Welcome Guest . . . Peter Brandvold


One of the most important things in writing words that sell, and one of the hardest things for most writers to understand until they’ve been hammering away at the craft for years, is how to make those words move.

I mean MOVE like a cavalry charge at the end of a John Ford oater. 

Like a bullet fired through the maw of Colt Lightning .44.

Like an Apache arrow slung from a gut-an’-ash bow to plunge into a cavalry’s soldier’s blue-clad chest with a hard, snapping crunch!, sending blood geysering out the poor lad’s back to paint the rock wall of the escarpment behind him.

All right, enough pulpy examples.  You get the idea. 

Let me amend that first paragraph.  Some writers, no matter how long they’ve been writing, never understand how to make their prose gallop.  To make it sell. 

Almost always as I wander the bays at my favorite bookstores or peruse the “Sneak Peek” pages on Amazon, looking for a yarn that’s sure to grab me by the throat and not let go till I’ve read the last page–oh, god, how rare is that!–I find prose that slumps on the page like roadkill, like a wet sheet blown off a clothesline. 

Twisted and slack and pale as death…

There are several causes for this amateur’s misstep, but let’s skip the causes and go to a few tricks for solving the problem–methods I’ve learned throughout my life and from writing around seventy western novels and continuing to sell and acquire new contracts and new readers.

I’ll touch on three.

First, make your prose look pretty on the page.  This sounds sophomoric, and it is.  Something as seemingly insignificant as a how those little black marks are clumped on the page makes a big difference to a reader’s eye whether they’re aware of it or not.  Those marks make a rhythm in the eye just as the sounds they create in your head form a rhythm in your ear.

Frankly, big, heavy clumps of text are just plain ugly.  Sort of like having a big, brick wall you have to climb at the end of your morning run. 

As a rule of thumb, I try to make my paragraphs between one and seven sentences long.  That keeps the final printed page from looking too black.  And I vary the lengths so that I seldom get two portly paragraphs together.  Same for one or two-sentence paragraphs, though this is less important than staggering the thick ones.

Look at this essay for instance.  This is how the pages of your pubbed novel should appear when printed.

Another of the myriad ways you can make your prose sing and dance is to make it specific and colorful.  It should be as vivid in the reader’s mind as a scene from their favorite movie.

This is a tough one.  This is the trick that separates the weanling pups from the alpha wolves.  It’s a very hard one to teach, and it really can’t be taught to someone who isn’t armed with a vivid imagination.

Think DETAIL.  And not just any ole detail, but the detail that propels that old saloon in your western novel off the page and seers it into the reader’s retina.  Okay, it’s low-slung and it’s made of adobe brick and there are two hitchracks out front.  That’s still every other saloon I’ve ever seen in books and T.V., even with a drunk cowboy passed out on the porch.

Let’s add a black-and-white collie dog with a burr-matted tail lapping up the spilled beer on the worn pine puncheons beside the cowboy.  The saloon’s missing one of its batwings and the remaining one, wearing a chipped and faded coat of red paint, has two bullet holes in it.

A clay water pot, an ojo, hangs from the porch rafters, left of the batwings, jostling under the weight of the magpie perched on its rim, drinking.

You see?  With details–with nouns and verbs as well as adjectives–we’ve pumped that old saloon back to life.  The scene’s vivid, the prosemoves.

Yet another way to make your sentences wriggle around like snakes in your readers’ hands is to write in a conversational tone.  The best way to do this is to read it out loud to yourself.  If it reads clear and easy, if it flows like a good ale over the tongue, you’ve got it.

If it’s stilted and halting, and you have too many four-dollar words and you’re not using contractions, get back to work. 

This is much harder than you’d think.  It takes time and practice and patience and, most of all, confidence in your ability to do it.  Eventually, after enough words have flowed over the dam of your mind, they’ll wear the dam away and you’ll be writing so fast and furiously–having so damn much fun!–that you’ll be blowing out one keyboard after another!

Oblige me the mixed metaphor…

Here’s my last tip.  And it’s the most important one.  When you sit down to write, you should be breathing fire.  Your fingers and toes should be tingling and you should be chuckling to yourself like a moron.

