Fellow filly Cheryl Pierson and I spent last weekend at the inaugural Western Fictioneers convention (also known as #WFcon15) in St. Louis. What a great time we had! We met some of the iconic authors in the western genre, learned more than my head can hold during seminars and panel discussions, got to sit around and gab with people we’d only spoken with online previously…and, of course, ate lots of good food. I may never eat again.
You can discover more about Western Fictioneers — a professional organization for authors of western fiction — and the convention here. If we can find Micki Milom, the superwoman who put the whole thing together single-handedly this year, we’re hoping to host another shindig next year, possibly in Fort Worth. Micki appears to have disappeared into the Convention Organizer Protection Program — a wise move on her part.
Instead of the usual post, this week I thought I’d share photos from the convention. Yes, I realize this is a bit like showing home movies to captive relatives, but I can be cruel that way.
Without further ado…
Take a good look at the woman on the left. You may never see her again after this convention. She’s Micki Milom, Nashville singer and songwriter, author of traditional westerns, and ramrod of the convention. Evidently, that smug expression on her face is meant to camouflage her nefarious attempt to strangle western historical romance author and all-around nuisance Jacquie Rogers.
The Living Legends panel discussion featured, from left, Robert J. Randisi, Robert (Dick) Vaughn, Dusty Richards, and Frank Roderus. Between them, the gentlemen have published thousands of stories. For such prolific, popular authors of traditional western fiction, all four men are down-to-earth, funny, charming characters (emphasis on “characters”).
During the Romancing the West panel, authors (from left) Jacquie Rogers, Kathleen Rice Adams, Meg Mims, Kat Martin, and Cheryl Pierson astounded attendees with their… Well, I’m sure we astounded the audience with something, but the “something” probably was our ability to be extraordinarily silly. Couldn’t Micki have found western historical romance authors who possess at least a modicum of decorum?
The most evil thing about the Taming Social Media and Other Necessary Evils panel was the panelists: traditional western authors (from left) JES Hayes, that Kathleen Rice Adams person again, Jacquie Rogers (again), and Tom Rizzo.
Publishers who specialize in western fiction also addressed the madding crowd. From left, Prairie Rose Publications editor-in-chief and co-founder Cheryl Pierson, Pen-L Publishing‘s Kimberly and Duke Pennell, High Hill Press‘s Louella Turner, Mike Bray of Wolfpack Publishing, and Golway Publishing’s Dusty Richards provided insight into what publishers look for when considering authors and their work.
Keith Souter, a medical doctor and popular traditional western author from the U.K., traveled all the way across the pond to present one of the most fascinating seminars during the convention — The Doctor’s Bag: Medicine and Surgery of Yesteryear. The presentation provided a hint of the enormous amount of material Keith covers in his newly released reference book of the same name. He was much too gentlemanly to refuse when I threatened him with a necktie party unless he autographed a copy for me. The book is a fabulous resource for anyone who writes historical fiction. I highly recommend it.
Intellectual property attorney Michael Milom presented one of the most popular sessions during the convention — The “Rights” Side of the Law: Legal Labyrinths. Despite his prowess as a high-powered entertainment lawyer, he quickly lost control of the rowdy herd and abandoned his planned talk in favor of answering a slew of questions from the audience. Michael, who is married to Micki, was gracious about our rude behavior, but as you can see by the metamorphosis in his expression, the lot of us probably should stay out of Nashville for a while.
There was plenty of time for fun, as well.
The Prairie Rose Publications gang whooped it up. (From left, Kathleen Rice Adams and Jacquie Rogers [Who are those women, and why did they keep butting in everywhere?], Keith Souter [who makes a wonderful bank robber, for a Scot], Cheryl Pierson [another outlaw who repeatedly butted in], Micki Milom, and Meg Mims.)
Some of us, like Cheryl Pierson, autographed books. Did I autograph any books? Of course not. My ego may not survive.
The entertainment was entertaining, especially when Micki Milom and Robert Randisi sang a couple of duets. We didn’t have to cover our ears or nothin’! (Micki’s a professional, but Bob was a surprise. He’s actually quite good.)
And there you have it — #WFcon2015 in a nutshell! (Most photos are mine, but thanks to JES Hayes for the image of the PRP outlaws and to Diane Rodes Garland for the image of Cheryl autographing a book.)
UPDATE: I’ve just received word that we kidnapped about a box-full of Dr. Keith’s The Doctor’s Bag — autographed! They’re available for $15 (including postage), which is a great deal considering the paperback version sells for $18.99 on Amazon. Cheryl Pierson has details.
To thank everyone for schlepping through all this rambling, I’ll give two commenters a KINDLE COPY of a very special Prairie Rose release: A Cowboy’s Touch. The boxed set of four full-length western romance novels by Cheryl Pierson, Livia J. Washburn, Kit Prate, and me contains nearly 1,000 pages of spicy love in the Old West, and it’s a steal at 99 cents. To be eligible for the drawing, tell me which of the seminars you would have liked to attend. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)
Texas Ranger badges are a hot commodity in the collectibles market, but the caveat “buyer beware” applies in a big way. The vast majority of items marketed as genuine Texas Ranger badges are reproductions, facsimiles, or toys. Very few legitimate badges exist outside museums and family collections, and those that do hardly ever are sold. There’s a very good reason for that: Manufacturing, possessing, or selling Texas Ranger insignia, even fakes that are “deceptively similar” to the real thing, violates Texas law except in specific circumstances.
According to Byron A. Johnson, executive director of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum (the official historical center for the Texas Ranger law-enforcement agency), “Spurious badges and fraudulent representation or transactions connected with them date back to the 1950s and are increasing. We receive anywhere from 10 to 30 inquiries a month on badges, the majority connected with sales on eBay.”
