Friday, December 26, 2014

Hot off the press.

The second issue of the new online magazine, Saddlebag Dispatches, is now available. Boss editor Dusty Richards and his crew have assembled an impressive array of fiction, history, photography, and essays on the American West, so there will be something for every taste somewhere in the more-than-100 pages.
On page 82 is part two of my serialized long short story, “The Passing of Number 16,” in which the big bad Wolf threatens young bareback rider Tanner Lambert, and Deputy Hugh Morgan shreds another toothpick.
New to this issue is the first installment of a column Dusty asked me to write for the magazine, “Best of the West,” in which I sing the praises of the best writer among all the classic cowboy poets. That’s on page 102. You can get to Saddlebag Dispatches here: And be sure to invite all your friends to take a look as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

We Come Bearing Gifts.

The holiday season is upon us, with celebrations of many kinds, from Christmas to Boxing Day to Kwanzaa to Hanukkah to Saturnalia and so on.
While there is much to celebrate and reflect on this season, there is also a crassly commercial aspect to it all—the hectic race to give and receive gifts. My contribution to all the commercialism is the suggestion that there is no finer gift than a good book.
Books have shelf life. The recipient can enjoy it now, and later, and later yet again. Books don’t spoil, dry up and blow away, wilt or wither, crash, lose power, fade, or otherwise lose their luster. A good book can bring hours of enjoyment—not only to the owner, but to others it is shared with, as well.
There are books for every age and every taste, on every subject and for every interest. A good book is engaging and involving, and, by its very nature, interactive. Reading stretches the imagination and grows gray cells. It can be a solitary or a social activity. Using a book requires nothing but light—no batteries, no assembly, no wires, no tools. A book is portable—you can take it with you and use it almost anywhere and everywhere.
As you go down your gift list, consider a book for every name you find.
And, to sum up with a self-serving, greedy, avaricious suggestion, check out the books at Somebody, somewhere, might like one of them.
If not, there are plenty of alternatives. So, by all means, give good books.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 9: Writing is a Compulsion.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say “I write because I have to” I may well find myself living among the privileged two percent.
Being something of an idiot, I don’t know what they mean when they say that. It sounds as if sitting down and making words appear on a monitor is a compulsion. Or an obsession. Or an addiction. Or some other irresistible urge related to a disorder of some sort. And if they didn't write, they would suffer some horrible sort of withdrawal.
For me, writing is enjoyable. I do it because I want to (and when I want to, unless I am on deadline), not because I have to. When I don’t want to, I don’t. And I and don’t feel slighted or guilty or get the shakes or anything else unpleasant as a result. 
And that makes sitting in a chair for extended periods of time and tapping away on a keyboard and staring at a glowing window with the alphabet crawling around on it like so many little ants tolerable.
Otherwise, it could qualify as a torture.
Although I can’t speak from experience—not being the addictive type—it seems to me that writing because you “have to” in order to satisfy some imagined (or, perhaps, real) compulsion is nothing more than going through the motions. And going through the motions is no way to write well.
Or live well, for that matter.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cowboy poetry goes to college.

A while back the people at the University of Utah Division of Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning tracked me down and asked me to develop and teach an introductory course on writing cowboy poetry. I agreed before they had a chance to realize the error of their ways.
Wednesday evenings from March 25 through April 29 (2015, of course) from 6:30 to 8:30, I will be watching (and, I hope, helping) the participants who show up wrangle the alphabet into words, words into lines, lines into stanzas, and stanzas into poems.
What could be more fun?
If you’re within driving distance of the University of Utah Continuing Education campus in Sandy—or can afford the airfare from elsewhere—join us for adventures in poetry. I’m looking forward to going back to school and learning a thing or two. And, teaching a few things as well.