Monday, August 31, 2009

Great Egret

Yesterday, as my wife and I were coming home after dropping our daughter off at the local animal shelter for her volunteer work, I saw a great egret fly over the street, not much more than two blocks from home. It looked something like a great blue heron in size and general shape, but with white plumage and black legs. It was a marvelous sight, with long neck curled into an S-curve and great white wings slowly flapping as it flew toward the direction of the river.

I think I've seen a great egret before, standing around in Burden Pond in Troy. However, this time I got a real good look at one in flight. And I was impressed. My only regret; I didn't see it in breeding plumage. That would have been amazing!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another Saint George in AT Zazzle Store


For a while now, Crystalwizard has been asking for another Saint George to feature in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store, in part because merchandise featuring my other Saint George drawings has proved to be somewhat popular. Well, we've sold a handful of Saint George items, anyway.

The above image is a drawing a few years old that I just got around to adjusting for use in the store. I removed the background colour, made the ground of the shield and surcoat an off-white, and touched up the image here-and-there. And now the adjusted image of "Saint George as a 14th Century English Knight" appears on merchandise in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store.

My manipulation of this image got me thinking about my approach to digital art. While I understand some traditional artists dislike art composed on the computer, I do think that the computer can be valuable tool for enhancing traditional art. I could never have changed the colours so easily with a piece coloured in the traditional manner of ink, pencil, or paint. And I've even been known to manipulate the drawings themselves using the computer. However, I almost always resort to ink on paper for my initial drawings, the bare bones of my art.

I guess, just like in many things, I'm a middle-of-the road sort of guy. In terms of digital versus traditional art, I'm not a strict adherent of either approach. However, even though it is coloured digitally, I still consider my art to be traditional, since it is initially drawn by hand. (Mixed media, perhaps?)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Robert the Bruce Article to be Published

It looks like my historical article about Robert the Bruce, giving a brief overview of Robert's life and his struggles to secure the Scottish throne, as well as describing two surviving swords attributed to the warrior King of Scots, will be published in a forthcoming issue of Abandoned Towers. Of course, Crystalwizard wants me to illustrate the article, too. I'll post more information (like when the piece is actually expected to be in print) when it becomes available.

I want to start writing more articles for publication, and this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Cosmic Journey Illustration


Copyright © 2009 Richard H. Fay

I created the above weird and wild illustration to accompany my poem "Cosmic Journey", appearing in the on-line version of Abandoned Towers. The image already appears on merchandise in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store, and sooner or later should be published on the Abandoned Towers site.

After drawing quite a few decorated medieval-style letters for another Cyberwizard Productions project, it was nice to take a break from the historical and draw something much more imaginative. And I had the general look of the "green ghungliders" stuck in my head for quite a while now, so I just had to draw them sooner or later. Otherwise, my head might eventually explode. And that would be messy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Niteblade Art Blog: Bloody Horror

In the latest installment of the Niteblade Art Blog, I feature the work of the accomplished horror artist Jerrod Brown. A traditional artist and a southpaw, Jerrod has been painting and drawing for nearly forty years. A huge fan of horror movies and the artwork found in the classic genre magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, Jerrod lets his love of horror shine through in his deliciously dark paintings. Check out three examples of his work here: "Bloody Horror: The Frightening Art of Jerrod Brown".

And now I have just one more thing to say about this - LEFTIES RULE!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Who (or What) is it at the Door?

Who (or What) is it at the Door?

by Richard H. Fay

Key slides into keyhole
Turning tumblers,
But door never opens.

Doorknob rattles
Rotated by hand
Not really there.

Hinges creak
And wood moans
As no one enters.

Widened eyes
Peer through cracks,
Seeing nothing.

Door stays shut,
Barring entrance
To unseen things.

Knock upon wood
Quickens heartbeat
And steals breath

Because no mortal being
Stands at the threshold
Waiting to come in.

