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July 2008:
Raging Waters, Burning Questions
Posted by JVJ @ 9:52 am
July 30th : 2008

The tiny creek at the bottom of the yard? This was it on Sunday during the hailstorm. Not surprisingly this water ends up in the Hudson River. A couple of miles north the creek drains into the Mohawk and then, fifteen miles east, the Mohawk joins the Hudson at Troy.

As I'm now doing a weekly post answering readers' questions, feel free to send me some. I can't guarantee I'll answer all questions, but I do read all emails.
Hailstones
Posted by JVJ @ 7:02 am
July 29th : 2008
Hailstones the size of postage stamps bombarded the car on the drive back from Hadley Luzerne on Sunday. Trees were whipping in the wind, pine cones were flying across the road, visibility was reduced to the distance between driver and windshield. It was like driving through an obstacle course. Plants in the yard were flattened, the creek was doing its best impression of "white water rapids", and the lawn was littered with giant hailstones that were busy melting in 75F.
Hudson Rising
Posted by JVJ @ 7:28 am
July 28th : 2008
On the weekend I drove up to Hadley Luzerne which is located on the southern tip of the Adirondack Park. That's the Hudson River you're looking at. Yep, the one that flows between Manhattan and New Jersey. Here we're 150 miles upstream. Unusually heavy rainfall means that the river is riding 20 feet above normal in many places. An hour earlier and a couple of miles upriver, I went tubing. The guide said the river is flowing at five times it's normal rate. I've never moved so fast in an inner tube. The banks were a blur.
Grossing Self Out
Posted by Biggie @ 10:51 pm
July 26th : 2008
East meets West
Posted by JVJ @ 7:54 pm
July 25th : 2008
It's been raining so much here that the East Coast is beginning to look decidedly West Coast. Cascades, rainforests, redwoods? No, the photo was taken this morning at the bottom of the yard. It's pretty much rained every day for a month. The creek rose two feet, the roof's leaking, thunder's starting up again...
Bugs Continue Astronomy
Posted by JVJ @ 10:18 pm
July 24th : 2008

Not only have bugs learned astronomy, they are now using it as a medium of communication. This evidence comes from my pasty, bug-bitten right arm. To anyone with a passing familiarity with the night sky it's obvious: the constellation of Cassiopeia.
Only last week the bugs communicated Ursa Minor. This week Cassiopeia. There can only be one conclusion. Bugs are no longer randomly charting the stars. They are communicating the position of their homeworld. Cassiopeia and Ursa Minor are found in close proximity in the northern sky. Somewhere between Polaris and the subgiant Gamma Cas lies the bug solar system. For the folks at N.A.S.A. who regularly monitor this site: Send a probe. And some Lanacane.
Warning: This is not a real book
Posted by JVJ @ 6:35 am
July 24th : 2008

This is a photo I took on self-timer last week by Crow Lake, with some text laid over it in Photoshop. The photo itself hasnít been modified--thatís how it turned out. When I saw it I thought, "This looks kind of spooky." The red sweater in the foreground, the out-of-focus stick-figure walking toward the lake, the deep shadow created by the edge of the float.

It looks to me as if this is the last time weíll be seeing the woman in blue. It looks as if Waterís Edge will deal with the mystery of her disappearance. The detective assigned to the case will have the red sweater as evidence and nothing but two conflicting eyewitness accounts of the womanís last movements to go on. As yet no body has been found. Is it foul play? Misadventure? Suicide? Or has she simply taken off, run away from her troubled life?

Who knows. Maybe one day Iíll write Waterís Edge and answer those burning questions.
Tor Goes Live
Posted by JVJ @ 7:44 am
July 22nd : 2008

My US publisher Tor has just unveiled their fab new website. You can download books for free, read insider blogs, listen to writers read their work and other cool stuff. Head over to Tor.com and take a look.
Bees Bumbling
Posted by JVJ @ 5:28 pm
July 21st : 2008

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed there's a lot of bumblebees around this year? I wonder if their numbers are rising, and if so is it related to the honey bees' demise? Don't know. Do know that there's one scrawny-looking flower in the yard that's an absolute bee magnet. Forget the roses, the sunflowers, the dahlias and day lilies. Bees don't go on looks. Bees like Ver(bee)na.
Email Question
Posted by JVJ @ 11:25 am
July 18th : 2008

Can I get a hardback edition of The Baker's Boy? -Brent M

The Baker's Boy was my first book, published in 1995 in the U.S. It came out in trade paperback format, which is the same size as a hardback but with a soft cover. No U.S. hardcover of The Baker's Boy exists. If you own a copy of the original trade paperback, however, count yourself lucky. Only 5,000 were printed and they sold out. One in excellent condition now sells for more than triple its original cover price.

