Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year's End

Ah, the end of one year and the beginning of another. A time for a peaceful, introspective look at what transpired over the past 365 days in consideration of what may be learned from them to help us better face the next 365.

Of course, for many people it's an excuse to get roaring drunk, but I digress.

No, my plans for celebrating the New Year involve a quiet evening at home with dinner, Bones, The Office and perhaps a bit of Robert Jordan's The Fires of Heaven. I'm hoping to get the back porch cleaned off as best I can tomorrow and the Christmas tree and interior decorations stowed. There's still a good bit of snow on the ground here from the Great Blizzard of '09 and we had a fresh two inches added to the pile today, so the exterior decorations will likely stay up until it clears.

Yesterday my seed catalogs arrived in the mail. One goal I have for 2010 is to plant a better garden this year and maintain better than last year. I tend to do and learn things in a classic trial and error style. The garden last year provided some strawberries and some peas and little else due, at least mostly, to poor preparation and a bad location in the yard. This year we're going to change spots, expand it a bit, and spend some more time in the prep work. I haven't yet decided what to plant, but I'm figuring on some herbs and a couple of vegetables. I may turn the previous garden patch into strictly a garlic bed.

I also plan to finish at least two novels in 2010. Of course The Sixth Sword is pretty well finished anyway but it still counts. Devan and I had a brief conversation on one of the major plot points of The Sea of Souls yesterday. I'll be working on that novel through his upcoming deployment in 2010.

Hagy's Photography continues to do well. We're happy to have a decently steady supplement to our regular income and I'll be looking to really set the business on solid footing this coming year, particularly with a Web site to get us out on the World Wide Web.

Speaking of the World Wide Web, I also have thoughts of getting my own cooking show on YouTube. It's still in that wild hare stage and I understand that some fairly complicated long range plans have to be made for this, but I think I'm going to give it a whirl. It'll be entertaining and full of good food and we can all use a little bit more of both of those things in our worlds.

It's been a trying year for my family and some close friends. I hope 2010 brings better days to us all. Either way, I'm just going to be thankful for every day that's given to me. A day is a precious gift and we all too often underestimate its value.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Surveying and Food

My mother, who always has encouraging and supportive things to say to me recently complained that I haven't updated my blog and she was tired of looking at the previous picture. So I'm offering up this little gem from almost two years ago.

That's me you see in the photo holding up the jake stick. We were putting in a subdivision on the end of Short Hill Mountain near Buchanan, Va. That's the end of the mountain you see behind me. Yes, that is as steep as it looks. There was close to 2,000 feet of difference in elevation between the bottom of that job and the top. Of the many job sites I've visited since coming to work for Vess Surveying Inc. a couple of years ago, this 900+ acre tract was one of my favorites. We had to do a great deal of exploring and a lot of it Donovan and I had to do on our own. It was fairly early in the learning curve in my career and I learned a lot from that job. Since I should give credit where credit is due, Donovan snapped this photo while he was running the instrument on a cold January day.

Christmas was wonderful and I hope everyone out there had as good a Christmas as we did. Santa dropped off plenty of neat gifts, including a nifty new whisk, a throwback Atari gaming console, an electric guitar and a few cookbooks. One of those books, Stirring the Pot by Tyler Florence, offered pretty good advice on organizing the kitchen and the refrigerator and freezer to a semi-pro level that would make home cooking a lot easier.

I love to cook. The more complicated the recipe the better as far as I'm concerned. My friends and I have the wild dream of someday owning our own restaurant, perhaps financed by my bestselling novels. In the meantime we all cook, spend a lot of time looking for new recipes and inventing our own. So I started thinking in the shower the other morning...Why not have my own cooking show?

YouTube has a ton of video lessons on it. In fact it's where I learn how to play a lot of what I play on the guitar. People often get record contracts because of what they post on YouTube. Some go on to careers as camera operators or other positions in the film industry because the right person stumbled on their YouTube video. And how many times has the next viral video sensation made it on to the evening news?

Plans for the show are still in the early stages. Not only will I need to reorganize the kitchen but I'll also have to script out a few shows, prepare some recipes, get a video camera and figure out the logistics of it before I can really attempt it. I think I'll have a couple of guest co-hosts among my friends who enjoy cooking and it should be a lot of fun. Who knows? Maybe this will be the gateway to The Food Network. If nothing else, however, at least it will provide plenty of good eating.

As always, editing is ongoing on The Sixth Sword and the groundwork is being solidified on The Sea of Souls. I wish that I could break down the progress in a bit more detail, but it's impossible to break down something that complex in a blog like this.

After discovering the joy of podcasts on the recommendation of Chris, I stumbled on to The Tolkien Professor podcast by a professor at Washington College. The podcasts are college level lectures on Tolkien's works, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Great stuff for anyone who may be interested.

For now it's time to sign off of here and see about what I'm going to make for dinner. We had big plans to head south to Roanoke to take in a 3D showing of Avatar but those plans fell through. It's been a Monday here in the small town of Covington. I'm hoping the rest of the week will recover from this start.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Well, we're snowed in. Officially. Deeply and getting deeper.

We had glorious plans for the day and they worked out until about 2 0'clock. Bethany had her hair done, we tried out the new diner at Low Moor and she went out to attempt a little Christmas shopping. At 2 o'clock the snow started falling. And falling. And falling.

We had great plans for dinner and two nice, fresh baked loaves of bread to take down to Chris & Sarah's for a great Christmas dinner. (You can check out her blog over at The Student Knitter). We tried, but halfway there the road was closed by a wreck. The first alternate route was up over the Heights and those roads weren't scraped at all. So we double back to attempt taking the interstate, but as we reach the on ramp we can see that we're not getting up that either. Cars were sliding everywhere.

So we ended up at home for the evening. It's great being snowed in, but I'm bummed about missing dinner. The forecast here is for anywhere between 14 and 23 inches. We have an easy five inches on the ground now and there's no sign of it slowing up. Personally, I'm pulling for a full two feet. I think the last time we had this much snow was about 1996. Mom kept a snowball in the freezer from that storm for years.

With this much snow on the ground, it's time for getting deeper into The Wheel of Time, writing a book or three and maybe even sledding at Donovan's house down the road. Right now, though, we have some chicken in the oven and I think we're about to have a little fire in the ol' fireplace. Someone should write a Christmas song about that...

The photo I've posted tonight was taken in Roanoke a few weeks back before the wedding when I met Scott. These are the tools of his trade. I love the colors in the photo and couldn't help but post it for that reason. Tomorrow I'll try to post something from the storm if I can get the door open to shoot anything.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesday Afternoon Rambles

Well, the blogging has fallen behind a little bit, but it's been a busy life.

The Christmas season is upon us and life is beautiful. The tree is up, the house is lit and there are snowmen around my house. My Christmas shopping is nowhere close to being finished, but that is another story.

In the midst of all the holiday cheer we've been hard at work on the literary front. The Crownless King is available for purchase from Amazon. I'm obviously not rich from the royalties and movie deals yet, but hopefully one day. Devan and I, believe it or not, have been hard at it on the revision process of The Sixth Sword. Not only that, we've been delving into The Sea of Souls which lays a great deal of groundwork for what's to come in the series. We much prefer writing to revising but you can't have one without the other.

The photography business has really been booming. We've had almost more portraits than we can keep up with and we had a great bridal portrait session at The Homestead last night. The famous hotel and resort was completely decked out for Christmas and it was a sight worth seeing. Before last night I had never made it up there for Christmas and now I hope to make it a yearly trip.

