Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ranger Day


Got to have some butt-kickin-chicken earlier tonight while listenin' to a variety of small groups playing and singing bluegrass music. Yep, I was at a small-town wingding to bring folks together and raise a little money for the community center. (Small town = population of 85 within the metropolitan limits - I kid you not!)

But there are some great people who live in and around Ranger, and I had a really good time. And I have to say, I was really pleasantly surprised. While carrying my stuff into the building (folding table, boxes of books, etc.) I was asked by a teenager if I wanted any help, and he called me "sir!" It gave me a good feeling. And AFTERWARD when I was carrying the aforementioned stuff OUT of the building, a different teenager did the same thing, also with the same amount of respect! I smiled all the way home. As a one-time high school teacher, I sometimes despair of manners in adolescents, but this was a real encouragement!

Oh, and I got to sign and sell five books. Not a lot of books, you say. Well, true, but it's five more people who will read my work and possibly buy MORE of my work. It's five more books than I would have sold sitting on my duff at home. It's at least twenty more people who came up and looked at my table, had a discussion with me, and were surprised to know that we have (1) an author locally and (2) a publishing house located in the area. I think I'll get more than five book sales from the whole thing, truthfully.

Oh, and the bluegrass! I really like good pickin'. I'm not as fond of the twangy singing, but the guitar, banjo, mandolin and bass fiddle really get me going. And I got to observe, for the very first time, an actual cakewalk. How many of you have used the expression, or have seen it: "It's not a cakewalk!" Well, I've seen the expression many times, but never the root of it until tonight.

Met a very interesting fellow, Ken Conner, who is the pastor of a local Baptist church. He has an earned doctorate, and his hobby is creating beautiful handmade knives. Gorgeous pieces, lovingly prepared. We had a nice time talking about knifemaking, his time at The Bodleian Library while on a research grant at Oxford, and then his trip down the Nile to further his research.

One more great thing: No charge for the table space, no charge for the music. $6 for the plate with a HUGE piece of barbecued chicken, baked beans, french bread, chips, drink and a slice of cake. Can't beat that, either! YUMMY.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Life and wildlife

This Saturday I'll be selling and signing copies of my books Blinded By Darkness and A Wicked Good Play (I found a box of copies from the first printing in the back of a closet) at the Ranger Days celebration in Ranger, Georgia. I'll also be selling and signing copies of the anthology By the Chimney With Care, to raise money for Toys for Tots. I'll be there from 4:00 PM until at least 7:00, maybe later. Ranger is a tiny place, really, but some very fine folks live there. They recently rehabbed the old Ranger schoolhouse, and made it into a community center. They have done a fine job with it, and I'm proud to be part of the community.

Lara and I are making progress with the pump house for our well, but it started raining last night and it is still pouring, so I doubt I'll be working up there today.

While we were up there working yesterday, our dog (Buddy) surprised us. He is not a barker by habit, being half-Basenji. But at one point yesterday Lara and I heard what sounded like two large pieces of sheet metal being rubbed against each other. We looked at each other in puzzlement. We couldn't figure out if it was a dog barking or someone doing metalworking. Eventually I said, "That's a dog, and it sounds really upset!"

Now, we have coyotes in the area, as well as Ursus Americanus, or the black bear. I didn't know if it was Buddy or not, but I didn't want to think of Buddy getting eaten up by something, so I grabbed a gun from my vehicle and headed off to see what was going on. I followed the barking sound, and sure enough, it was Buddy. He was standing in the middle of a small pine thicket, trees about two inches in diameter at the most. He was looking up into the trees, occasionally jumping up to place his paws on one, obviously VERY interested in what was there.

I discovered the problem quickly enough. It was a groundhog, also known as a woodchuck. In this area of the U.S., it is also commonly called a whistlepig. Here is a picture of the little guy (or girl; I didn't get close enough to check.)

