OUT OF STONE: the New Novel

Having spread my soul wide open to the cutting edge of the editor, endured the ruthless attack on the manuscript, I have survived. A little shredded perhaps, humbled to be certain, yet more or less intact. My new editor, Martin Coffee, did an excellent job cleaning up some horrendous grammar (you want a real horror story you should see my uncorrected proofs – now that’s scary), kept the characters where they belong, righted my wrongs, and got most of the jokes. You can always tell whether someone is really reading your story or just correcting. Not put off by the vulgarity and some of the over the top graphic descriptions, Martin Coffee read it. He also liked the story, a lot!  So much so it has inspired him to read my previous works. ‘Right on, Martin!’

  Receiving your edited manuscript back comes with a frightening thrill. Incorporating the changes and editorial suggestions brings the work into its full dimension, cleans it up, and in general makes the novel ready for you to read. Editing is a milestone in the publishing process. It is the end of one phase and the beginning of another.

With this publication we are pursuing some of the tricks used by the big publishers. Advance copies of the novel have been sent to top horror reviewers in the country, Colleen Wanglund and Jeff Padget. These folk know good horror when they see it and they won’t let some palsy imitation sneak through. For me they are an acid test that could wind up in my face, because they tell it like it is. I hold confident. Their reviews will be part of our promotional package and be published in the book with their permission.

The story line holds, the action intense, character development full, and enough blood and mayhem to make one of my readers, R, miss some sleep. She can no longer read the story before bed. I like. R is vastly intelligent and highly critical and will have no qualms about giving me shock treatment if I have pulled any punches. R will also have her thoughts about the story published along with Colleen Wanglund and Jeff Padget.

Very soon the manuscript will be sent to Danil Mugaliev for final formatting into book form, for both hard copy and e-editions. We have worked with him on anoxic zone, Halocline, and Black Tide and look forward to his expertise and suggestions. It was his idea to use the syringes for chapter separation in anoxic zone. A very clever man.

Speaking of, we will also be using Mohamed Sadath for our cover design as well this time. His creativity on all three covers of the previous books has been outstanding. He’ll have his work cut out for him this time.

Front cover design, title, back cover, bio, publish, easy, right? Yeah, right. It’s a challenge and a half to get a professional looking product out there. As a self-publisher, you do all of these things yourself. Of course you have to farm out some of the work. You cannot edit yourself. That’s a given. Formatting and cover anyone can do, but if you want it great, get a pro. Your limitations are few, budget and imagination. Hell, I just wrote a book so the imagination is there. The budget is what it is. We do the best we can with what we have.

The working title of the new novel was Sechra, Tears of Stone. It works. It’s a great title. Unfortunately, Tears of Stone, has been used to death, literally, figuratively and any other way you can imagine. So it gets round filed. After due consideration and googling every stoned combination of words, the publication title will be ‘OUT OF STONE‘. The significance of the title will come clear when you are reading .

Black Water Books hopes to have hard copies and e-editions available in early 2013.

Not using any song lyrics this time should hasten the process a bit, haha. Sorry, it’s an inside joke but I’m sure some old British rocker might consider my comments (on using a couple of his song lines) slanderous.

We are very excited about getting, OUT OF STONE, on the way to being a published work.

If you haven’t read my previous works, get ready!

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THE FOURTH NOVEL: Into The Depths Of Hell

The initial edit completed as well as the follow-up rewrite for my new novel; working title –Tears of Stone –and is now being formatted to send to my editor and readers. Having sailed into uncharted waters with my first three books, anoxic zone, Halocline, and Black Tide, and setting new standards for gore and violence, the fourth could to be no less than a horrific ride into the gaping mouth of hell.

Tears of Stone(working title) revolves around a young character we meet in Halocline. Twenty years have passed since the revolution that created a free country. Freed from the yoke of Megacorp and a tyrannical, cruel and insane despot, the country grew and prospered. Slavery and slaughter during the revolution however left the country with nationwide epidemic of PTSD. Most dealt with it. A few unfortunately, did not. This opened the gates of hell once again. A metaphor, for they had actually never really been closed.

