Monday, December 5, 2022

Four totally useless skills I have mastered.











For several years now I have been of an age that qualifies as old. I am not feeble as yet—at least not for very long at a stretch—and my health is generally good. But I am definitely in my dotage.

Among the things that often happen at this time of life is an accounting of what you have accomplished. My list is short. But among my accomplishments are a few things I was—or still am—good at that are completely useless outside of the possibility of providing fleeting enjoyment for those easily entertained.

1. Jump in the air and click my heels three times.
This one may have left me, but it remains a point of pride for someone (me) whose coordination and physical abilities are generally lacking.

2. Recite the alphabet backwards.
Although assembling the twenty-six letters of the alphabet has earned my daily bread throughout my adult life, I have seldom, if ever, been called upon to recite it in reverse. But I could if asked.

3. Flip a rope into a bow knot.
It takes no more than the blink of an eye. You would think this skill might come in handy for tying shoes, but I do not remember owning a pair of shoes with laces.

4. Hypnotize a chicken.
I have done this. I can do this. Don’t ask me why.   

There you have it. Four things I can do that matter not a whit. (It is, as they say, a slow news day.)


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Remembering 9/11.

September 11. A date burned into history like a brand. The date of the deadliest mass murder on American soil. But the 9/11 chronicled in With a Kiss I Die occurred in 1857 at a place called Mountain Meadows in Utah Territory—an evil deed unsurpassed in bloody violence until its one hundred and forty-fourth anniversary in 2001. 

With a Kiss I Die—A Novel of the Massacre at Mountain Meadows  is a love story entwined in the tragedy of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Polly Alden, a young California-bound Arkansas emigrant, falls in love with Tom Langford, a Mormon boy she meets in the settlements of Utah Territory. Caught between the fear and hatred of the persecuted Saints for the emigrants, and the hostility of the emigrants toward Mormons who will not replenish their dwindling supplies, the young lovers defy mistrust and opposition as they aspire to a life together.

Animosity between the emigrants and the settlers grows as the wagon train makes its way south through the territory, culminating in the blood-stained soil of Mountain Meadows.

Follow the trail of the Arkansas emigrants and the blossoming affection of the star-crossed lovers in a compelling, engaging tale inspired by history—and the eternal conflict between good and evil, hatred and love—through the pages of With a Kiss I Die.

 

Monday, November 7, 2022

All about cowboys.








“Cowboy” is a word that implies much more than it means. To my way of thinking, one of the best definitions of the word is that applied by the late cowboy author Eugene Manlove Rhodes: “the hired man on horseback.” My dad used to say that the way to tell a real cowboy was by the cowsh*t on his boots. It all comes down to cows and horses.

Granted, those definitions may be too limiting, especially today. But, thanks to the days when Westerns dominated movie and TV screens, “cowboy” came to be applied to too many kinds of people, most of whom had no idea which end of a cow gets up first, and had never had manure on their boots. Outlaws, lawmen, gamblers, gunfighters, and all manner of others who appeared in Westerns (except those gathered under the likewise too-broad term, “Indians”) were referred to collectively as “cowboys.”

A while back I was approached by Shepherd.com, a web site devoted to readers, and asked to list five books I thought represented something important in the literature of the American West. I titled my contribution “The best novels about cowboys who are actually cowboys” and wrote a brief note about each of my five selections. Each novel on the list carries a storyline that revolves around cowboys doing actual cowboy work. While works of fiction, all the books feature an authentic look at cowboys, cowboy work, and cowboy life.  

Take a look at the list on Shepherd.com. See what you think. You may disagree with my selections or my premise or my reasoning. You may be inspired to read one or more of those books if you haven’t already. For more years than I care to remember, reading and writing about cowboys is as close as I have come to having cowsh*t on my boots. But I still haven’t forgotten which end of a cow gets up first.

NOTE: I borrowed the bronze sculpture pictured above from noted Western artist Jeff Wolf—he’s a cowboy born and raised, and knows whereof he sculpts.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Return of Rawhide Robinson.


Rawhide Robinson is the star of three of my previous novels. Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range – True Adventures of Bravery and Daring in the Wild West won a Western Writers of America Spur Award. Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail – The True Tale of a Wild West CATastrophe won a Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award and was a Spur Award finalist. Rawhide Robinson Rides a Dromedary – The True Tale of a Wild West Camel Caballero was a finalist for both honors.

