Novelist

Archive for October, 2011

Memories of the Texas Rangers

I’ve never held myself out as much of a baseball fan. Part of it, I’m sure, is that I grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and everything there — particularly when I was a kid — began and ended with the Dallas Cowboys. I also imagine that the state of the area’s professional baseball team, the Texas Rangers, had much to do with it. Simply put, they’ve been bad most of my life.

Emphasis on most of. They certainly aren’t bad now. For the second consecutive season, they’re in the World Series, and they head into Saturday’s Game 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals with the series tied 1-1.

This later-in-my-life success by my hometown team has made me an eager and unapologetic bandwagon jumper. For a bit of perspective, I turned to my stepfather, Charles Clines, a former sportswriter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram who, as a beat writer covering the Rangers in the 1970s, had a front-and-center seat for that bad bit of baseball theater.

Here are a few memories from Charles:

Charles Clines

I don’t remember a whole lot, except for some of the crazy stuff. I don’t remember the players focusing on winning their division, or even talking  about it. I think they were just happy to win a game every now and then, though several of them had other things on their minds when out of town.

The team had several guys who I would classify as self-centered losers. There were a few of the players I respected, though, with Jim Sundberg being at the top of the list. And a couple of them were fun to be around and who didn’t mind associating with a sportswriter.

Of course, there wasn’t a great fan base because the team wasn’t winning. That’s the main reason they showcased David Clyde, the pitcher just out of high school. I was lucky enough to be one of the writers at his pitching debut, the first sellout ever at Arlington Stadium. It was quite an outing for Clyde, who struck out and baffled some great hitters. (Here’s the boxscore from that game.) Too bad the Rangers didn’t protect him better and bring him along at a slower pace, but they needed the fans and the money at his expense.

David Clyde

What I remember the most is how immature many of the players were. Remember many baseball players come right out of high school, and they have never had a lot of media or public contact. Sometimes on the team bus when on a trip it was like being on a high school bus with unruly teens — maybe worse.

I don’t know how to compare those players with the current Rangers because I have no contact with the current team. But they obviously are MUCH more talented and hopefully much more mature, and they seem as if they are and they not only talk about winning their division, but winning the World Series. That would have only been in the dreams of the teams that I helped cover.


Awards and other jazz

Lots of great literary news from the weekend.

I’ll start with something not great but okay nonetheless: The Summer Son, which was up for the Utah Book Award in fiction, didn’t win. Congratulations to Gerald Elias, who took home the prize for Danse Macabre.

Here in Billings, the High Plains Book Awards were handed out at a ceremony Saturday. Some great books and authors were recognized:

Alyson Hagy won the fiction prize for her short-story collection Ghosts of Wyoming. I love this book and love the way Hagy writes. Her publisher, Graywolf, puts out a ton of great stuff, none better than Alyson’s work. Check it out.

Ruth McLaughlin, whose Bound Like Grass has already won the Montana Book Award, added another with the prize for best first book. I’ve already sung the praises of this book, but I’m happy to do so again. Get it.

The High Plains awards added a new category this year: art and photography. Dan Flores’ Visions of the Big Sky, published by the University of Oklahoma Press, was the winner.

In the nonfiction category, Rocky Mountain College professor Tim Lehman won for Bloodshed at Little Bighorn. I’ve seen Tim do readings from this book a couple of times, and his command of the history and narrative is just amazing. Last year, when 600 Hours of Edward won in the first-book category, I was told that I was the first Billings author to win a High Plains Book Award. I’m pleased that the club is no longer exclusive.

Henry Real Bird, whose tenure at Montana poet laureate just ended, was the winner for poetry with Horse Tracks. Henry’s an amazing storyteller and chronicler of his time and place. His book is well worth your time.

Finally, in the best woman writer category, Susan Kushner Resnick took the prize for Goodbye Wifes and Daughters, her account of the Beavercreek Smith Mining disaster. It’s a fine, fine book.

Congratulations to all!