Answer: The left-hand badge, dated 1889, is the earliest authenticated Texas Ranger insignia in the collection of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. Badges weren’t standard issue for Rangers until 1935, although from 1874 onward, individual Rangers sometimes commissioned badges from jewelers or gunsmiths, who made them from Mexican coins. Relatively few Rangers wore a badge out in the open. As for the item on the right? There’s no such thing as a “Texas Ranger Special Agent.”
Answer: On the right is an official shield-type badge issued between 1938 and 1957. Ranger captains received gold badges; the shields issued to lower ranks were silver. The badge on the left is a fake, though similar authentic badges exist.
Answer: The badge on the right was the official badge of the Rangers from July 1957 to October 1962. Called the “blue bottle cap badge,” the solid, “modernized” design was universally reviled. The left-hand badge is a fake. According to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, “No genuine Texas Ranger badges are known to exist with ‘Frontier Battalion’ engraved on them.”
Answer: The left-hand badge, called the “wagon wheel badge,” has been the official Texas Ranger badge since October 1962. Each is made from a Mexican five-peso silver coin. The badge on the right is a “fantasy badge.” According to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, the most common designation on such badges is “Co. A.”
How did you do? If you answered correctly for more than one without benefiting from a lucky guess, you did better than most people, including Texans. Give yourself extra points if you knew Rangers proved their legitimacy with Warrants of Authority, not badges, prior to 1935.
For more information about the Texas Rangers—including the history of the organization, biographical sketches of individual Rangers, and all kinds of information about badges and other insignia—visit the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum online at TexasRanger.org. The museum and its staff have my utmost gratitude for their assistance with this post. They do the Rangers proud.
While we’re on the subject of Rangers…
On June 1, Western Fictioneers, a professional organization for authors of western novels and short stories, announced the winners of the 2015 Peacemaker Awards. Presented annually, the Peacemakers recognize the best western historical fiction published during the previous calendar year.
I’m happy to say “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” received the award for Best Western Short Fiction. “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” tells the story of a washed-up Texas Ranger and a failed nun who find redemption in love.
The award marked the second time in two years a short story published by Prairie Rose Publications has been honored with a Peacemaker: Livia J. Washburn’s “Charlie’s Pie” received the Best Western Short Fiction award in 2014.
In addition, Prodigal Gun, also published by Prairie Rose, was named a finalist in the Best Western First Novel category. Prodigal Gun is the first novel-length romance ever nominated for a Peacemaker.
I don’t say any of that to brag…
Oh, heck. Who am I trying to kid? I’m bragging. (Sorry, Mom!)
There really is a larger point, though: I think the award and nomination are important, but not because the books are mine. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right stories. There’s a hint at something much broader here: At long last, it seems, romances of all lengths are being recognized as “respectable literature” outside the romance category. That’s good news for all of us who enjoy a genre too often scoffed at and snubbed by the larger community of authors and readers.
Over the past eighteen months, a number of books published by Prairie Rose Publications have been nominated for or received awards of all kinds. If that’s any indication, PRP is off to a great start. Founded in August 2013 by Livia Washburn Reasoner and Cheryl Pierson, the company is and always will be dedicated to publishing traditional westerns and western romance written by women. Nevertheless, in less than two years, PRP has expanded to include young adult, inspirational, paranormal, and medieval lines. The “little publishing company” releases some darn fine fiction. I’m proud it publishes mine.
To celebrate good fortune in so many areas of my life, I’ll gift a copy of “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” to two folks who are brave enough to tell us how many of the badges above they identified correctly. To the comments with you!
In this day and age, we’re all looking for a bargain to make our dollars stretch just a little bit farther, aren’t we? It seems that’s especially true in reading, for me, because I don’t have time to go to the library…and I must confess, I’m a pretty slow reader. So, having that ultimatum hanging over me to return-a-book-within-a-certain-time-period-or-else just makes me nervous. It did when I was a kid, too.
So, speaking of bargains, I’m very thankful for e-readers and computers! Because now, you can get a whole lotta great reading served up electronically for a mere .99 and it’s YOURS! No returning it to the library, or hurrying to have to finish it…it’s there forever, added to your cyber library.
The first of the .99 books I want to talk about today is the Western Fictioneers publication THE TRADITIONAL WEST. What a wonderful collection of western stories to entertain, make you think, and plain ol’ enjoy. This anthology is special to me because it was the first WF publication my stories were included in. My contribution, The Kindness of Strangers, was one I truly enjoyed writing—because it has a wonderful twist in it. I brought in a little paranormal help, but I think it’s a story you’ll enjoy reading—and I’m sure proud to be included in this treasure trove of western short stories!
Another great .99 bargain is the first book of the WOLF CREEK series, created by Troy Smith. What a wonderful, fun time we had putting that book together! Oh, it was a little harrowing at times, I’m sure, for Troy—but he pulled it off beautifully, and that was the book that launched the series. Snap it up and get started on the Wolf Creek series for some great western reading if you haven’t already done so. WOLF CREEK: BOOK 1 BLOODY TRAIL is one exciting lift-off to a great series!
For those of you who enjoy a little romance in your westerns, here’s a DOUBLE bargain! Prairie Rose Publications is offering two five-book collections of some of our great western novels—yes, that’s right—NOVELS—for only .99! That’s .99 PER COLLECTION—not per book.
A COWBOY’S HEART includes novels by Tanya Hanson, Beverly Wells, Gil McDonald, Sara Barnard, and Cheryl Pierson.
A COWBOY’S BRAND includes novels by Kristy McCaffrey, Gail L. Jenner, Sarah J. McNeal, Meg Mims and Livia J. Washburn
There are lots and lots of “single-sell” short stories out there to snap up, too, containing some darn fine western entertainment! So come on—jump on over to Amazon or B&N and just see want you can find for less than a dollar! These are some of the best bargains out there!
