It’s Sorta Beginning to Look Like Christmas

No snow, so there’s that. A few other things are coming together, like:

the outside lights. Yeah, okay, a bit underwhelming, but at least they’re up. Some of the houses on the street have got bupkis.

The tree:

Ignore the Halloween pumpkin on the right (c’mon, still has candy in it). And, yeah, no star on top yet. I’m gettin’ there.

Wait…what’s that?


I’m figuring a 10% ornament loss this season:

Posted in Life in the Shenandoah Valley | Leave a comment

The Hard Part

No, not that. Revisions. That’s what I mean.

See, writing a novel is easy. It just is. All you need is a story, time to write it, a place to write it, a medium (PC, writing pad, stone tablets, whatever) and voila! novel. But, making said novel readable? Different story (ha! I made a funny!)

Revision, IMHO, is what separates writers from aspirers. It takes a certain objectivity to look at your child, your precious, wonderful novel and realize it is dreck. Crap. Utter rubbish. Who will say that about their child, even after the fourth or fifth felony conviction? That’s why you’re seeing a lot of utter crap in self-publishing: the inability to spank that child. ‘Cause you write that novel and you know what you meant and it all makes perfect, clear sense to you, but a stranger looks at that same novel and goes, “WTF?” And then the one-star reviews and raging responses telling the reviewer you just don’t understand the genius that is me…

…uhm, no, I’ve not done that. I don’t respond to reviews because that’s what the reader thinks, and it’s entirely my fault if I disappointed. Mine.

Hence the word, “revision.” You have your vision, but you have to re-do it, or it’s only a vision.

I am in the middle of the first of what is probably going to be 4-5 revisions of The Ship Looking for God. I know that because I hate the first chapter. Just hate it. I have slapped it around a couple of times to get its attention, and then taken a chisel to it a few times. Definitely needs re-shaping.

I’ll let you judge. Those of you who bought The Ship to Look for God have the  first chapter of Looking at the end of the book. Well, at least, the first version of it. Here’s the new version:

Chapter I

Weights and measures

            “I…just don’t believe any of this,” Otto said.

Marc, peering through the forward viewport with a pair of binoculars, grinned back at him. “Neither do I.”

He went back to the viewport as Otto tried to think of a good one-word description of his overwhelming, and persistent, sense of disbelief. ‘Stunned?’ Well, yeah, when you jump from the middle of an epic cavalry charge through a horde of weird, suit-wearing angels or demons or whatever (can’t be real. Can’t be) into the hold of a slapdash rocket (also not real. Maybe), then cling for dear life to the dear and beautiful Claudia (very real; their kiss proved that), as the rocket takes off…’stunned’ might be a good choice. Except, it’s underwhelming. ‘Astonished?’ Nah, same problem. ‘Astounded?’

‘Gobsmacked.’ Yeah, that’s it. “So…how’d this happen?”

Marc shrugged without turning. “You put enough combustible fuel into the open end of a closed system, you can pretty much launch anything into orbit. It’s science. You can rely on science.”

Otto, of course, had been referring to the entire globe of recent events, but he’d settle for a specific. “Yeah? Then, tell me, Mr. Science Guy, why aren’t we weightless?”

Another shrug. “Beats me. That’s not science. At least, no science I know.”

“Been a lot of that lately,” Otto muttered. Indeed. Ever since Otto had keeled over from a massive heart attack and woken up face-down on a cobblestoned street smack in the middle of the most fabulous City in the universe…or not in the universe. Next to the universe, or outside of it or…whatever the heck Mr. Latchemondy had said, he’d run into an unending series of “no-science” things, like the hypno-sky, the velocity stars.

This silly, duct-taped, jury-rigged rocket.

“Surprised we didn’t blow up,” Otto said.


“Nothing. What are you looking at, anyway?”

“The little moon.” Marc gestured out the porthole with the binoculars. “It’s weird.”

Otto pressed around Marc’s shoulder. “You mean, weirder than the normal weird?”

“Yeah, as difficult as that is to conceive. But, it looks completely natural.”

“Why is that weird?”

“Because of its motion.” Marc swooped his hands like a fighter pilot describing a maneuver. “It’s all wrong, so it must be artificial.”

