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June 2008:
Posted by JVJ @ 1:52 pm
June 30th : 2008
I caught his guy hanging around the bushes yesterday. Rain had driven him off the ground and into the yew. There he rested, milky blue eyes unblinking, and waited for the dragonflies to come.
Squirrel hunt unsuccessful
Posted by Biggie @ 7:01 am
June 29th : 2008
Fern Meadows
Posted by JVJ @ 12:08 am
June 27th : 2008

While walking the Taconic Crest trail on Saturday I ran across something I'd never encountered before: fern meadows. Here on the eastern border of NY state, ferns are no longer relegated to growing beneath trees and begging for light. Here they grow in clearings in full sun.
Getting really hungry now
Posted by Biggie @ 12:02 am
June 26th : 2008
I beg your pardon
Posted by JVJ @ 6:34 am
June 25th : 2008

I never promised you a rose garden. But here's one anyway, in NY state's lesser known Central Park (Schenectady) on the longest day of the year--Sunday. For those young 'uns who don't understand the title and first line of this post, they refer to the song Rose Garden as sung by Lynn Anderson. It was a mainstay of our pub jukebox for years (alongside many other classic C&W hits--Liverpool loves C&W) and one of Mum's favorites. So I dedicate this post to Margaret Jones. Hi, Mum.
Celtic Fling
Posted by JVJ @ 10:10 pm
June 23rd : 2008

On Friday evening I attended the 1st Annual Schenectady Celtic Festival. Scottish bagpipers, Irish bands and Welsh cookies were all all present and accounted for (if a cookie can be said to be present, that is). After playing a couple of tunes, the bagpipers headed straight for the beer tent for some much needed refreshment.
Taconic Crest
Posted by JVJ @ 11:32 pm
June 22nd : 2008
Here I am yesterday on the Taconic Crest trail on the MA/NY border. The trail also enters nearby Vermont so I visited three states in all. My destination was the infamous snow hole which is a fissure in the rock that houses snow and ice year round. I'm pleased to report that on the 22nd of June there was indeed snow. Not much, as the photo to the left attests. But snow...on an eighty degree day. Wild blueberry bushes, fern meadows, and views of lush green hills made for the perfect day.
Forced to forage for food
Posted by Biggie @ 8:56 pm
June 20th : 2008

SFX Poll
Posted by JVJ @ 8:22 pm
June 19th : 2008

SFX Magazine have published the results of their "Best SF and Fantasy writers of all time" poll. Terry Pratchett, J.R.R .Tolkien and Neil Gaiman top the list. Itís interesting reading and, with all such lists, a little frustrating too. You canít help thinking that the greats and your own personal favorites should be higher, and that glaring omissions have been made. Still itís good to see Ursula K. LeGuin at 11, Robin Hobb at 21 and Marion Zimmer Bradley at 65: all fantasy writers I love. Heinlein is at 15, Arthur C. Clarke at 18, and Frank Herbert at 14: all SF writers I love (LeGuin writes SF too). Bester at 69 and Orwell at 78, though? C'mon people. What were you thinking? These writers were geniuses. And what about 82? Whatís she doing on the list? Follow the link to your right to see the whole thing.
Waiting for deer
Posted by JVJ @ 1:03 pm
June 18th : 2008

Armed with field glasses, camera and super still sitting stance, I wait for the deer to come. It's 5pm and there's tasty grazing on the other side of the creek. I'm pestered by mosquitoes and all manner of biting things...but still I wait. Patient. Hopeful. Itchy.
The Hotties
Posted by JVJ @ 11:54 am
June 17th : 2008

Last month I told you about Rainhill and the invention of float glass. The firm that owns the patent is Pilkington. Their main glass-manufacturing plant is in St. Helens, a couple of miles from where I grew up. Dad worked for Pilkington in the 70s. As a kid I was fascinated by the length of the St. Helens Canal that runs alongside the Pilkington plant and is known as "The Hotties".
Hot water pumped out by the plant makes it an ideal spot for year-round angling. Twenty pound carp have been pulled from the thin strip of water. In my day the canal was home to several species of tropical fish--no one could work out how they got there. It was always interesting to drive above The Hotties and see the anglers sitting in steam below, with one of the largest manufacturing plants in the UK sprawled out around them.
Eaten Alive
Posted by JVJ @ 12:14 pm
June 16th : 2008