Our protagonist, against the odds, survived the barbarically horrendous revolution, at which she had a front row seat. What was witnessed in those early years hardened the tender areas of youth. The seeds of hatred fell upon the fertile soil of her mind, giving her strength to endure the madness.

In a twist of fate the girl is saved from the nightmare her young life had become, but not before her hatred had taken root. Her life on the run from the madness of the revolution was replaced with one of privilege, education and art. Through her art, the girl turned woman, and was able to relieve herself of some of the memories life had bequeathed her. Notoriety and fame would come from her ability to carve stone, touching her life, changing it forever.

As her talent blossomed so did the darkness that so early in life reached out for her. The hatred, anguish, and horror at seeing her family and community brutally tortured, slain, and placed in chains, wanted to live amongst men. This thing, this hatred, this evil would use the girl it bonded with so long ago to bring it to life.

The first few pages set the hook of the story. Then, until the end, we get deep into our characters’ heads to understand the nightmare their lives have become. More than one antagonist exerts pressure on the tale. Hatred, evil, greed, revenge, are my usual nemeses. Once again they rear their ugly heads to wreak havoc on mankind, being truly the sources of all that ails us. Our tale takes us on a ride into the macabre, literally. If you have read my previous works you know how wild things can get. And they do get a tad outré. Not to disappoint my readers, the action and intensity is up to par. My wife, Mara, after doing the initial read, aside from being grossed out, said that ‘this may be the best thing you’ve written.’ I’m good with that, because she is right. Though Tears Of Stone is a stand alone read, the story is related to anoxic zone, Halocline and Black Tide, therefore reading one of the previous will shed some light on a few of the inside jokes and characters. Hold on as I take you where few readers have gone before.

The Wheel Turns : Decompressed

Before leaving on what turned out to be an epic journey, of both an outer and inner nature, I finished my fourth novel. The working title is ‘Tears of Stone.’ That title however has been overworked to death. I had hoped to complete it so my wife, Mara, could read the manuscript while I was motorcycle riding.

It always comes as a surprise to finish an idea in written form. You can tell when the end is near, 100 pages, 50 pages, but when it comes – WOW!!! Suddenly the writing is over and the rush of a ‘high’ is on; a somewhat sublime rush that is. Sure there are details that need attention, there always are, but they do not spoil the moment. Having the novel completed emptied the mind of worry, allowing the call of the road to come in loud and clear. That and the excitement of what Mara would say about the story when I returned. A month later I got the green light. After a rough edit the manuscript is ready for a rewrite, which I am doing now.

The tale revolves around a character you meet in Halocline, my second novel. Her story takes place twenty years after the revolution. She is now a grown woman with her own savage history and dark destiny to contend with. In dealing with horrific memories of childhood, that assault her constantly, an artist was born. Her art was a cathartic to relieve the conscious mind of the cruel and hideous visions.

As therapy the art worked in a psychiatric kind of way, creating what appeared to be a normal, though somewhat driven, personality. The unconscious mind, however, has a way of undoing the neat little knots we tie things up with. Life began to unravel when she finished the last piece for an exhibition.

Hell was just about to be unborn through her art.

It is a rather twisted little story about hate, revenge, ignorance, greed and the little things you never see that go on right behind the eyes. You just never know what someone is actually thinking. Trust me, most of the time you don’t want to know either.

You have to dig deep to come up with a tale like this. Although related to the previous novels, it is also a stand alone read. Of course, reading the first three novels is recommended as they are as ‘rip your throat out’ as it gets and… you’ll get a few more of the inside jokes. Like the others – anoxic zone, Halocline and Black Tide, you are grabbed on page one and ripped through a ride of terror and the macabre that will leave you gasping at the end… and wanting more. From the coast of Romania on the Black Sea, to Istanbul and the Transylvanian and Carpathian mountains, a journey into the darker parts of our minds and souls is about to be published.

Actually it will be a few more months until we print. Worth the wait to be sure and a chance to catch up on your reading. It’s back to work for me. When you call yourself a writer you better be doing just that. A little concentration, a little discipline and a lot of being able to sit there for hours at a time, waiting for blood to flood the page as you try to contain it, turning the crimson flow to words. And tuning out the unimportant distractions, aka, the cell is off. That’s what voice mail is for. Running with the ball for as long as you can each time you get it. But mostly it’s just doing your best that makes all the difference. It’s that ‘your best’ part of the equation that makes anything possible.