Copyright © 2009 Richard H. Fay

(Based on actual family experiences with the paranormal.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Essay up at Creator and the Catalyst

My essay (or commentary, or editorial, or whatever you want to call it) "The Good and the Bad of Critiques" is now on-line at the Creator and the Catalyst web site. Check it out!

In the piece, I voice my personal views regarding the relative importance of critiques to those receiving them (it is all relative, after all), and how some things passing for constructive criticism are actually closer to toxic insult than anything truly constructive. The gist of the overall spirit of the essay may be something that I've stated repeatedly: tastes, opinions, preferences, and biases differ from person to person, from reader to reader, from editor to editor, from critic to critic.

Now, in case you were wondering, this essay came about due to my comments in the Aphelion forum in response to a feature about critiques published in the August issue (the Aphelion forum being just about the only one I frequent at this point, usually to comment on the poetry). Mark Edgemon, a regular Aphelion contributor and studio director at Creator and the Catalyst, commented that my forum entries would make a fabulous essay. Even though I don't really consider myself an essayist, I figured I shouldn't pass up a unique opportunity, so I edited and polished my entries and sent them Mark's way. Voila, almost-instant essay!

Will others disagree with my viewpoints? I'm almost certain of it, and some may even feel that my opinions hold no real value. Nevertheless, I hope this essay is of help to some.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Live Poets' Corner

Tuesday evening, I attended the Colonie Tuesday Night Live Poets' Corner at the William K. Sanford Town Library in Colonie, hosted by William Robert Foltin. It was something I was going to do once before, but decided against it at the last minute. Now that I have a few more published poems under my belt, and a bit more confidence in my poetic voice, I figured I might as well give it a whirl. After all, I keep saying that I want to promote my poetry and speculative poetry in general, and one way to do that is to start exposing others to my works.

Things went fairly well, considering it is always hard for me when entering a new group for the first time. Once I got to read my poetry, I felt a little more comfortable. I'm not sure how well received my poetry was; it was hard to judge the reaction. Even though I explained to the group before I read a single line that I tend to compose speculative poetry (and there was a moment of dead silence when I asked if anyone in the room knew what speculative poetry was), I think that some of the other poets present didn't quite know what to make of my particular brand of verse. One young woman seemed hesitant to applaud at the end of my reading, and commented that I had sucked the happiness from the room! Although such a remark makes the dark poet in me beam with pride, the insecure side of my nature wonders if I might have journeyed too deep into the darkness. (Was reading "The Damnation of Daniel Brewster" going too far?) However, another young woman there seemed very enthused about my darker works, and she commented that she liked the way I used a "spooky" voice when reading them. And I know somebody made a reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy after I read a couple of my lighter science fiction works!

There were some rather surreal parts to the evening, like when the host and another poet performed some weird work involving an interview with Henry Hudson, but mostly it was just poets sharing their poetry with other poets. Not being up on the current trends in mainstream poetry, I don't know if the works presented were typical examples of literary verse, but nothing sent me screaming from the room in total horror and disgust.

No, wait! That's what MY poetry was supposed to do. Mu ha ha ha ha...

In case anyone cares, here is what I read (in order):
"Worrying"
"Amongst Faerie Oaks" (appearing in Abandoned Towers #4)
"Cosmic Journey"
"Souls Adrift" (unpublished)
"Galactic Road Trip"
"The Damnation of Daniel Brewster"

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Roll Will Roll On...

...sort of. Although it feels a little like cheating in the publication game, over the weekend I composed a trio of speculative cinquains and one horrorku to submit to the poetry editor of the web-zine Aphelion. And I received word today that all four little poems will be appearing in forthcoming issues.

"Eldritch Mistress", my cinquain based on the lore of life-draining fay lovers, will appear in the September issue. "Coach-a-Bower", my horrorku inspired by both the tales of the coiste bodhar and an episode of the television show Strange featuring the death coach, will appear in the October issue. "The Sheerie", my cinquain based on the lore of the dangerous phosphorescent fairies known as the Sheerie, will appear in the November issue. And "Fairy Bandits", my cinquain inspired by tales of fairy theft, will appear in the December issue.

