Sunday, June 29, 2014

What I Do Not Like to Read

Meaningless dialog- nothing closes up my book faster. I am not a big writer, or reader, of dialogue, and when it does not work, I find a new book.

I have tried to review, and/or edit three different projects for people in the past week and they all fell victim to bad or meaningless dialog. The first tried to be so regional that it was nearly impossible to read. I spend time in Louisiana every fall and people do not talk like her Louisianan’s. The two other projects, both from the same gentlemen were rife with meaningless dialogue.

The, “hey what’s going on,”

“Not much.”

“How ‘bout you.”


Where I Go for Inspiration
Maybe that is why I skip most of the dialogue, hard to write, hard to read.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Finding New Readers for Western's

I recently heard a comment that no one reads westerns anymore. Haven’t we all heard that, and often? And at first glance, that sure looks to be true. Reminded me of a baseball story, or maybe it was because I watched the Rockies and Brewers Friday evening.

As a kid growing up in Nebraska, I was a big New York Yankee fan. Not sure why I was, but I knew all the players, their positions and their numbers. One of my favorites was, Yogi Berra, the great Yankee catcher who once said, the reason he quit going to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant, to eat anymore, was, “Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.”

Maybe it’s that kind of reasoning that makes western novels something, “no one reads anymore.”

Yogi didn’t get it, and maybe those of us who encourage young people to read are thinking as off keel as he was. Often when today's readers decide to read a western they are steered to classics like, The Virginian, or Riders of the Purple Sage. Both great reads, but books I would say are much too dated and are difficult reading for a first time western reader. When one becomes a serious fan of westerns these will become, must, reads.

Some young readers are told to read Louis L’Amour, because his books are still sold everywhere and so many people have read them. I enjoyed many of L’Amour’s books and have read and enjoyed both The Virginian and Riders of the Purple Sage, but none of them are a first time western reader type of book.

So what would I suggest? Something by Elmer Kelton, Tony Hillerman or Loren Estleman to start. Why? I find them more captivating than some of the older westerns, might grab a young reader more quickly.

I also really like the modern day westerns of two Wyoming writers, C.J. Box and Craig Johnson. (Johnson’s books are the basis for the hit A&E series, Longmire and, the multi-award winning, Box has had a number of New York Times best sellers, centered on his Wyoming game warden, Joe Pickett. In my part of the world a lot of high school kids like these two writers.

How about a western movie to get them started. I like, Smoke Signals, The Last of the Dogmen, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Not the choices of anyone else I have seen, but I am talking about whetting the aptitude of readers for the western genre. Smoke Signals is hard hitting, Dogmen is a bit of a fantasy and Butch and Sundance has some great comedy and music. Something for everyone.

NOTE- This post is not about teaching about the west, it is about getting the younger generation interested in reading, once again, the western genre.
If you completely disagree with this post, I could always quote Yogi again. Responding to a question about remarks attributed to him that he did not think were his: “I really didn’t say everything I said.”

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Campsite at Fort Laramie

It is always fun to take a trip back in time. This weekend was the annual Mountain Man/Trapper rendezvous as Fort Laramie.

Trapping Brigade Leader - Only Person Wealthy Enough to get a Painting of Himself
 I like reading about and writing about the Trapper/Mountain Man time, 1820-1840, not sure that books from this era are as popular as they once were but it was a fascinating time in history. 
Non-camp Trader Pedaling His Wears

In 1834 Robert Campbell and William Sublette built their trading post on the Laramie River. This fort named Fort William, later became Fort John, and when the government bought it, as an army outpost, it became Fort Laramie.

Well Chosen Campsite
No cameras were around in the fort’s heyday, but I did my best, with a little photo editing and the help of a few modern day Mountain Men, to capture camp life at the fort before it became a destination for all wagons west.
Breaking Camp

Thursday, June 12, 2014

With Tongue Firmly Planted In Cheek

My All New – Tongue In Cheek – western trendy novel.

