Sunday, July 31, 2016

Critique and Short Stories

I've attended two critique classes so far and received my first criticism. I can't say that it was easy hearing all the things wrong that they pointed out, but I need this to get an objective opinion about what and how I write. One comment was forthcoming from two or three of the critiquers that I should break up long paragraphs. I grinned to myself about this, because I do get carried away at times, but it is the age of Millenials and others who can't maintain a thought very long and think it is better to not have long paragraphs. The paragraphs in question to my way of thinking were not that long, being at the most three or four inches long only on the page. I may do as they say or leave it like it is. Time will tell as we go through the book.

I happened to be reading a short story by Walter van Thilburg Clark entitled The Wind and the Snow of Winter in which the paragraphs are mostly long, I mean almost full-page or three-quarters of a page or less, and one was about a page-and-a-half long..The critiquers may have had a heart attack if they had seen that. I thought, how times have changed! Clark, the son of a Nevada Governor, wrote some western stories in the first half of the twentieth century, and this story in 1944 for which he received the O. Henry Prize for shorter fiction. He is the author of The Ox-Bow Incident.

In The Wind and Snow of Winter he writes the story of an old prospector who sets out each spring to prospect for gold and returns in the fall. It is a very good description of someone in the first stages of dimentia, to me, and I liked it very much as he slowly starts losing his mind.

Ernest Haycox is another of the great western writers that was prolific in his production. I liked his story (not only this one, but others) entitled When You Carry the Star. It's about a Sheriff who has to hunt down one of his friends for murdering a storekeeper in cold blood while trying to rob the place.
Of course, he hates to go after a friend, but he must fulfill his duty as Sheriff, and he takes out on the trail. The story tells the feelings he has as he goes on the hunt and the psychology of the hunter and the hunted in the situation they are in - friend against friend.

I enjoyed both of these stories even though they both had some long paragraphs.     

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Just Watching Two

Just watching the Democratic Convention and wondered why Hillary hasn't held a press conference for over 230 days???? It is interesting to watch what goes on at these conventions. All the speakers say about the same thing. I don't have a clue what the Dem platform is other than it is the most progressive in history. Maybe Hillary will give us a clue in her speech of acceptance. I'm sure she will accept everything the speakers have said, free college tuition, forgive college debts, everyone gets what they want. They already receive free telephones, free utilities, free housing, free groceries. How about a free car, free clothing, free movie tickets, free auto service, free dining out, free money for everyone, free medical care, and on and on? Maybe she will bring all this up as her platform. O-oh, I can't wait.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Just Watching

Just watching the Republican Convention. Surprised by Ted Cruz's speech. Goes to show that Trump holds no grudges, but Cruz sure does. Looking forward to the Democrats to hear what Hillary has to say about all the lies, etc. She will probably ignore the talk.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

More Short Stories

Continuing with The Mammoth Book of Westerns, here are more stories:

Hamlin Garland won the Pulitzer Prize with Daughter of the Middle Border after he wrote Son of the Middle Border, his autobiographical books. I read Son of the Middle Border and thought it was interesting, but never got around to the other one. His short story in The Mammoth Book of Westerns is a portrayal of a destitute farmer who leaves his farm in Kansas broke andcould no longer grind out a living from the land. After a long day's travel in the wagon with wife and kids, he stops at a farmhouse to see if they could stay for the night. They are all hungry and sleepy after being turned down at other places, but Stephen Council takes them in with no strings attached.

After he hears the farmer's (Haskins) story he lets them stay and tells them about a farm nearby that is available from a local dealer in land who would let him have it at a reasonable price since it is in a rundown condition. They make a deal and the Haskins family moves into their new home. In two or three years - well, I won't tell you the whole story, but there is an interesting turn of events. There were many families in the position of the Haskins in that time period whose stories were never told, and Garland did a fine job on this one.

Zane Grey has a story in there, too, titled The Ranger, which I reviewed a couple of month's ago. I thought it was a good short story and enjoyed reading it.

