Friday, October 28, 2016

Poem: Halloween for Adults

Halloween for Adults (from my book Poetry Pizza)
by Victor Rook

Fall erodes the summer heat
Colored leaves drop to our feet
Once they wither to a crisp
Chilly winds will be their whisk

Evil dwells below the ground
This time of year it comes around
We welcome up the living dead
And celebrate the need for dread

It’s funny how we like the scare
To let our minds seek all we fear
While children crave what is sweet
Adults need more than trick or treat

Something in us reaches out
For the thrill that comes about
It could be signals in the air
Harvest moons say you beware

Of what lurks near every corner
Prepare yourself for the horror
Or better yet be caught off guard
By what looms deep within your yard

Hands may reach up for your foot
And pull you through the soiled soot
Then close you off inside a tomb
To suffer in the devil’s womb

Walking through a cemetery
With lanterns lit we feel leery
We put ourselves within this plight
To conjure up our nighttime fright

Halloween and Poltergeist
Scary films that feed our vice
With babysitters home alone
Or in a house where spirits roam

Bats and bones and wicked charms
Goosebumps running up our arms
Blood and guts and false alarms
Spooky roads and haunted farms

Perhaps we need this time away
Before the Merry holiday
Halloween serves as our hiatus
From the chaos that will await us

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Bald Eagle Vote: Best Choices for Manassas Council

The City of Manassas in Virginia has always prided itself on being a quaint little town with a historic past. But lately it’s lost a lot of that charm. Sure there’s Old Town with the First Fridays, Farmers Markets, and Holiday Parades, but all you have to do is drive twenty seconds north on Centreville Road and the picture dramatically changes.

Excessive Development in the City of Manassas
And within Old Town and for miles in all directions, you will spot many vacant and for-lease office and retail spaces. The signs are everywhere. Yet several of our current council members continually vote for new developments when they can’t even fill what we have. Even worse, these same council men and women are approving developments that will rip out our few remaining green spaces and turn them into what will surely be more unoccupied properties. The City is literally tearing itself up.

Two of those developments are the dual office buildings currently being built across from the NEC building on Gateway Blvd., and one of the largest land developments in the history of Manassas right next to the DMV called the Gateway Project. The City is selling this precious nature reserve, parcel by parcel, to Buchanan Partners to build yet more office buildings, retail shops, and expensive townhouses.

Construction site with bald eagle nest on park edge
What sets these two properties apart from other plots for sale is that over the past several years they’ve become the habitats for a pair of bald eagles and their offspring. A nest currently resides just a few feet from the development across from the NEC building and sits right on the very edge of the adjacent Cannon Branch Fort Park. We’ve witnessed the developers making little effort to protect these birds. They defied a U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) order to not begin clearing and grading until August 1, 2016, and instead started two weeks early. At one point we caught them pumping water and construction contaminants into the city parkland without giving it a second thought.

Though they are no longer listed as endangered species, bald eagles are still protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. This means that any disturbances that result in a variation of their normal nesting patterns could be harmful and would be a violation.

In the past the adult eagles have returned to the nest throughout the day, even after their young have fledged. Now they fly off to the pond behind the DMV as soon as construction begins each morning and don’t come back to the nest until the last worker is gone. Sometimes, they don’t return at all.

The Gateway Project by the Manassas DMV
In addition to the two-story office buildings being erected directly in front of their nest, the Gateway Project is set to destroy their second refuge and a total of forty acres. The pond down the road by the DMV is where the eagles and other wildlife fish and roost during the day. It is also home to many plant and insect species. Once set for development over a decade ago—a project that was abandoned due to the recession—this untouched area has since transformed into a thriving wetland.

There are three incumbents seeking to hold on to their council seats this November: Ian Lovejoy, Mark Wolfe, and Jon Way.

Ian Lovejoy
Ian Lovejoy voted against the Gateway Project when it was offered up for vote on October 19, 2015. He has since stated that such a development would cause undue traffic burden, a possible increase in enrollment in our already overcrowded schools, and “It’s some of the last green space in the city.” We believe Ian is making careful choices for the future good of our community, and that it why he should get your vote.

