Musings on genre writing, waterfall wandering, and peak bagging in the South’s wilderness areas.
The biggest problem these days is the mentioned absence of markets. There are plenty of places to sell stories that are in the amateur and semi-pro marketplace. However, these places pay little or nothing and are mainly in electronic format only. I don’t want to write to have my work appear for no payment (or even token payment) and I don’t care for ephemeral electronic media. Because of this, such markets aren’t a place for me and I do not submit my work there.
Next comes the biggest problem. Starting a few years back I found myself blacklisted by a number of editors and publishers due to my political and social stands. There is no room, apparently, for people who don’t toe the current popular line in such matters. I saw my prospects vanish instantly when I finally became sickened over the things I saw, and wrote about my honest feelings. Almost immediately, editors refused to look at my work out of hand, and word went out to bar me from various markets. Requests for submissions from me–which had been vigorous before–disappeared.
So it goes.
These days the only option that has generally been left to me is self-publishing; but I detest the self-published marketplace as a wasteland of trash and shit. Because of this I have largely avoided the self-published scene except mainly to promote other published work (such as my WORKING CLASS HERO project), and to re-publish my out of print novels.
I don’t expect this situation to change, and so my short story production, which was once vigorous, has been reduced to zero published tales. Oh, well. There’s nothing to be done for it.
I think the last time any of my stories saw print was in my collection A CONFEDERACY OF HORRORS from Hippocampus Press. You can buy a copy in ebook format, and in print format, with a brilliant cover by Pete von Sholly.
|A CONFEDERACY OF HORRORS by James Robert Smith.|
The thing is, I almost never use even the television. We’re getting ready to cancel most of our subscriptions to various services via our cable (we still have cable and not satellite, although that may change soon as that formerly modern device seems to be justifiably dying off). And the reason, honestly, is that we very rarely turn on the TV. We will go–and I am not exaggerating–weeks without using the damned thing. So why pay for services that we use so rarely?
I can’t tell you when the last time I went to televised news for information. I just don’t do it. The very act is pointless. And I loathe pretty much all of the drama and comedy shows promoted for popular consumption when I encounter them. There might be something there I would enjoy, but by and large so much of it is relegated to subscription services that I’m just not going to victimize myself to this ploy of economic vampirism.
So. We’re moving toward getting rid of all but the most basic of Internet services. What we’re going to end up with is a WiFi connection whereby we can access streaming video. If we want to sample something, then it’ll be there at what we consider a fair or bargain price. No more signing up for services we rarely use, and no more pissing away our hard-earned dollars.
I long ago lapsed into getting most of my news through foreign sources that I access via the Internet. And I cannot tell you the last time I followed a network television show. Decades, likely, as I haven’t been a fan of such things since my days as a teenager back in the 1970s. Frankly, I just don’t know what the attraction is toward modern pop culture.
Admittedly, I am not hip to such matters. And, frankly, I just don’t care.
And it has occurred to me on more than once occasion that as I bemoan the death of things like bookstores, and the periodical comic book, and the wealth of daily newspapers, perhaps there is a current crop of 30-somethings who decry the extinction of early video game consoles, Saturday morning cartoons, and rock music.
Recently, on our eleven-day vacation to celebrate my recent retirement from the grinding 40-hour workweek, we noted that we did not once set up our television in our travel trailer. Carole and I talked about it, not because we felt like watching a movie or viewing what passes as news in the USA, but because we had not one iota of desire to do so. The little flat screen stayed in its cupboard storage and we read books during our downtime relaxing from a day of sightseeing or kayaking or hiking.
And that’s the thing. We both still read. Books are what we generally retreat to for entertainment and relaxation and education. Yes, I admit that I sometimes use an e-reader of some type, but even there we both prefer real books made of bound paper. I suppose, in that way, we are among the last of a dying breed, soon to lapse into extinction.
And that’s okay. I really don’t want to live in a world without bookstores, and without the people who grew up reading print books. As I wind down this mortal coil, I am struck by the things that I no longer chase. I may write of them this week. Or I may not.
For now, Carole and I are planning our next trips. Except for June, which is full of things like Father’s Day, my son’s birthday, my birthday, and our wedding anniversary (our 35th!), we plan to be camping or travelling elsewhere on a pretty much monthly basis. I’ve been waiting for decades to be able to do this kind of thing. We’ve found a couple of mountain locations that look attractive for both July and August. I’ll post photos when we’ve logged those trips into our history.
|I’d much rather explore this trail (which I did), or plan a trip to another such wild place, than bother with a TV show. I will be doing more and more of this as my active life builds up (and then, inevitably, winds down).|
|What’s around the next bend in the river? I’ll find out.|
Here are a couple of examples of frustrating instances of trying to get photos of, first, an alligator catching an eating a prey animal; and a strange-looking osprey who had just caught a large fish. In both cases I’d have been able to get some decent detail if only I’d had a much better telephoto lens. In each case, the distance from which I was taking the photos was from well over 100 meters. I just couldn’t capture exactly what I needed to see.
