"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tony Hillerman

On the 27th of October, we were driving home from the Women Writing the West conference that had been held this year in San Antonio, Texas. In one of life's little ironies, we had just crossed over onto the Navajo Nation and were enjoying a beautiful New Mexico sunrise when we heard on the news that Tony Hillerman had died the day before. To be there at that moment when we got the news made me want to cry even though I never knew the man.

As we crossed a corner of the land that he wrote so vividly about, I found myself recalling all my favorite books of his: The Dark Wind, The Blessing Way, A Thief of Time, Coyote Waits, Skinwalker. I will admit that who-dun-it mysteries have never been my favorite type of books, but Hillerman's books were the exception for me. I loved his stories, the setting, and his protagonists Leaphorn and Chee. He is going to be missed, and his books will be coveted more than ever before.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Education of a Wandering Man

I've always been a fan of Louis L'Amour books. I read a number of them when I was in my twenties. As a matter of fact, I think his stories had a direct influence on my interest in the history of the American West and, subsequently, what I eventually chose to write about. I had had his memoir on my bookshelf for probably twenty years and decided it was high time I read it. It was a wonderful, enlightening book of a humble, hard-working man who quit school at the age of fifteen but who had such a thirst for knowledge that he never went anywhere without a book in his pocket. It tells of his struggle to become a published writer, and how he acquired an education from his many travels, jobs, and adventures as well as from simply reading, reading, reading. This is an inspiring book for fans of L'Amour and for writers in general.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Roundup Magazine Reviews The Last Rodeo

Another great review came in for The Last Rodeo from Roundup Magazine, published by Western Writers of America. The reviewer said, "Duty makes a difference in this tale . . . the apex of the story is one you'd never guess, making for some darn good story-telling."

You can see more reviews in previous posts.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Shadow of the Wind

Last night I finished reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. My first inclination was to turn back to page one and read it again--it was that good--and I never read books more than once. Mainly because I have so many on my reading list and so little time. As soon as I finish one, I move onto the next one. If they don't grab me right away, they end up in a box that goes to the library or the used bookstore. (Life is too short to waste it on bad books.) But this one I'll keep. I felt just like the character in the book who discovered the most wonderful book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. If you haven't read it, you should.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An Excerpt from The Last Rodeo

Here's an excerpt from Chapter One of The Last Rodeo. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter One

Dev Summers buckled on his chaps and pulled the deerskin glove onto his riding hand, cinching it tight at the wrist. He blocked out the din of the rodeo, of everything except the sound of the announcer's baritone voice coming from the loudspeakers, smoothly playing to the audience.

"Ladies and gentlemen, our next cowboy has been riding rough stock since he was old enough to walk. Five-time Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association's World Champion, and four-time Professional Bull Rider World Champion, Dev Summers is the only man to have ever ridden the notorious Satan 101--a big, rank old bull that's been named the PBR's Bucking Bull of the Year for three consecutive years.

"Early last year in Montana, though, Old Satan got even with our cowboy and nearly ended his career. But you can't hold a good man down. Dev's back in the running, and, as luck would have it, he's drawn into another go-round with Satan."

A hush fell over the crowd as they realized this could be the ride of the night, maybe even a ride that would go down in the annuls of rodeo history. But what most of them didn't know was that Satan 101 had turned killer.

Nobody had wanted to ride him since April when Tim Roberts, a guy with whom Dev must have logged a million miles over the last twenty years, had run out of luck up at the Nampa Classic in Idaho. The bull had turned on him with the same vicious intent he'd laid out for Dev last year at the NILE Invitational in Billings, Montana. While all the cowboys had helplessly huddled in shock around Tim, the bull rider had died in Dev's arms before the Justin Sportsmedicine Team could reach him.

Tim's death had left a pall hanging over the bull riders. Every cowboy who'd drawn Satan since April had learned how to pray--and how to mean every word of it. Many had been hurt bad enough to be knocked out of the competition. Others had barely escaped injury. No one had ridden him.

