Thursday, December 28, 2017

Passionate about avoiding passion.

“Passion” has become one of those words you can hardly avoid. Barely a day goes by that you don’t hear someone asking someone (sometimes you), “What are you passionate about?”
We’re encouraged to “follow our passions” and led to believe that life is not worth living if we’re not “passionate” about something.
The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to realize that the only thing I’m passionate about is not being passionate.
What’s the point of believing you are that intensely enthusiastic about something? About anything? Will you enjoy it more? Will you achieve more? Will it hold your interest any longer?
I doubt it. It seems unlikely you are “passionate” about the same things you were “passionate” about, say, a decade ago. Or even last year.
To my way of thinking, if you can’t get up the gumption to do what you want or like to do without whipping yourself into a passion, why bother? If you want to do something (as a famous maker of footwear for “passionate” runners used to say), just do it.
I like to write. I enjoy the time I spend writing. I try to write well, and work at doing so.
But I can’t say I’m “passionate” about it. I feel no need to work myself into a frenzy before stringing words together, nor do I feel I’m a failure if I decide to trim my toenails one day rather than whip out a sonnet.
 Maybe I’m just lazy. Apathetic. Ambivalent. Or dull. But it could be that I favor that old nugget of wisdom from the Greek poet Hesiod: “Moderation in all things is the best policy.”
So, I ask you: What are you moderate about?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Another dispatch from the saddlebag.

The Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Saddlebag Dispatches is now online, with a print version available as well. As usual, its pages are chockablock with short stories, articles, columns, and other reading matter that “fits under a cowboy hat,” as the editors say.
In its pages you’ll find my regular column, “Best of the West,” this time featuring what I believe to be the best cowboy poem of all time, “Anthem” by the late Buck Ramsey.
Elsewhere in the magazine is, for me, a real treat—a beautifully designed spread presenting a new poem I penned. “The Knowing” is built from the sights and sounds and smells experienced by a range-riding cowboy through days and nights, miles in the saddle, tending cattle, watching wildlife, experiencing sunshine and storms, and the comfort of campfires. There’s even a reference to the poem on the magazine’s cover (above), claiming, in one of the most extreme over-statements of our time, “Cowboy poet Rod Miller invokes the Bard.”
Magazines written for Western readers become rarer by the day, so don’t miss a chance to read—and support—Saddlebag Dispatches.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 42: Know (and Follow) the Rules.

Many, many of the “lies” addressed in these parts have to do with the “rules” passed along to aspiring writers at conferences and workshops, in books and articles, by critique groups and manuscript readers.
Most of the “rules” are based, in some part, on reality. But seldom are they universal enough in application to even qualify as “rules.” “Advice” or “considerations” would make more apt descriptions.
The simple fact is, if you want to write, and write well, you have to figure it out for yourself. No one else can guide the pencil or stroke the keyboard or tell you how to tell your story.
That’s not to say you should ignore the “rules” you hear. Neither should you accept them unconsidered or untested. Try that, and you’ll end up hopelessly confused, staring at a blank screen or sheet of paper wondering how to proceed and continually contradicting yourself as one “rule” clashes with another.
I think the best advice concerning following the “rules” is that offered by W. Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

Friday, December 1, 2017

Shameless commerce (and a freebie).

It’s that time of year. ’Tis the season when giving and getting are on everyone’s mind. And what better Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Boxing Day) gift could there possibly be than a book. Or two or twelve.
Being a writer of books, I hope, of course, you will consider giving my books as gifts. There are nonfiction books about the history of the West, novels of the serious and silly kind, short stories for short attention spans, and poems for even shorter attention spans. Enjoyable reading for folks from junior high to geriatrics.
You’ll find information about them all at and
If you hurry, you’ll have time to read them yourself before you give them away. But if you don’t finish in time for Christmas, Chinese New Year comes around February 16 in 2018, and it’s another fine opportunity to give a book as a gift.
 Happy holidays.

Enter by December 7 to win a free copy of Rawhide Robinson Rides a Dromedary: The True Tale of a Wild West Camel Caballero on Goodreads. Visit Rawhide Robinson Rides a Dromedary Giveaway and find the button marked “Enter Giveaway” and you’re in. But hurry. Rawhide Robinson waits for no man (or woman).