These days we take bridges for granted. We seldom think about what travel was like when getting across rivers was a big deal. The earliest solution, of course, was to ford the river where the terrain was suitable. Then came ferries, and then came bridges. In one of my visits to Paris, I wondered aloud to an English friend why the most important city in France was built seemingly in the middle of nowhere in the interior of the country. The answer was obvious to him, but he indulged the ignorant American with the answer. It’s because, he said, the site of Paris was a natural bridging place for the Seine. Oh. I get it.

Rockford, in colonial times, was a travel hub. It sits on a hill above a ford across the Yadkin River. It used to be the county seat for Surry County, and the old courthouse still stands, though it is dilapidated. Now Rockford is in the middle of nowhere (though many Yadkin Valley vineyards have sprung up around it), and most of the old buildings are in varying states of dilapidation.

When I see an old church with carpenter gothic windows, I usually stop to take photos. It’s interesting how that one feature — gothic windows — makes a huge difference in whether a building is seen as worth preserving or whether it is allowed to fall into ruin. This old church in Rockford could use some maintenance, but it’s holding its own.

The enhanced value provided by gothic windows makes me think of my own home. I like to think that this house will still be standing two hundred years after I’m gone. The gothic windows can’t hurt.





Signed advance copies of Oratorio in Ursa Major


Oratorio in Ursa Major will be released July 1. Between now and June 15, 2016, I’m offering signed advance copies of Oratorio, hardback only, at a discount, through this blog.

The cost is $25 per copy, which includes shipping by priority mail. The retail price of the hardback will be $29.99, so this is a nice discount, with free shipping. I’m afraid I must restrict this offer to the U.S. only because of the high cost of international shipping. Readers in Europe: Oratorio will be available for sale from Amazon in Europe starting July 1. Bookstores will be able to order Oratorio for you as well.

To order your copies, please email me before June 15 at with this information:

1. How many copies?

2. How would you like to pay? The choices are PayPal and by mailing a check. If you choose PayPal, I’ll send you PayPal information. If you’d like to mail a check, I’ll send you the address.

3. Would you like a particular inscription? If so, please specify.

4. And, of course, please include your mailing address.

Reviews will be appreciated! You’ll be able to review Oratorio in Ursa Major at Amazon and Goodreads starting with the July 1 release date.

Here’s the blurb:

A global catastrophe has returned earth to the Iron Age and killed six billion people. Even the billionaires were tricked and eliminated. An Oxford intelligentsia have taken over the planet. Can such smart people rebuild the world in a better way? With help from the galactic federation, perhaps there is hope. But first, earth’s new elite must retrieve from the past some things that were destroyed long ago — ways of thinking and living that can avoid a fatal reawakening of the delusions bequeathed to us by Rome. Jake Janaway — young, modest, handsome, and scared — is selected for a dangerous mission into the pre-Roman past. Jake has no idea why he was chosen. Jake has a lot to learn. But perhaps no one in the galaxy ever had better teachers, or was more loved.

The angelic side of those devil blackberries


For eleven months of the year, blackberries are terrible neighbors. They come up everywhere. If you get anywhere near them, they reach out and grab you with their briars. Their stems are as tough as Kevlar, and it’s very difficult to cut them back.

But for one month of the year, blackberries pay you back with — blackberries. May was a good growing month, so June promises to be an outstandingly good blackberry month.

There will be pies.