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Sunday, December 18, 2016


I wrote my first book back in 1995. It is a nonfiction book titled Matsutake Mushroom, which was published in 1997. It is simply a true story about the harvest and sale of wild forest mushrooms, from the Pacific Northwest, for profit.

My education began when I started selling the book.
I visited the publisher to pick up a few copies to get started. When the publisher learned of my intended five-day, three-state tour, she insisted that I take on 400 copies. Despite my reluctance to attempt to sell so many, I took the books. What the heck, if they did not sell, I could always bring them back.

I was received warmly by many small book stores and convenience stores. The average sale was three to five copies. I visited the area where the actual story of the book took place and found that I had many critics. Men would thumb the pages and ask, “Where's the pictures?” Women would ask, “What kind of recipes are in here?” That book contained neither. Where did I go wrong? The story is based on actual facts, which no one can dispute. It seemed that some folks expected something other than what I was offering but, thankfully, by the end of my tour I had sold over 300 copies.

I learned quickly that if you are going to write nonfiction, number one, you better know what you are talking about and number two, don't get too far off the beaten path of what is expected. The book, hard copy only, still sells modestly.

Around 1995 I turned to writing what was and is my predominant interest, which is western fiction.
I never expected to write award winning stories such as those by greats Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey or Max Brand but I felt that I could spin a yarn, which could be construed as actually happening.
I began writing short stories and presented them for consideration with mild success.
In 2011 I was accepted as a member of Western Fictioneers. Happy to correspond with well known authors Robert Randisi, James Reasoner, Frank Roderus, Jory Sherman and others. I was greatly inspired by having a story included in the Fictioneers first anthology, The Traditional West. It got the creative juices flowing.

Troy, Livia, Cheryl and others offered and encouraged me to write compelling stories that aren't necessarily true but could have happened, if given enough historical facts to support the tale. The more facts you can produce, the better.
The actual history involved in a story could leave a writer scratching his head to find a way around it. I will not attempt to change history in any of my stories. The story has to revolve around the facts.

The Wolf Creek series is purely fiction and locked into 1871, now 1872.

In Wolf Creek 16, Luck of The Draw, part two, one of my characters is Luke Short, yes the famous gambler and gunman. Young Luke Short, eighteen at the time, according to history, did participate in driving a herd of cattle to Abilene, Kansas. He wanted to be a gambler so bad that he gave up trailing cattle and set out to make his own way as a professional gambler.
For the purpose of putting a well known name into 'Bet The Boots' I used Luke Short. One, he was a gambler. Two he was in Abilene in 1871 and turned to gambling as a way of life. So I had him stop into Wolf Creek for the poker tournament. In actuality, as far as anyone knows, after Luke left Abilene he was known to be selling rotgut whiskey in a buffalo camp on the plains near what would later become Dodge City.

If Wolf Creek existed at the time, lured by the gambling, why wouldn't Luke pay a visit? In my mind his appearance in the story is believable without disturbing historical facts.

Stretching the truth a little, such as a potion salesman's claims of the miracle cures by the consumption of his product is as far as I will go in pushing the envelope.

Creating heroes, hardships, finding a lost love or having a character cheat, steal, or kill others are enough to keep any writer busy crafting a believable story around historical facts.
Nobody can change history and a good story will reflect the facts as they are.

I'm giving away a copy of the boxed set, CODE OF THE WEST! Just leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. Don't forget to leave your contact info, too, in case you win!

Jerry Guin is a member of Western Fictioneers and Western Writers of America.

He has authored more than 40 western fiction short stories and 7 western novels.

His latest novel– Once a Drover – was first introduced in 2014 by Western Trailblazer.
It was re-introduced by Sundown Press in 2016.


  1. There's the saying: 'truth is stranger than fiction' but I think you can re-work it as: 'truth is BETTER than fiction.' Early in my career writing westerns, I had to write my first scene set in that staple of westerns - the saloon. Now i could have been lazy and just re-created a cliche saloon, familiar to any viewer of western movies or TV series, with batwing doors etc. Instead I did some research, looking at the Time Life Old West series amongst others and found a frontier saloon that had this written on the wall: REMEMBER TO WRITE TO MOTHER. SHE IS THINKING OF YOU. WE PROVIDE WRITING PAPER AND ENVELOPES FREE, AND HAVE THE BEST WHISKEY IN ARIZONA. I think details like that rescue westerns from the familiar and give them extra flavour and authenticity, so that had to go in my novel! Andrew McBride

    1. That is inspiring Andrew. Just goes to show that good research can bring about different but good results in writing.
      Thanks for the comment.

    2. You're very welcome Jerry. Feel free to use 'the writing on the wall' when you're describing a saloon - after all, I didn't make it up, it's real!

  2. Hey Jerry! I tried to post this on FB but FB has been giving me fits for the last couple of days and wouldn't allow it. Maybe tomorrow! Such a great post--I know a lot of people will benefit from it, and find it interesting, too.

    1. My wife Ginny shared it on FB with positive results. Thank you for presenting it on Sundown press.

  3. Thank you for a wonderful and most interesting post. You're a new author to me, but I see that changing real soon.

    1. Thank you Alisa. I hope that my stories live up to your expectations.
      Merry Christmas.

  4. Hi Jerry. I agree--if it is a work of nonfiction it needs to be completely true and factual. If it is "historical fiction" some licensing can be taken. I call it "possible nonfiction" The story, characters, etc are fictional but they support the integrity of the period. This type of historical fiction is more authentic and makes for a better story in my opinion.

  5. Yes Diane, I agree with you. By placing a fictional character in a possible nonfiction situation provides an opportunity to give a voice to all the characters. This in turn brings realism to the story being told.
    Thanks for your comment.

  6. Your article brought up some great points, and I admit to being one of the people -- who, as a kid -- watched Westerns and nit-picked about some of the historical inaccuracies. Same when westerns dominated the TV screens; and the paperback market was at its prime.

    And then it hit me. My "argument" with fact was how it sometimes overshadowed the story-telling. In fact, it got to the point where if a book, a movie or a TV show leaned too heavily on fact it took away the joy of just concentrating on the characters and the conflict.

    And let's face it, who of us out here would actually watch a TV western or a movie if it was entirely historically accurate? Have you actually looked at the clothes a "real" cowboy (or cowgirl, or saloon girl) wore? I think -- especially as fiction writers -- we have to strike a balance. But I think the story should come first. Even the History Channel with its "true" history specials realizes the difference between what the audience wants and expects: the myth with a dusting of fact. The purists can always lose themselves in the reference stack in the local library.

  7. Well said Kit. A while back, I watched a few minutes of an old "Daniel Boone" episode. I really enjoyed it as a kid. Boone was my hero but now able to detect the inaccuracies in clothing, hair styles, cabin furniture and the actor's speech made the whole thing laughable.

    Hollywood gambles every time they put out a new film with the hope that it will be accepted as shown, historical or not.
    The writer's job is to present his story in a fashion that could be construed as actually happening.
    Thanks for the comment.

  8. I like to salt my stories with a good bit of historical accuracy - if my characters use slang, you can bet I've checked the etymology of the phrase first, and if a real person appears, they were in that area during the time I mention.

    J.E.S. Hays

    1. I've enjoyed reading some of your writing J.E.S. and I believe that you are on top of it.

  9. Out of the hat - The winner is - Alisa Boisclair
    Please forward to me your email address so that I can forward the info to claim your prize.