Otto craned for a better look, “Prester John said it was powered.”

Startled, Marc turned. “Prester John? THE Prester John? You met him?”

“In the flesh…or whatever we are now. He’s running some kind of mining operation under Out.” Otto threw a thumb behind himself. “Ferdinand met him, too.”

“I did!” Ferdinand enthusiastically called from his station at the console, “And I found him to be a most extraordinary man!” The Argentine bent back to his clipboard, scribbling through several sheets of paper. Trying to come up with some kind of map, no doubt. After all, he was the navigator.

“What were you doing under Out?” Mark asked.

“Running. So why is it weird for a powered moon to look natural?”

“No tech before its time, remember?” Marc said, “We humans couldn’t power a full sized moon like that, or, at least, not when I checked out.” He raised confirming eyebrows at Otto.

“Couldn’t when I died…or fell into coma…either.”

Marc smirked. “Still think this is all a dream, huh?”

“Don’t you?”

A shrug. “Anyway,” Marc said, gesturing out the porthole, “that moon looks like a genu-wine piece of space rock, so the suits must have better tech than us.”

Otto tapped him on the head, “Hello, McFly! Combat lasers? Dimensional grenades?”

Marc laughed, shoved Otto back, and pushed the binocs at the glass.

“Who are these McFlys, some Irish family?”

That voice, crystal ringing in the wind…Claudia. Otto had a sudden urge to turn around and give her another in a long series of absolutely devastating kisses. Devastating for him, anyway. He smiled, “No. Movie character.”

“Ah,” she nodded. “Like Pyrgopolynices.”

Otto blinked. “Yeah, him.”

Her brows crinkled in amusement, knowing immediately he had no clue, but she was too much a lady to call him out. Too much a woman. Otto succumbed to urge and reached for her.

“Knock it off, you two,” Marc didn’t turn. Must have eyes in back of his head. “The rest of us are getting bored.”

“You mean, ‘jealous’,” Otto said and swept her up, or she swept him, couldn’t really tell and there, another kiss of sheer ecstasy, sheer eternity, the two of them whirlpooling away. It was the physical equivalent of the hypno-sky.

About twelve years later, they returned. “Done?” Marc asked.

“For now,” Claudia said, stars in her eyes. Otto was still incapable of speech, so just grunted.

“All right!” a sharp bark behind them caused both to jump. Otto looked. Captain Earhart (don’t call her Amelia; you’ll get a fat lip) stood in front of the console, glowering at them both. “You’re not here to lip wrestle. Help Marc keep an eye on the moon. We don’t need any mishaps trying to get past it.” She turned the glower back over Ferdinand’s shoulder.

“Aye, Captain!” Otto gave an exaggerated salute in an exaggerated Scotty accent, “She canna take anymore!”

Claudia blushed a lovely, endearing deep red as Marc burst out laughing. Amelia stared at Otto. “What?”

Otto waved it down. “Nothing. A reference that only Marc and I get,” he said to her, and Claudia, and Ferdinand, and the rest of the pre-Trekkies here on the…bridge, yeah, that’s what we’ll call this room filled with instruments and steering and navigators. Mr. Sulu, ahead full.

Her glower turned murderous. “Fine. One day you two will explain what’s so funny about that. As for now,” she pointed a murderous finger, “eyes on that moon!”

“Ever hear of radar?” Otto said then realized that no, Amelia hadn’t, so he raised conciliatory hands and got back on task.

“You’re going to get thrown out the airlock,” Marc said.

“Probably,” Otto agreed. “By the way, guess who else was down there with Prester John.”

“I give up.”

“Gene Roddenberry.”

“No kidding!”

“Yeah, and he was calling the glowy stuff they were mining, ‘dilithium crystals.’”

“Glowy stuff, huh?” Marc looked thoughtful then pressed the binoculars against the glass. Otto, unable to see a blasted thing around Marc’s shoulders, sighed, and looked at Claudia. “I’m feeling a bit useless.”

“Well, you ARE a stowaway,” she dimpled and took his arm and leaned into him, but not in affection, more to brace herself as she peered past Marc at the distant moon.

Otto grinned, “And whose fault is that?”

She chuckled and Otto moved and they were closing in for another time-stopping kiss when Marc said, “Uh oh.”

