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Sept 2008:
Snatched from the jaws of death
Posted by JVJ @ 12:17 pm
Sept 29th : 2008
Eggplant #1 is in the house. Small but exquisitely purple, he never managed to outgrow his “Prince” stage and has struggled to meet weight requirements to qualify for the title Eggplant King. This doesn’t bother Eggplant #1 however as he’s secure in his own antioxidant-rich skin. “I’ve been put on a pedestal all my life,” he said, commenting from said pedestal. “And from here I can see that although I might be small, at least I’m perfectly formed.”

Meanwhile, Eggplant #2 is left to rot on the vine. Refusing to comment on his brother’s elevated status, Eggplant #2 was last heard talking to himself about sharp instruments. “This is getting Shakespearean,” warned head gardener J.V. Jones. “If I was Eggplant #1 I’d be watching my back.”
Waterfall Weekend
Posted by JVJ @ 10:44 am
Sept 27th : 2008
You know the drill. The first photo is the final shot from Letchworth Park, land of a million waterfalls (okay 50). And from there we swing a couple of hundred miles south and east to the Catskills, and this roadside beauty.
Email Question
Posted by JVJ @ 10:52 am
Sept 26th : 2008
What religion did the concept of the guidestone come from? -Phil A
My starting point was the stone circles of Scotland, Ireland and England. I'd seen Stonehenge and several other circles and the sheer mass of them struck me. Here was something powerful, primitive and deeply mysterious. I think anyone, anywhere, regardless of where in the world they live or what culture they come from, can understand the monoliths. As religious icons, they're starkly simple and enduring.
Before I began the Sword of Shadows series, I researched the cultures that constructed the circles. Very little is known about how the circles were utilized, as most date between 7,000 and 3,000 B.C. So I began speculating. If a community possessed a stone monolith, how would they use it? It would be sacred, revered, immovable. But what if the holy man who performed rites with the stone was also a mason? He or she could carve and grind the the stone. Ground stone could be easily transported. Warriors might carry a pouch filled with stone powder into war. Farmers might scatter it with grain seed. A newborn's forehead might be daubed with it. A dead man's body might be dusted with it. Everyone might posses a small part of the stone, and when in distress and far from home they might use it to recreate a sacred place in which to pray or die.

So, in answer to the question, the guidestones weren't based on any specific religion, just the stark, visual image of the monoliths. Interestingly enough, a recent excavation of Stonehenge is uncovering new details about the use of the stones. The soil around the circle is littered with stone fragments believed to be chipped from the monoliths. Researchers are now positing that the chips were used as lucky charms and healing amulets. It just might turn out that my original speculations aren't far from the mark.
Day 29: Crunchies don't grow on trees, eh?
Posted by Biggie @ 6:18 am
Sept 25th : 2008
A Tale of Three Wolves
Posted by JVJ @ 7:22 am
Sept 24th : 2008

Want a glimpse into how things are done around here? Check out the three images below.
Having decided to post an excerpt from Watcher of the Dead, I set about searching for a suitable graphic. Our unofficial policy at jvj is to illustrate each entry with a photo, graphic, chart--something. I take a lot of photographs so we usually use those. However, I have no photos of wolves (wolves being pretty elusive in the wild). There’s a wolf on the Spanish edition of A Cavern of Black Ice, but the image of a wolf baring its teeth didn’t match the quiet tone of the excerpt. I found the first image on the Wikipedia entry for Gray Wolves, and as it has been released into the public domain I downloaded it and fiddled around in PhotoShop. The result is image #2, which I sent to Paul along with a text file of the excerpt. Paul, in his infinite wisdom, rejected my half-baked attempt at graphic wizardry and created image #3 instead. A careful perusal of the three images should provide the answer to the question,“Who keeps the website looking good?”
What I did on Sunday
Posted by JVJ @ 7:04 am
Sept 23rd : 2008
J.V.Jones and the Eggplant of Doom
Posted by JVJ @ 6:46 am
Sept 22nd : 2008
It's the weekend
Posted by JVJ @ 6:28 am
Sept 21st : 2008
And we all know what that means: another waterfall. Here I am at the top of the splendidly-named, triple-drop Bastion Falls. No longer content with simply hunting waterfalls I now inspect all neighboring flora and fauna. Luckily this little sapling passed muster. I wouldn't bet on its chances come Spring though. When the snowcap melts in the Catskill Mountains, the ledge where I'm standing will be covered in a foot of water.
Watcher of the Dead Excerpt
Posted by JVJ @ 10:40 pm
Sept 19th : 2008
Wolf Dog
Vaylo whistled for his dogs. Plucking a wad of chewing curd from his belt pouch, he made himself comfortable for the watch. The stars were out, some of them, and a halfmoon was shining through thinning clouds. Vaylo sat and did not think for a while.

