Thursday, April 27, 2017

Out in the Sticks!

Well, I won't be able to post on my blog for a couple of weeks. Carole and I will be very busy taking a much-needed vacation in Florida. No, we won't visit amusement parks. We'll avoid crowded beaches. You won't find us shopping or driving in a busy city.

What we'll do is what we always do when we're in Florida: seeking out forested places with lots of natural beauty and plenty of wildlife. I hope to photograph and take videos of many creatures. Birding in Florida is about as good as it gets. Yes, we'll likely see more than our fair share of alligators, snakes, and turtles--the place is paradise for reptiles.

So, Carole and I will be out in the sticks. Our kayaks will get a lot of use. My cameras will record thousands of images. I tend to take two to three thousand photos of a trip of this length. Since Carole is one of the world's best campground cooks, we'll eat well. I rarely lose weight on these vacations. Even if I go off hiking by myself, Carole will stay at camp and prepare some fantastic meal that will be waiting when I get home.

We may break free from the forests one day and ride into Panama City to eat at Angelo's Steak Pit. But that will be the only time we do anything of that nature.

Look for many photos and some video when we return.

Our camping rig. Nissan Frontier, Casita travel trailer, kayaks.

Kayaks employed.

Da boids.

Almost totally white deer.

Hiking in a Florida forest.

School of mullet at Silver Glenn Springs.

Cotton mouth moccasins (very dangerous) at Tate's Hell State Forest.

Carole cooks kick-ass meals when we camp.

Probably the biggest alligator I've seen in Florida. At Wakulla Springs State Park.
In a crystal clear spring on Ecofina Creek.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Getting Ready.

We're getting down close to liftoff. We've spent weeks preparing for our first big camping trip of the year. As anyone who reads my blog knows, Carole and I love hitting the big first and second magnitude springs in Florida. If you've never done it (and few outside of the state of Florida seem to be aware of them), you're really missing out. While all of the rubes are sweating it out in amusement parks and fighting traffic to get sand in the cracks of their asses on some crowded beach, Carole and I will be snorkeling in crystal clear water, or kayaking along a quiet spring run surrounded by wildlife, or maybe exploring a tiny village off the beaten path.

We will probably go into Panama City one night to eat at Angelo's Steak Pit which serves--and I am prepared to fist fight over this--the best rib-eye steaks in the USA.

Other than that, we'll be in the wilderness or merely out in the boonies. We won't, I assure you, be visiting Disney World or wandering around trying to find a spot to put up a beach umbrella on a crappy beach at some over-hyped tourist trap. Two weeks. Two state parks, and one National Seashore.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

WORKING CLASS HERO, the audio book!

Just a reminder that the audio version of WORKING CLASS HERO is out from Beacon Audio. Available from Amazon. com,, Beacon Audio, and other sources.

Buy your copy HERE!

"WORKING CLASS HERO is James Robert Smith's best novel since the Hollywood-optioned THE FLOCK.

James expertly weaves blue collar superhero sensibilities into our modern world. The characterization is outstanding, and the world building is first rate as always.

The concept of regulated super heroes working for the government, and non-regulated super heroes as "outlaws" is a lot of fun. This juxtaposition allows for some fine entertainment and thrilling scenarios.

I was highly entertained by this novel, and the sensitive depiction of Bill B. Billy is an alpha 2.0, with a powerful level of self-awareness, a rare thing in a super hero tale. Mostly we get the brawn or snark in super hero books or films. We get much more in Working Class Hero.

James twists and turns the reader through heroes, villains, and various agencies, resulting in a gripping read and a very satisfying conclusion.

Highly recommended." -- Pine Marten

"I went in to Working Class Hero by James Robert Smith with an open mind, not sure what to expect from a writer who I mostly associated with horror novels. I was very surprised to have read a thoughtful, exciting real-world look at super-heroes (hypers) and how their newly acquitted powers changes and disrupts their ordinary lives. Billy B is our hero, a working class laborer, not unlike the writer, who finds himself gifted with new abilities and the responsibilities that they bring. The book was full of exciting, colorful characters who have their own agendas and own problems. Well written, an exciting trip inside the mind of a man who has now become a super man." -- Mark Masztal

"Working Class Hero sucked me in right from the beginning, and I couldn't put it down. The author leads us down a rabbit hole into a present day reality, populated by super-powered humans that is both a nostalgic nod to Golden Age comics, and also a tip of the hat to the darker realism of Alan Moore/Frank Miller comics. WCH also offers a unique world all it's own, in which some humans have accidentally developed an assortment of super abilities over the course of the last 20 years, and no one quite understands why or how. In response to this phenomenon, the government created a task force to regulate super powered humans, and people generally fall into two categories: those who register their powers and do service for the government, and those who illegally avoid the required service and become outlaws. The book implies there are others who try to lead normal lives and stay under the radar, and a lot of complex social controls have developed to monitor and try to locate and punish any 'illegal hypers'.

This book follows the superhero Billy B, who was once a blue collar loading dock worker before developing super strength, speed, and toughness (as well as an envy for Hypers who can fly, since he is only capable of high jumping)! He's a refined redneck, self-educated through his love for books, who possesses innate intelligence and sensitivity for people and their struggles. He's also a rough-around-the-edges tough guy.

