Monday, December 28, 2020

Really stupid words, Chapter 15

Whereas the beginning of a New Year is the traditional time for Americans to elect to pursue goals and objectives in order to improve their lives and the lives of others; and

Whereas speakers of American English routinely abuse, misuse, overuse, and exhaust words by excessively employing trendy usages and clichés in misguided attempts to sound fashionable and knowledgeable; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that in the New Year of 2021 and forever after, speakers of American English will eliminate these tired, hackneyed, banal, threadbare, and altogether stupid word usages from their vocabularies:

·   source, when used as a verb (rather than its proper function as a noun) to indicate the location and acquisition of products or services or ingredients.

·   pivot, unless specifically referring to rotation around a fixed point (and not in reference to any and every change or adjustment).

·   curate, when used outside its common meaning pertaining to museums and exhibits (more precise but less trendy words such as choose or select are preferable for other uses).

·   unpack, when referring to discussion or explanation of a complicated subject (rather than when removing items from a crate, suitcase, or other container).

·   surge, to describe any increase of any size (rather than the intended meaning to indicate a rise or movement of remarkable strength or speed or force).


Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Big Rodeo.


    For ten nights in a row recently, we sat in front of the TV watching the National Finals Rodeo. We were especially impressed with how well the cowboys from Utah did, bringing home several world championships.
    For years now, the saddle bronc riding at every level in rodeo has been dominated by the Wright family of Milford, a small, small town way off the beaten path in southern Utah. Before this year, six Wright brothers had won among them five world championships and more other accomplishments than you can imagine. The oldest of the brothers, Cody, won two of those world titles.
    Now, it’s his sons who are in the limelight.
    Back in 2018, I wrote a magazine article about that next generation of Wrights. I spent an afternoon and evening with two of the boys at the Utah State High School Rodeo Finals. The picture above is from that day—that’s father Cody in the middle offering advice and encouragement to his sons Ryder, on the left, and Rusty on the right. Too young for high school rodeo at the time was another son, Stetson.
    All three are now full-time professional rodeo cowboys, and proved themselves the best of the bunch at the recent NFR.
    Rusty, the oldest at 25, tied for first (with his brother) in a go-round of the saddle bronc riding, placed in seven of ten go-rounds and fifth in the average, and came away ranked fourth in the world standings.
    Ryder, at 22, placed in nine and won or tied for first place in five saddle bronc riding go-rounds and won the average, and walked away wearing the World Champion belt buckle (for the second time).
    Stetson, at the ripe old age of 21, won one saddle bronc riding go-round and tied for first in another and ended up seventh in the world standings. Stetson also rides bulls and won four go-rounds at the NFR and was crowned world champion. He entered the National Finals Rodeo second in overall winnings for the year in the All-Around Cowboy race, but passed the leader and left him more than $158,000 in the dust, bringing home his second All-Around Championship.
    The Wrights are a wonderful family, making history in more ways than one, both in and outside the rodeo arena. It has been a pleasure to know them over the years, and we’ll be hearing more of them in the future.
    It also bears mentioning that Kaycee Feild—son of the late Lewis Feild, five-time world bareback riding champion—matched his father’s accomplishment by winning his fifth world championship in my favorite rodeo event.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Where I’m going, Part Three.


    For several years now I have wanted to visit Las Vegas.
    Not that one.
    I have been to Nevada’s Sin City more times than I care to remember, and only revisit when there’s a reason—say a rodeo, or a conference, or, in the past, family. The city’s main attractions hold no attraction for me.
    I’m talking about the other Las Vegas.
    Las Vegas, New Mexico, is of interest to me for its historic importance. It was a waystation on the Santa Fe Trail, for example, and played a role in the Mexican-American War and the Taos Revolt. And over time it has hosted Indians, Spanish colonists, cowboys, outlaws, lawmen, railroaders, and other pivotal figures in the history of the West.
    Later, movie and TV folks showed up, and still do from time to time.
    I once got within about 100 miles of the place when approaching from the north, but took a left turn for Amarillo. I once got within 50 miles when approaching from the south, but took a left turn for Albuquerque. When visiting Glorieta Pass while doing Civil War research I came within 40 miles, but u-turned for an engagement back in Santa Fe.
    One of these days, I will make Las Vegas my destination, and I will see the sights on both sides of the Gallinas River.
    And the city lights, such as they are.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

