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Oct 2007:
28th Ghost Deer
24th Devil in the Details
24th Latest Fire News
22nd Fire Update
22nd Voluntary Evac
22nd Thick With Smoke
22nd Evacuations
22nd Wildfires
18th Interview
17th Signed Bookplates
16th Dog Person
15th Boating
13th Bonjour
12th Ordering Sword
9th   Sword's Here
8th   Picacho
6th   UK Cover Art
4th   Glacier
1st   October
Ghost Deer
Posted by JVJ @ 10:15 am
Oct 28th : 2007

Caught in a bind for Halloween? Inflatable tombstone blown away? Squirrel ate your pumpkin? I may have the answer for you. Ghost deer. Scary in a whole new way.
Do you have a Happy Holidays ornamental, life-size lawn deer in your garage? Can you make a bed? If you can answer yes to these questions you can assemble your own ghost deer. To assemble your ghost deer you need:
Instructions. Place deer on lawn. Cover with sheet.*
*Disclaimer. Results may vary. For entertainment purposes only. Author not responsible for any direct, indirect, incidental or consequential damages resulting from ghost deer (neither is ghost deer). Not intended to be a substitute for actual deer. No implied endorsement of, or affiliation with, deer. Any resemblence to deer is purely conicindental. Postage will not be paid by deer.
Devil in the Details
Posted by JVJ @ 7:03 pm
Oct 24th : 2007

Be specific. Thatís one of the most important pieces of advice writers receive, and one of the easiest ones to accomplish. Whether youíre describing a setting or writing action you need to provide details to give the scene weight and realism. The broader your descriptions the less powerful they will be. ďThe man was holding a gunĒ is not as scary as ďThe man was holding a Colt Anaconda. Thirteen inches long and stainless steel, it had to weigh close to four pounds.Ē Details that are credible and specific persuade us better than generic descriptions. We assume the writer knows what heís talking about. Heís the expert; we believe him and we believe in the scene.

Coming up with realistic details takes practice but once you get the hang of it itís relatively easy. First you have to look at every noun you write--object names, place names--and think about them. Isolate them in your mind. Whatís unusual about this item/person/place? Whatís unique here? What can I say about this object that provides a brief, memorable sentence? Whatís been said about this object countless times before? What hasnít? When you start asking yourself these questions youíll develop a new awareness as you write. Say you have a character in the woods. Are the trees hardwood or softwood? Whatís the groundcover? Has it been raining? What caused the holes in the tree trunks? Beatles? Woodpeckers? Mice? When your character steps on the pine needles how do they smell? Once youíve got his far youíll have to start hitting the books (or the woods). As the writer you need to know whatís typical and atypical about the woods in the area youíre describing. You need to know the names of the plants, trees, insects and animals.

You need to know them and then not use them. The catch of the specific details is that they must be used sparingly. They need to be kept to a sentence or two, or you risk clogging up your story with descriptions. If the details are chosen well theyíll do the work of an entire paragraph. Remember the Colt Anaconda? It weighs four pounds: itís going to take a big man to wield it. Itís a serious, professional weapon too, not likely to be kept in the average bedside drawer. And itís stainless steel: top of the line, expensive.

If you pick your details right theyíll work overtime. Being specific, yet restrained, makes for a tight, credible narrative.
Latest Fire News
Posted by JVJ @ 9:50 am
Oct 24th : 2007

The local fire threat is receding. The mandatory evacuation of the area adjacent to where I live has now been canceled. Carlsbad has also canceled its voluntary evacuation of my area. The smoke is terrible, but getting better.
Fire Update
Posted by JVJ @ 5:57 pm
Oct 22nd : 2007

The car's packed and I'm ready to go at a moment's notice. According to the official Carlsbad City website the voluntary evacuation is due to the air quality, not imminent fire danger. According to the official San Marcos website, the San Elijo Hills Fire is now one hundred percent contained, and the mandatory evacuation order for that area (just a couple of miles down the road from my house) had now been lifted. I'm going to stay put for a while, and see what develops. The winds have died down--Santa Anas only blow during daylight. Visibility is poor but getting better.
Voluntary Evacuation
Posted by JVJ @ 3:17 pm
Oct 22nd : 2007

The police have just driven past with a speakerphone. Voluntary evacuations are now under way in my part of Carlsbad (southeast). I'm off to pack up.
Air Thick With Smoke
Posted by JVJ @ 3:05 pm
Oct 22nd : 2007

The air is hot and stinking. It's eighty degrees and the wind is gusting up to 50 mph. Part of my fence has blown down. The Helen Woodward Animal Shelter in Rancho Santa Fe, where I adopted Biggie, has been evacuated. No news on the progress of the local San Marcos/Escondido fire. No news on the possible Olivenhaim evacuations. To the south, a quarter of a million San Diegans have been evacuated.
Posted by JVJ @ 1:20 pm
Oct 22nd : 2007

The wildfires are tearing through San Diego. The winds are high and ash is sailing through the air. A few weeks ago I posted a photograph of me standing by the Olivenhaim Dam in Elfin Forest. That area now has fires and residents are under a mandatory evacuation order. Itís 5 miles from my house. Residents of Olivenhaim, a rural area in east Encinitas, have now been warned of a possible evacuation. Thatís 2 minutes from my house.
Posted by JVJ @ 10:15 am
Oct 22nd : 2007

