Thursday, April 25, 2013

Heading Out.

Well, we're headed down to Florida to kayak some of the first magnitude springs. We're going to spend probably every single day kayaking. I hope to get some really decent wildlife photos. The website will remain pretty much static until we return, barring any access I can stumble upon to WiFi. If I do that, I'll post some updates from my laptop computer. The only bummer is that Andy couldn't go with us because he ended up getting a new job. Oh, well. At least he's employed again.

All of these photographs were taken on, or on the banks of, some of the first magnitude springs we've explored in Florida.

The Seven Major Laws of Zombies

We all know the religious fundamentalists. The guys who believe in, and adhere to, the letter of their holy books as published for them to see and read.

I never thought I'd compare myself in any way to those jokers, but in one strain of thought, I am a fundie.

I'm a Romero zombie fundamentalist.

Yeah, that's right. You don't like it? Then kiss my happy white zombie-writin' ass.

Here are the rules as laid down by the Great Prophet of Zombies, George A. Romero (gore be upon his name).

 1: Zombies are slow. That's right. No running zombies. No dashing zombies. No zombies out to win an Olympic race. They are slow. They are implacable. They do not give up.

2: Zombies only eat living human flesh. No eating other animals. They target living humans and kill and eat only living humans. Why? I couldn't give fuck one why. That's the way Romero made them, goddamn it.

3: They decay, but very damned slowly. They do rot, but as put forth in Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD, there is something that inhibits uncontrolled decay in them and they can last for years as zombies.

4: They are pretty much mindless. Bub (from DAY OF THE DEAD) standing almost as a fluke, zombies are pretty damned stupid and have only rudimentary memories of their lives before rising from the dead. Zombies do not operate machinery, and they don't figure out complicated puzzles or communicate with one another. They're dead. They're all messed up.

5: All people rise from the dead within a couple of hours after dying. Doesn't matter how you die, you come back to life, unless your brain was destroyed.

6: If you are bitten, you will get sick, and you will succumb, and you will rise from the dead. What is the reason for the raging fever that kills you? Hell if I know. Sepsis? I don't know. I don't really care. So it is written, so shall it be.

7: The only way to put down a zombie for good is to destroy its brain. As Chilly Billy says: "Bash 'em or burn 'em. They go up pretty good."

These are the Seven Major Laws of the Romero Zombie. Anything else is heresy and should be roundly condemned as such. I have spoken.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Additions to My Comic Collection

Latest additions to my Jack Kirby Fantastic Four collection. Conceived by Kirby (and Kirby alone). Written by Kirby (and Kirby alone). Penciled by Kirby (and Kirby alone).

After the editing debacle of FANTASTIC FOUR #66-67, it seems that Kirby was not in the mood to deliver any more marketable creations to the thieving bastards at Marvel. For the longest time Kirby was still delivering top-notch, action-packed superhero adventures, but if you judge on the basis of new characters, he was mainly just giving Goodman and Lee cookie-cutter androids and aliens as villains. And no more great new superheroes to join the pantheon he'd already created. This particular android is telling. Not even a face that the corporate pigs could steal.

Fun stories, but few new properties for Marvel to steal and merchandise.

Kirby must have liked The Wizard. He introduced him initially as a Human Torch villain in STRANGE TALES, but kept going back to him again and again. He seemed like a good foil for Reed Richards (they were both technological geniuses), but the arch-enemy role was already filled by Doctor Doom. However, that didn't stop Kirby from returning to The Wizard as one of the FF's mainstay villains for many an adventure.

I can afford to get these later issues of FANTASTIC FOUR in higher grade. As I narrow down the focus to the issues before #21 (I only have a few before that number), I'll have to settle for lower condition copies.
This is my copy of STRANGE TALES #102, which has the first appearance of The Wizard. Initially, Kirby intended him as a villain to face the Human Torch in the backup series in Strange Tales. But he realized that the guy would make an effective antagonist for the entire Fantastic Four, and soon brought him to the pages of Marvel's best-selling comic by teaming him with other villains to form The Frightful Four, an evil analog of the Fantastic Four.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Best Place

Heading off soon to see wildlife. I hope to get some good photos on this trip. Florida remains the best place I know of on the east coast to view wildlife.

Curious manatee.

Key deer.

Osprey over our campsite.

In the act of laying eggs.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Getting Ready for the Road

After a misadventure, we went to where we store the Casita to get it ready for vacation.

I moved the Casita to the back of the parking lot for better access to the water.
I had thought that the azaleas would have already peaked, but they likely have another day or so to prime color.

Frank did a kickass job with the azalea beds.
In the midst of stripping the old wax.
I always take photos of the back of the house. But Frank also did a good job of landscaping the front.
Ah, the Casita shines...well not like new, but almost.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Frank's Place

Last week we went to run some errands at Carole's mom's place. I often refer to it as "Frank's Place". Frank was Carole's dad. When he built his house he bought two lots instead of one so he would have extra space and wouldn't have to worry about pesky neighbors hemming him in. Also, it gave him room for the kick-ass gardens he used to plant. Frank didn't mess around when he did his garden. It was like a mini-farm. It was only about 1/4 of an acre and I know that doesn't sound like much...but it produced AMAZING amounts of food. All kinds of great vegetables. I miss that garden. When Frank died, that was the end of it.

One thing that Frank did when he built the house was to do his own landscaping. To that end he planted islands of azaleas and put in dogwood trees. The only things that mar the yard are a couple of camelia bushes and a holly tree. I hate both of those, and I don't think they were Frank's idea. Other than those, the yard is amazing when the azaleas and dogwoods are in bloom, which takes place roughly at the same time. Frank is gone, but the hard work he put into landscaping the glorious yard lives on. Last week it was just before peak for the blossoms. We'll be back out there on Sunday, but I fear peak will have passed by then. We'll see.