The whistlepig didn't seem all that upset by the attention it was getting. Very calm, all things considered. I stood watching him (I'm going to call it a him) for a while, and took a few pictures as you can see. He sat there ensconced in the pine branches, maybe twelve feet up in the air. He looked around, blinked occasionally, but otherwise made no sound or any indication of being perturbed. The little guy appeared to be in very good health, with lots of fat stored up for the winter. Must have weighed eight or ten pounds. Here's a close-up view:

I finally talked Buddy into leaving the whistlepig to mind its own business by making the point that his kibble at home did not bite back or have large claws. I believe he understood that, because (with a lot of longing looks over his shoulder) he reluctantly agreed to come along with me.

If you are in the Ranger area this coming weekend, I'd love to see you and sell you a book to support the Toys for Tots. I'll even sign the story I have in there for you!


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Life and other stuff...

Do you ever look at the calendar or clock and wonder, with a shock, where the heck the time has gone?

It's been a busy couple of weeks... but that's not new, now is it? Good busy, though.

Dear Lara (my wife) and I built a form and poured quite a bit of concrete, for the base of the pumphouse on our property. Lara is not a big lady, but I guess she's wiry—she helped me in the pouring process by hefting thirty-two 80-lb bags of concrete mix from the trailer over to near where I was working. (That's over 2500 pounds.) While she was bringing them, I was mixing them with a couple of gallons of water each, and pouring the resulting mixture into the form we had built. Add the weight of the water (8 pounds per gallon) and an extra 60-lb bag we added to finish things off, and it comes up to over 3,100 pounds of concrete we poured that day, by hand!

But enough about manual labor for the moment, although it got a little bit exciting yesterday when our Jeep was almost pushed into a ravine by a one-ton load of manure. (Don't ask...)

Anyway, the By the Chimney With Care anthology is doing well, but hey, why haven't YOU ordered your copy? This is for Toys for Tots, remember??

We have sold over 150 copies, but remember we have to pay for the printing and shipping, so that really isn't so much for the kids! We need to sell more, to make those Christmas mornings brighter for the kids. Come on, order a copy, either from me at Wolfmont Publishing or through your local bookstore or Amazon (ISBN 0-9778402-3-9). The shipping is included in the price from the publisher ($12.75 total), but the suggested retail is $10.95 without shipping.

Also, last week four of my authors (Sunny Frazier, John M. Floyd, Deborah Elliott-Upton and Frank Zafiro) and I were all participants in the Muse It Up First Annual Online Writers' Conference. Over 1,000 writers and publishers participated in this truly momentous , week-long, online event, and I believe Lea Schizas is planning on holding another one next year. If she does, and if you are a writer, want to be a writer, or want to improve your writing, you shouldn't miss it!

This past Thursday night I was the guest of the Long Ridge Writers' Group at their Thursday Night Professionals gathering, and we had a great time talking about the pleasures and pitfalls of small-press publishing, subsidy publishing, and publishing in general. The host, Mary Rosenblum, was quite gracious and everyone at the conference was eager to learn and ask questions.

Sunny Frazier and I are making definite headway on getting her debut novel, Fools Rush In, to market this winter. The ARCs have been ordered and should be here any time (crossing my fingers!)

Here's hoping you are having a wonderful October, and that All Hallows' Eve doesn't get too ghoulish for you.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Only a week, this time...

It's getting better, anyway, right? (Come on... nod your head yes... there, thanks!)

A couple of things to announce:

1. The short fiction contest I ran on my ezine website has finished its course, and the winners have been announced. I'll be posting the winning stories in a day or two. Many thanks to Warner Bros. for their contribution of the prizes!

2. The crime and mystery anthology I've been working on to benefit the Toys for Tots, is ready for order! It's titled By the Chimney With Care, and has some fantastic stories in it. The coolest thing is that it was conceived and produced entirely for one purpose: to benefit the Toys for Tots. That's where the net profits will go! I'd love it if you bought a copy, or ten, for yourself or for gifts for others. Go check it out and if you'd like to feed your desire for good short fiction while helping some kids to have a brighter Christmas morning, well... You know what to do.