Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back From ConCarolinas

The con started out slow for me, but picked up nicely yesterday. Sold some books, yakked on panels, got with friends. Possible new development on the writing frontier as well. Last night, I discovered a decent Thai restaurant and found time to take a couple-mile hike and grab a half-dozen nearby caches. (Of course, on the way home today, I bagged another 25.)

Oddest thing lately, though. When I least expect it, my car pulls into a Taco Bell and orders something for me. I don't get it. Stupid damned car.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

At ConCarolinas This Weekend...

I'll be a guest at ConCarolinas in Charlotte this weekend (Saturday 5/30 and Sunday 5/31), so come see me. I'll be on several panels and have several of my books available (most at a special con discount rate). I will not be there tomorrow night (Friday), alas.

Here's my schedule as it stands now:

Saturday, 5/30
10:00 AM—"After the Writing Is Done"
1:00 PM—"What Editors Want"
9:00 PM—"Wait Until Dark"
10:00 PM—"The Horror, The Horror"

Sunday, 5/31
11:00 AM—"Creating Gods"

The con is at the Hilton University Place, 8629 JM Keynes Drive, Charlotte, NC 28262, (704) 547-7444. Other guests include Katherine Kurtz (writer GOH), Alan Welch (artist GOH), Travis Taylor, James Maxey, Tony Ruggerio, Ed Schubert, and James Robert Smith (co-editor of Evermore).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Deer Island

It's become an annual tradition to spend Memorial Day weekend camping on Deer Island at Philpott Lake, VA, along with a mess o' friends. Done and done. Good weather, good food, good friends. One of the highlights for me was hiking Deer Island end to end. The island is a mile long and about a half mile wide, and I pretty much went around the circumference. It's also steeper than all getout. Several times, I reached a point and looked up, expecting to see sky. Nope; just more nearly vertical hillside. Undaunted, I went on until I reached the southernmost end.

Then I had to hike back.

It never felt so good to get off my feet—until after this morning's hike, which was only about half as long but twice as steep. Hoo! This morning, though, there was a geocache waiting for me at the end of it. Yep.

Click to enlarge pics.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Are You a phD YET?

Geocaching has introduced me to a vast number of interesting, talented, and all-around wonderful people. Just over a year ago, while on the hunt for a cache, I ran into a friendly cache-hunter who went by the name UNCGBogTurtle (whose real name is Beth, but don't repeat this, as it's a dirty little secret). Turns out she was a friend of a friend—who, quite coincidentally, is also a cacher (Cupdaisy, a.k.a. Ermengarde). So the lot of us went on a big old nighttime cache outing, which proved to be just a wee bit on the fun side. Then we up and did it again...and again. Before I knew it, we were getting together regularly, along with another friend, Geodogg (whom I will call Climbacus, though his real name is Joe). During this period, Ms Bog Turtle was laboring diligently to earn her phD in geography.

Well, at last, she has done this thing. Yesterday at their place, Beth and her husband, Al, hosted a graduation party that included family, friends, and the caching cadre. (That's Ms Bog Turtle in the photo above, along with an old fart and Mrs Death, in case there's any ambiguity.) Nice affair, for sure. The sad part of all this is that Beth has accepted a position at an institution of higher learning far, far away, and she and Al will be leaving all too soon.

Over the past few months, Beth and Al have become such good friends to Peg and me that, despite our best hopes and wishes for her success, I fear we are going to be very glum cachers indeed. In the relatively short time we've known them, it feels like we've shared many years' worth of adventures—experiencing new places, sharing life stories, conquering fears, and re-energizing ourselves when life's burdens have grown heavy. I mean, wow. Among the many wonderful friends I've made over the years, there are few with whom I have experienced so much life in so brief a time.

Of course, we wish them every success in their new home, and particularly Beth as she embarks on a whole new stage of her career, in brand new, distant digs. But we're going to miss you peoples like we've missed few others. I hope that, somewhere down the line, we'll all be back together for the long haul, and we can take up our adventures right where we left off. Y'all do mean the world.

Here's looking till then.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fireman in the House!

Blogging, Facebooking, My Spacing, Tweeting, etc., etc., have not entirely slipped out of my repertoire, but daily activities and responsibilities have relegated them to a less-than-prominent role in the schedule. So I hope there's a soul or two out there still giving the old blog a look-see now and again, as I do like to post a little note here from time to time—even if it's just to jog my own fawlty memory when I try to recollect events from more than a few hours ago.

I'm a day late posting an entry I don't want to let fall by the wayside. Wednesday night, whatever date that was, I drove over to Winston-Salem to watch a performance at the Garage—a neat little hole in the wall that offers a showcase for a lot of local talent. It was a 20-minute set by a strangely familiar-looking dude who, on stage, goes by the name of Joe the Fireman, though who, in day-to-day life, goes by the name of Phred—which to some might seem odd since his actual name is Alan. (I hope to his fans that this is not a shattering revelation.) Yeah, he's my brudda.

