Rio Frio Photographs

I enjoyed the scenery when I visited Rio Frio. Here is another set of photographs. Hope you enjoy them! 🙂











My “Working” Trip to Rio Frio

While staying at Rio Frio last week I began the final edit on the Haxan prequel novel, Quaternity. I began making notes for the novel when I was staying at Palo Duro two years ago. I might as well cap off the work while camping alongside a western river in Texas, right?

Meanwhile, I also took pictures.

These are a few from the first day I was there. Hope you like them.



Inside Cabin




I thought this tree provided an interesting contrast against the sky.


I thought this was a pretty reflectiona and tried to capture it.

Writers with Angst Line Up Here

I am headed to the Frio River this weekend for a camping trip. Well, I’m staying in a cabin, so it’s sort of like camping, right? I will be starting the third edit of the new Haxan novel, but I may start the new novel as well. I’d like to get a chapter or two under my belt and see how it shapes up.

There is a lot of research to do for the hobo novel, but I am eager to start dabbling.

I have been a little put out lately with myself. I feel I am not getting enough done. I am a little haggard due to some sinus trouble, but that seems to be passing. I have big plans for the year and I’ve gotten some of that done, so I should not be so put out with myself. I can’t help it. Sometimes writing is like that. The only person who can hold you accountable is yourself. No one else cares. You have to do it. I really am making steady progress. I have to learn you can’t do everything in one day. I need to learn a lesson from that. You’d think I would have by now.

This trip is a chance for me to decompress and rest. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll play with my new camera and with luck I can find Internet access and post updates for you. Depending on how I feel I may try a quick trip south to the border for a little more research opportunity. I’m also taking my guitar so I can practice.

Catch you on the flip side!

The Border Trip: Fort Davis Camping

Here are more pictures from what I have been calling my Border Trip. It’s the trip I took from Laredo to Nogales in preparation to writing the novel I have just completed.


091The buttes in the distance are fantastic.




Here is my campsite at Fort Davis. There was a lot of wildlife here, including javelinas and deer. I worked on the novel a little bit at this picnic table and felt I was making some progress. Little did I know the real writing would not take place until Thanksgiving of this year, and I would finish a 85,000 word novel in 19 days!

Meet Me Tonight in Laredo

I am headed out on my trip today. I will drive up and down the US/Mexico border to research some of the places that appear in the new Haxan novel. As I drive and sight see I am also going to write, write, write.

You can follow the progress of my trip on Twitter, assuming I have cell service in some of these places. My first stop is Laredo tonight. Then I plan on going to the McDonald Observatory and camping around up there. From then on I play it by ear, but some of the places I plan to stopping by are Mesilla, Yuma, and maybe Tombstone although the last will be for purely tourist reasons.

I don’t know if I will turn north toward Pueblo or not. Like I said I will play this one mostly by ear. I have no set itinerary. I’m going camping and writing and working on the new novel. That’s the plan.

Cow Cabin Camping in Palo Duro Canyon

I got back from my camping trip in Palo Duro and I had a very good time. I have done a lot of tent camping over the years, but I am now a big believer in cabin camping. Or at the very least Cow Cabin Camping.

These cabins were built by the CCC during the 1930s. There’s not much to them inside other than important appliances like a microwave, refrigerator, heat and air conditioning, haha. They also have double bunk beds and ours had a wooden table we could eat at. It was quite comfortable.

I thought they did a very good job landscaping the outside as well. We had a patio and an aluminum picnic table out back along with a water faucet and fire pit. We couldn’t use the fire pit or the fireplace inside the cabin because of the burn ban.

We didn’t see a lot of wildlife like we usually do. This may have been because we went during Spring Break and there were a lot of people in the park. It was nice and quiet and deserted where we were, though.

There are only four cow cabins available and you have to make a reservation. I like Palo Duro Canyon a lot and I hope to get back soon.
















Camping Trip

I’m headed to Caprock Canyon and later Palo Duro Canyon this weekend and will be gone through most of next week. I’ll Tweet when I can, but cell service out there is spotty at best.

I’ll take pictures and post them when I get back.


A Very Busy Week Ahead

Last night we used the new fire pit. I really like it a lot. I’m the kind of guy who can sit out in front of a camp fire for hours thinking about writing and that’s exactly what I did last night. I also used my 7×50 Vixen Forestas to look at the grouping of Venus, the Moon, and Jupiter last night. I could also see the Pleiades and the Orion Nebula. Normally the light pollution is so bad from my backyard I would have trouble seeing decent images. But last night, for whatever reason, it wasn’t that bad, even for bright objects like these.

