“Because It’s There”

52 Pick-up 2.0, #45 – 11/10/2020

“I seem to recall that Walt and Henry got into trouble golfing one time, but you don’t strike me as a golfer. What recreational activities do you take part in?”
-June Anderson

Hi June,

I ranch, so there’s no such thing as recreation… Just kidding.

No, I don’t golf, but my wife does; she even won the women’s division of the Mike Schmitt Tournament back in Philadelphia when she lived there. Me, I prescribe to the Mark Twain adage that “golf is a good walk spoiled”.

There are lots of things I do enjoy—fishing, horseback riding, mountain climbing.

In my youth I climbed in South America, Europe, Asia, and there are a few peaks I’d still like to bag even though I’m getting a little old for that stuff. I’d enjoy seeing the base camp for Everest even though I think climbing it is behind me—I’d just like to have a look at the tallest mountain in the world with my own eyes.

I like being outside. We’re getting those last gasps of fall here in Wyoming, and anybody who’s lived here any length of time, knows what’s coming. I love the bittersweet aspect of the season when the skies grow darker earlier, leaves are falling, and the air has a crisp feel to it. Snow is already encroaching on the Bighorn Mountains, and they’ll always be the reason I live where I do.

I remember when I was building the ranch—I’d look up and see the tallest mountain in the Bighorn Range, Cloud Peak (13,171’), and think how can people live down here and not want to go up there? Once I got the ranch built, I did, and have summited Cloud Peak and some of the others numerous times over the years, sometimes even alone, which drives my wife crazy.

It’s not the most technical of climbs, weather permitting, and I used a lot of those experiences in Hell Is Empty when Walt is chasing escaped criminals into the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area. I guess most of the things I do lead me to isolated places, which is interesting in that I generally enjoy the company of people. I guess it’s a way of recharging my batteries like nothing else does. When you’re involved in an outdoor activity like horseback riding, fly-fishing, or mountain climbing it demands a certain amount of concentration, and I guess that’s another attraction. The writing is always on my mind, even then, or if not then, then later when I’m assessing the experience. Everything is grist for the mill, and I guess that’s telling.

Artists and photographers see the world in a very different way, and I guess that’s true for writers as well. My wife, Judy, is more of an artist and sees the world in colors and light, but I experience the world in words, and the way I can use those words so that the reader can be a part of the experience.

The writing swallows me up every day, and I have to guard against being a one-note-Johnnie, so sometimes it’s something as simple as splitting wood or walking the dog.

But maybe not golf.

See you on the trail,

“The Write Stuff”

52 Pick-up 2.0, #41, 10/13/2020

“I was wondering, when you finish a book do you take some time off, celebrate, or do you start right back in again?”
-Betty Durbar

Hi Betty,

You know, that celebration-thing sounds like a really great idea, but I’ve never done it… My wife, Judy, is a big one for recognizing the important moments in our lives and reminds me to stop and smell the roses if you will, something I just plain forget to do. Writing a novel is a year-long project and quite an undertaking, but it’s also a joy for me. I love writing, it’s the celebration that’s alien. You know what I do? I start a new book. I’m superstitious that way because I don’t like leaving the characters hanging. I guess I feel like they’re not there if they’re not on the page. Sounds weird, huh?

Judy usually talks me into going out to dinner, or makes something special that she knows I like, which isn’t hard in that she’s a marvelous cook. In case you happened to have missed it, my mobile studio in the kitchen at the ranch is the computer sitting on a stack of cookbooks.

I sometime treat myself by buying something, but it’s usually not anything all that exciting. This year it was a new floor in the tack room which doesn’t sound all that great, but I walked in there the other day and a floor joist collapsed and I was suddenly eight inches shorter. When I originally built the barn, I did it on a shoestring and used rough-cut, untreated lumber, and over its twenty-year tenure… Anyway, the replacement floor is almost done, which is important because it’s where the barn cats keep warm in the winter and they’re responsible for patrolling the barn and keeping the field mice from launching an all-out assault on my saddles and tack. Besides, the racoons have to have somewhere to celebrate and eat out.

As soon as I finish a book, I type that first sentence and to be honest I usually start in on that novel relatively fast. I always laugh whenever someone criticizes a book as “rushed” and that it feels as if I was “under the gun” and in a hurry to meet a deadline with the publisher. The most recent novel, Next To Last Stand was eight years of research in the making and was turned in two months early. I always submit my books early–they’re ready and I don’t see any reason in having the publisher wait; it gives them an extra month or two in production and that’s always helpful. Besides, it allows me the ability to get going on the next, or any other projects like the next novella which is something I’m champing at the bit to get going on.

​Every book is different, and I suppose some readers find that off-putting, but writing the same, formulaic-type novels would be a death sentence. I guess that’s the joy of what I do, the freedom to try something new with every novel. Each one is an opportunity to strike off in another direction and cover new ground. I’ve got some really exciting books in the offing, not all of them that readers might be particularly used to in the mystery or western genre. It’s interesting to see the initial response to some of these more out-lying ideas and then to see the response after they’ve been around for a bit.

I’d write more, but I’ve got a novel to get down on paper… Tee-hee.

See you on the trail,