“C’mon, man,” Otto groused, “You’re killing the mood.”

“Good,” Marc said, tapping the porthole, ” ’cause I need your undivided attention. Something’s out there.”

“What?” Claudia and Otto chorused and crowded the glass. “I don’t see anything,” Otto said.

Wordlessly, Marc handed him the binocs and pointed towards the upper right quadrant of the fast approaching little moon, which was back dropped by the much bigger primary moon, which itself blocked the view of whatever Jovian size world contained the City and Out and whatever the heck else was down there. But…wow. This must be what Neil Armstrong saw as he and the other guys got closer. Except for the extra moon, of course. Otto would love to spend a few years just gawking at it all, but there were other priorities. Possible suit attack, for one. He adjusted the wheel, marveling at the instant focus. Good stuff. What do you expect from Flemish lens grinders? “I’m still not…wait.” There, a bright speck, ill defined, moving against the little moon’s surface. “Uh oh.”

Claudia took the binocs out of his hands and peered hard. “Yes. Uh oh.” She watched for a moment then looked at them both. “We should tell the Captain.”

“Tell me what?” Amelia was suddenly at their shoulders.

Marc gestured at the port. “We’ve got company.”

“Dammit,” Amelia said under her breath and pushed her way in, taking the binocs from Claudia to locate the intruder. Her sudden breath-intake proved she had. “Out of nowhere,” she whispered, “Just like the Japanese.”

Otto stared. “Wait. What do you mean by that?”


” ‘Cause if I’ve got my dates right,” and Otto’s raised eyebrow confirmed that he did, “you and Fred Noonan disappeared before Pearl Harbor.”

Amelia glared at him. “So?”

“Well, there’s a theory, just a theory, mind you, that you and Fred were spying on the Japanese, and they didn’t take very kindly to that.” Otto looked at her innocently. “Care to comment?”

Storm clouds gathered on her face and, after a moment, she said, “Don’t ever, ever ask me anything like that again. Or you’ll be walking home,” and she turned angrily back to the porthole.

Claudia looked bewildered as Marc and Otto exchanged knowing looks. “Bingo,” Marc mouthed.

Amelia suddenly tensed. “It’s stopped,” she said, “Right in our way.” She chewed on her lower lip, then wheeled and stalked over to the console, hovering over the pilot, a World War 2 Wehrmacht sergeant named Josef. “Evasive maneuvers,” Amelia ordered.

Josef blinked at her. “What?”

“You heard me.”


Amelia was incredulous. “I thought you knew how to fly this thing!”

“Captain,” Josef said, quietly, “I drove a trolley in Heilbron before I was drafted. I spent the war in a stable taking care of horses. You have much more time with aircraft than I do.”

“But we trained you!”

“Yes. To hold a straight line, to ease into orbits that Mr. Aronsen,”—he gestured at Marc—”calculates, but not to jink all over the sky.”

“Is that even possible to do?” Ferdinand, sitting next to Josef, asked.

“Whether it is or isn’t, we have to do something!” She glanced back towards the port. “I don’t want to run into whatever that is.”

Someone cleared a throat. All of them looked at the hole in the middle of the floor from which a ladder to the lower crew quarters peeked. A sleek head of black hair topped a pair of beady eyes glistening at them from the top rung. “I would advise a very gentle, very gradual course of maneuver,” beady eyes said.

“Who’s that?” Otto whispered to Marc.

“Taccolo,” Marc whispered back, “crew engineer. Was some kind of inventor, around da Vinci’s time.”

“Really?” Otto stared at the little crow. Definitely need to schedule some time with him.

Amelia bore down. “What are you trying to tell me, Tac?”

“I am not convinced the ship could withstand the strains of hard turns. Nor that we have the fuel for it.”

Otto stepped to the ladder where he could see Taccolo dangling, “We didn’t bring enough fuel?”

“Not for excessive maneuvers, no,” Tac blinked at him. “Who are you, again?”

“Otto Boteman,” Otto extended a hand—not as greeting, but to haul the engineer up. “Lately of Washington, DC. Seems a little shortsighted not to bring enough fuel, doncha think?”