My Favorite Book, Part 24


There’s a common belief about Western novels, practically a law, that the hero always saves the day and good always triumphs over evil. And, truth be told, that’s the formula behind most, almost all, Western novels.
    But there are books that defy the doctrine and go a different way, presenting a more nuanced—you could say more realistic—way of seeing things. Some of them become classics.
    One such is The Ox-Bow Incident by the late Nevada writer Walter Van Tilburg Clark. There is no hero in its pages, the day is not saved, and there is no triumph of good over evil—just the opposite, in fact. And yet upon publication in 1940 the novel achieved eminence, and has maintained its place among the best Western novels of all time, widely considered a masterpiece.
    It just goes to show, I suppose, that while there is safety for Western writers and Western novels in following the herd, there is more than one trail that leads to success.
    And, to my way of thinking, to better books.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

New York speaks.

    Regular readers here may have already heard of my most recent novel, Pinebox Collins. Perhaps not. The book was released just as we were all falling into the coronavirus and COVID-19 abyss, so it sort of got lost. In a word, it’s a story told by an itinerant one-legged undertaker in the Old West. Not long ago, I came across a review of the novel in the New York Journal of Books that I had not seen before. Here’s some of what the reviewer, Carolyn Haley (who I do not know), had to say:

“It’s all presented in a relaxed, steady style that melds what we think we know about the Old     West with what it actually was like….
    [T]he story belongs to Pinebox, whose character and trade we also get to learn about through subtly sketched detail. His voice is laconic, erudite, wryly humorous, and feels true to the period. He salts his narrative with colorful one-liners, such as ‘Abilene had grown like a litter of pigs’ and a saloon with ‘empty tables as rare as hair on a billiard ball….’
    Rod Miller’s skills and knowledge, combined with a natural storyteller’s knack, make Pinebox Collins both a great introduction to the genre and an enlightening addition to it."

Some writers say they never read reviews of their books. I read this one. You can too, right here:


Sunday, November 8, 2020

Really stupid words, Chapter 14.

    For several years now there has been a tendency among us, when bereft of any logical argument against an opposing point of view, to sniff in derision and make a weak-kneed accusation of “political correctness.” It’s easy to do and allows us to simply—and thoughtlessly—dismiss people and ideas we disagree with.
    When I was a young man (or old boy), I tended to run in packs that were (as we put it) rude, crude, and unabashed. And, in some sick way, we were amused by it. We poked oafish fun and made mean jokes based on race, ethnicity, physical appearance, religion, sexual orientation, employment, politics, ideas, points of view, or anything else we thought might get a laugh—no matter how cruel or heartless.
    In hindsight, it wasn’t funny. Even then. And though it took too many years to outgrow those ways of thinking, I like to think they are behind me. I hope so.
    A common defense, usually heard just prior to an accusation of “political correctness” is that “those people” are just thin-skinned and too easily offended.
    I do not get to decide what offends you or anyone else. Likewise, it is not up to you to decide what I or anybody else finds offensive. Or cruel. Or hurtful.
    It seems to me that anyone who claims to be guided by any kind of moral compass would make every effort to avoid causing pain to others. To, as the old saying goes, treat others the way we would like to be treated.
    Then again, such thinking may be nothing more than “political correctness.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Pedagogical distancing.

I am no stranger to teaching. While not formally trained, I have taught one thing or another throughout most of my adult life, from several semesters as adjunct faculty teaching advertising at a college and a university, to teaching Sunday School classes to people of all ages, to teaching many, many workshops at writers conferences.
    But, come November 5, I will set sail on a 50-minute teaching trip the likes of which I have never before undertaken. It can all be summed up in one onomatopoetic word that heretofore described the sound of something moving quickly: zoom.
    Owing to the ongoing coronavirus threat, the Utah Valley University Writers Academy went online this year, and has been in progress since October 9. My presentation, “How to Build a Book Without a Blueprint,” goes zoom Thursday, November 5 at 6:00 pm MST. For the first time ever, I will attempt to convey my message to conference participants via a zoom meeting, where we will all, theoretically, gather around our computer screens to watch and listen and, I hope, participate.
    My presentations tend to involve a lot of back and forth, give and take, question and answer, and interaction with participants. That, in my limited experience on the receiving end, doesn’t always work out too well with zoom.
    Still and all, I am as prepared as I’ll ever be and hoping for the best.