Off to Missoula and other adventures

I told you I’d be back.

A few quick things …

The Montana Festival of the Book is this weekend in Missoula. Actually, it starts today, and in a cool collaboration, it’s being held in conjunction with the annual conference of the Western Literature Association, which means Missoula will be crawling with even more literary luminaries, if that’s even possible.

If you’re within driving distance of Missoula this weekend, I implore you to check out the incredible list of events and deliver yourself unto them. It’s going to be a great couple of days, and I’m proud to be able to join in the fun.

A few programming notes:

On Friday at 1 p.m., I’ll be at the Missoula Public Library with David Abrams (the forthcoming Fobbit), Keir Graff (The Price of Liberty) and Jenny Shank (The Ringer) to talk about literature blogs and how they’re influencing the lit world.

Saturday at 11, I’ll be back at the library for another panel — this time with Keir, publisher and poet David Ash, author and e-publisher Kathy Dunnehoff and publisher Dave Batchelder — to talk about the wild world of independent publishing and self-publishing. The bottom line, at least for me: Between the gold standard of the Big Six and the wasteland of poorly conceived, horribly written vanity projects, there’s a big, vibrant, thriving world of publishing. I can’t wait to chat with these folks about it.

After that, I’ll choke down some lunch and be back at Festival of the Book World Headquarters (aka, the Holiday Inn) for a reading from The Summer Son at 1 p.m.

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Speaking of The Summer Son

It’s being featured this month as one of Amazon’s hot 100 reads priced at $3.99 or lower ($2.99, to be exact). So if you’ve been holding out or you just bought one of those snazzy new e-readers, now is a good time to jump.

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Speaking of e-readers and e-books …

Just this week, I made a new e-book available for the Kindle and the Nook. It’s called Scenes of Suburban Mayhem, and it’s 17 very short stories that you might remember from The Word series here at the blog (which I’ve mostly taken down, now that many of them are compiled in this e-book). I originally wrote 21 of the pieces, but some of them just weren’t up to snuff. These 17, totaling about 16,000 words, are the ones that were best received here and other places I posted them.

For a cool $2.99 — less than a cup of designer coffee, and better for you — it’s yours.

To purchase for the Kindle, go here.

For the Nook, here.

See you next week!


A new direction: over and out (for a while)

On May 2, 2011, with this post, I began everyday blogging around here (well, Monday through Friday, anyway). For nearly five months, with the exception of a legitimate week’s vacation, I made sure something new was up every morning at 8. On Fridays, I even posted off-the-cuff short stories, inspired by words suggested by my friends.

I did this … why? To be sure, no one was clamoring for it. I did it because new authors — and I’m certainly one — endure this barrage of advice about building a platform, self-promoting, cutting through the muck and the mud of the publishing world and making a name. Daily blogging is one of the pillars of the author platform, or so we’re told. So I blogged. Even when I had little to say. Even when I needed the ample muscles of a friend.

And then, last week, I stopped. I did one last short story, big turd that it is, and that was that.

I’m done. Which isn’t to say I’ll never be around, never have something to say. In particular, the opportunity to bang the drum for other books and other writers is appealing to me — because of how interesting those folks are and because my daily wankery is not on display. Expect to see much more of those things and much less of the other, lesser stuff. This note aside, I’m tired of listening to myself, tired of reading my own facile words in this forum. It’s time to step back, shut up, and get busy doing what I’m here to do, which is to write stories. Social media, for all its wonder, has its hooks in the wrong parts of me, and the tweets and Facebook posts and blog posts and other nonsense have come to take up far too much of my time. I have a full-time job and a going-blind father and a sideline publishing business and a wife who’d like to see me once in a while, and I have books to write, too. There’s not room for everything, every day, and mine is not the sort of personality that can easily impose moderation, so we’re going to give this austerity thing a whirl.

Interestingly enough, I’m going be on a panel discussion about the role of literature blogs during the Montana Festival of the Book later this week.  I promise, this screed aside, I’ll have something cogent to say.