Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blog on Vacation

My blog is going to be quiet for a few weeks. I just want to focus on reading and book writing for a while. I may post photos once in a while, but that's about it. What can I say, except I've neve been good at multi-tasking and I'm finding that a lot of things are getting in the way of what I really need to be doing, which is writing a book -- not blogs or on facebook or God knows what else.

See you in a few weeks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tall in the Saddle by Chuck Martin

Chuck Martin, or "Boot Hill Chuck Martin" as he was called, was one of the more prolific Western writers who pounded out oaters on his typewriter for the pulps during the 1920s and 1930s. He was in the million word a year category and was making an unbelievable $1,500 a month in 1929.

It's an understatement to say that Martin was a character. He was bigger than life, definitely bigger than the characters he wrote about. He had first hand experience as a cowboy before his writing days, and claimed to have fought with Pancho Villa and knew Wyatt Earp and the Dalton gang.

During his time writing for Wild West Weekly, Chuck was often talked about in the letters to the editor, not just because of his stories, but because of how he honored them. When Chuck had to kill off his characters, he 'buried' them in his own little graveyard out back on his ranch in California.

I have a fondness for Chuck, not just for his eccentricities and his colorful life, but because he was a staunch supporter of my grandfather. In Grandpa's personal papers are several letters from Chuck, in which he alternates between giving Grandpa sage advice about how to make a living after the pulps were on the decline (the letters were written in the late 1940s), to raging against editors and agents and the like.

So I just started reading "Tall in the Saddle," published as an Avon Western in 1958. Chuck died in 1954. According to Bill Pronzini in his book "Six-Gun in Cheek," four of Martin's novels were published posthumously, so this must be one of the four. I'll let you know what I think when I finish. All of my projects are progressing very slowly right now; it's baseball season again and I find myself watching way too much television. Somebody stop me!

The Tainted Archive recently reviewed "Montana Dead-Shot," for those of you who want to know about another Chuck Martin book. According to the Archive, that book was published in 1958, so it must be another of the four posthumous books.

There's so much more to Martin, but I think I'll save it for another time.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Life in the Bleachers

The sun has set, it's starting to cool down (at least outside - it's still 85 inside this house) and I'm a little calmer now. My aunt was discharged from the hospital at 5 this afternoon after being hospitalized for what was probably heat exhaustion. I finished the first draft of a big project at work and sent it off. My neighbor helped me put up a shade outside of the kitchen window that will hopefully cut down on the heat coming in the afternoons. Driving Miss Daisy is now on TV. Life is better.

I've been mulling over what will be my next writing project. In the meantime, I've been doing a fair amount of procrastinating and enjoying some diversion by going to some Dodger games. Here are some photos I took last Friday - the Dodgers v the Rockies. My friend Kristin and I sit in the bleachers - easier on the wallet. Life in the bleachers can be....festive.

I started taking photos in black and white - the first six innings were rather boring, so I started to putter around with the camera - and found out how much baseball lends itself to black and white.
Of course, it's just my opinion. When it got really boring, I went downstairs and took a few photos of the concessions underneath the bleachers. It's a small, closed in area - if you're over six foot tall, watch out for the beams - and people's voices carry easily across the area. There is limited food, and you cannot go to the other areas of the park while you're in the bleachers. We're islands unto ourselves. Still, the place is starting to grow on me. I'm starting to like the bleachers, despite the smell of spilled beer.

Before the Sun Storm

Yesterday it was 100 degrees here in Los Angeles. No one thought it would be that hot; we all knew it was going to be warm, but the middle of August warm? It was supposed to have been a great day; instead, I spent the afternoon in the hospital emergency room with my aunt who had collapsed in the heat and who was eventually admitted into the hospital.

This morning I got up and went outside to collect myself and enjoy a few moments of coolness, even if it was in the most mundane of places: dewdrops on the corn in the vegetable garden, a wet paw in the grass, a snail making its way to a wooden planter. I felt like the snail: getting to the planter is pretty much all I could handle right now.

