Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Coverage for a Forthcoming Book.

Come August, Five Star will release a new novel by yours truly: Father unto Many Sons. As you see above, the cover has been designed and is quite handsome.
The book is set around about 1840 and tells the story of a father who uproots his Tennessee family to escape the evils of slavery by settling in Mexico. His wife and two of his three sons aren’t too keen on the idea, resulting in a number of difficulties. The third and youngest son supports his father and follows his lead, adding to the troubles with the other brothers. All this is made even more difficult by trials and tribulations along the trail.
The book retells an older story, setting it in the American West’s challenging landscapes and violent, tumultuous times.
Western Writers Hall of Fame author Lucia St. Clair Robson read the book and said, "The riveting prologue of Father Unto Many Sons makes it well-nigh impossible to resist reading to the last page of the book. Author Rod Miller has combined vivid period detail with memorable characters to create a story that gives the sensation of visiting another time and place."
I can hardly wait for August and the release of Father unto Many Sons. How about you?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 44: Anyone can learn to write.

As I have preached at writers’ conferences and workshops over the years, I have crossed paths a time or two with a college writing instructor. His claim is that writing is a “skill” and that with proper instruction and practice, anyone can learn to do it.
That may be true at a basic level. But I believe that getting beyond that requires some modicum of talent or aptitude or innate ability to wrangle words.
The same, I contend, is true in any endeavor. For example, beyond basic arithmetic, I cannot fathom numbers. No matter how deep you dig, you’ll find no athleticism in me. I don’t understand chess. The intricacies of music escape me. I could go on.
Perhaps I could improve my ability in these areas with enough training and dedication. But I do not believe there would ever come a day when I could calculate prime numbers for recreation, excel at soccer, maneuver pieces to execute a checkmate, or compose a symphony—or even a show tune.
And, having read nearly incomprehensible strings of words written by people at every level of education from first grade to advanced degrees, I think the same applies to writing. For whatever reason, the ability to string sounds and words together into phrases, sentences, paragraphs and all the way up to books, in a way that makes them accessible, even enjoyable, for readers is not distributed equally among us.
I, for one, am happy about that. I am happy that I may have at least a little of what might be called talent to go along with the “skill” involved in writing. I am equally happy that other people are born with the innate ability to accomplish other things, particularly the many things beyond my competency.
No matter the endeavor or enterprise, the old saying, “practice makes perfect,” doesn’t always apply.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Really Stupid Words, Chapter One

American English is a rich language. It’s always changing and evolving. New words and usages come and go. Many that come along are helpful. They clarify, they improve, they enhance and enrich.
But some are just plain stupid.
They obfuscate, they complicate, they confuse. They reveal a lack of understanding.
Take “impact” for example.
Impact used to be a perfectly fine word with a clear, precise meaning. The definitions in my Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, published in 1994 (which may seem ancient to some, but it’s not that long ago), can be summed up as: to strike forcefully, forceful contact or collision.
Pretty simple.
Since then, the word has been hijacked and used in a way never meant for it: as an all-purpose substitute for affect and effect.
It’s used regularly and routinely by people who cannot figure out the difference between affect and effect and when to use which and why. So, they surrender and use impact in place of either and both. “Forceful collisions” everywhere shudder at the thought.
You probably heard someone abuse impact today. I wish I didn’t have to hear it anymore. It’s likely to impact my mood and have a negative impact on my state of mind.