The dogs came to him in their own good time. At first he didn’t realize the wolf dog hadn’t homed. It could be willful at times and reluctant to obey a summons if it was closing on a kill. Vaylo whistled again, waited. Oddly enough, it had been Gullitt who had given him his first pup. It was a sight hound, the runt of the litter. With irregular vertebrae in its tail and an infection in its right eye Gullitt had judged it unworthy to be reared for the hunt. “Take it,” his father had said to him, “but you’ll to have to wean it yourself as I won’t waste a teat.” Vaylo had done just that, dipping a shammy in pig’s milk so the pup could suckle on the hour. After a week he’d taken her to the field surgeon Broody Salt. Broody had been the one who’d tended Vaylo after the worst of his father’s beatings; the dislocated arm, the broken collar bone, the punctured spleen. Broody had given him drops for the pup’s eye and advised him to grind bonemeal into her milk to make her strong.

        “She’ll never run straight with that crooked tail,” Broody had said, “but she’ll sure sprint a fast curve”.

        Moya, Vaylo had called her, after the legendary chief’s wife who defended the Bluddhouse from Dhoone’s armies while her husband was away.

        Moya, the dog, turned out to be a brawler. Vaylo grinned thinking about her. Fierce and scrappy, she would lunge at anyone who looked at him the wrong way. She was troubled though, and there were times when Vaylo woke in the middle of the night to find her chewing, blank-eyed and relentless, on her right hind leg. He had only loved her more for it.

        He’d never been without a dog since. They had made him who he was. A boy with a dog at his heels was no longer alone. He had someone to back him up in a fight, an extra set of eyes and ears to keep watch, and something warm--and smelly--to sleep next to through the long winter nights. Vaylo had lost count of all the dogs he had owned. Hundreds certainly. At some point he had stopped giving them names. It didn’t seem necessary. They were part of him like an arm or a leg. Might as well have called them Vaylo.

        The wolf dog had been different though. Separate, yet more vital to his wholeness. Its dam had gone missing five summers back and Vaylo thought he’d never see her again. Forty-one days later she’d turned up, fat and pleased with herself, trotting in from the north. When she’d given birth a month later it became apparent she had mated with a wolf. Right from the start, the wolf dog held itself apart from its siblings. More wolf than dog, it was the largest of the litter and suckled the hardest. It sucked its dam dry, depriving its brothers of milk. Its sisters lived, but there was never any doubt over who was top dog. Vaylo had taken the wolf dog in hand, but he realized early on that it could not be wholly tamed. Part of its soul lived in the north beyond the clanholds. On icy nights lit by stars no latch or tether could hold it . . . but it had always returned.

        Until now.

        The old pain in Vaylo’s chest knifed him. Ignoring it, he stood and headed south. He had a watch to keep. Three dogs ghosted at his side, serious and alert. To the north, Cluff Drybannock would be mounting his own watch, looking not to the south but to the Rift. Vaylo wondered how long it would take the wolf dog to reach him.

        The dog had chosen a new master. It would not be coming back.

Day 24: Have emerged from drain
Posted by Biggie @ 9:58 pm
Sept 18th : 2008
Email Question
Posted by JVJ @ 5:41 pm
Sept 17th : 2008

When will A Sword From Red Ice be published in Germany? -Anna G

I receive a lot of emails about this. Knaur, the publisher of Cavern and Fortress in Germany, abruptly dropped their fantasy line, leaving dozens of books by dozens of writers stranded. Sword was one of these books. We're working on getting a new German publisher, and I'll let you know the moment it happens. Inquiries should be directed toward my agent, Russell Galen, at Scovil Galen Ghosh.
Bugs Latest Transmission
Posted by JVJ @ 6:24 pm
Sept 16th : 2008

The latest missive from the bug homeworld has been received. After perusing the evidence I’m sure you’ll agree. We’re looking at object NGC2266, an ancient and unstudied “open cluster” located in the galactic anticenter. This is not happy news. Last month bugs sent the message “Supernova”. Now they have transmitted the location: And IT’S IN OUR OWN GALAXY!
Here’s what we know about NGC2266. It’s old. The stars in the cluster won’t be seeing a billion again any time soon (always supposing the supernova doesn’t reverse time that is) and it’s pretty far away from Planet Earth. Chief Astronomer J.V. Jones had this to say about the imminent danger. “I would rate this event as a 3.2 on the CSM (Cured Meats Scale). What this refers to is the level of 'toasting' observed when a hotdog on a stick is held up to the night sky. Anything below 5 we don’t worry about.” When asked if she had any advice for concerned citizens, she said, “You can’t go wrong with spicy brown mustard.”
*Actual, unenhanced mosquito bite.
Kaaterskill Falls
Posted by JVJ @ 9:14 pm
Sept 15th : 2008