The Santa Anas are hot seasonal winds that blow in from the desert. They started up yesterday, blowing into bone dry Southern California. Power lines are blown down and fires spread with breathtaking speed. In Northern San Diego County, where I live, fires have been burning through the night. The air smells of smoke and the sky is red.
Posted by JVJ @ 10:02 am
Oct 18th : 2007

Fantasy Book Critic interviewed me at the weekend. Hop over to Robert Thompsonís site to read the transcript.
Signed Bookplates
Posted by JVJ @ 10:30 am
Oct 17th : 2007

Bookplates are self-adhesive. You peel off the backing and stick them on the inside title page of the book. If youíd like a personalized signed bookplate for A Sword From Red Ice email me with your address and Iíll pop one in the post. Sadly this offer is only for US residents. Apologies to everyone overseas.
Robert Thompson at Fantasy Book Critic interviewed me for his blog. Follow the link to your right to read the interview.
Dog Person
Posted by JVJ @ 3:20 pm
Oct 16th : 2007

Iím a dog person, I really am. We had a dog growing up, Winston. Mum didnít like cats. Still doesnít. So how did I end up with a cat? I donít know. I also donít know what Biggie was up to when I snapped this photo. Is she checking the word count? Looking for a really slim mouse? Iím not sure, but as you can see I have a lot of books in my house. It saves on furniture. Stack enough of them and you have a coffee table.
The bookís out now and is available online and in bookstores. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think. Also, email me with your address if you'd like a signed bookplate for Sword.
Posted by JVJ @ 0:03 am
Oct 15th : 2007

I went boating on Sunday, in the Pacific out of San Diego Bay. We didnít see any whales or dolphins, though both had been spotted earlier in the week. Thanks to Captain Don for taking us out.
Posted by JVJ @ 8:46 pm
Oct 13th : 2007

Bonjour, mes lecteurs francais. Je suis desole que je ne puisse pas comunicate avec vous en votre langue maternelle. The second book in the French edition of The Book Of Words Trilogy arrived in the post today. Bon lecture!
Ordering Sword Online
Posted by JVJ @ 11:39 pm
Oct 12th : 2007

A couple of people have emailed me asking how they can order A Sword From Red Ice online. A quick google search of the title should show plenty of bookstores where you can pre-order the book from. Sword will also be in you local bookstore on the 16th.
I took this photo on Sunday morning, close to midday. I was hiking across ridges of heaped pumice and rolling benchland. It was like walking on the face of the moon. Thatís the Colorado River in the center. And the beautifully-named Chocolate Mountains in the distance.
Sword is in the House
Posted by JVJ @ 05:46 pm
Oct 9th : 2007

The post today brought my authorís copies of A Sword From Red Ice. Two boxes of them. The book looks wonderful. The cover art by J.P. Targete is striking and makes for a great cover. That's my biased opinion. Judge for yourself.
Posted by JVJ @ 11:49 am
Oct 8th : 2007

I was at the California/Arizona border at the weekend. The Colorado River has been dammed at Picacho Peak to create a series of lakes and washes. Itís a volcanic landscape of heaped basalt and pumice. At night you can hear wild donkeys braying.
UK Cover Art
Posted by JVJ @ 00:28 am
Oct 6th : 2007

For those awaiting the publication of A Sword From Red Ice in the UK hereís a shot of the British cover art. I think itís pretty cool. And yes, it depicts the title scene. Interestingly enough, the artist painted it before the chapter was written. I gave him a description, but by the time I came to write the chapter I had something else in mind. Somehow the artwork manages to reflect the new scene (cue eerie Twlight Zone music).
A month ago, I gave away three galley copies to readers to read and review. Two reviews have come back. You can read them by following the link to your right (btw, Paul from Alaska email me Iím waiting to send out your book).
Posted by JVJ @ 11:31 am
Oct 4th : 2007

Not to be confused with its US namesake, Canadian Glacier National Park is in British Columbia, west of Banff. Here I snapped some photos of mountain goats and took a walk in a forest of oldgrowth hemlock.
Hemlock are the predominant trees in the northern clanholds, so looking at this photo itís easy to imagine trekking through the vast forests of Blackhail. The groundcover is fern and the appropriately-named devil's club. Devilís club stems have wickedly-sharp thorns that draw blood if you make the mistakes of brushing against them.
Posted by JVJ @ 00:01 am
Oct 1st : 2007

October is finally here. A Sword from Red Ice will be out on the 16th in the US, and it's my birthday ten days later. Is this the best month of the year, or what?
Here am I on my Saturday morning hike, showing off yet another water feature. This one's a lot closer to home. It's the Olivenhain Dam in the picturesquely named Elfin Forest. The dam was completed in 2003 and is the tallest of its kind in North America. In true Southern California tradition, the banks of the newly-constructed dam were given a dye job to perfectly match the surrounding hillsides.

My second water feature is the Vermillion River in Alberta where I was three weeks ago. As you can see it's not the slightest bit red. I decided not to find out why it was named after a color it doesn't resemble. The river and its name are so lovely I don't care.
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Link List:
FBC Interview
Picacho SRA
Reader's Reviews
Olivenhain Dam