When you are doing your best there is always time to help others do it, too, but that’s another blog.

Aloha!

The Wheel Turns – 2012 X-Country Ride: Frying our Way across the West at a Blistering Pace.

Never one to make Kale wait unduly, we broke camp. Unfortunately my one cup of coffee was finished. I would have to deal on my own. With an altered plan of attack, we hit the road with a mission; get me back in one piece. Backtracking thirty miles got us to US25 south. We booked it, eating up the cool of the hot morning. At 85 mph, the pace was still slow. Huge pickups blasted passed us. You could only guess at the speed. The high plains began to roll more and the surface of the road, excellent. A few herds of cows and bison went by in a blur of speed. The bikes held tight. After a leisurely pace across the country, they finally had a chance to run. High speed, well not high speed, but really fast, sweepers, rights, lefts, rises and dips. I think we all enjoyed the experience.

We spent the night in Casper. A short day for us that allowed for some time to watch the Olympics and hydrate in the cool of a hotel room. Ahead was a big stop. Independence Rock. The outcropping of stone got its name from the early pioneers who arrived at this point in their journey on July Fourth. A portion of the original trail is has been saved. A bridge crosses it for viewing and imagination. The rock itself is a massive blunt of stone rising from the floor of the plains with nothing around except the sage, gophers and distant mountain range that was appropriately out of place.

As the pioneers must have been thankful for making it this far, so was I. Even more thankful to have such a good friend and riding partner as Kale. There are only a few who enjoy long hours of riding everyday. Six to eight is tops for most folk and more than enough for anyone. We are the exception. Considering the next few days ahead…

Through the Green Mountains, Whiskey Peak and down to our old friend Interstate 80. After a lunch that was best left forgotten, we did on 80 what 80 was made for, making time. The heat pressed down on you like one of those weights they put on bacon to keep it flat. There was just no escaping it. Water, lots of it, and don’t let it get to you.

If you want to think, the road gives you plenty of time to do it. You have to remain alert enough to ride and keep the mind active, somehow. For one stretch of road I sang ‘ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall’ until reaching the next fuel stop.  A little crazy I will admit, but whatever it takes to stay on the ball is what it takes. The day rolled on relentlessly, waves of heat warping the road, melting reality. Everything you saw had that Dali look to it, like wax sagging in the heat. Kale looked like a lava light, his helmet that big glob that’s just about to break free. A turn signal, a rest area, shade and cold water. Whoo, that was close!

From here on out it would be one’s ability to endure that would make the difference. It’s just heat. Stay hydrated, iced down, and don’t lose your cool. You can endure longer if you keep your head. Lose it and it’s over.

Mountain ranges loomed ahead. The thought of cool alpine air gave you something to look forward to. We pulled off for gas and supplies in Park City, Utah. The drop in temperature was a mere five degrees. There would be no relief as we dropped down into the Salt Lake valley. The pancake flat land stretched far beyond the horizon. The famous salt flats are but a small, brilliant stretch of this level plain.

We gassed again at the beginning of Bonneville Salt Flats, watered up and iced down. This last push of the day was going to be brutal. At least the sun was still high in the sky and not burning holes through your eyes. The bright glare of reflected sun off the salt crystal however made up for what would have been a small relief. Thoughts of being out on the flats without water or shade were not happy ones. Having mentioned the flats in one of my books it was nice to see memory served well when describing them. The white hot flash of an arc welder would give you an idea of the brilliance of the land. There were no plumes of salt grit rising from the raceway at the western end of the flat. The rooster tails of racing cars or motorcycles would shoot high off the rear tires describing its path across the flats. There were no tails today. It must be the heat I thought. They would race in the early day before everything melts or in the evening after it solidifies again.

The mountains on the western edge seemed to be dripping into the valley. There was no respite from the heat but there was Wendover, Utah. A border town half in Utah, half in Nevada. We spent the night in a hotel on the Utah side for the quiet. Step over the state line and its casinoville. Tonight was the last night of the trip. The moon was full as it was the day we left. Though not home yet we were coming full circle. Unbeknownst to me at the time tomorrow would be the final exam, testing all the skills we gained over the course of the last month and push us to the limit.