Yes, I am currently shopping for some better telephoto lenses. I have a couple picked out and will probably buy them over the next few months. Even a halfway decent lens costs more than I paid for my new camera. So the expense is somewhat daunting. But if I’m going to take better photos of wild animals, I must have a couple of good lenses.
|It was interesting how the alligator bowed its body by lifting its head and tail out of the water to position the large fish for swallowing. (By then the gator had changed position so that I was seeing the opposite side of its head..)|
These pair of instances, taken quite actually just minutes apart in the wildlife-rich Myakka River State Park, illustrated to me that I must buy a couple of new telephoto lenses. Until I buy such lenses, my wildlife photography will continue to be limited.
We had a generally good time at Hillsborough, but the experience was tempered somewhat due to the authoritarian manner in which the park is managed. The rangers tended to be douchebags for no reason, trolling through the campground and along the park road looking for anything that might constitute a reason for admonition. A couple of the rangers looked like they were not enjoying this opportunity to be assholes, so my suspicion is that their top manger has brought the hammer down so that they act like soup Nazis.
I understand that a park like this needs to be managed carefully and effectively, but one can go to extremes. This one has obviously gone overboard on enforcement to the point where it looks like they actually want to make the park less attractive for visitors. That’s one way to lessen human impact, I suppose.
One thing about the park that I did like is that it obviously employs a lot of local people. From groundskeepers to rangers and clerks, that place was busy with salaried employees. A good way to spend tax money, as far as I’m concerned.
We were pleasantly surprised to see that the park was very quiet and peaceful and uncrowded during the weekdays. Carole and I were able to hike park trails and encounter very few other hikers, which made for wonderful solitude. It’s great to be able to walk about and experience the forest and rivers without other people tramping about, talking, and generally making too much noise.
|Forest canopy along the trail beside the Hillsborough River.|
|The Class II rapids on the river.|
|Our campsite. Plenty of room. Complete with our Clam screenhouse.|
|Paddling along the Hillsborough River.|
|I counted seven alligators during our paddle trip. So there were probably ten times that many I couldn’t see.|
|Carole on the suspension bridge over the Hillsborough River. Hike beyond and you come to the trails into the back country.|
|Picnic shelter and retaining wall. This was where we put into the river, just a very short distance from our campsite.|
So, we drove down into Georgia and stopped at first one, and then another state rest area, finding both of them also taken over by the big rigs. After that I kept my eyes peeled for a Cracker Barrel Restaurant, as I’d read they didn’t mind RV folk parking overnight in their lot since most such folk wake up, go inside, and order breakfast. Ironically, we ended up pulling into a Cracker Barrel in my hometown of Brunswick GA around 1:00 am or so. And we slept there, got up in the morning, and had breakfast in the restaurant.
Then we made all safe haste to get on down to St. Petersburg and the Pinellas County administered Fort DeSoto Park. We’d been to the park twice before–the first time having discovered it completely by accident while driving around–and it never ceases to amaze me. The infrastructure in the park is of the highest quality: roads, parking lots, ocean/bay access, docks, bath facilities, campgrounds, offices, historical structures, picnic areas, etc. It’s hard to believe that it’s a county park and not a full-fledged state park.
It exists on about 1400 acres shared between several islands connected by narrow causeways. If you like bird life, this is your place. Well over 300 recorded species of birds make this park at least a temporary stopping off point. There are decent numbers of resident ospreys–a bird which I dearly love to watch and photograph. I found out on this trip that there are now several nesting pairs of Bald eagles, but I didn’t see any of them.
Unlike on our last trip, we brought our kayaks with us. While you can rent kayaks and canoes in the park, we like to bring our own. We put in at one of the spots along the bayou near our campsite (site #100) and paddled around observing the bird life and aquatic creatures who made their presence known from time to time. We were lucky enough to encounter two manatees, but as the water in the lagoon is a bit turbid, I only got a couple of photos when one of the big mammals came to the surface to get a breath of air.