Friday, October 16, 2020

In the News.


Today’s story is ripped from the pages of the Eureka (Utah) Reporter, 18 May 1917. 

Henry Miller, the Elberta farmer who also owns a ranch near Jamison Hill on the old road, had a narrow escape from death yesterday when he was attacked by a cow which was no doubt suffering from rabies. Mr. Miller was at work near his home when the cow made a vicious charge upon him and then continued the attack after the farmer was knocked to the ground. Just at a time when Mr. Miller appeared to be in the greatest danger of receiving fatal injuries from the animal’s hoofs and horns the cow took a fit and this enabled him to crawl to a place of safety.

Propped up in bed at his ranch last evening Mr. Miller related his experience to Lewis Merriman, superintendent of the Yankee Cons mine, stating that the cow probably belongs to one of the Elberta ranchers. Mr. Miller’s injuries are painful but not serious and he will no doubt be out again within a few days.

 Henry is my great-grandfather. And to think my very existence on earth was endangered by a bad, mad cow.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Where I’ve been.

    A while back, most of our family stole away for a week in a cabin in the woods. I took my computer along, and used some of the time to finish up a novel, but that was out of the way in a couple of days and it went back in the bag.
    With no internet service, I did not check my e-mail for more than a week. As near as I can tell, nobody missed me. Cell phone service was spotty, but since I am one of the last men standing without one of the infernal machines, I hardly noticed.
    We visited a few Old West historic sites, and did some sightseeing. And we did a lot of sitting around, which was nice. A bull moose stopped by one day and hung out in the back yard for a couple of hours. The black bear who visited another evening chose not to stay.
    It was good to get away. Most of the plans we’d made for the year got canceled for safety’s sake, so it was nice to find a safe place to spend a different kind of time together—and alone.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Eat, sleep, write, repeat.


    The title for this entry is stolen. It’s the theme from the 2020 Utah Valley University Writers Academy. Since I am among the workshop presenters, I will not be indicted for the theft.
    Owing to the coronavirus, covid-19, the worldwide pandemic, social distancing, and other related considerations, UVU opted to put this year’s conference online. So, what was scheduled to take place October 9 and 10 will, instead, be spread from October 9 through November 6, with a selection of (mostly) Thursday evening online workshops along with other events on other days. You’ll find more information on the UVU Writers Academy web site, and you can register online. And there’s this, #UVUWriters2020, if you know what it’s for. I don’t.
    If you write, want to write, hope to write, or wish to write, you’ll find the UVU Writers Academy helpful. Register, and you can access the online workshops and presentations live, and the sessions will be recorded for viewing or reviewing afterwards.
    My contribution to the event, “How to Build a Book without a Blueprint,” is scheduled for November 5 at 6:00 pm. By then, I hope to have figured out how to pull it off.
    I’ll send a reminder. See you (sort of) there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

My favorite short story.


“Genesis” is a long short story—82 pages—tucked into the middle of Wallace Stegner’s Wolf Willow. The tale’s main character is Lionel “Rusty” Cullen, a 19-year-old Englishman who migrated to cattle country in Saskatchewan, intrigued by the romance of the Old West and in search of adventure. It didn’t take him long to realize his notions of cowboy life were misguided:

    Already, within a day, Rusty felt how circumstances had hardened, how what had been an adventure revealed itself as a job.

 Rusty also realizes he is but a pilgrim, least among the nine cowboys who ride out on a late fall roundup to bring in calves for winter feeding. Still, he is determined, even eager, to give it his best, to prove himself a man among men.
        As with many Westerns, landscape and weather are also characters in the story. The roundup is interrupted repeatedly by early blizzards that scatter the cattle time and again. The storms become so violent and the cold so brutal the men are forced to abandon the herd, even the remuda, to race across the plains at a snail’s pace, trying to outrun death itself.
        Romantic notions, if any still exist at this point, are further disabused by the awareness that these men, and others like them throughout the West’s cattle country, put their lives at peril:

For owners off in Aberdeen or Toronto or Calgary or Butte who would never come out themselves and risk what they demanded of any cowboy for twenty dollars a month and found.