Mark Wolfe, on the other hand, not only brought the vote to the table and voted to approve the Gateway Project, he also implied that he would financially benefit from the development a week later during a Comcast Newsmakers interview. He did this as well with a Manassas Ballet funding vote years prior in which he and his wife, the ballet’s artistic director, both benefited. He also attended the groundbreaking ceremony in front of the bald eagles’ nest. We strongly believe that Mark Wolfe needs to be removed from council.

Jon Way currently serves as both Vice Mayor and Council, and he also attended the groundbreaking ceremony in front of the eagles’ nest. On his website he states: “Several new, upscale, convenient residential developments, shopping centers and specialty businesses have been created with the active, supportive involvement of City Council, including myself. More are coming.” As you can imagine, we believe he needs to be replaced as well.

There are four new candidates running for Manassas City Council to take the available three seats. We wish incumbent Lovejoy to keep his, and so we asked all four newcomers about their opinions on the Gateway Project and the eagles.

Rex Parr responded: “I'm afraid that my opinion on Gateway won't change anything. That said, after trying to market that property for 20 years or more, I can understand the desire to jumpstart development. I expect the developer to protect those eagles.” We don’t believe Rex is carefully evaluating the future of the City, nor paying that close attention to what has been happening with the eagles.

Pam Sebesky
Pam Sebesky responded that the Gateway Project should have been more transparent, and that the developers (Pruitt Corporation) by the nest should have honored the USFWS recommendations. And “Development will happen, but with good planning and community input it can be done in a smart way that will benefit the most people and have the best outcomes in preserving our environment.” We believe Pam Sebesky would be a good replacement for Mark Wolfe.

Theresa Coates Ellis responded that "This mixed-use project will add more students to our school system and increase traffic.” However, through further correspondence we feel she isn't up to speed with what's been going on at the nest, even though it’s been in the papers and on several news and radio stations.

Michael Youlen
This brings us to a candidate that we believe would best replace Councilman and Vice Mayor Jon Way: Michael Youlen. Within half a day Michael replied to our email request and said, “I think this issue right here certainly contributes to the discussion as to what type of community people want to have. I love Manassas, and I personally do not want to see it become wall-to-wall concrete. We have room at the present moment, commercially and residentially. Unless the businesses or developers are poised to bring in substantial amounts of career-type, good-paying jobs for people, then I would vote no.” Instead of having fundraising parties with the social elite in our community, Michael Youlen is asking that donations for his campaign be made to charities, churches, and civic and/or veteran organizations.

Photo of Bald Eagle Pair by Ann McIntyre
The bald eagle, regardless of its relegation as endangered, threatened, or protected, is still and will remain our National Bird. Many people, including myself, had never seen a bald eagle in the wild until they spotted the pair by the airport. And the only high school within Manassas City limits (just a block away from City Hall), Osbourn High, is Home of the Eagles. It couldn’t be more ironic.

Even if bald eagles aren’t as important to you as they may be to others, certainly stopping the unnecessary overdevelopment of our town and surrounding areas should take priority. We can’t afford to have our representatives jump into land deals just to line their pockets in office. And no more personal favors. We need to preserve what remains of our natural environment soon, or the only greenery left will be those small trees within the medians of cement parking lots.

When you vote on November 8th, consider voting for Independent Michael Youlen, Democrat Pam Sebesky, and Republican Ian Lovejoy to get our town back on the right track. Mayor Hal Parrish, who also attended the groundbreaking ceremony in front of the eagles’ nest, is running unchallenged…but you can always Write In any other name to send him a message about what is more important. We suggest typing “Eagles” for mayor on your ballot.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

How You Can Help the Manassas Bald Eagles

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the City of Manassas, the Virginia Department of Inland Game and Fisheries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and, of course, the developer on the land, have very little interest in protecting the bald eagles' habitat near the Manassas airport. We've witnessed each of these entities pass the buck from one to the other with no results. If you don't know what is happening, read this.

But YOU can make a HUGE difference:

1. Contact the news media and tell them what is going on: CNN (also online form), FOX (888-369-4762, press 3), MSNBC, WJLA, Clinton, Trump, etc. Try to get investigative reporters and "on your side" people. The Bald Eagle is the Nation's Symbol of Freedom. This is the kind of story they like. National attention will get other U.S. citizens involved. You can share with them this link.