I woke up early today. Got a busy week lined up. I will be looking at trucks this week and, frankly, I’m about to get one, I think. The Bonneville I have is fine, nothing wrong with it, but we do a lot of camping and outdoor activities and a truck will help with that a lot. Also, the Bonneville is going to someone in the family because he needs a new car (he’s getting married) so it works out for everyone.

I also have to get finished with the Argo Navis Publishing website and get the rest of the stories listed. I also need to get started marketing these published stories but I want to be careful about that. I see a lot of people on Twitter and Facebook spamming their indie work and I find that kind of behavior tiresome.  After I finish that I want to get back to work on the Haxan novel. I feel I am starting to lose touch with it because it’s been so long since I have looked at it. Oh, and there’s a dentist appointment in there, somewhere, too, this week. But I think I will have to reschedule that because I will be working that day at The Observatory. No problem there. I’d much rather work than go to the dentist any day.

And tomorrow I have to go to Frisco and meet my writing buddy. Maybe I can take a look at the Haxan novel then. I might be able to work that in. Bottom line is you might not hear from me much this week, but I’ll try to post when I can, or schedule some posts.

I am sure there are more things happening this week I have forgotten about. But, hey, some things will have to fall through the cracks! 🙂


Writing Update: Progress on the novel, and a side trip to Fort Griffin, TX in the works

Last week was the first time I had completely to myself. Well, not really, but I had enough time to myself to get past the initial (and for me problematic) creative phase of the novel and make real progress.

I am pretty happy with what I have accomplished so far on this project. I have a long way to go, of course. Writing a novel is like a marathon for me, not a sprint. So I approach it that way. Nevertheless, I feel I have a solid opening and can proceed from there without too much worry and second-guessing.

Hoo boy. This was a difficult novel to start. I had the darnedest time finding an entry point into the story. Well, that’s me as  a writer. I have trouble with beginnings. And middles. And endings. And titles. And…you see the problem.

Anyway, I feel good about what I have accomplished so far. I feel like I have a solid foundation. Here’s hoping.

As I work I am also planning side trips for research. I have a BIG trip planned in the spring along the Mexico-US border which is where much of the novel takes place. Google and Google Earth and Wikipedia can only do so much. I am reminded of my trip to Santa Fe when I visited La Fonda and realized I could see the Governor’s Palace across the square. I’m not saying that information was vital to me selling my Haxan novel to CZP earlier this year, but little things like that can and do help sometimes. Readers are smart. They can pick up on stuff like that quicker than you think. What I mean is, they can often spot B.S. so I try to keep that in mind.

Part of the novel takes place around Fort Griffin, TX. This is too far for a day trip so I am planning a quick run out there this weekend. I will go if the weather cooperates and bring back some pictures for you, maybe. I would like to do some camping, but I don’t think that’s going to be feasible.

All in all I’m feeling better everyday about the novel. Still don’t have a title. Working title is The Long Red Light of the West, which is a metaphor for murder. I don’t know if that title will hold up. I am very rarely wedded to titles. Maybe something better will come along or suggest itself as I write. Maybe I can find something else of note within the text.

That’s all part of process, I guess. Not worried about that right now. Too busy slipping into the full construct of the story right now.

Why some people don’t like camping: Photographic Evidence

The Stark Beauty of Caprock Canyon

Part of the reason I like Caprock (and Palo Duro) is the stark beauty of these deserts. They really make you feel alone. The solitude is amazing and I still cannot get over how quiet it is out there. We are inundated with noise everyday of our lives in this modern world. No escaping it. Out there it’s total silence. Kind of creepy.

Another cool thing is how beautifully dark the skies are at night. You can see lanes of the Milky Way. I have never seen so many satellites, either. Wow, they are moving across the sky all the time. One night I saw two that appeared to be traveling in tandem from north to south. That was so cool.

The Buffalo of Caprock Canyon

I’ve spoken about this before. One of the things that rocked me when I saw the buffalo was how small they are. I mean, small compared to my expectations. I think they’ve been so built up in our minds through mythology they have taken on some larger size both in meaning and cultural identity.

They’re mostly cow-sized with over-sized heads. They are not monsters. Okay, some of the bulls are large. But I was still struck by how much smaller they truly are than what I had built up in my mind. Nevertheless, they are fascinating animals.


The Sunset of Destruction, the Ashes of the West: A Retrospective from Caprock Canyon

I got a lot of work done on my trip to Caprock Canyon. I wanted to dovetail the preliminary stages of working on the new novel with the trip in the hope of synergy. It worked, better than I hoped. I came up with a lot of ideas and thoughts about the novel, characters, tone and imagery.

Coming upon scenes like this helped:

Caprock Canyon the morning after a rainstorm. Bright desert, dark sky.