Another novel I started in high school sixty-five or seventy years ago was The Virginian and I still haven't finished it. The author, Owen Wister, is said to have written the first traditional western in that story. Maybe I'll finish it one of these days, if I can find it. Anyway, At the Sign of the Last Chance is a short story by Wister that was reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Westerns, and it is a good one to my way of thinking. A man returns to this town after many years to find his old friends playing poker in the The Last Chance saloon. His friends look older and grayer than he remembered them, but it could be the same poker game still going on. The "boys" are reminiscing, talking about the cowboys they used to know like the Toothpick Kid and Buck, Chet, Duke.and Doc Barker. In the back where all the old magazines are piled up, a man is reading a story about the English naming their bars with two names like the Swan and Harp. Every once in a while, he would call out a name and ask the others what they thought about it. And they would make comments and continue gossiping about this and that. It got to be downright funny as I read. It was a very entertaining piece, and I would have finished The Virginian if it was more like this story.

Wine on the Desert by Max Brand was also an entertaining story about a man who is running from the law and stops in to see his old friend who has a small winery. This story turned out to be different than I thought, as the outlaw destroys the winery and ends up in dire straits.

There is a story by Conrad Richter titled Early Americana which is not an essay but a story of buffalo hunters on the Staked Plains and the families who live in or near the small town of Carnuel, a hide shipping point. And it is a story about Indians, too. A young man wants to become a buffalo hunter, but his plans are interrupted by a raid of the Kiowas and he falls in love with a girl that he never hardly noticed before. Not much dialogue to begin with, but turns into an exciting adventure before it is over. I liked this one, too, but I had Conrad Richter mixed up with the fellow who writes sea stories, Joseph Conrad, since I had never read anything by either one. Richter is a fine writer of westerns. Joseph Conrad wrote Lord Jim and others.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Project and Plans

I joined a critique group for the first time in late June. Looking forward to the group having a go at my latest book which is in draft form. They meet only twice a month, meaning it will take three or four months to get through my novel, but I'm in no hurry. After the two meetings I attended, I think it'll be a fine experience. We'll see.

Here is a short excerpt from Chapter 9:  The Merik house, which they saw from the trail was another quarter-mile set in a clearing surrounded by cedars and pinon trees on the flats. Nearing a gate, the Kid and Bobby were jolted out of their silence by shots from a rifle that whizzed by a couple of feet over their heads.

      "Hold up there and don't come any closer!" a female voice carried through the darkening night. "Who are you and what do you want?"

     "Is that you, Miss Merik? This is Kid Ferry and Bobby Chase-the-Lord," the Kid yelled. "We came to see about a cabin that we heard was empty. We need a place to stay for a while. We're coming on in."

     "Don't try any tricks or I'll let you have it with this rifle," said Daphne. "Come ahead slow and stay on your horses."

     "If you shoot, you'll kill the new sheriff of Idle Springs or his deputy," said Ferry, approaching the front of the house. "Trace Schneider said you may have a cabin we could rent, and we're desperately in need of a place to take off our boots and grab some shut-eye."

     "It's you, all right, Mister Ferry," said Daphne, rising from her position behind the bushes planted along the front next to the hitch rail. "I'm sure glad it wasn't that useless gang of thieves of Serge Castinat. Two of 'em came by here and threatened to burn us out if we didn't pack up and get out of Idle Springs. Pa told 'em we weren't going anywhere and they knocked him down, jumped on him, and hit him with bare knuckles. I don't know why anyone would want this place."

     "Why don't you put down that piece of artillery and we'll dismount and take a cup of coffee with you, said the Kid, "or if you haven't had supper, we'd sure like to join you. How's Mister Merik doin'?"

     "Pa is still in bed licking his bumps and bruises them cowards put on him, but he'll be up and around in a day or two," she said and opened the front door. "Come on in and I'll warm up some beans and throw in some bread and a cantaloupe fresh off the vine. That's about all we have to eat."

     "Sounds like a biblical feast to me the way my stomach has been growlin'," said Bobby, rubbing his midsection. He took off his hat and followed her into the cabin.

     "Can I talk to your father a minute, Miss Merik," said Kid Ferry. "Maybe he can help identify those skunks that beat him up."