The beast was at this moment trying to hook every cowboy within reach of his deadly horns, effectively sweeping them off the sides of the chute like dust from a doorframe before completing his customary exhibition and dropping to all fours, ready to fulfill the announcer's rhetoric.

Dev removed his Resistol hat to mop the sweat from his brow with his shirt sleeve. With a foot on either side of the metal chute, he eased out over the brindle's wide back, reminding himself that he could beat Satan. He'd done it once; he could do it again. All he had to do was focus and not think about what the animal was capable of doing. His entire career--maybe his entire life--would ultimately be measured by this one ride. The announcer's glowing words made him sound so indestructible, but the announcer wasn't close enough to smell his fear.

Satan felt Dev's pant legs brush his hide, and he reared again, forcing Dev to scramble to safety. Along with his other injuries, Dev had pulled his groin muscles last week, and it was there he felt the strain from his hasty retreat. He was tired of always fighting the pain, riding it out, sucking it up, swallowing it down. He was thirty-five--too old for this shit. He hurt everywhere, and he was sick of it. Damned sick of it. There was no longer a thrill to dally with death. He’d accomplished all he’d set out to do in the sport and then some. There were no more mountains to climb--except maybe to ride Satan one last time.

Walk away, man, while you still can. You've been wanting to for a long time. He heard Tim's voice in his mind, as if he were standing right there next to him. And maybe he was.

Don't worry, old buddy. Win or lose, live or die, this is going to be my last ride.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Five-Star Reviews for The Last Rodeo

The Last Rodeo got a terrific five-star review from Midwest Book Review! They called it "a unique and highly recommended piece of western fiction."

I also received a five-star review from multi-published author, Karen Lockwood. She said, "Linda's been known for her historical novels, so this is a departure for her, and a journey well worth the read. She should gain a whole new following of readers with this one. You're going to love this book."

Published author, B. J. Anderson, said, "This book pulled at the heart and left me feeling satisfied! The characters were so human, and their hardships kept me turning pages. I will read [this book] again and again over the years to come."

Watch for an excerpt from Chapter One soon to be posted here on my blog.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Short Story Finalist

I just found out that my short story, "The Ranch," is a finalist in Women Writing the West's first annual short fiction contest! The winners will be announced at the WWW conference on October 24th at the conference in San Antonio. The five stories selected as finalists will also run in Women Out West Magazine, starting with the January 2009 issue. Pretty exciting stuff!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Critiquing Your Own Work

Do you ever have problems critiquing and revising your own work? Don't know where to begin? Here are a few interesting quotes on the subject from well-known writers:

"Think of and look at your work as though it were done by your enemy. If you look at it to admire it, you are lost." Samuel Butler

"A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself." Marianne Moore

"I write my first version in longhand (pencil). Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand . . . then I type a third draft on yellow paper, a very special certain kind of yellow paper. No, I don't get out of bed to do this. I balance the machine on my knees. Sure, it works fine; I can manage a hundred words a minute. Well, when the yellow draft is finished, I put the manuscript away for a while, a week, a month, sometimes longer. When I take it out again, I read it as coldly as possible, then read it aloud to a friend or two, and decide what changes I want to make and whether or not I want to publish it. I've thrown away rather a few short stories, an entire novel, and half of another. But if all goes well, I type the final version on white paper and that's that." Truman Capote

Saturday, September 6, 2008

September Issue of IDAHO Magazine Now Available

I got my September issue of IDAHO Magazine and was really pleased with the article that Bill Corbett wrote, entitled, "From the Wild West to You," a feature about my life growing up on a ranch and how it has influenced my writing. If anyone gets the chance to read it, let me know what you think. Those who have read it so far, said they really enjoyed it. If you'd like to read more of Bill's work, click on the Will Edwinson link (the pseudonym Bill uses for some of his work). His book, "Buddy, His Trials and Treasures," relates the somewhat mischievous adventures of a young boy growing up in the 1940s.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

