Tag: western commentary

Dangerous Trails Commentary

Dangerous Trails, published by Prairie Rose Publications in June 2020, is a collection of twelve western short stories that (with one small exception) I wrote since my last collection (Blue Horse Mesa) came out in 2013.  This is my third collection of western short stories and my eleventh collection of short fiction. It includes “Return to Laurel,” which was a Western Writers of America Spur Award finalist and a Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award finalist, both in 2020.

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What the Western Has to Offer

During the summer between my fifth- and sixth-grade years, I had to go to the hospital to have my appendix taken out. While I was there, I read my first traditional western. I was ten going on eleven, and as I recall, the pediatric ward was full, so I was put in another ward to share a room with an old man (old to me, probably no older than I am now) who had stomach ulcers. Not having much in common with my roommate, and being a proficient reader, I turned my attention to the reading fare on hand. It was a novel called West of Abilene. For years after that, I had lingering memories of a few of its salient features.

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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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Small Expectations

I remember my eighth birthday with some clarity. It was in December of 1956, a short while after I learned that my mother had died. It was during the cold, clammy part of the year, and the two events overlap somewhat in my memory. I know that on one morning shortly after Thanksgiving, my father called me and my two brothers into the kitchen and told us that our mother (who had been living far away) had died. He told us we should tell our teachers, who needed to know that sort of thing.

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Write with Pride

I could see I was snowed in but good. My circular drive had three huge drifts, and the dirt road that led out to the paved road was drifted over in several places. Snow was still falling, and a hard, cruel wind was blowing from the northwest—a true Wyoming blizzard. I walked the half mile out to the corner to see how bad it was, and I decided I wasn’t going anywhere. Even if I did dig myself out and manage to get to the main road, I would lose a few hours, and most of my work would be drifted over when I got back.

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My Literary Influences – Part 2

I think of Homer as the father of narrative.

Having cited the three main influences on my development as a student and writer of fiction, I thought I might go on to discuss the topic in more variety. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have read a little bit here and there, as most people in my world have done. Most of us still have big things we haven’t gotten to, and most of us have gone off on our own paths of interest, but there is a core of literature that many of us share. I will mention a few highlights that are probably on other people’s lists as well.

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