Monday, June 14, 2021

My biggest audience, ever.


 






A few weeks ago, I had lunch with my old friend Brian Crane who, for years, has lived on the opposite side of the Great Basin, some 500 miles away. So, we don’t see each other as often as we like. Many, many years ago we worked together in a small ad agency in Idaho Falls, were in business together for a time, and later worked together again at an ad agency in Reno.

I left there for Utah and he stayed. Brian stayed in advertising for a time, working as an art director and designer. But he worked his way out of the business by drawing funny pictures and writing funny words. And he’s kept at it for more than thirty years, earning a living and much acclaim as one of America’s top comic strip artists—the man behind “Pickles.”

I have written a lot of poems over the years, and been published in a lot of periodicals, anthologies, collections, and online. But my most widely read poems are probably—almost certainly—those ghost-written for, or in collaboration with, one of the stars of Brian’s comic strip, Earl Pickles.

Now and then, Earl gets a hankering to be a cowboy poet. When he first got the urge, I lent a hand. Now the old geezer writes his own poems. But, like the little verse above, my words have on occasion basked in Earl’s limelight in hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of newspapers across the country.

If that’s as close to fame as I ever get as a cowboy poet, I’ll take it.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Dateline: My House

 

SANDY, UTAH: Work proceeds apace at writer Rod Miller’s desk. The author recently shipped With a Kiss I Die off to Five Star Publishing. The novel follows the star-crossed love story of a young emigrant girl from Arkansas and a Mormon boy from Utah Territory, and events leading up to the historic Mountain Meadows Massacre. Given publishing schedules, the book is not expected to see the light until 2023.

In other news, Five Star Publishing recently completed the cover design for the writer’s forthcoming release, And the River Ran Red. This novel is also based on Western history and tells the story of the Massacre at Bear River, the deadliest slaughter of American Indians by the US Army in the history of the West.

But not all the writing news is related to tragic historic massacres. Miller just finished proofing page galleys for the paperback and ebook release of the hilarious Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award-winning and Western Writers of America Spur Award finalist novel, Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail: The True Tale of a Wild West CATastrophe, soon to be released by Speaking Volumes. That publisher also revealed the cover design for Rawhide Robinson Rides a Dromedary: The True Tale of a Wild West Camel Caballero, a finalist for the WWA Spur and Western Fictioneers Peacemaker awards. Both comic novels should hit the shelves, physical and digital, any day now.

On schedule for release in early 2022 from Five Star is a novel by Miller that has already been labeled a “frontier classic,” All My Sins Remembered. Finally—for now—This Thy Brother, a sequel to his 2018 Peacemaker finalist, Father unto Many Sons, is expected for release by Five Star in the fall of 2022.

Read all about writer Rod Miller’s fiction, history, poetry, and magazine work at www.writerRodMiller.com and www.RawhideRobinson.com.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Where I’m going, Part 5.

 






    Over the years I have been to Fort Worth, Texas, a few times. But not enough. Other than a two-day stay for the big rodeo there, my forays into Fort Worth have been a couple of hours here and there while in the area on other business.
    And my last visit, whenever it was, was a long time ago. So I’m ready to go back.
    Fort Worth is a big city. But it’s a city—unlike many others I could name—that has never tried to outgrow its past as a cowtown. It takes pride in its past, and much of what I want to see and do there celebrates that past and Western heritage in general.
    I saw a lot of great Charlie Russell paintings at the Sid Richardson Museum and will make a return visit. Then there’s the Amon Carter Museum I have heard good things about. And the National Cowgirl Museum and Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
    And, of course, the Fort Worth Stockyards and all its attractions—even though it’s a bit touristy for my taste.
    There might even be time to find something good to eat.

 

Friday, April 30, 2021

Poetry Month bonus.

 
    April is National Poetry Month here in the good ol’ USA. Here we are at the short end of it. We’ve had thirty days of poetry readings, poetry recitals, poetry postings, and poetry podcasts.
    By now, you may have had your fill of poetry—if such a thing is even possible.
    But hold on. You’re not free of it yet.
    There’s a popular podcast called “Cowboy Up” that originates from the White Stallion Ranch in New Mexico, hosted—usually—by Alan Day and Russell True, and produced by Stan Hustad.
    To close out National Poetry Month, “Cowboy Up” is offering a bonus program. Log on and you can hear Stan interview me and read a few of my poems as we talk about poetry and cowboys.
    You’re invited, welcome, and encouraged to listen in. Click here and you’ll be there: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-cowboy-up-podcast/id1521902050

 


Friday, April 16, 2021

My Favorite Book, Part 26.


    Over the years I have presented many a lecture to writers’ groups on a variety of subjects. One topic in particular, presented on several occasions, examines outstanding opening lines in books, why they work, and how writers can use that knowledge to create better openings for their own stories.
    One example I use—one of my favorites—is, “He was dying faster than usual that morning, striping the sides of the dry sink with bloody sputum and shreds of shattered lung.”
    So begins Bloody Season by Loren D. Estleman.
    Not only does it begin in a way that intrigues and engages readers, it drags us into the story to find out the who, what, where, and why of Estleman’s opening line. And it doesn’t stop there. The entire book sings with wordsmithing that makes the reading as fascinating as the story.
    Bloody Season is the story of the famed gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Not only do we learn what led to the altercation, we learn what happened in the aftermath—a bloody season of manhunts and murders. You’ll come to know Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and other well-known characters better than you know them now, no matter how well that is.
    Few writers can evoke the level of feeling that Estleman can, or paint characters with such vivid color. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this book. But I can promise you I’ll read it again.

 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Lost by a nose.


    I miss the smell of books. It used to be I could walk into any one of a number of bookstores in my area and breathe in the smell of ink or paper or glue or dust or whatever it is that gives bookstores that distinctive smell. They were all different, I suppose, but there was something in the way they touched the nose that they shared.
    Most of those bookstores—along with their counterparts all across the country—are gone now. A few are victims of the recent and ongoing pandemic. Some lost out by being undersold once too often by online predators. And some were done in by the so-called big-box category killers that took over the market in years past, aided by business practices since declared illegal.
    The most venomous of those is still around and, in many places, is the only seller of new books still standing. Visiting those stores just isn’t the same, somehow. And they don’t smell right—they smell like coffee, rather than books.
    There are still some bookstores that smell like bookstores are supposed to smell, but there are fewer of them all the time, and they are increasingly farther between.
    I look forward to my next visit, spending time sniffing out some good books.

 




Thursday, March 25, 2021

Really stupid words, Chapter 16.

 

Now and then I hear a word bandied about that makes no sense to me. Most of the time, it is spouted by highbrow academic types—say, some anthropologists, ethnologists, archeologists, museum curators and, sometimes, historians—and it always strikes me as uppity.
    The word: peoples.
    Why does anyone, ever, need to add a plural-forming “s” to a word that’s already plural? (I opened a dictionary and it defined “people” as “plural: human beings making up a group or assembly or linked by a common interest.”) You can’t have a single people—that would be a “person.” By its very existence, the word “people” means more than one.
    Is it possible to make a plural even more plural by adding an “s”? I don’t think so. It makes no sense to say womens or mens or childrens. Why not add more plurality to, say, chickens by adding an “s” and making it chickenss? Or, if you mean more horses than just horses, say horsess? And, of course, if you don’t find the word cattle to be plural enough to suit your fancy, make it cattles.
    I don’t know about you, but I see no need for a grandiose, ostentatious word like peoples. But I did find a dictionary that defined “peoples” as the “Third-person singular simple present indicative form of people.”
    Huh?
    I rest my case.