I liked the solitude and the time away. I’m not going to get mawkish and say I felt a connection or anything, but I do admit it helped me seeing this land and understanding how it can be written about in a story. I came to a lot of conclusions about the novel when I was in Caprock. One of them is I am not going to back down or run away from language. I am going to present the characters the way they really talked and acted, not some Hollywood version of a scrubbed Hays Code idea of how they spoke. Anything less would be skirting the issue, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve spoken about what I think is wrong with the western genre and what can be done to correct it in another venue. I don’t want this post to be about that. But it’s difficult to talk about writing this novel I have in mind without bringing up some parts of what I believe is wrong with the genre, and why we need to correct some aspects of it.

Simply put, I think we have seen enough idealized John Wayne memes in westerns. It’s reaching the point where when I see something like that either in print or film I want to projectile vomit. I’m almost of the mind to approach the novel from the George Costanza viewpoint of “If I come close to a Hollywood trope, make sure I do the opposite instead.” I don’t know if I will go that far because then it would be full-blown author intervention, and I’m more inclined to let a story develop organically than try and steer it into an idealized direction. I don’t like that artificiality, either. That’s how I write. Other people do it differently, though. But writing is like that. Pick a 100 writers and they all do it differently. No one way is best, and if someone says it is, I advise you to ignore them.

I’m just laying down a marker that some things will be off limits in this novel. On the other hand, some things that have hitherto been off limits in the western genre, either due to historical ignorance of their existence, or some misguided perpetuation of a sanitized ideal that never existed…well, those previously hidden and ignored truths are going to be elevated first and foremost in this novel.

That perception of the novel, of its underlying philosophy, came to me while I was sitting on the eastern rim of the canyon one morning looking at this sight:

Looking west across Caprock Canyon

You get an indelible sense of not only the fragility of the west in a place like this, but of how much blood was spilled. The west is full of blood. Sometimes I think it’s nothing but blood. Then again the same can be said of the world.

I came up with a lot of ideas while I was out in Caprock Canyon. I think some of them are good ones and might be usable in a story. Others might fall by the wayside. But I think some elements and images will remain and be used as structure for the novel: the raw violence of the west, the once limitless expanse being torn asunder, the deep sunset of destruction and blood being drawn across the stage like a curtain, the ashes of the west.

In very broad philosophical terms this is what I want the novel to be about. I don’t know if I will be able to write it. Could be these themes are beyond my ability to describe them or bring them to light. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.

I’m just saying I think this story needs to be told.I’m not the first to do it. I’m only saying I want to be one of the ones who also tell this story.

The ashes of the west

Haxan Goes Camping!

Haxan goes camping!

Blood, Dust, Wind...and coffee?

Return from Caprock Canyon

Got back from Caprock Canyon today. Had a good trip and it was very beneficial as far as doing preliminary work and story ideas for the novel, including seeing and walking over the land once inhabited by Native Americans. I’ll talk more about it later, but I’m headed to bed now.

Caprock Canyon after a hard rain

Leaving for Caprock Canyon with a Very Dark Haxan Novel in Mind

Headed to Caprock Canyon this morning. Looking forward to the relaxation and working on some notes for the new novel. Kind of eager to see if this idea will hold up. I think it has promise…but you never know until you actually start mapping out the story and ideas.

 I have an idea for a dark Haxan novel....
One thing. The more I think about the novel, the darker it gets. The story is beginning to crystallize, albeit slowly. That’s better than before when all I had was an idea and no story.
I’m looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out, to be honest with you. I don’t want to put too much pressure on this one trip, but I’m excited to see if I can start blocking out some general movement and revelations for the novel.
It’s still a Haxan prequel. About Marwood discovering who he is before he goes to Haxan. Looks to be dark, very dark in tone.

And gettin’ darker....and it's getting darker all the time.
Gotta be careful, though. I don’t want to lose the story in the darkness. That’s not what this novel is about. I would be more specific…but I don’t have specifics. That’s where I am right now.

I will say this. I fully intend to overturn some western stereotypes and cliches that have wormed their way into the American consciousness. Gonna flip that applecart.

See you guys on Friday if I”m not too tired. I’m on Twitter, but reception in the canyon is spotty at best.




Planning another camping trip…with writing a novel on the side!

Thinking about going camping this weekend. A couple of reasons. It’s getting late in the year and if I wait much longer it’s going to get cold. I don’t like the cold. I can deal with the heat much better. Just me. 😛

There are also the buffalo. I’d like to follow them around for a day and watch ’em interact with one another and the environment and see what makes them tick. I also like the solitude and quiet, of course.