Next: California bound. 620 miles of Hell and Irony.

The Wheel Turns – 2012 X-Country Ride : Into the Heat

No more mister nice guy. Bishop was behind us. If that is what the road had in store for us then the lane ahead was just a little sweeter. Man, cause it was getting hot. We checked to make sure our vents were open for cooling. It was then I noticed Kale always had his main zipper up while I had unzipped mine hours ago to catch the wind.

These stretches of southern Nevada and Utah can get rather desolate and fuel is ever a primary concern. Needless to say we filled up at every chance. The longest distance between service stations was 172 miles. Kale knew his bike had the range. The F 650 gs had yet to be tested. The numbers crunched but would they reflect reality? We rode conservatively as the idea of being stranded for some hours on a shadeless strip of asphalt sucks. Tonopah to Ely Nevada, is one of the few remaining stretches of exquisite nothing. The bikes made it without dipping into reserve eventually arriving at Baker, Nevada, gateway to Great Basin National Park and the Lehman caves.

Being one of the least visited national parks has its upside, less people, less impact. This camp stands out amongst the others for its solitude. There were other campers but no one, it seemed, wanted to intrude upon the rushing mountain stream’s babble in the silence over the great basin. It was awesome and one of the darkest places on the planet making star viewing some of the best.

Then of course, the Lehman Caves. We signed for the first tour of the morning. No one else did and therefore received a private tour. Once again was darkness and deep silence with only an occasional drip of water to disturb it. Stalactites and stalagmites created a maze of translucent spires in total darkness. It is a living cave. Oddly, now that I think,about it, our flashlights were illuminating the natural rock/crystal art that would have otherwise never been seen. Nothing was to be touched. Nothing was. Wow, and yeah man, the whole place was pretty far out.

The cool mountain air was far behind. We dropped into the basin, diverting from Route 6, to lean into the twists and turns of Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Monument. Both have truly amazing rock formations that have to be visited physically to appreciate. Once we were through viewing the rpm’s came on again and the fun began. Tight hairpins to sweepers the roads had it all making the experience complete in a biker kind of way. But man it was getting hot.

Three days into the dry hot weather dehydration and overheating hit like a brick. I was drinking like normal and that was the problem. Normal was simply not enough for the riding conditions. I bonked. Inside the convenience store was the cool and ice cold sports drinks to slam. Without which, the whole damn thing would probably have ended right there. It didn’t and there was something to learn. Drink lots of water. Yellow is not mellow!

This seems like a good point to drop in a safety issue, especially with the contiguous 48 having the hottest weather on record. Dehydration is a sneaky bastard. You reach for a coke when what you need is water. The caffeine keeps you from hydrating. Every chance you get, you have to be drinking fluids. The hot dry weather sucks the moisture right out of you as fast as you can take it in. Even faster.

Most of the riders we saw this tour chose jeans, sneakers, and a tank top for their riding gear. It’s a personal choice. However with all that skin exposed you’re drying out like a drop of water on hot asphalt. Hmmmm, good metaphor.  You don’t notice because you are not sweating, the sweat vapors off too fast at 70 mph. A full riding suit like the Aerostitch Roadcrafter, aside from the protection, acts as another layer of insulation against the heat and dry conditions, helping you retain your liquid while the venting keeps you comfortable. Anything to keep from bonking.

For the heat I used a bandana with a couple handfuls of ice rolled inside and tied around my neck. Every stop you renew the ice. It was a simple solution to keep your brain from sizzling and keep you alert and sane. Riding temp at 70 mph, fresh black asphalt, sun overhead, 107 degrees. That’s hot!

We headed northeast. If not directly on Route 6 it was close by. That road had an uncanny knack for following us, or us it. Boulder Co. was the destination. Family, hot shower, home cooked meal, good conversation, and a firm bed never felt so good. Stuart, a rabid bicycle racer, was kind enough to explain to me what proper hydration is all about. Got it! Yellow is not mellow. Pee clear! Okay, okay, enough already with the pee!

