Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Too Picky?

I started to read a Western novel today while waiting on some car repairs. It opened during the Civil War, in a Union prison camp. Problem was, this Union prison camp was in Montana, which also had railroads and cattletowns. I haven't checked it out, but I'm pretty sure this is all wrong. I put the book aside without reading any more. Other than the historical inaccuracies, it seemed to be fairly well written, and I wondered if maybe I was being unfair to it. I'm sure I've committed some howlers in my books that I'm unaware of. But I'm quicker on the trigger than I used to be when it comes to setting books aside if anything about them bothers me. Too many books, not enough time, as the old saying goes.

I moved on to THE CONCRETE BLONDE, the third Harry Bosch book by Michael Connelly, and I'm enjoying it very much. This is my third Connelly novel in the past couple of months, which is unusual for me. I usually space out authors more than that. But when I find one I really like, I tend to read them more quickly for a while.

Today I made library runs, bought groceries, and took care of a few other errands. No writing, but I plan to get back to it tomorrow. Since this is the last day of August, my total for the month will be 327 pages.

Monday, August 30, 2004

More Medical Stuff

I missed posting yesterday because I was busy helping out with my dad. Even with a professional caregiver on hand, one of the kids (I have an older brother and sister) has to be around much of the time, too. Ya gotta love my dad: he can't walk anymore, can barely talk, and yet there he was this morning doing his best to tell the nurse who was there all about how I was a writer. Being a tough old bird who grew up in the Depression, he's not the sort to toss compliments around directly (I think the only thing he ever said to me about one of my books was that it was hard to find a good place to stop reading -- which if you think about it is a pretty nice compliment), but he's always been a tireless promoter of my work. When he was still working as a TV repairman, he always carried around copies of my books in his truck and sold them to his customers. He had a regular circuit going. He also went with me to a couple of Western Writers of America conventions and had a great time hanging around with many of the writers whose work he had read. He never was quite sure about the writing business, but when he saw that Elmer Kelton and I were friends, he decided maybe it was okay after all.

Moving on, I got the following email this morning:

This is to notify you that my father Peter Ruber recently suffered a major stroke. Although he is now out of danger, the hospital neurologists are still in the process of evaluating him to see what brain/memory damage may have occurred.

Nikolai Ruber

Peter Ruber and I have become pretty good friends over the past few months. He's recommended quite a few excellent authors to me that I hadn't sampled before, and also sent me some of his novels. The ones I've read so far have been very good. I'll definitely be keeping him in my thoughts and prayers.

I've managed to work some the past couple of days and have kept the new novel rolling along, though not at what you'd call a blistering pace. I'm enjoying it so far, but it's still early on. I also read Max Brand's "Reata", the first short novel in a series of seven about the character of the same name. I think some of these were combined into a fix-up novel and published some time back by Dodd, Mead and then in paperback by Pocket Books, but they're now being reprinted in their original short novel versions in assorted Brand collections published in hardback and large print by Thorndike and in mass-market paperback by Leisure. "Reata" is an excellent story with some nice touches of self-mockery on Faust's part, and I'm looking forward to reading the others. I'll start reading something else tonight, but right now I have no idea what it'll be.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Back to Work

I was able to get started on the new book today and wrote a 12-page prologue. As always when I've been away from it for a few days, the act of writing is very enjoyable. Just putting the words together feels good. After several days in a row of it, it's not as much fun, of course. That's why I'm not one of those "I write every day of the year" writers. That's fine if it works, but it doesn't for me.

Speaking of writing, there's a very nice little essay about it today on Ed's Place , by Ed Gorman. Ed says a lot of things that a lot of writers have probably felt. I know I have. Highly recommended.

I'm reading "Burma Guns", a novelette by E. Hoffmann Price from the July 1940 issue of THRILLING ADVENTURE that was recently reprinted as a chapbook by Black Dog Books. Tom Roberts of Black Dog Books has reprinted a lot of classic pulp fiction over the past few years and done a great job of it.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Medical Matters; Research

My dad has gotten worse again, so I spent the morning in the doctor's office with him and my mother. We fully expected that he would be admitted to the hospital again, but instead the doctor prescribed a couple of new medications and let us take him home. Things are at the point where they can't do a whole lot for him other than try to find things that will make him more comfortable. I had plenty of time to study all the posters on the walls of the exam room and learned more about the brain than I ever wanted to know.