Tac ignored the hand as he climbed up, regarded Otto coolly, then turned to Amelia. “Captain,” he emphasized the word, dismissing Otto, “the extra weight”—he rolled eyes back at Otto—”changes all calculations.”

Otto blinked. “Wait a minute. You’re saying this is my fault?”

Tac merely raised eyebrows at Amelia, who gave a long, exasperated sigh. “We figured a crew of thirty. You,” she pointed at Otto, “are number thirty-one.” Her point included Claudia, who flushed. After all, she was the one who’d dragged him onboard.

“Now hold on,” Otto raised a defensive hand. “Tolerances are built into everything. Right, engineer?” He said to Tac.

“Yes, they are,” a new voice broke in and everyone turned to see Karl, a Falkenberg blacksmith from the 1800s, clear the ladder. “But within expected standards. Your additional weight was unlooked for.” He and Tac exchanged approving glances. Nerds.

“C’mon, Captain,” Otto said. “There’s nothing that sensitive.”

“Except for weight,” Amelia looked mournful. “That’s downright critical in an aircraft.”

“This isn’t an aircraft.” Otto pointed out.

Amelia regarded him. “Principle still applies.”

The other also regarded him, some with hostility. Claudia, her flush deepening, threw a pleading hand at Otto. “If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have taken off!”

“That’s true for everyone in Star City!” Amelia snapped, “But we certainly didn’t take all of them with us, did we?”

Claudia’s mouth became a tight line. The stares between Amelia and her were now baleful and Otto was struck. Maybe Amelia would make him walk home.

“Hate to break up this charming conversation,” Marc called from the viewport, “but there’s been a development.”

That was enough to shift the crowd’s attention. “What?” Amelia asked.

“Our little visitor is no longer in the way. It’s, instead, coming alongside…” and there was a loud clang that raised a startled yell throughout as the ship shuddered and lurched.

“I think it’s attached itself,” Marc said.

At that moment, the ship pitched hard, like it had run into a wall or something. All were thrown off their feet. Otto grabbed Claudia as he flew by and cushioned her as they collided with the bulkhead. “Oof!” he yelped.

“Exactly my sentiments,” Marc said as he unpeeled his face from the port glass.

“Thank you,” Claudia whispered as she helped Otto up. He was tempted to try another kiss, but this probably wasn’t the best of times. Especially with a still-hostile crowd regaining its feet.

“What’s going on?” Amelia demanded of Marc.

He shrugged. “Your guess is good as mine, Captain.”

Amelia was about to say something else—probably a guess of her own—when the ship rolled hard to the right, throwing them all again. Otto landed in a tangle with Marc. “Say, while we have a moment,” he said, “is what Tac said true? Is this ship that delicate?”

“Very good question,” Marc unfolded a leg from underneath Otto’s back. “And I have absolutely no idea. I’m an astronomer, not a structural engineer.”

“Yeah, but that still puts you light years ahead of these relics,” Otto gestured at Tac and Ferdinand in a pile near the console. “No pun intended.”

“No pun noted.”

Otto chuckled and crawled across to Claudia, who was trapped under Karl’s massive arms. “Hands off my woman, Viking.”

Karl started, and then looked offended, “I am Dane, not Viking.”

“Six of one…you all right?” he asked Claudia as he helped her up. Who knew if the extraordinary healing powers of the City extended into near space?

She gave a little, charming curtsy. “I am, kind sir, and it is quite rude to refer to one’s opposite as a possession.”

“You’re right. Sorry.”

Her eye-twinkle signaled forgiveness. Otto, though, had never learned when to leave things alone. “So, tell me then, how did Romans refer to their slaves?”

Claudia lost the twinkle and took on the same offended look as Karl, but Amelia saved his bacon by loudly bringing them back to, er, reality when she called out, “Battle stations!”

Otto looked at her. “Did you actually just say that?”

Yes, she had. And the effect was immediate.

Karl and Tac zipped down the ladder as Marc and Claudia threw open hatches and took out weapons—Marc grabbing a double-barreled Savage .12 as Claudia wielded a short Roman sword. Even Amelia strapped on a Webley. The scrambling sounds from below indicated similar actions were taking place. Only Otto and Ferdinand stood motionless, bewildered.