2. Document by photos and video the construction and the eagles from now and through all the construction taking place over the next several months. Get pictures and video of the birds near or on the nest. Take pictures of the birds reacting to the construction. Note any signs of stress in the birds, attempts by the birds to build nests elsewhere, or other issues that will show that the construction has had an effect on their livelihood. Take these photos from the PUBLIC region outside the site and DO NOT DISTURB or ANTAGONIZE the people doing the construction.

3. Capture VIDEO INTERVIEWS in front of the construction site of people concerned about the eagles and ask them how they feel about the construction. Tell your children that the eagles may not come back or may get hurt because of the construction, and get their reactions. Again, stay on the public sidewalks.

4. SHARE your videos and photos relentlessly on Facebook and Twitter with everyone. Also, follow along at the Manassas Airport Eagles Facebook page.

5. TWEET these country music stars and ask them to draw attention to what's happening in Manassas, Virginia. You can share with them this link. Maybe someone will buy the small plot of land and preserve it.

@DollyParton, @TheTimMcGraw, @FaithHill, @Reba, @Clint_Black, @ShaniaTwain

6. Consider who you vote for in the November 8 elections. If the current councilmen and women do nothing to stop this, and they won't, you can remove them from office. The American Bald Eagle is our nation's symbol. If our own representatives can't protect it, what good are they? The City could have easily purchased that small parcel of land and extended the Cannon Branch Fort Park years ago when the eagles started nesting there. This will send a message that some things are more important than office park development.

Thank you for all your help!


Update: 7/23/2016. This is the leasing company's sign and contact information at the site.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Destruction of Manassas Bald Eagle Homeland Has Begun

Update 7/27/2016: WUSATV9 covers story.

Update 7/25/2016: Heartbreaking video of continued construction and interview with one of the many concerned residents, Amber Taylor.

Update 7/23/2016: How You Can Help The Eagles

It has only been 16 months since I first reported on a bit of construction that took place in front of a bald eagle nest in Manassas, Virginia. The post went viral, the story ended up in all the papers, and the City of Manassas reassured the public that the eagles would be safe. Today I returned to that site when I got word that they were now clearing down all the trees and brush directly in front of that nest, thereby destroying the eagles' refuge.

Here is the video I shot today, July 21, 2016. I spoke to one of the construction crew members and he was unaware that there was a nest there. You can hear me talking to him at the end of the clip. He continued to tell me that at other sites he's worked on, they were advised to cease construction when an eagle nest was present.

Typically, this time of year adult eagles and their juveniles will seek out other nearby areas to forage for food. I'm certain the City will use that as their defense, saying that the nest is no longer "active." However, I spoke to one of the proponents of the eagles' safety, Ann McIntyre, who told me she had spotted one of the adults and a juvenile returning to the nest just prior to the construction a week ago. She has not seen them since. It was because of Ann and other naturalists that the City erected this sign across the street to protect the eagles. Seems a bit odd now with a construction vehicle in the background. Odd and disingenuous.

I'm certain the City will call in their go-to Fisheries and Wildlife guy, who will say that this is not doing any harm to the eagles. He'll say that bald eagles are no longer on the endangered species list, which is true, and that distance guidelines for construction near a nest are simply guidelines, not requirements or laws...anymore. He'll also repeat that since the eagles have become used to the noise and commotion of the nearby Manassas Airport and railroad line, this will not bother them as well.

But now their immediate nesting area has been taken away. Gone. Removed. And whatever gets erected there in the coming months, mere yards away from the nest, will most certainly have an impact on them. Will they return to the nest to live and raise offspring this fall?

Would you?

How You Can Help The Eagles

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dumpster Toy Puppy Comes to Life

What would you do if you an inanimate object suddenly came to life? Author Victor Rook describes what happened one Sunday afternoon while taking out the trash.

"I got out of my car to toss away an empty box. As I was about to drive away, my eye caught what appeared to be a stuffed toy animal on its side partially hidden around the back of the bin. It made me wonder why anyone would toss out such a cherished item. Maybe it was torn or dirty. Surely it could be cleaned up. Or maybe someone outgrew it. I told myself to just drive away, but then I looked back one more time. That's when I noticed the toy puppy was now standing on all fours and looking right at me! I had to do a double-take. It just looked at me with its pink tongue sticking out. I couldn't believe what I was seeing!"

