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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

New Release -- The Curse of the Body Snatchers: The Adventures of Jack Moon by Keith Souter

Victorian London is a dangerous city to be alone in at night for 12-year-old orphan, Jack Moon—and his business in those forbidding streets would make a grown man cringe. But his best friend, Danny, has just died, and Jack has promised him a burial in a haunted cemetery beside the woman who cared for them. 

Living in a rat-infested warehouse, Jack ventures out into the London fog, where he is waylaid by Professor Stackpool, a phrenologist. Can he really read a person's character by examining their head? He claims Jack is a prime example! But at a public demonstration, he announces Jack is a typical London urchin, destined for a life of crime, and Jack revolts.


Benevolent Sir Lionel Petrie and his granddaughter, Olivia, are outraged. To prove Stackpool wrong, the kind judge gives Jack a job at his home. Olivia and Jack become great friends, but something sinister is going on—and Olivia is becoming gravely ill over and over again. 


Someone is out to kill Jack, but who? And why? When tragedy suddenly strikes, Jack vows to save Olivia, and he is forced to enter the world of séances, ghosts, and ghouls. Will Jack live to bring Olivia back to her grandfather? Can they all survive the CURSE OF THE BODY SNATCHERS?


EXCERPT:



     A creature screeched from somewhere inside the graveyard and I stopped and stood as still as I could. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled and I shivered, “Oh, God, please don’t let there be ghosts!”
     I’m even more scared of ghouls than Danny was, which is saying a lot. All of us workhouse kids are scared of spirits. Those devils that were supposed to look after us saw to that. I reckon they thought it was part of our education. Especially that old villain, Ezra Keats, the workhouse master. He and his wife, the matron, were a couple of real bullies. He really liked to scare all of us kids, but especially the Moon boys, as they liked to call us.
My name is Jack Moon. Danny and I were orphans. Don’t know who our parents were. We never had a family life, you see. The St. George-the-Martyr Workhouse in Southwark was our home for most of our lives, apart from a spell in the Totfields House of Correction. I wouldn’t wish either of them on my worst enemy. That was why we ran away a year ago and lived on the streets, my little brother and me.
     In fact, ‘brother’, was not strictly true, for we were not related by blood. Both of us had been foundlings, abandoned children taken into the care of the St. George-the-Martyr Parish on the same night. They told us there had been a full moon then, so that was the name they gave us both. Danny was about a couple of years younger than me, but they had kept us together, as they often did workhouse kids. We had slept in neighboring beds in the boys’ dormitory, ate beside one another in the refectory and sat together in the workhouse school. During work sessions we always worked together. We had been as close as brothers ever since, which was why I used to think of him as my little brother. I felt that I had to look out for him.
     And then. Danny died. Before he did, he made me promise that I’d bury him near Kitty, the woman inmate at the workhouse who had been the nearest thing to a mother that either of us ever had. How could I refuse?

       

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

New Release -- Lawman’s Gun (James P. Stone Series Book 2) by J. L. Guin

James Stone never intended to become a lawman—he plans to track down the murderers of his best friend and mentor, Eldon Greyson, alone. And he looks forward to that day of reckoning, because whenever it comes about, there are a thousand and one ways to make the killers pay. But Fate steps in and gives Stone a chance he never counted on…

When his work in Eaton, Kansas, as a temporary lawman is over, he jumps from the frying pan into the fire when he takes a position as a deputy U.S. marshal with a friend, Deputy U.S. Marshal Jackson Millet. Millet convinces Stone that working as a lawman will give him more opportunities to run his old nemesis, a man named Laird, to ground—and make him pay for Greyson’s murder so many years ago.

A confrontation between the two lawmen and two bank robbers let Stone know he’s close to Laird—and he chafes at the restrictions the marshal’s job has placed on him, wanting nothing more than to ride to the nearby E.L. Ranch and take on the outlaw he’s waited to long to face. 

