Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Business.

We visited Carole's mom on Easter as we do every year. After dinner we started preliminary Spring cleaning on our Casita travel trailer. I also took a little time to enjoy the early blossoms on some of the trees and shrubs in the yard.

Camelias in bloom.

Just added a few provisions to the trailer, opened the awning to check on condensation (there was none) and aired out the trailer and recharged the battery.

Amazing Spider-Man #6-10

Returning to the posting of scans of my run of The Amazing Spider-Man comic book. As stated before, since the character here was created by Steve Ditko, I never wanted to collect any issues that he didn't also write and illustrate. Thus, I collected only the first thirty-eight issues and the two annuals. The book that continued without its creator wasn't worth collecting for me. The later writers, most notably John Romita, just had no feel for the character and you folk in the rest of the world are welcome to those issues.

(Continued from 1-5.)

This issue is, by far, the worst condition copy in my collection. I picked it up because the price was right, but it's one of the few issues that I'm actually going to upgrade. I try to keep copies in lower grade...but not this low. The Lizard was one of Ditko's more interesting villains. Knowing Ditko's penchant for black/white characters--this one is rather odd. He's the only gray area villain that I can recall coming from Ditko. He's a bad buy but with a good heart. Ditko used Dr. Connor again, but not as the Lizard. It was only after Ditko walked away from Marvel Comics that the evil Mr. Hyde aspect of his personality was used again.
Thanks to Steve Adelman selling his copy of Amazing Spider-Man #7 I have this one in my collection.
The cover to The Amazing Spider-Man #8 remains one of my favorites. Ditko was really cutting loose, and this is a particularly dynamic cover. He was also beginning to do some cool stuff with his scripts, creating some real tension among the characters and putting Peter Parker into some really dangerous situations.
Electro is another cool villian, but in the classic Ditko mode. He's an asshole with no redeeming values whatsoever. He's just a thug and a criminal who was lucky enough to become a super-villain.
Occasionally Stan Lee, in his role as managing editor, would overrule his artists on covers. The cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #10 was such an instance. He did not care for the one that Ditko turned in, and so had the bullpen cobble this one together. The villains are obviously Ditko art, but the main form of Spider-Man is not. It may have been Kirby who produced the figure, but I've also read that it was Dick Ayers.

Fortunately, somehow the original cover art survived, and we can see what Ditko wanted to do. This was the first time Ditko used a masked villain whose true identity was kept even from the reader. Later, he would go back to this plot device with the Master Planner, the Crime Master, and the Green Goblin.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Springs Fever, Baby!

Some of the other states have some karst topography that produces the kinds of huge freshwater springs that are found in Florida. But not other state has the sheer number and variety of such springs. I'm always surprised at the number of visitors to Florida who never bother to see these places, save for the few that remain in private hands and which are the centerpieces to amusement parks.

Georgia has a few--notably Radium Springs which is neglected by the State and by the local county where it's located. This is completely insane. It was once a part of a private park and people would flock to it to go swimming and snorkeling. No longer. It's considered one of the great natural wonders of Georgia...but you wouldn't know that from the way it's treated by the folk who run my native state.

Alabama has a few of these, also. Again, though, nothing like what is seen in Florida.

So, that's where we're headed in a few weeks. A tour of some springs we've seen before, and a visit to several where we've never been.

Blue Springs.

Blue Springs Run.

Yours Truly in De Leon Springs.

Jupiter Springs.

Wekiva Springs Run.

Rock Springs Run.


Manatee Springs.

Slider and Gar swimming by underneath.

On the limestone shelf above the main spring at Manatee Springs.

Manatee Springs Run.

Rainbow Springs (one of our favorites).

Friday, March 29, 2013

American Chestnut Tree

Every year when I go hiking in the southern Appalachians I'll stumble upon some American chestnut trees. It's really not all that unusual to see some of the legendary trees--they often sprout to the surface from root systems that are still active.

The thing is, eventually, the invasive chestnut blight finds them and kills them back. Often before they can reach a large enough size to start bearing nuts. There are, of course, exceptions. To date, there have been no blight-resistant native chestnut trees found. They always get the blight, and they always die.

A few years ago I did stumble upon one that had gotten fairly large (by modern standards) and was producing nuts. (I looked, but all of the nuts were gone--just burrs were left). I need to go back to this one to see if it's still there.

American chestnut tree leaves.