But I think the major reason is I am very close to pulling the trigger on this new Haxan prequel novel. The story is coming into shape in my mind and I am getting close to the “start making notes and doing research” phase. Since that is the case I’d like to tie that in with some other act, like going camping.

Right now the changes are 50/50 I will go. I don’t need to go camping, either, to start preliminary work on a new novel. I just thought it would make a nice start with a camping trip. I’m going to start the notes and stuff next week whether I’m at Caprock Canyon or not. Maybe I can meet my writing buddy if I’m not going camping; that would be nice.

As you can see I have a lot to think about, haha. But I am looking forward to writing/working on a new project. Oh, and I have some more news on the “publishing my backlog of stories” thing going on in the background. I found someone who can do covers for me via barter, so that works out. He can’t do all my stuff, but it should give me a lead in while I try and learn how to use PhotoShop with my limited brain.

Other than that everything is fine here. I’m starting to get excited about Halloween and it’s not even October yet! 😀

More Pictures from Caprock Canyon

Here are a few more pictures from my last camping trip. I have only been home a couple or three weeks and I am ready to go back out.

Sunset and Moonrise in Caprock Canyon (Bridge of stars between)

The first thing that hits you when you are in the wilderness is the invading silence. It’s oppressive. It seeps into you and invades your core and fills it like spring water welling through a crack in the ground.The silence is everywhere. It lifts you up and carries you throughout the day and night.

The only thing you have to break the crystalline silence is your own thoughts. And sometimes they are not strong enough to overwhelm the emptiness of the desert and the world you have found yourself thrust in.

We are so used to our mechanistic world and our senses assaulted everyday by electronic demands. It is ordinary. We tune out this cacophony until the bleeps and whistles and buzzers that impinge upon our lives must become louder and more insistent with each passing decade. As we lose touch with nature we lose touch with ourselves and all our past and what remains of our future.

Thus the restorative act of camping. This resurrection of our innate humanness, our lost ability to meld ourselves with the natural world becomes found again when we go camping. And it’s not just camping. Watch someone as they sit next to a water fountain in a mall or at a park and they let the sound of water fill their minds. They don’t force that to happen. It happens naturally. It’s who we are. It’s what we lose when we give up so much of ourselves to the grinding demands of modernity.

I had already been in Caprock Canyon for a day or two when I walked out from the campsite about half a mile, found a spot on the canyon rim, and sat down to watch the sun sink below the rim of the earth. I watched darkness rise up from the canyon floor and pale fire light the bottoms of the clouds like reefs of blood. Wind in my ears. Rustle of mesquite. The soft sift of sand being carried along the desert floor by a dying wind. Birdsong dies out and the song of the stars begin their distant and mysterious electric fires overhead.

As the sun set and the night darkened I turned around and rising in the west was a full moon. The cold fire light illuminated the tops of trees, their naked limbs, the smokey shape of deer moving through the dense brush, and my pale arm draped across one bare knee. I was in the presence of something, some moment of poetic power and beauty, and it felt fundamental and atavistic. It both recharged something inside me and reawakened something. Formed new connections, I guess you could say.

Once this was over I went back to my tent and stood under the stars that bridged the full moon with the horizon. I drank some water, sat down in a chair, and let the world close down around me while I strummed arpeggios on my guitar.

As the full moon rose the coyotes gave voice with that terrible cry of loneliness only man hears.  Night was full. Moon high. Desert awakened again with a new rhythm. The guitar lay quiet in my hands. I was tired and I was worn out. And I was happy.

Buffalo in Caprock Canyon — Beyond Awesome

One of the best things about camping in Caprock Canyon are the buffalo.

As a western writer (and just a writer in general and a human being enamored with history and culture) I love seeing these majestic animals. I think one of the biggest surprises is how small they are. Yes, small — compared to what I thought they would be. We have come to think of these creatures as large, gigantic animals. Now don’t get me wrong. They’re pretty good size. I’m just saying my expectations were that they were HUGE and they’re not. Then again, when you think about it, they are plains animals. That’s a pretty rugged ecosystem right there. You need a balance between size to maintain warmth (the heavy coat helps there) and ability to retain water.

Okay, it’s not like they’re just cows, however. They are buffalo. When you see them you know exactly what you are looking at.

I must be fair, however. They did have some bulls penned up. Those monsters were big. Then again they are full grown bulls. But I love watching these animals. I would have liked to followed them around all day with binoculars and watch them as they interact with one another and their environment.

One of the coolest things that happened while I was camping there? In the morning, while the world was still and the sun was edging up over the prairie and canyon rims, you could hear the buffalo moo and rumble (they make a deep guttural rumble in their throat or chest) and the noise carry through the air. It was probably the most mystical alarm clock I have ever awakened to. I almost get goose bumps now thinking about it.

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