But when Laird and his partner, Bill Dubin, brazen it out with a visit to the marshals, they’re in for a blazing gun battle the likes of which the little town of Tascosa has never seen. They won’t go down without a fight—and they’re determined not to die by a LAWMAN’S GUN…

EXCERPT


     Thorsen and Slager nodded, then the three walked along the side length of the building until they reached the boardwalk fronting the bank. Hobbs stuck his head out past the building for a quick look up and down the street. He saw nothing out of the ordinary, and more importantly, no one had raised an alarm about why three masked men stood in an alley next to the bank.
     Hobbs motioned with his six-gun barrel for Slager to go ahead. Slager crept around the corner, then stepped onto the boardwalk and to the bank’s front door. He opened the door wide, then unfurled the sack and pitched it onto the bank’s floor. After he'd pulled the door shut, he hurried back to the alleyway where Hobbs and Thorsen waited.
     The loosed wasps created immediate chaos inside the bank. Loud voices and cursing echoed through the wall. One man yelled, “What the hell!” Another man’s booming voice proclaimed, “Son-of-a-bitch!” Still another, the sergeant in charge of the guards, instructed, “One of you men, see if you can get that bag and throw it out the door.”
     Almost instantly, the front door flew open and a suited rotund man dashed through it swatting at his face with his hands. A thin woman screamed, then burst through the doorway, frantically swatting at three or four big, mahogany-colored wasps which were the size of hornets. The insects buzzed around her head, dodging her swats. The wasps eventually got through her line of defense. One landed on the collar of her loose, full-length dress and sunk a stinger into her neck.
     The woman squalled louder, then dashed into the middle of the street, the dress not hampering her reckless flight as her skirt billowed. The unfortunate woman ran headlong into the path of a big freight wagon pulled by six mules traveling at a brisk pace. The startled driver struggled to get the animals stopped. But at least two of the mules trampled the woman to silence. Her bloody body lay mangled before the front wheel of the wagon.
     The three sack-covered men watched four men in blue uniforms charge out of the bank with six-guns in hand while swatting wasps with their other, as they fled the bank. Hobbs nudged Thorsen and Slager forward. The pair rushed up behind the stunned soldiers; raised the butts of their six-guns, and bludgeoned them, knocking both senseless before they hit the ground.

     

Monday, March 26, 2018

ANDREW McBRIDE interviewed about THE PEACEMAKER, writing etc. by BEN BOULDEN for the GRAVETAPPING Blog

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive wide acclaim already for my Sundown Press novel THE PEACEMAKER. Of 22 reviews and ratings 2 are 4 star, 20 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.

One of the most promising new western authors is BEN BOULDEN, whose contribution to the BLAZE series has won acclaim. Ben also keeps the excellent GRAVETAPPING Blog. He’s been kind enough to interview me. The full interview on the Gravetapping site can be found here: https://gravetapping.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/interview-andrew-mcbride.html
Here’s an edited version, with Ben’s questions in bold italics.

What’s your latest novel?
THE PEACEMAKER. It’s a western set in Arizona in 1871, when the white man and the Apache Indians are at war. The hero is an 18 year old young man who gets roped into a dangerous mission to talk peace with the most important of the hostile Apache chiefs – Cochise. He guides a duo to Cochise’s camp – a white man and his adopted Apache daughter. Along the way, the hero and the Apache girl fall in love. Fans of the TV Western series ‘The High Chaparral’ will spot I’ve borrowed the basic premise from a High Chaparral episode, but the second half of the novel goes somewhere else entirely. I felt the original episode could be the springboard for a tremendous adventure story. It’s published by Sundown Press and available on Amazon and the usual outlets.

Without breaking any of your personal taboos, would you give us an idea of what you’re working on now?
I’m not sure I have any personal taboos, I’m not that interesting! I was planning to launch into another novel, but finishing off other projects has put me slightly behind schedule. Right now I’m readying a finished western for some publishers. After that I’ve got to finish off another novel that’s such a complete departure from what I’ve written before I’d have to publish it under another name. Sorry about the mystery but I’m keeping quiet about that one for now. I’ve also got a completed Robin Hood novel I’m trying to find a home for, so I can join my heroes Rosemary Sutcliff and Henry Treece among the ranks of historical novelists. Then I can get properly started on my next novel: a western with an elegiac, end-of-the-west, ‘Wild Bunch’ feel.