As for the campground: it is huge. It offers 238 sites, all with electric and water hookups. Most of the sites have lots of vegetation on either side, giving you a plenty of privacy. And there are many live oaks with their sheltering branches offering shade. Many sites are waterfront, either on the lagoon, or on the bay allowing access to the Gulf. There are extremely nice bathhouses sprinkled through the campground with flush toilets, sinks, hot showers, and laundry facilities. (The laundry prices went up quite a lot since our last visit so it’s a bit pricey to wash and dry a load of clothes compared to our previous trip.)
One thing that is unique about this park is that you feel as if you are far away from cities and traffic, but you have to drive through St. Petersburg to get to the park (tolls to get in total $1.75). We had picked a day to go into St. Pete to have breakfast, visit the Salvador Dali Museum, hit some shops, have supper, and then go back to the campground. Normally we don’t do city-stuff on our vacations, but because of the campground’s proximity to the city and all that it offers, we made an exception.
My only complaints about the trip have nothing whatsoever to do with the park itself, or with the city. But I have noticed on my last three vacations to Florida that the amount and diversity of wildlife has diminished. This could be just the luck of the roll and we’ve merely hit some bare patches in the continuity. But I have been disturbed to note that I am not seeing the numbers and varieties of wild animals that we normally encounter when in the state.
Bottom line: you could do a whole lot worse than booking a camping vacation at Fort DeSoto Park. But if you do want to stay there, book well in advance. We had to book our site five months before we used them, and were lucky to get the site that we wanted.
|Our site (#100). Directly across from the bathhouse and laundry.|
|The bathhouse in our section of the campground with accompanying amazing oak.|
|One of the trails I hiked on the island.|
|A pterodactyl…I mean Brown pelican that sailed over me on its way somewhere else.|
|Part of the park’s namesake: Fort DeSoto. Built during the Spanish-American War when we took most of Spain’s colonies away from them. The fort was armed and manned (along with the one on Egmont Key), but of course they never saw any battles.|
|An inner section of the fort.|
|Me, lounging on one of the big mortars/cannons/whatever.|
|A great egret that I photographed as it caught (and then ate) a small pufferfish (which you can see in its beak).|
|I don’t know anyone in this photo. they were just in my way when I took this composite image of the Salvador Dali Museum building. Designed by Yann Weymouth, it is sometimes called “The Enigma”.|
|I call this one: “American with Dali”.|
I’ll post more stuff tomorrow, time willing.
|A great egret with a captured pufferfish.|
|Osprey with big fish.|
|Newly hatched moorhen chicks. Complete with vestigial dinosaur claws on their tiny wings. (My only opportunity to photograph them was from above.)|
Musings on genre writing, waterfall wandering, and peak bagging in the South’s wilderness areas.
Tomorrow I’ll take mine down and make sure it’s clean and ready to go. Not much longer till we head out for our first trip of the Spring/Summer season.
We’re probably going to sell my kayak this summer and buy a tandem model. We’ll keep Carole’s excellent Wilderness Pungo for when our son wants to go kayaking with us. We decided a couple of years ago that we wanted to switch to a tandem kayak, but we’ve either just been too busy working to shop for one, or it wasn’t in the budget. Recently, though, we have been able to look around and eyed a number of them. For a while we were going to get a sit-on-top model, but we have opted to get a conventional type. And, again, we’ll go for the Wilderness kayak–we have really been impressed with Carole’s (it tracks exceptionally well) so the company sold us on design and general quality.
|Carole ahead of me when we paddled Holmes Creek in Florida in 2017.|
|Carole out in the bay at Gulf Shores National Seashore (also in 2017). That’s her kayak in the foreground and my Perception model on the left.|
Over the next eight months Carole and I have planned seven trips, all with our Casita travel trailer. These will pretty much all be within more local states (NC, SC, VA, WV, TN, GA); but we are heavily leaning toward a camping trip to Pennsylvania. I think it would be nice to visit Gettysburg. We’ll see if we can firm up the plans.
The only month that we probably won’t go anywhere is June. That’s a busy month for us. We have our 35th wedding anniversary, my son’s birthday, my birthday, and Father’s Day. All of that will keep us busy sticking close to home.
At any rate, I made it. All the way until retirement. Hopefully I won’t croak anytime soon. Recently an old friend of mine died a week before he was to begin retirement. The second I saw all of that happen, I realized that there was no way I was going to try to punch the clock for even one more year. I’d like to enjoy a few years of the kinds of adventure I want to take and not suffer one more day of the grind of working for either corporate or federal pay-masters (both of which I have done).
|Taken on a camping trip. This, and all of the photos that follow, were taken on camping trips. Lots more camping ahead for us!|