“Don’t you have a weapon?” Amelia snarled at Ferdinand. No need to include Otto since he was just dead weight.

“I…don’t know,” Ferdinand said as Amelia’s color rose.

“Wait.” Otto’s upraised hand stopped the pending eruption, “He does.” He turned to Ferdinand, “Get your duffle. There’s a Contender .44 in it.” Otto should know; it had been his duffle first. Ferdinand looked blank, then slipped off.

He was back in moments, the gigantic pistol in one hand, and the box of ammo in the other. Otto showed him how to load it. “Beats a flintlock, hey?”

Ferdinand hefted it, admiration in his eyes. “If I had such a thing against the Portuguese…”

“You said the same thing about Machine-Gun Kelly’s machine gun,” Otto reminded him as the others took positions around the porthole and other possible hull-breach locations.

“Ferdinand!” Amelia gestured angrily at the top of the ladder, “Take that post. Repel all boarders!”

Otto raised an eyebrow. “Did you actually say that?”

“Here,” Claudia said, saving his bacon. Something nudged his hand and Otto looked down. She was pushing the leather scabbard from her sword at him. He took it, the leather drooping over. “So what do I do with this?” he asked her.

She shrugged. “You could slap someone with it,” and she took the opposite position from Ferdinand.

Otto held it up. “Great,” he said, but she didn’t hear him because she was focused on the ladder, fire in her eyes, grim purpose about her mouth, the sword ready. Valkyrie. Otto couldn’t help admiring.

“Don’t mess with Celts,” Marc observed as he moved to the side of the port.

“How’d you know she’s Celt?”

“Tectosage from Ancyra?” Marc shook his head, “What else could she be?” And he went into a combat stance, shotgun across his chest.

Otto figured his best use in this situation was as spoiler, so he moved to the middle, ready to scabbard-slap whoever, or whatever, broke through the hull. Everyone stood ready as moments passed. More moments passed. Then more.


They all looked at each other, a bit sheepish. Amelia frowned. “Did they attach, or not?” she asked Marc.

“Believe so.”

“Well, then…”

No chance to frame the coming question because the ship suddenly jolted, knocking them off their feet yet again, and began to accelerate. “Dammit!” Amelia swore as they all stumbled back to a standing position. “What’s going on?”

Marc was at the porthole. “Well, we’re moving again.”

“No kidding. What direction?”

“Right at the moon,” he said, grimly.

Sorry, some of the formatting did not paste, but there it is.


Is it?


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Put a Ship on Your Kindle…

…for 1.99. Through sometime on Monday, when I get around to changing the price back.

Go to the home page and click on either Amazon or Smashwords. Yer choice.

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The heart of a cold woman

It’s evening, about 55 degrees. You see her approaching. Lovely:

You smile as she gets closer:

This is gonna be great…

Next morning, it’s 17 degrees. And your wallet is gone.

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Vender, Vende, Vendor


I went to Shatterdome in Herndon, VA this past weekend as a vender. Er, vendor. Whatever. Wasn’t really sure what a Shatterdome actually was, but, liked the word. Yes, yes, I saw Pacific Rim. Once. Cool movie, but I didn’t get all up in it so a lot of the references have sieved right through. This con looked like it was going to be Pacific Rim-heavy, and I wasn’t sure if it was worth the effort. But, what the hey, give it a shot.

Turns out this was the very first Shatterdome Con held in northern Virginia and, well, it showed. I popped in about 0900 on Saturday morning to set up my table and could not find the registration people. When I finally spotted Laurie (who, by the way, did a great job in a rather chaotic situation), she couldn’t find my Vender card, so I ended up getting an extra one from Steven,

another vender. Vendor. Whatever. They didn’t have a table for me, either, so they grabbed one out of the kitchen and put me in the hallway outside the Vende(o)r sully, right next to another author, S. Usher Evans,

a very cool person who wrote a book called Double Life, which is about Space Pirates. Who doesn’t love Space Pirates?

Well, I set up and sat down…and was told to move my stuff because I was blocking a fire exit. Fire Marshalls have no sense of humor. So, with cartoon curse words in a bubble over my head, I did so. This was my final iteration:

which was actually strategic because the hordes of Rimmers (awright, enough of that) on their way to the autograph tables farther down the hall would be dazzled by my beauteous banners and, in wonder and want, spin right around and purchase my wares. So,I sat, ready for said hordes. And…crickets.