How do you go about writing?
(Where do you write, when do you write, do you outline, do you write longhand / on a computer, how do you develop a story, etc.)
Where: At home on a computer. I know some writers have to write longhand, almost as if they have to feel the ideas coming out of their brain, down their arm, through the pen etc. Doesn’t work for me! For me it’s all about efficiency, getting my ideas onto the page as quickly as possible, which means bashing away on a keyboard on a desktop PC. I feel cramped using small devices like laptops. I’ve never tried writing in places like cafes, too many distractions. I like to work alone in my home study. I find silence oppressive so I usually have music on – something like jazz instrumentals that won’t distract me.

When: About 1991 I committed to being a writer, so since then I’ve turned down full-time work whenever I can, taking part-time jobs that free me up so I can write at least 2 days a week. It’s not always been possible to keep to that, and sometimes the finances have been precarious. In the last 8 months I had a bit of luck and came into some money unexpectedly, so I’ve been able to live the complete writer’s life, writing sometimes 4 or even 5 days a week. To me, that’s the equivalent of dying and going to heaven! This won’t continue much longer, alas, but it has been seriously great while it’s lasted! I tend to work a day shift, writing from about 10 a.m. until whenever in the afternoon the inspiration flags. I rarely write in the evenings, I like my brain to be fresh when I’m hitting those keys.


One thing I learned from Phil Caveney, my writing mentor, is that novelists need to have a time/ word count discipline. Give yourself a DEADLINE. For example you may decide you want to write an 80,000 word novel in 2 years. That works out about 110 words a day. Make sure you keep to your routine and write those words, otherwise you’ll join the ranks of would-be novelists who spend 7, 9 or 11 years writing a novel. So hitting my daily (or at least weekly) word count, rather than hours spent, is how I measure my progress.

As for outlines: I usually have a (very) loose idea of what the novel’s going to be about when I start out, a 2 minute trailer rather than a fully developed movie. Some of my novels have been fictionalizations of real historical events, so that helps provide an outline.

I tend to write a chapter at a time, and don’t plan much further ahead than that. I know some writers have to get a first draft of the whole novel down before they start revising. I don’t. I write a chapter and then revise it. It’s usually a 3 day process. Day 1 is the grind of the first draft of the chapter, which I find is the hardest part. You tell the tale of the chapter, you cover the story points, but it’s a slog and the writing may not be that good. But on Day 2 you wake up and re-draft it into shape, which in my case is almost always cutting. I may re-write or re-arrange bits but mostly all I do is cut – like pruning a hedge, or clearing the weeds out of the garden so you can see what you’re after. Day 3 is usually easy – polishing, just doing a bit of tweaking and tidying up. Then I sit back for a few days and let the next chapter simmer in my head until it’s ready to be tackled. Which means by the time I’ve finished the whole novel it’s about 80% done, so it only needs some tweaking and further cutting.


If ever I get stuck, I might just write myself some notes, along the lines of ‘what the hell happens next?’ Or ‘How do I get my hero out of this fix?’ I do also have a good friend I’ve nicknamed ‘Dr. Plot’ who I sometimes bounce ideas off. If I’ve literally ‘lost the plot’, he usually comes up with something. 

Do you have any specific pleasures, or displeasures, that come from writing?
I love the creative process, and the artistic side of a writer’s life. I like the way you can sometimes find creative energy and inspiration in adversity. I once sent off a manuscript and had it unexpectedly rejected. I got hold of the rejected manuscript at 10 p.m. The publishers liked the beginning and the end but felt the novel wandered too much in the middle. Partly because I was smarting from rejection, I couldn’t sleep that night. Instead I stayed up and re-read the whole novel end to end and went to bed about 4 a.m. I woke up 6 hours later and immediately started re-writing, with ideas that just seemed to have come to me. In 10 days’ I’d re-written the whole middle section of the novel. I sent it back to the publishers and they accepted it.

Like many authors I know, I love the creative side, but I find the ‘business side’ a real chore – finding publishers, agents, sending off etc. I personally don’t mind giving readings, but I find other aspects of promotion tedious. I’ve tried to make Social Media promotion and blogging fun, but essentially I would just rather be writing and let someone else deal with all that stuff. And rejection remains unrelievedly horrible. I’ve had many rejections, and it never gets any easier, or hurts any less. That’s when you cling on to the old writing adage: ‘What do you call a writer who never gives up? Published!’’