Rook first thought that a gust of wind had brought it back up, but there wasn't even a breeze. And upon inspection, the stuffed animal wasn't a battery-operated or animated toy.

"Well, of course I took this as a sign. I had to rescue it from certain death. I couldn't see this creature crushed in a dump truck or buried in some landfill for eternity. It needed a home."

Rook says that Diver, the name he's given the toy puppy after "Dumpster Diver," really wasn't that dirty at all. Its tongue just had a tiny tear in it. After spending a little time with Diver himself, he plans on donating the lost and found toy puppy to a welcoming home this Christmas.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Creating 3D Graphics for Book Covers and Posters

My parents would be proud that my Mechanical Engineering degree has been put to good use over the last few years. Back in the early 1980s, I minored in CAD/CAM (Computer-Aided Design & Computer-Aided Manufacturing), and once taught automotive engineers in Michigan how to perform stress and strain analyses on car parts. The screens were green and email was the newest invention.

Now I use 3D design programs for other reasons. For instance, recently I needed to create a pizza paddle for a poster for my upcoming book, Poetry Pizza. This is a very simple example below. If you need any 3D elements for print or website design, send me an email at

1. Draw a rough outline
Here I created corner points and a few in between to approximate the shape of the paddle.

2. Add curves
 I then applied Bezier curves to some of those points to round the corners.

3. Extrude to create depth
Next, I created a short line to "extrude" the paddle along and give it thickness. I then altered the edge lines to form the beveled bottom and sides of the paddle. You can see those pink and blues lines off to the side and below the figure.

4. Create the leather strap
To create this, I drew a rectangle with rounded edges, then pipeline extruded the rectangle along a path shaped like a folded thread with crossing ends.

5. Position the pieces together
Finally, I placed the strap through the hole in the paddle, added a squished sphere where the strands cross for the knot, then applied a deformer to make the strap twist a bit.

6. Add textures
The last step is to add wood and leather textures to the individual components and render a final image. Here you see it in my final poster.

If you need any 3D elements for print or website design, send me an email at

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

How To Run A Book Signing Event

This advice can be applied to any vendor event—craft show, home and garden show, etc.—but for now I will make it specific to book signing events.


Did you get that? No, that's not a spot for someone to advertise on my blog. It's telling you that you need to advertise the HELL out of your event from 3-6 months in advance.

I've been to over 20 book signing events in the past year, and it amazes me how much effort the organizers will put into things like event applications, event passes, online booth graphics, parking passes, etc., but do a horrible job of getting the word out. I know they mean well, but there we sit, our beautiful tables flanked with our goods....waiting for people to show.


It's not enough to advertise online, though you should definitely have a Facebook page dedicated to your event. Or, if you already have a group with many followers, create the Event on that page. Encourage people to share it. If your group is a Closed Group, then those in that group can't share things to their friends unless they copy and paste the links. Therefore, a Facebook Page is the best bet. Don't forget Twitter as well.


I see a lot of events that only use online event listers like Eventbrite. When is the last time you went to Eventbrite to see what's happening in your town? Exactly. Some online news media pair up with Eventbrite, but it's still not enough. Do it, but do more.


I recently asked an event coordinator where they are advertising, and you should too. They mentioned a few of their local their town of 12,000. Wow. If you have an upcoming event, pick the largest city near you and get it in their newspaper. Many times it's free. Search "Local Events" or "What's Happening Around Town?" or "Things To Do" and post your ad there weeks in advance.


And finally, hand out flyers at your local church, book clubs, author groups, and other book signing events to help spread the word. You want to reach both authors AND readers. Have an online pdf flyer that authors can print and give out at their signing events to encourage patrons to attend yours.


Got you there, didn't I? Check around to see what other events are planned for a weekend before you schedule your event. Don't pick a day when the largest craft show or book signing event in the state's history happens to fall on the weekend you have in mind. Sure enough, you will hear crickets.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

When A Fan Recognizes You and Your Work

Thank you to Morgan Combs for making my day, year, and decade today at the Grounds Central Station coffee shop in Manassas, Virginia.