Iíd forgotten what summers on the East Coast are like. Humidity, thunder storms and things that bite. The West Coast mosquito is a laid back "catch you later" kinda dude. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest) her bites produce Level 1 discomfort. Her East Coast compadres, by contrast, are lean, mean and hungry. They hone in on their target like WW1 flying aces and the aftershock of their bites last for days. Currently Iím experiencing Level 8 discomfort. When the flea bites, gnat bites and no-see-um bites are factored into the equation that tops me up to Level 10. I look like I have the measles. Currently the only thing standing between me and an itching frenzy is this keyboard and half a Benadryl.
Chipmunk in the sun
Posted by JVJ @ 11:10 am
June 14th : 2008

Things are buzzing here. Wild turkeys, deer, chipmunks, woodpeckers, robins, bluebirds, wood thrushes, finches. It's a birders paradise. I'm not getting many good photos as those pesky birds keep flitting behind foliage. There's a lot of foliage. Even the sedate and slow-stepping giant turkeys have been foiling my lens. Not quite sure how. The only thing I'm left with is this nervous little chipmunk.
Posted by JVJ @ 9:00 am
June 13th : 2008

Beginning writers can be nervous about copyright. It's a common misconception that work must be submitted to some official body or stamped with a copyright symbol in order to be protected. This is not true. Copyright is simple: you write it, and whatever it is you've written is automatically copyrighted until 70 years after your death. No copyright notice is required. Your work must be written (or painted or sculpted or photographed etc). It can't simply be an idea or a conversation about an idea (unless it's taped). It must have tangible form. Once it has tangible form, say words on a page, it's yours and you have exclusive rights to reproduce it. Practically speaking this means that you don't need a copyright notice on your manuscript or partial. It's not considered good form. Professional editors and agents know the law.
Three deer
Posted by JVJ @ 09:54 am
June 12th : 2008

A quick half an hour walk in the woods yesterday evening and I spotted three deer. Two were just on the other side of the path, concealed by bushes and when I got too close they spooked and ran. This one was standing just ahead of me, and we watched each other warily for a while until I broke the spell by taking this photo.
Posted by JVJ @ 10:09 am
June 11th : 2008

I'm back on the East Coast, just in time to enjoy the last hours of the heatwave and its spectacular, thunder-and-lightning fueled end. Here's a photo I snapped as the plane was cruising north above the Hudson at 5:30 last night.
Queen of the Night
Posted by JVJ @ 7:27 pm
June 10th : 2008

Flying East today, but thought I'd leave you with this, a photo I took yesterday. It only blooms for a short time each year, and it does so stealthily, in the dark. By day its tiny buds are curled up so tightly you wouldn't know they were there. It's the night blooming jasmine, Queen of the Night, and as I stepped outside last night I smelled it. That's the giveaway, the scent. A dull greenish-white flower, made for moonlight and moths, with a scent so strong it alters thoughts. Walking past the exact same plant this morning--nothing. The scent, like the flowers, had withdrawn.
Someone's got to do it
Posted by JVJ @ 1:41 pm
June 9th : 2008

Gardening. Here it is, photographic proof that Biggie and I were out gardening on Sunday. The grass has been weed-whacked (it was too long for mowing) and the dueling bushes have been trimmed. Still can't see out of the dining room window but as I'm leaving for the East Coast on Tuesday I don't suppose that will bother me much.
Contest Winners
Posted by JVJ @ 12:05 am
June 7th : 2008