Yes, all four poems contain something of the fay in them. I often draw inspiration from that particular font, and I just knew the subject of fairy lore would get those creative juices flowing once more. After spending so much time drawing and so little time writing, I wasn't sure at first if I could come up with anything even remotely usable, but my muse didn't let me down. Still, I had to ponder over the possibilities while working on these poems. Unlike so many of my previous efforts, these pieces were not the products of sudden inspiration.

SFPA: To Rejoin or not to Rejoin?

A while back, due to more pressing financial issues, I let my SFPA membership lapse. And apparently, that means I have no say whatsoever in the current debate over the proposed SPFA name-change. Admittedly, there is quite a bit of validity to that particular argument. Maybe the fact that I let my membership lapse also means that I am less than a thoroughly dedicated speculative poet. If that is the case, then so be it. I will be the first to acknowledge that poetry is only a part of my life; it is far from being my whole life.

However, let me just point out to those involved on both sides of the debate that certain things made public MAY cause people like me to pause and reconsider rejoining (or joining in the first place if not prior members). Yes, sometimes it is all about public perception, and I currently perceive the SFPA as an organization with troubles brewing. This sort of public perception of the organization, true or not, may actually end up hurting the SFPA.

Right now, I am sorry to say, I feel that my $21 would be better spent elsewhere. It simply doesn't seem worth it at this very moment. I may reconsider at a later date. Or I may not. Either way, I will continue to occasionally write and submit speculative poetry, and promote my speculative poetry and speculative poetry in general, just like I did before I was an SFPA member, and just as I continued to do after my SFPA membership lapsed. I think that is enough to make me a genuine speculative poet, and one with a reason to be concerned about the future of speculative poetry and the current state of the one organization dedicated to promoting such poetry. Others can believe otherwise, but I reserve the right to disagree with such beliefs.

And, if the current face of the SFPA is making me turn away, if my current perception of the SFPA tips the balance against rejoining, and if others out there might do the same for the same or similar reasons, that can't be a good thing for the organization in general. Can it?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pixies in the Porridge

vaporous sprites
reel across steaming pot
porridge burned

This may be a speculative haiku, or it may not. Fairy lore can be like that at times; it may truly be something supernatural, or it may just use supernatural explanations for mundane happenings. Even though I was inspired to write this piece by an example of fairy art by Joyce Plumstead depicting ruined porridge (although I think it was a human boy who ruins the porridge in the story being illustrated), I could just as easily have been inspired by a real kitchen disaster. Were there really mischievous sprites messing around with the porridge, or was the porridge simply left on too long, or cooked in too hot a flame? Hm...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wrens Outside my Window

As the setting sun cast a golden glow over the small black cherry tree just outside the window next to my computer desk, I heard birds chirping away in the branches. Looking out, I saw three or four wrens feeding on insects in the tree. At first, I wasn't sure what kind of birds they were, although I knew they were different from the house sparrows living in the maple sapling next to the cherry. I did think they looked and behaved rather wren-like, especially in the way they frequently held their tails cocked upward.

After consulting my field guides, I confirmed that they were indeed wrens, but what kind? Since I noted a distinctive light eye-stripe, I'm leaning towards Carolina Wren, although the Capital District of New York may be on the northern fringes of their typical range. The eyebrow of a House Wren just seems too faint for what I saw. And the breast and belly were definitely lighter than the back, more like the colouring of a Carolina wren than that of a house wren. The chirping and other sounds I heard the birds make may be no help in identification, although, according to one of my reference books, the Carolina wren has been called the "mocking wren" due to the occasions it sounds like other birds (the chirping sounded a little like a chipping sparrow's "chip").

The Shantytown Anomaly?