I haven't had time to venture out into the wilderness for the outdoor photography that I love to do and I'm hoping to have the opportunity after the first of the year. Right now I just have too many irons in the fire, so to speak.

Writing has been occupying a good deal of my creative focus these past weeks. Finishing a novel and having it published is a very energizing experience. It gives me a boost to dive into other projects and gets me moving past the sometimes painful start up process.

Devan and I have discovered how truly difficult it is to accomplish what we hope to pull off. You see, the first two books, Chaos Reborn and The Sixth Sword were originally intended to be one novel. Our first publisher chose to split them in half. So, really, it takes these two novels to make one. Originally, way back in elementary school, we had planned on writing one book. As we began to read more in the world of fantasy later in life we decided we wanted to explore our world a bit more and make a series. We dropped hints at a great many things in the first two books, especially in The Sixth Sword. The task of fleshing out that foreshadowing has been more complicated than we first thought.

So along with the actual writing process, we're solidifying the world of Tehra Fahm. The map will expand and be more fully realized. We'll also have outlines of the ranks of the Alee and more information as to the underlying plot that will tie everything together through the series. If we do our jobs well, by the time you read the finale of the series you'll hopefully feel like you've gotten your money's worth out of it all.

Many out there are asking about a publishing date for The Sixth Sword. Hang in there. You have my sincere apologies for how long this has dragged out, but unfortunately matters weren't totally in my control. They still aren't. Devan has military duties that will likely take him halfway across the world for a year. We've already figured out how we're going to deal with this and our tentative plan is this:

Before he leaves for training, we will have went through the novel together (and we're almost finished with that) and I will spend the next couple of months polishing up the final manuscript. In the meantime, he and I both will be working at The Sea of Souls as Susan continues her excellent work in filling out the illustrations we would like to have. Most likely, when Devan returns, we'll go through it all one last time before putting it in print and should then follow up very quickly with The Sea of Souls. There is the possibility of an earlier date, but right now we're looking at next spring to be on the shelves.

That's three and a half years between novels, far too long as fans of George R.R. Martin will surely agree, but please stay with us. Quite frankly we learned a lot from the first experience and some of the delay has been dealing with what we learned and adding it into the process of creating a novel. If you can have the patience to deal with the delay just a little longer, we'll provide you with a satisfying read.

In the meantime, pick up a copy of The Crownless King. I'll be happy to sign it for anyone who wants me to and can probably even get an autograph for you from Heather.

This week promises to be very, very busy, but I'm planning on getting back into the swing of blogging. It sharpens the writing skills and tends to clear my head when it needs it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Different Kind of Art

Sunday was an interesting day for me.
We had a wedding scheduled in downtown Roanoke. The bride was an hour late because of traffic issues, so this left me standing outside the wedding venue with the wedding party for just about an hour. There's only so much you can do to kill time with wedding portraits in that situation, so I started looking around for something to shoot.
The urban scene is full of interesting things to shoot. Signs, multicolored tarpaulins, interesting windows and people. On the way to the wedding, while we were searching for the location, I noticed a crowd of people dressed in all kinds of interesting fashions, waiting outside a club to get in. I also noticed, about half a block down the street, spray painted artwork on the side of a gallery.
Now the only thing I can compare this to is the graffiti on the rail cars that pass through the small town of Clifton Forge here and this was nothing like that. The art was complex and colorful and I found myself wondering how anyone could take the time it would take to create that if it was illegal. After all, wasn't the building's owner bound to notice someone spray painting the side of his building and call the cops?
So in my quest for something interesting, I wandered down the street toward the crowd at the club. I looked down the alley that opened up beside the art gallery and I saw someone standing on a ladder with a can of spray paint in hand. Immediately, I changed course and went to see what the story was.
I met this gentleman, one Scott Noel (and I hope I have his last name spelled right). As it turns out, the owner of the gallery commissioned him to paint the back quarter of the building and Scott has created an impressive black and white and somewhat abstract image.
The first thing that impressed me about it was the fact that it was black and white. The other artwork on the building was multicolored, full of yellows, blues and purples. Scott's work as all black and white, shades of gray and silver that boldly stood out against the other works. It had the kind of tone I that I try to achieve in my photographs, bold and demanding attention.
The second thing that impressed me was how he created it. As you seen the portrait I took, he has a piece of paper that has the artwork drawn on it that he's creating the piece on the building from. You'll find him in that alley, on a step stool with a can of spray paint in one hand and his drawing in the other, meticulously recreating the original on the brick. It's very impressive, both the design and the skill that it takes to pull that off.
Since he was kind enough to let me photograph him I left him my business card and promised to send him photos if he called with some kind of address, mail or e-mail. I wish I'd had more time to spend with him, but I had a wedding that booked my attentions about a year prior to meeting Scott. I'm still interested in the logistics of something like that, especially how he transferred the design from a vertical image to a horizontal image and how he managed the scale.
There's always a story. I'm willing to bet Scott's is pretty interesting. As a writer, I'm interested in the story and the process behind the art. As a photographer, I'm interested in the art and the artist.
The world is an interesting place if you take the time to look around a little bit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting Published!!

Well, it's finally happening.

I uploaded the files this morning to CreateSpace for The Crownless King. Now it's a waiting game. They should be back with me via e-mail in the next 24 to 48 hours to let me know if the files are in order or if I need to tweak anything. After getting the go-ahead on the files, they'll ready a proof copy to send to me.

Very exciting stuff.

The Crownless King is actually my third completed novel, though my second to be published and my first ever without a coauthor. I should probably warn any interested readers that this novel has absolutely nothing to do with Chaos Reborn or The Chaos Chronicles. The sequel to Chaos Reborn is The Sixth Sword and, though it's currently in the stages of putting the final draft together, seems to be on an indefinite delay due to the fact that Devan and I have radically different schedules and are having difficulty in getting together to put it in its final form.

Crownless isn't what I would call a true fantasy. In this book, you won't find any magic, elves, dragons or anything of that nature. I did create my own world simply because it's much easier to play in your own world than it is to play in this one for a story like this. It's the story of one boy who turns into a hero, but whose story isn't what history stacks it up to be.

I started out early by wanting to create a hero that was at once as human as I am and still bigger than life. I found Sam in the recesses of my imagination and put my pen to work. I've often wondered how much of the history that we studied is actually true and those ponders begged the question: How many heroes never did the things that the legends tell us they did? How many heroes were only doing what they needed to do to survive and somehow got wrapped up in matters more complex than they ever dreamed?

With these questions in mind, I discovered Sam's story. You may think it odd that I say I "discovered" the story, but that's closer to the truth than saying I created it. Sam's story is, in part, my own. A great deal of Sam's character comes from my personality and some of his experiences come from my own life. There are some who think it arrogant to create a character and story like that, but what are our creations if not reflections of ourselves?

A great deal happens to Sam that never happened to me. And again, there are things in there that have. It's a very personal novel for me, but I believe that grounding my character so strongly in reality gave me a connection with him and gave me the ability to make him a human being before he made himself a hero, however unintentionally. It is my hope that my readers will connect to Sam on that level and therefore be more inclined to follow his story.

