Thursday, March 28, 2013

"The Amish vs. The Zombies" Gets a Make-Over

I just did some "housecleaning" on THE AMISH vs. THE ZOMBIES." I'll be presenting it to an agent next weekend.

Prayers, please.

Thanks to Matt Mikalotos for his insight.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

More "Marsh Monster"--10% In Now

Honey Island Swamp, primary setting for my new book, Marsh Monster.
I put in another 1,800 words on MARSH MONSTER today for a total of 5,433 words.

Wrote lots of good stuff that I learned/experienced on my swamp tour.

This, like the Honey Island Swamp Tour, is going to be a wild ride.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Marching Along with "Marsh Monster"

Over four thousand words on MARSH MONSTER today! Great start. Here's a tad of what I wrote:

Chapter 1: Rumor Has It

“Whataya mean?” asked Dallas.

Dad drove the rental van down Hwy 59/20 just south of Birmingham, Alabama. A gentle hum from the tires on the pavement came in through the windows, which were cracked to let in an evening breeze—a futile effort to quell the lingering southern heat and humidity. Dad was into fuel economy and only used the AC on rare occasions—like on days when people were known to spontaneously combust, which was extremely uncommon.

“I mean…well…I don’t know what I mean,” he said looking at us in the rearview mirror, “That’s just what the reports are saying.”

“You’re telling me,” I said wiping the sweat from my forehead with my T-shirt sleeve, “that now the reported sightings of a ‘swamp monster,’” indicating quote marks with my fingers, “are more frequent and..”

“Yes, Pete, it appears so.”

We were on our trip back from DC and Langley. We’d been up to the capitol to attend Acquire the Fire*—an awesome youth event—and we’d had the opportunity to tour the White House and CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. We’d been invited after Bart, my best friend, and I had uncovered and thwarted a biological terrorism plot in the bayous near our hometown of Houma, Louisiana.

Carla sighed, crossing her arms. I put my arm around her and pulled her closer, away from Reed who was sleeping with his head against the van’s door window, drool seeping out of the corner of his mouth.

Bart’s dad, who was a game warden, turned from his captain’s chair on the passenger side of my dad, and assured, “I just need to stop in near Honey Island Swamp and see what’s up, okay?”

Reed sucked in on his drool with a snort and a twitch.

“Ewh!” exclaimed Carla. I chuckled and, lifting my hand from Carla’s shoulder, smacked Reed on the back of his head.

“Aliens!” awoke Reed with a start.

Everyone laughed. Reed was known for his obsession with UFOs and other odd non-existing stuff, like zombies, vampires, ghosts and werewolves. I think he watches way too may reruns of The X-Files on Netflicks.

“Another nightmare?” asked Keilah poking him in the back from the seat behind.

“Ah, yeah,” Reed answered rubbing his eyes, “I guess so.” Everyone laughed again as Reed looked around furrowing his brow.

“We were talking about the Honey Island Swamp Monster,” I offered.

“Oh yeah,” said Reed, “they’re probably aliens.”

“Probably,” chimed Carla with a wry smile and a roll of her eyes. Everyone laughed again.

“You’re crazier than a fox in a hen house,” said Dallas, a Louisiana transplant from rural Texas. He was always saying hick stuff like that.

“Look who’s talking about monsters, cowboy,” retorted Reed.

“T’ain’t no such thang, nor little green men, flyboy.”

“Might be, ya know.”

Dallas guffawed and Dad piped in.

“This probably has whole lot more to do with earthlings than extraterrestrials,” he said, “and nothing to do with monsters either in spite of the myths.”

“Even though such rumors have been floating around even before the infamous Harlen Ford sightings in 1963 and 1980,” added Bart’s dad, “Besides there’s never been any real evidence—everything that was said to be evidence turned out to be a hoax.”

“But, that’s the strange thing about that digital picture a tourist snapped last week,” replied my dad, “it was still on the camera; no Photoshop involved.”

