Thursday, September 12, 2019

Off to college.















Friday, October 11, from 8:00 in the morning until 4:30, a bunch of writers of all kinds will host workshops, panel discussions, and other events to help aspiring authors find their way into and through the complicated world of writing and publishing books—and other media as well.
I have been invited to sit on two panel discussions with other authors, one on writing poetry and another on writing effective opening lines for books or stories or whatever else you’re writing.
The UVU Book Academy will be held at the UVU Wasatch campus in Heber City. If you’ve not visited the Heber Valley on the backside of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, you’ve missed seeing one of the most beautiful places in our state—and there’s a lot of competition when it comes to beauty in Utah.
If you’re in the vicinity, or can be, come join us at the UVU Book Academy.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

And when I die.


We are all going to die. Our clock will stop and that will be the end of us on the earth. For most of us, our passing will be of little note, even at the time. And then, I heard or read somewhere, when the last person who knew us also dies, we will be altogether forgotten. Other than our posterity, who may know us only as a name on records, there will be no memory of our ever having been here.
But there is this.
For those of us who wiled away part of our lives putting words on paper, our names will live on in some fashion. On the shelves of libraries and archives there will stand books with my name on the spine. Some of the books some of us write will be saved for decades, even centuries. We will have created things that are as close to indelible as anything mankind creates. After all, we still read books written thousands of years ago, and know something of the people who wrote them.
This, of course, does not mean our books or our names will enjoy that same longevity. But, at the very least, I will have left something behind to note my passing. Somehow, that seems to matter, somewhat.




Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Really Stupid Words, Chapter 8


It’s getting more and more difficult to watch the news these days. The latest stupid buzz words propagate more quickly and widely among broadcasters than ever before. Some come and go; others entrench themselves as clich├ęs to the point you’d think certain stupid words have become as much a part of news reporting as who, what, when, where, and why.
You can’t report how something appears without referring to the “optics” of the situation. And you must talk about what some eventuality will “look like” even if it’s something you can’t see. Interviews have become “conversations.” And during those conversations you don’t discuss or explain things, you “unpack” them. And correspondents no longer report from, say, Tokyo, or Buenos Aires, they are always said to be “on the ground” there. When there is more than one TV reporter on a big story, it must be pointed out that it’s “team coverage.”
Perhaps I am too sensitive to such nonsense. But when I am on the ground in front of the TV unpacking the latest optics of the day’s events, I can’t help but wonder what the next really stupid buzzword will look like. Perhaps I would benefit from a conversation with another viewer—sort of like team coverage, I guess.






Friday, August 16, 2019

“Tall Tree” stands tall.


There’s a certain expectation I suspect most Western music aficionados have when sliding a CD into the player (or whatever you call it when playing one of those digital thingies). You expect a rich, vibrant voice accented with a hint of wide-open spaces. You expect lyrics relevant to life in the West, past or present. And you expect to hear guitars and an assemblage of other familiar instruments.
You get all that with Nancy Elliott’s latest release, Tall Tree.
But that’s where Nancy Elliott starts, rather than finishes, with this collection. It stretches the expectations of Western music to the point that she labels her music South-Western Americana.
Backing Nancy’s resonant vocals are the expected instruments, blended with unexpected additions such as pan flutes, eagle bone whistles, native flutes, hammered dulcimer, congas, tumbas, and other assorted drums. The result is music that is undeniably Western, but with added spice that enriches the sound in unexpected and alluring ways.
It’s a good sound. And the songs are darn good, too. Slide Tall Tree from Nancy Elliott into your CD player—you’ll like what comes out.





Tuesday, August 6, 2019

My Favorite Book, Part 20.


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: some readers love Cormac McCarthy, and some readers hate Cormac McCarthy, and there are very few readers to be found in between.
He’s not a writer you read to “escape.” You know, those kinds of books you crack open and fall into and zone out and breeze through without working up a sweat or having to stop to catch your breath. Or think.
You have to pay attention when you read Cormac McCarthy. And even then, you’re apt to find yourself re-reading a passage here and there because something unexpected happened; a surprise you didn’t see coming but, on reflection, had to happen.
And there’s his style of writing. He isn’t big on quotation marks, so, again, you have to pay attention when he’s writing dialogue. But his vivid language, searing descriptions, complex characters, and stories where a lot happens below the surface will engage your mind and infiltrate your consciousness and never let go.
All the Pretty Horses is one of McCarthy’s masterpieces. It won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors. And it sold wagonloads of copies for years, and probably still does, which is a rare feat for a Western novel.
It inspired a Hollywood movie of the same name, which I did not see for years. Having read the book several times, instinct told me which aspects of the complex, interwoven stories movie cameras would focus on, turning the tale into something of a high-class soap opera. I was right. What a shame.
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy deserved better. It’s a remarkable novel. I think I will now go and pull it off the shelf and read it again.

Monday, July 29, 2019

What are you working on?












That question, I suppose, is asked of writers more than any other. At least I get asked quite often. You might think it’s an easy thing to answer.
But, it’s not. At least for me.
Right now, for instance, I’m working on this that you will be reading soon, I hope.
At the same time, there’s a novel that’s mostly finished that I am working on finishing.
There’s some publicity material I need to send to the host of an upcoming speaking engagement, and I’m working on that.
And I’m working on what I am going to say to those people when it’s time to stand up in front of them.
There’s information to gather for a magazine story, and I’m working on that.
I have a magazine column that will be coming due and I’m working on that.
I’ve been invited to sit on a panel discussion at an upcoming writers conference, and I’m working on that.
I will be presenting a couple of workshops at another writers conference a bit later, and I’m working on that.
I’m working on an idea for a poem that keeps rattling around in my head.
I promised to read a manuscript for another writer, and I’m working on that.
I’m working on publicity material for a movie that was released recently.
There’s a history book I want to write that I need to be working on. I should get to work on another short story. There are books of mine out there that could use some sales support and I should be working on that.
And I need to mow the lawn.


Friday, July 19, 2019

A new dispatch.


The summer issue of Saddlebag Dispatches is online and off the presses. Included in its 162 colorful pages is my regular column, “Best of the West.”
Featured in the column are cowboy poet Andy Nelson and songster Brenn Hill, whose on-stage exchange of poetry and song are unrivaled in western entertainment. Andy and Brenn are both outstanding writers, which, to me, is what matters most.
But that isn’t where their talents end. Andy is a master of ceremonies, reciter, humorist, and commentator without equal. Brenn is a lyricist, composer, picker, and singer of the finest kind. Together, they blend poems and songs on similar subjects seamlessly, alternating stanza and verse to tell a bigger story than either song or poem tells on its own.
Link up with Saddlebag Dispatches, and enjoy all it has to offer in the way of magazine features, short stories, poems, photos, and more.
And don’t miss the “Best of the West.”