Interview with Bob Blacketer
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By Richard Dani
Lit.Org: Could you tell us about some of your writing experiences? How did you learn your craft?
I have tinkered with writing since I was in high school. I used to write short stories just for my own enjoyment. I have had short stories published on The Writers Club of Dalnet's home page. I would invite anyone who cares to, to drop in and visit with us at "The Writer's Club" on Dalnet. My screen name is "Writer." I have also been published in Ezines on line, in small magazines called zines, and even had an article published in Quilt World magazine. It was one of those unique stories you just happen across that was just too good to pass up. I have had stories published in local newspapers and wrote a local news column for the county paper for a number of years.
I have three books currently in Publication with Adventure Books of Canada, "Wolfe's Burrow", "Wolfe's Pack", and "Star Ranger." All three are available as E-books and Wolfe's Burrow is also available in a print Trade edition.
I have always been interested in writing and have been an avid reader, observing the way the author weaves a story, sometimes noting how I would have done it differently or seeing an idea that I felt should have been pursued further. After I was injured in a disabling accident I spent endless hours reading. I got so disgusted with some of the books I got from the library I told wife, "I can write better stuff than this." She changed my life with four simple words, "Well do it then!"
I enrolled in a correspondence course in writing, which I found very helpful and exciting, and my wife purchased me a computer to aid me in this. We moved back to the country, my health improved slightly and I attended a local Junior College where I earned an AA in Journalism. In the meantime I kept working away on "Wolfe's Burrow" and some short stories, writing and rewriting and learning.
It was during this time my daughter started learning to use the computer and I noticed that she started asking had I written anymore yet. One day I asked her why she wanted to know and found out she had been reading my stories and wanted more. One comment in particular stuck in my mind, after reading one short story she said, "I was like, My father wrote this?"
I took the advice of Poul Anderson, in his autobiography, that when a story was rejected you sent it out to someone else.
Adventure Books has been very helpful to me in my writing. Upon reading the manuscript for Wolfe's Burrow Shar Durksen made some suggestions, I reworked the story, mainly filling out details, and it was accepted for publication.
Lit.Org: What methods do you employ when writing? Do you outline your story and plot?
I have tried outlining and plotting but it does just not seem to work for me. Mostly I spend a good deal of time just mulling the story over before I start writing it, then I try to put myself into the mind of the character and let him tell the story. More than once I have written what I thought was a good scene, only to have the feeling the protagonist was standing behind me shaking his head and saying, "No, that is not the way it happened." I like to do a rough draft of a story, getting the main details down and then go back and fill out the story. Adding in details and weaving in a central idea that brings it all together. Quite frankly the story often does not end the way I think it will when I start writing.
Lit.Org: How long does it take you to write one of your books and how much time do you let it breathe between edits?
I am not a prolific writer by any means. It can take me a year or so to get a book finished. One factor is that my time at the computer writing is limited by my physical ability to do it. I have the normal everyday things of living to use up energy such as mowing the lawn or taking care of the garden, but even then, I work on my writing. Thinking about the predicament the protagonist is in and how he is going to get out of it.
I let a story rest anywhere from a couple of weeks or months between edits. I try to put it totally out of my mind for a while and then when I go back to it and read it as though someone else had written it. This helps me to spot weaknesses or inconsistencies in the story.
Lit.Org: Since you are a former Marine and you write Sci-fi/Adventure stories, have any of your real life adventures filtered into your tales?
Real life experiences do filter into my stories. Both those of myself and of friends and stories I have been told of things that have happened inspire ideas in the stories. Being a Marine is a unique experience, different than what is encountered in any other walk of life. This attitude and outlook comes across in my characters. I bring other life experiences into the stories too. For instance when the character is in a situation where he is fighting the pain of an injury and going on anyway, I am very conversant with pain as I live with it constantly.
Another example is the setting for Wolfe's Burrow. I have hunted the hills where Wolfe's Burrow takes place. The towns mentioned are real, although the people, of course are fictional.
Lit.Org: Who are your favorite authors and how have they affected you?
I grew up reading the stories of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Their writings, especially those of Heinlein, have influenced my own. I found the stories I enjoyed the most were those told in the first person as they drew me into the character's mind and I felt like I empathized with the protagonist. I find that this is my natural style of writing and it just flows easily. Interestingly enough I have had some editors tell me this is the mark of the amateur that they write in the first person. I guess they have never read any of the masters of the craft. Two of Heinlein's books that were made into movies, "The Puppet Masters" and "Starship Troopers," were both written in the first person.
Lit.Org: What are some advantages to e-books? Disadvantages?
The main advantage to an e-book is the size. You can have a huge library of e-books in the space it would take for half a dozen hard copy books. E-books also are less expensive than print books. You can also adjust the size of the text to make it with an ebook so that it is easier to read. This is especially helpful to those who need large print books making as they don't have to buy special large print book and it opens a whole range of books to them that otherwise would not be available to them. They are also beneficial to the environment in that no trees are cut down to make the paper nor ink needed to print it. E-books are handy for taking along on a trip as they can easily be read on a laptop and in these days of restrictions in carry on luggage they and weight limits on luggage they can be quite a help. Some people prefer to take an e-book and run out a hard copy on their own computer where, again, they can choose any font size they wish.
The main drawback to an e-book is that you have to have a computer to read it on. With the popularity of laptops however this is not the disadvantage it once could have been. Myself I like to lie down and read before I go to sleep and I have found a laptop lends itself well to this. Many companies are trying to sell special e-book readers but I question the need of one when all you need is a computer.
The following passage is from Bob Blacketer's "Wolfe Pack:"
"Takes a brave man," I panted, "to beat up a wounded man who is tied to a tree," I threw back at him, words being my only means of offense. If only I could get him mad enough he would kill me and end the torture.
