To The Duke

To The Duke

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Will I ever catch up?

Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of Cactus Country. We are doing so well that High Hill Press hired another new editor last week. I'll have her information on the High Hill website soon. I'm going to ask for just a little more patience while we get our books printed and shipped. We didn't expect the rush of orders, and although we're working as hard as we can, we keep running out of books. Now ain't that somethin' to complain about? I'm not complaining, I'm grateful that our hunch about westerns and what people want to read was correct. And we're thrilled with the new offerings we have coming up shortly. Dusty Richards has a new book coming out in November called Outlaw Queen. Michael Andrews, our artist friend, is working on a cover now. Then in December we'll have the second volume of our Cactus Country Anthology. We have more wonderful writers in this one, Spur winners and future Spur winners alike. And hopefully by the middle of December we'll have a short story collection out by Brett Cogburn titled The Devil's Hoofprints. In a very short time, Cactus Country, the western division of High Hill Press, has become a success. And it's all due to the support of folks who love westerns. Thank you.

And now just for fun. Guess who these eight western actors are and we'll give you an extra 20% off on any book you order from High Hill Press.
Rex AllenSmith BallewGene BarryWilliam Boyd

PanchoDuncan RenaldoChill WillsFuzzy Knight

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Yahoo! I'm back!

Sholes-Glidden  1874
For the last several weeks I've been cussing and kicking and generally being a female curmudgeon because of internet problems. I finally got things fixed, but not before I spent weeks in agony when I realized everything I do is connected to my computer.  It made me long for the "Good Old Days," which is something I do often anymore. Nearly a decade ago I was nominated for Pushcart Prize for an essay I wrote called Slow the Spinning Earth. The essay deals with the way our world seems to be moving too fast. Technology is taking over. Electric everything is the way of the world. I tried, when I wrote the essay, to slow things down a little--at least in my little corner of the world. I drug out old dishes and served our meals by candle light. Against our sub-division rules, I hung my laundry outside to dry in the sunshine. I even bought a bicycle and thought I'd do short errands with it and at the same time get myself in shape.
     Needless to say, my struggle against technology didn't last long. I was fine on the bicycle as long as all my errands were down hill. Up hill was a bear and I soon put the bicycle on a hook in the garage and there it still rests. I pulled all my appliances out of their storage spots and diced and sliced and blended with electricity again. My typewriter went back on the shelf and my computer regained its position on the desk. I hate it that we're so dependent on our computers and cell phones and Ipads. But it's a sad truth that can't be changed. Cowboys didn't have that problem. They didn't lay awake at night wondering how long it would be before they could download and upload and work on websites and blogs.
     Typewriters won't copy and scan and attach pictures and documents to an electronic letter, but they still do a great job on some things. This past few weeks I've kept notes, made lists, and jotted down ideas on the old Remington I now keep next to my computer to help me keep in touch with the past. I've collected old typewriters for about 40 years. I used to find all kinds of weird looking machines at flea markets and garage sales for just a few bucks. Not so much anymore. And sadly I don't think the lack of machines available is because other people are collecting them too. I think most of them have ended up in landfills because they're too cumbersome and heavy to collect or keep. I've got a couple of them that I would guess weigh nearly 30 pounds.
     I apologize for neglecting this blog for so long, but now you know why. And for those of you who are worrying because I haven't answered an e-mail, I'll catch up this week. While I'm struggling to get everything back in order, here are a few tidbits about typewriters for ya. You should try and find one of these wonderful machines and keep it next to your computer as a reminder of how far we've come. I refuse to say "how lucky we are," because honestly I don't think we're all that lucky to have moved so quickly into an age where we are completely dependent on electronic machines that seem to have a mind of their own. And I really do wish we could somehow, "Slow the Spinning Earth."

Caligraph   1880
 The first concept for a typewriter was way back in 1714. But it was a struggle to find something that people could use easily, and it didn't really get off the ground until the early 1800's when an Italian invented the first workable typewriter. But even then it wasn't a common machine. Mostly because a good majority of the population couldn't read or write anyway, so there was no need for one. When typewriters were refined by the English in 1820 they began to be manufactured in mass. There's even a big debate about whether Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol on a typewriter.

Blickensderfer early 1800s

Peerles   1895

Typewriter Museum

And for those of you who have books coming, they'll be shipped sometime this coming week. Thanks for being so patient. I'd also like to thank my good friend Donna for being so nice about answering e-mails from people wondering just where I'd gone. Donna and I joke all the time that I should be paying her a salary as my personal assistant. She's always fielding questions from people about my where-a-bouts. Thanks Donna!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Are we cheating our audience by not putting in as much description?