I had planned to start writing again today, but by the time I got home I didn't feel much like that, so I read parts of a couple of research books. I'm always amazed by how contradictory these books can be. These two were about the same subject but told considerably different stories. I've about decided that since I'm writing historical fiction, if I find something in a research book, it's fair game. I always chuckle about how historians feud and claim that their version is the only right one, and if you believe anything else, you're not only wrong but probably an idiot to boot.

I'm reading "The Strange Ride of Perry Woodstock" by Max Brand, in the collection THE FUGITIVE'S MISSION. So far this is a really good novella, one of the best Max Brand stories I've read.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Off to the Library; Black Horse Westerns

This morning Livia and I decided we needed a little more research material for the new series we're about to start writing, so it was off to Fort Worth, to the main library downtown. I don't get down there very often, too much traffic, not enough parking, etc., but today it wasn't too bad. Of course, I can't resist browing through other books while I'm there, and I usually come home with some stuff I want to read in addition to the research books. Today it was a couple of Astro City graphic novels by Kurt Busiek and three large print Linford Westerns, reprints of books originally published in England by Robert Hale Ltd. as part of the Black Horse Western line.

I've read a couple of dozen Black Horse Westerns by various authors and really enjoy them. They're short (supposedly around 45,000 words, but I'd wager that most of them are actually shorter than that), well-written, and have plenty of action. Most of the authors are British, but there are some Americans who write for the line, too. There's an on-line newsletter about the line called Black Horse Express . I'm also a member of a Yahoo group devoted to the books, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/blackhorsewesterns/ . Most of the members there are authors who write for the line. The books can be difficult and expensive to get in the U.S., but they show up sometimes on eBay and many libraries have at least a few of the Linford large print reprint editions. Highly recommended if you enjoy traditional action Westerns (and I do, of course).

When we got home I was able to finish reading the page proofs for that other book, found only two pages with mistakes on them. I'm glad that job's done so I can get back to writing, and to reading something that I didn't write!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Page Proofs

I spent most of the day reading page proofs of a historical novel I did a while back. I think reading page proofs is my least favorite part of the writing process. (Well, that and waiting to get paid . . . ) In the first place, I'm not fond of revisiting a book I've written. Once I'm done, I'm done. Also, it takes time and concentration to read closely enough to catch typos. So far, I've read about half of the book, and I've found one page with a mistake on it. I don't know whether to be happy that they did such a good job on the production end, or grouchy because I'm wasting my time. It didn't help matters that today I got a box of pulp reprints that I'd ordered, and they're just crying out to be read. But I'll be diligent. I promise I will.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Finished; Great Website

20 pages today wrapped up the current house-name Western. I liked it pretty well, thought it was one of the better series Westerns I've done recently. A friend of mine who writes a lot of these compares writing series Westerns to hitting a baseball: sometimes you strike out, sometimes you hit a nice sharp single to the outfield, sometimes you get lucky and knock one out of the park. But whatever you do, next time you gotta get up and take your swings again.

I'm still reading that Johnstone book, but I should finish it tonight. Next up is probably that Milton Lesser book I mentioned yesterday. Today while searching the Internet in an attempt to find out when and where the two stories in the book were originally published, I found a great site devoted to science fiction pulps and digests:


It's in French, but it features cover scans and indexes for just about every SF magazine you can think of. Even if you don't speak French, the indexes are easy to decipher. I could spend hours going through this site looking at all the covers and wishing I had those issues. I do have some of them, but only a small fraction. Great stuff, highly recommended.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Bookstore Finds; Hidalgo

I took today off from writing (other than going back over what I wrote yesterday) and ran errands instead, including stops at a couple of bookstores. Here's what I wrote on the WesternPulps list about some of what I found:

Today I visited a little used bookstore I hadn't been to in quite a while. The last time I was there, they didn't have much of interest, but today there were some older Westerns on the shelves. I bought:
GUN HAWK, Ed Earl Repp (Hillman)
BORDER FEVER, C. William Harrison (Perma-Books)
THE GUNS OF FORT PETTICOAT, C. William Harrison (Gold Medal)
TWO FACES WEST, T.T. Flynn (Dell)
GHOST GOLD, Tom West (Pocket Books)
THE SHERIFF OF SAN MIGUEL, Allan Vaughan Elston (Dell -- a mapback)
THE ELKHORN FEUD, Philip Ketchum (Popular Library)
CONQUEST, Homer Hatten (Gold Medal)
EAGLE ON HIS WRIST, Homer Hatten (Gold Medal)

I also bought a Leisure Max Brand collection, THE LOST VALLEY, and an old Leisure Adult Western, SILVER LUST, by "Dallas Todd", who I suspect is a friend of mine. I was pretty pleased with this haul. I went in there to look for a book my daughter needed for school. Luckily I found it too, or I might have looked pretty bad coming out with all that good stuff for myself.

I bought one other book at that store, SECRET OF THE BLACK PLANET, by Milton Lesser, published by Belmont in 1965. This is a collection of two novellas, "Secret of the Black Planet" and "Son of the Black Chalice", both of them copyright 1951 by Ziff-Davis, so they were probably first published in AMAZING or FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. Lesser wound up being mystery novelist Stephen Marlowe. I like his work a lot under both names, whether it's SF or mystery.

Earlier in the day I made my usual stop at Half Price Books. The haul there included two books by Lin Carter, BEYOND THE GATE OF DREAM and OUTWORLDER, ORON #5: THE GHOST ARMY by David C. Smith (about as hardboiled a sword-and-sorcery writer as you'll find this side of REH), and a couple of SF digests, ASTOUNDING from January 1960 and GALAXY from December 1967. It was a good day for book-buying.

Another post from WesternPulps, concering the movie HIDALGO:

I finally got a chance to watch this movie on DVD. I'd wanted to see it when it was in the theaters, but that never worked out. However, even on a smaller screen, it's a very impressive and entertaining film, the sort of pure adventure movie that doesn't get made as often as they used to. It's a little heavy-handed in places with its moralizing and mysticism (as you'd expect from John Fusco, who wrote SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON), but like SPIRIT, the story overcomes that and sweeps the viewer along, creating some good characters and genuine suspense along the way. Good performances, too, not the least of which comes from Hidalgo himself. And it's always good to see Omar Sharif again. (I always liked DR. ZHIVAGO.) I'd recommend this one to anybody who hasn't gotten around to seeing it yet.

I'm still reading the Johnstone book.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Closing In

I went over to my folks' house today and spent a few hours with them, then came home and wrote. I usually stop for the day by six o'clock, even if I get a late start, but today I went on past that, thinking, "Well, I'll do a little more . . . well, I'll do a little more . . . " I wound up with 25 pages, which leaves me just one chapter to go to finish this book. Probably won't do it all tomorrow, but it should be wrapped up on Tuesday. As I may have mentioned before, I obsess about pages. I know this. But a little obsession is healthy, right? Right?

I'm reading REVENGE OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN by William W. Johnstone. This is the fourth book in a long-running series. I read the first three a while back and decided to pick it up again. I was surprised that I remember as much about the first three books as I do. My memory isn't what it once was.


Livia and I were married twenty-eight years ago today. It's a cliche, but it really does seem like the blink of an eye in some ways and forever in others. I can't imagine the last twenty-eight years without her, though. I'm convinced that she's largely responsible for me being a writer, since she told me that if that was what I wanted to do, I had to really work at it. A few months later I sold my first story.

Anniversary or not, I turned out 20 pages today . . . but Livia's the one who told me to go out to the studio and get those pages done.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Charles E. Fritch

I finished reading that July 1957 issue of AMAZING STORIES today and thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the stories was by Charles E. Fritch, who a little over twenty years later became the editor of MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE. I was already selling short stories to MSMM and had written three Mike Shayne novellas for the previous editor, Sam Merwin Jr., but Chuck Fritch showed a lot of faith in me by asking me to write all the Shayne stories. I wound up writing more than thirty Shaynes for Chuck, and he bought a lot of my non-series stories, too. Unfortunately, the people who bought the magazine from Cylvia Kleinman, Leo Margulies' widow, had a habit of not paying their writers unless they were badgered and threatened into it, and when the magazine finally went belly-up, they still owed me $242. (Funny how I remember that exact total all these years later.) Chuck was a good editor and a good friend, though, and I've often wondered what happened to him. At one point I heard that he was editing motorcycle magazines. I don't know if he's still in the business or even if he's still alive. I hope so.