Today it will be hotter. Global warming, anyone?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Interview with Yours Truly

Gary Dobbs over at The Tainted Archive interviewed me recently about all things pulp fiction and my life with Westerns. Check it out here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday, sans Facebook

For all of my Easter-celebrating friends, Happy Easter. Here's my bunny:
Now that I've been able to come up for air after being submersed in Facebook for the last two days, I've decided that I'm only going to go into that "den of iniquity" once a day. Let's see how long that will last.

Interestingly enough, I picked up a copy of the current Writer's Digest yesterday on my way home. I'm finding that Writer's Digest is a great magazine for helping writers; not as much in the "how to write" venue, but in "how to market your writing," which I find extremely helpful. Lo and behold, there is an interesting article called "A Writer's Guide to Social Networking." The article talks about how Facebook and other sites like Twitter and LinkedIn can help writers market themselves. And guess what - the first section is on Facebook. It talks about how groups related to your subject, joining your own group, posting events and updating your status regularly can all help. But the last section really stuck out: "AVOID GETTING ADDICTED." It partly goes on to say "Budget how much time you spend on Facebook each day. While it can be a valuable tool, your efforts to write, get published and get visible take precedence." Words to the wise.

All of this is a round about way for me to declare that, once again, I am going to try to get down to writing more. You see, part of the problem has been not on HOW to write, but WHAT to write. I just haven't found anything lately to be of enough worth to take the effort to write about it. Maybe that's just partly because of the rough time I went through last year, but regardless, that's behind me and I'm running out of excuses.

What that, I ventured out this morning to the secret garden and took some photos. It's not the best time of day, because there are way too many contrasting light and shadows working against me, as you will see. But then it can result in some interesting shots, like of the rose. Plus I wanted to check on a few things. The lamb's ears are doing very well, but the black eyed susans, that I planted so they will climb up the obelisk, are struggling. But then I just planted it a few weeks ago.

And it was just a peaceful way to start the day. The animals joined me, even the cat, who showed her approval of the cobblestone work I did a few weekends ago.

Have a great day, everyone.
P.S. At the end of the Writer's Digest article, it says that the "WD community editors welcome friend requests" on Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook, look for Writer's Market, Poet's Market, the WD Authors & editors group and WD magazine.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Facebook: The Road of No Return?

Okay, I finally did it - I joined Facebook.
First of all, learning how to navigate around takes some time. What is this "Wall" thing? Is this the only way people communicate with each other? Or are their options to email privately? I really haven't figured it all out yet.
But I think I'm going to like it. For one thing, it's the easiest way out there, I think, to connect with people - your close friends, people you haven't ever seen before, people you haven't seen in ten years - all in one place. Plus you can show off your photos and other stuff too.
But I have to wonder (and this is what is my 'thought' that I've posted): how in the world am I supposed to get any work done now? Everytime I open my email now I've got a few new dozen emails, all of them from Facebook. This morning I had 64. Not that I'm complaining - I love it. Sometimes when I'm sitting at my computer and I'm in my Facebook account, it feels like all of my friends are in the room with me, all of them talking at the same time at me.
Between the blog and the online groups and now Facebook (and of course, my day job, which takes 8 hours of every day! Writing, of course), I'm wondering how I'll find the time to write what I'm "supposed" to be writing: something of substance, like a book or an article. But then, being rather lazy, even if I wasn't involved with all of these Internet goodies, I wouldn't be writing anyway. So at least I'm writing "something."
But now. Really. I have to take the dogs for their morning walk. More and more frequently now I walk into the living room and find nothing but looks of reproach.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Yesterday I really got a good tast of what summer's going to be like in this house. And it ain't going to be pretty. It was 83 degrees inside the house at 4 in the afternoon, and that's with all the shades drawn. I kept peeking out the back kitchen window to see if the sun was going down - once it was, the animals and I peeled out of the house and enjoyed a few moments in the backyard. Xena immediately went for her favorite activity. Annie was too lazy to enjoy anything but posing. As for me, I just enjoyed the sunset. I guess I'll have no choice but to start turning on the air conditioner - a sorry old thing stuck in the bedroom window that barely works. And it's only April.....