Also, stop by the PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS website to see what we’ve got to offer in the way of fantastic reads! You’ll find plenty more of these bargain reads here and at other places on the internet! www.prairierosepublications.com
Summer has started off with a bang for me, in a fantastic way. I wanted to share with you all what my year has been like (the good parts of it!)
I always think when summer rolls around I will have more time. I think this started when my kids were little and I looked forward to not having to get up and make the school run every single morning, and then again in the afternoon. Even though it never happened the way I thought it would, for some crazy reason, I believed it would be that way year after year.
The one thing I did get a little more of in the summer was reading time. At least, it seemed that way. This summer I’ve had several new releases of my own I want to tell you about. Some of these are re-releases in a different format, but others are brand new!
KANE’S DESTINY is the third and final book in the Kane trilogy. It was released a few months ago. Each of these books were released separately (KANE’S REDEMPTION, KANE’S PROMISE, and KANE’S DESTINY) but then we decided to release them all under one cover as KANE’SCHANCE. Why? There are a couple of contests I’d like to enter, but there is no category for these shorter works. With a bit of editing and shaping, the stories were made into one continuous novel.
KANE’S CHANCE was released earlier this month and is available in both print and digital formats.
These “KANE” stories are for all ages, young and old alike. And everyone in the middle. They’re a “coming of age” tale about Will Green, a young boy who is kidnapped by a band of renegade Apaches after his family is killed. The first two books deal with that part of his life, and the last one, KANE’S REDEMPTION, deal with one of his biggest fears—his Bostonian grandfather coming west to claim him and trying to force him to leave Texas and go back East with him.
When KANE’S CHANCE begins, Will is ten years old, and by the end of the book, he’s thirteen. The adventures he has, the changes he goes through, and the inner torment he deals with throughout the stories speak not only of the maturing process every young man must go through, but also, his realization that the deaths of his entire family hinged on the poor judgment of his father. This is not a romance, but I hope you’ll find it to your liking all the same. Here’s the blurb for KANE’S CHANCE:
My name is Will Green and I have to share the story of how I met Jacobi Kane or I’ll bust from holding it in. Apache renegades murdered my family and took me prisoner when I was ten. I never believed I’d live to see another sunrise, but Kane appeared as if from nowhere and fought to save me. Never saw a man so determined before, but I did have to step in and help a bit.
I didn’t know at the time that Kane kept a secret from me, one which might change my high opinion of him. Then he met Laura, and she helped both of us heal in different ways.
Later on, once we settled down on a place of our own, Kane led a band of lawmen in their mission to annihilate the renegades responsible for killing my folks – and Kane’s first wife and children. Laura sent me along after them, just to be sure Kane stayed safe. It turned out to be good planning on her part.
Once I turned thirteen, my own doubts crept in as to whether I actually should be with the Kane family. Then my wealthy grandfather showed up from back East, determined to take me to Boston. Took some doing for me to learn the true meaning of family and just where I belonged. In the end, my grandfather and I faced a fight for our lives and, once more, our survival relied on Jacobi Kane and me. Now, I’ve got a family fortune to deal with – one I never knew about or wanted – one someone else wants bad enough to kill me for.
But I’ve found my place in life, with Kane’s help, and I don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon…
And speaking of romance, I have a brand new western historical romance, GABRIEL’S LAW, available NOW! It’s published through WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER, and if this cover doesn’t make you grab a fan I don’t know what will! That Jimmy Thomas looks hotter every time I see him! Here’s the blurb for it:
GABRIEL’S LAW by CHERYL PIERSON
When hired gunman Brandon Gabriel is double-crossed, it seems that his luck has run out. But Gabriel has more than luck; he has Allison Taylor, a lost angel from his troubled past who turns up and turns the tables. Old love blooms and new wounds begin to heal as Brandon and Allie tentatively make plans, but danger and self-doubt cast shadows on their hopes. When Allie and her ranch are threatened by an old enemy, long-buried secrets come to light and the stakes have never been higher. Will Brandon discover his chance at happiness in time to fight for it? Can Brandon and Allie confront the past, face down their demons, and forge their dreams into a future?
One thing Brandon doesn’t count on is the fact that Allie has already set a plan in motion that includes bringing orphans to her home—orphans like she and Brandon had been, early in life. Remember Travis Morgan from Fire Eyes? OK, that’s all I’m gonna say!
Christmas in July at WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER will see another of my short stories (Christmas, of course!) released as a “single sell” story for .99. THE WISHING TREE was first released in the VICTORY TALES PRESS A 2012 CHRISTMAS COLLECTON. Now, it’s being offered as a stand alone story, and I’m thrilled. I don’t have the cover for it yet, but will try to share it as soon as I can–I know it will be another good one–Karen M. Nutt is a genius with covers!
Pete Cochran, a war veteran with both visible and invisible scars, is mostly a loner, rather than scare children. Then a special woman with a son walks into his life as he works at his father’s Christmas tree lot – a woman with problems he can’t ignore.
Maria Sanchez and her son Miguel eke out an existence on her part-time earnings, but share an abundance of love, except when terrorized by her drug addict relative. When she meets Pete, she sees him not as a frightening man, but a wounded hero returned from war. Her son seems immediately drawn to the unusual Christmas tree vendor.
Will a special tree – a wishing tree – contain enough magic to fulfill all their Christmas desires?
This is a lovely, heartwarming story that I hope will touch you as it did me.
By the way, Wolf Creek: Book 1 Bloody Trail is now ON SALE at Amazon for only .99! It is ranked around #40 in the Kindle Best Westerns list presently! I provided the link above.