I'm now reading "The Fugitive's Mission", a Max Brand novella in the collection of the same name.

15 pages done today, probably won't finish the book this weekend like I wanted to, but I'll come pretty close.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Crichton; Slesar

I gave up on PREY about 70 pages in. The writing was just too slick and soulless for me, and I thought every plot development was telegraphed 'way too much. Now, I realize that anybody who enjoys pulps and Adult Westerns as much as I do has no right to complain about a book being predictable, but what can I say? Some books work for me and some don't.

So I'm looking around for something else to read, and I take a cue from Bill Crider: I grab a Fifties science fiction digest. In this case, the July 1957 issue of AMAZING STORIES, with a giant hand clutching a rocket ship on the cover. Ah, that's better. The lead story, which I'm about halfway through, is a short novel by Henry Slesar called "A God Named Smith". I'm enjoying it immensely so far. And it's reminded me of what a good writer Henry Slesar was. I was first aware of him as a mystery novelist and short story writer. He won an Edgar, I think, for his novel THE GRAY FLANNEL SHROUD (which I haven't read), and he wrote a lot of stories for AHMM, many of which were reprinted in those Alfred Hitchcock hardcover and paperback anthologies, which I devoured on a regular basis. He wrote a good espionage novel called THE BRIDGE OF LIONS which was adapted into a two-part MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. episode. Later I read quite a few of his stories in PLAYBOY (which I really and truly did buy for the fiction, dammit). Later still I became aware that he was the head writer for many, many years on THE EDGE OF NIGHT, the mystery-themed soap opera. For much of that time he not only plotted the show but wrote 90% of the actual scripts. That's a phenomenal amount of work, and what's even more impressive is how good it was. I watched THE EDGE OF NIGHT for well over a decade and always enjoyed it. It was created (not by Slesar) as a cross between Perry Mason and regular soap operas, but under Slesar it took on more of a noir tone and was always tightly plotted and well-written. In recent years, since I've been picking up some of those old SF digests, I've discovered that he wrote a lot of stories for them, too. All in all, I've found him to be a solidly consistent and entertaining writer. And while I'm sure he earned a comfortable living, I'm also sure that he never made more than a fraction of the money that Michael Crichton has made. It probably shouldn't, but that bothers me somehow.

I emailed the outline for the first book in that new series to the editor and have already made some revisions based on her suggestions. Also wrote 14 pages on the Western I have in the works.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Historical Fiction

After several weeks of research and a lot of hours of discussion with Livia, today I sat down to write the outline for the first book in the new Western series we're doing, plus a very brief breakdown of Books 2 and 3. This series is set in a specific place at a specific time about which a great deal has been written. (I realize I'm being vague, but we haven't signed the contracts yet and I'm superstitious enough not to want to jinx anything.) The publisher wants the historical element in the books to be very strong, with a lot of historical characters and incidents. What we've been struggling with is how to mix in the fiction with the facts, and how much of each to have. My general rule for writing historical fiction has been to keep everything as accurate as possible. I may involve a fictional character in a historical event, but I try to describe things as they really happened, at least as much as possible given the reliability of the available research. When I have fictional events happening, I try not to do anything that directly contradicts history. In other words, maybe it didn't happen, but it could have. This project has been a challenge, but an enjoyable one. I've even been able to take some historical characters and use them as fictional protagonists, because their background is unknown and so is their ultimate fate. We know they were there, but we don't really know who they were or what happened to them. So in those cases I feel free to invent whatever I need to. Another thing I've noticed in writing historical fiction is that research books often disagree about what happened. In that case, I go with the version that seems the most likely to me.