Are there any writers that inspired—or continue to inspire—your own writing?
 (Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc. Any forgotten writers you would like to discuss here would be welcome.)
Many writers have inspired me. My first literary hero was Captain W. E. Johns, who wrote the ‘Biggles’ series, which I just devoured in my early teenage years. He gets a lot of stick now for not being very PC and maybe he isn’t but back then I enjoyed his books as your archetypal ‘cracking adventure yarns’ – they were a kind of junior level James Bond. 


Captain W.E. Johns with a portrait of his fictional hero 'Biggles'

Then I moved on to the historical novels of Rosemary Sutcliff. Getting into early adulthood I was a big fan of Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler.


Rosemary Sutcliff

Mostly, I read/still read westerns, thrillers and historical fiction, all of which you could call ‘adventure novels.’ In the western field that would include Gordon D. Shirreffs, Lewis B. Patten, Robert McLeod, Fred Grove, Louis L’Amour, Glendon Swarthout, Thomas Berger, Jack Schaefer, Will Henry, A.B. Guthrie jnr. and Dorothy M. Johnson. Thriller writers would include Walter Mosley, (earlier) Patricia Cornwell, Robert Harris and W.R. Burnett. ‘Classics’ would include Robert Louis Stevenson (he’s still unchallenged, IMHO, as writer of the world’s greatest adventure novel) the Brontes, Dickens, H.G. Welles and Graham Greene.


Forgotten writers I was a big fan of include Alexander Knox (who was also an actor) who wrote a tremendous novel about modern-day Eskimo life called THE NIGHT OF THE WHITE BEAR; Desmond Corey, who wrote spy thrillers with a hero called Johnny Fedora who was like Bond only cooler – he played jazz piano to wind down from the stresses as a ‘licensed to kill’ secret agent; and Henry Treece. Treece wrote for children and adults. He wrote two novels on the Arthurian legend – THE GREAT CAPTAINS and THE GREEN MAN - which are still startling in their originality.


I’ve discovered some good writers since engaging with Social Media. For example I gave a 5 star review (something I almost never do) to WHILE ANGELS DANCE, a novel about the James Gang, by Ralph Cotton. I also gave a good review to MERRICK by some chap called Ben Boulden…

3 writers I have to single out are Elmore Leonard, Matt Chisolm and John Prebble. (I’ve discussed these authors on other Sundown Press blogs. See my Sundown Press blog about Elmore Leonard’s ‘HOMBRE’ here: http://sundownpress.blogspot.co.uk/search?updated-max=2017-08-28T01:00:00-07:00&max-results=7&start=6&by-date=false

If you could write anything, without commercial considerations, what would it be?
You don’t need to ask me about that, I’m doing it! Anybody who writes in the western genre is writing without ‘commercial considerations’ – but if you love westerns and have to write these books you will. I have written in other genres, two historical novels and some contemporary thrillers/outdoor adventures, but so far it’s only the westerns, which I’d have thought were the least commercial of my product, that have been published. 

I know you’re a fan of both Western television and film. Do you have any favorites? 
Actually I’m not a huge fan of TV Westerns. There were lots of them about when I was a kid growing up in England in the 1960s, but I always thought them the ‘poor relation’ of western movies. I don’t like being too negative but they did tend to accept and re-cycle clichés about the western, rather than challenging them. Some of them could also get very soap-opera-ish. You’d catch ‘Bonanza’ for example and half the time the episode would be about a father’s relationship with his son, and didn’t need to be set in the Old West at all. Sometimes you’d catch episodes that were entertaining, occasionally excellent, but not essential viewing.  But my biggest beef against them was their cheap production values. Because of their low budget, many of them were filmed on familiar Hollywood backlots or sound stages, and made little of what is a key western element in my opinion – the landscape, and its physical magnificence. Given my taste in westerns has always run to the outdoor and the primitive that frustrated me. The exception – the one TV Western series I loved – was ‘The High Chaparral.’ It did ‘jump the shark’ sadly, but for its first two seasons the HC was an outstanding show – not only strong scripts and a superb cast, but the location shooting, in Old Tucson, Arizona. That gave the HC not only physical beauty but grittiness and authenticity – the sweat and dust were real! I’ve blogged about my admiration for the HC. (On the Sundown Press blog here:  http://sundownpress.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/andrew-mcbride-in-praise-of-high.html )


