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.