The end result today was that I was able to get the outline done, although not without some pacing around and some more discussions with Livia, who came up with the angle I needed to make the whole thing work. Now all we have to do is write the book.

Tomorrow I'll be getting back to the series Western I'm writing. I need to get it wrapped up this weekend so I can move on to other things.

I'm reading Michael Crichton's novel PREY, about nanotechnology run amok. I'm not a big fan of Crichton's work. I haven't read any of his novels since THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, many many years ago. I saw the movie of JURASSIC PARK, which I didn't like very much, and THE 13TH WARRIOR, based on his novel EATERS OF THE DEAD, which I liked much better, one of the best films I've seen in recent years. A couple of years ago I tried to read TIMELINE but lost interest pretty quickly. PREY is okay so far, but I'm not convinced yet that I'll stick with it all the way through.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Curmudgeon Alert

The need to do some unexpected research meant this was another day of running around and visiting various libraries and bookstores. I also went to a comic book store for the first time in a long time. I had a gift certificate my daughter gave me that she won as a prize where she works. The young guys working in the store were friendly enough but somewhat suspicious when a bearded old reprobate like me walked in and started looking around. I was going to get the new Del Rey trade paperback of Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane stories, but they didn't have it. I thought, well, hell, I'll buy a few comics, so I started browsing the racks. Everything I looked at, including old favorites like FANTASTIC FOUR and BATMAN, had that manga-influenced art (which I don't like), huge panels, and very little dialogue. Okay, I thought, I can read one of these in three minutes, five tops. I just couldn't bring myself to buy any of them. No wonder a comic book that sells 50,000 copies is considered a huge success these days. Time was, Marvel would cancel any book that didn't sell at least 100,000 copies each month. (Any post with the phrase "Time was" in it qualifies for a curmudgeon alert.) Instead I got ESSENTIAL AVENGERS VOL. 4, which reprints AVENGERS #69-97 and INCREDIBLE HULK #140 (must be a crossover story, I don't remember). I had the first three ESSENTIAL AVENGERS volumes but hadn't picked up this one yet. This is a very thick trade paperback that will take me five or six hours to read, at least. Of course, I've read all the stories before in their original appearances, but I'd never pull all the individual issues out to read them again. I really like the Essentials volumes and always have one on hand that I dip into from time to time; the one on the shelf right next to me now is THE ESSENTIAL IRON MAN. The art loses a little something in black-and-white, but hey, no time travel machine is perfect, right? And that's what these books are, because they transport me right back to the days when I first read those stories.

I decided I wasn't ready to start another long Connelly novel, so I'm reading the January 1942 issue of THRILLING WESTERN instead. The lead story is a Walt Slade "novel" by Bradford Scott called "Riders of the Rimrock Trail". Scott, who was really A. Leslie Scott, also revised and expanded this story into a full-length novel also called RIDERS OF THE RIMROCK TRAIL but published under the pseudonym Jackson Cole and featuring Scott's other famous Texas Ranger character, Jim Hatfield. I plan to read both versions and compare them.

I also plotted another Western novel today and worked some more on figuring out what I'm going to do in the new series. I need to get the outline for the first novel in that one written up and sent in to the editor.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Aldo; Daredevil; More Jamieson

First of all, my sympathies go out to Aldo on the loss of his dad. I haven't known Aldo for very long, but he's become a good friend in a hurry.

The consensus among Vince, Bill, and I (see their comments on yesterday's post) is that DAREDEVIL isn't as bad a movie as it's cracked up to be. I didn't see it in the theater (I see very few movies in the theater these days), but I watched the DVD when it came out. Had to, because I bought the first issue of the Daredevil comic book off a spinner rack in Trammell's Grocery in 1964 when it came out, and I read the book regularly for more than thirty years. (I don't read comics anymore, but that's another post . . . ) I knew that the critics had savaged DAREDEVIL, and I'm not much of a fan of Ben Affleck, but we watched the movie anyway and when it was over my wife and I looked at each other and said, "What was so bad about that?" Not a great movie, but we found it to be an enjoyable way to kill a couple of hours. And when the Elektra movie comes out, if it ever does, we'll watch it, too. But probably not in the theater.

