Thursday, May 26, 2016

The cat is out of the bag. Sort of.

Western Fictioneers, an organization of authors who write novels and short stories about the Old West, recently announced nominees for their annual Peacemaker Awards. The awards, named in honor of the Colt revolver, are bestowed upon the Best Novel, Best Short Fiction, Best First Novel, and Best Novel for Young Adults or Children.
I’m happy to say that Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail: The True Tale of a Wild West CATastrophe, is nominated in the latter category. Winners will be announced June 15 and if there is further good news I will pass it along.
This recognition, along with being named a Western Writers of America Spur Award Finalist, is high praise for my latest novel.
If you haven’t read Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail, you can order a copy through your local bookstore or online, both in hardcover and e-book. There’s a short video about the book on my Amazon Author Page and out there elsewhere. Whether young or old—say from junior high school student to senior citizen—you’ll get a grin out of the extraordinary exploits of an ordinary cowboy.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 28: Writing is a Lonely Life.

You’ll often hear it said that writing is lonely. It takes hours, days, weeks, months, years spent alone at the keyboard (or typewriter or notebook) to spin a story, write a novel, sort out history, create a poem, construct a magazine article, or whatever it is you write or intend to write.
Which is true, sort of.
But I would use a different word to describe writing time: solitary.
That’s because while I am usually alone when I write, I don’t find writing lonely. I spend that time conversing with characters, getting inside their heads, reading their thoughts, understanding what makes them tick, waiting to see what they’ll do next. That’s a lot of what makes writing fiction fun.
Even when writing nonfiction—a magazine article, or history—it usually comes down to living with people in your mind and attempting to understand why they do what they do or did what they did and how that fits into the big picture.
Poetry, too, requires immersing yourself in a world of words, of sounds, of rhythms, of ideas, of images. Which is anything but lonely. In fact, it can get right crowded and noisy in there.
Finally, if you want to know the truth, sometimes—oftentimes—the “loneliness” of spending time in those other worlds is more enjoyable than living in the real world.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Bye-Bye Byline: Ranch & Reata, for the last time.

The new issue of Ranch & Reata is out. Unfortunately, it’s the last of what has been an outstanding publication. For more than five years, the magazine has covered a lot of interesting people and places from all around the West. I know, because I had the opportunity to write about many of them.
While I didn’t have a byline in every issue, it was pretty close—and, in a few, I had two stories. That’s the case with this final issue.
“The Top hand and the Tenderfoot” compares the experiences of two poets at the 2016 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering—Wally McRae, who has been there since the beginning more than three decades ago, and Marleen Bussma, who made her first appearance this year. It’s an interesting look at what has become a fixture in the world of Western culture, seen through the eyes of a pair of participants.
Also in the magazine is “Ninety Percent Off,” a story about War Paint, the legendary saddle bronc horse of the ’50s and ’60s who bucked off about nine out of ten of all the rodeo cowboys who stretched a cinch around his middle. Among his victims were the best bronc riders in the business, including world champions. The article was inspired by and quotes Idaho cowboy Bob Schild, who got on—and off—War Paint twice in his career.
I’m sorry to see Ranch & Reata go. It has been a real pleasure to pen stories for them.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Tracking Lovers, Wives & Mothers.

Western Writers of America named “Parker Eyes of Blue” by Almeda Bradshaw a Spur Award Finalist for Best Western Song.
It’s no wonder.
The song recounts the kidnapping of ten-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker by Comanche warriors during an 1836 raid in Texas. The words of the song range from lyrically beautiful:

Her eyes were the skies of the Llano Estacado
Wide and deep and blue

to hauntingly graphic:

Face down hands and feet were bound
Escaping not the brutal sound
Of women raped upon the ground

Indian vocals open and close the song, with Almeda singing the story in between. WWA isn’t the only organization to honor the remarkable song; it’s also recognized by the Western Music Association.
“Parker Eyes of Blue” may be my favorite, but it’s only one of eleven excellent tracks on her Lovers, Wives & Mothers album—which, you might surmise, gives us a look at the West from a female perspective. Musical styles vary from folksy traditional to hints of Western Swing and bluegrass.
Most tracks are Almeda originals, including music she composed to turn poems by master poets Colen Sweeten and Bette Wolf Duncan into songs. Another composition is Almeda’s answer to “Sharon Little Hawk,” a song by Dave Stamey, one of the all-time best Western songwriters. Two of Stamey’s songs, along with tunes by other songwriting legends Tom Russell and Ian Tyson, round out the album.
If you’re a fan of Western music, you’ll like Lovers, Wives & Mothers. If you’re not, this album could change your mind.