Over the years, I've watched Phred develop as a serious musician—just as he's seen me grow as a writer of scary fiction. He makes a fair racket with that guitar and voice of his, and he's been known to wail out some original tunes that are heartfelt, personally revealing, and musically haunting. I've seen him play, like, lots, but the other night, I saw a truly professional, dedicated musician with a stage presence that captivated everyone in the place. This ain't just tooting the boy's horn, as I imagine you're aware. Anybody who's read my views, here or elsewhere, on the creative output of others, be they friends, relatives, foes, or otherwise, know they can expect from me an honest appraisal. It's safe to say that, in his old age (or is it my old age?), Phred has really come into his own as both a composer and performer. He brings with him a touch of Neil Young, Michael Stipe, Lou Reed, Colin Meloy, and even Springsteen (on thunder-stormy days, anyway). I was taken enough with his work several years ago to include lyrics from a couple of his songs in my novel, The Lebo Coven.

I'm sure they love him at the Garage as he brings them in a fair bit of business. If you're anywhere within range of the NC Triad, keep an eye out for where he's going to be and then come for a visit. You can listen to Phred/Joe/Rainey the Younger at MySpace Music, here:

Bad thing did happen to me coming back from the show, however. I stopped off to grab a few geocaches, and one of them was behind Taco Bell. Now, I haven't been to Taco Bell in probably five years. Swore off the stuff, even. But it was going on midnight, and before I knew it, my car had pulled into the drive-thru and ordered a soft taco. Now I tell you, people, I took that soft taco, went and parked near the next cache, and I commenced to eating. Oh my lord, and this is tearing me up, it was good. I was out there hollering, signing the cache log, and praying to the good lord that I don't develop some kind of new, horrendous addiction, as there's a Taco Bell not that far down the road.

Nah. Ain't never gonna happen.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Trekkin' Across the Universe

I've always had something of a soft spot for Star Trek. Grew up on the original series, enjoyed most of the movies, thought The Next Generation was usually okay. Couldn't get into Deep Space 9, Voyager, or Enterprise. Had lukewarm feelings about this new movie from the get-go, figuring it was time (and then some) to maybe just leave the whole thing alone. I had to admit, though, the trailers started looking pretty tantalizing. The brief glimpses of the characters suggested that the new actors might be nailing the familiar roles pretty well. On the other hand, the Red-Barchetta-esque chase across the Iowa plain and the big-ass critter chasing Kirk through an icy wasteland looked pretty well groan-inducing.

So I went to the theater today for the first time since Quantum of Solace came out, feeling reasonably generous toward cinematic endeavors since my daughter was home for the weekend and wanted to see it as well.

The first half proved to be quite engaging, as the characters sure enough became themselves. I had no trouble at all believing that Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban really were Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, respectively, in their younger years. Urban in particular nails Bones like nobody's business. There might have been a few too many utterances of "Damn it, Jim, I'm a doctor," but Urban was otherwise so good in the part I could overlook this without grumbling.

It was obvious early on, though, that this was one of those movies where something fast and loud has to be happening at every moment. Personally, I tend to prefer movies that stop to breathe every now and then, but figuring that this wasn't in the cards, I just adjusted. I knew in advance, too, something about the plot and where it was going to lead. Time travel. Oy. Again. I didn't like the idea beforehand, and upon reflection, I like it even less now. I have an aversion to most time travel tales—although there are certainly exceptions, such as The Terminator series and J. J. Abrams's own Lost. However, mucking around so fundamentally with Trek's origins somehow seems particularly egregious, even to me, a mere casual fan of the series.

Well, still. It all proved to be a pretty fun movie, albeit loaded with too much video-game-style imagery and effects. The nods to the original show were mostly spot-on, and I'm very glad the actors reflected the portrayals of the original cast without resorting to parody. Simon Pegg as Scotty came pretty close to going over the top, but then, for Scotty, that didn't seem much out of place. He brought some welcome levity to the proceedings.

Overall, I'm going to give Star Trek a B, as it really was a fun couple of hours. For the more dedicated fan of the series, a serious adjusting of mindset might be in order, but if one can do this, I think a good time might be manageable. And of course there's Leonard Nimoy on board to add a sense of "authenticity" to the production.

It ain't the Star Trek of old, but neither does it flop at capturing some of the show's most distinctive aspects—at least in the character department. I reckon I'll pick up the DVD when it comes out, for whatever that's worth.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Somewhere My Love and the Old Dude

A nice birthday surprise for the old man—my story, "Somewhere My Love," is now posted in issue #12 of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. He even does a reading of the story, which I did not expect, and it's extremely well done. Also to my surprise was the fact that it's illustrated by Nick Greenwood, whom I used to work with at The Education Center here in Greensboro. Many thanks to Mr. Card and editor Ed Schubert for a fine job—and so nicely timed to elevate the old dude's spirits. The whole issue is available for just $2.50 at Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show.

Apparently, Mrs. Death has a little something planned for this evening, though she isn't sharing very much. That Mrs. Death.

Actually, my first official act for my birthday was getting first-to-find on a new cache that came out last night. After a big old hike/bushwhack yesterday afternoon, I was pretty zonked and I figured I'd skip it and just go to bed. However, I quickly came to my senses, went, out and snagged it at 12:50 AM. Nice present.