Monday, October 16, 2017

Where have you been?

My travels of late can’t begin to match country singer Hank Snow’s list of stopovers in the classic 1962 hit, “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
Still, I haven’t been sitting still.
In late September I spent an enjoyable couple of days spouting off about creative nonfiction, poetry, historical fiction, and Western writing at the Idaho Writers League annual conference. I have presented at several IWL conferences over the years, and it’s always a pleasure. LaDean Messenger, president of the Pocatello chapter, ramrodded the event and made it a success, just as she has in years past when it’s been Pocatello’s turn.
In early October, I made my way across the Salt Lake Valley (not always easy) to the Salt Lake Community College main campus for the two-day League of Utah Writers annual conference. Not quite as intimate as the Idaho event (with more than 400 attendees), but I still enjoyed speaking to aspiring and accomplished writers on improving prose by employing poetic techniques, writing opening lines that grab readers, and writing poetry.
The following weekend found me 100 or so miles from home at the west campus of Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, for the Write Here in Ephraim conference. Another enjoyable event, where I got to hang out with writers and teach a workshop on using humor in fiction as well as one based on the popular “Lies They Tell Writers” posts that appear here from time to time.
I haven’t been everywhere, but that’s some of the places I’ve been lately. Like my old Daddy always used to say sometimes, “Everybody’s got to be someplace, so you might as well be somewhere.”
And here I am.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 41: Plan on Rejection.

You hear the stories all the time: How famous author so-and-so’s first novel, which went on to become a best seller and a classic, received forty-eleven-hundred rejection letters from publishers before finally getting published.
Don’t plan on it happening to you.
Your book may go on to be a classic, but it’s unlikely you’ll get many rejection letters along the way.
That’s because what once was true is seldom the case anymore. In days gone by, publishers routinely sent rejection letters to aspiring authors. Some were boilerplate one-size-fits-all form letters, others offered actual criticism of the book, reasons why it was not a good fit for that publisher, even encouragement and advice.
But, except on rare occasions, those days are gone.
Queries and submissions today are met, more often than not, with silence.
Most large publishing houses are staffed by a fraction of the number of people they were in the past, and those still on the job don’t have—or won’t take—the time to respond to—reject—your work. Smaller publishers are often shoestring operations and the owner-publisher-editor-designer-distributor-chief cook and bottle washer has too many pies and not enough fingers to reject every (or any) submission that comes along.
This is true for unsolicited queries and submissions, but also, in many cases, applies when you’ve been invited during an interview at a conference or workshop to submit. You’ll get much the same treatment from literary agents. Unanswered queries are also the norm nowadays at periodicals.
Still, if you don’t submit or query, you’ll never get anywhere so you’ve got to do it. Just don’t bother steeling yourself for the heartbreak of being rejected. More likely, you’ll simply be ignored. Which I find even more disheartening.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

My Favorite Book, Part 10.

Mountain Man by Vardis Fisher is the story of Sam Minard, a young man who leaves the settled parts of America to make his way as a free trapper in the West. Borrowing from both fact and legend of the era, Minard is loosely based on John “Liver-Eating” Johnston, and Fisher includes the disturbed widow for whom Crazy Woman Creek was named in the story.
Minard takes a Flathead woman for a wife and fathers a child, but while he is away trapping, Crow Indian warriors kill his family. The mountain man turns Crow hunter, tracking down and killing every man of the tribe he finds, which results in his being hunted by his Crow foes in an ongoing and bloody feud.
All that is well and good, and for the most part the story the book tells is not much different from other mountain man and fur trapper tales. What I like best about Mountain Man is Fisher’s lyrical language and rich imagery. I get cold and hungry every time I read the book; at other times I feel well fed and comfortable. He writes a romantic version of life in the Old West, but he romanticizes it beautifully.
The book was the basis (along with other sources) for a fine movie, Jeremiah Johnson, starring Robert Redford.
It’s a good movie. But, as is usually the case, it’s a better book.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rawhide Robinson spills the beans.