To Be Featured in IDAHO Magazine

Great news! IDAHO Magazine will be running a feature article on me in their September issue. The article is written by Idaho writer, Bill Corbett (Buddy, His Trials and Treasures--wa/Will Edwinson). If anyone is interested in reading the article, go to the magazine's website (click the link at the right) and see where you can buy a copy. The September issue will probably be released at the end of August. What an honor to be featured in this wonderful magazine.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hot Times in Dinosaurland

It was a scorcher again this year at the Utah Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo Days (no wonder the dinosaurs went extinct!). But the arts and crafts booths still drew a crowd. I shared a booth with Bonny's Beaded Things. We sold a lot of jewelry and books and had a great time visiting with each other as well as with the locals and many people from out-of-state. We each also conducted a drawing and both lucky winners were Vernal residents.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My New Book, The Last Rodeo, is Now Available

My new novel, The Last Rodeo, is now available through Barnes and Noble online as well as Amazon. You can go directly to either site by clicking on the links in my "Favorites" column. You can leave a review of the book on either site as well. If you prefer, you can order it from your favorite local bookstore.

For an autographed copy, please contact me at: linda@linda-sandifer.com or lindasandifer@live.com

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Last Rodeo - Book Cover

Here it is, along with blurb. It isn't available yet to order, but I'll let you know as soon as it is.

The long road home

Dev Summers wants nothing more than to quit the grind of the rodeo and return to his grandfather's Nevada ranch. At thirty-five, and battling serious injuries, his decision to retire from professional bull riding thrusts him into conflict with his freewheeling dad and brother. . .and into the arms of July Jones, a woman he dare not love.

Running from a failed marriage and an empty life, July is searching for meaning to her existence. She seeks sanctuary at the ranch with Dev, her long-time friend and confidante. As she struggles with her own inner conflict and her growing desire to be more than Dev's friend, she becomes the catalyst that sets his family on a course they did not seek, nor could have foreseen. But before their broken lives can mend, tragedy and a murderous plot will force them to face what they have become.

Filled with heartbreak, passion, and hope, The Last Rodeo is an enthralling story of love, regret, conviction, and the unforgettable journey of a family in transition.

"Great story-telling, a stunning sense of place . . . one of the finest and most authentic western novels to come along in ages."
Irene Bennett Brown, author of The Bargain

"The Last Rodeo brings the world of professional bull riders into sharp focus–the swagger, the glory, the danger, the pain–along with the pride and heartache of the women who love them."
Dee Marvine, author of The Lady Rode Bucking Horses

ISBN: 978-0-9816332-0-6
Strathaven Books

Cover photo and design by Emily Sandifer (click the Sandifer Photography link to see more of Emily's work).

Friday, May 2, 2008

National Day of the American Cowboy - July 26, 2008

From the beginning of exploration into our country's interior, the American West embodied all the elements of a mythical land of great proportion. Our nation had no legendary Robin Hood or King Arthur, but from its wild and dangerous frontier emerged the cowboy who quickly became a hero, symbolic of American independence, chivalry, morality, courage, loyalty, generosity, strength, and good prevailing over evil. He was made more famous by dime novels and eventually films. Who hasn't wanted to be a cowboy at some point in their lives?

In a campaign by American Cowboy Magazine and its readers, a tribute to the cowboy was signed into effect by President George W. Bush in 2005, officially making the fourth Saturday of July the National Day of the American Cowboy. Around the West, celebrations and ceremonies are now taking place every summer to honor this icon of American history.

I haven't heard about any celebrations in my area, which is a disappointment, but I hope to get the word out as I promote my new book, The Last Rodeo. Watch for a cover and blurb coming soon. And if you have any tributes in your locale for Day of the Cowboy, I'd like to hear about them.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Human Condition

My work-in-progress had come to a standstill around page 170. Days passed while I considered what was causing the writer's block, and I suspected it had something to do with the main character. In the past when a book has come to a standstill, it is usually because I haven't dug deep enough into the character's past, motivations, conflicts, and all that good stuff. Until I could pinpoint why this character was flat, I knew the book would go no farther.