 As much as I like “Genesis” for what it includes—a realistic look at cowboy life and work, albeit in extreme circumstances—I like it for what it does not include. There’s not a single gunfight. No Hollywood walk-down quick-draw contest, no snarling packs of bad guys shooting up the streets and back alleys and saloons of a wooden town. There’s no damsel in distress—unless you count mother cows and heifer calves. No splendid super steeds racing at top speed across page after page with nary a stop for a blow, a sip of water, a mouthful of grass. And there are no six-foot-tall bulletproof heroes with broad shoulders, narrow hips, and a steely gaze.
        That’s not to say there’s no courage, bravery, or heroics in “Genesis.” But it’s realistic valor, not the over-the-top imaginary superhero stuff so common in Western stories. Stegner sums it up best when, near the end of the tale, he says this about Rusty:

 It was probably a step in the making of a cowhand when he learned that what would pass for heroics in a softer world was only chores around here.


Friday, September 4, 2020

Really stupid words, Chapter 13.


Long, long ago, back in the 1970s, there was a popular television show titled The Six Million Dollar Man. The idea was that a test pilot crashed and wrecked his body, but surgeons and scientists fixed him up by adding a lot of wires and circuits and stuff to make him half-man, half-robot with extraordinary mental and physical powers. Every week, during the show’s introduction, as we’d watch a montage of doctors at work and futuristic computer renderings and such, a weighty voice would say, among other things, “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.”
    It’s only a guess on my part, but I think today the voice would say, “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technologies.”
    I don’t know why. Technology is a collective of sorts, and works perfectly well in the singular form for any purpose. But nowadays, you hear it with an “ies” stuck on the end more often than not.
    One of my dictionaries defines technology as “The branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means,” and “a scientific or industrial process, invention, method, or the like.” I added all those italics to emphasize the singular nature of the idea.
   Wikipedia says, “The suffix ology is commonly used in the English language to denote a field of study.” As a field (not fields), technology does not require a plural. Technologies is as useless as biologies, meteorologies, sociologies, geologies, physiologies, and other such unheard-of things.
    Don’t ask me why I cringe when I hear “technologies.” Perhaps a therapist would blame it on my deranged psychologies.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Joy of Being Stupid.


    Writing a book is a good way to reveal how stupid you are. You have an idea, and you start writing. Soon, you realize you don’t know what you’re writing about.
    Take my latest novel, Pinebox Collins. I thought it would be a good idea to tell a story about a man who moved from place to place in the Old West, using his travels and encounters to tell other stories about actual events and people from history. I decided a footloose undertaker might move around like that. And, for some reason, that he should be missing a leg. I don’t know why.
    I soon realized there had to be a reason for his missing leg, which took some study of Civil War battles that might fit the bill. Then I had to learn about Civil War hospitals, surgery, amputations, prosthetics, and the like.
    Then I had to learn about the history of undertaking, embalming, and building coffins—none of which I knew anything about.
    Pinebox’s travels required buffing up my knowledge of cattle trails and cowtowns, mining strikes and boomtowns, stagecoaches and railroads, and historic incidents and events in those places.
    Then there were people. Charley Utter, Calamity Jane, Jim Levy, Joe McCoy, John Wesley Hardin, Phil Coe, Jack McCall, Porter Rockwell, and others, mostly “Wild Bill” Hickok—many of whom, but not all, I knew something, but not enough, about.
    I enjoy writing. Even the parts that make you realize how stupid you are. With every book, I learn something—many somethings. And I hope the people who read those books might learn something too.


Sunday, August 16, 2020

My Favorite Book, Part 23.

One of the great stories of the Old West is the life of Cynthia Ann Parker. And the best telling of the story is the novel Ride the Wind by Lucia St. Clair Robson.

 At about age nine, the Texas girl was kidnapped by Comanche raiders during an attack on her extended family. Her introduction to Comanche ways was brutal, but she was accepted by the band and adapted to their ways, eventually becoming the wife of a leader, and giving birth to one of the most famous Comanche leaders, known to history as Quanah Parker.

