I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Monday, April 30, 2007

How Cool Is This?

If you go to the Wait Wait Don't Tell Me website, you will discover on their May 14 show in the "Not My Job" segment a mention of the book Talk the Talk, written by my friend Luc Ried. Since I mentioned the book here a few months ago, I'll take that as direct confirmation that the producers of the show read my blog and faithfully follow my recommendations. Anyway, that's my version of reality.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Yet more reasons to move to Hillsborough

Back in February, I started a series of blog posts called "top ten reasons to move to Hillsborough," which I stopped at #2 after getting sidetracked with the challenge to post five things that few people knew about me. This shouldn't be taken as a lack of enthusiasm for Hillsborough, just as a statement of how easily distracted I am.
So, here goes some more items on the list:
#3: Occoneechee Mountain. The photo shown here is from the overlook on Occoneechee Mountain. When I first moved to Hillsborough, I was a little dubious of the claim that it had a mountain, given that I grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, which has real mountains. Occoneechee Mountain is something like 700 feet tall... a runt when measured against the mountains of my childhood. Still, my friend Cheryl took me on a hiking trail to an overlook this week and I was forced to admit, yeah, okay, when you have to walk up the darn thing, it's a mountain, and the view from the overpass is convincingly mountainish. I now have a great deal of respect and affection for our little mountain.
#4: Occoneechee Speedway. Continuing on the theme of great hikes, there's an abandoned speedway here that was last used for stock car racing back in the sixties. Since then, nature has reclaimed it, leaving a set of ruins that make for a pleasant walk. Walking up the concrete bleachers, all covered with vines, and walking past the remains of cinderblock concession stands with trees growing out of them gives the place a vibe that is somewhere between the Colloseum in Rome and some movie set of a post-apocolyptic Earth. The Eno river runs along the edge of the race track, so there are some wonderful views of its winding waters. And, unlike Occoneechee Mountain, this hike is mostly flat, so it makes a good warm up hike if you've spent most of the winter sitting in front of a computer editing a novel.
#5: The sausage sandwich at Sonny's Sandwiches. I can't tell if Sonny's is a purely local restaurant or a franchise. They certainly have a purely local vibe... only their preprinted menus have a franchise feel to them. But, the best thing to eat there isn't on the menu. They'll have a board with a daily special posted, and if you ever see the andouille sausage sandwich on the board, you're in for a treat. This thing is a grilled sausage served on a sub roll with sour kraut, grilled onions, and spicy mustard. It's essentially a giant spicy hotdog, and I happen to be a fan of giant, spicy hotdogs. Also, this place has a cheese sub that I used to buy for Laura. She had a lot of trouble building up an appetite in the final years of her life, but she could tear into their cheese sub. There's a subway in the shopping center about four doors down from Sonny's... the fact that they've held on in the face of their much more hyped competition says something about how good their food is.
#6: 3 Gatos. I actually just discovered this last night. Hillsborough has a street festival the last Friday night of each month and among the local vendors I discovered the 3 Gatos table. They specialize in hot sauces and hot foods. My heart went pitter-pat as I surveyed their wares. Unfortunately, I only had one dollar in my pocket at the time. http://www.3gatosfireandrice.com/page/page/4336020.htm is their website. They say they are opening a retail store in downtown Hillsborough soon, and will be at the Last Friday celebration next month. Next month, I'll go with money and walk away with a can of wasabi pecans and a bottle of Magma. Man, I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Frustrations in the life of the young novelist...

I stopped at a bookstore yesterday and left my phone number with the folks at the information desk in the center of the store, hoping to arrange a signing. I came out of work today and checked my cell phone and WOOHOO! I had a message. Alas, it wasn't from the bookstore. It may be that other writers have vastly different experiences, but my experience as a novelist who isn't yet a household name is that people at bookstores routinely ignore your emails and disregard your phone calls if you're interested in discussing possible signings. I suspect the reality is they are probably swamped with dozens of people on any given day looking to arrange signings. There are probably more novelists in America than there are bookstores. I knew of at least a dozen local writers when I lived in Greensboro. Off the top of my head, I can think of three bookstores. So, the competition is probably pretty fierce to catch the attention of the people who arrange signings.

After I leave a message, I feel uncomfortable about calling back. I hate to feel like I'm hassling people. Fortunately, Bitterwood is still a few months away. I'm not in panic mode yet about unreturned phone calls.

Of course, tempering all this is the fact that I'm not sure that booksignings do all that much to boost sales for new writers. If I happened to be in a store when a reading and and signing of a book and an author I'd never heard of was going on, I might wander over and check it out. But, if I saw a poster about it, and didn't know the author, it probably wouldn't register as something I should go to. The signings that catch my eye are signings by authors I already know about, promoting books I've already heard about or read. It seems like a good way of supporting an existing fan base, but as a way of building a readership, I'm slightly dubious of a signing's value.