I only possess one of them. This is a source of regret for me as I received a box of twenty four upon publication. I gave twenty three of them away. Some in contests on this very website (we've been running since 1994), some to family, some to friends, one to the guy who fixed my car, one to Lonnie of the great quarterhorse debacle, one to a US customs officer and so on. You get the idea. There were a couple of months back then when just passing me in the street meant there was a possibility of a free book. I've since learned that the 1st edition of a writer's first book is usually the most collectible he or she will ever publish. Writers might go on to great success, selling hundrerds of thousands of books, but there's only ever one 1st edition.
Readers Questions is a new feature where we attempt to answer readers email questions on a weekly basis.
This is getting silly
Posted by JVJ @ 12:27 am
July 17th : 2008

Another day another snake in the house. Biggie brings Ďem in. I take Ďem out. Finally I have the answer to that time-honored question: "What can I use my fireplace tools for in summer when itís too hot for a fire?" Snake wrangling, my friend. Snake wrangling. That cutesy long-handled shovel finally comes into its own.
Sunset of the Month
Posted by JVJ @ 12:05 am
July 16th : 2008
This month's Sunset of the Month comes to us courtesy of Ontario, Canada. In a hotly contested field of sunflares, up-lit clouds and golden light, Ontario pulled out all the stops. "We ran the numbers," said an Ontario Sunset spokesman who preferred to remain mysterious and full of wonder. "It turns out that eight out of ten past Sunset of the Month winners featured water prominently in the foreground. Stats like that you canít fight. Donít get me wrong--you can win with a land-based sunset but youíre peddling uphill from the start." When asked what set the Ontario sunset apart from other water-based sunsets, the source was quick to respond. "Teal was our secret weapon. It's an old-school color--most kids these days haven't even heard of it--and we had a hunch the time was right to bring it back."
In the Interest of Fairness
Posted by JVJ @ 12:21 am
July 15th : 2008

I give you this, the eggplant flower as photographed this morning. Ugly name, ugly bud thing, pretty bloom. Now we can see why Jefferson grew them for ornamental value. And btw, the pretty name used by Brits and other Europeans--aubergine? It's derived from a Sanskrit word meaning to "cure wind".

The eggplant is full of surprises. And of course, it's a fruit, not a vegetable.
Rambo Vs. Predator
Posted by JVJ @ 12:02 am
July 14th : 2008

After getting soaked on my bike ride yesterday morning, I warmed up with a little TV. As luck would have it, two of my favorite movies were playing back-to-back on Spike TV: Predator and First Blood. Filmed in 1982, First Blood predates Predator by five years, and watching them you can't help but realize that Predator owes a debt to First Blood. One man alone in the wilderness (Cascade Mountains vs Central American jungle) outgunned by a superior force. They're both about prey turning the tables on their predators. And innocent men unjustly/randomly targeted.
People used to laugh at me when I told them that First Blood, starring Sylvester Stallone, was one of my favorite movies. Well, I just watched it for the first time in ten years and I stick by my vote. John Rambo, Viet vet and drifter, is one of the great movie heroes of all time.
No Prize For Guessing
Posted by JVJ @ 7:18 pm
July 12th : 2008

What is this thing? Medieval torture device? Deep sea anemone? Alien pod thing? No, no and no. This is a budding eggplant. Along with tomatoes, I planted four eggplant plants (did that sound awkward to you too?). They're just beginning to fruit and frankly they're starting to scare me.