As for film: People ask me ‘What’s your favourite western movie?’ and I can’t answer – there’s too many great ones. A golden period was the 50s so maybe it’s hiding in there. But there were great westerns before – ‘Red River’ etc. – and after - ‘Hombre’ ‘The Wild Bunch’ ‘Unforgiven’ and more. If you had to narrow it right down, I think the two most important people in western film were John Wayne and John Ford, separately (so you could look at movies like ‘My Darling Clementine’ ‘Wagon Master’ and ‘Rio Bravo’) and together. Of the joint Wayne-Ford westerns it’s hard to find a more perfect script IMHO than ‘Stagecoach’- the 1939 version – and I’m especially fond of ‘Fort Apache.’ But I can’t pick an absolute favourite. 

John Ford and John Wayne
If you were stranded on an island and you had only one book, what would it be?
SWORD AT SUNSET by Rosemary Sutcliff. She was a writer for children who ‘found her voice’ writing about early history – the Romans, the Vikings etc. Here she went into adult fiction with the definitive modern take on the Arthurian legend IMHO, depicting Arthur as a Dark Age British war leader fighting barbarians, rather than a medieval king. It’s incredibly deeply wrought, what one reviewer called ‘a bracing plunge into the heroic world.’ She gets to the essence of the story, which is a universal theme of the sacrificial leader who buys the life of his people with his own life. You find that theme in ‘Beowulf’ too, and in the story of the Alamo. It’s deep stuff, with great battle scenes!


If you were allowed only to recommend one of your own novels, or stories, which one would you want people to read?
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 could get into Native American culture. I got to play around with a real historical character (in this case, Cochise.) I was able to write a proper love story, and flesh out the women characters. I could provide what John Ford called the ‘grace notes’ in his movies, quiet, reflective bits where not much happens, but they give the story added richness and depth. I was very grateful to my publishers for letting me do that.


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.
**** 


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

New Release -- PUSHED TOO FAR by J. L. Guin #NewRelease #SundownPress @prairierosepub #western

James Stone has been on his own almost all his life after the death of his parents early on. Kindly neighbor Eldon Greyson takes young James under his wing, making him a partner in his freighting business—until the fateful night when they’re robbed, and Greyson is murdered by “Laird” a mysterious man James vows to find and bring to justice.

Though years have passed, James has not given up on finding his mentor’s murderer. When he is caught in the middle of a train robbery, he sets out after the outlaws to recover the money they’ve stolen from him. Tracking them leads him to the small town of Eaton, where a bank robbery takes place minutes after he rides in.

With the town’s lawmen killed and wounded, Stone takes over temporarily, but all hell breaks loose with the arrival of Ike Langley’s gang of thieves—and James Stone finds he’s been PUSHED TOO FAR…

EXCERPT

     Branson stepped forward and shook out a gunny-sack. “Toss everything in here.”
     An elderly woman seated in the front row, hiked her chin in defiance. “What if I don’t choose to give up my possessions?” When she looked behind her at the men, hoping for support and not one moved, her hopes sagged.
     Clint Easy pointed the six-gun at her. “Then I’ll just shoot you. Now, follow orders.” Color drained from her face. Her hands trembled as she dug into her bag.
     Murphy Branson stepped in front of her holding the sack and jiggling it until she dropped in a small wad of bills and some coins.
     Branson spied the gold band on her finger and ordered, “The ring, too!”
     Tears pooled in the woman's eyes as she worked the wedding band off her finger then dropped it into the sack.

      

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

ANDREW McBRIDE interviewed by PAUL BISHOP about THE PEACEMAKER etc.

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive wide acclaim already for my Sundown Press novel THE PEACEMAKER, including 5 star reviews from 2 of the most successful western authors in the business. 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 & Ralph for their fantastic support.



