)

and THE LIVING END (from Severed Press).

Monster Books
A new imprint headquarters for weird fiction and dark fantasy.

Fill In

Another brief fill-in rather than a full blog. Sorry. I have to rest, plus I'm finishing up an interview with a reporter tonight.

When I was in West Virginia, Carole and I went to check out some National Forest spots that we'd spotted on Forest maps. One of them was called Locust Spring Recreation Area. It consisted of a very nice picnic area, a couple of rustic campsites, a vault toilet, and a number of trail heads.

While we were having lunch there I went for a stroll around the area. Quite literally, you can walk a hundred yards from the picnic area and you're across the Virginia border.

At any rate, it was very windy and I looked up as I was strolling and saw a pair of deer. They had not seen me, so I quietly switched to my telephoto lens and slowly did my best to sneak up on them. The wind was in my favor so I was able to get pretty close by keeping trees between me and the deer to break up my figure.

I have to say, it was fun to sneak up on them. Especially as I had no intention of killing them.

The lead doe finally notices me. She froze, then gave out with a very loud snort!

And with a "kiss my ass", they were gone.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm a Busy Man

I'm tired. I'm grouchy. In addition to working as a laborer for the USPS I'm putting in many hours a week on several writing projects, plus I'm doing the foreword for a western novel someone churned out. So I'm just way the hell too busy to work on the blog. I'll get back to it when I can slow down and relax a bit.

Self-portrait taken at the Seneca Rocks picnic area.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I have a new project going. The first time I've ventured into the entrepreneurial ring in quite some years.

So, here's a teaser. The logo I had my pal Mark Masztal work up based on my own design. He's turning my rough scratchings into a professional logo, and this is his first (unfinished) version. It was exactly what I was aiming for.

Details as they emerge.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


You know the old saying about how imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

In comic books, however, that flattery was picking the pockets of someone else. In some cases it led to lawsuits and the destruction of the flattering entity. National Periodicals (DC) sued Fawcett over their Capt. Marvel (which had outstripped Superman in popularity and sales) and thus Fawcett was undone and it can be argued that superhero comics almost went away with the destruction of Billy Batson and his alter-ego.

Whenever one comic book publisher came up with a popular idea, there were always at least a few other publishers around ready, willing, and able to try to rip off that idea. When Harvey Kurtzman's MAD hit the stands it was an enormous sales success. In fact, Mad Magazine outlived its parent company and went on to spawn one of the highest selling publications in the world, and a couple of TV series.

And so it was that in this case other publishers fell all over themselves trying to ape Kurtzman's vision of the humor comic book. Most of those imitations fell flat, of course, but the threat was very much there and Bill Gaines and company figured that if someone was going to imitate MAD, then it might as well be the guys who were already publishing the original! Thus, was PANIC born.

PANIC lasted for twelve issues and was, in almost all ways, MAD with just a different title. It sported the same writers, same artists, same feel. If you pick up and read an issue of PANIC you wouldn't know you weren't reading MAD unless you looked at the cover title. And that's what they wanted. When you pick your own pocket the money ends up in the same place.

I've never read or heard what sales of PANIC were like, but they must have been decent for the title to have lasted as long as it did. The only thing that killed it off was the demise of EC as a comic book publisher. When William Gaines decided to leave comics and move strictly to the magazine format (thus escaping the Comics Code Authority), he allowed PANIC to be almost totally forgotten and vanish with his small raft of other Comic Code approved titles such as INCREDIBLE SCIENCE FICTION, PIRACY, VALOR, ACES HIGH, etc.

One of the main reasons for the existence of the Comics Code Authority in those days was to put EC Comics out of business. In this, they succeeded. Of course they ended up creating the single most profitable independently owned publication on Earth, but that's beside the point. the Code put EC down for the count, and that has to be one of the greatest crimes ever committed in the sad history of comic book publishing.

PANIC #8. Yeah, I'm buying old comics again. Newest addition to the collection. Here was Kurtzman and his team putting Jewish humor into the hands of every good little boy and girl. (Who are we kidding? It was almost all boys.)

Modern readers have pretty much no idea at all what the popularity of newspaper comic strips was once like. The American people once adored the funny papers. A popular strip could become a cultural phenomenon. The influence of a popular newspaper comic could not be underestimated. And once upon a time one of the most popular strips was ALLEY OOP. Here, Kurtzman and his band of humorists parody the caveman, Alley Oop. (Strangely--to me, a least--although Alley Oop had been around since 1939, the strip enjoyed its greatest popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s.)

Joe Orlando's humor. Quite different from his more dramatic work at EC, but still effective.

And the great Wally Wood lends his talent to skewering GONE WITH THE WIND.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dolly Sods, Part II

After I'd bagged Blackbird Knob, I headed back toward the trailhead to pick out another hike. What I was hoping to do was do some bushwhacking just straight across country in the really high section of the Wilderness. I'd seen this area before, during summer, and figured that it would be very simple and relatively easy to just set off across the heath and make a beeline for whatever point I wanted to hit.