If you’re dragging around the house, avoiding your work room and lamenting that today you’ve got to get Carmody and Crystal in the bunkhouse together alone in spite of the horrible things they said to each other the night before, and they have to interact in a way that tells the reader they’re hot for each other though they themselves don’t realize it yet–forget it.

If you write with that attitude, whose going to enjoy reading it?

Take that seemingly static scene by the horns and imagine doing something so unexpected and creative with it that it puts lead in your pencil and makes your ears burn with anticipation.  Maybe you could have the two characters yack for a while and then, out of the blue, something inexplicable overcomes Crystal and, to her surprise as much as to Carmody’s, she throws herself into his arms!  

And before the reader has time to get bored with the dull conversation, Crystal and Carmody are making love while a rainstorm hammers the ole bunkhouse roof.

Or if that’s too much of a cliché…I don’t know…send Crystal into a rage.  She picks up a skinning knife and tries to stab Carmody.  Or maybe she does stab Carmody!

The idea is to mix your ideas up, paw them around like a cat with a mouse until you come up with something that has you breathing fire and making your prose chew up the sod like a thousand galloping horses at the end of a John Ford oater.


Since his first novel, Once A Marshal, was published in 1998, Peter Brandvold has written over seventy fast-action western novels under his own name and his penname, Frank Leslie.  Check out his website:  www.peterbrandvold.com.  Become a follower of his blog at: peterbrandvold.blogspot.com.



Hi everyone!

Cheryl Pierson here! I want to introduce you to a very special guest, a good friend of mine who writes some fantastic western adventures, Peter Brandvold! Pete has been gracious enough to take time from his busy schedule to answer a few interview questions for us and will be poking his head in every once in a while today to read and answer comments and questions. He’s got a couple of new releases to tell us about today as well as some insight as to how he got started writing and a few of his pet peeves.


How did you start your writing career?

I hated teaching so much so it was either writing or suicide the way Yukio Mishima did it–seppuku.

Tell us about your current release.

I have two current releases–a paranormal or “weird” western, DUST OF THE DAMNED, and a traditional western under my pen name Frank Leslie–THE LAST RIDE OF JED STRANGE.  DUST is a werewolf western in which two ghoul-hunting bounty hunters, Uriah Zane and Angel Coffin, go after the Hell’s Angels–a pack of werewolves brought into the U.S. by Abe Lincoln to win the Civil War at Gettysburg.  The Angels were supposed to go home when the job was done, but it seems you can’t trust a werewolf farther than you could throw your fattest aunt uphill against a cyclone.  They came west and caused all kinds of trouble.  A beautiful Mexican witch and necromancer is leading them across the Arizona desert in search of the werewolf-equivalent of the holy grail.  (Jesse James makes an appearance as a ghoul-hunter, as well, because in my messed-up West there’s more money in hunting down vampires, aka, “swillers,” and hobgobbies and werewolves than there is in train robbing!) 

JED STRANGE is about one of my series characters, young Colter Farrow, who wears the ‘S’ mark of Sapinero on his cheek–branded there by the vile Bill Rondo.  In this one, he’s on the run in Mexico with a young girl, Bethel Strange, who’s looking for her outlaw father who was last seen running guns in the Sonora Desert.

Who is your favorite author?

I have tons of favorite authors, and the list moves around a lot.  I like Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore a lot–sci-fi writers from the pulp days.  And I also like the fantasy novels of Jack Vance.  For western writers I like Gordon D. Shirreffs, Richard Jessup, Luke Short, Lewis B. Patten, and H.A. DeRosso.

Has someone been instrumental in inspiring you as a writer?

The students I hated teaching.

Has someone helped or mentored you in your writing career?

My dogs have always been here for me.  (Actually, my ex-wife taught me a lot by her incredibly gifted editing, but if you tell her I said that I’ll deny it and call you a raving lunatic!)

What was your first sale as an author?

ONCE A MARSHAL back in ’98.  It was about the aging lawman Ben Stillman, whose career was cut short when a drunk whore shot him in the back by accident.  Sigh.  But Ben got himself dusted off and went back to work to solve the murder of his old hide-hunting pard, Milk River Bill Harmon.  I really like that book.  I wish someone would reprint it.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?