PAUL BISHOP was kind enough to interview me on his blog. Paul is a 35-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, and was twice honoured as LAPD’s detective of the year. He’s published 15 novels and written numerous scripts for episodic television and feature films. On top of that he keeps a great blog, which he describes as an ‘eclectic mix of pulps, film noir, 60s spy shows and other topics – plus the required book news, articles and promotion.’ Find his blog here:  
http://www.paulbishopbooks.com/2017/12/britwest-wrangling-words-with-andrew.html 


Here’s the text of his interview:

Andrew McBride is another of the stellar writers continuing the tradition of popular western novels written by British authors. Following the trail-blazing efforts of J.T. Edson, Matt Chisolm, the Piccadilly Cowboys and others, Andrew has seen 6 of his westerns published, all featuring Calvin Taylor as the central character. Happily, Andrew has taken the time to step out of the saddle and join us round the campfire for a chat…

If it was tacked up in the Sheriff’s office, what information would be included on a Wild West wanted poster with your picture on it? (a convoluted way of asking for some bio details about you)

Andrew McBride. Aged about 63. Last seen in Brighton, England. Wanted for writing 6 published western novels: CANYON OF THE DEAD, DEATH WEARS A STAR, DEATH SONG, THE ARIZONA KID, SHADOW MAN and THE PEACEMAKER.

What was your introduction to Westerns—movies, TV, or books?

TV. I made a schoolboy friend in 1967 and his family had the new TV channel BBC 2 so I used to go round to his house to watch that. One of its signature shows was the new TV Western series ‘The High Chaparral’ which immediately impressed me with its grittiness, authenticity and location photography – I fell in love with the physical beauty of Southern Arizona. I’ve blogged about my appreciation for the HC. My latest western THE PEACEMAKER is partly based on a HC episode, so it’s sort of my homage to the show, a mere 49 years later. The HC kicked off my love for western movies, particularly those starring John Wayne and/or directed by John Ford.



What was the first Western you read?

I’m probably remembering this too neatly but watching the HC with my schoolboy pal sparked an interest in western history and Native American culture. He got interested in the historical background to the show too and was reading a novel called ‘Broken Arrow’ which was a junior version of Elliot Arnold’s great novel ‘Blood Brother.’ This is all about the great Apache chief Cochise. I read it and nearly half a century finally wrote my own novel with Cochise in it - THE PEACEMAKER. When I was in my early 20s, another pal turned me onto the McAllister westerns by Matt Chisolm and started me off reading westerns regularly – people like Gordon Shirreffs, Will Henry, Fred Grove and Robert MacLeod.   

What was it about the genre you found compelling enough for you to want to write a Western?
I’ve always been drawn to adventure stories set outdoors. I can’t see myself writing an urban novel. I like having my characters tested by the struggle to survive in a wilderness. For me westerns ticked every box – they not only had conflict and action in plenty but also strong dramatic tension because they’re essentially morality plays about the fight between right and wrong.

They deal with a broad range of moral dilemmas that the settlement of the West threw up: How do you tame a wilderness without destroying it? How much violence is necessary (and how much is excessive) in creating a law-abiding society? How can diverse cultures (for example the white man and the Native Americans) co-exist? All painted on a canvas of physical beauty and diversity. And there’s a lot of tragedy in western history – what happened to the Native Americans, for example, and to the basic environment – that’s the stuff of high drama.

There’s also beauty and poetry in the language, not only the laconic speak of everyday westerners but even in real names – when I first read about the Alamo, and people called Travis, Crockett, Bowie, Santa Anna etc. I was hooked!  

Had you written books before, or was your first Western your literary debut?
My western CANYON OF THE DEAD was my literary debut. Before that I’d written a couple of books yet to see the light of day – another western and a novel on the Arthurian legend. I’ve also written some contemporary thrillers since, but oddly enough, it’s the westerns – which I would have thought were the least commercial of my output - that have got published.

How do you see the current state of the Western genre?
I don’t really know. Based in Britain, I’d assumed western publishing was pretty moribund – the only UK publishers I was aware of doing westerns was Robert Hale (since taken over by Crowood Press.) But since starting on Social Media a year ago I’ve become aware that there’s a lot going on – Piccadilly Publishing and a bunch of publishers over in the States. So, it appears a lot healthier than I’d thought.

And despite being written off 40 years ago, western movies and TV shows keep popping up and occasionally succeed. I can’t say I’ve been too impressed by most of the recent re-makes of classic movies. I haven’t gone for some of these hybrids either (‘Cowboys and Aliens’ etc.) I’d like to see an original western film succeed on its merits, as ‘Unforgiven’ did, not just because it’s some kind of whacky novelty. However, whilst I can’t see the western ever coming back to the heights it commanded in the 1950s and ’60s, there seems to be plenty of life left in the old dog yet!  