Here’s the blurb for Wolf Creek Book 5: Showdown at Demon’s Drop:
The brutal Danby gang paid dearly for their raid on Wolf Creek. But some of them escaped, and their new leader Clark Davis is hungry for revenge -on the town, and on the man that he believes betrayed the gang, Derrick McCain. Seminole scout Charley Blackfeather, meanwhile, wants his own revenge on Davis for his actions in the war…at the Centralia Massacre. Blood is going to flow… Appearing as Ford Fargo in this volume: Robert J. Randisi, Bill Crider, L. J. Martin, Wayne Dundee. Cheryl Pierson, and Troy D. Smith.
This edition of Wolf Creek is also ranked in the mid 40’s on the Kindle Best Westerns top 100 list! Here’s the Amazon link for it:
Last but not least, another delicious entrée from the Wolf Creek writers is hot of the presses as of last week! Wolf Creek Book 6 :HELL ON THE PRAIRIE, is different than the others. It’s the first Wolf Creek anthology. I loved this idea because each participant is able to write a short story featuring their character(s) and show a depth to their character they might not be able to convey in a collaborative effort such as the other books before this have been. My story is called IT TAKES A MAN, and of course, Derrick is at the center of this one. And guess what? It, too, is on the Kindle Best Western top 100 charts–last I checked in the mid 30 range! I’m so thrilled to have all three of these Wolf Creek books I contributed to in the top 100 all at once!
Here’s the blurb for my story IT TAKES A MAN:
When Derrick and his mother are ominously summoned to the Cherokee settlement of Briartown, Derrick is determined to set things straight with the man he’s learned is his real father. But once he arrives, he’s distracted by the beautiful cousin, Leah Martin, of his best friend’s wife. Leah is hiding a secret—one that could be the death of her. Once Derrick discovers it, will he walk away? Or will he save her…and possibly himself? IT TAKES A MAN to do what his heart tells him.
Here’s the link for Wolf Creek Book 6: HELL ON THE PRAIRIE.
I sure hope this will provide you with some ideas for some stories you might enjoy over the summer! There’s something here for everyone! For more great reading, please visit my AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE here : http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
Please be sure to leave a comment before you go–I’m giving away a digital copy of KANE’S CHANCE and also one of WOLF CREEK BOOK 1: BLOODY TRAIL today! Don’t forget to leave your contact information!
Who likes the stories of King Arthur and his knights? I do! I have been fascinated with the entire legend of Camelot since I was a child. The Sword In the Stone, the Disney cartoon movie, was a favorite when I was young.
As I got older, I couldn’t get enough of the movie musical, Camelot, with Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, and Richard Harris in the starring roles. I valiantly tried to struggle through T. H. White’s “The Once and Future King” but finally had to admit, it was too heavy for a twelve-year-old. As an adult, I enjoyed it, along with Mary Stewart’s series of the Arthurian legend as told from Merlin’s POV—a “must read” set if you’re a Camelot fan.
So, the story I wrote for the “Six Guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas” anthology is one that is dear to my heart in many ways. Even the title, “The Keepers of Camelot”, was not something I had to think about for long. This story has just been nominated for the 2013 Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Awards in the Short Story Category. I am beyond thrilled. It also received a specific mention in Publishers Weekly when the anthology came out. Here’s a bit about the story itself.
Legend says that Arthur will rise once more when the world needs him the most. But in my story, something goes awry, and Arthur has returned in many times, many places, throughout the centuries since his final battle.
The story opens with Arthur on a stagecoach in the American west—Indian Territory—of the 1880’s. But in this life, he comes across two people he’d never thought to see again—Lancelot and Guinevere. Why are they here—and how will it all end…this time?
The stage is attacked by Apaches minutes before the driver gets the passengers to the safety of the next stage station. Though they’re safe for the time being, a nerve-wracking Christmas Eve is in store as the Apaches wait for them outside.
Arthur has a plan. He’s seen the fearless leader of the Apache—the man they call “Sky Eyes”, a man he knew as Lancelot du Lac a hundred lifetimes ago.
Will Lance’s prowess as a warrior combine with his legendary arrogance to seal the fate of the people inside the station—including Guinevere, the woman he gave up everything for in the past?
One young boy in the group unknowingly holds the key to Lance’s decision. But will the glorious legend of Camelot be remembered?
I have to wait until June 1 to know the outcome of the decision, but no matter what, I feel like I’m a winner to be in such wonderful company of the other nominees, Troy Smith, Jim Griffin, Wayne Dundee, and C. Courtney Joyner.
There are some excellent stories in this book by many great western writers, including Troy Smith, Courtney Joyner, Robert Randisi, L.J. Washburn, James Reasoner, and many more. They’re all paranormal in some way, and they all take place in a western setting—it’s not just for Christmas! I will be giving away an e-copy of SIX GUNS AND SLAY BELLS to one commenter today! Please remember to leave your contact info in your comment.
Here’s a short excerpt for you:
In my story, Arthur, and Guinevere have come back during the 1880’s to the western frontier. They are under an Apache attack, and Arthur has recognized the leader of the Apaches as none other than Lancelot du Lac. He knows that Guinevere has recognized him, as well. Guinevere is married to the stage station proprietor, and Arthur finds himself on the stage headed for New Mexico . They’ve each lived a thousand lives since that last fateful day they spent together, when Lance rescued Ginny and then fought with Arthur. The legend says Arthur will return, but why are Lance and Ginny here, too? Here’s what happens:
“Come now, Ginny. Let’s have done with this pretense, shall we? We both know Lance is leading that band of savages.”
Her gaze faltered, and she looked away from him, not answering.
“Do you really believe he’ll harm you?” The note of gentleness crept into his tone, in spite of his resolve not to care.
“I—I don’t know, truly. He was—so angry when we last spoke. When I told him I’d made my decision to go to the convent—”
“You haven’t seen him since—since we fought?”
She shook her head. “Not really…Oh, I’ve seen him, during these attacks, but never spoken to him. Arthur, I’ve lived a thousand lives, but not fully. I seem to just wake up in another time, another place. Somehow, I—” She stopped herself, then went on in a controlled tone. “I believe it must be the same for you. And for Lancelot. We’re all trapped in this circle.”
