Thursday, November 30, 2006

Getting Ahead of Myself

I did something recently on a book I was working on that I’d never done before. And after all these years, there aren’t very many writing tricks that I haven’t tried. I wrote the ending of this book before I got to it. Usually my method is to go straight through a project, start to finish, without skipping around. But I was writing along on this book when it suddenly occurred to me how it should end, so I went ahead and moved down a ways in the file and wrote the final two paragraphs, so they were already done when I got to that point. I revised them slightly to make them fit better with the paragraphs leading up to them, but I didn’t make many changes. They wound up pretty much the way I originally wrote them.

I should point out that while I always know in a general way how a book is going to end, this is the first time the actual words came to me ahead of time like that. I was surprised but pleased. I always like the chance to try something new when I’m writing.

Weather Update

It's cold. It rained, it sleeted, it snowed. The roads are slick. I stayed inside and wrote all day.

Could've been worse.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Winter's A-Comin'

We just had a blue norther blow through about twenty minutes ago, bringing with it the promise of snow, ice, and the first hard freeze of the season. The temperature is already plummeting and the wind is blowing hard. Last year we had the coldest weather in early December, before winter officially started. I hope it doesn't get that cold any time this winter, because that cold spell truly sucked. As you may have guessed, I'm not fond of winter weather, even what passes for winter here in Texas.

Luckily I'm not doing much these days except sitting at the computer and writing, and my studio has a decent heater in it. I really think cold weather slows my brain down a little, though. We'll see how it turns out.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jury Duty

I had to go to jury duty this morning, for the fourth or fifth time in my life. The only time I ever actually got put on a jury, the case lasted less than five minutes. The judge threw it out first thing because of some procedural error by the prosecution. Today, even though I got there early, the small lobby in the courthouse where we had to wait was already packed, with no place to sit and not nearly enough ventilation. So we stood there waiting for more than an hour and a half before being called in and told we could go home because all the cases on the docket had been pled out at the last minute. I was glad not to get put on a jury for a case that could last days or even weeks -- my writing schedule doesn't have that kind of leeway in it -- but at the same time I was frustrated to have spent that time for nothing. I also found myself thinking that if I was on trial for a major crime -- or even a minor one -- I'm not sure I'd want my fate in the hands of twelve bored, uncomfortable, and annoyed people.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

TCU Press Signing

For those of you in the Fort Worth area, I'll be signing books this Friday (that's December 1) at the Botanic Gardens as part of TCU Press's Annual Autograph Extravaganza, from four to six in the afternoon. Most of the contributors to NOAH'S RIDE will be there, of course, along with a number of other Texas authors. I've been to many of these annual get-togethers and always enjoyed them. It's more informal than most signings. Instead of the authors being lined up behind a table, it's more like a reception where everyone can mingle. A good chance to visit with readers and other authors. One author always gives a short talk, and this year it's Carlton Stowers. They're supposed to have copies of the Point Blank Press edition of TEXAS WIND for sale and maybe a few more of my books. If you're in the neighborhood and want to stop by, I'd be glad to see you.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I hope all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving had a fine day today. And for those of you who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving . . . well, I hope you had a fine day, too.

My schedule called for me to put in a full day at the computer today, so in between eating too much good food and napping a little, I did exactly that. I need to wrap up the current book by the end of the month. Working on a holiday isn’t that unusual for me, and it’s particularly appropriate on Thanksgiving, because I’m really thankful for the work I have. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for the opportunities I’ve been given. My work isn’t particularly profound (although if you look, every now and then I try to slip in something worth thinking about for a minute or two) and I’m not out to change the world. Instead I get the chance to entertain people, to make them laugh or occasionally get a little misty-eyed, to give them something to read when they’re happy or something to read when they’re sad and need to get away from the world for a little while. It’s one of the greatest blessings in the world, and the reason I’m still pounding away at it after all these years.

And, of course, so I won’t have to get a real job.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

No More Rain/Kasey Lansdale

I bought this CD at the World Fantasy Convention from Kasey Lansdale her ownself, and now that I’ve had a chance to listen to it all the way through several times, I can report that it’s really, really good.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe some sort of country/pop crossover like the music of Faith Hill or Shania Twain. A few of the songs lean that direction, but for the most part this is pure, traditional country, mostly up-tempo and mid-tempo songs with a ballad or two mixed in. Kasey has a fine, strong voice and sings these songs with the ease and confidence of someone who’s been in the business a long time. Her talents aren’t confined to singing, though, as she also wrote five of the ten songs included here, including the title tune. I don’t know enough about music to comment on the technical aspects of anything . . . but I’ve been listening to country music, off and on, for more than forty years, and this is good stuff.