'Unforgiven' (1992)


What was your journey to getting your first Western published?

In 1982 I submitted a western called SHADOW MAN to Robert Hale. They rejected it – quite rightly, as it wasn’t good enough. A dozen years later an author friend of mine – Philip Caveney – mentioned Hale were still looking for westerns, so, rather than writing a new one I dug out SHADOW MAN from the bottom of a drawer, dusted off the cobwebs and looked at it again. I re-wrote about half of it, re-submitted it to Hale and they accepted it – only they had another book called SHADOW MAN coming out. So I re-titled mine CANYON OF THE DEAD. It came out in 1996, 14 years late. As a sort of post-script, I later wrote another one for Hale – again called SHADOW MAN – and they published it in 2008. So getting one form of SHADOW MAN out there took 26 years!

Have you been to the West, and if not, how do you do your research?

Yes, I’ve been to the west, although not to some of the areas I write about. I think my first ‘western’ experience was when we were driving southwest from San Antonio, Texas, towards Mexico. San Antonio was great but it seemed more southern and Mexican than western. We stopped at a place called Cotulla, Texas, on the Nueces River and getting out of the car I suddenly felt the wind blowing warm desert heat and a peppering of dust on my skin. That’s when I knew I was ‘west.’

To me the west starts with two things: when it gets empty, and there’s wide open spaces and big skies; and when it gets dry. But I don’t think you need to have been there to write about it. When he started writing westerns Elmore Leonard, who wrote classics like ‘Hombre’, was living in the Midwest and had never been west of the Mississippi.



As I’m interested in the history of the west I’ve accumulated a library of reference books, such as The Old West Time Life series. And the internet is fantastic. If 20 years ago a Brit writing a western wanted to describe say, Apache Mountain Spirit Dancers, he’d have to go to his local library and hope they had a book about them – otherwise he’d have to order one in and wait a month until it arrived. Now, in 5 minutes, you can google Apache Mountain Spirit Dancers, read about them and watch a Youtube video of them.  

Is there any difference between Westerns written by British writer’s and Westerns written by homegrown American writers?
I don’t think so, if they’re skillful enough to hide their ‘Britishness’. I’m a great fan of Elmore Leonard but I noticed, reading some of his westerns, he’d get little facts wrong, names of plants etc. So I wasn’t surprised to discover that when he started writing westerns he was living in the Midwest and had never been west of the Mississippi. On the other hand I read ‘The Buffalo Soldiers’ by John Prebble and the McAllister westerns by Matt Chisolm and thought both authors had totally authentic ‘American’ voices – so I was pretty surprised to discover both were British.



Do you currently read Westerns, and if so, who is/are your favorite Western author(s)?
I’ve always read widely, not just westerns, but I still read them. In the past, alongside the authors I’ve already mentioned, I read Jack Schaefer, Glendon Swarthout, Dorothy M. Johnson, Thomas Berger, Charles Neider, Louis L’Amour, Louis B. Patten, A. B. Guthrie jnr. etc. Since engaging with Facebook I’ve become aware of and FB friends with authors like J.R. Lindermuth, Robert Vaughan and Ralph Cotton, all of whom were kind enough to give good reviews to THE PEACEMAKER. I reviewed Ralph Cotton’s novel ‘While Angel’s Dance’, about the James Gang, and gave it 5 stars – which is a very rare thing for me to do.  And there’s lots more I intend to check out. 


Do you have a writing mentor?

I did have. I started reading out my stuff at writing groups in the 1980s. At one of them, a guy called Philip Caveney suggested I seriously consider writing for a living.
That impressed me because he was the first person to take me seriously as a writer, and I valued his opinion because he was also the first published author I’d met – he’s been successful writing thrillers and now children’s fiction – so I reckoned he knew what he was talking about. So it’s all his fault!

I still go to a writing group, a small band who critique each others work. I think getting constructive criticism and positive (but not fawning) feedback is essential to mastering the nuts and bolts of how to write well.


When you start writing a new Western, do you pick a standard Western plot (I think there are about six) and look for a way to turn it on its head, or do you look to history or some other source for inspiration?

