Dogs and old men on a Colorado trail

Red Dog Smith and I ventured out of the office late this morning for a walk down to the river. Mrs. Smith was out hiking with some friends after ignoring my sage advice to always have a pocket knife when hiking. Who doesn’t carry a pocket knife into the wild?

Red Dog on a Colorado trail.
Red Dog on a Colorado trail

Anyhow, the river isn’t far, and we got all the short way there without seeing another human being or another canine. We decided we are OK with having a trail completely to ourselves now and then.

On the way back, it got busy. We saw a total of three human beings – one walking his black Lab, two others going different directions on their bicycles.

To be more specific, we saw three elderly guys. All three had what some would call white hair, but I prefer to characterize as silver.

Sensing a pattern here?

Seeing three people in half an hour or so is what passes for busy in our rocky little chunk of Mesa County.

We also saw:

Two quick-footed lizards.

Butterflies.

Contrails criss-crossing the clear blue sky.

An enormous flat-topped mountain to the east of us.

On the way back, almost at the front door, I realized I have become some guy who writes about his lunch break now and then. I am OK with that. Red doesn’t seem to care.

Another made day for a writer

Last month I posted something about how some news from an online journal made my day. I said it was about getting a story published and that the story “may or may not have something to do with a kite.”

It has to do with a little boy, some other people, and something about a kite.

Here it is:

The Missing Kite

Read on, my friends.

B.J.

Making my day: Friday flash

It doesn’t take much to make my day lately.

Today, for example, I dropped my Colorado primary ballot in the box at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. That didn’t make my day, but the act of voting did give me some satisfaction as the next step in sending Sen. Cory Gardner from Washington, D.C., back to the Eastern Plains.

I voted on the way home from picking up my monitor and keyboard from the big building on a hill above Boulder where I’ve spent most of the last nine years doing my day job. After more than three months of working from my basement office, I finally accepted that it could be months if not years before I go back to the big building. A few people have returned so far, but most of us still don’t have that choice. My ultimate choice may be to work from home indefinitely, as much as I miss the view from Boulder.

That thing about retrieving my monitor and other stuff so I don’t have to use the company-issued laptop all by itself didn’t make my day either. It was a sad thing.

What made my day was having a little short story accepted for publication in an online journal. It took maybe 90 minutes to write a couple of months ago. After a handful of rejections, the first flash fiction I’ve written in years has found a home. It may or may not have something to do with a kite.

If you read my story when it’s published next month, it will take you however long it takes to read about 630 words. That’s the flash part – few words that go by fast.

Read on, my friends.

B.J.

The Book Hunt

It started with a tweet, the book hunt did.

Ebooks are OK, but eventually a person gets the urge to feel the real thing, smell the ink and old paper, to riffle through pages like a deck of cards and listen to the slap-slap-slap, fast or slow or both, again and again.

On a nicer day I would have ridden my bike, but today I took the Prius the quick eight miles to Inkberry Books in Niwot. I walked in the door with two paperbacks I’d grabbed from the cart out front. A buck each.

I told Gene I felt like I was stealing from him as I dropped a faded Nero Wolfe on the desk. Prisoner’s Base by Rex Stout is older than me by a year. The real steal, though: The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction from 1987.

Successful hunting

Gene rang them up before I knew it. $2.16.

“I’m not done yet, Gene,” I said. I told him it was a great start but I was on a hunt. I wanted more crime fiction, the classic stuff. He pointed the way.

I soon latched on to The Case of the Blonde Bonanza, a hardback Perry Mason by Erle Stanley Gardner. Continuing down the shelves I passed by my own Detective Red Shaw novels, two copies of each. Then Micky Spillane caught my eye: The Goliath Bone, a Mike Hammer novel that Max Allan Collins finished after Spillane died in 2006.

Small world.

Max led a week-long mystery writing workshop I attended in Iowa City way back when I’d only written the first draft of a couple of chapters of my first crime novel. He encouraged me to keep going, as did some of the other writers. He chided us all one day for being so polite in our critiques of each other’s work. Nobody cried. He took us all out for ice cream downtown the last day.

Years later he autographed his Road to Perdition graphic novel for my daughter and me at Barnes & Noble in Cedar Rapids.

Nice guy. Helluva writer, prolific as they get.

Bonus: One of his stories is in the anthology I stole from Gene.

Read on, my friends. Read on.

B.J.

Advice for writers: Don’t call yourselves something else

A documentarian is someone who makes documentaries, right?

That’s what I’ve always thought and my favorite dictionary agrees with me, which makes it an excellent dictionary.

Some time ago, however, I came across a group for writers called Write the Docs – a “global community of people who care about documentation.”

Just a suggestion…

The people call themselves documentarians.

I get their monthly newsletter and that word bugs the hell out of me. (I know what Wiktionary says on the topic, but I don’t care and neither should you. It’s Wiktionary, for crying out loud.)

I’m sure WtD is an otherwise fine organization that meets the needs of some thousands of humans who write and edit documentation and so on. The website has lots of links that various types of writers will find valuable.

What I don’t see on the site under the “Job listings” heading are any jobs for documentarians. That use of the word may catch on more widely someday, and even land in my favorite dictionary, where you can already find documentalist.

My advice? Don’t use either of those words on your résumé if you want to find a job.

Write on,

B.J.