Taking an extra day I rode down to Manitou Springs Co. to see Jon Renaud of Back To The Books, bookstore. He carries my novels at the store along with a fine selection of independent authors. Back To the Books’ inventory is as varied as it is eclectic with an excellent children’s section. Manitou Springs, the mountain village, is a shock of vibrant colors in a verdant mountain setting. It works. From here you can make the assault on Pike’s Peak, a 14ner. The village was also nearly victim to the forest fires that raged through the Colorado Springs area a couple of months ago. You could see large swaths of blackened trees and that was just from the road. No doubt the interior was scorched. The town was spared. Manitou Springs is a sweet stop after hanging tight through the twists and turns of mountain road it took to get there. Hydrating and psyching for the return ride.

Back to the road. The bed, family, and friends were now behind us. From Boulder we zigzagged two laners to hook up with Route 6. Out of the pan and into the fire!

 

 

Next down the road: The heart of the heartland

The Wheel Turns – 2012 X-Country Ride : Wheels on Fire

THE MACHINES, THE GEAR, THE PLAN, THE RIDERS

Suddenly all three things started to fall into place. Time, money and desire. You make these things happen and when the moment comes you are ready and jump! The motorcycles were BMW: a ‘95 gs 1200r with close to 100,000 miles, just broken in. We would roll that odometer in a few days. The second machine was a ‘10 F 650 gs chain drive with less than a thousand miles. Not broken in, yet! Both had hard side bags, top boxes manufactured by BMW and Touratech, a welcome addition for anyone going long distances.

 The gear was simple enough. Safety comes first, period. The Aerostitch One-Piece Roadcrafter had everything we look for as riders when it comes to protection and kick ass looks. Plus you can put it on in few seconds and get it off just as fast when the sun is hammering you with 111 degrees, as it was in Kansas (and almost the whole ride). With the leg and main zippers fully zipped, the vents wide open we rode comfortably. Zipping down the main zipper to provide ‘more’ airflow, for me, was counterproductive. The extra hot wind stole your body water at a wicked rate. Zipped and vented provided the proper balance for safety and comfort.

Helmets, boots, and gloves are always de rigueur. Each rider chooses what is right for themselves. Mine was an AFX with visor and smoked windscreen. Both aided well in keeping the relentless sun at bay and giving superior airflow and view. Kale’s was a traditional SHOEI, his touring boots and gloves, custom. Mine varied in that they were steel toed Wellingtons and roper’s gloves.

 

 THE PLAN

 The route was clear enough. Take one of the original trans-cons (also the longest) from one terminus to the other.
U. S. Route 6 – highway of the Grand Army of the Republic – fit all the necessary requirements. A plus was that Route 6 runs as a two lane highway for much of its length. There are sections where she runs concurrent with larger freeways yet always seemed to return to the double band of black.

 The western terminus of Route 6 is cause for some minor dispute between Bishop Ca. and Long Beach, Ca. Each claims to be the official end, or beginning, depending on how you view such things. Bishop was chosen. To make up the difference our first day of the tour took us through Yosemite; The Tioga Pass, Lee Vining, down the eastern range and across the first of many great basins to the town of Bishop. From then on it was little more than following the map. NOT!

The eastern end of Route 6 is Provincetown, Mass. It’s a fair distance, no matter how you look at it, and just the first half of the journey.

 THE RIDERS

 Kale Williams, old enough to know better, young enough to still give it a go. A life-long rider, Kale still renews his skill level by taking courses and of course, applying what he learns to the road. He has been criss-crossing the roadways on two wheels since the original Kawasaki Kz 650 hit the market. Kale knows the road and the road knows him. It’s always a pleasure to tour with that kind of experience; you learn something new every day.

  John G. Rees, that’s me – author, daily rider (Suzuki dl650) and one of a few who can sit in the saddle for 12 hours and go for more if that’s what it takes to keep up with Kale. Then there are the tools. I know how to use them. They always come in handy to either keep us on the road or, as was most often the case, aid another biker or motorist on their way. There is always time to stop and lend a hand especially on some of the stretches in the middle of nowhere that have suddenly become somewhere for somebody.

 As with most journeys of this nature, there is more than one tour happening; an inner and outer trip. We were prepared for the outer adventure. The inner would require all our strength, endurance, compassion and kindness if we were to make it the entire way as we had begun. A couple of bikers and miles to go.