Here's a question for all my writer, poet, editor, and publisher friends out there - does anyone know if The Shantytown Anomaly is still alive and kicking? Last news posted on The Shantytown Anomaly site is dated March 15th. Last word on TSA#8 was back in January 25th, stating that the issue was shipping soon.

As far as I know, I was supposed to have a horrorku in TSA#8 (assuming that the "Richard H. Ray" listed in the entry about Issue 8 is a typo). "Will-o-wisp" was accepted by the editor for TSA#8, and I was paid for the horrorku, back in April of 2008. I would hate to send it back out, assuming that the market is now dead, only to find out that it's still alive. However, I also don't want to leave the piece trapped in limbo forever.

Was there some news about this market that I missed?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Eastern Screech Owl Trill

Tonight, I heard what I believe to be the trilling call of an Eastern screech owl (A-song on The Owl Pages page). It sounded as if it was coming from the direction of the wooded area adjacent to the Hudson River, roughly northwest of our residence. It was actually a beautiful thing to hear, a pleasant night sound carried on the still evening air.

Five Rivers Environmental Education Center

On Wednesday, in honour of my birthday, my wife, our daughter, and I decided to take a trip to the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar, NY. The center is located about twenty miles from our residence, and has a pretty good reputation for being a place to view a variety of wildlife. Being a nature boy at heart (and something of a birder), I like to take summer excursions through woodland parks and along nature trails. I recall visiting the Five Rivers Center briefly years ago, but I really didn't know much about it. It seemed to be a likely candidate for a day trip, so after stopping for coffee at Flavour Cafe, we headed out to Five Rivers...

The car ride out seemed to take forever due to several areas of road construction along our route through Albany. After crawling over the torn-up street for what seemed like an eternity, we made it to Delmar (and the "construction ends" sign), and eventually found our way to Five Rivers.

Following the obligatory restroom stop, we first checked out the visitor center. It isn't anything incredible, but I found it to be mildly interesting. They have native fish and a turtle in some tanks, and an owl (barred, I think) in a glass cage. They also have other wildlife displays, some mounted specimens and the like. Plus, they have a working beehive under glass.

Once we left the visitor center, we headed off onto the trails. And Five Rivers has quite a variety of trails, from the flat boardwalk and crushed-stone surface of the Woodlot Trail, to the wood-chip base and rustic stairs of the pond-side Beaver Tree Trail, to some paths not much more than game trails. We hiked for four and a half hours, walking well over 15,000 steps according to the pedometer my wife wore.

At one point, we ended up on an extremely narrow (less that a foot wide at places), winding, intermittently muddy track in the middle of the woods. A few times I had to check for trail makers to make sure we hadn't strayed off the path, but fortunately we were never truly lost. Still, it was a bit of an adventure, especially when the woods closed in all around us and the shadows deepened beneath the dark boughs. And the ladies thought they saw a strange mist in one section of the woods, about one-hundred feet off the path, adding to the eerie atmosphere.

Natural phenomena? Probably, since the day was humid and the woods rather wet, but it proved to be a bit creepy just the same. And that stretch of woods seemed awfully quiet, as if holding its breath, waiting.

Getting back to things definitely natural, while some of the wildlife seen on our extensive jaunt through the woods and fields of Five Rivers could just as easily be found in most local suburban settings, we did see some different sights. And the total amount of wildlife was astonishing, especially around the center's various ponds. Possibly my biggest thrill was when we caught a glimpse of a green heron, the first time ever I've seen this particular type of wading bird. As dramatic as the sight of the larger great blue heron may be, I have spied them plenty of times before. Finally seeing one of their smaller green cousins made my day!

We did see plenty of other interesting fauna and flora as well. I heard a rustling in the bushes alongside one of the trails near the aptly named Fox Marsh, and when my wife peered into the brush she actually spied a fox bounding away. We saw plenty of frogs, a few turtles, several different types of birds and butterflies, rabbits, a plethora of dragonflies, and lots of flowers.

