Stone of Remembrance

November 22, 2006

On the Road – Day 6 and 7: The Last of the Tour

Filed under: Commentary, Travel, Writing — admin @ 22:33

Date: November 20. No travel.

On November 20. I was told (by Jeff Young, the top-notch facilitator for the Camp Hill B&N reading group, Watch the Skies) that I would be receiving a “big welcome.”

I read a few scenes from NTT, which were very well received, and some of the folks bought books – particularly paperbacks of Dark Crusade. This was the most relaxed professional appearance of the entire trip, and followed a day in which I didn’t have to drive anywhere or do much of anything. It was a welcome change – particularly since I’d be heading home the next morning.

Thanks again to Jeff and the group for having me visit. I hope to come back when NTT is out. Which requires it to be bought by the publisher that currently has it. Which requires . . . well, I don’t really know. I’m hoping for the best.

Date: November 21.

Route: I-83 to I-78; across country in New Jersey due to traffic; I-280 to the Garden State Parkway to the Dewey Expressway; I-287 across the Tappan Zee Bridge, Saw Mill Parkway to I-684 to I-84; I-84 to I-90 to I-495 to home.

What a drive. It didn’t turn out to be a matter of Driving Fu, a grind or a rush – it was just long. I had intended to get home in the early afternoon to meet up with A., but terrible backups near Clinton, NJ forced me to cut across central Jersey, eventually dumping me on to SR 10 for a bit. I bought gas in Whippany, NJ, and then just worked my way to the Garden State.

My intention was to visit Dr. Mikes on the way home to pick up ice cream for Thanksgiving, but their winter hours thwarted me; they’re not open Monday or Tuesday. I-84 was a struggle, even more than usual, due to construction near Waterbury and near New Britain; everyone and their cousin was trying to get through Hartford at 1 in the afternoon.

I pulled in just before 3:30. Six days, 2200+ miles, 11 states, three visits to friends, four public appearances. Was it worth it? Hard to tell. It certainly makes it a little tough on my best pal back home, just being away – but I was able to help the Smoky Mountains Book Fair, I got to appear at an airport, and I spoke at a high school. I didn’t do too much writing, and didn’t find very many bookstores.

Some of my professional colleagues, old and young, tire of this after awhile; after all, this is me promoting me the best I can, something my publisher doesn’t do for midlist writers. I ask myself if my sales and my public profile would be significantly worse, or even affected, if I didn’t go to cons, do these sorts of trips, even keep up a blog of my activities. None of this might matter at all, but at least there’s the sense that it’s helping a little. When the next contract is as yet unsigned, the next book unsold, the future largely uncertain, it’s worth something.

Thanks again to everyone who hosted me, helped me, and let me visit. Let’s do it again soon. Well, not soon. But let’s do it again.

Akismet Problem?

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 18:01

Akismet is my anti-spamming filter on this weblog, and it’s been working fine until recently. Over the last month I’ve gotten more and more comments in the moderate queue that look like this: (URLs and IP addresses deleted below)

Name: Ange | E-mail: | URI: Deleted URL | IP: Deleted IP | Date: November 22, 2006

Your hard work paid off casino Deleted URL

Which would mean that Akismet isn’t doing its job. But I also get these in the Akismet Spam queue – they look like this:

Name: Ange | E-mail: | URI: Deleted URL| IP: Deleted IP | Date: November 22, 2006

Your hard work paid off casino portal [url=Deleted URL[/url] Deleted URL

The two posts have minor differences, but are essentially the same – they even originate from the same IP. Not sure what’s going on, but Akismet is only getting about half of the obvious spam posts and ignoring the others. Any ideas? (PS, you still out there?)

On the Road – Day 5

Filed under: Commentary, Travel — admin @ 09:35

Date: Sunday, November 19.

Route: I-240 to I-26 through Johnson City, TN; I-81 across Virginia to I-83 in Harrisburg.


This was another long day behind the wheel; I left Asheville in the morning after a great breakfast at Sunny Point Café, and quickly left Asheville behind as I drove north on Interstate 26. The I-40 experience was certainly not worth repeating, even to go as far as Statesville (of less-than-fond memory) and cut north on I-77; instead, my route would take me the length of I-81 in Virginia from Bristol to Winchester, more or less, more than 320 miles, with more highway on either end.

Part of the Zen of long-distance driving is to get into the road’s rhythm. I find myself doing calculations: what the odometer will show at the next rest stop, the next refuel, the next landmark. When the drive is a long one, the only way to deal with it is to chop it up into smaller increments. And today’s drive was a long one. I left Asheville about 9 AM and spent the morning driving into rain and sleet, which cleared up by the time I reached Virginia.

The views were gorgeous. The pic above is from Wikipedia, and the best scenery (I’m told) is on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but that also won’t get you from Asheville to Harrisburg in one day. So I-81 it was.

Partway there I stopped for food, and made my rest stop to coincide with a short visit to 11 Giles Bookstore in Dublin, Virginia. This bookseller is active on the web and on eBay, and has a nice selection at very reasonable prices. I was looking for history titles and was disappointed overall, but I did pick up a book on Henry Clay and another on a Revolutionary War naval battle. No copies of my books on the shelves, which is probably a good thing.

And so the miles rolled by. It was dark by the time I crossed into West Virginia (where the speed limit cranked up to 70), and Martinsburg was just lights in the distance. The same was true of Hagerstown, Maryland, and Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Ten hours after leaving North Carolina I pulled into J. and P.’s driveway in Harrisburg. Food and drink were provided, and J.’s favorite football team, the San Diego Chargers, came roaring back from 24-7 to cut the legs out from under the Denver Broncos. The next night was scheduled, but the next day would be a chance to get some rest and catch my breath.