“How do we end it, Ginny?”
She moistened her lips in the nervous gesture he recalled so well. “I’m not sure. But I—I wonder if maybe it’s not somehow connected to…forgiveness.”
Anger flared quickly in Arthur’s heart. She dared ask him to forgive? Forgive her treachery? Forgive Lance’s betrayal? Forgive her causing the death of the dream he’d held so dear? A cold smile touched his lips.
“You ask much, my lady. Especially after all you’ve taken.”
She nodded, the stricken look in her eyes almost too much for him. Even in the near darkness, he could see the pallor of her flawless skin.
“Yes. You were always a much better person than I, Arthur. You had a generous heart. A loving soul.”
“Make no mistake, Ginny—I am first a warrior. A ruler.”
In the gathering darkness, she laid a hand on his. “No, Arthur. You are first a man. And a good one.” The softness of her skin on his in the shadows brought a flood of memories that he’d thought were carefully locked away.
“You know Lance won’t attack now.” His lips curved caustically. “He loved Christmas-tide more than the rest of us put together.” It had always been Lance who suggested they find the biggest Yule log in the forest, spearheading the effort to organize the men and making it a festive occasion. It had been Lance who sang the Yule songs with such fervor, his deep baritone booming through the stone hallways of the castle.
Ginny’s eyes filled with sudden tears. “Arthur—when I see him as he was today…I wonder if he even recalls the things we remember. It seems he’s become absorbed in the ways of the Apache. The look on his face is so intent, so—cruel. I don’t believe he’s the person we knew.”
“He was never the person I thought I knew, Ginny. Never.” At her quick look, he smiled. “Yet, there’s a part of me that, even now, wants to call him my brother, as I did before—before everything fell apart.”
Ginny nodded “I hope that same part of you remembers me in another light as well, Arthur,” she whispered.
Today, I’m proud to introduce five wonderful western writers who I was privileged to work with on a “new concept” western, the kick-off novel of the Western Fictioneers’ Wolf Creek series.
Western Fictioneers is producing a new series of western novels, under the umbrella title Wolf Creek. The series gets its name from its setting, the fictional 1870s town of Wolf Creek, Kansas. The first installment, Bloody Trail, was released on September 1, with a new volume to follow every three or four months. Under the house pen name Ford Fargo, the six authors who collaborated on the first book of the series, Bloody Trail, are Clay More, James Griffin, L.J. Martin, Troy Smith, James Reasoner, and me, Cheryl Pierson. I can truly say, this has been one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on. I couldn’t have asked for more talented co-authors and genuinely nice people to have been a part of this group for book 1 of the Wolf Creek series. And a big thanks to Troy Smith for coming up with this idea and keeping a guiding hand on things to see it through to a fantastic finish!
Bill Torrance, Spike Sweeney, Derrick McCain, Charley Blackfeather, G.W. Satterlee, and Logan Munro are common citizens, until the day their small town of Wolf Creek, Kansas, comes under a methodically cruel siege. Led by one of the most brutal men of the post Civil War years, Jim Danby, the outlaw gang that invades Wolf Creek figures they got away clean with murder and bank robbery. But the dwellers of Wolf Creek have secrets of their own, and the posse that goes after Danby and his men are anything but the ordinary people they seemed to be before the attack. They’ll go to any lengths to keep their town safe, no matter how long they have to follow the BLOODY TRAIL.
I asked three questions of each of the authors about their character, collaboration, and what’s to come in future editions of the Wolf Creek series. For the sake of space, I’ll post the questions once here at the beginning and number the answers to correlate.
1. Wolf Creek is a town filled with secrets, and people “with a past.” Tell us a little about
your character without giving away all his secrets. What kind of man is he and how does he change in this story?
2. The idea of a collaboration with other authors is sometimes daunting. What did you enjoy most about working with your co-authors under the pen name “FORD FARGO”?
3. Are there any plans for your character to reappear in a future edition of the Wolf Creek stories? If so, what edition will it be?
Let’s start with Clay More’s answers, since his character kicks the story off.
CLAY MORE—Dr. Logan Munro
1. Logan Munro is a Scottish doctor, as am I. Shortly after graduating from Edinburgh University he served with the British Army Hospital in Scutari in Constantinople during the Crimean War. In 1856, at the end of the war he had the opportunity to go to India. While there he married Helen, a young governess. A year later The Indian Mutiny took place and he was involved in the siege. Sadly, Helen died from malaria. Disillusioned with life, and bereft at losing Helen, Logan sailed for America. Along came the Civil War, during which he served as a surgeon in the Union Army. When the guns ceased and the smoke cleared he settled down in Wolf Creek. He has seen a lot of action in the three wars he served in and he has honed his surgical skills on the battlefields. He is tired of all the killing and he just wants to settle down as a family doctor in a sleepy town.
I don’t think that Logan has really changed in the course of the story. Like all of the decent citizens of Wolf Creek he is sickened by the attack by the Danby gang. When a posse is formed he insists on
going, since he feels that he may be needed. His training and his experience mean that he keeps a cool head when he is under pressure.
2. This was indeed a very daunting prospect, since I was working with top names in the western genre, five writers whose prose and imagination I greatly admired. When Troy gave me the task of opening the story I was naturally anxious in case I failed to engage the reader in those first two chapters, which would result in the whole project collapsing. Troy had worked out an outline for us all to work to and everyone had the opportunity to chip in until we had the plot mapped out. Then each writer told the story through the viewpoint of their character. I think Troy was inspired to come up with the whole concept. We wrote the book sequentially, so I had to write mine quickly and hand it on to Jim Griffin, who then wrote his story and handed it on to Troy. Then Larry took up the reins and handed it on to James. And of course, Cheryl had to finish it off, which she did beautifully.