“The marsh monster was photographed!?” mocked Keilah, “Again? So what, there are lots of supposed pictures and plaster casts of footprints.”

“Marsh Monster,” Reed pondered, “I like that.”

“Doesn’t surprise me,” I said turning to Keilah, “What? Pictures in comic books?”

“No, seriously,” continued Keilah, “they’re at the paranormal museum.”

“Yeah,” I replied, “and fuzzy pictures of ghosts and zombies; and they’re all over the Internet, too, but that doesn’t mean…”

“That they’re real,” Keilah cut me off, “I know. That’s what I’m saying.”

“This one, they tell me, looks pretty convincing,” assured Bart’s dad, “it was taken with a professional camera, quality zoom lens and all, at 2400 dpi.”

“Not even blurry,” added my dad, “even though it was taken from a moving airboat—which was full of eye witnesses, by the way. Saw the picture last week before we left. Awfully clear. Looks like a genuine Bigfoot to me—more organic than synthetic.”

“But that doesn’t mean it’s not a fake,” assured dad.

“Oh, it’s a fake,” said Bart’s dad, “no matter what it looks like. Even though every neck of the woods—or swamp—has its legends, there’s never been convincing proof that there’s any kind of cryptid in existence.”

“Cyptid?” questioned Bart, rubbing his temple.

“From the Greek krypto meaning ‘to hide,’” Reed instructed, “it’s a creature—

or plant—whose existence has been suggested, but is unrecognized by scientific consensus, and often regarded as highly unlikely, though it’s possible...if it hides.”

“Where do you get this stuff?” I exclaimed.


“You are such a geek, Reed,” said Bart. Reed shrugged his shoulders and leaned once again against the door. “Wikipedia,” mumbled Carla laying her head on my shoulder...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tomorrow, Monday, March 25, I begin writing the next installment in the Bayou Boys Adventure series, MARSH MONSTER. The story involves the treasure of pirate Jean Lafayette and the infamous Honey Island Swamp Monster.

Follow this blog as I write the further adventures of Bart and Pete (from VOODOO VIRUS) and I will share bits and pieces of the story and process along the way.

"Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?"

Water Moccasins  Cotton Mouths and Diamond Back Rattlers. Just some of the lovely reptiles I saw in the swamps of Louisiana. I saw more of them than I did alligators.

Believe me, I wouldn't want to go swimming in the bayous. Some were two or more inches around and nearly four feet long.

There were also plenty of turtles and birds (including a very large horned owl) as well as lizards.

While in New Orleans I saw maybe a 100 antebellum mansions and just outside of the city I viewed three plantation mansions. To the right is a picture of one of the plantation homes along the Mississippi River.

Nearby I found a Spanish Mission. These finds were serendipitous, as I took a wrong turn on my way to Houma (the town where the boys in my Bayou Boys Adventure series live) in Cajun Country.

In Houma I visited this Cajun Dance Hall (below) where a private fais do do was about to begin. I couldn't stay as I wanted to get back before dark.

While in the area I visited the French Quarter, the Garden District (the setting of many Anne Rice novels), took a Haunted History Tour, drove to Slidell and did the Honey Island Swamp Tour (the primary setting of my upcoming book MARSH MONSTER), and drove to Houma.

I took in LOTS of music in a variety of genres from Jazz and Blues, to Zydeco and Country. There was music everywhere in NOLA! In bars and on the street. Below is one of my favorites.

I also partook of a variety of local cuisine--all of which was delicious. I visited many book stores including the Faulkner House and I will share these in an upcoming post.

The areas architectural styles were also a highlight and I have many pictures to share.

The research I did for my upcoming books will be invaluable. I took lots of pictures and made many notes that will prove most useful in creating the the world of the stories.

Be sure and stay tuned to this blog. The adventure isn't over.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hey, It's Good to be Back Home Again

A friends a friend forever
If the Lord's the lord of them
And a friend will not say "never"
For the welcome will not end

Bill Dent with his Mustang in front of the cafe where we ate.
I have completed my road trip. It was good to see both family and friends, but the wife is the best of both. So good to be in her arms again.