Here I have to say a few words about my illustrations. The first time that I ever saw a character I'd created brought to life in a portrait, it blew me away. Well, to keep a marked difference in this novel and The Chaos Chronicles, Heather Gladden handled the illustrations for me. She did an amazing job. Not everything she drew for me will make the book and it's a shame, because she did great work. I'd love to cram them all in there and let you see them, but she did five pieces that really hit hard with the tone of the novel so I kept it down to those five. I'll post the others up here as I get them ready and provide you with links to her blog. She's a talented artist and photographer who will have a long career ahead of her if she keeps this up.

I'll keep updating the blog as I know more about the official release of The Crownless King and hopefully it will be on the shelves very, very shortly.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yay For Hallmark!

I bought my first Hallmark ornament of the season today!

Bethany and I were out wandering a little bit since she wanted to get out of the house after being cooped up all week recovering from surgery and we discovered that Hallmark was having its holiday open house. Naturally, we had to check it out. Not only did I get a new Snoopy ornament to adorn my tree, but we also picked up two boxes of Christmas cards that were on sale.

Snoopy always seemed to be in a class of his own and fits in nicely with the type of ornaments and decorations I like. He is undoubtedly one of the coolest comic strip characters ever. And I even found a collection of jazz Christmas carols that were right up my alley for the type of music I like to listen to. I'll have to convince Bethany of how great they are, but all good things come in time.

Granted, it was 75 degrees out today. Not exactly the snow covered scene I'm showing above, but hey, I'm in the Christmas mood and it should snow during Christmas. It's been a bit hot these last couple of days and tomorrow is going to be more of the same, but things are going to cool down after that.

I took this picture two years ago during the heaviest snow storm we had that year. We can't exactly do any kind of work during precipitating winter weather, so I stayed home. Alone. I was bored out of my mind. I read books, took pictures...even hiked down the road and back. I was so bored I even took a picture of my shower to see what a long exposure of it running would look like.

So today marked one year of wedded bliss and we celebrated with Bethany's first challenging meal since her surgery, a nice steak dinner. Now that we have all the major remodeling behind us and the two surgeries within the family, things look to be calming down a bit for us. We still have some pictures to process and, in fact, we have another wedding lined up for Saturday, but all in all we hope to be able to cruise into the holidays starting with two really good Thanksgiving meals.

For now, though, I'm going to wind up the day between the covers of The Coffee Trader by David Liss. He's really shown himself to be a quality writer and has happily filled my fall reading list. With the discovery of I've been able to fill that last pretty economically and I'll be looking to purchase the last two of his novels I haven't read pretty soon.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It Gets Cold In West Virginia

It gets cold in West Virginia.

Now this is the road to Grandma's house. I literally go over the hill, through the woods and snow to get to Grandma's house. It's tucked in a little valley between two ridges and regularly gets buried under feet of snow in the wintertime. I took this photo about a year ago when it snowed and Dad took me out driving so I could take some pictures. I remember seeing this broken fence and figuring it would make a good picture and getting out of the truck and walking over to it. I stepped off the road and into snow that was more than knee deep.

Tomorrow I've got portraits scheduled in the morning for Douthat. The weather is calling for a sunning 65 degrees and I hope that's the last real warm day we have for a while. I want it cold for Thanksgiving and I want it snowing for Christmas.

I've already set a day to decorate the house for Christmas. I don't know yet what we'll do for a tree, if we'll stay artificial or buy a real one, but I really want to deck the halls this year. The house has been pretty well completely redecorated anyway so I figure we may as well enjoy it.

Now I know the true reason for Christmas, the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. And I give thanks for that reason. But I also really enjoy all the fun decorations and traditions. Last year was such a new experience being newly married and then having the crisis erupt the day after Christmas that we didn't really get anything settled in as far as traditions.

That's going to change this year. We also didn't get nearly as much decorating done inside the house as I would have liked. That's going to change this year too.

Anyone out there have any fun traditions? I'm always up for something cool and Christmas-like, so pass 'em along.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Fine Fowl

This owl looks cold.

It's a barred owl sitting atop a tree at the Warm Springs Mountain overlook not far from the airport. Bethany saw it and I crept up to it until I was standing about 15 feet away. I had a few moments of some amazing shooting before the owl swiveled its head, looked at me and decided I was interrupting it's peaceful nap and flew off to a quieter place to snooze.

And it was as cold as this picture makes it look.

There's nothing really artistic about this photo. I had opportunity and a camera, so I snapped everything I could in the all too-brief time that I had this beautiful bird for a subject. I think I wound up with about fifteen photos total, including this one:

I wish I could have somehow done something more artistic that just these portraits, but you do the best you can with the experience you have under your belt and the time you have to work with.

On a completely unrelated note, I think I've finally pinned down the software I need to convert the manuscript for The Crownless King into pdf form so that I can get it sent off. Now I just need to get off my tail and get it taken care of. There's some minor processing left to put things together before shipping. Bethany's taken on a tremendous load of processing photos, thankfully (because I really hate that aspect of the wedding business) so I hope to find some time to get this done. It will definitely be out before Christmas, though the question of when, exactly, is up for some debate.

I apologize to all you dear readers out there looking for a little philosophical meandering along life's road. It's been a long couple of days. Bethany's surgery went perfectly yesterday and she's now going through life without a gall bladder. I didn't get much sleep last night as I tried not to bump into her (after all, she'd just had surgery 12 hours before and was hurting) and tried to wake up during the night to make sure she was still doing OK. Fortunately, she's doing pretty good other than the pain and soreness that I'm sure accompanies any surgery.

It's time for me to lay my weary head down and get a little sleep. Perhaps tomorrow I'll meander philosophically down life's road with you, dear reader. Until then...good night...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Star Charts & Moonbeams

Thought I'd go just a little bit abstract tonight. Well, not so much abstract as to just where my mind goes sometimes when I let it wander and don't really pay attention to where it ends up.

We watched the premier of "V" tonight on ABC. Bethany wasn't a fan, but she doesn't get into the sci-fi as much as I do, which is cool. Science fiction is usually either done really well and amazing, like Joss Whedon's "Firefly" or is done horribly and isn't worth the effort of picking the book up off the shelf, much like 90% of the science fiction that's out there.

I'm one of those people that look up at the stars and wonder what's out there. I get aggravated every time I hear someone complain about NASA's budget or ask why we should waste our time going back to the moon. We live on a planet that makes up an infinitesimally small fraction of the galaxy, much less the universe. How can you not look up and wonder what's waiting for us between the stars?

Just looking at the stars is akin to looking back in time anyway. Any number of those stars could have burned out years ago and the light from that explosion just hasn't reached us yet. There's no way of knowing for sure. And they're beautiful. The heavens are filled with comets and planets and nebulae and things of unimaginable wonder that we haven't even discovered yet.

I'll be the first to tell you that all the alien abduction stories I heard and read about as a kid scared me. Some of them are just a little too real, a little too detailed and have too many common details in cases that happen on different continents to make me just ignore them. Yes, I believe in aliens. I'll admit to it. Personally, I hope we meet them someday and they're more like the Vulcans from Star Trek than whatever those things were from Independence Day.

I look at the stars and think about the stories that can be told between them. Space is infinite in all directions and the stories that can be told among stars are numbered just as greatly. I sometimes wish I lived in that Star Trek universe where mankind travels the stars just to explore them. I hope one day we get there. Until we do, I'll have to content myself with telescopes, star charts and dreams.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Hand of Time

It's Halloween.

I love Halloween. Particularly this one. The sky is overcast, the wind is blowing and the leaves are dancing around. Halloween always has a surreal feel to me, like we're celebrating something that goes beyond memory at a time when the world around me seems so much more crisp and alive.