One of these days I will actually start bringing a journal with me on my nature strolls so I can record what I see as I see it. Of course, then I should bring my various field guides for identification purposes. I worry I would end up bringing a whole library into the woods, and I would rather not be burdened with such a load!

Anyway, here are my lists of what I saw (and heard), for those interested in such things. I've tried to identify each species when I could, but sometimes the best I can come up with is a general type (like "darners" and "skimmers") And a few identifications are sketchy at best:

Birds Seen

- Hairy Woodpecker (male) (along Woodlot Trail)
- Great Blue Heron (in Beaver Pond)
- Green Heron (in pond by Old Field Trail)
- Blue Jay
- Catbirds (almost everywhere we went, except in the deepest woods)
- Red-winged Blackbird (flying over Beaver Pond)
- Cedar Waxwings (flocks feeding on insects over Fox Marsh and Beaver Pond)
- Mockingbirds
- Common Yellowthroat (female) (?) (in brush along trail)
- Goldfinches
- Common Crows (by parking lot)
- Flycatchers (Eastern Phoebes ?) (along Woodlot Trail)
- Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (flying over fields)
- Robin
- possibly a Veery

(plenty more just too far away, or too quick on the wing, to even try to identify)

Some Bird Songs/Calls Heard

- Blue Jay
- Catbird
- Crows
- Chickadee
- possibly Cardinal
- possibly Turkey

Butterflies Seen

- Karner Blue
- Black Swallowtail
- Monarch
- Whites (probably Cabbage Whites)
- Sulphurs (sp.?)
- Fritillary (sp. ?, possibly Great Spangled)
- Common Wood Nymph

Some Flowers Seen

- Goldenrod
- Red Clover
- White Clover
- Yellow Sweet Clover
- Buttercup
- Swamp Milkweed
- Spiked Loosestrife
- Black Eyed Susan
- Oxeye Daisy
- Spotted Knapweed
- Common Burdock
- Birdfoot Trefoil
- Vervain (sp. ?)
- Butter and Eggs
- Common Chicory
- Queen Anne's Lace
- White Waterlily
- Pink Waterlily
- Yellow Wood Sorrel
- Jewelweed
- Common Mullein
- Teasels
- Wapato (an Arrowhead)

Other Wildlife Seen

- Cicadas
- Dragonflies (darners, skimmers, etc.)
- Damselflies
- Honeybees
- Carpenter Bees
- Blue Mud Daubers
- Robber Fly
- Japanese Beetles
- Water Striders
- Carolina Grasshoppers
- Eastern Cottontails
- Grey Squirrel
- Painted Turtles
- Green Frogs
- Bullfrogs
- Tadpoles
- Minnows

And, my wife saw that fox, as well as a garter snake, and both she and our daughter saw a chipmunk scampering up a tree. I wasn't quick enough to catch sight of either the fox or the snake, and for some reason I missed the chipmunk entirely (although my daughter snapped a couple photos of it).

All in all, I think it was quite a successful stroll, although an extremely long and tiring one. It was a nice way to spend my 41st birthday. And to cap it all off, I think I may have spied a bald eagle again, this time as we neared one of the bridges over the various streams where the Mohawk meets the Hudson.. I can't say for sure, since it was but a brief glimpse, but the white head and tail contrasted against a dark body and wings seemed so unlike the paler gulls circling in the same area that my first thought was "it's the eagle again!". Unfortunately, I can't completely rule out a great black-backed gull as an alternative identification (I've seen those around here before, once or twice), so this potential sighting must remain an intriguing "maybe".

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Roiling Gyre in APHELION

Will a gigantic cosmic whirlpool suck up the Earth at its aphelion? Or will the seas drain down a hole in the crust when the planet reaches its farthest distance from the Sun?