My thanks goes out to the old friends that put me up and showed me a good time. Bret VanVolkenberg (Albany, OR), Michael "Mickey" Scott (in San Antonio, TX), Bill Dent (in Idaho Falls, ID) and Michael and Diane Midkiff (Spokane, WA) it was great catching up after all these years!

Caribbean pulled pork omelet and a
fry bread "scone."
Also to the family, Gordon and Laura Peet (in Creswell, OR), my son Josiah (in Fresno, CA), my daughter Bethany, son-in-law Christopher, grandsons Aleric and Deveroux and son Isaiah (in Joplin, MO), thank you for the same.

Mike Midkiff and I at a diner in Spokane, Wash.
The diner decor in Spokane, WA.
I don't really know what kind of
sausage this was but it was great.
Finally, to my new friend, author Brock D. Eastman (in Colorado Springs, CO), for sharing your wisdom and advice. And to Jesus for showing me so many beautiful sights along the way. Even though I'm home now I'll share more about (and pictures plus videos) the trip in the the week to come.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rocky Mountain High in Colorado

Pikes Peak in the Colorado Rockies from Austin Bluffs in Colorado Springs.
I love Colorado Springs! I had a great day reliving mostly fond memories from when I lived here 17 years ago. I also thought of some of the tougher things I went through at the time. All in all it was great to be back and I wouldn't mind living here again--at least visiting for an extended stay.

The campus of Focus on the Family
with Pikes Peak in the distance.
The day began with a self-guided tour of the Focus on the Family broadcast center and the Welcome Center. I felt like a kid again when I entered the world of Whit's End. It seems like they've expanded that since I last visited.

Brock Eastman and I with our books.
Over the lunch hour (nearly an hour and a half) I met with Focus on the Family employee and author Brock Eastman. Let me just say he is a very cool guy and it was good to meet him face-to-face after being friends on Facebook for sometime. I have read all his YA books and they are quite good.

We talked writer shop-talk and about other adventures. Shared challenges and ideas, etc. We then signed each others books and had our picture taken together. Did I mention that he is a really cool guy?

It was a typical sunny day in the Springs (300 days of sunshine per year), clear and chilly (50 degrees) with a breeze. I got out and enjoyed the scenery.

This is Glen Eyrie Castle at the Glen Eyrie Conference Center, one of a dozen buildings I worked in on the grounds.
This small building was my office.
First I hit Glen Eyrie (the Navigators conference center) where I used to work. It is so beautiful. It has changed little on the exterior, though continues to be made nicer on the interior. There is some construction going on for flood mitigation since Queen's Canyon had a fire last year and now there is no vegetation to control the torrential rains that can wash down off the ridge.

At any rate all I had to do was look at the exterior of a building and I could picture the interior layout. I spent a lot of time in and out of them all.

This was where I worked before that.
I also ate dinner at the other place I worked before I got the job at Glen Eyrie and it has been totally remodeled.

I then went out to Garden of the Gods which is is just awe-inspiring. It is one of the coolest places I have ever been. If you ever get the chance you need to see it.

One of the many stunning vistas I snapped at Garden of the Gods.
Needless to say it was a very swell day and I wish I could spend a few more here and climb Pikes peak again, see Seven Falls, drive out to Cripple Creek and the Gorge, visit Old Town and so much more.

Tomorrow I say goodbye to the Rockies and head across another boring state (Wyoming) for Idaho Falls, ID to visit another old band friend, Bill Dent.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I Don't Think We're in Kansas Anymore

Teddy tries to rest in our KOA Kamping Kabin after the cyclone.
Sure OZ was a bit scary there for a while, but I really don't understand why Dorothy wanted to get back to Kansas so bad. I mean Uncle Henry and Auntie Em barely paid attention to her and it seems to me that Em was a bit crotchety. At least in OZ Dorothy had friends and it was a lot more beautiful.