     "He's probably sleepin'. His room is down that hallway there, the first door on your left. If he's awake, he'll talk to you."

     The house was an oblong, five-room affair with the front room taking up the area from wall to wall. The hall was on the right side of the house that led past three rooms and to the kitchen. The kitchen was the same size as the front room and held a wood-burning stove in one corner on which always sat the coffee pot. A large dining table and eight chairs made up the bulk of the furniture. Against one wall were the cupboard and a smaller table for food preparation or other use for which there was a need.

     Bobby followed the lady of the house to the kitchen, where she told him to take a seat at the table. She disappeared through the back door and returned carrying a cantaloupe and some raw potatoes.

     "They was the Castinat twins, Willie and Wylie. that beat me up," uttered Mister Merik from his bed. His face was white where it wasn't bruised or cut. "They both had beards covering their faces, them cowards. I was just finished milkin' my cows when they rode up, sayin' they wanted to parley. They began cussin' at me, telling me I better hightail it out of Idle Springs. Wylie yelled that his father wanted this no-good ranch for his cattle. And when I told 'em I wasn't movin' fer anyone, they both climbed off their horses and Willie knocked me to the ground. They both jumped on top of me and I couldn't do nothin' with Wylie holdin' my arms pinned to the ground and Willie hittin' me with his fists. I was about to pass out when Daphne shot at them and missed. They jumped up and shot back, but nobody hit anything, thank God. They hopped on their horses and rode away with most of my cattle. Daphne said she thought she winged one of 'em, but couldn't tell for sure. She helped me up and led me to my bed, and here I lay. That's about all there is to tell you, Sheriff."

     "Whey them dirty, rotten, low-down skunks, pickin' on an ole man," said Kid Ferry looking at the beat up face of Merik. "First thing tomorrow, me and Bobby are goin' to make a call on the Castinats. How many are they anyway? I thought we was up against only that Serge after Bobby shot his brother. We heard he went back into town with a gang. Who are they, Mister Merik?"

     "Probably Willie and Wylie and their cousins, the Barnetts. There's a passel of them, too."

     "Where is the Castinat's ranch from here? said Ferry "It must not be far if they want to take over your place."
     "It's only about three miles west along the trail you came up here on," said Merik, with his good eye half-closed and the other one swelled up so he couldn't open it.

     "Thanks. I'll leave you alone so you can git some rest," said the Kid, patting Merik's left shoulder and leaving the room. End of excerpt.

I'm planning to make my short stories available on Kindle or maybe even in print, and have been compiling them so I can layout the book.  Don't know how long this'll take, but they will all be in one place so you don't have to search for 'em.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Arizona Summer Events

AAA Magazine, Highroads, has a calendar of events taking place in Arizona over the long, hot, dry summer. Here are a few of them:

Jul 2-Oct 1 - The Grand Canyon Railway Steam Train in Williams, AZ. Tours to the Grand Canyon. True West includes this train engine in its review of trains that came out this month. Interesting.

Jul 8-10 - 19th Annual Prescott Indian Art Market, Prescott. Ends today. Better hurry to catch that one.

Jul 9-30 - Arizona Authors Summertime Storytelling & Craft Saturdays, Phoenix. Programs are perfect for children in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, taking place at the Pueblo Grande Museum. Great for authors of children's stories.

Jul 16 -Stargaze Kayaking, Yuma. Age 18 and over bring your field glasses and kayak (or just yak) on the Colorado River.

Jul 23 - Payson Book Festival, Payson. Was planning on attending, but the deadline passed befsore I knew it, even though I had plenty of time to sign up. This is the second year for this event and should be exciting for authors who signed up.

Jul 22-24 - National Day of the Cowboy Celebration in Sedona. Historical re-enactments, gunfights, roping, storytelling and poetry, western music and dance. Need I say more? Okay, I will. There will also be cowboy trades and art demonstrations and children's activities. If you are a cowboy and want to be traded, this is the place!

Now is the time to visit Arizona and attend some great events!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Last of the Misprints

Here we go again with the last few errors in print that I've collected over the years.