Editing.  I really hate editing.  I like to just keep moving forward.  Going back to polish is like when you’re a little kid out playing cavalry and you got dead Injuns all around and only a few more to go and your mom calls you in for supper.

What are your pet peeves as a writer? As a reader?

As a writer, it’s editing.  As a reader, it’s dull writing.  Writers today seem more preoccupied with telling back stories than front stories–i.e, keeping things rolling.  I mean, they’ll start a book off with, “Jessica gripped the gun in her fist and walked into the saloon.  She’d just ridden into Dodge City that morning and found her father hanging from a gallows.  That really miffed her, so the first thing she did was…”  Know what I mean?   The art of bringing all that stuff in through action and dialogue is an art and most writers today do it about as well as I can dance.  Omniscient narrators should be killed en masse all over the writing world.  There, I said it, and I don’t care if I hang for it!

Who are your books published with? 

Berkley and Signet.  At one time, Forge.  They’ve been good to me. 

You can order Pete’s books from his awesome website:  www.peterbrandvold.com

His blog can be found here:  http://peterbrandvold.blogspot.com

Here’s a link to a fantastic review for DUST OF THE DAMNED:

Pete, thank you so much for being our guest today and giving us these personal glimpses into your career and how you got started writing.  You’ve written so many wonderful action packed westerns, my new kindle is going to be loaded down. These latest two additions to your credits look absolutely wonderful. Again, thanks for being our guest today, and we hope you’ll come back again in the future!



Time Plains Drifter is a different kind of romance novel than anything I’ve ever read.  I think that’s why I enjoyed writing it so much. 

After being released in December of 2009 with an unscrupulous publisher, I took my rights back after only three months and spent the next year searching for another home for it.  Just this past spring, it was placed with WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER, an imprint of PUBLISHING BY REBECCA J. VICKERY.  This is a marvelous company that handles some much “bigger” names than I have, such as Peter Brandvold, Jory Sherman, and Madeline Baker, among others.  Print books are important to me, although I understand that e-publishing is growing by leaps and bounds.  I’m sure that WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER will prove to be the perfect place for Time Plains Drifter, and I’m glad to say I now have the sequel in the works. 

That being said, let me tell you why Time Plains Drifter is so hard to pigeonhole and why that may be a bit scary in today’s market. 

I knew Time Plains Drifter was going to have to be classified as a time-travel romance; that’s how the H/h meet one another.  She’s from 2010—he’s from 1879.  That was the easy part.  The part that was a bit harder to work around was that he was dead.  I just couldn’t get past the premise that Rafe d’Angelico was going to be the “paranormal element” of the story.  I didn’t want him to be a werewolf, vampire, or shapeshifter.  So that left angels, demons, zombies and so forth.  I chose for him to be an angel.

Working with Rafe—an angel who didn’t want to be an angel—was a challenge.  I told him he had a pretty good deal going.  He told me, “I want to be human again.”  In the end, I realized he was right, and that was the only way to resolve the issue of time-travel-paranormal-angel-demon-human issues. 

Jenni Dalton, the heroine, was completely unsuspecting in all this.  She went out on a stargazing field trip with seven of her high school students one night and they never came home.  Instead, they ended up in Indian Territory, 1895; one hundred-fifteen years in the past. 

Jenni’s got it rough, trying to deal with her seven charges, four of them the senior class troublemakers.  It takes Rafe to bring them to heel and get them to toe the mark, until the gravity of their situation causes them to all make some surprising adjustments. 

As Rafe and Jenni realize their growing attraction to one another is fated, they also understand there is no way anything can come of it on a permanent basis—Rafe is an angel, and Jenni is human. 

The twists and turns that finally bring the book around to the HEA were the most fun to come up with for me.  But the story itself, being so unique, is tough to categorize. 

Time Plains Drifter is special to me because it’s the first project my daughter, Jessica, and I have had the chance to work on together.  She designed the cover art. I absolutely LOVE what she did. 

Time Plains Drifter was the recipient of The Reviewer’s Top Pick Award by Karen M. Nutt, PNR reviews.  It also received a 4.5 star review from Romantic Times Magazine.  I was selected as the recipient of the Honorable Mention—Best New Paranormal Author category in PNR’s PEARL Awards last year (March 2010), based on Time Plains Drifter. 