While I was discussing distribution ideas for the Virginia Authors Book Sampler with poet and past President of the Virginia Writers Club, June Forte, a sweet and terrifically good-looking couple started up a conversation about photography with us. It came about as I was taking the selfie below with June. The gentleman, probably in his mid-20s, takes professional photographs at the DC Zoo. June was once a photo journalist, and I take photos as well.

June Forte and Me
I mentioned that I also shoot video, specifically nature videos, and when I brought up my nature film Beyond the Garden Gate, a customer across the way spoke up. Morgan Combs revealed that as a child she would watch my film often with her mother. It was one of her all-time favorites, and they watched it over and over again. Beyond the Garden Gate aired on PBS from 2001-2005, but she thinks they purchased their VHS copy at the National Arboretum at that time.

Morgan Combs and a very speechless me trying to take a decent photo.

I had distribution agreements with several garden centers and public gardens, including the renowned Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia. Even a science museum in Scotland used the video as part of one of their displays for a while. I believe they had the time-lapse photography pieces looping on a monitor inside an Alice in Wonderland tunnel.

Anyway, it's not often--in fact for many of us, never--that you get recognized for your work outside of friends and family. I was lucky enough to have experienced this twice for this film. Back in 2001, just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, a man called me from New York City one night. He said, "I pray that you can help me find the producer of Beyond the Garden Gate. I was watching it here in a coffee shop with some of the remaining firefighters of a battalion that lost a lot of men, and it brought such peace over us." He ordered 20 copies for those friends and their grieving families. It still gives me chills to think about that call, which I recorded midway through. I knew that it was a special moment that needed to be preserved.

When authors write, and filmmakers produce, and painters paint, and photographers shoot, we all do it with the hope that others will get what we are creating. That they will feel the same amount of enthusiasm as we did producing the work. That they will understand the characters, the emotions, the strokes, and the images. That's the connection that means the most to us.

That connection was made today. And I thank June, the terrifically good-looking couple that got us talking about photography, and, of course, Morgan Combs for putting a smile on my face and making me blush.

Beyond the Garden Gate is also available on DVD here and on Amazon.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Facebook Shares Are More Than Shares

Recently I had a blog post about the Blizzard of  '77 go viral. As of this moment, the post has been "shared" 5,900 times. That's a lot of snow talk! It could have been the timing, since I posted it during the Blizzard of 2016, which, by the way, was a mere blizzard-ette compared to what we endured in Western New York 39 years ago.

I wanted to know how my post traveled so quickly, and where it was being shared. But Facebook makes it hard, if not impossible, to track down who shared a post when you use the Share feature offsite, like embedded into your webpage. Though I still don't have those answers, I have now discovered that the Share counter is misleading.

Most of us assume that the counter increments each time someone clicks on the Share button. Seems only logical. The truth is, the Share total is equal to the number of times it was Shared plus the number of Likes on those Shares plus the number of Comments on those Shares.

Share Counter = Shares + Likes + Comments

There are a few websites that will break down these totals for you. You just enter the URL of any page with a Share counter and it will reveal the true figures. Try this one. By entering my Blizzard blog post URL, it shows me that the post has currently been Shared 851 times, Liked 3873 times, and commented on 1244 times. Adding those totals comes to 5968.

The thing about Shares and Comments and Likes is that anyone on Facebook can Share and Comment and Like an offsite link without ever even visiting that link. So if you want to track how many people actually called up your webpage in front of their inquisitive eyes, the page counter is still your best bet.

My Blogger dashboard reveals that the Blizzard of '77 post has been viewed 4863 times at this point. Egads! This far exceeds the Bald Eagles controversy post that went viral last year.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

The Blizzard of 2016 in Pictures

The Blizzard of 2016 from January 22-23 left 30" of snow in Manassas, Virginia, and 40" in nearby areas.  Here are some of the pictures I took during and after the storm:

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Survived the Blizzard of '77

Update: January 28, 2017: Today is the 40th anniversary!