I'm reading a Leland Jamieson novella from BLUE BOOK called "The Pirate of Vaca Lagoon". It's about the Coast Guard Air Patrol trying to stop gun-runners from smuggling a load of stolen American rifles to Cuban revolutionaries in 1935. Very good stuff so far. I've figured out that Jamieson's work reminds me of Howard Hawks' movies, specifically ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS. If I finish this story tonight I'll probably start Michael Connelly's THE CONCRETE BLONDE.

Today was a "run all over creation, do errands, and buy groceries" kind of day. No pages done, although Livia and I did spend quite a bit of time discussing the characters for our new Western series. I also mailed off a Longarm manuscript. When we got home I found page proofs for one of my ghosted Westerns waiting for me. I don't like reading page proofs (or doing revisions, or going over copy-edited manuscript), but it's all part of the job and I think I do it decently, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Catching Up

I haven't really done anything the past few days except sit around and write. When I mentioned that I hadn't posted anything on Rough Edges lately, my daughter commented in that sarcastic way that all daughters have, "But there are probably people out there waiting anxiously to see how many pages you did today!"

So in answer to that . . . 17. Now on to more interesting things.

"Forgotten author" is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Usually it's not completely true. Even the most obscure authors have a few fans left here and there. But some are almost forgotten, and sometimes undeservedly so. Lately I've been reading stories by Leland Jamieson, who was published frequently in BLUE BOOK and THE SATURDAY EVENING POST during the Thirties and Forties. My friend Peter Ruber recommended Jamieson to me, and I'm glad he did. Jamieson, who was also a pilot, wrote aviation stories, naturally enough. Some are fast-moving adventure yarns, some are more serious character studies, but so far, all of them I've read have been excellent. A search on ABE ( www.abebooks.com ) turns up three novels by Jamieson: ATTACK!, HIGH FRONTIER, and G-MEN ON MURDER ISLAND (a pulp title if ever there was one!). I haven't ordered any of them yet, but I'm thinking about it, especially ATTACK!, which according to the listings is about an aircraft carrier. I've been very interested in carriers since visiting the U.S.S. Lexington twice in Corpus Christi, where it's permanently docked and now serves as a museum, and since writing quite a bit about them in a couple of my World War II novels. I think Jamieson would qualify as a mostly forgotten author, but from what I've seen so far his work is worth searching out, especially for anyone with an interest in aviation during the Thirties and Forties.

We watched the DVD of 13 GOING ON 30 tonight. It's a sweet little movie (we watch a lot of sweet little movies in our house) with a couple of fairly large plot holes. Of course, any movie with Jennifer Garner in it is worth watching, at least where I'm concerned. Heck, I even liked the almost universally reviled DAREDEVIL.

My dad's improvement continues to surprise the rest of the family. Having a professional caregiver around has made a lot of difference. Of course, he's still 88, but we'll take all the good news we can get.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Better Day

With my dad back home, I was able to work all day and got 27 pages done, the sort of day I really needed. It didn't hurt that the weather was again cooler than usual for this time of year. I like being able to open the windows in my studio and air it out.

I'm reading LONGARM IN DEADWOOD, one of the relatively early Longarms by "Tabor Evans", in this case Lou Cameron. I haven't read a Longarm in quite a while. It's been my experience that writing novels in a house-name series makes me lose interest in reading the entries by other authors. It's not like there's any book-to-book continuity, and I get enough of the character in the books I write. However, I may have to rethink this stance, as I'm really enjoying this book. Cameron is an old pro, of course, and a good storyteller most of the time. This one is flowing along just fine and has an interesting plot. Pure entertainment, as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Update and Thanks

I appreciate the words of concern for my dad from Bill and Aldo below, as well as from those who emailed me directly. Aldo, my thoughts are with you and your family, too, and I'm glad you were able to pass some difficult time with TEXAS WIND.

My dad came home from the hospital this evening. Things were pretty dicey Monday, but he bounced back quickly and while his long-term outlook is not very good, there was no real reason to keep him in the hospital.

Earlier in the afternoon I was able to grab an hour and work a little. The current project isn't coming along very fast, but it'll get there.