Robson’s research digs deep into the era, particularly the minute details of day-to-day Comanche life. But that research never gets in the way of her telling a compelling, absorbing, riveting story. The book’s title comes from the author’s knowledge of Cynthia Ann—Naduah, to the Comanche—as one of the horses she rode was called Wind. 

When “rescued” by Texas Rangers after some twenty-four years living as a Comanche, Cynthia Ann Parker never fit into white society and died, some say of a broken heart, following the death of her Comanche daughter, Prairie Flower.

Ride the Wind won the Western Writers of America Spur Award, and numerous other accolades, when published in 1982, and has remained popular ever since, and remains in print. As it should.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Slave to fashion.

    I grew up in a small town. So small, we didn’t have pasta—only macaroni and noodles. No one there had a “lifestyle,” only a life. We had ice cream, but no one I knew had ever heard of gelato.
    And, in that little town, only little boys wore short pants. And nobody wore a cap backwards unless they were playing catcher in a baseball game or milking a cow.
    That fashion sense—or lack of it—has stuck with me. All my pants have legs that go all the way down. And all my caps sit on my head facing forward. The bill, after all, exists to shade your eyes, and it can’t do that if it’s poking out the back.
    None of this makes me in any sense superior, you understand. In fact, it often makes me something of an oddity. But that’s all right. I wear what I wear, fashion be damned. And the world is a better place for not having to look at my knobby knees.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Where I’m going, Part Two.

    As is the case with many places I want to go, I have almost been to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.
    We have driven Highway 550 through northern New Mexico, which passes to the east of Chaco Canyon. Likewise, we have been to Shiprock and other points to the north. And we have been (and will go again) to Canyon de Chelly, which lies to the west, in Arizona.
    But, despite wanting to, the time has never been right to venture out into the New Mexico desert to visit one of the most remarkable places anywhere. Over a period of some 150 years or more, Ancestral Puebloans built up numerous complex structures from sandstone blocks and timber. Some of the buildings contained hundreds of rooms, and were not equaled in size or scale on this continent for centuries. Many of the structures in Chaco Canyon were built in alignment with solstices and equinoxes and other orientations of the sun and moon, as well as with distant landmarks.
    Historians and archaeologists believe lengthy drought and, perhaps, warfare, led to the abandonment of Chaco Canyon. But no matter why they left, the people of Chaco Canyon left behind a place like no other.
    I would love to see it.
    And I will.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Me and Tex.

A long time ago, when I was going to college and for a while afterward, I worked at a radio station. I was the morning disc jockey and I played country music.

“Pop” country was all the rage at the time, so I spun a lot of songs by singers like Olivia Newton-John, Charlie Rich, Donna Fargo, John Denver, and so on. But I also played a lot of what we called “pure” country, as well as oldies. Now and then, I would slip in an old cowboy song.

Hang on for a little explanation for the younger set.

Most of the music we played was on “records” called “singles”; vinyl discs that were about seven inches across with a big hole in the middle, with one song on each side, that played on a turntable at 45 revolutions per minute. Sometimes we would play album cuts, from discs that were about twelve inches across, with a little hole in the middle, containing several songs, that played at 33 revolutions per minute.

You can imagine the bizarre sound if you played a record at the wrong speed, say a 45 rpm record at 33 rpm, which could and did happen on occasion.

Back to the story.

Sometimes, just for fun, I would play an old Tex Ritter song titled “Blood in the Saddle.” I liked playing it because, inevitably, someone—or several someones—would call the idiot at the radio station and tell him he was playing the record at the wrong speed.

If you’re not familiar with Tex Ritter’s “Blood in the Saddle” give it a listen (the link will take you to it).

And, no, it is not playing at the wrong speed. Not then. Not now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Happy Independence Day!

No, my calendar is not out of whack. Today, July 2, is the day in 1776 the Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain. John Adams, a leader of the revolution who would become the second president of the new nation, said this in a letter to his wife, Abigail:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

But, alas, despite Adams’s prediction, the official celebration is on July 4, the day the congress ratified the language of the Declaration of Independence. They did not get around to signing it until August 2, so an argument can be made that we should be popping off fireworks and holding parades on that day.
Me, I’m sticking with July 2 and am flying the flag today.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Sad passing.

