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Thursday, December 13, 2018

New Release — Death Stalks Apache Oro by Sam Fadala

The killings only happen at night, and only to the fairest of the “working girls” who live in their haven, the Citadel, near the town of Apache Oro, Arizona Territory.

Arizona Ranger John Briggs is called in to investigate, along with local law enforcement officials. Failure to find the murderer haunts them all—he’s someone local…maybe someone they all pass on the streets of Apache Oro every day.

But this is no ordinary killer. He manages to vanish into thin air, like the skinwalkers the Navajos speak of. Is he mortal? Is there any way to stop him?

One by one, the men of Apache Oro are ruled out as suspects. When the murderer strikes again, killing someone close to Briggs and severely wounding him, he knows he’s getting close to discovering the killer’s identity. Ranger John Briggs doubles down on his vow to find this heinous criminal, as DEATH STALKS APACHE ORO…


     Terrence hired an architect to transfer his idea from imagination to paper. The vision was soon a reality. When he was satisfied with the plan, he called builders, skilled craftsmen of individual trades. His was a dream born of childhood expressed only to Anna, an older, experienced lady who would oversee the women. Only she would know why this rich man created a safe place for “free-living” women.
     “They will be protected here,” he said. “The girls will all be princesses. For the girls, the women, that is, it will be a haven, a true home. They shall never be harmed. If so, woe to the man who dares, because a force will retaliate most severely.” His words were lace, but they were encased in iron. Terrence hired men who would do the retaliation. Since no miner had a wife, and since every miner extracted from rock a small fortune in gold, it followed that in short order the odd hombre’s dream home for “his ladies” was larger than the fine hotel, more lavish than the saloon, Thurgood’s showpiece patterned after a “ranch” in Texas.
     Citizens of Apache Oro thought of the town as charmed. Was there not, along with gold, a million years of clear, cold water piped into every home, every store, even the railway station? Was there not an ice house supplied by a never-ending slough not far away? Ice for preserving food. Ice for that keg of good beer. And was it not a town where women could walk night streets safely? 
     It was such a place. 
     But something evil would come to the little wooden town, and peace would be shattered like crystal glass.


Monday, November 26, 2018

ANDREW McBRIDE interviewed by SCOTT HARRIS about his novel THE PEACEMAKER, westerns etc.

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive wide acclaim already for my Sundown Press novel THE PEACEMAKER. Of 25 reviews and ratings 2 are 4 star, 23 5 star! This includes 5 star reviews from 2 of the most successful western authors. Spur award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author ROBERT VAUGHAN describes it as ‘a great book’. Meanwhile RALPH COTTON (also a Pulitzer-prize nominated novelist) writes: ‘For pure writing style, McBride’s gritty prose nails the time and place of his story with bold authority. …this relatively new author has thoroughly, and rightly so, claimed his place among the top Old West storytellers.’ I’m very grateful to both Robert and Ralph for their fantastic support.

I was recently interviewed by acclaimed western author SCOTT HARRIS for his ‘Friday Forum’ blog, which you can find here.

I talk about westerns and my writing, including THE PEACEMAKER. Scott very kindly agreed to the interview appearing on the Sundown Press blog also.

Questions in bold.

1.       When—and why—did you first fall in love with Westerns?
As a kid growing up in England in the 60s I fell in love with westerns watching movies and shows on TV. I was particularly taken by ‘The High Chaparral’ TV series, its Arizona location photography and the background of the Apache Wars, which sparked a life-long interest in Native American history and culture.
(I’ve given a fuller appreciation of ‘The High Chaparral’ on the Sundown Press blog:

In the 70s when I was entering adulthood I had a pal who turned me on to reading westerns, starting with the ‘McAllister’ series by MATT CHISOLM.

2.       Who are your three favorite Western writers?
The first of several impossible questions you’re going to torture me with during this interview. I have to pick three out of the likes of Ralph Cotton, Fred Grove, Louis L’Amour, Glendon Swarthout, Robert MacLeod, A. B. Guthrie Jnr., Lewis B. Patten, Jack Schaefer, Dorothy M. Johnson, Charles Neider etc.? Three who I followed fairly slavishly when I was cutting my teeth on reading westerns were WILL HENRY, GORDON SHIRREFFS and MATT CHISOLM – I devoured Chisolm’s ‘McAllister’ series, and then found out he was British, which inspired me – so let’s go with those three.