You can argue until the cows come home about how many basic plots there are to anything. I do think it’s better to try a ‘new wrinkle’ on things rather than just re-cycling clichés. Plotting’s not my greatest strength, so I often look to history for inspiration. DEATH WEARS A STAR was a fictionalisation of the Earps in Tombstone story, and THE ARIZONA KID fictionalized Billy the Kid’s story. There was something of Lt. Howard Cushing – a cavalry officer who fought Apaches – in DEATH SONG. I also have a friend I nickname ‘Dr. Plot’ who’s good at helping me out when I get stuck about what happens next. Western author Thomas Rizzo, one of my FB friends, keeps a wonderful blog and almost daily posts little vignettes of historical frontier escapades. Anybody stuck for an idea for a novel only needs to visit his blog and they’d find material for 20 westerns!    

Where do you stand of indy versus small press versus traditional publishing?
I haven’t gone into it in depth but, if I had plenty of money and time, I might consider self publishing. It cuts out the middle man but I suspect it requires a huge amount of time and effort on Social Media and self-promotion just trying to attract an audience. For me the best model is still a publisher who pays you a fair advance and does most of what we in Britain call ‘the donkey work’ for you – e.g. promotion, advertising etc. – and leaves the writer to mostly write. It may be an increasingly impossible dream but that’s what I hanker for.  


What is your latest Western and what are you currently writing?
I have two novels with publishers – one about Robin Hood, and another western. I’m finishing up a project that’s so different from what I normally do, I’m keeping very quiet about it. Sorry about the mystery. It wouldn’t fit the Andrew McBride canon so I’d have to publish it under another name. I’ve started another western which I hope to launch into properly by next February. It’s going to have an elegiac, ‘Wild Bunch-y’ end of the west feel. That’s the plan anyway, but you know what Robbie Burns said about plans! (‘The best laid schemes o’ Mice and Men, Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief and pain, For promis’d joy.’)


Robbie Burns

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.
**** 


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Thursday, December 7, 2017

NaNoWrMo Behind, New Year Ahead

This post by Gayle M. Irwin


I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo), which occurs annually in November, … and, I achieved my goal! At the end of the month, I had more than 57,000 words for my pet rescue romance. Granted, I started the project last year so I already had several thousand words, but my goal was to finish the first draft – and I did!

Now that NaNoWrMo is behind, a new year looms on the horizon. What are my writing goals for 2018?

  • Edit he novel and publish it for the summer reading season (it’s a romance, so I believe a May/June release will be quite timely – romance and weddings seem to bloom during those months!)
  • Market my writing better. I attended a writer’s workshop in Cheyenne the latter part of October, and was totally inspired by speakers who talked about social media marketing for writers and business strategic planning for authors. I’m already working on marketing my dog devotion books for the Lenten/Easter season.
  • Write more magazine articles. I have a good relationship with a Wyoming magazine (that’s been through 3 editors in a year!) and I’ve asked for more assignments … and received them. There’s good pay in magazines.
  • Guest blog on pet sites. I’ve reached out to a few and look forward to expanding my writing reach in my niche.
  • Become an affiliate for pet products. I’m gearing up to become an Amazon affiliate, as well as an affiliate for a well-respected dog training program. Something new to me, but hopefully will expand my stream of online income.   


I’m excited to have completed the first draft of my first-time novel, and as I start the editing  process and learn more about marketing my work, I hope to not only increase book sales, but also educate people about pet rescue groups while simultaneously growing my writing income.

How about you? Did you take part in NaNoWrMo? What are your writing goals for 2018?

Whatever your hopes, plans, goals, and dreams, remember there are tales to be told! May you enjoy a blessed holiday season and a wonderful New Year!


Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning author and freelance writer. She enjoys sharing lessons people can learn from pets as well as educating others on the importance and joy of pet adoption. In addition to her own inspirational pet books for children and adults, she is a contributor to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books. One of her short stories appears in Sundown's Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints on My Heart. She regularly writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric News) magazine and Colorado's Prairie Times. A portion of her book sales are donated to pet rescue organizations. Learn more about Gayle at her website and sign up for her free monthly pet newsletter. You can also follow her blog, also found on her website. www.gaylemirwin.com