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Saturday, February 16, 2019

If You Want to Write, You Will



My personal advice to budding writers is not simply . . . WRITE! but darned near it.

Like all writers and novelists, I followed a myriad of roads to arrive at where I am today. I can see that many of my roads were constructed of circumstances. Yet, the gritty asphalt of the highway leading me to the inkwells of a corporate writer, humor columnist, scribe, and author was built from pure tenacity.

Writing in the library, the car, in bed, on the toilet . . . 

I’ve always written. In school, I loved nothing more than getting essay questions. I’d fill up the page and write on the back or in the margins of the test questions. Off and on, I kept diaries and journals. I wrote Christmas letters, poems, free verse. My letters to friends and family were dubbed “epistles.”  I volunteer-wrote for charities and ministries and rewrote safety manuals for an insurance company. I simply wrote . . . before I had children, while I was raising children, and after my children were adults.

What happened? 

A little book happened.

Wherever I volunteered, I was always given some kind of writing task. Researching how to write press releases for my children’s school one fateful day, a little book practically fell off the library bookshelf and into my trembling hands. It was If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland, an archaic book written in 1938, of which Carl Sandburg said was “the best book ever written on how to write.”

Ueland essentially believed that if a person wants to write, she or he will. By hook or crook, they will plow ahead. I can’t explain it, but that little book inspired me to return to college for my Business Management degree. Naturally, being me, I had to sign up for a class related to writing, and I decided to take a journalism class.

It was the best decision I ever made *about writing* 
Before long, I was a campus editor, and soon I was making professors laugh with my crazy brand of humor columns. I learned how to interview and take my own human-interest photographs. I took a summer job at a small, local newspaper in which we set up our own columns on an old Apple computer. It turned into a circus-worthy balancing act with two school-aged children, a husband, and my penchant for keeping a dirt-free habitation, but I never stopped smiling!

Why? Because I loved writing.

If you ask, I will answer 

It’s awesome to be honored with a question about one's journey to an accomplishment. Recently, I received a personal message on my author Facebook page from Skylar. She had just completed her sophomore year in high school, and she aspires to write books. She asked for my advice.

What advice can you give others than what you know to be true in your own life?

Skylar agreed that I could use her name, so here, in microchip fashion, is my advice for her and all budding authors:

"Hi Skylar! Thank you for writing to me. I'm happy to offer you a bit of writing advice. My journey to becoming a corporate writer and author came through journalism. My college journalism courses taught me to "hook" my audience with my very first sentence, my first paragraph, and my first page. I highly recommend studying journalism because it also teaches you to write succinctly and to the point.

Let me also say that a highly developed sense of grammar and proper sentence structure/syntax must undergird all writing. Creative writing courses do not get my personal stamp of approval for basic writing because most seem to focus on writing wildly descriptive sentences that, though fun to read and wonderful for certain types of poetry, are not popular in our sound-bite culture.

Learn to say a lot using powerful adjectives and few words.

Whenever you can, attend writing seminars and take online writing classes for fiction and/or non-fiction. I was always a non-fiction writer, but I decided to challenge myself to take a fiction-writing course for magazine writing with the Children's Institute of Writing — a great institute, by the way. At the end of the course, my mentor, Chris Eboch, encouraged me to write a novel. I didn't think it was possible, but she believed in me.

It turns out, Chris was right - I can write novels, and my fifth one debuts this September. I'm already working on the ideas for another one because . . . I love to write! 

It hasn't been easy, far from it, but nothing worthwhile falls into our laps without sweat equity and a burning desire to improve. If you really want to write, you will, and you'll take every opportunity to become better at your craft.

We writers never stop learning. Or absorbing. Or trying.

