Sunday, March 12, 2017

Railroad relief stop

The other evening, when our Empire Builder stopped at Minneapolis/St. Paul Union Depot, we found the nation's only railroad-station service-dog relief facility—several trays of artificial turf slotted between protective railings at one end of the long platform. Naturally Trooper anointed the faux fireplug immediately.

It would be nice if every major railroad passenger terminal had such a facility. We're not holding our breath, however. Although federal law provides that every airport with more than 10,000 passenger loadings a year must have a relief station located inside the TSA security area, it's taking an unconscionably long time for compliance.

But it's the right thing to do.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What you don't know is behind you could kill you

I'll be 77 this summer, and not a day goes by that there isn't a reminder of the perils of aging. Most of them, of course, are the normal ailments one suffers when one gets older.
But lately I've become more conscious of external dangers. A few days ago I was nearly run over from behind at the local park by a couple of small-child cyclists pumping the pedals as if the Devil was after them. They called "On your left!" but of course I couldn't hear them. Trooper reacted, but not in time for me to step aside on the path. The kids swept by uncomfortably close aboard, and Debby said, "You've got to do something."
So I did.
I now walk clockwise around the park path against most of the traffic, which normally follows a counterclockwise course. That way I can see my nemesis before it strikes me down.
I've also put a cyclist's rear-view mirror on my sunglasses so I can watch for unseen dangers behind me. Looks dorky, but it works.
In "Catch-22" Yossarian constantly added to a list in a notebook of all the horrible things that could kill him. By the end of the novel he had filled every page.
I'm getting there, too.

Friday, February 10, 2017

'Hang Fire' now out in paperback

The fourth Steve Martinez novel, Hang Fire, is now available as a $12.95 CreateSpace print-on-demand paperback on and will be on soon.

I finally found a usable public-domain photograph of the Brown Bess musket of Revolutionary War fame to replace the Kentucky rifle on the earlier attempt at a cover. A Brown Bess plays an important role in the novel about modern historical re-enactors of the age of Lewis and Clark (roughly 1800-1840).

FEB. 22: Hang Fire is also now available as a $16.95 Large Print paperback.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Experimenting with covers

The accompanying illustration is of a proposed cover for the CreateSpace paperback of Hang Fire, the fourth volume in the six-book Steve Martinez series.

I've pretty much settled on the text and illustration (of a Kentucky flintlock rifle), but I'm not so sure about the background. It does the job of setting off text and illustration, but will people recognize it as the bark of a pine tree?

I think I'll try another background, perhaps a thick copse of white birch saplings, and see how that goes.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Another paperback on the way

I've just received word that the hardcover and paperback rights to my 2013 Steve Martinez novel, Hang Fire, have reverted to me.

This means I'm free to produce a new paperback of Hang Fire, and will get right to work on it. Expect it to show up on and very soon.

The publisher, Five Star, will hang on to ebook rights for three years more.

I'll just use the final Word text of Hang Fire for the paperback, with a few fixes. The hard work will be coming up with a new cover—Five Star holds the copyright to the original one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


This morning Trooper leaped up against me and led me to the apartment front door. Someone knocking, I thought, and my shaggy little service dog's just doing his job.

But when I peeked through the spyhole, nobody was there. Instead, the condo building's fire alarm strobes were flashing up and down the hallway. (The system was being tested today and there was nothing to worry about.)

But Trooper's act impressed me. He hadn't forgotten the early training in alerting to fire alarms that Laura Burke had given him at Dogs for the Deaf in Central Point, Oregon. I had not continued that training, but had occasionally thought about refreshing it with some kind of device that mimicked the sound of such alarms. I hadn't got around to it yet.

Somehow Trooper has kept it together in his little doggy mind for more than a year without practicing: If there's an alarm in the hall, his job is to let me know about it.

Good boy.

(Jan. 18. In order to maintain Trooper's fire-alarm training, I bought a $6.95 Kidde mini-smoke alarm at the hardware store, loaded the battery and mashed the button. Trooper immediately ran to my office, leaped up on me and led me to the front door of our condo. Perfect. We'll run the exercise once a day or so.)