Jack o'Lanterns are lit. There's a Ghost Hunters marathon on the tube. Most importantly, there are two bowls of candy by the door.

I'm all for Trick or Treating. Mom made some awesome costumes for us as kids and I think everyone should be able to safely send their kids around the block a time or two to load up on treats. It's a harmless tradition that gave me many happy memories as a kid. Once upon a time our street was pretty heavily toured by the local Trick or Treaters. It trailed off a bit the last few years due to the awesome haunted house the Clifton Forge Police Department ran, but I'm hoping that it will pick back up.

The photo I'm posting tonight is accidentally appropriate. I took it a while back when I was playing around with my macro lens with the clock on the mantel as my subject. Since I don't really have any Halloween photos I was looking for something different and landed on this one. And it's also a reminder that we're supposed to set our clocks back tonight and savor that extra hour of sleep. So cool.

So, yes, it's late fall, it's house is back in one piece and I have books to read...

Life is good.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is It Christmas Yet?

Is it Christmas yet?

I know I'm skipping ahead a bit. Believe me, I won't forget about Halloween or Thanksgiving. I'm all for sending strange kids home to their parents with bags full of sugar. And I certainly won't miss either of the Thanksgiving meals that I'm fortunate enough to attend, in addition to the excellent Canadian Thanksgiving I had a few weeks back.

But I'm looking forward to Christmas. To decorations. To food. To family. To going outside, bundled up against the pure, cold air to shovel snow. There is no more magical time than Christmas and I can't wait for it to get here.

You may think I'm crazy, but it was basketball that sparked my longing tonight. Once upon a time, basketball was my game. I enjoy watching football, but there was a time that I ate, slept and dreamed basketball when I wasn't playing it. And when I played it, I was good at it. I'm not bragging, it's just the way it was.

For various reasons I never played on my middle or high school teams. But I played in every pick up game, every gym class and every Saturday at the Y that I could managed. When I was at Sharon Elementary, I played and I was good then, too. I remember games on Saturday vividly. I loved the home games the most, not because there was a home crowd but because it was close to my home. I'd go to the gym, play my butt off and then come home where I would be given a glass of cold Kool-Aid, relax on the reclining couch and watch Loony Tunes. Life was perfect. During the evenings, it got better.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in what I call the NBA's "Age of Heroes". Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullen...the list goes on. I remember the Bulls beating Portland and Clyde the Glide Drexler for the NBA title. I remember begging my parents to hurry back home from Roanoke because the Lakers were playing and I wanted to see Magic. I can name every member of the original Dream Team and can remember watching them take home Olympic Gold. The Bulls went 72-10 before my eyes. I learned how to do a crossover dribble by reading an article in NBA Inside Stuff in which Tim Hardaway, back in his Golden State Warrior days, diagrammed it step for step. I've yet to see a coach teach it correctly or a player do it correctly in the leagues around here since.

The games on Christmas Day were special. These were the big match ups, usually the Lakers taking on Houston or the Bulls and the Knicks, something like that. They decorated the scoreboard on the screen with Christmas garland and had ornaments hanging off the clocks. I'd rush to open my presents, play with them for a while and enjoy seeing my grandparents when they visited and then hoped that I could steal the television to watch the games. Back then, the Super Bowl was in January and Christmas seemed to mark the point when the major networks switched from covering football to basketball.

I was flipping through the channels earlier and the Bulls were taking on the Spurs. It was the first time in years I'd been able to watch a pro game in not turn it off in disgust at what the league had become. The Age of Heroes gave way to a stretch when only Kobe and Shaq seemed to dominate and the league was filled with players there for money and prestige rather than the love of the game. Don't misunderstand me. I know my heroes made millions playing the game they love. But look deeper. They played for the love of the game, for sport and for the win and they gave me heroes to look up to on the hardwood.

So it was the nostalgia of basketball that sent me digging for this pic. It's about two years old, taken shortly after the first real snowfall of the year that December. There's a Christmas tree lot that sets up across the street from the Wendy's in Covington. The bare bulbs over the trees always remind me of the Christmas tree lot from A Charlie Brown Christmas, but that's another post. The Good Lord looks out for children and photographers, so thankfully he takes care of me on both fronts. That day He gave me a fresh blanket of snow on a tree lot that was mostly undisturbed. As an employee of the local paper then, weather didn't affect whether or not we came in. You went, rain or shine, snow or ice. So I was able to get out and get the photo that has since became one of my favorites ever since. Looking at it reminds me of everything I love about Christmas, about basketball in days gone past, about picking out the crookedest Christmas tree on the lot with Horton and a thousand other things I cherish about my life.

Photography, just like writing, is at its best when it gets to the truth of things. This photo reaches to the truth of who I am perhaps more than any other I've taken. You may not see it, but for me this simple black and white shot has countless memories attached to it, some that even surprise me at times.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dream Lake

What you're seeing here is Dream Lake in Luray Caverns. Believe it or not, that's actually a really, really shallow and small lake of water on the bottom half. It moves so slowly and is so free of imperfections that it creates a perfect mirror image of what is above it. The mirror image is so perfect that I had to be told that it was water before I realized it.

Luray Caverns are the biggest caverns on the East Coast and Bethany and I took a little overnight vacation there over the summer. I was never much on caverns before, but these caverns are most definitely worth your time and expense. Shooting inside the caverns was a challenge, since there's obviously no natural light down there and what light there is is artificial. I took a lot of shots and had no idea whether or not they would turn out when I got them on the big screen. I was fortunate to have spent much of my early photography career shooting football games at night and attempting astrophotography. Without that knowledge in my background, I doubt that I would have succeeded. I've got more than a few shots from here that haven't seen the light of day, so I'll be posting them up on the blog soon.

On an unrelated note, we finally have the floor completely down in the house. The contractors are coming back Monday morning to finish some trim work and do a little painting, but it's down to the minor details. As much as I wish the whole process would go faster, I understand that it takes time to get the insurance lined up and then the work itself just takes time to do, just like surveying. I've got nothing but good things to say about the service I've been provided so far and nothing but compliments on the quality of work they've done. I'll still be looking forward to having it all finished, though.

Tomorrow brings some senior portraits and then a trip through a corn maze in Union, West Virginia. It'll be nice to get away and relax a little bit before a hectic week sets in again on Monday. I'm hoping my weekends will start getting a little freer and I can spend some quality Sunday afternoon time in front of my flat screen with a little high definition NFL football action.

For now, some popcorn and an episode or two of Bones awaits.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Final Fall Pic and New Floors!

We've finally got some flooring down! These things take time, I know, but it seems like forever when you've got nothing but concrete beneath your feet. But the laminate is down, the trim work will be finished on Friday and we're finally able to put the house back into some semblance of normal. We've got two rooms to paint that we hope to finish off before next weekend and then we'll have everything settled in for the holidays.

To completely change the subject, this should be the last of my Roaring Run pictures for a while. There are others in the file from last week, but I've worn the creek out on the ol' blog and I think I'll start looking for a wider range of subjects now that we're pretty much passing the peak of the autumn showcase of leaves.

I have a folder of untouched, unposted pics I'll start with the next blog update, including some from a little vacation Bethany and I took to Luray Caverns. Those pictures haven't really seen the light of day since the summer because we've been buried under a mountain of wedding photographs and it's time they get a little fresh air.

Speaking of fresh air, tomorrow brings a trip to Rockbridge County to do a little surveying work before heading back home to have a portrait session for a two-month-old. A subject that young will be new territory for me, but not Bethany as she was trained for this during her stint at Olan Mills.