Then it seemed that everywhere I turned, I was finding discussions and articles reminding me that the characters we writers create must face social and personal issues that most of us can relate to on some level, whether we have faced a similar situation, know of someone who has, or can merely empathize with it. When our characters face frailties and pitfalls, then our stories will transcend time and place. I realized, as I had suspected, that I hadn't fleshed out the main character enough. What I had made of her was basically superficial; i.e., I hadn't delved deep enough into the human condition.

As William Faulkner once said, "The only stories worth a writer's blood and sweat and tears are stories of the human heart in conflict with itself."

Another lesson re-learned. Sometimes we just have to drag out the homework again.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What Willa says

"The stories that engage us as adults are based on experiences we had before we turned 15."

I thought this was an interesting observation made by Willa Cather, the author for whom the WILLA Award is named.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Writing a Book is an Adventure

Here is a quote from Winston Churchill that I just had to share:

"Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Things That Go "Bump" in the Night

Most scary movies are not really scary to me because they are too over the top to be believable. However, The Sixth Sense was one movie that made it hard to go to sleep after watching it.

I didn't go looking for When Ghosts Speak by Mary Ann Winkowski, but I happened to stumble on it while in Barnes and Noble the other day. According to the book's introduction, Mary Ann is the consultant to the TV series, The Ghost Whisperer, and she can see ghosts. She says ghosts are with us all the time. That creeps me out. I had to buy the book.

You might wonder why an author of mostly western-type books is talking about ghosts. Well, it's because I've always been intrigued by the paranormal and particularly haunted places (God knows, there are a lot of those in the West). Three of my western romances--Desire's Treasure, The Turquoise Sun, and Firelight--had paranormal elements. A ghost of a Jesuit Priest played a significant role in Desire's Treasure. Recently when I decided to write a contemporary suspense, it only seemed natural to throw in a bit of the paranormal. This new book doesn't deal with ghosts per se, only with a heroine who has psychometry abilities to help her find . . . wait, what was that? A sound in the hall. Like a footfall on the carpet. I turn to look. There is no one there. Well, of course not. I'm alone. It must have just been the house . . . settling.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Perfect Pitch

I found some really good information on how to write a winning pitch for your book. It is on the website of Manus & Associates Literary Agency. Look under "Info for Writers." The website is www.manuslit.com

Thursday, January 10, 2008

That Thing Called "Try"

When I was writing about the rodeo world in my upcoming novel (to be released this fall), I learned that "try" is probably the most important word in a rodeo cowboy's vocabulary. I realized recently, though, just how relevant that word is for writers, too, if they want to be published, and if they want to keep getting published. We get discouraged sometimes when we go through dry spells and it's easier to quit than to keep forging ahead. Like most writers, I've had my days when I've thought about giving it all up to devote my time to a hobby that didn't involve characters and plot development.

During the holidays, my youngest daughter got married at our home, and with all the company, my office became the "catch-all" room. So, after the new year began I had no choice but to clean it up if I wanted to get to my computer. I realized I had no place to put all the stuff that had been stacking up, and I would have to clean out some old filing cabinets or buy new ones, and there wasn't any room for new ones. It was sort of like a treasure hunt. Honestly. I found things I had long ago forgotten I had. One would ask, "Well, if you forgot you had it and haven't used it for twenty years, then you should throw it away." But then you respond, "But now that I remember it's here, I'm sure to use it." You'll be proud to know that I didn't give into the urge. I shredded so much stuff that my paper shredder is now working only on one side.

And then I came across some old files that held all my early query letters and corresponding rejection slips/letters. I hesitated over those--for a long time. Maybe most people don't keep rejections -- why be reminded of failure, right? -- but maybe they don't represent failure at all. You see, I had forgotten the amount of "try" I had undertaken to get that first book published over twenty years ago until I opened those folders. I had forgotten how far I had come until I read some of those old (and very terrible) query letters. I had forgotten just how much I had learned on this long journey of being a writer.

In the end, I put all of those manila folders and all those rejection slips back into the file just in case I need to be reminded again about that thing called "try." I still have a ton of stuff to shred.