Until then, enjoy:

The vast tract of green on the left side of the photo is what was once Frank's garden. He would plant that side to side and end to end with all manner of vegetables. Tomatoes, beans, squash, potatoes, melons, corn, etc. Those were the days!

Our Casita, framed by the dogwoods.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cats and Birds in the Yard

Between bouts of me versus the novel, I took the cats out yesterday for a stroll in the yard. I keep them leashed, both for their own security and to keep them from nabbing any unsuspecting birds.

Lilly tries to climb a tree to get a mourning dove.

It ain't happenin', chump.

Ah, dat boid is too small anyways.
Oo! What's that?!
I yam a gorgeous cardinal, and you're not getting me, either.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

At Last: A Confederacy of Horrors.

Years ago a publisher got in touch with me, asking to do a collection of my short fiction. So I assembled such; editing and proofreading was completed. And then...the publisher lost air and went belly up.

Thereafter I set about trying to find a new home for it. Various publishers showed interest. Finally, one made an offer of publication. Time passed...and they vanished.

Off to the markets yet again. I passed the collection around from place to place, a publisher wanted to do the project, letters were exchanged, an agreement was reached and...yeah, they croaked. Todt. Kaput.

A couple of years ago a new publisher asked to see the manuscript. The editor in chief liked what he saw and sent me a contract (I actually still have that contract here, with me). And then...yep...outfit croaked. Dead eyes starin' at th' moon.

Then, last year, I heard from ST Joshi who is editing short story collections and such for several outfits. He asked to see the book. Stories were plucked out. Some stories were added. We arrived at a collection that contains about 85,000 words, some of it ancient reprints, some of it of more recent origin, and some of it wholly new.

This book has killt four publishers so far. Unless the jinx is permanent, A CONFEDERACY OF HORRORS will see the light of print in 2014 from Hippocampus Press. Not some self-published ebook. But actual, hold-the-paper-book-in-yer-hands print. A real book. The only kind of book for me.

The original cover art here was done by the late Harry Fassl. This artwork is unavailable, so new art will have to be commissioned by the publisher, Hippocampus Press.

On Writing: Oh, joy.

I love to write. I can't help myself. Sometimes the urge to create stories and novels is so overwhelming that I literally cannot stop. There are times when it's not only not a labor, it's so easy and comes so naturally that it's almost like breathing, or having a heart beat. And, of course, when the inspiration runs out and it becomes a job, I push on until the project is complete.

It has been almost three decades since I actively began to pursue selling my stories to real editors at real publishers. I did what any other writer did in those days, I found a list of active markets and submitted by work. Some writers are so frightened of rejection that they won't submit their work. I've never understood this kind of cowardice, but it's there, in spades.

Today, so-called "writers" don't have to submit anything. They can self-publish their crap and claim to be "famous writers". The days of running the editorial gauntlet and refining one's craft seems to be a dead issue.

One thing that I have never gotten from selling my work is a sense of joy. Yes, I want to sell my work. I want to make money. I want people to read the material that I spent so much time and effort creating.

But I've never gotten much of a sense of pleasure from seeing it in print. I'm not one of those people who freaks out and jumps up and down with excitement and a false sense of inflated ego when the books arrive. I leave that for other people. If that's what floats yer boat--yer welcome to it.

I did not freak out when I sold my first short story. That was to a major publisher (Tor Books) for a
hardback anthology (SCARE CARE) edited by a best-selling author (Graham Masterton). It was nice, but I did not feel any great pleasure and my brain was not flooded with dopamines.

So I figured maybe it would feel different when I sold some comic scripts. I finally did that, too, selling hundreds of pages of scripts to all sorts of comic book publishers, including Marvel Comics. Eh. It was okay, and I enjoyed cashing the checks...but I didn't run around rending my clothes and screaming about how great I was or how good it felt.

Then I figured, maybe I would get excited when I sold my first novel. That was something that had eluded me for long years. Despite having at one time a very high powered agent I just couldn't sell that first novel. So I kept writing novels and I kept submitting them (sometimes with an agent and sometimes without). I just knew that when I finally sold my first novel I would be filled with joy. When I sold THE FLOCK, I was pleased, but hardly filled with ecstasy. It was just part of a difficult process that had begun when I was in my mid-20s, and when it finally happened I couldn't generate any sense of euphoria over getting a paycheck for something that was, essentially, hard work--years of it.

I've now sold many, many short stories--I long ago lost count, but it's over 70, I think. I stopped counting when it became a rather pedestrian occurrence for me.
I've sold hundreds of pages' worth of comic book scripts (and learned, in the process, that the comic book industry is the nastiest of the various arms of publishing). Being in the industry never thrilled me and I drifted away from the format.

There have been just a few exceptions to the rule. I did get a big kick out of conceiving and selling an anthology to Arkham House Books. And I got a thrill from having a short story in THE BLEEDING EDGE and being allowed to do a signing event with the other authors, who included one of my idols, Ray Bradbury. Plus, my sale to Weird Tales completed a childhood dream, so that one actually pleased me no end. However, those were, as I say, exceptions to the rule.

I've now sold eight novels, two to a major publisher (Tor Books--the same folk who, ironically, published my first short story), and for me it's not a big deal. It's just something that happens after I've completed a work. It's cool...but those who are filled with a false sense of greatness...I just don't get it. All I want to say to them is "get a fucking grip and take the ego back about ten notches". I get my joy from writing by writing. And I get a sense of accomplishment when I sell the words I wrote. But I don't understand these jackasses who strut around bragging about their books--especially when their books and stories are self-published and generally don't deserve to be seen (the folk one of my pals calls the "self-pubbers").