Good luck, Skylar, and keep me posted on your progress. Never hesitate to ask me anything, and if I can answer it, I will."
~~~~~~~~~

And I’ll do the same for you. 




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 vast cattle ranch in the White Mountains of Arizona. As a teen, 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 is the author of a contemporary trilogy set in the Navajo Nation, as well as two historical novels. Her current novel, Blackberry Road, is available on Amazon. Her next historical novel, The Accidental Road, debuts in September 2019. She currently resides in Arizona with her husband, her delightful 90+-year-old mother, a crazy Standard poodle named Jazz, one rescue cat, and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants.


Blackberry Road is published by Sundown Press and is available on Amazon.



Trouble sneaks in one Oklahoma afternoon in 1934 like an oily twister. A beloved neighbor is murdered, and a single piece of evidence sends the sheriff to arrest a black man that Biddy *a sharecropper’s daughter* knows is innocent. Hauntingly terrifying sounds seeping from the woods lead Biddy into even deeper mysteries and despair and finally into the shocking truths of that fateful summer.






The Accidental Road debuts September 2019

A teen and her mother escaping an abusive husband tumble into the epicenter of crime peddlers invading Arizona and Nevada in the 1950s. Stranded hundreds of miles from their planned destination of Las Vegas, they land in a dusty town full of ghosts and tales, treachery and corruption. Avoiding disaster is tricky, especially as it leads Kat into a fevered quest for things as simple as home and trust. Danger lurks everywhere, leading her to wonder if she and her mother really did take The Accidental Road of life, or if it's the exact right road to all they ever hoped for.




Tuesday, January 22, 2019

New Release — Shaping the Story: An Introduction to Writing Fiction by John D. Nesbitt

Shaping the Story is a practical guide to the craft of writing fiction for authors of all levels and abilities. 

Award-winning author and scholar John D. Nesbitt has penned an easy-to-use handbook, complete with short stories he references throughout, all under one cover. 

Shaping the Story is a complete, professional tool for aspiring creative writers. This book contains discussion, as well as examples and sample stories, to illustrate many of the points made.

Whether you’re writing a short story or a longer piece, this book is a must-have!

EXCERPT

     As the title and subtitle suggest, this book provides an introduction into the craft of writing fiction. Its main focus is on short fiction, but most of the principles are applicable to writing longer fiction as well, and frequently the discussion makes such applications. This book treats short story writing as a craft in itself, not just as an apprenticeship for writing novels. Aspiring writers who want a quick fix on how to write a best-selling novel will find better help, or at least better promises, elsewhere. Those who wish to write the best fiction they can, for the sake of writing fiction, may find this book useful.
     This book takes a practical approach to fiction writing. It does not present ethereal ideas about writing. Rather, it focuses on craft and technique. It describes elements or aspects of stories, gives examples, and offers suggestions for developing those aspects in one’s own work. It includes exercises in most of the chapters. It also has a chapter on planning a novel—again, practical and methodical and on an introductory level.
     In accordance with my belief that writers learn by reading good examples of the kind of work they hope to write, the latter part of the book contains a collection of traditional short stories. The first six chapters of this book contain references to these stories as well as to other well-known, widely available stories and novels. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a note identifying which stories receive attention in the discussion. In the anthology, I have striven for economy and quality in selecting rather short stories by well-known authors. Additionally, I have chosen stories that are out of copyright, so that I might avoid the complications of securing reprint permissions. In the references to other well-known works of fiction, I hope the aspiring writer follows up on some of them as recommendations. 
     Except for the stories by other authors, the contents of this book are entirely of my own composing and devising. Some of the commentary is based on work I have done for other manuals and textbooks, especially Writing for Real, a college composition text, and Understanding Fiction, a college literature textbook. Anyone wishing to reproduce parts of this work should request written permission.