I am the Waterfall Hunter. Your fearless reporter at will stop at nothing to reach the tallest, widest, most beautiful and most dangerous waterfalls in the US. Last week I brought you Taughannock Falls, the highest single drop waterfall east of the Rockies. Today I bring you the highest waterfall in NY state.
On Sunday I drove forty miles south to the Catskills in search of Kaaterskill Falls. At a mighty 260 feet, this double-drop waterfall towers above its competitors. As I clambered over rain-slicked rocks and loose gravel, I traveled in the footsteps of Alexis de Tocqueville who viewed the falls in 1831 and was so impressed by them that they came to represent for him the wild beauty and promise of America.
Another Weekend of Waterfalls
Posted by JVJ @ 11:09 am
Sept 14th : 2008
Waterfalls make me happy. Above is the tallest single drop waterfall east of the Rockies. The Taughannock Falls (pronounced ter-gannick) measures a mighty 215 feet--sixty feet higher than Niagara. It was a mere trickle when I visited in August, but make no mistake it transforms into a raging torrent come Spring.

Below is the Upper Falls in Letchworth State Park, another ridiculously pretty vista. I’ve now accumulated photographic evidence of dozens of NY waterfalls and I think it’s time to change the state nickname from the “Empire State” to the “Waterfall State.” Governor Paterson: expect my letter.
Eggplant’s Evil Twin
Posted by JVJ @ 4:20 pm
Sept 12th : 2008

Not two feet away from perfect and glossy Eggplant #1 resides its hard-to-love sibling, Eggplant #2. Small for its age, brooding and battle-scarred, Eggplant #2 has enjoyed a less fortunate existence than its sun-blessed rival. “In the vegetable garden placement is everything,” said head gardener J.V.Jones. “Basically if you’re north of the tomatoes you’re toast.”

From its position deep in tomato shade, Eggplant #2 declined to comment, although later it was heard muttering, “Bitter. I’ll show you bitter.”
Email Question
Posted by JVJ @ 4:34 pm
Sept 11th : 2008

In A Cavern of Black Ice why didn’t the Dog Lord kill Raif when he had the chance in the Ganmiddich tower? -Steph T

That’s a good question and one I intend to step around lightly. Explaining characters isn’t my business. Once I write the story, that story becomes yours--the readers. Correcting, explaining and generally interfering with a reader’s perception of a book isn’t good policy. It takes two to make a book. As we read, we provide input--knowledge and experience--that enhances and personalizes the story. A soldier in Afghanistan wrote to me about A Sword From Red Ice, thanking me for writing a pro-military story (with a “kick ass” battle scene). His email made me revise how I saw my own book: that’s how personal the reader/writer relationship is. If I’d laid down the law and said, “This book is about the new global economy seen through a psuedo-Medieval lens” then I wouldn’t have received that email. I’d be poorer for it. And the soldier’s experience of reading the book would have been diminished.

This is my long-winded way of saying that I’ve learned to stay mum when it comes to motives and themes. The Dog Lord is his own man: his actions reflect his inner self. More than that I really shouldn’t say.
Day 18
Posted by Biggie @ 2:28 pm
Sept 10th : 2008
Day 17: If it's all going down the drain...
Posted by Biggie @ 2:01 pm
Sept 10th : 2008
Email Question
Posted by JVJ @ 1:53 pm
Sept 9th : 2008
What ever happened to Bodger & Grift? -Carol J

Bodger & Grift wanted me to let you know that they’re still guarding Castle Harvell. Grift, in recognition of many years of faithful (if somewhat inattentive) service has been presented with a pair of tongs. Bodger secretly covets the tongs as he’s noticed how handy they can be when it comes to plucking hot bread rolls from the fire. Both Bodger & Grift enjoy hot bread rolls very much.

Bodger’s pursuit of wenches continues. “I got a lovely lass to agree to walk with me through the castle gardens last year,” Bodger told me. “But as soon as I began telling her about my dream of one day starting my own tong-making business she ran away and never came back.”