Actually, no. My mythic scifaiku "roiling gyre" now appears on-line in the web-zine Aphelion. And I make no apologies for flexing my vocabulary muscles in this one, fitting a couple of interesting words into three little lines. In case you are wondering, a gyre is a circular ocean current. Using perhaps a bit of poetic license, I can argue it is roughly synonymous with a gigantic whirlpool (I didn't want to use whirlpool, vortex, or maelstrom). And a trireme is an ancient war galley with three banks of oars.

And why "mythic", other than the general ancient feel created by my use of "trireme"? Because the myth of the Greek whirlpool monster Charybdis inspired this piece.

Alas, this may be my only poem published in the month of August. My roll is slowing to an eventual, inevitable end, due in no small part to the fact that I've switched gears and am now concentrating on art. I'm currently in the middle of a rather large art project (with others waiting in the wings), and I simply don't have much time (or energy, or inspiration) to compose poetry.

Then again, my muse may start pestering me any day now. She's like that.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sword Stand


Being something of an amateur medieval historian as well as an artist and poet inspired by things medieval, I like to surround myself with bits and pieces of hands-on history. I like to collect medieval-style art, such as gargoyle and knightly statuary. I also collect replica medieval swords. I don't have any high-end reproductions, but I try to posses passable examples of the lower end of "functional swords" (although my swords aren't really sharp). A few of my earlier acquisitions are so-so at best in terms of handling , but some of my later ones are actually decently balanced.

For years, I've been mounting my swords on the wall, using large mug hooks. This made sure the swords were safely out of reach of pets and my daughter (when she was little), but it had it's problems. The hooks could come loose, and rearranging the swords wasn't really an option. I've been hoping to find a better solution. Now I have.

Not wanting to put an undue amount of holes in the walls of our new rental home, I searched for some sort of stand to mount my swords, and actually found one that looked as if it would do the job. By the Sword, Inc. sells a multiple sword display stand by Gladius, maker of decorative swords. After doing a little research, I found it works pretty well for "functional" swords, too! So, when my mother-in-law asked what I wanted for my birthday present (I have a mid-August birthday), I knew just what to ask for.

The stand came last week. I managed to get my swords cleaned-up and mounted a couple of days after the stand arrived. And my daughter managed to get a decent shot of it today.

My wife, daughter, and I all agree - it looks like a museum display. And it is a more reasonable way to display my swords than hanging them on hooks on the wall.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Open Mic Cancelled

The open mic scheduled to be held tonight at Flavour Cafe was cancelled. The host ended up having to work an extra shift at her day job, and they apparently didn't get anyone else to host it (and no, I wasn't about to step up to the plate). My wife and I went to Flavour anyway for coffee and sweets, and just in case the open mic went ahead. Alas, there was no sign of the host (or any activity related to an open mic event) by 7:30, so we left.

I may have to see about going solo, trying to set up readings of my poetry on my own. Or perhaps, just perhaps, I'm just not really meant to read my poetry in public.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Flavour Cafe Open Mic

As long as there are no wild storms or family emergencies, I plan on reading more of my poetry this Wednesday, August 5th, at the open mic at Flavour Cafe in Troy, NY. The event, hosted by the musician Kelly Maguire, runs from 7-9 pm. Musicians, poets, and comedians are all welcome to attend.

Unlike the previous two open mics I've attended, this event will be an unplugged "round robin" affair. I'm not too worried about the unplugged part; I have one of those voices that carries, and I probably didn't need the sound system during my past two readings! However, the "round robin" part worries me just a little. When I was a kid, I hated the times the teachers made us all sit in a circle. Also, being a bit set in my ways, I'm rather resistant to change. Just when I got used to reading one way, they up and change the format on me! (grin)

Seriously, if anyone happens to be in the Troy area Wednesday evening, stop by Flavour Cafe to join in, or to just to hear me reading speculative poetry. So far, my particular brand of poetry has been very well received. I hope to continue that trend (fingers crossed).