It was a lot of fun, but each writer had his or her own pressure to keep the story moving. I really enjoyed working with all of the writers and seeing just how the story panned out. I feel privileged to have been involved in the first collaborative novel. Also, I have to say that Troy, who ramrodded the whole thing, did a fantastic job in taking the whole manuscript and blending it seamlessly together. I think the result is a book that has turned out to be greater than the sum of its parts.
3. Yes, I am happy to say that Logan returns in Book 4 – The Taylor County War. In fact, I am working on it right now.
LARRY MARTIN—Angus “Spike” Sweeney
Angus “Spike” Sweeney is the town blacksmith.
He wears a butternut wool Confederate Kepi with a Davis Guard Medal pinned above the eye shade and invites comments, which might just be met with an iron bender’s grip on the throat and a pounding left to the proboscis. Considered a hero of the Davis Guards and the defense of Sabine Pass. He is usually unarmed, but is deadly within twenty feet with his hammer, and can split hairs at fifteen with his hatchet or Arkansas toothpick. A decent and deliberate shot with both a sidearm and long gun.
Spike was born in New Orleans and was a sailor (both in trading vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Mississippi) and on-board smithy, where he acquired some skill as a gunsmith as well. He keeps a garden in the rear of the shop with both vegetables and flowers, and is teased about the flowers. He is bashful around women and wouldn’t swear in front of one if a beer wagon ran over his moccasin clad foot, but is on the prod for a woman who can put up with his (in his eyes) questionable looks, and long hours in front of a hot forge.
Spike’s silent partner at the forge is Emory Charleston, an ex-slave -the two men make an incongruous, but mutually loyal, pair. Em’s biggest complaint about Spike is the Confederate cap he insists on wearing.
JIM GRIFFIN—Bill Torrance
1. My character is Bill Torrance, the owner of the Wolf Creek Livery stable. He’s a man who seems to care only for horses, and little else. He’s never even been known to carry a gun. In modern-day terms, he’d be considered a “wimp”. However, Bill Torrance is not his real name, and his background is far from the picture he presents to the citizens of Wolf Creek. This becomes clear when the town is attacked by the Danby gang.
2. First, it was an honor to be asked to participate in this project, with authors far more well-known than I, all of whom I admire. What I found most amazing and enjoyable was the complete cooperation among all the authors, and the complete lack of egos. Everyone was willing to bend to let the storyline mesh together cleanly. All of the authors were allowed to use the other authors’ characters in their chapters, as long as they didn’t change the character “owner’s” concept of his or her character. By everyone working together and setting aside our natural instincts to not want anyone else using “our” characters, we were able to avoid transition and storyline problems.
3. Yes, Bill Torrance, now using his real name, will be appearing in a future Wolf Creek book. I believe Volume 6. In that book, we’ll learn more about him, plus he’ll be interacting with Edith Pettigrew, widow of one of the founders of Wolf Creek. Bill had a confrontation with her in Bloody Trail, so when
they meet again the sparks will once more be flying.
TROY SMITH—Charley Blackfeather
1. Charley Blackfeather’s father was an escaped slave, and his mother was Seminole –he was raised as a member of that tribe, and as a very young man fought against the U.S. military in the Seminole Wars. Later, during the Civil War, he served in the same blue uniform he had once fought against… now (1871) he serves as a cavalry scout, making use of his vast knowledge of Kansas and Indian Territory.
Charley is an adept tracker and hunter. He bears a lot of pain from the losses he has suffered in the various wars, but carries it stoically. He can be pretty intimidating if you don’t know him well –but if he is comfortable with you he can display a wry sense of humor. In the course of our first episode, Charley is visited by ghosts from his past that re-awaken his grief and rage. He also begins to develop new friendships, with people he would not have expected he would ever trust.
2. As editor of the series, I admit I did have some trepidation about trying to coordinate this kind of complex project, and about dealing with so many different authors. I feared it would end up being an exercise in herding cats, and that I would have a lot of stubborn, narcissistic, recalcitrant people to deal with (in other words, writers.) But I was pleasantly surprised. This book, and the ones that are set to come after, were joys to work on. Everyone cooperated wonderfully-it really did feel like a team from the outset. And the rich, vibrant characters everyone created came alive immediately.
3. Well, that’s kind of a trick question in my case. As editor, I will be writing a section in every book, to help pull the various other parts together. I have two characters –one for stories that take place mostly in town (Marshal Sam Gardner) and one for stories that take place largely outside of town
JAMES REASONER—Sheriff G.W. Satterlee
1. My character, Sheriff G.W. Satterlee, is a former buffalo hunter and army scout who drifted into packing a badge, and in the process he discovered that he’s an instinctive politician who enjoys the power of his position. He’s not the morally upright lawman hero so often found in Western fiction, but neither is he the corrupt official out to line his own pockets. Rather, he’s somewhere in between . . . which means that he’s capable of either inspiring us or disappointing us, depending on the situation in which he finds himself and his reaction to it. In BLOODY TRAIL, he discovers that maybe he has a little more of a conscience than he thought he did. As with most things about G.W. Satterlee, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, we just don’t know yet .. . and probably neither does he.
2. I really got a kick out of the passion and enthusiasm the other authors brought to the project. Everyone tried to make this the very best novel it could be.
3. Since G.W. Satterlee is the county sheriff, headquartered in Wolf Creek, he’s bound to make plenty of return appearances, ranging from brief cameos to leading roles in some books. I believe he’s supposed to be featured again in the fourth book in the series.
1. I have two characters in this story, Derrick McCain, who has come back to Wolf Creek after many years of “drifting” after the war. He’s uneasy with himself and his past–he did some things that he regrets both during and after the war. But he has a personal stake in joining the posse to go after the gang that attacked Wolf Creek…he’s seeking revenge of his own. My other character is Carson Ridge, a member of the Cherokee Lighthorse law enforcement. He makes a brief appearance but will be back in future editions of Wolf Creek.