Having finished the Parker book early this morning, I'm between books at the moment and in that frustrating state where I don't know what I want to read next. There are plenty of choices, I just can't work up any enthusiasm for any of them. When I get like this I usually read short stories for a few days until the mood passes and I'm ready for a novel again.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Medical Report

My dad is doing much better and may get to go home tomorrow. I was at the hospital quite a bit of the day but also managed to sneak in some work and did 10 pages.

Still reading BAD BUSINESS. With all the corporate intrigue, I almost get the feeling that this is Parker's version of a John D. MacDonald plot, which is a pretty bizarre combination.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Medical Matters; Parker

I spent the morning in the doctor's office with my dad, and the afternoon in the hospital with him. He seemed to be doing a bit better by the time I left this evening. He'll be hospitalized for a day or two, at least, for more tests, and after that we'll see. Obviously I didn't get any writing done today, but I read a bit here and there in Parker's BAD BUSINESS (one of the nurses is a Parker fan), and read more of it tonight. Seems a little better plotted than most of the recent Spensers, but Susan is a little more annoying than usual, so I guess it evens out.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Fiction Junkie

I failed to write a post yesterday for the first time since starting this blog. However, there really wasn't much to write about. I did a lot of yard work and read some research. Longtime readers of Bill Crider's blog ( http://billcrider.blogspot.com/ ) will remember that Bill doesn't like to mow the grass. Well, neither do I.

I did more research and got back to writing today, plugged away at it until I had 14 pages. I'm going to start reading a novel again tonight, probably the new Spenser by Robert B. Parker. BAD BUSINESS, I think it's called, but I'm not going to get up to check. I'm a fiction junkie, and even a few days reading just work-related stuff drives me nuts. I've heard writers say that they never read fiction because they're afraid it will influence what they're writing. That's all well and good and everybody's got to do what works for them. But if I didn't read other people's fiction more or less constantly, it would have a negative impact on my work because I'd be crazy and not writing anything. I've been that way for 45 years and don't think I'm likely to change any time soon.

Friday, August 06, 2004

"Mrs. Peel, We're Needed"

The first time I saw a commercial for the TV series THE AVENGERS, way back there in the mid-Sixties, I thought for a second it was about the Marvel comic book. I quickly realized that couldn't be the case. But I watched the series anyway, loved the theme music and the opening with Steed and Mrs. Peel and the Bentley, and I was hooked enough that I never missed an episode.

Today I was in Sam's Club and looked at the boxed set of 16 DVDs that comprise the entire run of the Mrs. Peel episodes. The best of the series, in my opinion, although I know some people like the earlier episodes with Honor Blackman as Kathy Gale. None of the actresses who came after Diana Rigg even came close to what she brought to the series, at least not for me. I can't say I was really tempted to buy the DVDs. The set is nearly 90 bucks, and I don't have time to watch all the DVDs of various stuff that I already own. But for a second there I thought wouldn't it be nice to sit down and be transported back to those times for a little while.

By the way, while it was a great TV show, THE AVENGERS may hold the distinction of having the worst series of tie-in paperback novels. The ones published by Berkley and written by Norman Daniels (usually a fairly good writer), Keith Laumer (likewise), and John Garforth (whoever he was) are just terrible, even worse than the I SPY novels by John Tiger (who I think may have been Walter Wager).

Other than that, I wrote 15 pages on the current book and did some research reading for the next one.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

A Fresh Start

This morning I took my dad in for some medical tests, but we got back early enough so that I was able to work this afternoon and did 9 pages in the next Western. I love starting a new book. The first day, even the first few days, with most of the book stretching out in front of me waiting to be written, is almost intoxicating, rather than daunting like you might think. It's after those first few days that the job gets daunting for me, as the realization soaks in that there's still a lot of work to do. And then it gets exciting again the last few days, when I can see the rest of the book in my head and just have to get it down on paper. But for now I'm glad to be working again.