One year and one week from today will be the 40th anniversary of the infamous Blizzard of 1977, which pummeled Western New York and Southern Ontario, Canada, with record-breaking snowfall from January 28 - February 1, 1977. Try 100 inches in some areas with 30 to 40-foot drifts (yes, feet). Gusts of up to 70 mph produced windchills as low as -60 F. It was the blizzard of all blizzards...

And I was there to witness it all.

A photo from the Lockport newspaper. Those people are standing on top of a house.

I was a 13-year-old kid living in this house on West Center Street in Medina, N.Y. It had been four years since my parents divorced, and this was the last place in town my mother took me and my sister. We rented the top floor for something like $200 a month. Below us lived our landlord, Mrs. Smith. She was an elderly lady, perhaps in her mid-70s at the time, and it was my job to keep the narrow pathway out back shoveled in case she needed to get to the hospital.

Well, the winds began to pick up early Friday morning on January 28, and by late afternoon the blizzard was in full swing. My mother worked as a waitress at the Apple Grove Inn restaurant, and I recall her just making it back home before sunset. The restaurant was only a few miles down the road, but it took her at least half an hour. From then on we were all transfixed by the TV and radio reports on the storm. You can listen to some of them along with an excellent slideshow of storm photos in this video.

The TV miniseries Roots was airing its sixth episode on the first day of the storm, and I vividly recall watching that for a bit and returning outside to shovel. Back and forth, back and forth. Once the storm ended a few days later, there was a corridor through the snow from the back door to the garage taller than me.

The entire Western New York area was impassible and all the highways were shut down. Many people were trapped in their cars for days. President Jimmy Carter declared it a disaster area. There were 28 storm-related deaths. Police and rescue teams asked residents who owned snowmobiles to help out since the roads were pretty much non-existent. My father was one of those snowmobilers who offered assistance.

Days out of school? I think it must have been at least two weeks. A wonderful two weeks. My god, there was a lot of snow. A LOT. I remember seeing a photo in the newspaper of three cars pushed on top of each other in a snow bank by one of those large highway plows. It was pretty crazy.

Like most Western New Yorkers and Buffalonians, I am proud to say that I lived through this. We witnessed and survived one of the worst blizzards on record. It wasn't the first, and it certainly wasn't the last, but it will always last in our memories.

Sixteen years later I got trapped outside in the Blizzard of '93 in the same area and almost died. You can read that story, "Adrift," in my book Musings of a Dysfunctional Life.

Post your Blizzard of '77 memory below and share.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Poem: The Comfort of Snow

The Comfort of Snow
By Victor Rook

Fluffy, muffled, white delight
Starts one day and goes all night
It fills my heart right from the start
With the peace it does impart

The air was crisp and cold and gray
Until you came and made your way
Upon the trees and streets and homes
And in the yards on little gnomes

If feels much different from the rain
Which makes us run inside in vain
To hide from wet we seek our cave
Yet when snow comes we feel so brave

To go outside and let it fall
Upon our tongues and over all
Like dancing in a happy powder
Where noises never get much louder

Than the smallest peep from a bird
Seems nothing else is really heard
For every thing goes very still
Sounds are mute within our thrill

The weather man calls it a storm
But I see joy outside the norm
Let if fall and coat the ground
And have us sense it all around

It slows us down as if to pause
Well beyond our day with Claus
It’s much more than a Yuletide favor
To me it is the soul and savior

Of a dreary time from fall to spring
When we never really see a thing
Except darkened skies and barren land
Where days can be so very bland

As sun shines off this snowy white
At times it can be very bright
Perhaps that’s why we feel a glow
The light reflects from down below

So don’t you moan or be uptight
When snow invades and gives you fright
Just seek the warmth inside each night
And everything will be all right

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Last Roll

It's been over 20 years since I took my last photo with a film camera. Once affordable digital cameras came on the market, there was no turning back. I was hooked. But you can imagine my surprise when I discovered my dusty, old Canon T50 in a box with a completed 35 mm roll still inside.

What could be on it?

That was the question I'd been asking myself for the past week. I uncovered the camera while doing a little house cleaning after the New Year. It was resting comfortably in a box half filled with picture frames in a lower kitchen cupboard. I was trying to make room for all the craft materials I'd accumulated while writing the Dollar Store Crafts & Recipes book.