Does anyone have any different experience? Have you ever bought a book by an author you had never heard of simply because you heard about a reading at a local bookstore?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I just got back from Ravencon. It was a terrific con with nearly 700 attendees and I highly recommend it for any of you con attending types. You can read a more detailed report about the con at my Bitterwood blog.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Abortion Ruling

The reactions to yesterday's ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the partial-birth abortion ban passed by congress have been interesting. I visit a lot of liberal sites like buzzflash and see a lot of talk about the Supreme Court having outlawed a certain type of abortion. I'd like to point out that the Supreme Court didn't outlaw anything in this ruling... it merely upheld a law passed by congress. And, if democrats are upset by the law, it seems to me the answer is obvious. Now that they control congress and the senate, pass a law legalizing this abortion practice. If the president vetoes it, muster the votes to override the veto. For a congressman or senator to blame the court for upholding a law seems to me to represent a dodge of their own responsibility as lawmakers.

The thing is, I've always thought that Democrats would benefit if Roe v. Wade were overturned. I truly feel like there is a pretty solid majority in this country that supports a right to abortion. Making the issue a court-protected issue instead of a legislative issue meant that Democratic voters could be complacent. It didn't matter if they voted or not, or who controlled congress, because abortion was a constitutional right according to the court. Republicans have gotten very good at hammering out restrictions that have popular support... things like parental notification, waiting periods, and now this partial birth abortion ban. Democrats are scared to vote against these things (though, no doubt some support them because they truly believe in them). But, if I were a Democrat, I'd be introducing pro-abortion legislation that Republicans would have a hard time opposing. A broad-based legislation that states that no woman can every be subject to prosecution for deciding to travel between states to obtain a legal abortion, for instance. (I don't think this is illegal now, but codifying it in law would be a huge symbolic victory.) Or, legislation that guarantees a legal abortion would be made available in cases of rape or incest. Plenty of people would oppose this, but I think it would be easy to brand the opposition as outside the mainstream.

The fact is, it seems like only Republicans have bothered to use the legislature as a political tool to change the law to reflect their wishes. Democrats haven't been introducing pro-abortion legislation that I'm aware of, they've only been opposing anti-abortion legislation. They should pick up some tips from the Republicans and actually pass some laws that support their values instead of always playing defense.

I suspect, if this battle is decided via legislation instead of via court fiat, what we'll wind up with will be laws that make abortion widely available, perhaps even publicly subsidized, but with comprises like waiting periods and parental notification. It wouldn't be a constitutional right... it would be statuatory law that would require constant vigilance to maintian and reflect the will of the public... you know, democracy.

Ismail ax

I read this morning that the phrase "Ismail ax" was a hot phrase for search engines yesterday, for obvious reasons, since the Va Tech gunman had it written on his arm and no one knew what it meant. I also immediately jumped on google to hunt the phrase. Nothing. I also tried to rearrange the letters, anticipating this might have some hidden meaning. Nothing makes sense, though "Islam ax I" should invigorate the handful of folks who want to tie this into Islamic terrorism.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

House renovation goes external

My house is fairly bland when seen from the street. The landscaping of my yard is best described as minimalist, with no trees, bushes, flowers, etc. Mostly, just grass and weeds. I want to do a few things to enhance the appearance but I don't want projects that require a lot of time, energy, or money, since I'm short on all these things.

My first project has been to install a flower bed along the side of the house. The tricky part of this is, I didn't actually plant much in the way of flowers... just three azalea bushes I bought for 2.50 each from a Kiwanis' fundraiser in a bank parking lot. They were something of an impulse buy. I'd gone out to by mulch for the bed. My budget for the entire project was $20. I knew I needed about $10 worth of mulch, so encountering the bush sale at such a bargain basement price seemed like a good omen.

I'd bought the curvy brick edgers from walmart two weeks ago. They cost about $30. So, the whole project cost about $50, and took about 3 hours total labor. Hopefully, the azalea bushes will do okay. As the summer rolls on, I'll probably be adding some more plantings. My friend Cheryl said she had some free stuff she could give me from her garden.

Any way, here are the before the mulch and bushes shot and an after shot:

People celebrate the redesign of my blog by breaking into spontaneous dance...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Local weather. And I do mean "local."

When I got up this morning I discovered it had snowed, leaving a light but quite thorough dusting of the white stuff all over my yard. Snow in April in North Carolina is a little strange but not impossible. What is strange, though, is that it only snowed in my yard. Above is a picture from my front porch showing snow in my front yard extending to the street, then, beyond that, nothing. The street is snow free, and the yards across the street are snow free.

I've always thought my house was cooler than most, and I finally have some empirical evidence.