3.       Which Western do you wish you’d written?
Hondo’ by LOUIS L’AMOUR. In some ways Hondo is the template western hero and I’m sure my main character in all my westerns, Calvin Taylor, owes something to him. Once, to warm myself up for a writing project, I re-wrote the first chapter of ‘Hondo’ and then had to stop myself from re-writing the whole novel! I think that would be an interesting exercise for another Scott Harris-helmed ’52 weeks’ project – get us lesser mortals to follow in the footsteps of the greats and re-write, in our own words, a chapter from a classic western novel. 

4.       What is the most recent Western you’ve read?
I read a few recently that didn’t happen for me so I’m not going to mention them. I also re-read some old favourites. The most recent ‘new’ western I read and liked was ‘Geronimo must die’ by J.R. LINDERMUTH.
(You can find ‘Geronimo must die’ – published by Sundown Press – here

5.       The “Desert Island” question.
          What are your three favorite Western books?
Impossible to say – but as you’ve cornered me I’ll play along. ‘Little Big Man’ by THOMAS BERGER, which deals with tragic events and yet manages to be extremely funny in places, and has subtleties the film lacks;

Blood Brother’ by ELLIOTT ARNOLD, which deals with the Apache chief Cochise and had a huge influence on my writing, particularly ‘The Peacemaker’;

and ‘The Buffalo Soldiers’ by JOHN PREBBLE which tackles numerous western clich├ęs in a startling and original way. I don’t think you’ll find a better written western. And Prebble was also a Brit!
(Read my post about ‘The Buffalo Soldiers’ on the Sundown Press blog: )

          What are your three favorite Western movies?
Even more unanswerable than the ‘3 books’ question. But as John Wayne and John Ford were, IMHO, the two most important people in western movie history one would have to be a combination of their talents. Which boils down to a wrestling match between ‘Stagecoach’ and ‘Fort Apache’ – I think I’ll go for ‘Fort Apache’.

John Wayne and Henry Fonda in ‘Fort Apache’ (1948)

‘Ride the High Country’ for its elegiac quality and the wonderful performances of Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea.

Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea in ‘Ride the High Country’ (1962)

Hombre’ which is based on a great ELMORE LEONARD novel that almost made it into my ‘best 3 books’ list.

Paul Newman in ‘Hombre’ (1967)

A while back I posted on the Sundown Press blog about how ‘Hombre’ – both book and film – influenced my writing:
6.       Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite—and why?
THE PEACEMAKER. I like all my first five published books, but they were of necessity short, which meant they had to be action-centric, dependent on a fast pace. With a longer book like THE PEACEMAKER I could slow down a bit, spend more time on character and atmosphere. I got to play around with a real historical person – in this case Cochise. I was able to write a proper love story. I could provide what John Ford called ‘grace notes’ in his movies, quiet, reflective bits where not much happens but they give the story added texture and depth. I was very grateful to my publishers for letting me do that.
7.       What is the most recent Western you’ve written?
The most recent western item I’ve finished is my short story ‘Spectres at the Feast’ which you were kind enough to include in your excellent ‘The Shot Rang Out’ anthology.
(‘The Shot Rang Out’ also features an excellent short story by PRP writer/editor CHERYL PIERSON. I review the book here:

8.       Can you tell us anything about your next book?
I’m going through a slightly frustrating time at the moment. I have one project that won’t die! In other words it’s proving difficult to finish it off. I’m stalled on several others, waiting for responses from publishers etc. I did make a start on a new western, which has an elegiac, end-of-the-west quality and I’m keen to get stuck into it, but tidying up other projects keeps preventing me from having a clear run at it.
9.       If you could go back in time, what would be the time and place in the Old West you’d like to have lived in for a year?
I’d only want to pop back for a few hours. I’m an Alamo buff, so I’d love to solve the eternal mystery of what happened there on the morning of March 6th 1836, particularly to Davy Crockett. However, if I did find myself in the middle of the final assault on the Alamo I’d like to be both invisible and invulnerable, to avoid all the bullets, cannon balls and bayonets in the neighbourhood!