It would be a disservice to give away a single spoiler for this book, but what struck me most is how I was taken by the hand and drawn immediately into the world of this character, as his own world began spinning out of control. The story world blended so realistically into present society that I was taken seamlessly from my mundane existence and transformed easily into the hero of an alternate reality chock full of depth, excitement, and complexity. The reader slips into Billy B's character like our own private superhero costume, living inside his head and feeling his thoughts, emotions and experiences as he's drawn deeper into the world gone mad around him. It's hard to know which entity is more sinister--the government agency he works for or the villains who've begun working together in an effort to sabotage certain elements of society. The dynamics between the various heroes and villains and agencies come to life and swirl together into a character driven narrative which makes it hard to put the book down. Mounting tension and rich characters carry us onward as the mysteries unfold and the excitement continues, and the author never fails to deliver on the promises of the book. An exciting, thought provoking read which paves the way for a really fun story world which I hope to see many more entries in." -- Matt Damon.

WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of Billy B. by James Robert Smith.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hoyt Wilhelm, Baseball Hall of Fame.

My wife has a lot of Germans in her ancestry. One of her cousins was Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, Hoyt Wilhelm. I'd always heard the story of how he pitched a no hitter against the mighty Yankees team of 1958 (Mickey Mantle, Bill Skowron, Yogi Berra, Norm Siebern, Hank Bauer, Elston Howard, etc.). But I hadn't read the details, so I did some online research to read how the knuckleballer tossed that no hitter.

I never did get to meet him. Carole's dad was going to take me to meet Hoyt when he was still a minor league pitching coach--I think in Asheville--but something came up and I didn't get to go.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Audible Version is Out!

The audio edition of WORKING CLASS HERO is out. I haven't heard it yet, but I hope to remedy that by the end of the day.

You can buy it here, on Amazon.

WORKING CLASS HERO, by James Robert Smith.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

A Vanishing American Art Form

This week I read articles about plummeting sales at Marvel Comics Group (part of Disney). Some people (including some Marvel editors) were blaming the recent attempt to "diversify" the characters by reinterpreting old standbys and new creations as racially, ethnically, gender, and sexually inclusive. Apparently this editorial move coincided with vanishing sales.

But the editors and comic reporters got it wrong. They are right in that the comic book--one of the true American art forms--is dying out. But they missed the reason for it. Comics are dying out because the industry abandoned the kind of diversity that matters--comics that cater to all kinds of tastes.

The HUGE problem with "mainstream" comics is that they aren't mainstream. They are dominated by silly superhero comics. Now, don't get me wrong. To paraphrase Paul McCartney, I love silly superhero comics. I love them so much that I even wrote a superhero novel. I would like to write more of them. Superhero comics have their place. They should probably be a part of the comics publishing business. But they shouldn't be 99% of it! Imagine, for instance, you went into a library or bookstore and 99 out of 100 of the books in it were about superheroes. 

Comics by their nature tend to tilt toward genre fiction, but there was a time when there was every kind of comic book you could imagine selling in huge numbers. Comic books about policemen, criminals, sports figures, animals, history, military, funny animals, humor, teenagers, romance, horror, science-fiction, fantasy, classic fiction, westerns, movie adaptation, trains, cars, etc. etc. etc.

Superheroes came along and began to overwhelm the industry when first DC, and then Jack Kirby (at Marvel, the company that Kirby built) brought them back. They kicked Donald Duck and Richie Rich and Classics Illustrated and everything else to the gutter and have run roughshod over the comic book publishing business ever since.


Either the industry finds a way to start selling all kinds of comics to the public, or they fade away and go extinct. A variety of types of comics that appeals to a huge and varied audience is what will save the industry. Not some whining liberal's version of "diversity".

Jack Kirby, the man who created Marvel Comics (and who could create and write and illustrate any kind of comic) was ironically responsible principally for the dominance of the superhero genre that has overwhelmed comic book publishing since 1961.
 And here is but a taste of the kinds of comic books that the superhero genre has overwhelmed and crushed. Gone, now, from the newsstands. Absent from the book shops. Vanished even from the comic book specialty stores. Unless the industry can somehow bring back this kind of variety, the business and art form will soon become extinct. (Scroll down.)

These barely scratch the surface of variety that people used to see when approaching a newsstand where comics were on display. No wonder the market is vanishing.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Forever and Ever.

Several of my friends are writers who are heavily involved in the self-publishing scene. That's cool. We discuss the option from time to time. Some of my pals do okay at it, but none of them make a living from self-publishing. (To be fair, I only know a few authors who make a living from writing.)

Last week, one of them explained to me that "ebooks are forever". I asked him what, specifically, he meant. And he told me that once the ebook was on the various Internet sales systems, then it was there for good and for all time and that it could be purchased from the date of its publication until...well...forever.

Later, he suggested a couple of books for me to look at. They were superhero novels that had been self-published and since I had just published WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of Billy B., then I might want to take a look.

Yeah, you don't have to guess. Both books (same author) were gone. Scrubbed from the Internet. I suppose by the author, but I couldn't say for sure.

So much for "forever".

"Forever and ever and ever."

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Black Mountains

I cobbled together this short video of a day I spent hiking in the Black Mountains of North Carolina. One trail that I had heard about for years for its relentlessly steep gradient was the infamous Woody Ridge Trail. That day in June of 2007 I decided to tackle it to see if it was as mean as its reputation.

It was.

However, coming down the trail was actually worse than going up. I had to constantly prepare myself for slipping, falling, tripping, or generally losing my balance. It is every bit as tough as I'd heard it was.

Here, then, is a brief video I took that day. Skipping, of course, the part where I missed a turn on the trail coming back and ended up about 1,000 vertical feet lower and two miles to the west of where I was supposed to have emerged from the forest.

That was all kinds of horrible, since I had run out of water. Alas, it is all part of the hobby of hiking.