As to whether or not they’ll appear in future books, Grift had this to say. “Right now we’re in the negotiation stage. It’s all very delicate and hush-hush. In theory we’d be up for it, but we're holding out for more beer.”
* Bodger would like to know if Carol's doing anything on Friday night
Almost Rivendell
Posted by JVJ @ 1:42 pm
Sept 8th : 2008

Last week I told you about Watkins Glen State Park in N.Y. I mentioned in the post that it was like visiting Rivendell, the home of the Elves in Lord of the Rings. Stone bridges, stairways cut deep into the rock, cascading waterfalls, sunlit caverns, turquoise pools: I don't evoke Tolkien lightly. So, as even blurry photographs are worth a thousand words, you can judge for yourself by clicking on the thumbnails below.
A Weekend of Waterfalls
Posted by JVJ @ 2:45 pm
Sept 7th : 2008
Here's one of the fifty waterfalls in Letchworth Park. It's the Middle Falls. And even though Niagara Falls is just sixty miles west it's still pretty impressive.
Day 13: House Next Door
Posted by Biggie @ 12:05 pm
Sept 6th : 2008
It ain't pretty
Posted by JVJ @ 1:49 pm
Sept 5th : 2008

For those who are wondering (and I'm not supposing that's many) I present the latest eggplant update. At this point I really don't have much to say: this is strictly a status report. It is what it is. No commentary will be attempted at this juncture.
Email Question
Posted by JVJ @ 1:03 pm
Sept 4th : 2008
How do you manage to write such realistic male characters? -George T
Thanks, George. I have no idea how I manage to write realistic male characters. I could tell you that I worked in pubs from the age of nine and grew up watching and listening to men as they sat at the bar, downing beer, but I don’t think that’s the answer.
I do know that when a character “clicks” for me, I feel as if I’m literally inside his head. His thoughts become my thoughts and his way of thinking--with all its idiosyncrasies, insecurities, pride etc--becomes second nature.
Everything but the tumbleweed
Posted by JVJ @ 12:09 pm
Sept 4th : 2008
As promised, here is the East Coast's best impression of the West Coast. Dry, cracked riverbed? Check. Red rocks? Check. Blistering sun? Check. Tumbleweed? Well, everything but the tumbleweed. This photo was taken 60 miles east of Letchworth in the Taughannock Falls State Park. To reach the falls you walk through the gorge along the riverbed. 10,000 years earlier a glacier occupied the space where I'm standing.
I Heart N.Y.
Posted by JVJ @ 12:54 pm
Sept 3rd : 2008
Here’s the “Grand Canyon of the East” located in Letchworth Park, N.Y. Yep, you’re looking at N.Y. state: the East Coast doing its second-best impression of the West Coast (the best impression, coming soon to a journal near you). Letchworth is in western New York, not far from Niagara Falls. Here the Genesee River flows through a 500 feet gorge, executing no less than fifty waterfalls along the way.

I drove to western NY at the weekend and visited three quite different state parks. All are remarkable. All deserve to be more widely known. When most of us hear “New York” we think of New York city--Manhattan, skyscrapers, yellow cabs and Times Square--but there’s a large and wonderful state that shares the name New York too.
Hawaii? Costa Rica?
Posted by JVJ @ 1:36 pm
Sept 2nd : 2008
No, Watkins Glen. The world famous race track, once site of Formula One racing and now a stop on the NASCAR and Craftsman Truck circuits, sits next door to a truly stunning state park. I stopped by on Saturday and hiked through the gorge. Here I am by the aptly named Cavern Cascade. With its caverns, waterfalls, plunge pools and towering cliffs, it was like visiting Rivendell.
Day 8: Question
Posted by Biggie @ 1:10 pm
Sept 1st : 2008
Biggie Timeline
Posted by Biggie @ 10:20 am
Sept 1st : 2008
June 2nd
Owner stopped feeding me.
June 20th
Reduced to eating weeds.
June 26th
Spotted squirrel, chased squirrel. Squirrel retaliated with unexpected aggressiveness. Currently scared of squirrels.
June 29th
Getting weak.
July 1st
Caught snake. Snakes fun. Likes to bring them in house and watch as owner panics.
July 3rd
Hid in bushes like Predator. Pounced on bumblebee. Bumblebee retaliated with unexpected aggressiveness. Currently scared of bumblebees.
July 26th
Low point. Nuff said.
Aug 6th
Decision made. Will leave home in search of crunchies.
Aug 8th
Departure delayed due to snake.
Aug 11th
Departure delayed due to important work on string theory.
Aug 13th
Set up tent in yard. Tent cozy. Like tent.
Aug 14th
Vital foot preparation completed.
Aug 23rd
Aug 25th
Sept 1st
Day 8: Still in driveway.
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Link List:
Taughannock Falls
Watkins Glen