Apparently, I was just one of a handful of people who knew Shatterdome was on. Not enough of them showed up to keep we (us) vendors solvent, and a few of we packed up and left within an hour or so. I stayed, because, man, the people who DID show up were just awesome. As were the costumes:

At one point, a parade of about 15 Fetts went by. Some posed:

What a great background. So, others stopped to use it:

The lovely Elsa. And she can sing, too.

Dick Tracy.

The Doctor and his phone booth.

In-transition Lizard.

The only person actually dressed as a Pacific Rim character.

This is Curt before:

This is Curt after:

A Mandalorian Warrior, which is what Boba Fett is, too. Must have missed that in the movies.

This guy was a character called Yang from a new web series called Rwby:

You’ve been warned.

Kaylee from Serenity:

I have no idea:

And lots and lots and LOTS of Star Wars people:

Why? Because the 501st Legion was there in force. Or Force.  I’d never heard of ‘em, but, man what a great bunch. They made the whole con, IMHO. Shoutout to them all.

Speaking of people who showed up:

Ward and Lottie, who were part of this Zombie Hunter group during Monster-Mania in Hunt Valley (scroll down):

This is Anna, who has outstanding literary taste:

She is evaluating both Ship and Partholon for inclusion in the DC CapitolCon. Did I mention she is brilliant, beautiful, and wonderful? No?

I had so much fun, I decided to come back on Sunday. I set up inside the vendo(e)r sully this time:

Not a lot of new people showed up. Eh, Sunday, wadja expect? Indiana Jones and Jane Austen stopped by:

but that was it. Bought some Xmas presents from the other venders, and went home.

And I’ll be back next year.

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Arrow…or Hood, whatever.

I was never a DC Comics fan. Superman: invulnerable, strongest being in the universe, so where’s the challenge? Batman: just shoot the guy, will ya, Joker? And what’s with all these Bizarro Worlds and Alternate Earths? Let’s not forget the relative idiocy of the populace: all Superman had to do was put on a pair of nerd glasses and everyone was baffled. And, gee, look at all that expensive, state-of-the-Batman-art cars and batcopters and batarangs. Wonder who could afford to build those? And that young ward of his…nah, couldn’t be Robin.

So I wasn’t expecting much when I started watching the Netflix series, Arrow. Granted, I didn’t know that much about Green Arrow.

 I’d seen the character around and he seemed like a badass, but I didn’t pay attention to him so no preconceptions (other than it was a DC character) when I started watching. And, well, I liked the show, primarily for one reason: Arrow killed bad guys. He downright killed ‘em, no second thoughts, and in such a medieval manner. My kind of guy.; the anti-Batman, if you will. And for those of you who are falling down in utter snitfits right now, please understand I subscribe to the Old West theory that there are some people who just need killin’: Ted Bundy, ISIS fighters, that ilk.

There were, of course, many things about Season 1 that irritated. The island back story just got downright weird. The earthquake machine to destroy a whole section of town because somebody lost somebody there: excessive overreaction much? And all the rich guys are in on it? C’mon. But, hey, DC, so I shook it off and pressed on.

Now, it is the second season and…now, it has become comic booky. DC-ooky. You know what I mean, characters who react to situations in a way that only a 12-year-old DC fan  would find plausible. F’rinstance, Laurel now hates the Hood because he didn’t do enough to save Tommy, but really she’s feeling guilty for her little fling with Oliver before she chose Tommy. Geez, talk about convoluted. And her father has been busted down to patrolman and isn’t allowed to do any detective work, even though he knows more about some serial killer than just about everyone else. Geez, talk about union rules. And, get this, Arrow has decided to become Batman, and not kill anybody anymore.

Geez, talk about your political correctness.

And the density of the DC populace continues. First of all, just about everybody within five feet of Oliver knows he’s the Arrow because he pretty much told everybody within five feet of him that he was the Hood…or Vigilante…or Arrow, whatever…and they weren’t exactly the kind of people to keep secrets. But Laurel and her father still don’t know, even though they talk straight at Arrow and hear his voice and choice of words and the way he walks and the way he talks and even gaze intently at his barely concealed face. Little black mascara around the eyes, doncha know. It’s like Clark Kent’s glasses, I guess.