There are plenty of people who interview authors. You can learn a lot about writers and their writing from what they have to say. But author and publisher Kathryn Jones takes a different approach. She interviews characters from books. It’s an interesting and revealing approach, and leads to some remarkable revelations.
Not long ago, Kathryn interviewed the extraordinary ordinary cowboy Rawhide Robinson. You can read the results on her site. Kathryn also graciously allowed Rawhide Robinson to post the interview on
Read all about it, and see what Rawhide Robinson has to say for himself.  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Once in a lifetime.

Here we go again—completely ignoring the joys of reading and writing to wander off into the trivia of life.
Sorry, I can’t resist.
On August 21, the good people of the good ol’ USA were treated to a coast-to-coast total eclipse of the sun. It doesn’t happen very often. For some of us, it will probably never happen again. So I thought I’d comment on the spectacle.
Where we live in Utah, 91% of the sun was obscured, leaving only a tiny crescent of the orb visible through our approved eclipse-viewing glasses. My wife and I sat on the driveway looking up from time to time for quite a spell.
But what we found most intriguing wasn’t in the sky—it was on the ground, at our feet.
Shading much of our driveway is a big (and messy) tree. Some kind of elm, we think. Where the sun peeked through the thick foliage, the tree created hundreds of “pinhole projectors” that cast the eclipsing sun on the concrete surface of the driveway. That’s what you’re seeing in the photo above—each of the many crescents is an image of the eclipsed sun.
We thought it was kind of neat, so we took a bunch of pictures of it. Later, on TV, one of the NASA experts mentioned the phenomenon. I doubt I’ll ever see it again.
Next time, it’s back to reading and writing. Unless, that is, some other strange and spectacular thing happens.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Picky eater.


Warning: what follows is all about eating and has nothing to do with reading.
Often at mealtime, and at meal-planning time, I am accused of being a picky eater.
I disagree.
If you ask me, I’m just a man of simple tastes. I can’t help it. I was raised that way. The town I grew up in was so small we did not eat pasta there. We had macaroni. And we had noodles. But if someone would have said “pasta” we would not have had any clue what that person was talking about.
Bread was bread. It was usually homemade, sometimes store-bought, but always just plain old bread. Nothing “artisan” and no one ever served up a loaf sprinkled with stuff that looks like it came off the bottom of a bird cage. I see that sort of thing a lot now. But I don’t eat it.
Vegetables mostly came in in the form of potatoes, peas, beans, corn, and carrots. Salads were occasional and as often as not made with potatoes or macaroni rather than green things—and none of that green stuff was ever kale or arugula, to my knowledge. I only remember being served artichokes one time, and that was on a cattle ranch in Nevada. Which surprised me, and still does.
Meat was a staple. Because we raised it, it was always available. Roast beef and steaks and hamburger and soup bones. Pork chops and roasts and ham and bacon and side pork. Lamb (which I never cottoned to; same with goat) and deer meat. Lots of chickens (and eggs), fried. Nowadays I’ve narrowed my meat menu down to beef and pork, with chicken (yardbird, as my brother calls it) very rarely, still fried. As for other poultry, I get turkeyed out for the year about three days after Thanksgiving. Fish and seafood were pretty much unknown at our house, except the occasional “fish stick” or the rare trout we caught.
We seldom ate out when I was a kid. A trip to the hamburger stand when out shopping was about it. In fact, I thought it unusual that people would go out to eat for no particular reason.
At our house nowadays we eat food somebody else cooked quite often, and it’s usually just plain old food. I’m told it’s because I’m a picky eater. But, truth be told, I am simply not interested in strange cookbook foodstuffs that usually end in the letter “i” and hide under some kind of sauce, and where “plating” and “presentation” are more important than taste.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Another Rawhide Robinson cover up.

Five Star, publisher of my Rawhide Robinson novels, recently sent the cover for the next book featuring the adventures of the extraordinary ordinary cowboy. That’s it, up there.
The book is due for release in February and I am looking forward to seeing it in print. It is always exciting (and somewhat intimidating) to see something you’ve seen about a million times on your computer screen show up as a genuine, actual, ink-on-paper book.
Read a bit more about Rawhide Robinson Rides a Dromedary: The True Tale of a Wild West Camel Caballero (and the other Rawhide Robinson novels). And consider putting the first two in the collection on your Christmas list for readers from junior high through geriatrics who would enjoy tall tales, Old West adventures, and cowboy humor.
And save room on your book shelves for the next one, come February.