After a long hard day at the bench wearing itchy robes and a lambswool wig, I am ready to pass my pronouncement. It was a tough job, presenting a difficult dilemma: how to pick just two winners from a field of darn good entries. Ireland, South Africa, Namibia, Australia, Germany and Canada were just some of the countries we heard from (Iím using the judicial "we" now). Fascinating facts about bears, Bonnie & Clyde, oil derricks, gold mining, George Orwell, the Iditarod, marshlands, Napoleon, and cattle stampedes were furnished for the judgeís consideration. All very fine indeed. However, the winners are:
  • MissMaggie from Milwaukee Wisconsin. Although not the only entry from Milwaukee, MissMaggie set herself apart from the crowd by going beyond the world of beer and mentioning the worldís largest fish fry, Glenn Close, and 20,000 gallons of raw sewage. Thatís a winner if ever I read one.
  • Quixoticfruit from Walvis Bay, Namibia. Quixoticfruit claimed the prize by mentioning burning fish, uranium mining, a woozy boyfriend, and Welwitschia, a strange thousand-year-old, two-leafed plant. Another outstanding entry.
You can read all the entries in the Home Town forum on the messageboard. Signed books will be going out to both contestants. This was so much fun I think Iíll run another contest soon. Stay tuned, and thanks to everyone who entered!
US Paperback
Posted by JVJ @ 12:04 am
June 6th : 2008

Here's the cover flat for the US paperback edition of A Sword From Red Ice. The book itself should be out in late October. If you can't wait that long, the hardback is still available.
Let the judging begin
Posted by JVJ @ 12:16 am
June 5th : 2008

In addition to modeling the new and eye-catching British judicial robe (yes, they updated it in 2008--apparently the wig is shorter), I'm preparing to judge the home town contest. The contest ends midnight tonight so if you haven't already entered, hurry up (*click the link on your right). I have a gavel and know how to use it.

And while I'm wearing the robe of authority: Sending animal feed through the US Post is a Federal Offense. Or should be.

*The competition has now closed. Thanks to all who entered!
Odd and ends
Posted by JVJ @ 12:02 am
June 4th : 2008

First of all, I canít help myself. I must repost the official police sketch of the flying saucer that landed in my home town. Come on, cut me some slack--the name Rainhillís on the sketch. To accompany it, Iím posting the official police report (which really is new).

1645 hours. 11/01/78. Location Ė Rainhill near St Helens. Following a number of reports by members of the public in the January period, two uniformed officers, PC LOWE and PC ROBERTS of the Prescott Division, observed a brilliant white light hovering over the Bold Power Station. After approximately 10 seconds the UFO zoomed at speed toward the Fiddlers Ferry Power Station where it stopped and hovered once more. The object then began to pulsate and after a few seconds the object appeared in the form of an inverted 'T' that glowed brightly. After a further 20 seconds the UFO streaked out of view travelling vertically into the sky. From being low in the sky to becoming a pinpoint of light high in the sky took literally a second. On Duty sighting. 2 Officers.

Second, do not send crunchies. All crunchies will be confiscated upon receipt.
Quantum entanglement
Posted by JVJ @ 12:08 am
June 3rd : 2008

As weíve been talking about spooky occurrences (the flying saucer landing in Rainhill) now seems a good time to mention one of my current interests: quantum entanglement. First, I donít claim to understand it, but I do think itís pretty neat. Arthur C. Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." This quote applies in spades to quantum entanglement.
For those who donít know much about it, head over here for a nontechnical, non-mathematical primer. Essentially, when a single photon is split into two photons they become entangled and thatís where the "spooky action" starts. Before being measured neither photon A nor photon B have a spin--merely a probability. Measure the spin of photon A though and photon Bís spin immediately becomes the opposite--no matter how great the distance between A and B. How is this so? No one knows for sure. Spooky indeed.
A message from your sponsor
Posted by Biggie @ 12:14 am
June 2nd : 2008
Where Do Ideas Come From?
Posted by JVJ @ 12:04 am
June 1st : 2008

A Japanese TV show from the 1970s. The Water Margin was shown in the UK between 1976-78. It had a great theme tune, an epic scale, and fabulously accoutered warriors and bandits (it was based on a classic Chinese novel from the thirteenth century). As a kid I watched it every week.
As I watched this video I realized The Water Margin had a small but distinct influence on The Sword of Shadows series. I named the Storm Margin in honor of the title (which Iíd always thought was cool), but what I hadnít realized is that the Sull owe a debt to the outlaw warriors of the Song Dynasty. A little bit of their "last-stand" mentality found its way into the Sull culture.
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