From Parade Magazine 7-5-97. The USS STARK had just been hit by an Iraqi attack and here's the picture:

Comment: The ship is listing to STARBOARD not port! Having spent some time on one or two of these ships and others, I think I know port from starboard. My wife may disagree on that, though.

The Arizona Republic 1/17/88:

Comment: Looks like a PIG to me! And I do know pigs from lambs no matter what my wife says..

From the Sun City Independent 10/8/2002:

Comment: This should get the audience excited - "presenting a one-act LAY."

The Phoenix Gazette 2/8/1979:

Headline: Organizing Time Subject Of Unusual Course

Excerpt: "Two years of studies indicate that persons utilizing Time Bank techniques increase their productivity as mjuch as 50 percent, according to Ron Huber, owner of Time Systems, Inc. of Phoenix.

     "People who manage their time more efficiently are appreciated by their employers and receive higher salaries in many cases," he added.

     "Relieving nervous tension during decision-making is another aim of the program.

     "I have been feeling much better about myself and my nob since I've been using the Time Bank techniques. Now, I have a much clearer picture about what I need to handle each day," said Dave Bos, manager of personnel administration for . . . . . . ."

Comment, if I can stop laughing long enough:  Maybe he can pass his technique on to the other employees. I would recommend he receive a raise, of course.
And the last one that was in The Daily News-Sun July 2, 2016, last Saturday:

This was an advertisement with the headline, Do You Have Trouble Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep?

Excerpt:  "If you are Female 55 and older or Male 65 and older and have had difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep for at least l month, you may be eligible to participate in a study for a new Investigational drug for INSOMNIA."

Comment: I don't think I wouldn't need the drug if I stayed "asleep for at least 1 month." They would have a heck of a time waking me up. Who am I, Rip Van Winkle?

That's all, folks!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Couple More Short Stories

Back in the 1940's, I started reading Jack London's Call of the Wild, but never finished it. It was just too boring for me, and I never read anything else by him. However, in this Mammoth Book of Westerns is a short story by him, All Gold Canyon, and I had to force myself to get through the first few pages. He took three to four pages describing how wonderful and verdant the canyon was with the stream forming a pond as it passes through the valley. He takes his time pointing out the cliff and the hillsides and the butterflies and flowers an bushes, etc., before there is any human showing up in the story.

A prospector shows up finally and the narrative takes a slightly different turn with the prospector admiring the perfect valley and deciding to dig for gold. He enjoys the hard work and the days of solitude as he digs his shovel into the ground here and there and decides on a plan to continue looking for gold. He found some small flecks by the stream and works up and down it until there is no more flecks showing in the panned earth. He starts digging up the hillside from the stream from the points where the last gold showed, his diggings making an inverted V from the top. He works from sunup to sundown, not taking lunch breaks, and falling onto his bedroll worn out at night. He then digs horizontally between the trails making the V, knowing that soon he will find the pot of gold. He is almost there when danger raises it's ugly head and leads to a fitting climax and an end to the digs. I won't give away the ending. but the story when it gets going is a fine piece of writing that I found enjoyable, changing my mind about London.

Now, we leave Alaska and head to Nebraska. Actually, I think the gold mining story was set in California, but it doesn't rhyme. Anyway, The Last Thunder Song, by John G. Neihardt, IS set in Nebraska on an Indian reservation. It's been a long spell with no rain on the hills and vales and the Indians are getting restless. The old Medicine Man, decides to do a rain dance in the hopes it will bring the badly needed rain to water the crops and end the drought. In attendance are some whites some Omahas, and some young Indian boys who have gone to the "White man's school." The Medicine Man begins dancing as the crowd watches, and he gets into the swing of it, feeling younger as he lifts his feet and legs and waves his arms, and sings for rain. He is about ready to finish, when some laughing from the young boys changes the mood and the Medicine Man knows the dance will not work. The new ways are taking over and the dancing is just for show, the old man knows and he feels older than he has ever felt before.

It was a nice story, well written, and reflected the changing world of the Indian in America.