November 20, 2006

On the Road – Day 4 and 5: Food in Asheville, NC

Filed under: Commentary, Travel — admin @ 17:31

Asheville NC can be best described as something very much like Berkeley nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It has a very west coast feel to it. I would like to get a chance to visit for more than a day or two to really enjoy it – but here are a few restaurants that stand out based on my limited experience.

One of my favorite places to eat is Mayfel’s, which describes itself as “the best of Louisiana Bistro”. It makes its own beignets, which (if you’re up on it) are these amazing deep-fried powdered donut things that are – or were – well-known to New Orleans residents and tourists. It’s right downtown, near a nice bookstore. I didn’t get there on this visit.

I also didn’t make it to Asheville Brewing Company, which is also a pizza restaurant and a movie theater. My buddy Boomer and I had dinner there after the Book Fair last year. But their beer is very good. What I remember of it. Ahem.

What I did get to visit for breakfast this visit was the fabulous Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville. Maple black pepper bacon and a homemade cheese biscuit for me, because I didn’t feel able to manage a breakfast burrito (not one of those McDonald’s® things, but an enormous filling thing) or their amazing French toast. Extremely highly recommended, and just down the road from the exit to I-240 (from which I departed Asheville).

Asheville, North Carolina: A great place to eat.

On the Road – Day 4

Filed under: Commentary, Travel — admin @ 13:01

Date: Saturday, November 18.

Route: I-40 through Asheville to US 74 to Sylva. US 74 to Asheville.

Super-8. We’ve stayed at them before. There’s a nice one near Brunswick, Maine, a few miles from my alma mater. They have free wireless internet. (Though apparently not in Statesville.)

Also, apparently, the (fill in your appropriate geographically-specific stereotype here) people in Statesville don’t know how to make a wakeup call. Instead of a wakeup at 6 AM, I woke up on my own at 6:20 and got out as quickly as possible. I had to focus on driving to not be completely angry. Net access I could live without; I was tired enough to sleep through whatever was happening next door. TV remote was irrelevant, really. But the wakeup call? As my Dad used to say, “strike four, that’s hanging in there.”

I made it to Sylva just at 9 AM for the Smoky Mountains Book Fair. This event is not a big selling event, at least not for a science-fiction author from out of town; but it is a very nice gathering. It featured an excellent lunch by a local restaurant/caterer (see below), live music, and wonderful people – mostly local authors.

The lunch was provided by Soul Infusion Tea House and Bistro, and consisted of pan-cooked pasta with a set of fresh ingredients – you picked out the ones you liked and they tossed them with your choice of pasta and sauce. It was great.

The Book Fair featured the last of the military SF authors from Baen I hadn’t yet met – John Ringo. He had quite the display, and conveyed quite the personality. If this wasn’t a Walter Hunt event, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t a John Ringo event either; he seemed, well, disinterested. That’s actually a more polite spin on my perceptions than could be stated, but there’s no point in going further. Suffice it to say that to me, every appearance is important and I try to be courteous to everyone I meet. This is a business, but I still cling to (possibly outmoded) habits which I was taught, in deportment and turns of phrase. But I don’t have Ringo’s sales, so I guess I’m in no position to comment. Fine. Whatever.

When the event was wrapped up, I drove back to Asheville, where I spent a little while at the Biltmore Coffee Traders bistro, drinking some fine coffee and checking my e-mail while a little group of high schoolers played World of Warcraft. In the evening I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with my friends in Asheville.

On the Road – Day 3

Filed under: Commentary, Travel — admin @ 12:44


November 18, 2006

On the Road – Day 2

Filed under: Travel — admin @ 23:26

Date: Thursday, November 16.

Route: US 1 to I-95 through New Jersey; I-95 through central Philadelphia, then Wilmington, a short stretch on the Delaware Turnpike, and in Maryland through Baltimore (Harbor Tunnel). Beltway to I-97 to Millersville, Maryland; then back to the Beltway, I-83 to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Considering the many chances for traffic to interfere with my travels, this was a remarkably uneventful drive – at least as far as Millersville. Avoiding most of Delaware, even given the slow traffic through Philly, was an inspired move. I despise the short stretch between the top of Maryland and the Delaware Memorial Bridge at the bottom of New Jersey. At any hour of the day or night it takes an hour to go through and you have to pay for the dubious privilege.

Millersville is the home of Old Mill High School, with a student population somewhere above 2800. I had been invited some time ago to speak on a career path; I was dealt a biology class. To be honest, while I did my best, I’m not sure I impressed them much: they weren’t especially motivated – a few of them were asleep. The teachers were great. So were the media center people (who were glad to have my books for their library.)

But in public schools, particularly large ones, I believe that even highly motivated teachers have to make the decision to expend their energies judiciously, not wasting it where it does no good. This is hard to do; this is not politically correct; this is not what they would choose if they had all of the time in the world. But they don’t.

All of the schools in Anne Arundel County closed early that day due to the tornado warnings. It rained cats and dogs and goats and zebras and other livestock, but by 4 PM it was shining sun below the cloud deck (and still pouring down.)

I spent the evening with J. and P. and read some new stuff to them. The storm blew away overnight, and I was off in the morning, headed for Baltimore.

On the Road – Day 1

Filed under: Travel — admin @ 22:31


November 14, 2006

The Elements

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 23:45

I’ve been very busy getting ready for a tour of the Middle Colonies :-), so I haven’t had much time to blog; but my buddy and Brother Ross passed this on to me.

It appears on the Dr. Art Does Science DVD, pictured below. It’s “work safe” – no offensive material, just a Flash Animation of Tom Lehrer’s famous song “The Elements”.

Animation is ©2006 by Mike Stanfill. It’s a nice piece of work.

November 2, 2006

Eighteenth-Century Slang

Filed under: Writing — admin @ 17:07


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