10.     Is there a question you’d wish I asked?
          The answer?
No. Answering questions 2 and 5 was traumatic enough!

Eighteen-year-old scout Calvin 'Choctaw' Taylor believes he can handle whatever life throws his way. He’s been on his own for several years, and he only wants to make his mark in the world. When he is asked to guide peace emissary Sean Brennan and his adopted Apache daughter, Nahlin, into a Chiricahua Apache stronghold, he agrees—but then has second thoughts. He’s heard plenty about the many ways the Apache can kill a man. But Mr. Brennan sways him, and they begin the long journey to find Cochise—and to try to forge a peace and an end to the Indian Wars that have raged for so long. During the journey, Choctaw begins to understand that there are some things about himself he doesn’t like—but he’s not sure what to do about it. Falling in love with Nahlin is something he never expected—and finds hard to live with. The death and violence, love for Nahlin and respect for both Cochise and Mr. Brennan, have a gradual effect on Choctaw that change him. But is that change for the better? Can he live with the things he’s done to survive in the name of peace?

Choctaw blinked sweat and sunspots out of his eyes and began to lower the field glasses; then he glimpsed movement.

He used the glasses again, scanning nearer ground, the white sands. He saw nothing.

And then two black specks were there suddenly, framed against the dazzling white. They might have dropped from the sky.

They grew bigger. Two horsebackers coming this way, walking their mounts. As he watched they spurted into rapid movement, whipping their ponies into a hard run towards him.

The specks swelled to the size of horses and men. Men in faded smocks maybe once of bright colour, their long hair bound by rags at the temple. They had rifles in their hands.

Breath caught in Choctaw’s throat. Fear made him dizzy. His arms started to tremble. He knew who was coming at him so fast.


And you killed them or they killed you.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Small Nugget of Wisdom by Darrel Sparkman

Nuggets of wisdom aren’t always found in famous writings, or by super famous authors.

So let's pose a question.

Is there a difference between your philosophy and your position in life? Does it change with the situation? When the wind is blowing hard one direction, do you pop your sails and go with it or stay the course. It’s the old conundrum—I want to do X but end up doing Y. Not to wax philosophic, but it’s a question that affects author and reader alike.

For the writer it’s the question of staying with the outline of a story or letting the characters go a different way. For some of us that tangent direction is often too compelling to ignore.

It’s different for the reader. Are you being bandied about with no clear path forward? Need to tack sideways? Big questions.

When it looks like you’re going to have to fight like that proverbial third monkey on the ramp to Noah’s ark, which truth will come out? How will your ending be written? Will your philosophy hold true or will circumstances (position) change it?

One of the best sequences of dialogue addressing this comes from Richard Jessup’s novel CHUKA, published in 1961. The hero is surrounded by an enemy that’s overwhelming and mad dog crazy. Is there a chance? Can he save himself, or more importantly, can he save the girl? You might consider CHUKA a romance novel because the hero sees the girl he wants and fights for her with everything he has—like that third monkey.


In the book, on the eve of a hopeless battle, a Spanish Duenna was verbally eviscerating the gunfighter about his choices in life. She asked if he had a philosophy. He’s a bit startled. And yes, there will be some paraphrasing.

Chuka tells her there is a difference between his philosophy and his position. Naturally she is skeptical. After all, her job is to protect the young woman in her charge—especially from a common man who hires out his gun.

The gunfighter continues, “A man lives in a country, a place and a time. To live, a man has to be settled on the way he wants to live.”

“Guided by certain principles.” She said.

“Those rules in life, or principles as you call them are simple. Truth comes first. Second comes honor. The third, but by no means less important than the others, is courage.”

Chuka held up his hand to stop her interruption.

“Now my position. My position is to walk with truth, hold on to my honor and find courage to help me over the rough spots.”