My reading slump is about to end as well. I haven't been hitting the pages too much since finishing The Eagle, but my next David Liss novel, The Coffee Trader, (which I picked up for a penny) will be here soon and a trip to Roanoke should snag me a couple of Trek novels as well as the long awaited next volume in the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. It was a tragedy indeed that Mr. Jordan died of a rare blood disease before he could finish writing the series he started decades ago. Fortunately, he left a great deal of notes and basically handpicked his successor to finish the final volume, which has been split into three books due to length. While Robert Jordan is definitely missed in the world of epic fantasy literature, I cheer that his series will not be left unfinished and his legacy incomplete.

If only George R.R. Martin would hurry it along with his next novel, all would be right with the world.

For now, I think I'm going to enjoy a rare evening on the couch with my wife watching Ghost Hunters on SyFy before calling it an evening.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wallpaper and Tails

When I become President of this Great Nation I'm going to issue an executive order outlawing the use of wallpaper. I hate that stuff. Putting it up or stripping it off, it doesn't matter to me. One task is as onerous as the other.

Remodeling on our ol' house continues as we're finally getting floors down to replace those ruined by the Great Water Heater Flood of '09. Surprisingly, the walls have to be repainted as well and that, of course, creates the opportunity for change. I'm all for change, particularly when someone else has to make it happen and I get to come home and it's done. Unfortunately, it's not completely going to work that way. We're repainting the bathroom, a bedroom, moving my library and painting another half of a bedroom. I'm excited about what the finished product is going to look like, but this is one process I don't enjoy.

Hagy's Photography is continuing to expand and I expect to purchase our first set of studio lights at lunch time today. We're booking into 2009 and are doing well with that. Right now we have a backlog of photos to process between a wedding and engagement shoot and that stack is getting deeper even as we try to cut it down.

The reading and writing, much to my dislike, is taking a backseat to remodeling and photography. We've got a January deadline for getting The Sixth Sword on the shelf, thanks to Uncle Sam calling my coauthor to duty in southern Iraq. It'll be a push to meet that. The writing is done, except for a few tweaks, but the proofing and polishing will take a little time. These next couple of months are filled with holidays and an anniversary and other pressing engagements, so it will have to get squeezed in the cracks somehow.

Fortunately, I was able to spend some time in the Great Outdoors before all of this broke loose and I'm still able to post images from last Friday's trip. I spent a lot of my early photography career trying to make motion blurs. When I started, I didn't even know what you called them or how to do them, but I wanted to. When I finally learned enough to purchase that priceless ND400 filter I was able to start making the images I wanted. Once I learned the trick to it, I then ran around to every moving body of water I could find and started shooting ripples and rapids just to see what they would look like without any attempt at composing anything artistic. It left me with only one real wall-hanger of a shot from those days and it can still be found on Outdoor Photographer's web site.

The photo you see above is a bit of a throwback to those days. I shot it because I liked the background of the solid rock of the base of the cliff against the foreground of the rocks in the river. When I first saw it on the big screen, it didn't make me overjoyed with wonder until I saw the tail streaming toward me. I kept the photo because of it. When you're standing there, all you can see is the barest hint of a ripple arcing out toward you. There are no rocks jutting up from the bottom to create any white water along that arc. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised at finding that "tail" so prominently displayed in this long exposure photograph. I held on to it for that reason alone.

It just goes to show that you never know what you may see when you frame the world with a camera.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stirring Kool Aid

Kool Aid should be stirred with a wooden spoon. Not plastic, but definitely wooden. I'm a firm believer in that. Somewhere along the line I saw Mom stir Kool Aid with a wooden spoon, and that's just how it should be done.

Yes, yes I know that's completely random. But these dark and wet fall days make me want to putter around in the kitchen and I made Kool Aid a few minutes ago and had to dig around to find my wooden spoon and thought I'd share that little truism with my readers. Here in a bit we're going to roast some chicken...

But enough about food (at least for now) and let's talk about these photos. The one at the top is another from yesterday's adventures. It's actually at the very bottom of the falls. For those of you who haven't Roaring Run, the main falls are a slide-type of falls that cascade down a large, rounded boulder and slide down other large stones. The water falls into bigger pools that flatten out and then drop into other cascades for six or seven hundred feet along the stream. The neat thing, to me, about this bottom cascade is that it's the first time I've seen the swirl of the current show up in a photograph I've made. It happens a great deal at waterfalls, but it's the first I've ever captured the phenomena.

The second photo is taken above the main falls. It's a bit of a climb and the trail turns into a narrow path over some extremely rocky ground. I've heard rumors of more cascades farther up and since it is National Forest land I hope to hike up there one afternoon before the winter weather really sets in.

You may have read in the last blog about the challenge that Roaring Run presents in finding something new with every visit. I've yet to make a trip out there and not find something new I haven't shot before. I'm starting to wonder how much I miss in my everyday world because I'm not looking for it.

At Roaring Run I take the time to look for something different. At work, I'm paying close attention to the land around me in search for markers to indicated property corners and lines. But how much am I missing with the rest of my time? In school they teach us about all the great explorers, Columbus, Magellan, Erickson...and with today's mapping technology it seems at first glance that there's nothing left to discover here on Earth.

I think I've come around to a different view. Instead of looking for things on the grand scale, I've decided to look smaller. I'm looking for the trees that are pretty that I haven't seen before, the new author I've never heard of, a road never taken before, that sort of thing. I love a good story and I think I'll find quite a few new ones along those overlooked trails.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hindsight Is f/22

They say hindsight is 20/20. In this case it's f/22 at about two minutes.

I spent the day wandering around with a good friend of mine from West Virginia. We hit a few photo hot spots and spent most of the afternoon walking along one of my favorite places, Roaring Run Creek. It's rare that I'm making landscape images with someone, but he's a fellow photographer and can appreciate the time and effort it takes to make a quality image along a creek like this.

Roaring Run Creek presents a particular challenge to me in that every time that I visit I have to look for something I haven't seen before to shoot. Well, the second photo was taken just below the main falls. O.C. had the prime spot at that moment for shooting the major falls, which have never been my favorite subject on the creek. So naturally, I started looking for something I haven't done before.

The first photo is of the first really big cascade on the creek and I've only shot it once, years ago when I first got my camera and didn't know what I was doing. This time around I was more prepared and snagged this photo with my ND400 happily attached. The second photo, however, has a much more interesting story behind it.

I found that little gem doing something I rarely ever do...looking downstream. Typically with motion blurs along a creek I'm shooting upstream and my favorite angle is one that makes it look as if the water is flowing directly toward and under the camera. Sometimes I even set my tripod up in the creek itself. So as I walk along, I'm always looking upstream at for my next shot.

So I'm standing there, thinking, and I said to myself, I said "Self, why don't you see what's behind you?" Carefully turning around, I discover that some large boulders have cause the stream to fork and then slam back into one stream at pretty odd angles at a respectable rate of speed. The collision resulted in a rolling, bubbling mass of water that asked me to take its picture. Naturally, I obliged, perching my camera on some slick stones and set to work.

And it makes me think...if history is destined to repeat itself, then how often does it repeat itself simply because we don't take the time to look downstream at what's passed before? Every day is a blessing and a lesson wrapped into one. I do my best to learn something new every single day. It doesn't always happen because, like everyone else, there are days when I'm just trying to keep my head above the water. Generally, however, I can look back at those days and find some lesson in them when I'm farther removed from the stress of the situation.