And the island back story is getting even weirder.


Still, though, I’ll stay with it. Why?

Black Canary.

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The Adventures of Gracie the Wander Cat: Guest Blogger

Russell here:

It’s come to my attention that, once again, rather scurrilous things are being said about me in these pages, the latest concerning “three day binges” or some such rot. Now, admittedly, I sometimes wake up in strange places:

and, yes, it takes me a bit to get going:

Dude, do you know where I left my car?

But, a little breakfast (or lunch, depending on what time it is):

and a massage:

and I’m good as new:

So don’t listen to what Mr. Krauss says. He’s basing his opinion on short episodes, aberrations, really. Would you like your entire life characterized by an unfortunate evening or two? Of course not.

As for Gracie:

she needs to get off her high horse and acknowledge the patently obvious: I am her father.

Now, I don’t really remember her mother and the circumstances, but it’s quite clear Gracie is my daughter. I mean, can you tell which of us is which?

Of course you can’t, and I don’t need a paternity test to prove it. Gracie is my daughter, and she needs to take care of me as I’m getting older. You know, a place to crash when I need it:

A meal or two:

all without the attitude:

Got it?

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The Case of the Missing Author

Tj O’Connor and I had such a good time at Monster Mania last week (see below), that we decided to induce heart attacks and go do the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, NJ, the next week. Since my brother (seen here with his lap dog, Cody):

lived just down the road a piece, I had a place to crash before and after. Perfect! So, Friday night, I wended my way across the Mad Max landscape of 95 North through Baltimore to do this thing. Tj and I would meet up the following Saturday morning, 11 Oct, in Collingswood.

All the time I’ve been in and out of NJ, I never visited Collingswood because they have passport control and like to keep the riffraff out. It is a lovely town, with a toney main street called Hadden Avenue running ‘cross it, where all of us book peoples were to assemble our tables and banners and offer our bookish wares to an ambulatory bookish public. That is, unless it rained; then we were to assemble inside the Collingswood High School.

Well, it rained. And it was anarchy.

All rules of civilization were jettisoned as hundreds of booksellers went Lord of the Flies and wrestled for table and parking space. Without too much bloodshed, I managed to snag a place inside the adjoining middle school gym:

next to a cartoonist:

which, given the Simpson-ish start to the day, seemed appropriate.

Some of the neighbors:

Just a few days ago, the guy with the great hair was Dormammu at the NYC ComicCon.

Speaking of great hair:

Music was provided by Leon Russell:

Cyd Webster:

was set up across from me selling her post-apocalyptic survival novel HB…’cause, you know, it wasn’t like I was selling a post-apocalyptic novel or something.

Indeed, it wasn’t like there was, oh, say, about 60-90 authors at 60-90 tables lined edge to edge in a cramped space, all trying to sell their books to the few customers who managed to wander in from the main building where all the big booksellers had set up shop. Disaster, right?


It was packed, lots of people coming in and out, and I worked the room for about eight straight hours, buttonholing anybody who even glanced in my direction, shoving my card in their pockets and making a general nuisance of myself. These ladies:

were speculating whether I was a lawyer, a teacher, or a preacher. Well, I teach the gospel of What’s Happening Now, and if you don’t like it, I’ll sue you.

Sell any books? Eh, a few, but, so what? I had a great time. In fact, I’m thinking of going next year…as long as it doesn’t rain.

Oh, Tj? Didn’t see him. Not once. He was somewhere over in the main building…or, at least, that’s what he said in his texts. I got lots of texts from him. Seemed to be running commentary on what was going on over there in a building I did not visit, so, you know, coulda said just about anything, right? Oh, sure, I saw his daughter; she brought me a couple of requested hot dogs because sitting behind a table talking about books all day is grueling work that leaves you famished (how I suffer for my art). But, no Tj. Not once. In fact, when it was over, I called him to see what he was doing and…uh…he’d already left the area.

Uh huh.

Not that I’m implying anything…nope, not me. But, ya know, I think someone ought to go see how Tj is doing. You know, actually SEE him. Alive. Not tied up in a car trunk and being forced to sign checks or something.