The sequel has been a delight to work on, with a different twist than the first book, and some familiar characters will be the stars of the show this time around since the story is built around Rafe’s brother, Cris, and Jenni’s sister, Victoria. 

Time Plains Drifter is now available in all formats, including print, Kindle, and Nook. Take a look at my Amazon page to order. (See link below.)

 Cheryl’s Amazon Author Page:


I’ve included the blurb and an excerpt below.  Please leave a comment!  I always love to hear from readers and other authors.  Visit my website at http://www.cherylpierson.com



Trapped in Indian Territory of 1895 by a quirk of nature, high school teacher Jenni Dalton must find a way to get her seven students back to 2005. Handsome U.S. Marshal Rafe d’Angelico seems like the answer to her prayers; he is, after all, an angel. In a race against time and evil, Rafe has one chance to save Jenni’s life and her soul from The Dark One—but can their love survive? 


He closed his eyes, letting the pleasurable feel of her wet mouth on his body wash over him, along with her voice. “Some things never change,”she’d said earlier. Her Oklahoma accent was a slow waltz to his mind, its lilting cadence urging him to accept what they had between them. Still, he couldn’t let it go. Couldn’t ever be dishonest with her, of all people.

“Don’t you want to know—”

She stopped him, placing two cool fingers across his lips, smiling at the tickle of his moustache against her skin. The smile faded as she absorbed the worry in his expression, the smoldering fire in his eyes, and made it her own.

“Not now, I don’t. You asked me—earlier—if I felt it. Whatever it is between us. I do.” Debating with herself, she hesitated a moment before coming to a decision. “I want you, Rafe,” she murmured. “I trust you.” She nuzzled his neck.“It doesn’t matter now, who—or what—you are.”

His hand closed in a fist around the shimmering satin of her copper hair, his chest filling with a sweet peace at her quiet words.


His mind churned as Jenni kissed him once again. Accepting him, for whoever he might be. She loved him. She hadn’t said it yet, but he knew it by the gentle way her lips grazed across his, then claimed his mouth completely, as if that was the only way she had to let him know how she felt. They breathed together, as one.

He answered her wordlessly, his tongue going into her mouth, fingers splaying and tightening against her scalp as he pulled her to him.

She came across his bare chest, the stiffness of the material of her own blouse gliding with gentle abrasion across his nipples. He groaned in pleasure and felt her smile against his mouth. She made the move again as she lifted her lips from his, emerald eyes sparkling into his searing gaze.

“We’ll talk later,” she assured him.

“It’ll be too late to change your mind about me then,” he said, half-jokingly.

“I won’t change my mind, Rafe.”

The sweet sincerity in her voice and the promise in her eyes reassured him. He pulled her down silently. As their mouths melded once more, he rolled, taking her with him, changing their positions so he lay atop her.

She gasped, yielding to him, her cool palms sliding over the fevered heat of his skin, across his chest and shoulders. He began to unbutton her blouse as he kissed her, his fingers moving deftly. He pushed away the first layer of material with his customary impatience, then started on the stays of her corset.

She twisted beneath him at the loosening of the undergarment. He pulled her upright momentarily, whisking blouse and corset over her head, dropping them in a heap on the floor.

In silent invitation, Jenni lifted her hand to him. She touched his side, and he flinched slightly as her fingers lingered over the very place the Bowie had gone into him earlier that day. Even though a red scar marked the spot, there was no pain for him, and he saw no puzzlement in her eyes…only concern.

“Does it hurt?”

It was as he had suspected. She’d seen what had happened, how bad it should have been…but wasn’t. And she had accepted it, unconditionally. They would talk later, as she’d said, but somehow, he felt he would find the words he needed to explain things to her. He shook his head slightly. “No.”

A vulnerable uncertainty crossed her face for a moment. “Well, then, Marshal—what’re you waiting for?” He unfastened her skirt and petticoat, then made short work of the stockings and underpants.

God. Rafe swallowed hard, reaching to trace the faded tan lines across her shoulders. He moistened his lips, his teeth sinking into the lower one momentarily. His pulse raced as his gaze moved over her face—then lower, to her breasts, her flat belly, and the triangle of soft hair, below.