2. I truly loved working on this project. Getting to read the other parts first really helped me in my decision as to how to end it properly, since I wrote the last two chapters. It was important to “get it right” because the ending has to leave the reader wanting more. But every chapter built on the one that came before it, and Clay, Jim, Troy, Larry and James really made my job a lot easier than it might have been otherwise. This was Troy’s idea, and he has been organized and kept the ball rolling all along. So for me, the entire experience was really a good one–and nothing like I’d ever done before.
3. Derrick McCain will appear in book 5, Showdown at Demon’s Drop. I also have a couple of short stories planned for his character in future anthologies. Carson Ridge may also appear in book 5–I’m not certain yet, but I know he will turn up again in the future somewhere!
Thanks to all my co-authors today for joining me here at Petticoats and Pistols. We’ve enjoyed being here today to talk about this very different western, and we welcome any questions and comments!
We will be giving away a print copy of WOLF CREEK: BOOK 1 BLOODY TRAIL to one lucky commenter. If you just can’t wait to see if you won it, here’s the link to the page at Amazon!
I want to introduce you to a dear friend of mine, Troy Smith, who writes some of the best western fiction you’ll ever lay eyes on. I’ve had the privilege of editing some of Troy’s work, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Not only is Troy a fantastic writer, he’s also a wonderful person, and I’m excited to introduce him to y’all here today at Petticoats and Pistols. He’ll be giving away a copy of CALEB’S PRICE at the end of the day, so be sure and leave a comment along with your contact information!
Now here’s a bit about Troy Smith:
Troy D. Smith was born in the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee in 1968. He has waxed floors, moved furniture, been a lay preacher, and taught high school and college. He writes in a variety of genres, achieving his earliest successes with westerns. His first published short story appeared in 1995 in Louis L’Amour Western Magazine, and he won the Spur Award in 2001 for the novel Bound for the Promise-Land (being a finalist on two other occasions.) He is currently teaching American history at Tennessee Tech, and serving as president of Western Fictioneers -the first national writing organization devoted exclusively to fiction about the Old West.
Tell us about your current release.
Caleb’s Price is a very serious story –about the longing that echoes in all of us –that is told in a humorous and sometimes bittersweet way. My goal when I started it was to take all the standard themes, even stereotypes, of the western story and give them a surprising twist. The plot is reminiscent of Shane, Pale Rider, and dozens of B Westerns: an orphaned boy named Joey, raised by his aunt and uncle, is befriended by a mysterious stranger while the whole area is caught up in a range war. Romance seems to develop between the stranger, Caleb, and Joey’s sad and lonely, neglected Aunt Sally. But there are major twists. The “evil cattle baron” is not quite what he seems to be, and Joey (as well as the reader) begins to wonder if Caleb really is there to save them, or if he is there to destroy them. Pretty heavy plot. Yet while I was writing it, the characters took on a life of their own –even the villains (and sometimes it’s hard to tell who they really are) –and the story was imbued with a simultaneous mixture of comedy and tragedy. The only way I could explain it is: imagine if Shane had been written by Thomas Berger, the guy who wrote Little Big Man. It’s at the top of my list of favorites among the things I’ve written.
How did you start your writing career?
Totally by accident! I have always told stories, even as a kid, but it never occurred to me to be a professional writer. When I was in my early 20s I had a job buffing floors at K-mart and Wal-mart stores- in those days the stores were closed from 9pm till 9am, and I was locked in there alone for 12 hours to do a 4 or 5 hour job. I filled the empty hours by reading everything I could get my hands on (including a whole lot of westerns.) While I was buffing, my mind wandered to the stories I was reading- how would I do them differently? So for my own entertainment I started writing those stories down. I was on my 3rd or 4th novel before it dawned on me that I could try to get them published. I started taking the writing seriously, reading every how-to book I could find, and developed my craft.
What was your first sale as an author?
A western short story called “Mourning Glory.” It was in the Nov. 1995 issue of Louis L’Amour Western Magazine. I remember looking at that first paycheck -328 bucks –and thinking that, no matter what happened for the rest of my life, nothing could change the fact that I was a professional, published author. The magazine took several more of my stories –but unfortunately it folded not long after that.
Has someone helped or mentored you in your writing career?
From about 1998 to 2003, there were a number of people I met through Western Writers of America and online Western forums who helped me enormously. Robert J. Randisi included me in several anthologies he edited in that time, and was very encouraging. The list is very long, and I’m bound to slip up and leave someone out… but it included Jim Crutchfield, Dale Walker, Peter Brandvold, John Nesbitt, and more. Some of them introduced me to agents or editors, or read my manuscripts. Jory Sherman and Frank Roderus were especially helpful and encouraging when I was at the bottom of the barrel, devastated both emotionally and financially by a bad divorce. One veteran writer, whom I won’t embarrass by naming, sent me a computer and printer when he learned I no longer had such things, and the only repayment he would ever accept was a promise to do the same for another struggling writer someday (I did just that eventually, when I no longer needed that equipment.) I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people I named above don’t even remember helping me, it was such second nature to them –but I remember, and I always will.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book. How did you develop that character?
My favorite character I have ever created was Lonnie Blake, a supporting character in Bound for the Promise-Land. I wanted my hero, an escaped slave-turned-Union soldier named Alfred Mann, to have two army comrades who could play the roles of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to his everyman. Blake was the MLK character- tormented by his human frailties, yet saintly in his love. I grew quite attached to him –he was the sort of man I’d like to be.
What do you think makes a good story?