Burr of American chestnut.
This tree was part of a really huge grove of little American chestnut trees that I hiked through at the Sherando Lake Recreation Area in Virginia. None of them were very big though--nothing over a few feet tall.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Man Made, Baby!

It's not all mountains and rivers and canyons. Sometimes it's stuff people make. (And, yeah, working hard on the novels.)

Small town we stopped in somewhere along the road. I forget where...maybe West Virginia?

Covered bridge in Philippi, West Virginia.

Old fort in Florida.

Lighthouse, northern Florida.

My son, Andy, at the Sea turtle hospital in the Florida Keys.

The straightest mountain road I've ever driven. Along one side of the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia.

Observation tower on Spruce Knob, highest point in West Virginia.

Don't be a Blockhead.

During my time as a writer, I've suffered only a few bouts of writers block. It has never been a consuming issue with me, but when it did arise it was generally due to some mild depression on my part. Recently I did struggle with writers block and couldn't figure out what was keeping me from finishing a project. Finally, I recognized the problem and have been working through it to finish the job. I won't get into the details, but as soon as I came to grips with the issue I was able to start working again.

One of the things that I did was to set the problematic project aside as the main focus of my work and tackle the second part of a contractual obligation for which I have a lot of enthusiasm that was not tinged by the problems that was causing me to balk on the other one. By doing that I went from producing anywhere from zero to a few hundred words per day to working at a fine clip that has me ending my writing day with anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 words.

For me, 5,000 words of fiction is a very good day. I've been doing that often as I labor on the new
book. But compared to some writers, that's a rather anemic output. I always like to tell young writers about Lester Dent. He was one of the great pulp writers of his day, and could produce an entire 60,000 to 70,000-word novel over the course of a weekend. Similarly, Georges Simenon could churn out exceptionally fine detective novels at a clip equal to that.

I don't see myself ever being on a par with fellows like Dent or Simenon in the production of fiction. These men were both driven and had a strange form of devotion and discipline to their work ethic. I'd like to be able to achieve that level of writing, but all I can do is try.

There are some writers these days who match the output of guys like Dent and Simenon. These fellows are products of the self-publishing fad. The more successful of them have no talent at writing fiction, but seem quite adept at marketing and salesmanship. They're  like the more odious of the shysters and Amway crooks, and nothing at all like the honest working class writers such as the gentlemen I've cited.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gearing Up.

Carole and I are gearing up for our first real vacation of the year. We're going to head down to Florida to visit some more first magnitude springs. One that we've seen before, and several more that will be completely new to us. We'll have kayaks to explore them in detail and I'll have my underwater camera to take some good detailed shots of the spring heads and spring runs. I'll likely come back with many great wildlife photos. Florida is, bar none, the best place on the east coast to see wildlife. There's nowhere else quite like it east of the Mississippi.

One of the springs at Juniper Springs Recreation Area.

Andy and Carole in our old canoe. We were on the Silver River. Believe it or not, this river emerges, whole cloth as you see it here, from a single gigantic spring. The water is crystal clear, fresh, clean, fast-flowing.

On the banks of the Silver River. If you'll look closely, you will see a medium-sized alligator lying in wait just beyond the line of decaying plant matter at the edge of the water.

In the midst of the Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area.

Even though this photo is a bit blurry, it illustrates why I love exploring the wild places in Florida. We'd just seen a wild turkey, an alligator and, a few yards from that spot, I snapped this young raccoon foraging in the shallows with a white-tailed deer just behind him on shore. (A week after I took this shot, a young woman was killed not from from this spot by a very large alligator.)
Ocala National Forest campsite with our trailer (Juniper Springs Recreation Area).

Sunday, March 24, 2013


This model of Boris Karloff was exceptional. As you can see, the fellow who assembled and painted it even thought to add the excellent detail of Karloff having sliced his thumb testing the edge of his headsman's axe.

It's the little things that count.

Mad Monster Party

I took a break from working on the novel yesterday and attended the MAD MONSTER PARTY convention in town.

Here are a few photos. It's back to work for me.

Haruo Nakajima, the first and foremost Godzilla actor (the man in the Godzilla costume).

One of a number of fantastic models in a model contest.

The great Danny Glover.

The always hilarious Bruce Campbell.

Kane Hodder.

"Come and play with us...Danny."

Gary Busey.

Me and Bruce.