Someone in the anonymity of the darkness muttered, "That's right." Apparently they did not all approve of their leader's tactics.
He spun toward them. "Who said that?" he bellowed in fury, but of course no one answered.
Shaking with fury he pulled a knife and advanced on me. "Good-bye Laura," I whispered. "I love you," and I prepared to meet my maker.
Rather than plunging the knife in my chest as I half expected, he cut the ropes and dumped me to the ground. "You aren't tied now!" he snarled, kicking me savagely in the groin to emphasize his point. I curled up in agony, the fire raging through me. I managed to keep enough control to grasp my ankle. The .38 was still there! This filled me with hope and determination. He kicked me a couple of more times in the kidneys while I curled protectively, stiffened fingers working the .38 out of hiding while I shielded my movements with my body.
"See what a big tough man he is?" he called to his cohorts who were watching from the fire. "I told you John Wolfe wasn't so bad!"
To demonstrate his point he hauled me to my feet and drew back his fist to break my nose. He hesitated when he felt the muzzle of the .38 pressed to his gut. "Good-bye," I smiled, as I squeezed the trigger, sending a thirty-eight special slug tearing through his vitals. His body muffled the shot so as he sagged against me the onlookers did not know at first just what had happened. Flinging him from me I dived down the hill into he darkness. I had gone maybe thirty feet or so before a hail of bullets ripped through the darkness after me. They went flying harmlessly overhead as I hugged the ground. I was tired and angry. The burns hurt cruelly. My leg was a weight I dragged along but I discovered that if I set it just right and stepped quickly I could manage to walk. It was not graceful but it was a form of locomotion.
Blind rage threatened to consume me. Ruthlessly I fought it down. With the cunning of my namesake I used their own confusion to come upon them from their blind side. The last thing they expected was for me to attack, when logically all my resources should have been concentrated on getting away. Well, I was far from a logical reasoning being just then. I fear I was a little mad for at that point I had no doubt I could whip them all single-handed. The raiders had bitten off more than they could chew this time.! I was not finished with them yet. I slowly set out to circle the camp so as to come in on the other side. It is said that God looks out for drunks and fools and I certainly was not drunk.
The fullisade of bullets into the darkness slowly lessesned. They were wild shots anyway as men shot at shadows in their imaginations and I escaped unscathed. It also served to prevent any pursuers as no one wanted to risk being shot by their companions. I made my way on through the brush, trying to be as quiet as possible in my hobbling mode. My surprise actions had them running around like a flock of chickens with their heads cut off. If only they would stay that way for a bit longer I might have a chance. They were unsure of what had happened and were afraid to follow me right off. While they dithered and debated my best chance was to do what they least expected.
I hobbled slowly, taking my time as I circled the camp. I must have made better time than I thought however as when I crawled to the edge of the clearing opposite to that from which I left, they were still milling around the fire. There was obviously some disagreement as to just what they should do. There was a lot of shouting with no one paying any real attention to what was going on. Staying well out of the flickering firelight I crawled through the grass. The dry stems of last year's grass clawed at the burns sending fresh messages of pain to my beleaguered brain. This only served to feed by building rage, which I fought to keep in check. They had piled their saddles and other gear off to one side and it was for the shelter of this I made my way. I held the little .38 in my hand but I had no confidence in it at other than pointblank range.
Once I reached the supplies I wanted nothing more than to simply collapse and catch my breath, but I knew to do so was to give up, and that it was just not in me to do. As I ran my hands over the piled gear I was somewhat surprised at it orderliness. Someone had taken the time to make tidy bundles of it. My exploring hands found a riotgun, a 12 gauge pump by the feel of it, and I was feeling for ammunition when my hand fell on something more familiar. Incredulous, I scarce dared to believe what my fingers told me. Cautiously I drew the bundle to me. With trembling fingers I unrolled the utility jacket revealing what my sense of touch had told me was there. Inside the jacket was my pistol belt with the .44 magnum still in the holster, was wrapped around my bullet proof vest. Easing the pistol out, I carefully checked to be sure it was loaded. Beneath the jacket I found my shoulder harness wrapped around neatly around the .45. Someone it seemed had a complex for neatness and order.
I slowly sat up there in the shadows and pulled the vest back on, catching my breath as it abraded the burns. I pulled my jacket on over it and buckled the holster about my waist. It was not easy getting my arms back through the harness of the shoulder holster, but I certainly felt better having it back in place once more. I took time to slide the faithful little .38 back into its ankle holster before easing slowly back to my feet. Smiling grimly I casually limped toward the fire as though I had every right in the world to be there. It was not the smartest thing to do I know, but the rage was upon me. I was tired of running.
"He ain't gonna make it far in his condition," one of them said firmly. "It won't be hard to find him come daylight."
"I don't know," another said hesitantly. "That's one tough hombre."
"He puts his pants on one leg at a time Jenkins," snarled the other in disgust. "Likely he is cowering out there in the dark somewhere crying for his mama!" he laughed.
"Spoken like the dirty yellow skunk you are!" I said softly.
"Who said that?" he snarled viciously, apparently unable to make me out in the darkness. His hand dropped to the pistol at his waist. "I did!" I said and shot him where he stood. He was thrown into the fire by the force of the slug slamming into him. Coolly, as though on the range, I methodically shot down three more before they could break for cover. Two slugs slammed into the vest, knocking the breath from me and spinning me around. Another slug hit my good leg and knocked it from under me. I rose to my knees just in time to see a man across the fire taking aim with an AK 47. I knew I had no chance but I steadied myself and tried to bring the pistol to bear. I was weak from having the breath knocked out of me and he just smiled as he savored the moment.
If you have no questions or fears about your abilities, then you will learn nothing from your mistakes and know nothing about your limitations.