What's Kansas got to offer but endless brown? And tourist attractions? Well one place offered viewing of a live rattlesnake, or the petting of baby pigs and the viewing of the world's largest prairie dog. Whoppie!

Let me tell you, it is one long boring state to get through, but we made it. Yeah, me and Teddy, too. Tomorrow the Colorado Springs, CO adventures begin. I haven't been here in 17 years.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Goin' with the Flow and Movin' On Down the Road

The table I set up in Eden Bakery Cafe in Webb City, MO.
I spent much of Saturday at Eden Bakery Cafe and no one came in for a book. Sort of a bust in that regard.

People did order and enjoy the jambalaya. And I actually enjoyed my time at the cafe. I played my guitar a bit for patrons, but no one seemed thrilled. Just tellin' it like it is.

I'll be moving on tomorrow; off to Colorado Springs until Wednesday morning. I'll let you know how that goes.

Thanks to my daughter, owner of Eden Bakery Cafe, for the opportunity.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Jambalaya Making and Voodoo Virus Signing at Eden Cafe in Joplin, MO

Oh, la joie de vivre!

I just finished whipping up a double batch of my Jambalaya for Eden Cafe in Joplin, MO. I brought the genuine Cajun sausage with me from New Orleans.

Within minutes I'll be available for a signing. I'll offer songs, stories and more for the next few hours. If you're in the area, pop on by.

Jambalaya just $5.95 a bowl and books are $6.99.

Friday, March 15, 2013

From NOLA to JOMO with no Mojo

After another grueling, heap big drive I have made it out of the "Big Sleazy" and into Joplin, MO for a brief stay with a couple of my children (and to see my grandsons). I'll be on the move again come Monday morning when I'll head out to Colorado Springs where the wife and kids and I once lived (19 years ago). I will see old haunts and meet with a fellow author.

I took this photo of a gator I actually saw.
On my last day in Louisiana I did a lot of driving as well. First I slid down to Slidell (home of the infamous Honey Island Swamp Monster) for the Honey Island Swamp Tour. That was full of discovery and will be helpful to the writing of the next book in the Bayou Boys Adventure series MARSH MONSTER. I thought the tour was interesting.

Forget alligators! I saw way too many venomous snakes to make me ever want to get into a bayou for a swim.

After that I drove back up to NOLA to the Garden District where there are hundreds of antebellum mansions. As beautiful as they are it got tiresome looking at them and I had another stop to make that day.

A Greek Revival style antebellum now owned by the
Women's Guild of the New Orleans Opera.
BTW: I have selected a mansion that will be the physical model for the third book in the series ANTEBELLUM APPARITION.

My final trip of the day took me to Houma--the home of the my series heroes--which I originally chose, after some research, for it's Cajun culture and proximity to bayous. Got to say it looks like a pretty dull place to live in general. No wonder these boys seek out adventure!

An authentic Cajun dance hall in Houma (Home-ah), LA.
I guess the most interesting thing I saw in the city was a Cajun dance hall. I saw it and talked to a few folks, but didn't get to stay for the fais do do, since the sun was beginning to set. (And yes, these people do have their own "dialect.")

Before leaving town the next morning I picked up some authentic Cajun andouille sausage (and put it on ice) to bring up here to JOMO (where I'll make a batch of jambalaya tomorrow).

MO later, gator.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Where Yat? In New Orleans

The St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square New Orleans.
Where Yat? A common greeting in the Big Easy meaning "How you doing?" or "What's on your mind?" it seldom means "Where are you?" You also hear "Who Dat?" which is a statement of pride, like "Did you see that; it was amazing!" or "I'm cool." Depends a bit on the context. Yes, I'm still here in NOLA. It was about 70 today with a light breeze. Last night was nice and I took the time to locate several things I wanted to see, but mainly finding the meet-up location for today's Haunted History Tour. I stumbled across many things I'd read about in guidebooks simply by covering a lot of ground.