With that tactic in mind I drove to the part of the area called Bear Rocks to park my truck, gather my stuff, and make off for another hike.

The place was really crowded. By the time I got to Bear Rocks there was probably a hundred people at that spot. Everyone from Japanese tourists with multi-thousand dollar camera rigs to locals out for a jaunt in the sun after three solid days of rain. But one thing about the Sods--it might be crowded on the road, but just walk off that track a hundred yards and you might as well be on the Moon. So it was that easy for me to escape the crowds by turning my back on the road, finding a rough path through the blueberry bushes and just striking out.

The point I'd picked out by sight was a mass of rocks off to the northwest. I'd seen them before when I'd been there years earlier and figured they'd be a great spot to take some photos. The thing was, it was hard to gauge the distance because it's hard to get a feel when there are so few trees growing near your goal. So I decided to head off and see if I could make it.

Right away, I discovered that this was going to be a whole lot tougher than I'd figured. First of all, the low-growing shrubs are made of very tough stuff. They grab at your boots and legs and put a stop to much forward motion. I was just going to have to slow down. And then, I discovered another, more difficult barrier:

I'd have to cross the feature for which the entire wilderness is named, and that is pretty much not a good idea.

Dolly Sods Wilderness is actually a vast, shallow valley situated on one of the widest, highest, and most uniform plateaus in eastern North America. The ridges that surround it rise to over 4400 feet, but the valley itself lies anywhere from 3500 to 4000 feet. And that makes it the biggest high elevation valley in the East. And in that valley are many bogs, called "sods" by the locals. And at the high end of the valley is the biggest bog of all:
Dolly Sods.

When you try to walk out onto it, you see it for what it really is. And that's a very shallow lake overlain with a soaking carpet of living plant matter. You can make your way around the edges of it--it's something like what it would be like to walk across a water bed. I'd experienced the same sensation before when walking on some of the floating islands in the Okefenokee Swamp in south Georgia. But I saw right off that there was absolutely no way I could walk across Dolly Sods. First of all, you'd get soaking wet, and as the winds were howling at what I estimate to be around 40 t0 50 miles per hour, that was not a good idea. In addition, the sods are a very fragile environment and I did not want to plant my footprints all over it.

I did, however, want to get some good photos of the bog. So I rock hopped to a big boulder that lay out in the bog itself and got down on my knees, and then my stomach, to take some unique shots.

After that, I made my way carefully back onto the heath and once more tried to make it to the jumble of boulders far away on the horizon.

And soon after that I realized there was no way I was going to be able to make that hike and return to my truck in a reasonable amount of time. The going was just way the hell too rough. In that case, I decided, I'd head for the cliff edge where the mountain plunged down into the deeper valley to the east and see how much progress I could make by going that way. As I did, I realized that trying to push through the heath was a no-win situation, so I opted for finding ribs of talus and jutting boulders and using those as my thoroughfare. It was, it turned out, the best way to move, and I was able to reach the cliff edge in short order.

By that time I was pretty tired and was--for the first time that day--hungry. I found a secluded spot on the cliffs behind a stand of red spruce trees that shielded me from the wind and I had a banana nut muffin and a container of water. It was a good lunch and I just sat there for a long time enjoying the views. Far to the north I could see a big wind farm on the Allegheney Front. Some people complain about the big turbines on the ridges, but while they do break the natural pattern of the mountains, I see them as a possible cure to the burning of fossil fuels that is poisoning the Earth to death. Thus, I don't mind the wind farms. Let them do their work.

After heading up and down the cliff for a while, taking photos, I realized that there was no way I'd make my original goal. And, anyway, I was missing Carole and decided that I'd rather spend the rest of the day in her company than struggling to reach that jumbled pile of bleached rock in the distance. Gathering up my stuff, I turned and headed back toward the truck, back toward the crowds, back toward the road that would take me to my wife.

I arrive at the edge of the Sods. It's not a field. It's more like a lake. Don't try to hike across it.

I got down on my belly on the big boulder out in the bog and nabbed this shot.

You can see the water pooling up all through the bog.

The wind was really roaring.

This was one of the "trails" I tried to follow cross country. It didn't work that well.

This, however, was a far better way to move. I could pretty much move at a good speed across these massive talus fields that appear all over the high country.

If you click on this photo you can see the huge jumble of rock on the horizon that was initially my goal.

Instead, though, I ended up on the cliff wall to the north of Bear Rocks.

This is a telephoto shot of the wind farm off in the distance.

And this was my lunch spot. I had those spruce trees to shield me from the wind (which was coming in from the west).

Tortured terrain.

These were not really trails, but they served the same purpose.

When you look closely at the boulders you can see that they're a conglomerate and not solid, at all. When they break down, the rocks form into a mass of the tiny particles that are here cemented together.

This was the direction I had to move to return to my truck. Be sure to click on this image to see it in a much larger format.

And the road that forms the the eastern border of Dolly Sods Wilderness. Since it lies at the top edge of the plateau, it's one of the straightest roads you'll see in the high country.