She seemed amazed. “Have you found it hard to hold this position?”

“It’s hard to hold it even for a little while. Why? Because we don’t always want to tell the truth, especially when it hurts us or someone we care for.

“And we can’t always hold on to our honor or we’d find ourselves fighting all the time.

“Courage is the hardest of them all. Most times when we find courage it can be too late or too little.

“It takes courage to face truth and courage to recognize your honor is not another man’s honor. One man’s truth, or honor, or courage isn’t a test for anyone else.”

How often does that happen in life? It’s easy when we’re writing it. We can always go back and edit in the best decision for a certain situation. It's the infamous re-write. You look at the draft copy and say, “Well, that didn’t go as expected.” And then go back and fix it.

But, often in real life we see the right choice going away in the rear-view mirror. Hesitation becomes the dance of the day and the choice we want… slips away.

So, maybe the best lesson is in the less quoted line. “Be settled in the way you wish to live." If you have a position, know exactly what it is and why. If you say you believe in something, can you tell someone why? Otherwise, we’re lost.

Know what you want. Know what you’re willing to do for it. Be settled in it.

Let’s write that story line into our lives.

In the story THE LAST WARRANT Luke Randall knows what he wants--a small horse ranch west of Springfield Missouri. It's there waiting for him. All he needs is a reason to give up the Marshal's service and go. Sarah gives him a reason and then takes their position in her own hands.  And yes, toward their goal.

Available October 9, 2018

Have a blessed day.


Darrel Sparkman


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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

New Release — Bounty Poachers (James P. Stone Series Book 3) by J. L. Guin

A life of dire circumstances gave need for boldness with a gun…
When Deputy U.S. Marshals James Stone and Jackson Millet recover from being wounded in a shoot-out, their first assignment is to track down two brothers who are bringing dead outlaws in under questionable conditions. When bounty hunters began to be killed as well, Stone and Millet realize they are dealing with bounty poachers.
Jasper and Jason Bain have run onto some hard luck. They need money, and in desperation, begin by robbing stagecoaches and individuals. They quickly progress to bringing in outlaws for the bounty—always dead. When they graduate to stealing the outlaws from the bounty hunters who have gone to the trouble to track them down, they must do away with all witnesses.
But bounty hunter Joe Grebbs was one man they couldn’t kill, and he’s coming after them. Can Stone and Millet get to the Bain brothers before Grebbs tracks them down and murders them for what they did to him? Though Stone is reluctant to put aside the ongoing quest to find his nemesis, Evelyn Laird, this job must come first—before more blood is spilled.
In a race against time, will Millet and Stone be able to prevent Grebbs from having his day of vengeance in the hunt for the BOUNTY POACHERS?


     Weeks called out, “Better hurry up, Johnny, looks like something’s up across the street.”
     Curtis jerked his head briefly to glance out the window, but from deep inside the bank, he could not see the reason for his partner's alarm. He glared at Weeks, then turned to the manager and snarled, “Best you keep quiet until we leave.”
     Curtis snatched the bank bag from the manager, then made long strides to the door. He opened the door cautiously and scanned the businesses across the street. When he did not see anything that might raise an alarm; he stepped out. Weeks followed.
     The robbers hurried to their horses, grabbed the reins, and were ready to swing up into their saddles when a man's voice boomed from across the street.
     “You men, drop those pistols and get your hands up!”


Friday, November 16, 2018

Write in Your Own Backyard . . . or Not! by Jodi Lea Stewart

"Jump the Fence" to Authentically Write About Different Cultures and Time Eras

Don't Come into My Backyard 

“Write in your own backyard!” seemed to be the cry of the masses when I was shifting from being a non-fiction business writer, journalist, and essayist to a fiction writer eight years ago. Yet, my heart and mind wanted to write an adventure-mystery novel featuring a Navajo protagonist. I had great and wondrous adventure ideas dancing in my head for my fictional main character, Silki Begay.

Wishing to be culturally correct and totally respectful, I actually contacted various people of that culture asking their advice. I didn’t want to step on any toes, you see. My next-door neighbor, at the time, was a Navajo lady who had been Miss Navajo Nation in 1965. She said she was honored that I was doing it. That spurred me on, but I wanted more opinions. That’s when things turned in another direction.