But then I got sidetracked. Why would I shoot an entire roll of film and never have it developed? At first I had to ask myself if it was an unused roll—I had forgotten how to tell—until I remembered that a new roll would have a pull tab to load across. This one had been completely wound inside. Wound...such a funny word when you think about digital cameras. There is no more winding.

The roll also lacked an expiration date, which I thought was odd. But it looked to be in good condition. And for the past twenty years or more, it had remained in complete darkness.

So today I made the calls to find a store that still developed film. I discovered that one of the four Walgreens in the area had a one-hour photo lab inside. All the others would have to send it out. Waiting 7-10 business days longer was out of the question. My curiosity was piqued.

When I arrived, I told the Walgreens attendant my story, and how I could only guess what must be on that roll. He gave me a pickup stub and I spent the following hour perusing the store aisles. Waiting.

Maybe the undeveloped roll contained pictures of my mother. She passed away in 2008, and I only have about a dozen digital photos of her over the past two decades. Or maybe it was shots from the cottage I lived in while I filmed Beyond the Garden Gate. Could they be of a trip I took somewhere? Perhaps candid shots of myself in my thirties. Or friends that are no longer living in the area?

While waiting I discovered, to my great joy, that Walgreens was selling the exact model of humidifier that I had scooped up at a flea market last week. I paid $4; they wanted $39.99. I felt as though I had won the lotto. 

Several aisles were lined with Valentine's Day chocolate boxes and gift sets...a month early. And then there were those neat items—toys and gadgets and such—that fill shelves not devoted to cosmetics, drugs, and skincare lotions. I wrote a piece in Musings of a Dysfunctional Life about my attraction and almost comatose fascination with gadgets sold in pharmacy stores. All those As Seen on TV items and nifty appliances intrigue me. I called the piece "My Swivel Sweeper Moment."

About 45 minutes later I noticed a second co-worker observing a screen of photo thumbnails along with the original clerk. Her brow furrowed. Oh, crap! I thought. I hope I didn't goof around and take nudies back then! Boy, that would certainly be an embarrassment!

But, alas, they weren't pictures of me overexposed. They weren't pictures of much at all.

"Sir, are you Victor?" the woman asked.

"Yes," I eagerly replied.

"I'm sorry, but this roll is empty." She stretched the entire 24-exposure negative above our heads so I could see within the light that all the frames were blank. There would be no charge.

I can only imagine, in my way of thinking, that instead of wasting another dollar on film developing, I spent the last roll just to remove it from the camera. But, apparently, I forgot to eject it. I was digital bound and never looking back.

You can view a few of my many post-film photos in the hardbound book Photopourri, in the nature DVD Calmness of Woods, and in this little winter gallery.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Virginia Book Sampler Hits Stores!

The Winter 2016 issue of Virginia Authors Book Sampler has landed in several area stores. The new quarterly publication features excerpts from books written by Virginia writers. It is also available in print, Kindle, and FREE pdf and flipbook versions at

In this issue you can read excerpts from the following books: Jaded (Kristy F. Gillespie), People Who Need To Die (Victor Rook), Hitler's Time Machine (Robert F. Dorr), Old Roads and New Exits (Tom Basham), Love Like Fall (Antonia Kilday), Junior Inquisitor: Book 1 (Lincoln S. Farish), Memory Lake (Nancy S. Kyme), Blinded by Deception (Maria Yeager), Messages From Nature (Patricia Daly-Lipe), Who Gets to Name Grandma? (Carol Covin), Anabel Unraveled (Amanda R. Lynch), Holiday Connections (Genilee Parente/F. Sharon Swope), Kingsley (Carolyn O'Neal), and The Tower (Herrick Lyons).

If you're in the area, stop by these businesses and grab a copy for $5 to support the authors and stores:

Love, Charley at 9015 Center Street in Old Town Manassas

Old Towne Man Cave at 9070 Center Street in Old Town Manassas

Longevity Wellness Center & Spa at 9366 Main Street in Old Town Manassas

Grounds Central Station at 9360 Main Street in Old Town Manassas 

McKay Used Books at 8345 Sudley Road in Manassas

Manassas Clay at 9122 Center Street in Old Town Manassas

The Things I Love at 9084 Center Street in Old Town Manassas

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