Looking at new trends in what is selling in the world of fiction, I believe a western could be a top seller again. A few things may need to be added to entice readers, a couple of zombies, a sexy female vampire, and someone famous from the era, like Billy the Kid or Buffalo Bill, maybe Wild Bill Hickok.

The story line needs to concentrate on romance as western romance sells well in today’s market. To be a top seller it might be best to make it an Amish romance.

Yep, I have it, a sure fire best seller, a steampunk, Amish, romantic western, complete with zombies, vampires and Billy the Kid. This has BEST SELLER, written all over it!

My working title – “The Kid, The Lady and the Bite Marks”

----Opening paragraph----

When Billy woke up he felt something he had never felt before, he was in love, and his neck hurt real bad. Then he saw her, dressed in a long, flour sack, dress and a bonnet, the undead, he had never before believed in zombies, but now he did - and it was love at first site.

Now I have work to do, write the book, open a new bank account, hire a financial consultant, and see who wants the movie rights. Believe I will shoot for around 75,000 words and, as you can see from above, I already have 57. Not that much left.

 My mind may be wandering a bit today, think I will head out to the garden and see if I can find something to water.

Gratuitous Photo from last evening, for no real reason, but it is a pretty cool sunset.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

What's In A Name ?

Register Cliff, about a day west of Fort Laramie by wagon, has been referred to as the great register of the trail. The large sandstone outcropping has hundreds of names carved in its banks.
The Cliff today
Unfortunately, too many modern names went over the top of carved names that had historical value. It is still fun to look at, and many, many historical names and dates can still be seen.

One of many names that still stands out today it is – G.O. Willard, Boston 1855. (He didn’t put in the comma, and he made a backward 's' in Boston, not sure I know how to do that on a computer).

 It is so well preserved that I thought I might Google old G.O. and see if there is any information on him.

I was surprised to find several things about him. Seems he didn’t last long in the west but did make it at least as far as Salt Lake City. But marriage records show him back in the Boston area by 1869. He died there at age 62 in 1893.

Maybe he lived a few years in Utah, possibly he went on to the west coast? Might make a fine story. Movies tend to portray people as so happy in their new lands, but reality and history often tells a different story – many went back, back home. I think I would like to read that story, all the perils of the trip west, get there, only to work and save enough money to go back.

Art work by a seven year old a year later
Doesn’t seem like we do this much anymore, carve our names to leave our mark. Although if you tell a five year old granddaughter to go ahead, she just might try it on the aspen in the front yard.
The Trail, a mile from Register Cliff, still looks pretty good. Haven't seen many wagons on it lately.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

My 5 Nonfiction Mistakes

Seems like every blog I read lately has a top 5 or 10 or 20 of something. Or a list of 5 or 10, do’s or don’ts.  I am not an exception, I occasionally post lists, and you know what, I like them. Today I have another – My top five list for things to avoid in writing nonfiction.

For those who have read my posts for a while, you already know, I have two fiction books ready for publication but keep putting it off. Now I have a nonfiction almost ready. I am not without publication experience, having many short stories and a large amount of nonfiction in print. But when it came to publishing my books – I keep skipping out. Now I have a goal, publish all three of my books and two collections of short stories in the next year. Wish me luck!

And now that list

Five Things To Avoid When Writing Nonfiction.

1.    When using footnotes or endnotes, like I did, make a memo of the source as you note it. Do not do what I did, add the endnote number and hope you can remember where it came from later. Yes, I had to go back and find them all – again.

2.   Outline before you start – I use just a list of chapter titles to keep me on track. Writing fiction with, stream of consciousness, can work, not so with nonfiction.

3.   It is often better to quote than to paraphrase. Gets to the point better.

4.   Photos work and are needed in nonfiction, they are unnecessary and cumbersome in fiction

5.   When you start writing, quit researching and write. If you need to fact check more, save it for the first edit.
Built By the CCC and the Inspiration for My Nonfiction Work

These are the things that held me back and slowed me down. If I do another nonfiction, and I have one in planning, I will at least avoid these five mistakes.