For example, if I had listened to one group of ladies, I never would have written my Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT novel. They were insulted that I, a non-Native person, would write a contemporary novel about a Native family living on the Navajo Rez. I explained to them that I grew up on a ranch in Arizona next door to the Navajo Nation and close to the Apache Rez. I went to school with Hispanics and Natives. I didn’t see what the big deal was. Those memories were, after all, part of my own childhood backyard.

Still, they dampened my enthusiasm so much that I was about to scrap the whole project. At a writing seminar around that time, I talked about my dilemma and how I would most likely give up writing novels about a different culture since, according to the ladies I had talked to, it was inappropriate to do so. Then, I read aloud the first chapter of my first novel to that group.

What a life changer that was!

The participants practically begged me to continue writing that novel, and they assured me that with my deep concern for the Navajos, there was no way I’d be disrespectful. I was so heartened, I didn’t write one novel featuring a Navajo protagonist, I wrote three! I finished the last novel in that trilogy this year.

Historical Fiction Isn't Exactly Our Own Backyard Either

Now, really, I wasn’t even born in 1934, let alone living in a sharecropper family. So, if following the “get in your own backyard and write there” adage was all the advice I heeded, how could I pull off a mystery involving a sharecropper family with twelve kids set in 1934 Oklahoma for my novel Blackberry Road?

I couldn’t, but again, research and story gathering over the years from my actual family that had lived that way for real saved the day. I’m a firm believer that a person can be as realistic as their research and imagination can take them IF they are willing to work hard to get into the flavor of the time period or the culture he or she is writing about. Finding actual people or their descendants who have first-hand *or even second- to third-hand* experience in that era or in a different lifestyle to interview can make all the difference in realistic writing.

My recent blog, "Don’t Let the Stories Die," delves into the importance of collecting first-hand data while it is still available. Click here to read it.

What if I didn’t have those relatives who had lived back in 1934? Would reading a few books have been enough to paint a realistic, believable background?

I say no.

You’ve heard “To whom much is given, much is required”? It’s my opinion the same holds true for different-culture and historical fiction writers. You have a talent for writing, yes? Then do something about it with the hardest, roll-up-your-sleeves work ethic you can conjure.

Tirelessly research the era, region, and culture you are writing about. Talk to anyone and everyone who may have lived then, had friends or relatives living then, or who is an expert about that time in history or in that culture. Listen to narratives, documentaries, and anything else you can find to supplement your ideas to realistically support your plot and characters.

As Sarah Dessen, the American novelist, once said, and whether it's tongue in cheek or not, it's relevant: "I think I'm too lazy a writer to do something like historical fiction. You have to do so much research. I just write what I know." 

She's right. It is hard.

For the Native-American trilogy I mentioned earlier, I filled five notebooks, one of them a four-inch-er, with research. I bought and read books, became familiar with what was important to the Navajo culture, its history, and its landmarks. I will never be able to speak their difficult but beautiful Athabaskan language, but I made myself familiar with many of their words and added a glossary at the back of my novels for further authenticity.

You are not writing in your own backyard when you do this. You are visiting the backyards of countless folks who came before you or who live differently than you.

My current work in progress is set in Holbrook, Arizona, in 1954. Two ladies, a mother and a daughter, are escaping an abusive home situation. Leaving Texas, then Oklahoma, they take the infamous Route 66 highway heading toward Las Vegas. Now, you have to know this is not me, so how do I write a historical story about two people who are not me and have experiences that are not in my own time realm or in my own backyard?

By applying the same work ethic I previously mentioned.

You create your basic plot and research your head off until you have the essential elements of that time period. One of the most crucial elements is being correct with how expressions were used, what kind of small talk was acceptable, what were the general feelings of people toward life and its elements according to certain geographical areas, and what might be too modern or irrelevant to put into a book set in a different time era.

One slip-up there, and you’ve perhaps ruined the book for a reader or a thousand readers. It’s that important. Cheryl Pierson wrote a fantastic blog about this recently, "The Devil's in the Details." Click here to read it. 