Someone should.

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Monster Mania 2014

Had so much fun at last year’s Monster Mania that I wanted to go again, but not alone because, well, monsters. So, Tj O’Connor agreed to watch my back and the two of us hied to Hunt Valley, books and banners in hand, to ply our wares. Set up was Friday night:

That’s Jenna in the above picture. We love Jenna.

Here’s our setup:

Casual Friday look.

Real casual Friday look:

This guy kept order:

John Franklin, that Children of the Corn guy. Did you know he was Cousin Itt, too?

Cerina Vincent, the yellow Power Ranger, set up across from us:

I was very happy.

Victorian Deadpool, Assassin’s Creed Deadpool, Egocentric Deadpool, and Dapper Deadpool:


Incidentally, this is why we love Jenna:

No, I’m not drunk. Just happy. A drunk woman did collapse across me without spilling her beer, but that’s another story.

Pets were allowed:

That’s not camera-flash; those are her eyes. Like these:

Frederica Kruger:

Countess Zorro. Who, by the way, is also Frederica Kruger:

This little girl, all of five-years-old, walked up to our table and sang the Freddy Kruger jump rope song. Creeeeepy:

But, hey, check out her family.

The children of the corn. Hi Amy!:

Pet Sematary:

I have no idea:

On Saturday, I became a hit man:

Damn politicians:

The doctor will see you now:

The family that slays together…:

We still love Jenna:

Captain Mango is my hero:

A thousand years of good and evil. Hi, Donna!:

Child care was provided:

Bomb, Steampunk Joker, and the Penguin:

The Dead Dollies:

who had the room next to mine, which is why I bolted the door and threw garlic around.

A good time. Sold 20 books, gave away four, and met lots and lots of great people. On to Collingswood!

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Thomas Wolfe was right.

Every five years or so, I pick up Thomas Wolfe again…no, not that Tom Wolfe, the other Tom Wolfe, the one no one remembers or reads anymore. It takes that long between reads because, well, he’s not exactly easy going. “Turgid” would be a good one-word description (funny, same has been said about me); ‘sledgehammer stream-of-conscience craziness’ would be a little  more accurate, and I usually end up with a headache after about twenty pages of his. But there’s something about the guy, stalking along the streets of New York like a mad prophet with reams of mad writing falling off his desk while Max Perkins blinks and goes, “Somewhere in here is a novel.” Those were the best years of American literature, when the writing was more important than the sales. And the author.

But I guess my main draw towards Wolfe is his attempt to explain the southerner. Now, I am not a southerner. I lived in Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas and Florida at various times in my life, but also in New Jersey and New York and Illinois. I’m as much a northerner as southern: more accurately, a northeasterner, since I currently hover near the Mason-Dixon line. Wolfe was definitely a southerner, but one who yearned for the north, as per this passage from Of Time and the River:

It was his train and it had come to take him to that strange and secret heart of the great North that he had never known, but whose austere and lonely image, whose frozen heat and glacial fire, and dark stern beauty had blazed in his vision since he was a child. For he had dreamed and hungered for the proud unknown North with that wild ecstasy, that intolerable and wordless joy of longing and desire, which only a Southerner can feel. Page 23 of the Scribner’s 1935 edition, which I proudly own.

Now, I can safely say that I never “dreamed and hungered for the proud unknown North” while I was living in Alabama. Smack in the middle of my freshman year, though, I ended up there: in New Jersey, of all places. Imagine, a bell-bottom wearing, BCG’s-sporting nerd walking into that predominately black high school and saying, in my best LA (lower Alabama) drawl, “Hey, y’all!” No, I wasn’t murdered. In fact, I had a rather good time in high school, and still count those years as some of my best. But I was locked between two camps, without commitment to either.

And it shows. Sometimes, I get an urge to go back to Alabama, maybe see if my old house is available, buy it, live there. Then, I come to my senses. Later, thoughts spin towards New Jersey: maybe I should head back there, find old friends, start some crap back up. Then I REALLY come to my senses and stay here, in Virginia, which, more and more, is a hybrid of north and south.

See, you can’t go home again. Especially if you don’t know where home is.

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