Since the last time I posted here, I've been almost a thousand miles, down to San Antonio and then on to the Texas Gulf Coast and back.I didn't have any Internet access while I was gone, but I wrote a little something each day to post here when I got back. So here it is, and I warn you, it's sort of long.
I’m writing this on April 12, although it probably won’t get posted for several days yet. I’m in San Antonio, where tonight I attended a dinner event at the historic Menger Hotel that was part of the Texas Library Association convention. It was called “Dying to Meet You” and was set up like speed dating: each table in the ballroom had an author sitting at it, and every fifteen minutes or so we got up and moved to another table. It was fun, I plugged my books, and I saw a few people I know from other conventions, like Lillian Stewart Carl and William Manchee. I met Michael Bracken, one of the most prolific short story authors in the world today, I imagine, whose blog is one of my regular stops, and I enjoyed talking to him for a while before the event got started. The TLA people all did a great job setting this up. They even had valet parking for the authors. Being an old country boy, I’d never had a valet park my car before. Fancy stuff.
As those of you who know me are well aware, I’m a hermit by nature and don’t like to travel. This trip isn’t over, though. From San Antonio, I’m going on down to the Texas coast tomorrow to take care of some family business. I’ll be there for several days and will probably write a post or two while I’m down there. I brought the computer along so that I can get some pages done on the current book, too.
I avoid interstate highways whenever I can because I don’t like the traffic, so today I came down Highway 281 through the Hill Country (for those of you familiar with the area) and the bluebonnets are really blooming. Whole fields were filled with them. Probably the prettiest display of wildflowers I’ve seen in a while.
This is the first time I’ve blogged while traveling, and of course the posts won’t be up until after I’m back. Lowell Thomas I ain’t.
Part 2 – Friday the 13th
Livia’s parents have a vacation cabin on the Gulf Coast. Since they’ve been in poor health they haven’t been able to get down here to take care of the place and mow the grass. So since I was going to San Antonio anyway, I volunteered to tend to those errands. The drive went just fine. I got here, checked the place out, got the mower out and started working. I hadn’t been at for very long when the mower quit working. I’m not much of a mechanic, but I was able to monkey with it for a while and get it started again. Mowed some more and was about a fourth of the way through the job when the mower quit again. This was a different problem, one that I couldn’t fix. Well, after coming this far I wasn’t going to let the work go unfinished. So it was down the road to Wal-Mart, where I bought a new mower. Got it back to the cabin, put it together, put oil and gas in it . . . and it wouldn’t start. I knew crying wouldn’t do any good, but I was tempted. Well, when all else fails, read the instructions. Problem was, although the instructions were in about seven different languages, they were also self-contradictory – in all seven languages, I assume. Anyway, I finally figured out what I was doing wrong, got the mower started, and the rest of the mowing actually went pretty fast. I finished around seven o’clock this evening.
Now after all the driving and mowing, I’m going to rest up for a couple of days before going home. Of course, by resting up, I mean trying to see how many pages I can get done on the current book while I’m down here. But I might take a little while to go booking and maybe even walk on the beach a little.
I recovered all right from my eventful Friday the 13th and spent most of today, Saturday, April 14th, working as I said. I wasn’t sure how much I could get done. Strange place, different computer, none of my usual routine . . . Writers are creatures of habit as much as anybody else. But the work went really well. And I even went down to the beach to walk some.
In the middle of the day I also took a break to check out the local used bookstores. When I was here the last time, nearly five years ago, there were four bookstores in town. Now there are two, and one of them appears to be on its last legs. However, the best one (Bill Crider knows the one I’m talking about) is still thriving, despite having been damaged by a fire since I was here last. The people who run it told me they lost all the books except for some of the Westerns, but they’ve managed to restock it fairly well. The owner said he thought they only had about a fifth as many books as they used to . . . but there are still tens of thousands of books inside the store, which has been remodeled and rearranged considerably because of the fire. I spent at least an hour there, happily going through all the shelves. I didn’t come across any great finds, mind you, but I got some good books, including Westerns I didn’t have by Walt Coburn, Philip Ketchum, and William Heuman, good writers all. Also CUTLER #2: THE GUNHAWKS, by John Benteen (Ben Haas), a book I’ve been looking for. I read the first Cutler novel and thought it was excellent. Haas is one of my favorite writers. Still in the Westerns, I found one called PLUMB DRILLIN’ by David Case, who is best known, if at all, for his horror novels, but he’s also supposed to have written quite a few of the Nightstand books, the same line of soft-core porn novels that Silverberg, Block, Westlake, etc., wrote for in the Sixties. Then there’s BARLOW’S KINGDOM by John Redgate, “A Western Tale of Lust and Violence”, according to the cover. What makes this interesting to me is that “John Redgate” is also the author of a suspense novel called THE KILLING SEASON that I read and enjoyed a great deal when it came out in the Sixties. I found out later that “John Redgate” (if I remember correctly, and if I don’t, someone please correct me) was really Gregory McDonald, the author of the Fletch novels. I had no idea that he’d ever written a Western. The other item of interest is THE UNKNOWN, a Pyramid anthology of eleven stories from the pulp magazine (you guessed it) UNKNOWN. Some of the stories in here have been anthologized many times, like H.L. Gold’s “Trouble With Water” and L. Sprague de Camp’s “The Gnarly Man”, but most of the others are new to me. Not a great haul, but definitely a good one.
One more day, Sunday, April 15th, spent working for the most part, although I read a little and watched a couple of old movies, BORDER FEUD with Lash LaRue and BORDERLINE with Fred MacMurray and Claire Trevor. I’ll write individual posts about them later. And the similarity in titles is just a coincidence, not a theme.
I also went back to the used bookstore, which is open on Sunday, and found a few things I overlooked yesterday, like a copy of the Black Lizard edition of David Goodis’s THE BURGLAR, which I didn’t have in any edition, and .357 VIGILANTE by Ian Ludlow, actually the first novel by our old friend Lee Goldberg, who must have been about 12 years old when he wrote this one. (Actually, I believe he was in college . . . but he was still a kid.)
I’ve always wondered just how much I could write if I was holed up somewhere by myself, with not much else to do, and I forced myself to stay at it for longer than I normally do. The answer is – a lot. But I sure wouldn’t want to do it on a regular basis. I’ll be heading for home tomorrow, and I’m certainly glad and ready to be there.