During the weekend of the convention, Kasey and her band opened for the legendary Ray Price and from what I heard got a standing ovation from the audience. I’m sure it was well-deserved.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Box/Peter Rabe

I've neglected some of the classic Gold Medal authors, reading only a few of their books over the years. Peter Rabe falls into that category. I'd read only one of his books, the first one in the Daniel Port series (the title escapes me at the moment), and I didn't much like it. So I decided to give him another try and read one of his best-known novels, THE BOX.

This book has an absolutely great, atmospheric opening. In a sleepy little desert town on the North African coast, a tramp steamer drops off a large wooden crate about the size of two coffins. Whatever is in the crate smells bad and is moving around, and when it's opened up, a man comes lunging out, a wild, half-crazy man who's been shut up in the box since the ship left New York. His name is Quinn, and he's a former mob lawyer who's been closed up in the box with enough food and water to keep him alive, then placed on the steamer as punishment for a falling out with the gangsters who used to be his associates.

That's not really a spoiler, because all of that back-story is spelled out on the back cover of the 1962 paperback, the cover of which, by Barye Phillips, accompanies this post.

Unfortunately, after that great opening, the book goes 'way downhill for me. The plot takes a nice twist or two, but meanders around so much on the way that I had a difficult time maintaining any interest in it. While undoubtedly well-written, Rabe's style is just too slow and literary for me, and the constant shifting around of point-of-view within scenes really annoyed me. Quite a few people whose opinions I trust really like Rabe's books, so I have to conclude that he's just one of those authors whose work doesn't appeal to me for some reason. Dan Cushman, who also wrote some Gold Medals, is the prime example of this sort of author. Considering what he writes about and his pulp background, I ought to love his stuff, but I had to struggle to finish the few books of his I read, and I finally gave up on him.

I'm not going to give up on Rabe. For one thing, I already own most of his books. But I don't think I'll be trying another one of his any time soon.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bust/Ken Bruen and Jason Starr

BUST starts out with a classic noir scenario – a man wants to get rid of his wife, so he hires somebody to kill her . . . and then, Things Go Wrong. And they keep Going Wrong for the next 250-odd pages.

Despite the old-fashioned plot, authors Ken Bruen and Jason Starr (certainly two of the most popular writers in the hardboiled/noir genre at the moment) come up with a generally fresh approach to the material. BUST is well-written, with great dialogue, and is very funny in places despite the grim and sometimes grotesque subject matter. In the end, though, this is a book I admire more than actually like, because everyone in it is irredeemably evil, stupid, or both. There’s nobody to root for. Of course, not everybody cares about having characters to root for, and for those readers, I’d recommend BUST very highly. It falls into the category of being a fine book but just not to my taste.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Clifford: April 3, 1995 - November 14, 2006

Our family lost a really good friend today with the passing of Clifford, our miniature Schnauzer. He came to live with us when Shayna was in fourth grade and Joanna in second grade, so he's been part of the family for a long time. In some ways his health was never very good. When he was fairly young he seemed to have a mild stroke that kept his rear legs from working like they were supposed to. He recovered very well, though, and could run and play normally except for some occasional awkwardness. Then a few years ago he developed heart trouble, and I think that was finally what caused his death. His heart just gave out. But he lived several years longer than we ever expected him to.

Without a doubt, Clifford was the most cheerful dog I've ever known. If ever a dog could be said to always have a smile on his face, it was Clifford. He lived for attention. A good bout of ear rubbing and head scratching could make him whimper in pure bliss. I wish I could have given him a few more of those times, but no matter how much love he got, he always gave more.

On the list of good dogs I've had in my life, Clifford is 'way up there.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Under Orders/Dick Francis

When Dick Francis’s wife passed away several years ago and he announced that he wouldn’t be writing any more novels, there was speculation that Mary Francis was really writing the books instead of her husband. It’s possible that she contributed to them, of course, but despite Francis’s “retirement”, here’s a new novel from him, and to me it seems to be written in the same style, with the same voice, as all the other Dick Francis novels I’ve read.

UNDER ORDERS features the return of former-jockey-turned-private-eye Sid Halley, who starred in several of Francis’s earlier novels. He’s in good form here as he investigates the murder of a jockey who may or may not have been deliberately losing races. The suicide of one of the suspects seems to close the case, but Sid (and the reader) know right away that the so-called suicide is really another murder. Sid’s poking around leads him to the on-line gambling industry and puts him and some of his loved ones in deadly danger before he sorts everything out and tracks down the killer.

This is a tightly plotted, well-written novel with some nice, harrowing action scenes and the usual vividly rendered horse-racing background. I enjoyed it more, in fact, than the last several novels before Francis “retired”. I hope this isn’t a one-shot return and that there’ll be more Dick Francis novels in the future.


James Ward Lee has some nice things to say about my novel TEXAS WIND over on his excellent blog, Jim Lee's Texas, including:

Reasoner’s book is really good, really gritty, and really Fort Worth.

