Monday, February 25, 2019

The Old West, one sitting at a time.

Just exactly what constitutes a “short story” in fiction is not easy to determine. But, as a general rule, it’s “a story that can be read in one sitting.” Where the reader is sitting at the time is of no consequence and need not be discussed here.
Unlike a novel, a short story provides a jolt of enjoyment without requiring a serious commitment or lengthy relationship. More like a love affair than a marriage, if you will.
Five Star, one of the leading publishers of the literature of the West, has a new anthology of short fiction on the way: Contention and Other Frontier Stories. Between the covers are 17 stories by some of the best authors writing about the West today. Among them are Western Writers Hall of Fame member Loren D. Estleman and record-setting Spur Award-winning author Johnny D. Boggs.
And there are stories by several other writers, many of who I am pleased to know and admire and count among my friends.
There’s even a story by yours truly in the book, “Bullwhacker,” inspired by a genuine pioneer woman who made her way west under hard circumstances.
Contention and Other Frontier Stories is scheduled for release May 15, but is now available online for advance orders. Order a copy for yourself, and others for your friends. Then, once the book arrives, take a seat and enjoy. And keep on enjoying, through 17 sittings.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

These Honored Dead.

A few weeks ago, on January 29, I once again had the opportunity to attend ceremonies commemorating the Massacre at Bear River. As always, it was a moving occasion.
Brenn Hill opened the program with the song “And the River Ran Red,” moving the audience to stunned, reverent silence.
Utah’s Attorney General spoke. And, for the first time ever, officials from the State of Idaho attended, with the governor, Brad Little, finally getting his state involved in remembering the tragedy and honoring the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.
Tribal chairman Darren Parry also spoke, briefly outlining plans for the Band’s ambitious improvements at the site, including restoration of the landscape and construction of an interpretive center. The project has finally become possible, 156 years after the massacre, owing to the efforts of Parry and other tribal leaders to acquire significant acreage at the site. A campaign is now underway to raise funds.
While I don’t ask readers to do much, I hope you will find it in your heart to contribute. Large or small, every donation will help the world recognize and remember this overlooked chapter in the history of the West.
And thank you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 48: The only way to learn to write is to write.

If you want to be a writer, you have to write. It’s pretty hard to argue with that. But how do you learn to write? Or to write better?
I’ve heard tell the only way to do it is to write. And write some more.
It certainly can’t hurt. But there’s that old saying that says if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. In other words, if you just keep writing, you could keep making the same mistakes over and over again. That won’t help.
You could take a course. Go to a writers conference. Enroll in a writing program. All of which will most likely do you some good.
But there’s an easier way: read.
You can learn to be a better writer by reading good writing. At least it seems to have helped me, as I have never learned anything about creative writing (which my journalism degree did not cover) anywhere but in books. I love to read. I do a lot of it. And when I find a writer or a book that I especially like, I will read it again, and sometimes again and again. Once you’ve read a book enough that you don’t get caught up in the story, you start noticing how the author does things—how he chooses words, how she builds phrases, how he makes sentences, how she moves the story along, or pauses to let you catch your breath.
All those things, and many more, get embedded in your mind and when you sit down to write, they affect how—and how well—you do it.
And when it comes right down to it, reading is a lot more enjoyable way to spend time than sitting around in a classroom talking about writing.