Jesse, the Haunted History guide at the meet-up
in front of Dr. Zombies Voodoo Shop.
Today's tour was a walking tour. (So, yes, my legs hurt.) It was more interesting for the architecture and history than for the ghost stories. Mainly interesting was that the city was established by the King of France who emptied the prisons by giving the criminals a choice of execution or life or being sent to New Orleans. They chose exile. He also gathered up all the woman of ill repute, shackled them to a criminal and put them on a boat. By the time they arrived, babies were on the way, too. Wallah!  Instant families to settle the new world.

So, in a nutshell the place was created by a corrupt politicians, criminals and loose women. The guide suggested the city's current state was simply a result of DNA.

A Cajun band playing Zydeco at the Bayou Club.
I did finally catch many quality music artists, both on the street and in clubs (playing jazz, blues and more). No dixieland, yet.

I saw one amazing Cajun band playing Zydeco, which was one of my goals. They were awesome! I love that music!

Seven Strings and a Two Dollar Bill.

I also saw a street performance that really tickled me, because it was unusual. They duo played old country music with a guy on banjo and a girl playing a small guitar (almost mandolin size) while tap dancing.

Blackened Chicken Po' Boy.
And I finally had a Po' Boy the Gumbo Shop. It wasn't as big as the ones at Jimmy's, but it was fifty cents less and in a much nicer place. I had a blackened chicken sandwich that was both tender and tasty. While not as spicy as I expected ((or would have liked) there was a house Creole Seasoning that I added to bring some heat and zest. Very nice.

Oh! I stumbled upon children's bookstore of all things and bought a copy of one of my favorite books to read aloud, Petite Rouge: A Cajun Little Red Riding Hood.

Tomorrow I drive to the Honey Island Swamp in Slidell where I will tour Honey Island Swamp in search of their swamp monster then drive through the Garden District to see the Antebellum mansions before dropping down in to Houma.

Monday, March 11, 2013

From Driving Machine to New Orleans

Photo taken at a New Mexico rest area.
I drove a twelve hour day (only stopping for gas/bathroom breaks, so I didn't take many landscapes) on Sunday and finally made it to NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) through torrential rains most of the way through the state.

The evening in NOLA was clear and warm (a balmy 70 degrees). The next morning I awoke to gray, overcast skies and much rain. It put a damper on things until about noon today and walking about was nice.

This street car isn't named Desire.
Yes, walking. I'm walking my legs off. The Big Easy is not so easy to get around in. Rather vast and LOTS to see. Can't say I'm loving it. The city is basically given over to partying (drinking, gambling, smoking, and music...oh, and eating).

It's Spring Break and there are LOTS of twenty-somethings milling about. None of the bits of music I caught last night were as good as Mickey Scott's band in San Antonio (I'll post a video of them doing Blue Suede Shoes on my author Facebook page). Some good outdoor jazz here this afternoon though at the French Market. I did pop into a few clubs here last night (and there are a LOT of them) but I didn't like it. Not my scene.

On Decator Street (Rue).
I explored more broadly today. I have not and will not visit Bourbon Street (where the debauchery runs wild and rampant). I strolled along Decater, Royal and Pirate's Alley mostly. Royal is a lot nicer than Decater. The city is quite old and trashy, but Royal looks pretty good if you don't look down at the street (which is decrepit).

On Royal Rue.
I have over 100 photos already, so I can only show a few here. I tried to capture the influence on Disney's New Orleans Square and you can definitely see where they got their inspiration. Disney is so much cleaner and bright though.

I can also see why the bookstores I contacted wouldn't host me; they are so small and deal mostly in used books anyway. I saw Beckham's Books and the Faulkner House (I'll have to share that picture series later due to space formatting issues).

Jambalaya with Red Beans and Rice.
As far as eating goes, I couldn't get into Cafe du Monde (specializing in beignets and French roast chicory coffee) due to the crowds and lines. Nor have I been able to eat at Johnny's Po' Boys for the same reasons. I did eat jambalaya and red beans and rice with a Barq's root beer (they didn't have sweet tea) at Cafe Maspero and that was quite good.