Having a camera in my hand frees up my mind to think. I never quite know where those thoughts will take me, but it's generally a fun ride. I've learned that Pocahontas had it right in the Disney movie when she said that "You can't step in the same river twice..." Not only can you not step in the same river twice, you can't photograph the same one either. Chances are, the lessons you learn from it won't be the same either.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thoughts on Arthurian Legend

The title of this post may sound boring and I understand that. But I just finished The Eagle, the concluding volume of Jack Whyte's Camulod Chronicles.

It's been a while since the ending of a book, and indeed, a series, affected me this deeply. I've never ready anything that had such a sadly happy ending. It wasn't what I expected it to be at all. True, throughout the series Whyte has taken pains to show how the legend of King Arthur may have grown out of historical fact and was exaggerated and twisted into myth over the years. Even still, Whyte paints an ending for Arthur that's brutally tragic.

Yet, even after receiving a wound from which he would never fully recover, Arthur still has enough of the character that made him the King of Britain to see to the welfare of his closest friend, Lancelot and wife, Guinevere, by sending them away to safety in Gaul. There was no betrayal, merely the crumbling of a dream against forces too large to fought with any hope of victory. Whyte leaves Arthur's death in battle to imagination and rumor and the dream of a united Britain falls with Arthur.

Though the story was told from Lancelot's view, I tried to put myself in Arthur's shoes. I can't imagine watching everything in life I worked to build crumbling around me and not having the strength to put things back to rights. I can't imagine the frustration and anger that must accompany knowing that raising my sword against it will be a final act of defiance rather than the stroke of victory. I can't even contemplate what it must feel like to send my wife off to safety with my best and most trusted friend, knowing in my heart she'll never return because it I can't make it safe for her to.


I have an easier time imagining Lancelot's feelings, though I've never seen anything on this scale. To honor his friend's last wishes instead of fighting along side him, no matter how futile the struggle, would be a hard burden to bear for any man. To always be plagued by the lack of knowing how Arthur met his end and wondering if there was anyway he would have met a difference in that final struggle. I never felt more sympathy for Lancelot than when he weeps at hearing the news of Arthur's death through dozens of rumors. Barred from the battle by his king's own wishes and forever damned to live with having outlived the king he was supposed to die to protect.

The things Lancelot did for Arthur (in Whyte's legend) were done out of love for a brother and friend, love that was extended to Guinevere platonically until after Arthur's death. The Book of John, Chapter 15, Verse 13, tells us that there is no greater love than that of a man who will lay down his life for his friends. I've always taken that to mean the sacrifice of dying in place of someone, or dying to save someone. Whyte makes me look at it in an entirely new light.

Is it any different for a man to live his life for someone as opposed to die for someone? I think that's what Whyte's Lancelot did for Arthur, living for him instead of dying for him. Still, it's a heavy burden either way. Whyte captured it perfectly with the final line of the series, written by Lancelot himself, the last of Arthur's Knights Companion still alive.

"I miss them all."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rainy Days

Ah, finally a little time to blog again.

It's been a busy few weeks, obviously, since I haven't had the time post anything since September. The good news is that the contractors are well on their way to getting the new floor down and the house put back together after the great Water Heater Flood of '09. Hagy's Photography's schedule is rapidly filling up with weddings and a couple of simple portrait thats are keeping us hopping, so there hasn't been a great deal of time for leisurely pursuits.

Patrick and I did make some pretty sweet kabobs Saturday evening that are worthy of note and we'll probably make again someday, only next time we'll have a clue what we're doing.

We're getting the first glimpse of winter here in western Virginia. The trees all say its fall, but the cold temperatures and colder rain speak more of Old Man Winter. The high today didn't break 45 and there's been a steady, chilling rain falling since late this morning. The forecast is warning of the first wintry mix of the season, so it may be a long winter.

But before we bid farewell to fall there's still plenty of photo opportunities left out there. In fact, I plan on visiting Roaring Run at least two more times before winter really sets in, the first of these trips Friday. I went last week, which was when I made the image posted above, and focused specifically on the area above the restricted fishing line. I also climbed above the main falls and went up the creek a ways, a photograph I'm saving for the next post.

I discovered another cascade worthy of photographing and I'm told there's another one beyond that. Last Friday I was pushing the limits of light and had to leave so I could see my way out, so hopefully in the next two weeks I'll be hiking farther than I've been before along Roaring Run Creek.

Been working on Bob Seger's Against the Wind for the past two days. It isn't too hard to play, but switching in and out of a barred Bminor is giving me some trouble. I'm also playing it against the CD and learning to sing with it too. That may be harder than anything else, but oh well. It will all come with time.

Now that the fourth season of Bones is finally out on DVD we try to squeeze in at least an episode a night. I've been hard pressed to find another show that well written with character interplay that complex and well done. The acting is excellent and they're living up to the story lines they are being given. I'm pretty excited about seeing where it all goes.

I'm also finally getting around to reading The Eagle, the last of Jack Whyte's Camulod Chronicles. I love historical novels and this series details Arthur's Camelot the way it may really have been as a group of former Roman citizens try to survive the fall of the Roman Empire in Britain. Whyte does an excellent job in grounding Arthurian legend in historical fact and it's an excellent read. There are moments in these novels that will give you goosebumps.

Work continues on Blood and Steel and The Crownless King and now also The Sixth Sword. I'm aiming for a Christmas release of The Crownless King and hopefully a January release of The Sixth Sword. Soon after, work will begin on The Sea of Souls and I would think that by this time next year I'll have Blood and Steel out as well. All these writing projects going at once is pretty exciting, though two of them are in the painful revision stage that seems to drag on and on.

And speaking of those revisions, I'd better get to work.

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The View from the Top

I thought you might enjoy a photograph of my office, the great outdoors. I took this one earlier this week at the flagpole/cell tower off of Route 220. Anyone who's driven to Hot Springs from Covington (or vice versa) has seen this. It's private property instead of a public overlook, but one of the joys of surveying is tramping around people's property while your working for them. Occasionally you get a view like this.

This is looking generally south toward Covington. Typically you can see the MeadWestvaco paper mill over the ridge on the left, but the fog laying in the valley is covering everything. I've never been in an airplane but I imagine that this is something similar to what it must look like when you have that window seat and can look down on top of the clouds.

I experienced this view a few times before, notably at the Dan Ingalls Overlook on the other end of Warm Springs Mountain. I was much closer to the valley that day and the view was breathtaking, but I only had my cell phone to serve as a camera. Since then I've been hoping to capture this kind of photo and this is my second attempt. The previous attempt was accidentally erased. This time around I used the polarizer, which brought out some much needed contrast and color in a photo that lacks a great deal of both.

My job literally has its ups and downs. We've spent the last two days running a little more than a mile of property line that adjoins a National Forest tract and it was pretty steep in places. There are moments of hard, physical work in climbing, but those moments tend to pay off in the end. It's kind of neat to climb around and survey around places that no one has been since the 1930s and find monuments that have been untouched and unseen by humans for decades and, on rare occasions, a century. So while my job can be a workout, especially since I'm not in the athletic trim I once enjoyed, it most definitely is worth it (even the complicated math part).

I've always enjoyed being outside and being in the woods. Surveying has opened up a new appreciation for both as I've learned to be more independent and more self sufficient away from the comforts at home. I'm not saying I'm Daniel Boone or anything, but I feel pretty confident about my abilities to get out and get around to places and navigate through the occasional brier patch. I've haven't gotten lost in at least a couple of months.