First off, sorry folks for not posting lately. My computer is on the fritz. I'm using an old laptop today that seems to be chugging too, so who knows how long it'll hold up. If it dies, I'll go to the next in line. I have a virtual graveyard of machinery that stretches way across my office. The genius who will fix all my problems isn't due here until Wednesday, so until then I guess I'll cross my fingers, say a little Holy Roller prayer, and keep typing.

I got into a conversation yesterday with an old friend. We started discussing western novels and how they've changed over the years.This friend bought Louis L'Amour books when Louis was still writing them. He said he didn't like the new westerns because they didn't spend the time describing the western landscape like the old ones did. I said that authors now don't need to spend endless pages on description because we already know what the west looks like. He said not having all that "beautiful descriptive prose" took the joy out of reading a western. I got to thinking about that, and although I've had this very same discussion with a western author who virtually said the same thing, that those long passages of description aren't necessary anymore...I'm beginning to wonder if my friend isn't right, and by leaving some of it out, we are maybe watering down the western. I've read a lot of western novels in my day, and I guess I honestly haven't paid all that much attention to how the descriptions in the new ones differ from the old ones. I know the language is different, and sometimes the narrative in any book written before the 60's or 70's is a hard knot of words to follow, but the actual description is something I hadn't thought of. Let me know what you think. And I've listed a few books below that Western Writers of America put on their list for best all time western novels.

All the Pretty Horses
by Cormac McCarthy
John Grady Cole, a 16-year-old dispossessed Texan, crosses the Rio Grande into Mexico in 1949, accompanied by his pal Lacey Rawlins. The two precocious horsemen pick up a sidekick--a laughable but deadly marksman named Jimmy Blevins--encounter various adventures on their way south and finally arrive at a paradisiacal hacienda where Cole falls into an ill-fated romance.

Call of the Wild
by Jack London
Kidnapped form his safe California home. Thrown into a life-and-death struggle on the frozen Artic wilderness. Half St. Bernard, half shepard, Buck learns many hard lessons as a sled dog: the lesson of the leash, of the cold, of near-starvation and cruelty. And the greatest lesson he learns from his last owner, John Thornton: the power of love and loyalty.Yet always, even at the side of the human he loves, Buck feels the pull in his bones, an urge to answer his wolf ancestors as they howl to him.

by James A. Michener
A stunning panorama of the West, CENTENNIAL is an enthralling celebration of our country, brimming with the glory and the greatness of the American past that only bestselling author James Michener could bring to stunning life. From the Native Americans, the migrating white men and women, the cowboys, and the foreigners, it is a story of trappers, traders, homesteaders, gold seekers, ranchers, and hunters--all caught up in the dramatic events and violent conflicts that shaped the destiny of our legendary West.

Death Comes for the Archbishop
by Willa Cather
Death Comes for the Archbishop traces the friendship and adventures of Bishop Jean Latour and vicar Father Joseph Vaillant as they organize the new Roman Catholic diocese of New Mexico. Latour is patrician, intellectual, introverted; Vaillant, practical, outgoing, sanguine. Friends since their childhood in France, the clerics triumph over corrupt Spanish priests, natural adversity, and the indifference of the Hopi and Navajo to establish their church and build a cathedral in the wilderness. The novel, essentially a study of character, explores Latour's inner conflicts and his relationship with the land, which through the author's powerful description becomes an imposing character in its own right.

by Louis L'Amour
He was a man etched by the desert's howling winds, a big, broad-shouldered man who knew the ways of the Apache and ways of staying alive. She was a woman raising a young son on her own on a remote Arizona ranch. And between Hondo Lane and Angie Lowe was the warrior Vittoro, whose people were preparing to rise against the white men. Now the pioneer woman, the gunman, and the Apache warrior are caught in a drama of love, war, and honor.

Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurtry
Set in the late nineteenth century, Lonesome Dove is the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana -- and much more. It is a drive that represents for everybody involved not only a daring, even a foolhardy, adventure, but a part of the American Dream -- the attempt to carve out of the last remaining wilderness a new life.

Monte Walsh
by Jack Schaefer
With humor and pathos author Schaefer chronicles the passing of the Old West. In loosely connected episodes he vividly portrays the life and times of working cowboy Walsh, side-kick Chet Rollins, and other memorable characters of the Slash Y. Here are shootings, cattle drives, winter storms, and spring floods; cattle rustling, romancin’ and horse breaking. Man and beast, pushed to the limits of their endurance, survive or perish.