The red beans and rice were heavy on the beans, spicy and tasty with cooked to perfection veggies (the "holy trinity" of green peppers, onions and celery) and tasso (smoked ham). The jambalaya was heavy on the rice (like rice pilaf) with only a little andouille, shrimp and veggies and not very spicy (I make better). I also had a praline from "the best praline" shop in the city and I make them just as good.

The original House of Blues facade.
I probably won't do Cafe du Monde, but I still hope to eat at Johnny's and the Gumbo Pot and I might try to get some Shrimp Creole someplace (maybe in Houma where I hope to catch some live Zydeco which they don't really do here).

Shopping-wise, I bought myself some gumbo file for making gumbo (a  thickner made from sassafras) and an apron that says I'm an Honorary Cajun.

French Market Plaza (Can you see
where Disney got inspired?)
Tomorrow I take a Haunted New Orleans Tour and check out a few more local "attractions" (touristy must-dos). The next day I'll do the Honey Island Swamp Tour and head down to Houma.

BTW: If you click on the pictures you can see them larger.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fabulous Food and Fun in Fresno and Ninjas Knocking on My Noggin

Ninjas knocking my noggin.

So here I am visiting my super son (Josiah) in unsunny Fresno, California. Okay, so there's some clouds in the sky, but not in our spirits. So far, I've totally whipped the boy in cribbage and air hockey, but he's better at making hoops.

Mostly he's shuttled me from restaurant to restaurant, trying to see if his Pop will pop. My stomach is very full. All new experiences in gastronomical delight. (see pix at bottom)

Mmm, fresh squeezed!
We also took a country drive to Avocado Lake park. Along the way we stopped at a Fruit Stand and hand a glass of freshly squeezed Orange Juice and OH, WAS IT GOOOOOD!

Tomorrow morning I hit the road again and travel south past L.A. and then curve inland for Tucson, Arizonie for the night before heading the next day to San Antone. I'll post from there sometime on the 8th.

Son, Josiah snitching oranges right off the tree.
Now, off to beat the boy in another game of cribbage. Wish me luck.

I don't like the way this post looks, but there are too many pictures for the amount of text, but I wanted to share them with you. Please excuse the layout.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On the Road Again

Yreka! It's noon and I just hit California. Just paid $4.25/gal. for gas. And it's cold here. I have about 6.5 hours of drive time until I reach my stop in Fresno. Should be there a couple hours ahead of time! (Of course I went to bed last night at 9 p.m., and was on the road by 7:30 a.m.)

Yesterday I had lunch at Red Robin in Albany, Oregon with my OLD friend Bret VanVolkenburg. Been thirty years since we've seen each other! He's retired from an army career and working in computers now. Still a drummer (at his church). Stayed last night at the Peet's (in-laws) in Creswell, Oregon. Thanks Laura for the scrumptious supper of Ground Chicken Stroganoff and broccoli!

The following picture is of Mt. Shasta. Enjoy. Well, gotta hit the road again. Be sure and check back often for updates (at least every other day). Until next time...

It hasta be Shasta. The morning of March 5, 2013

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tongue Twister: Marsh Monster March Madness

I'm hitting the road in the morning (Monday, March 4) to do some recon. I'll be doing some visitating, some book signing, some sight-seeing and a whole lotta miles.

I'll be taking copious notes and skuds of photos.

AND I'd like to share this road trip with you. I will be blogging along the way and I hope you will follow as I prepare to write "Marsh Monster" over the next few months.

The scenes and settings I see shall be shared.

So follow my photos and musings about: Fresno hoods, California vistas, Tucson sunsets, San Antonio's cowboys, cuisine and the famed Riverwalk. Plus LOTS of pix from NOLA (New Orleans)--from the swamps and bayous to the mansions, missions, museums, munchies and more. Not to mention JOMO (Joplin, MO), Colorado Springs, Utah, Idaho, Eastern Washington and more.

It will be quite a ride.