Twenty years ago and then some, showed up online. Established under a veil of mystery, the site started out sort of campy. But the brains behind it soon learned that cowboy poetry, even the funny kind, is a serious art.
The brains behind it turned out to belong to the remarkable Margo Metegrano, who rode herd on the site, driving it to grow and develop into an institution. It became the world’s largest archive of cowboy poetry, both contemporary and classic. It promoted and reported on cowboy poetry events across the country. It featured relevant essays and commentary. And it spun off a blog and a Facebook page.
It established Cowboy Poetry Week, and saw it ratified in the US Congress and by the governors of several states. It formed the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, which, among other things, produced a series of annual CDs featuring thematic collections of poems recited by folks from across the country, and distributed them to libraries everywhere.
It was all a labor of love for Margo, who worked tirelessly to promote an art she had grown to love, becoming, perhaps, the most important and influential person in the cowboy poetry community—all the while content to stay in the shadows, all but invisible, save to the poets who came to know, love, appreciate, and respect her.
Tireless finally turned to just plain tired, and Margo recently decided to hang it up. No one can, should, or does blame her. She deserves the rest. She earned it.
But that doesn’t mean the cowboy poetry community isn’t mourning the passing. And its unlikely we will soon recover, for there will never, ever again, be anything quite like

Tuesday, June 16, 2020


Having something to look forward to makes life more interesting. At least I have always thought so. It can be something big or small, important or trivial, consequential or just for fun. But having something, anything, on the horizon helps spur us on in the direction of life.
At this writing, I have three new books on the shelf next to my bed that I cannot wait to get to. As soon as I finish the book I am enjoying now, I will open one of them—and I cannot decide which will come first. The books bear little resemblance to one another, but each is written by a writer I admire.
There’s The King of Taos by Max Evans. If it’s anywhere near as good as his Hi-Lo Country or The Rounders, it will be well worth the wait. I once had the privilege of having lunch with Ol’ Max Evans and a few other writers. He said something I will never forget; in fact, I used the line as the basis for a poem. He was telling us a story—something, he said, that happened a long time ago. He paused, then said, “Hell, when you get to be my age, everything was a long time ago.”
My friend Marc Cameron has a new novel, Stone Cross, featuring Arliss Cutter, a Deputy US Marshal stationed in Alaska—an assignment Marc knows all about, and his Arliss Cutter novels demonstrate that. Marc also knows about writing, and his political espionage thrillers featuring Jericho Quinn can keep you up nights.
Finally (for now), I have a new collection of short stories by Wendell Berry, Stand By Me. I have read many, probably most, of the stories elsewhere, but Berry is such a remarkable writer I can’t wait to read them again.
But I will have to wait.
I will wait shivering with anticipation.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Really stupid words, Chapter 12.

For some reason I have never been able to discern, certain words and phrases spread like viruses and, seemingly overnight, become buzzwords, banalities, clichés, trite, and hackneyed.
As so much of our discussion of late has turned to the spread of another kind of virus and the associated illness, there are a couple of phrases that are so overused they are making me sick.
“New normal.”
Was there an “old normal”? Is there even a “normal”? We live—as has humankind as far back as history can teach us—a fluid, ever-changing existence, where expectations are seldom realized and the unexpected is ever-present. “Normal,” whether new, old, or otherwise, seems meaningless in any concrete way. Now, perhaps, more than ever.
Then there’s “game changer.” What started out as a sports cliché is now used to describe almost anything that might affect something. Or everything. The “things” involved don’t seem to matter. Nor does it matter that there is no game involved. If “game changer” was ever an apt metaphor, it has long since lost its power.
Why not just say or write what you mean? Why not describe the behavior or activities that are changing, rather than tossing out meaningless twaddle like “new normal”? Why not explain the effect something will have rather than just calling it a “game changer” and leaving it at that?
The answer is simple. Tossing around clichés is easier than thinking. The inability to think clearly, then speak or write clearly, seems to be the new normal. And that could be a game changer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A Thousand Dead Horses, Hobbled.