You CAN make someone else’s backyard your own backyard IF you are willing to put in the hard work and time it takes to be true to whatever culture, time era, or place you wish to write about. 

Don't be afraid of it, but be the master of your craft as you go about it.

Blackberry Road, Jodi's fourth novel, is published by Sundown Press and is available on Amazon.

"Trouble sneaks in like an oily twister one afternoon in 1934 Oklahoma, pulling Biddy Woodson into a dark mystery that changes her life forever."

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas to an "Okie" mom and a Texan dad. Her younger years were spent in Texas and Oklahoma; hence, she knows all about biscuits and gravy, blackberry picking, chiggers, and snipe hunting. At the age of eight, she moved to a large cattle ranch in the White Mountains of Arizona. Later, she left her studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love, and exactly what she DIDN'T want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised three children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional Western articles, and served as managing editor of a Fortune 500 corporate newsletter. She currently resides in Arizona with her husband, a Standard poodle, one rescue cat, and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants.

What's next? The Cry of the Cave, a historical novel set in 1954, On the exterior, it’s about a different side of America emerging from the dust of war and prosperity—an underbelly few comprehended even existed. Internally, it’s about a mom and her teenage daughter escaping a personal war, and how they wound up in Holbrook, Arizona, instead of Las Vegas. It’s about a town full of ghosts and tales, treachery and secrets, and how sometimes you have to hold your hands over your eyes and leap, not knowing where you’ll land. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

New Release — The Scarred One by Tyler Boone (Charles Gramlich)

Scarred by a mysterious fire that killed his parents when he was seven, Trenton Banning grew up in a San Francisco orphanage. Ten years later he fled to the freedom of the Rocky Mountains. Now, he’s come to the town of Sun Falls, Wyoming, where a silver strike has triggered a boom. He isn’t after riches, though. He’s there for Jonathan Hunsinger, a ruthless businessman who may know something about the fire that orphaned Banning. 
Hunsinger has a beautiful daughter, Elizabeth. That complicates things for Banning. And after an attempt is made on his life, he realizes that someone is willing to kill to protect Jonathan Hunsinger’s secrets. There are plenty of suspects; Elizabeth is one. Besides trying to stay alive and solve a decade-old mystery, the young mountain man now has to wonder—is Elizabeth the woman of his dreams, or the architect of his nightmares?


    “Ever seen anything so ugly in your life, Carl?”
    “Hell, Vin. I seen a skinned coon prettier ‘n that. Gotta wonder what his mama looked like.”
The two men standing at the makeshift bar laughed as they eyed the lean and scarred young man in buckskins who sat quietly at a table in the corner of the big tent. There’d been a silver strike at Sun Falls in Wyoming. Miners had poured in—and those who made their living off miners. A few timber structures had been hastily thrown up, but the strike was so recent that most businesses were still operating out of canvas tents, including this saloon.
    “Why don’t you boys have another drink?” the bartender said. “And leave that feller alone. He’s gonna do some huntin’ for me. I figure to start serving meals right soon.”
    The one named Carl turned to look at the speaker. Carl was a big man, inches over six feet and weighing a good two-thirty. The eyes in his stubbled face were dark and cold as anthracite. “Why don’t you just pour the drinks and mind your own business?” he said.
    The bartender, a wiry man of forty or so with a shock of red hair and a dirty white shirt and apron over woolen trousers, was barely half Carl’s size. And since none of the other patrons of the saloon seemed interested in supporting his stance on the issue, he poured whiskeys for the men and decided to mind his own business.
    “Ain’t like we’re hurtin’ the fella none anyway,” the one named Vin said. “Besides, maybe he don’t know he’s too damn ugly for purlite company. We’re educatin’ him.”
    “We couldn’t hurt him no more ‘n a look in the mirror would,” Carl added.
Vin, who was nearly as tall as Carl but much skinnier, had just slugged half his whiskey. He spewed most of it back out onto the dirt floor as he brayed with sudden laughter.
    The young man in the buckskins pushed back his chair and stood.