Now, after laying low for a few years, tall-tale-teller Rawhide Robinson is back. Speaking Volumes, publisher of the paperback and eBook editions of the aforementioned books, has just released the new, never-before-published Rawhide Robinson Rides a Wormhole – The True Tale of Bravery and Daring in the Weird West in paperback and eBook.

As you may know, extraordinary things often happen to ordinary cowboy Rawhide Robinson. In his latest adventure(s), while riding herd on a ranch in the remote Nevada desert a lightning strike zaps him into the middle of the twentieth century and the middle of Area 51, a top-secret experimental airbase where strange things are said to happen.

In a chance encounter, Rawhide Robinson meets young teenager Eric, who helps the discombobulated cowboy escape the clutches of military police, the CIA, and local law enforcement, and gets him mixed up in a kidnapping by Las Vegas mobsters. All the while, Rawhide Robinson entertains with his signature tall tales as he wonders if he will ever get out of the modern world and back to the Old West.

Learn more about Rawhide Robinson and his adventures on his very own website, RawhideRobinson.com. The books are available at Speaking Volumes and from online booksellers listed below.

The sentiment author Ol’ Max Evans once inscribed in my copy of The Rounders certainly applies to Rawhide Robinson Rides a Wormhole: “Have fun here—I sure as hell did.”

eBook On Sale Now:
Amazon US
Apple Books
Barnes & Noble
Google Play
Kobo Books

Preview eBook Here:
Amazon US
Google Play

Print Book On Sale Now:
Amazon US
Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

City of Rocks.






In south-central Idaho, not far from the borders of what are now Utah and Nevada, is a monumental place called City of Rocks. Nowadays, it is a National Reserve overseen by the National Park Service and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. In times past, it was a landmark through which most California-bound travelers passed after leaving the trail along the Snake River to reach the Humboldt River.

Photographs do not do it justice, as they fail to capture the scale of the rocks that give the place its name. Suffice it to say they are—to use the word in its proper sense—awesome.

We have visited City of Rocks before, but this time we traveled the Backcountry Byway from Oakley, Idaho to enter from the less-traveled west side of the park. It amounted to driving forty miles of bad road (fourteen, really, but it seemed longer) to get there, but it was worth the trip.

Despite other sightseers and several rock climbers scaling the monoliths, City of Rocks is so quiet and isolated and so little changed from days gone by that one can still imagine the wonderment of the Shoshoni and Bannock Indians who frequented the area, and the emigrants who scratched their names in the granite.

 


Thursday, September 22, 2022

Eastern hospitality.






Writers conferences are making a comeback now that the scourge of covid is somewhat under control. You may recall my recent report on the Southern hospitality I enjoyed while speaking at the White County CreativeWriters Conference in Arkansas. Since then, I was treated to some Out West “Eastern” hospitality while speaking at the Eastern Idaho Writers League Conference in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

A few years ago, the statewide Idaho Writers League disbanded, and with it went the regional conferences around the state. But writers in Eastern Idaho weren’t content with inactivity, so they formed a new organization and this year sponsored their first conference. I was fortunate to be invited as a presenter. I renewed acquaintances with writers I had met at earlier conferences as well as met others for the first—and I hope not the last—time.

Having spent five years or so living in the Idaho Falls area, we also visited some old haunts from our time there as well as visiting family and friends still in the neighborhood.

All in all, as Jim Stafford would sing under different circumstances, it was “A Real Good Time.”


Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Southern hospitality.


It took a lot of walking through miles of airport concourses, late flights, missed connections, and hours and hours sitting on airplanes.

But it was worth it.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the White CountyCreative Writers Conference in Searcy, Arkansas. They are a fine group of fine writers, and they host a fine conference. I got to meet a lot of folks—most of their names, unfortunately, soon leaked out of my porous brain—and talk with them about poetry, fiction, history, and every other kind of writing you can think of. My fellow presenters, Laura Castoro and Michael Claxton, were informative and entertaining and it would have been worth the trip just to listen to them.

With the nasty coronavirus more or less at bay these days, it is a pleasure to see writers conferences once again show up on the calendar. And if they are all as good as the White County Creative Writers Conference, the writing world will be a better place.