Monday, September 28, 2009

First Photos of the Fall Season

Ah, a little field work on a beautiful fall morning gave me the opportunity to snap a few pics for some fresh blog material.

I'm sure many of my readers have visited Falling Spring Falls, located on Rt. 220 as you travel north toward Hot Springs, just ten minutes or so from Covington. Thomas Jefferson once raved about its beauty. It's fed by a warm water spring and the water temperature is in the 70s year round. Now, the picture above isn't off the falls. Rather this is a photograph of some cascades upstream from the falls. I've been fortunate to have worked on a survey crew nearly all the way around the falls and I've even seen the point where the spring comes out of the ground to feed this famous fall. In the course of my job I've been able to see some sights that not very many people have the opportunity to see, so I thought I'd pass this one along.

Now this photo is of Falling Spring Falls taken from the overlook. At some point I'd love to work my way down to the bottom and shoot close ups of those little cascades down at the bottom. This photo was taken as an experiment with the black and white setting on my Rebel XT with the Yellow K2 filter attached. I'm pretty pleased with the results and have used the filter quite a bit since this photo.

It was a beautiful fall morning and I even caught a glimpse of some of the first foliage to change. It was a maple and it was a glorious red and it gave me my first opportunity to use my brand new polarizer. As promised, I'm posting the result here and I'm pretty excited about it. I bought it, among other things, for fall foliage because it brings out the colors and takes the glare of the sun off the leaves.

Now that I've shown you the first of fall's color show I'm going to show you something from the world of macro photography. As a little introduction, you should know that a macro lens can reproduce something small at a 1:1 ratio onto your camera sensor (film). What that means is that when you make a 4x6 print, that image is reproduced at 9 times life size. It makes for some really neat photographs, such as the one shown below.

Wow, I thought I'd get a week's worth of blogging material out of today's shoot, but I got excited and wanted to get them all posted. Guess I'll just have to go wandering about in search of more photographs.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rambling Around

So it's been a rainy kind of weekend with a steady, soaking rain falling since I woke up Friday morning. The yard work didn't get done Friday, as planned, so it was put off for this coming week. Something has zapped our router, which tanks the connection to my desktop, which has all my photos stored, so I've been running without photos the last two blog posts. Hopefully I'll be able to correct this technical difficulty tomorrow.

In the meantime, I've been working on Edwin McCain's Holy City and polishing Brisingr and Post Captain off my reading list. I think it's time to turn my attention back to Star Trek and by the time I've gotten past that, we should be into October and in the mood for Bradbury's The Halloween Tree.

Brisingr wasn't quite the exciting read I was hoping it was going to be and in fact it was left over from last fall's reading list. Oddly enough, I actually was more interested in Eragon's cousin, Roran, than I was following Eragon's tale. I think Paolini created a very impressive secondary character that nearly steals the show. Even though I wasn't the biggest fan of Brisingr, I admire Paolini's world and will definitely pick up the concluding volume of the Inheritance Cycle.

My polarizer filter arrived in the mail Saturday, giving me plenty of time to practice with it before the fall colors really set in. Of course I'll post results of those tests on the blog here. Cool weather is expected to set in this week and I'm hoping that the fall colors will really start to take hold around here. With Douthat State Park just up the road and Roaring Run a twenty minute drive from the house, I'll have plenty of opportunities for catching fall at its best.

Work on Blood and Steel continues slowly, as is sometimes the case with the written word. I've found at times all I can do is put one word down after another until I find the rhythm of what I'm trying to say and it takes care of itself. Other times it's all I can do to move my hand fast enough because what I want to say comes pouring out.

The Crownless King and Blood and Steel represents a pretty big shift in my writing and my focus. I was, for a time, caught up in the world of fantasy and all massive volumes of literature that entails. My library is broken down into three main areas: SciFi (Star Trek and Star Wars) Fantasy (assorted authors and series) and Fiction and Literary Fiction. As of late I've lost a bit of my enthusiasm for fantasy and find myself drawn to more thought provoking and deep literature. Pat Conroy was the first to introduce me to this and L.E. Modesitt Jr., though a fantasy author, hooked me in permanently with his Recluse Saga. The thing these have in common is that they both write in first person and both have a way of making their characters very real and very human. I feel like I could easily step into the roles of their characters at any given point.

They led me, through their writings, to shift into a first person style and really take the time to try to develop my characters before throwing them into the fire. And while it can certainly be done in a fantasy world, as Modesitt has proved, the technique is much more effective in a more realistic world. Even Modesitt's world of Recluse is tame when compared to what is considered to be high fantasy. I've been searching for authors who share some of the same talents and I've hit upon a very good one in David Liss. So while I will always have an interest in certain authors and in Star Trek and Star Wars, my interest in fantasy as a whole is waning.

And as the day is waning now, I think I'm going to go see what I can stir up for dinner. I hope to be able to get photos back up on the blog at a steady pace beginning tomorrow or Tuesday, so we'll see how that goes.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Rainy Friday

Wow, I've fallen behind on the ol' blogging, haven't I? Well, I have been busy with some other projects. In the last week or so I've focused pretty heavily on the guitar, at one point sitting for four hours working out different tunings for Broken and some Goo Goo Dolls tunes.

More importantly I've started working on Blood and Steel, the sequel to the as-yet-unpublished The Crownless King. It picks up not long after where King leaves off and reveals more of Ben's story and motives and forces Sam to come full circle and take responsibility for his actions. It sounds a bit vague, I know, but I don't want to put too many details out there before The Crownless King gets out there for fear of ruining readers on that novel. I sometimes struggle to remember that my readers aren't seeing what's in my head and don't know what's coming in future projects the way I do. It hampers discussion, at times, but not work.

I did spend some time this week preparing the manuscript of The Crownless King for shipping to CreateSpace and I've got to photograph one more illustration and assemble the cover exactly how I want it before it's all said and done. It's more of a challenge than I thought it was going to be, but still worth the effort.

The Fall Festival is coming up in Clifton Forge in October and with the festival comes the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center's 37th Annual Fall Festival Art Show. It's a surprisingly good show for a small town festival and draws many entries from outside the area. I've got two prints ready to go, A Splash of Color and an unnamed shot of Roaring Run, both of which have been posted here. I've never so much as placed in an art show before, but I feel good about this year's entries. That's not saying I'm going to place, but rather that I feel better about giving a good competition. Art shows are a wonderful opportunity to learn about composition and preparing your pieces for show. There's always quality work to be found in these galleries and it's just exciting to have your work hanging in an art gallery for a little while.

And with fall, as I've blogged about before, comes the wonderful reading list. I've read about half of David Liss' works and they've been a joy. I recently finished Post Captain, the second of Patrick O'Brian's Napoleonic War novels. I've got some Star Trek piling up and I think that the newest Voyager novel, Full Circle, came out on Tuesday so it's probably time to start wading through the Trek novels. Salvatore will be coming out with the next Drizzt novel in October, which is a perfect fall classic. At some point when the season really sets in I'll read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, two beloved classics introduced to me in elementary school. Around Christmas time I may actually read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

I had big plans for the day, yard work and a trip to the dump and getting the outside of the house together for the fall, but Mother Nature and The Weather Channel had other plans. So I think that I'll spend the day reading, packing to go to West Virginia, doing what few chores there are to do inside and writing.