     I hope this book is useful to those who read it. I have tried to take a practical approach, and so there is not much warbling about the Muse, inspiration, creative juices, and the like. Nor are there many inspirational quotations from other writers. In spite of my attempts to be practical, this book will not answer every question and solve every problem for a developing writer. However, it may provide some new insights as well as reinforce some suggestions you have heard before. Taking a broader view than of immediate utility and application, I believe in personal enrichment through reading and writing, and I hope this book serves such a purpose for you.


— John D. Nesbitt
Trade paperback coming soon.

      

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Useless Words









So, you want to be a writer?


How many times have we heard someone say -- wait, that sounds like an old Ray Price song.

Anyway, do you think it’s easy to write? Correctly? er.. correct?

I’ve finished a short story titled Trading Horse.  I think it’s a good one and need to get it ready to send to my publisher, editor, or submit to the market.  So, how do I make this thing ‘slickern goose grease’ and impress folks?  Let’s look at some guidelines.

I can't write color! No overly descriptive words that they might deem superfluous. So all those old-time writers where every sentence was poetry in motion? Fuggettaboutit. No time for that. In today's instant gratification society, we can't be expected to wade through that kind of stuff.

Looking at published criteria I can’t use really or very.  So, I can’t write, “You’re a very pretty girl.”  Or, if the guy (I’m assuming here) is really gob smacked, “You’re a really, really, very pretty girl.”  So, I guess that leaves, “You pretty.  Or, you ugly.”  Short, but to the point. Yeah, I know. You're beautiful would work too. But every girl wants v e r y tacked onto that.


We can’t use that, just, then or any instance of those, er... that, er... them.  So, lessee, take away the ending ‘that’, then that leaves me with ending the sentence with a preposition (of), and I’ve already qualified the sentence using ‘that’ again.  And ‘then’.  Aw, man! I used ‘then’.  And an exclamation point!  Oh, God.  I can’t do that. OK. Throw it all away. You ugly.

Now we’re into the ‘ly’ words.  It’s a death knell to your work if you use totally, completely, absolutely, literally, definitely, certainly, probably, actually, basically or virtually.

I stumbled upon a great article with a really, really great thought. And the nugget of wisdom was in the comments, not the article. See the article here: Matt Moore's article on adverbs.  And the takeaway? Why not use rhythm, meter and sound in our prose. Speak it. Listen to it. Try Word's text to words function. OK. Back to levity.

But wait! There's more. I cannot convey the amount of vilification heaped upon your psyche if you use start, begin, began, begun, rather, quite, somewhat, or somehow.

Neither may I use said, replied, asked, or use any dialogue tags at all, unless I ask someone’s permission.

Who are they? The permission people? I asked Wiki. They don't know. Siri doesn't know. Google does, but they won't tell me. And I'm scared to death of that Facebook Portal thingee.

Do you think it's hard to write now?  We can’t look down, or up.  Or, wonder, ponder, think, thought, feel, felt, understand or realize. I can't tell you those things, I have to show you. Can't write, I thought about Jenny being pretty. I can only write Jenny pretty. 

I’d grab my burning chest, but I can’t describe it by using breath, breathe, inhale or exhale.  I can’t shrug, nod or reach.  I can’t use long sentences tied together by ands, buts, or frog legs.  (I’m a writer—trust me, I can tie in the frog legs)  Hell, I can’t use a non-approved font.  It's Times New Roman 12 or die.

How on earth or the Federation of Planets do I write a story?

Now, I'll admit. I haven’t sold a ton of books.  Since I write in the western genre, I thought I’d check Louis L’Amour’s stories. I have them all. He’s sold millions.  Just as I thought, most of those monumental mistakes are on his pages.  It’s the same for most of the descriptive prose writing western authors I’ve read.

Yep, Purple Prose... where the written descriptive word resembles poetry and rolls off your tongue to make a beautiful world leap from the pages into your mind. Sigh.

As an experiment I started grabbing books off my shelves in all genres—books written by successful authors.  When I opened a random page, I found the mistakes listed above.  Not all at once.  Gimme a break, here.  So, if they’d done it right, would their books have sold two million instead of one? Or, none at all?

Mystery.
 So, why do the experts want old, new and fledgling writer’s submissions to look like a blank page—dry of wit and empty of beauty? Pretty girls, but never very pretty girls? Or, exceptionally pretty girls.  Maybe just “damn, you nice!” is better. Go to a crowded place and listen. It might surprise you to hear language going that direction. 


