Tag: author commentary

Doña Luz

In the fall of 1962, I went with my father on a trip to Mexico. He was meeting a woman he had corresponded with. We arrived in Chihuahua on November 1, just in time to go with the woman’s family to the cemetery for El Día de los Muertos on November 2. In the next six weeks, we would go on a tour to Saltillo, San Luis Potosí, Mexico City, Morelia, Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, Durango, and back to Chihuahua. We saw a canyon full of Monarch butterflies, peasants carrying huge loads of firewood on donkeys, farmers plowing with oxen, boys bathing naked in a small waterfall and waving to the travelers, indigenous people in native dress, rural buses with goats tied on top, barbecued cow heads, paintings of President Kennedy on black velvet, the Basílica de Guadalupe, and a million other sights. On our return to Chihuahua, we visited the small museum maintained by Luz Corral, the widow of Pancho Villa.

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Crossing Over

One of the best pieces of advice I received when I was trying to find a home for my first novel came from an agent. She suggested that I not be afraid to try writing a genre western. As I had been writing short stories, articles, reviews, and poems for several years and was taking a big step toward book-length fiction, I was hesitant to try a second novel if my first one wasn’t going anywhere. But with her encouragement, I went to work on an idea for a traditional western. It took me a couple of years, in and around the shorter things I was writing, in addition to my full-time teaching position, but I ended up with a western novel.

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When the Poet Calls

It has happened to me, and I imagine it has happened to many of you: an aspiring poet is ready to “do something” with his or her work but needs a little help in knowing how to get it published (or “publicated,” as I have heard it called). Sometimes it is difficult to respond to such a request, but I have stumbled onto a few points that could be useful to others in giving direction to the emerging poet.

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Strange Fish

I had been teaching English as a grad student for five years, part-time, when I received an appointment to teach a section of composition at a branch campus of a community college. I had done an internship at the same place a year before, which meant that I had worked for free, grading papers and giving lectures for the regular instructor. Now he was on sabbatical, and his work load was divided up among a few part-time adjuncts, including me.

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Stranger at the Lookout

A few years back, I spent three months in Saltillo, Coahuila, in northern Mexico, where I studied Spanish philology and literature. For a good part of the time I was alone, and I didn’t mind it. The other lodgers in the boarding house, university students, had left for summer vacation, so I often sat at the big table and ate by myself. The language institute was changing its focus from advanced studies in language to a bilingual secretary program, so I was the only student in most of my classes. To get my exercise, I went on long afternoon marches, by myself, through various parts of the city. I would lace up my hiking boots, put on the straw hat I bought in Chihuahua, and set out, not concerned about whether people took me for an extranjero—a foreigner, or stranger. For the most part, no one paid me much attention and I went on my way, comfortable in the city that called itself “the Athens of Mexico.”

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My Literary Influences – Part 1

My sense of literary influence is rather broad. In the course of my undergraduate and graduate education I read all of the major novelists of Britain and America, plus many of the minor novelists. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the western novel, and in my teaching and writing career I have studied numerous short story writers plus many novelists I did not read the first time around. And in the midst of all of this, I have maintained a fondness for the two great epics of Homer. In order to discuss the most significant influences, I would have to cite three, as I could not pick two of the following to the exclusion of a third. As it turns out, one of my writers is British, one is American, and one is Canadian.

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Dorchester and the Doldrums

For thirteen years, from 1997 to 2010, the main outlet for my published work was Leisure Books, which was part of Dorchester Publishing. I began with the company when Don D’Auria was bringing the westerns line back to life. Our excellent relationship began when he acquired One-Eyed Cowboy Wild as a mass-market paperback reprint and Black Diamond Rendezvous as a paperback original. From that point on, we would do fifteen more paperback originals and one other reprint. I thought we were on the crest of the wave at the Western Writers of America convention in June 2010, when Don and Leah (Hultenschmidt) received the Lariat Award for their contributions to the western genre and when I received my second Spur award in paperback original. At that time I had a book that had gone through editing with Don (Gather My Horses), plus two more under contract. One (Dark Prairie) was written and in the pipe, and I was beginning to write the other when Dorchester dropped the bomb.

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