Now, Forgetful Queen of Trivia that I am, I feel impelled to impart some eggplant facts. Eggplants are a member of the Deadly Nightshade family which, not surprisingly, accounts for the bad rap they received for many centuries. Europeans called them "mad apples" as they believed anyone who ate them fell insane. The Spanish, lone holdouts, staunchly believed they were aphrodisiacs and preferred the name "love apples" instead. Although the English were responsible for the rather--let's face it--ugly name eggplant, Brits now prefer to call them by their stylish European name: aubergine. It was Thomas Jefferson, no less, who introduced the eggplant to America in 1806. Prizing them for their ornamental value, it's unclear if he actually ate one. Looking at the photo I snapped this afternoon, my guess is that one of these beauties never passed the presidential lips.
Snakes and Redheads
Posted by JVJ @ 9:22 pm
July 11th : 2008

This fetching lady is on the cover of Part 2 of the French edition of The Barbed Coil (La Peinture De Sang) which will be published in September. Tessa is running across a causeway as the tide is coming in while wearing an extremely low cut dress. As the book's writer, I don't recall specifying a low cut dress, but I do see that it adds an additional peril to the scene.

Talking of additional peril, Biggie brought in another snake this morning. This one was a foot-and-a-halfer and mad as dirt. Biggie wanted to play. Snake didn't. Snake won.
Clear Water
Posted by JVJ @ 7:53 pm
July 10th : 2008

Here I am staring at the lake. It was like looking through glass. After a few minutes fish began to gather beneath me, and as I walked along the dock they followed, very much looking as if they were begging for snacks.
One of the reasons the water is so clear is the dreaded zebra mussel. These invaders from the Black and Caspian Seas filter up to a litre of lake water per day. They're filtering for phytoplankton, which unfortunately means there's less biomass for native species--most especially the shrimp-like Diporeia which many fish depend upon for food. Zebra mussels were first discovered in Lake St. Claire near Detroit in 1998. Once you learn that a female mussel can produce up to a million eggs per season you won't be surprised by how far these invaders have come in ten years. Theyíve been recorded as far south as New Orleans and as far west as Hollister, California. Check out the link on your right to see if zebra mussels are lurking in a lake or river near you.
Bugs Learn Astronomy
Posted by JVJ @ 10:18 pm
July 9th : 2008

Keen fans of SF will note the nod to Terry Bisson in this post's title. Bisson's short story Bears Discover Fire is a classic. If you haven't read it, search it out. It's well worth your time. In the story, bears literally discover how to make fire. I think I may have come across an eerily similar evolution at the weekend. Take a gander at the photo of my pale and pasty bug-bitten right calf. Does it not remind you of something? Say the constellation of Ursa Minor? I thought so. The evidence speaks for itself: mosquitoes have learned astronomy.
Trade Offs
Posted by JVJ @ 9:03 pm
July 8th : 2008
You have to go through that to get to this:
Sunday Morning
Posted by JVJ @ 8:07 pm
July 7th : 2008
This is what I was doing early Sunday morning. The lake was glassy, the loons were silent, and dragonflies darted across the surface of the water.
Off to Canada
Posted by JVJ @ 5:24 pm
July 4th : 2008

I'm heading North for the weekend, up to central Ontario lake country. Looking forward to it. I have bug spray but no suntan lotion: I think that should cover it.
Ver is de Predator?
Posted by JVJ @ 8:41 pm
July 3rd : 2008
*Predator is one of the author's favorite movies
Green tomatoes
Posted by JVJ @ 8:12 pm
July 3rd : 2008

Not much of a green thumb. I like gardens, but I've long since given up on gardening. Lawncare is a problem. It never ends. Same with weeding. And pruning. However three weeks ago, for the first time ever, I planted tomatoes. Now one of my favorite parts of the day is the afternoon tomato count and inspection. These babies can grow. From tiny yellow flowers to this in under twenty-one days. Pretty impressive.
Jazz Fest
Posted by JVJ @ 10:05 pm
July 1st : 2008
On Sunday I stopped by Saratoga's Jazz Festival. It was hot and muggy, but it didn't rain--despite dire predictions from gleeful weather forecasters. I arrived in time to see the wonderful Diane Reeves, before hopping over to the gazebo to hear the final tune by the Brubeck Quartet. From there it was back to the main stage to see a little of Boney James (not to be confused with Boney M) and back to the gazebo for the Aaron Goldberg trio. The night ended with the O'Jays. They performed all their big hits: Money, Backstabbers, Love Train, I Love Music. Brilliant Philly sounds, all of them (Gamble & Huff, and McFadden & Whitehead were four of the best songwriters working in the 70s). I did miss Ship Ahoy, Keep Smilin', and Livin' for the Weekend though.
One snake, one Biggie: It was only a matter of time
Posted by JVJ @ 9:07 pm
July 1st : 2008
*Snake was succesfully wrangled from building by nervous author
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