When I ask experts about this, I’m told, “Well, you’re no Louis L’Amour.”  That is very, very true.  Like, really, literally very true.  Absolutely true.

But then, I’m betting he was never pushed to turn in something so devoid of feeling it looks like the Klingon version of the user's manual to the Starship Enterprise.


I’ll just keep muddling along and do the best I can.  Even if I use euphemisms and attention grabbing qualifiers… and go broke.  Can’t afford to be a writer anyway.  The conferences alone bust my budget.

One thing I do know.  For every published writer, there are hundreds of experts telling them how to do it, and the rules change at will. Each genre have their own take on things. Each new editor has their own interpretation of the rules.

Maybe some of them are correct.  Surely, (snicker) they have our best interest at heart.

And don’t start throwing your degrees in English at me. I made a D in high school English.  My teacher cried a lot, but was quick to tell me it wasn’t my fault. ( eye-roll ) 😀

I’ll keep writing, trying to perfect the craft.  I must.  Life goes on.


Assignment:  levity.  Look it up.  We need more.  

All photos are attributed to myself or licensed under CCO commons.


Check out my newest release Limestone County.
It's a contemporary western I think everyone will enjoy.


Limestone County  
"Darrel Sparkman keeps readers on the edge of their seats with the laser-precision of a master."
--Linda Broday, NY Times and USA Today bestselling author



                                             "Sparkman's work quivers with a dark western vibe reminiscent of Justified."
                                              --Dee Burks--Bestselling Author





THE MEASURE OF A MAN IS NOT WHERE HE STANDS IN MOMENTS OF PEACE, BUT WHERE HE STANDS IN MOMENTS OF TUMULT.
Jim Lane is pulling himself together after burn-out from a rescue gone bad. A peaceful life on Stockton lake seems just the ticket.
AN EXPLOSION OF ANGER.
Jolted by betrayal, he survives an attempt on his life only to be drawn into a bloody turf war with the Russian mob. County sheriff Rita Morris knows his history and isn’t buying his explanation.
UNREASONING FEAR.
Rita lost her husband to a random shooting. Unsure if she’s ready to move on, she can’t deny the connection she feels with Jim. It’s a complication, but the pair form a united front with a simple message to the Russians. Get out of Limestone County!
A COUNTRY BOY.
Jim Lane knows he can’t lose this fight. When the first bullet flies he steps into a whirlwind of twists and turns, new love, and old friends that hurtle to the end with an ally he never expects... and a blood debt that will keep him looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

New Release — Tales of the Old West — A Collection of Seven Classic Western Stories


Get ready for seven action-packed stories of the old West that will pull you right in and take you along for the ride of your life! If you love traditional stories of bygone western days, this collection of tales is for you. You’ll find a wide variety of stories included in this anthology by James Reasoner, John D. Nesbitt, Livia J. Washburn, Cheryl Pierson, Darrel Sparkman, and David W. Amendola. 

Saddle up and ride the dangerous range of Indian Territory, search for a deadly mysterious beast, track outlaws, or solve a grisly mystery—and never leave your easy chair! This collection makes a great gift to yourself or other fans of TALES OF THE OLD WEST!


"Pearl of Great Price" by John D. Nesbitt
"Rescue Trail" and "The Last Warrant" by Darrel Sparkman
"Hidden Trails" by Cheryl Pierson
"The Beast of Dead Mule Gulch" by David W. Amendola
"The Bad Hombres" by Livia J. Washburn
"The Prophet Mountains" by James Reasoner

    

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…


EXCERPT

     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. https://scottharriswest.com/forum-featuring-andrew-mcbride/

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: https://sundownpress.blogspot.com/2017/09/andrew-mcbride-in-praise-of-high.html)

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 https://www.amazon.com/Geronimo-Must-Die-J-Lindermuth-ebook/dp/B06XFZJG5H/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=


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 clichés 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: https://sundownpress.blogspot.com/2018/09/andrew-mcbride-on-how-buffalo-soldiers.html )

          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: https://sundownpress.blogspot.com/2017/07/giveaway-andrew-mcbride-on-how-book-and.html
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: https://andrewmcbrideauthor.blogspot.com/2018/05/my-review-of-shot-rang-out-by-scott.html)


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!

BLURB for THE PEACEMAKER:
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?

EXTRACT:
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.

Apaches.

And you killed them or they killed you.
****