I finished THE BLACK ICE. I don't think it was as good as Connelly's first Harry Bosch book, but it's still pretty good. As convoluted as the plot is, I'm not sure there was enough of it to justify the length of the book. I like short books. I know that's not the fashion these days. But I'll read long books if they're well-written and hold my interest, which this one did. I just think it could have been pared down a little.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Today was spent running errands, including a couple of library visits looking for research books, as well as shopping and trying not to melt in the heat. Hot weather seems to bother me more with each summer that goes by. Must be a sign of getting old. Also stopped at a Half Price Books and bought a few things, including a couple of David Gemmell fantasy novels, IRONHAND'S DAUGHTER and THE HAWK ETERNAL. These are British editions and form a duology called THE HAWK QUEEN. I don't think they've been published in American editions yet, although I could be wrong about that. I have most of Gemmell's books, but I don't think I have these two. He's probably my favorite among current fantasy authors. His first book, LEGEND, is a classic.

Still reading Connolly's THE BLACK ICE.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Barbershop (Not the Movie)

I took my dad to the barbershop this morning. He's 88 and in poor health, but he still likes to go to the barbershop. This was the first time he hasn't been able to drive himself and the first time I've set foot in a barbershop in more than twenty years. (Livia cuts my hair, what's left of it, and has for years.) The place he goes isn't a hair stylist, or one of franchise places. It's an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned barbershop run by a couple of guys named Sal and Tony. The only odd note was the fact that the TV in the shop was tuned to Regis and Kelly. Just didn't quite seem right somehow.

The rest of the day was spent working on some revisions and reading the page proofs of one of my Trailsman novels.

I'm reading THE BLACK ICE, the second Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connolly. I really like the way he writes, but I think I've figured out some of his plotting tricks. We'll see if I'm right.

I'm going to try again to use that bigger font. We'll see about that, too, I guess.

Monday, August 02, 2004


We watched the DVD of HELLBOY, which I liked quite a bit, though perhaps not quite as much as I'd hoped to. I've never read the comic books by Mike Mignola, so I can't say if the movie was an accurate adaptation or not, but it certainly had a nice comic book feeling to it. One thing that annoys me in CGI-heavy movies is that often some of the effects seem to be in the movie for no other reason than that they'll look cool in the video game version. That only happens a couple of times in HELLBOY. Ron Perlman was excellent as the title character. The exposition could have been a little clearer. There were a few times I wasn't sure what was going on. But all in all, I had a really good time watching this one.

It was over 100 degrees again today, and the pollution was a little worse. I just came in from going for a walk with the dog, and the air smelled like an electrical short. I don't like it when that happens, but other than moving, I don't know what I can do about it. And I can't move. I have too many books and other stuff.

26 pages today finished the current book, which is #166 overall. (More of my numbers obsession coming out.) I need to do some revisions on another project tomorrow, then get the next Western started. I realized earlier today that I had turned in some research books to the wrong library (don't you hate it when that happens?), so I have to try to retrieve them tomorrow, too.

I've been reading some pulp stories today, too, including an excellent H. Bedford-Jones novelette called "Up the China Sea", from a 1923 issue of ADVENTURE. I'll probably start reading another novel later tonight but not sure yet what it'll be. Maybe the second Harry Bosch book by Michael Connelly. I hope it won't take me three tries to get that one read.

I like this bigger font, and it showed up on the website without any trouble.

Scorcher; Derailed

Today was the hottest day of the summer so far. Temperatures around here ranged from 104 to 107, depending on where you were. Luckily, I spent most of the day inside writing. I got the month off to a good start with 24 pages. I'm not surprised that the weekend was pretty productive, because I'm getting close to the end of the book I'm working on. My pace nearly always speeds up during the last few chapters of a book. Sheer momentum, more than likely.

I finished reading DERAILED. Bill Crider commented on yesterday's post that I would probably hate it. I wouldn't go quite that far. It read fast and generated a little suspense, although not much because the plot was so predictable and the characters so unlikable. I probably wouldn't have finished it if I hadn't wanted to see what the plot twist was that Bill and some others have mentioned. When I got there, it was as spectacularly dumb as they said. But I did kind of like the ending. I might even read another book by James Siegel. Or I might not.

I changed the font size on this post. We'll see if it shows up that way on the website, and how it looks if it does. The default size seems a little small to these old eyes of mine.