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Writers Spaces

One of the memes going around (and I'm new to this whole meme thing) is on writer's spaces. So here's mine at the moment. I have an office in my house, but God forbid that I would actually use it. Something about a desk that faces a wall really squashes the creative urge in me. So I end up on the couch with one of two dogs (and sometimes both) on the couch with me. I also like to write in coffee houses, gardens, and various other places that are outside of the house. What about everyone else? Keep this meme going!

Friday, April 3, 2009

History of Wild West Weekly available at the Black Horse Express

If you're interested in the history of pulp fiction magazines and in particular Wild West Weekly, go to the Black Horse Express magazine and check out my article on the history of Wild West Weekly magazine. This is a condensed version of the history that appears in the Prologue and Epilogue of my grandfather's memoir: Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Tainted Archive and some pre-season Dodger mania

Just a quick note to encourage all Western fans out there (and anyone else who likes a good blog) to go to my blog friend Gary's great place, The Tainted Archive. Besides reviews and current goings on, he has also recently posted a John Wayne movie from 1947, The Angel and the Badman, that is available for viewing on his blog. He's also getting ready for the onslaught of praise that will be coming his way soon when his first novel, The Tarnished Star, published under the name Jack Martin, is published by Robert Hale, Ltd. as a Black Horse Western. Gary's also reprinted an entire Black Horse Western, The Sheriff and the Widow, in its entirety. It's a very active blog, full of interesting items. Gary's a true-blue Western writer who is dedicated to revitalizing the Western genre.

That's all for now. I want to get back to the Dodger game (playing the Angels in an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium. Did I tell you all that I'll be going to the Opening Day on the 13th? This will be my first opening day and I absolutely can't wait. My friend Kristin and I always sit in the bleachers, which some people hate, but I love them. (Yay! Manny just ran in on a triple!!!) Anyway, besides being inexpensive, the bleachers are great because we are right next to the bullpen. And it is a great place to take photos of the pitchers when they walk out to the bullpen in their traditional Walk to the Bullpen before every game. Here's a photo I took last year.

Oh, why not, I'll also give you some photos I took at a special celebration at the Stadium last Christmas. Our wonderful friend Stacey scored the best tickets of all time with this celebration, because everyone involved with the Dodger organization was there, including Vin Scully shown here. Tommy LaSorda, who I think is past 80 now, played Santa Claus and very patiently posed with fans for what must have been several hours. I have a photo of myself with him, but it's not digital. Matt Kemp with his goofy hat showed up as did Clayton Kershaw, who was kind enough to give all the kids pitching pointers. I also got to get chummy with Steve Lyons, who played for many years (mainly for the Red Sox) and is now co-host of the Dodger post-game show on Prime Ticket.

Ok, NOW I'm going back to the game.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Little Red Shadow

I am in the garden this morning, looking around for what I can photograph. More than anything, there is the feeling of promise: the emergence of buds, of plants just peeking up out of the ground.

I take a lot of my photos sitting on the ground. As I focus on my shot, I hear a soft 'plop' behind me. I know this sound - it follows me throughout the yard, whether I'm pulling weeds or putting in a new plant or just simply sweeping or watering. I can always guarantee I'm going to hear this sound.

I turn around to look, although I know perfectly well what the sound is coming from.

I keep moving, knowing that my little red shadow will be able to keep up. I take photos of the delphiniums, the roses, the Iceland poppies, all showing signs of finally blooming.

I take photos of the wildflowers appearing from the seeds I planted last month. Even there, the little red shadow is in the background.

I hear the plop again - there he is. He's getting bolder, now lying in wait right smack in the middle of a plant. He's sweaty, as if he's been working hard to get my attention.

I finish at the foxglove. My neighbor Kathy gave me this one this year and says she has more for me. The foxglove is already in full glory.
I stop and rest. There's that sound again.

I turn around and there he is. But this time he's brought his partner.