Conflict. You can’t have a story without conflict –not much of a story, anyhow. And the best stories have both inner and outer conflict; something is challenging the character in the outside, physical world, and that is mirrored by some inner challenge that the hero must overcome in order to defeat the physical obstacle. I also believe that the hero must be changed inside somehow, if only a little, at the end of the story or else you (and the reader) have just been passing time.
Where do you research for your books?
I used to do a lot of research in actual libraries, but nowadays it is possible to find even the most obscure items and documents online. Five years ago I spent an entire summer going from archive to archive in Oklahoma and Arkansas; everything I looked at then can now be accessed digitally. Of course, it’s still good to get a feel for the landscape, and you can’t do that in your computer chair looking at j-pegs. A lot of the western stuff I’ve written lately, and most of what I have planned, has been set in Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Arkansas, and Kansas –the area I researched intensely for my history dissertation, so I’m already pretty familiar with it.
Who are your books published with?
A crime novel I am very proud of, and which I hope grows into a series –Cross Road Blues –was published last year by Perfect Crime Books. My whole Western backlist is in the middle of being re-issued in both paper and e-book format by Western Trail Blazer, with new stuff upcoming as well. So far they’ve done four of my western novels, with four more in the chute, as well as several short stories- I hope to be with WTB for a long time to come. Rebecca J. Vickery is a treasure for our genre, and hopping on her WTB bandwagon when it was first rolling out was one of the smarter things I have done.
Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?
Read a lot. Read to gain factual information, to stir your muse, to examine how other people construct plots and characters. If you want to write good prose, in addition to telling good stories, also practice writing and reading poetry- notice meter and rhythm, and imagery.
And stick with it. Be persistent. Most “overnight successes” had been trying for years –and no one had heard of the ones who quit just before their big break came along.
Do you have a Website or Blog?
I sure do. My official website is www.troyduanesmith.com –there’s info there about my books, and some biographical material. I also blog at http://tnwordsmith.blogspot.com –sometimes about writing, or about westerns, pop culture, history or politics (as a historian, I don’t separate history and politics into different compartments, it’s all part of the same beast!)
How about an excerpt from the book you’re giving to some lucky commenter today, Caleb’s Price?
Glad you asked! Here it is.
EXCERPT FROM CALEB’S PRICE:
“You homesteaders are a stubborn breed,” Caleb said.
“We’re not stubborn,” said Burt. “Our dreams are. Some dreams die hard, and others don’t die at all –so long as they have a bit of rich soil to sink into. Surely you can understand that, Caleb. Even you can’t be as hard as you sound. We all have dreams.”
“I manage to sleep pretty sound, myself. If I have any dreams I don’t remember ’em.”
“You’re an unfortunate man, then. A man who never dreams is a sad thing.”
“How about women?” Caleb asked.
“What do you mean?”
“How about women? Do they have dreams?”
Burt laughed. “Not bein’ one myself, it’s hard to say.”
“Have you ever asked one?”
“Asked one what?”
“About her dreams.”
“No, Caleb, I haven’t. What are you gettin’ at?”
“Nothin’ in particular. I was just wonderin’. You bein’ so big on dreams, I just wondered if you ever noticed anybody else’s.”
Burt frowned. “At least I notice my own.”
“What about your wife, Burt? Does she have any dreams?”
“What do you think?”
“I think that if she does, they’re not about land. Or sheep.”
“Perhaps you’d be good enough to tell me what you think my wife dreams about.” Burt’s voice had taken on a rough edge.
“Oh, I don’t know. The sea, maybe.”
Burt laughed again. I think his laugh was beginning to irritate Caleb. It had been irritating me for years.
“So that’s it,” Burt said. “Sally’s been entertainin’ you with those fairy tales of hers. It’s getting’ plain to me that you have no experience with women. If we had stayed in New Bedford she would have dreamed about the West, and complained about never havin’ seen it. That’s just the way women are. They don’t know what they want. They only know that it’s always somethin’ they’ll never have. It’s different with a man, he dreams about somethin’ simple and sets about gettin’ it. Like me. I know exactly what I want.”
“Then your dreams are important enough to risk your family’s lives over.”
“Yes,” Burt said, in a voice that was softer than normal for him. “That’s how great nations are built. I’m only sorry that you don’t understand any of the things I’ve been tellin’ you.”
“I probably understand more than you give me credit for.”
“I was right about you, wasn’t I, Caleb?”
“What do you mean?”
“About what I said earlier. That you’re a wanderer.”
“I’ve never denied it.”
Burt’s face took on a cold expression. “Then I think that it’s only fair I warn you now, Johnson. Don’t try to include my wife in your wanderin’.”
Caleb chuckled. “What on earth brought that on? The last I knew, we were talkin’ about sheep.”
“All that fancy talk about what her dreams are,” Burt said, his tone hot. “They’ll not come true from the likes of you, I’ll warrant.”
Caleb shook his head. “You sure take a lot out of a little polite conversation.”
“Just don’t fawn over my wife, that’s all.”
“I wasn’t fawnin’ over her, I was just tryin’ to make a point. The point being, you’re risking her life over something she doesn’t even want.”
“I’ll be the judge of what my wife wants, not you. Women are like sheep. All they really want is to be directed. Anything else that comes from ’em is just mindless bleating. And besides, it’s none of your bloody business to start with.”
“I can’t argue with that,” Caleb said. “I was just offerin’ some friendly advice, that’s all.”
“Save your advice for the polar bears. The way you talk, I’d almost believe Ike Majors sent you here as a spy.”
Caleb stared at him for a moment, silent, then said, “If Ike Majors had sent me here, somebody would be usin’ this little wagon as a coffin, and you’d be a lot closer to God’s green earth than you ever wanted to be.”
“Aye. Or else you’d be.”
Troy, thank you so much for being our guest today here at Petticoats and Pistols. We hope you’ll come back and join us again sometime! You’ve got a lot of wonderful work out there and some beautiful covers, for sure!