With most everything having been shut down over the past few months, Five Star, the publisher of my Western novels, has reined up the release of books, putting the whoa on them for six months. Which means they will not take the hobbles off A Thousand Dead Horses, scheduled for release this August, until February 2021.
And, of course, the other books they have from me, And the River Ran Red, All My Sins Remembered, and This Thy Brother will likewise be delayed.
Another of my publishers, Oghma Creative Media, where Saddlebag Dispatches magazine comes to life, and who will be releasing paperback, e-book, and audio editions of my earlier novels as well as an original “Rawhide Robinson” tale, and likely some other books, is also ground-tying their saddle stock while they figure out how to negotiate the trail ahead.
The coronavirus mess has likely reached us all in some way. I learned recently a man from my hometown, who I grew up with, died of it. He’s the first personal acquaintance to do so—that I know of—and I hope he will be the last.
Stay safe. And spend some of this down time in the pages of good book about the American West. It will be time well spent.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Going walkabout.

My home state is big, ranking thirteenth in land area of the 50 states. But when it comes to population, Utah ranks thirtieth. So, you might think we’re spread pretty thin here. However, we rank seventh in the nation in the percentage of our people who live in urban areas. Then again, only four of our 29 counties qualify as “urban.” 
Which means we are pretty tightly packed in a fairly small area.
Eighty percent of our 3.2 million people live in a band some 25 miles wide and just over 100 miles long. The county I live in is home to more than a million people, on a land area that, if square, would measure just over 27 miles on a side. I can stand on my roof and see most of it.
What’s the point?
The point is, that despite it all, it’s easy to get away from it all in Utah. You can drive tens, scores, even hundreds of miles on mostly empty roads. Get off the road, and there are vast areas where you find little, if any, trace of mankind.
A few days ago, we went hiking. My oldest daughter took the photograph above. You would be hard-pressed, I think, to find a more beautiful picture or place anywhere. It’s calm, it’s quiet, it’s restful, it’s serene.
As the crow flies, it’s about three-and-a-half miles from my house.
Three-and-a-half miles.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Where I’m going, Part One.

A few days ago while watching a movie I heard a snippet of “Never Been to Spain” by Three Dog Night. It was written by the late, great, Hoyt Axton and was a big hit back around 1971.
The song, as they sometimes will, got stuck in my head. And it set me to thinking about all the places I’d like to go but have yet to see.
As the song says, I’ve never been to Spain. And although I would not object to seeing Barcelona play at Camp Nou, a trip there isn’t really on my list. The fact is, most of the places I long to visit are much closer to home.
For example, there’s Death Valley.
I have visited places north, south, east, and west of there, but have never seen Death Valley. I fully intend to go there one day. Judging from photographs and reading, it’s a stark, harsh, barren place. Some people don’t appreciate such beauty, but I have come to. One can never imagine that dirt and rocks come in so many colors until you see the deserts of the American West.
And, to imagine the suffering and hardships—and the joy—experienced by the Indians, the explorers, and the travelers who visited there in days gone by is inspiring. Especially when you realize they looked upon the same scenery you see today, and it is relatively unchanged.
Death Valley, here I come.
One of these days.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Change the subject?

When I speak or present workshops at writers’ conferences, I always explore what other writers—both those attending the conference and other presenters—write about. With few exceptions these days, it’s fairies, or wizards, or vampires, or zombies, or witches, or elves, or dragons, or dwarfs, or demons, or space aliens, or other such make-believe things that do not exist in the real world. Even the “worlds” are mostly made up.
I wonder why.
What is the attraction of these non-existent, unrealistic, fantastical characters and the make-believe worlds they live in? What draws so many to write about them? What attracts so many to read about them? I have read a few such novels over the years, and most escape me in their appeal. Others are well written, enjoyable, escapist reads.
But a little bit goes a long way. I soon find myself craving realistic landscapes, realistic characters, realistic conflicts, realistic lives, realistic rights and wrongs, and the ambiguity of the real world.
Perhaps I would find more success as a writer if I invented pretend worlds and populated them with fantastical characters. But, for my money, fairies and dragons just can’t compare to cowboys and horses and cows and the American West.
So, I guess I’ll stick to the subject.