High praise from a fine writer like Jim is always appreciated.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bob Wayne

One of the highlights of the convention was getting to see my old friend Bob Wayne again. Bob is now a vice-president of DC Comics, but back in January of 1981, when I first met him, he was the owner of the recently-opened Fantastic Worlds Bookstore in Fort Worth. This was the first real comics and science fiction store I'd visited on a regular basis, and it was almost a home-away-from-home for me for a few years. Bob brought in a lot of comics professionals and SF and fantasy authors for signings, and I got to meet most of them. This was how I got to know Neal Barrett Jr. and Scott Cupp, among others. Bob and I still trade e-mails fairly often, but this was the first time I'd seen him in years.

Autograph Party

Just a general shot of the autograph party on Friday night at the WFC.

Cross Plains Universe Party 3

Mark Finn, Charlotte Laughlin, Bill and Judy Crider

Cross Plains Universe Party 2

Another shot from Rudy's.

Cross Plains Universe Party

This photo was taken at the CROSS PLAINS UNIVERSE party at Rudy's on Thursday, November 2. That's Karen Lansdale and Jayme Lynn Blaschke at the near end of the table, with Neal Barrett Jr. at the far end.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

World Fantasy Convention

I'm getting back on my feet now after having been sick all week, so I thought I'd better write a little about the World Fantasy Convention before I forget everything that happened there.

First of all, this photo is from the Nineteenth Century Heroes panel moderated by Bill Crider, which turned out to be one of the best panels I've attended at any convention. From left to right, Scott Cupp, Bill Crider, Jess Nevins, and Barbara Kesel.

Now, to back up to last Thursday, most of which was taken up by the drive down to Austin. I arrived in mid-afternoon, checked in to the hotel and at the convention registration counter, then wandered through the dealer's room for a while and said hello to people. Evidently the art show was moved into the dealer's room at the last minute (I don't know the story on this, just going by comments I overheard) and the result was a more crowded room than usual. The highlight of the day was the CROSS PLAINS UNIVERSE party that evening at Rudy's Barbecue, my favorite place to eat in Austin. The food was great and so was the company. I have a few pictures from that evening that I'll get posted in the next day or two.

Friday I attended the excellent Guest of Honor interview of Glenn Lord conducted by Paul Herman. Glenn is so friendly you tend to forget that he's a living legend. I went to one panel about barbarians in fiction that was pretty interesting. Friday was also the day the members of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers who were at the convention got together. Bob Vardeman was already an old friend of mine, and I got to meet Jeff Mariotte, Nancy Holder, Tim Waggoner, and Alice Henderson. I've read and enjoyed books by all of them except Alice, and I intend to read something by her soon. That night was the mass autographing, where I signed copies of CROSS PLAINS UNIVERSE one after another for nearly two hours. Between that and the NOAH'S RIDE signings, I think I've autographed more books in the past few weeks than in all the rest of my career put together. Later that evening I stopped in briefly at the launch party for BLOOD AND THUNDER, Mark Finn's new biography of Robert E. Howard, but I was too tired to stay for very long.

Saturday I attended the CROSS PLAINS UNIVERSE reading, which consisted of Michael Moorcock, Jessica Reisman, Lillian Stewart Carl, and Lawrence Person reading excerpts from their stories. The selections were all excellent and really made me want to read the rest of the book. The panel I was on also took place on Saturday. The subject was "Deconstructing Howard", and while I think it was a good panel and I didn't make a fool of myself, there were at least a dozen people in the audience who were more qualified to be up there than I was.

I didn't attend the awards banquet Saturday night but heard a lot about it later, most of it well-deserved anger for the failure of the judges to give the Lifetime Achievement Award to Glenn Lord. That was a terrible lapse of judgment.

Sunday I packed up, checked out of the hotel, attended Bill's panel, did a last pass through the dealer's room, then headed out for home, taking with me a cold virus and a lot of good memories, most of which revolve around seeing old friends and spending hours just sitting and talking with Bill and Joe Lansdale and Scott Cupp and Bob Wayne. Even though I was worn out, I hated to see the convention end.

I didn't buy much in the dealer's room: Mark's BLOOD AND THUNDER and several of Joe's books that I didn't have, plus one of his daughter Kasey's CDs, which I'll be writing about here once I've had a chance to listen to it all the way through. What I've heard so far is great.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Joe R. Lansdale

Here's Joe his ownself in the dealer's room at the World Fantasy Convention. You can't see it in this picture, but there's a table full of Joe's books in front of him. (And I believe that's Scott Cupp's arm in the right foreground.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Another One From the WFC

Someone working for the convention snapped this photo of me at just the perfect moment, as I was explaining, "My brain is this big."

Checking In

After spending four days at the World Fantasy Convention in Austin, I come home, immediately get sick, and have to deal with a balky computer on top of it. But while I'll be posting more about the convention in days to come and also posting more pictures, I wanted to get at least one photo up while I can. This was taken by Billy Lee in the lobby of the convention hotel last Friday night, after the autographing. From left to right: Joe Lansdale, Bill Crider, Judy Crider, and me.