It's a good life.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guitars and Food

My blogging hasn't quite been on schedule this week, but life has had other plans. But I didn't start this blog to whine, so I'm going to move on to joyfulness.

It has been a hectic couple of days, but today was a nice chance at relaxation. Bryan, a friend from way back in the day at high school, brought his wife and newborn son up to the house for dinner and we made an excellent shrimp Alfredo. It's pretty cool to have the opportunity to just relax with an old friend and catch up on what has passed by in life with no other pressing demands stealing away minutes. Those opportunities are rare and should be cherished when they are presented.

I've been working at the guitar the last few days as well, as time allows, and I'm making a little progress. I've got the intro and first verse of Broken down pretty well and I'm ready to move on to the chorus. I've also found lessons to study for Slide and Black Balloon by The Goo Goo Dolls. I'm going to have to do some work on learning the open tunings for them, but in the end I think it'll be worth it. I've been told it's a truer sound if you can tune to the key instead of using a capo. It's decently easy to tune down and I've already set it down a half step for Broken. Tuning up can be a little more dicey because eventually the tension is too much and you'll break a string. But all things come in time.

Tomorrow is a rare Friday in which Bethany and I have a rare day off together. And while the afternoon may eventually bring chores, we're are, at the very least, sleeping in late and having lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Jason's Pizza & Subs in Bath County. I can't say enough good things about the quality of food and service in that little mom & pop restaurant, but I will drive the better part of an hour to enjoy both.

The photo above is of Patrick's guitar and hand. It was taken soon after I purchased my Rebel XT, so it's an older photo. It was also an early attempt at using the black and white setting on the XT. I've since gained a better understanding of the setting and of music in general. His guitar is a Takamine, as is mine, and on my next posting I'll share a close up of my guitar. Exciting stuff, I know, but hey, it's my blog and I think it's interesting.

And on that happy note, I think I shall depart for the evening and spend some time on deck of Jack Aubrey's man o' war before finally calling it a day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

To The Moon

So a busy day or two has passed since my last posting and I wish I could say they were filled with football and relaxing, but that's just not the way it goes sometimes.

I have, however, been able to work out tuning my guitar down a half-step and I'm working on figuring out Broken by Seether. It's decently complex but not impossible and I'm starting to get the intro and first verse smoothed out. Once I have it down I'll moved on to the chorus. I actually miss taking lessons, though I was playing pieces I wasn't as interested in for them. There is so much basic stuff that I'm sure I'm missing that more lessons would make clear and I hope to get to start them again soon.

Bethany starts practice with the Greenbrier Valley Chorale tonight and that will mean weekly trips to Lewisburg and then on to Rupert to hang out with my family for a couple hours. I really enjoy being back early to pick her up at Carnegie Hall because the campus is beautiful, there's an old stone church across the street that will be photographed at some point and at 9 o'clock the church bells chime the hour. It's almost like being back in time a few decades in a sleepy, safe and small little town.

I have hopes of working on The Crownless King this week, but housework will have to take priority as we're still working on the remodeling before the new floors are put down. The hall and bathroom are next up, though the bathroom is not near as pressing as the hall. These should be simple changes, though, since the areas areas are small and should just require some fresh paint and perhaps new paneling in the bathroom.

Sadly, the movie theaters are mostly empty of films I want to see. District 9 is still high on my list of must see movies and the long awaited sequel to The Boondock Saints, titled All Saints Day, will be out October 30 and I will definitely see that in theaters somewhere. There may be a few people out there who haven't heard of The Boondock Saints and if you haven't you need to watch it. It's a cult classic that on the surface is a shallow shoot 'em up, but in reality there are many, many layers to the film and many hidden "Easter eggs", so to speak, that really show off a deeper meaning. Be warned that the language is a bit strong and the violence can get graphic, but it's one of those rare films of that type that actually is worth your time.

I guess I should eventually explain the picture, shouldn't I? I took it earlier in the summer, late one evening, mostly because the cloud shaped reminded me of the pictures you see of the exhaust plume dissipating after a shuttle or rocket launch. The fact that the Moon can be seen in the upper portion of the picture was an added bonus for me since I've always been a student of the Apollo era missions. I hope we go back to the Moon again in my lifetime. Being an astronaut on a trip to the Moon would be a dream job for me, but I'd happily enjoy it vicariously if we go back.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Little Literary Musing

Ah, it's been an exhausting Saturday. After driving nearly all the way to Bedford for my little cousin's birthday party we stopped by Lowe's on the way home for some supplies and spent the rest of the day moving couches, painting and wallpapering. Bethany and I put the last piece on the wall sometime after midnight.

So this morning we slept in, got some much needed laundry underway and put the kitchen back in as much order as we can with cement floors. At the moment there are potatoes baking in my oven. One of the highlights of yesterday for me was stopping at the Paperback Exchange on Williamson Road, which rarely fails to having something I want to read. I walked out with O'Brian's Post Captain, and though I wanted the next three in that series I settled on The Lando Calrissian Adventures, A King's Trade and The Dwarves. I'm discovering lately that I'm really enjoying historical fiction, particularly anything in the era of the Revolutionary War and naval adventures of the Napoleonic Wars. C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower introduced me to the adventures of the British Navy during the war and O'Brien continues to have me hooked, though to date I still prefer Forester's series. I've even delved into a little alternate history with the Temeraire series.

Fantasy as a genre is not losing it's appeal, but it's not drawing me in as it once did. There are some authors and worlds I follow closely, but lately my mind is bending more toward the historical with a dash of Star Wars and Star Trek thrown in. Beginning with the New Jedi Order, the Star Wars novels are amazingly dramatic and unpredictable and the current series, Fate of the Jedi, is living up to its predecessors. The Star Trek world has been revolutionized a bit in that the novels are picking up exactly where the TV shows and movies left off and taking them in entirely new, deeper directions. They tend to come out at a bit slower pace than the Star Wars books, but there is one or two novels in every series out at least every month. I'm building a stockpile of unread Trek against the day the mood hits me and I can settle in by the fire with some hot chocolate for a voyage to a strange new world.

In all this mess, my fall reading has continued to grow ever deeper. I have even rediscovered my love of used bookstores. For a long time, starting sometime during my college career, I wanted the books in my library to be all new and in pristine condition. And while I still do my best to keep them in good shape, I've rediscovered the love of used books at half price that allow me to get twice the bang for my buck. After all, books should be cherished and loved, regardless of the condition. I once had a copy of Jurassic Park that was so well read that I could tell you what page numbers were bent. I had a copy of The Hunt For Red October that fit my hands perfectly and I read until it fell apart. So instead of a new and pristine library full of hardbacks, I'm going to build it into a library stocked full of well worn and well loved stories that are as familiar as old friends. After all, I cry every time I read Flint's death in Dragons of Spring Dawning. My library needs to reflect those moments a little better.

So...yea...the picture I posted before all this literary rambling. It was taken Friday and it's of Roaring Run Creek. As a matter of fact this is the last picture I took before packing it because, to get it, I had to wade out into the creek and set my tripod up. It's an eleven minute exposure, which is ridiculously long, especially when you're standing calf-deep in cold water. The long exposure time was due to an almost closed canopy above me and a sun that was determined to hide behind what cloud cover there was as along as possible. There was abundant light to see by, but we all know cameras need more light than most of us realize.

Well it's at least two hours before dinner and I think I shall clean the ol' library a bit and see what Jack Aubrey, Master and Commander in His Majesty's Royal Navy, is doing to bedevil Napoleon's navy.