 ON THE ROAD

 The first day was a warm up. San Francisco Bay to Bishop, Ca. via Yosemite, the Tioga Pass and Lee Vining. The Pass and Lee Vining was a downhill run with s-curves, hairpins, shear drops, and captivating views. Into the first of many natural basins we met the future – long stretches of arrow straight road and the sun overhead in a cloudless sky. There was a warning with the bright sun and warm air that rushed passed, stealing minute quantities of your body water, continuously, unnoticeable. Soon there would be no warning. When you are standing in the fire, you know it!

 The roads were clean, devoid of tourists and perfect for breaking in a new bike. The F 650 gs shifts effortlessly, allowing the rider to give the road ahead all of their attention. No box of rocks here! We were cruising the day away, with the exception of the caveat, the ride was uneventful. A couple hundred miles and change later we pulled into our first campground in Bishop, Ca.

 This campground would prove to be a prime example of what we would be encountering in the way of rustic accommodations. The parks were clean, staff, friendly and helpful, grounds and campsites level and amenities in good repair. Then, of course, the folk who camped in every conceivable level of comfort; from semi-sized RV’s to one the size of an old VW bug, harem tents and one-man’s – we all had a common desire; to be at this place, at this time, and to share its beauty around. Whether a smile, getting or giving directions (I was forever asking where the *&%# am I?), talk of the road, bikes or lending a hand, the goodness of the people shined through. And we saw this everywhere! In times such as these with less and less of the time we so desire, that there is always time to help someone else.

I will admit to a bias here. Bikers, underneath all that gear, leather, gloves and helmet are some of the nicest peeps you will ever meet. It all starts with a smile.

 Image

NEXT UP: INTO THE HEAT

Back to the Islands (RoadTrip 2012)

Aloha! 7843 miles later from Oakland, CA to Southwest Harbor, Maine and back again it’s good to be home. I wish to thank you all for thinking of me, sending your good wishes and great good love to keep me going and get back on the horse when the times got tough. The route was planned and then navigated by my riding partner Kale, whose forethought, wisdom and vision made the ride a truly remarkable tour across this great country of ours. From July 7 till August 3rd, full moon till full moon, clad in Aerostitch one-piece Roadcrafters, we traveled without regard for the time, yet with great regard for each other and the land that passed beneath our wheels. Long hours in the saddle gives one time to think, not think, ponder, dream and open one’s heart to the road.

Kale understood the route far better than I, for he spent countless hours doing research in preparation. The fearless leader, with a GPS mounted to the left side of his handle bars, iPhone at the ready, he led the way on a BMW gs 1200r with a twisted throttle and eyes on the far horizon. I followed, not for lack of experience. This is the third tour and I ride daily on the Big Island, but for lack of any sense of direction, I could get lost in an empty parking lot. Living on an island, you can always find your way home if you keep going. The hours were long and we generally didn’t reach camp until after the sun went down. Asses sore, arms and hands in need of stretch and rest; tired, hot and reeking odor – our smiles stretched as wide as the miles that had rolled under the rubber that day. When I say hot, I mean really f*#@!ing hot. From Cali to Maine the sun glared with anger upon the land. We were only passing through. My heart went out to the good folk that lived their lives beneath the overheated summer sun.

For the most part, the route followed the old highway system, Route 6, envisioned by Eisenhower in his youth as a young army officer. Years later, after becoming president, he implemented this vision into reality by uniting our country with a highway system. The road, like the chosen destinations were, as Kale’s father put it, ‘austere and remote’. This is one of the reasons there was no blogging during the ride. There simply was no internet service available. That in itself was a unique experience that more of us should try. Cell phone service was as sketchy as a service station.

Fuel was by far the more important of the two.

For those of you whom I had hoped to visit, while spinning the wheels of a new BMW f650 gs, you have my apologies. Blame the road. She was making all the calls. To everyone I did meet – Mahalo – your presence and kindness were comfort to this skinny ass across the endless miles.

There will be more written in the coming weeks concerning the motorcycle tour. Thank you all. Man, it’s good to be home.

ImageMahalo and aloha, john g

p.s. Versatile riding apparel, like a friend is never truly appreciated until it is needed. Ride safely; protect your self.