Saturday, February 6, 2016

Why Write? by Sara Barnard




Problem. You have written THE story. The one everyone has to read in order for the world to keep turning. 





You exercised show and not tell, trimmed the purple prose as easily as you trimmed the lawn last week. You triple checked your P.O.V and tenses, avoided cliches and all allegorical alliteration and emerged victorious at The Battle of The Writer's Block. Then, you got off Facebook and Pinterest long enough to bring your writer's dream to fruition. 


Now what? 

Three agents' rejections, four publisher "I regret to inform you's", and five snarky beta readers left you wondering why you ever bothered to pick up a pen in the first place. 

Where do you go? What do you do? 

For normal people, they would shrug it off and turn on the t.v. Binge on a Netflix series.
Go out with friends. 
Do something normal
For a moment you wish you, too, were normal. Like them. 
Like everyone else. 
Alas, you are not.
Then, it comes. 
The one YES that changes everything. 
Be it from a reviewer, beta reader, agent or publisher. 
Once you connect with that person,
make them feel what you wanted them to feel through your words,
the pen that was so heavy before becomes feather light. 
You're on top of the world. 


And then it starts all over again. 



How do you keep motivated?





Friday, February 5, 2016

Cattle drives -- moving herds of cattle from one location to another on foot -- were especially important in the American west between 1866 and 1886. Around 20 million cattle were herded from Texas to stockyards in Chicago and other eastern cities. Long-distance cattle driving was traditional in Mexico, California, and Texas, and horse herds were sometimes also driven. The term "drive" does not refer to carrying, as in driving a vehicle, but to forcing the cattle to move forward.







Cattle drives had to strike a delicate balance: the cattle needed to move as quickly as possible, but not so quickly as to cause them to lose weight. Fat, healthy cattle brought the best prices at market. The ideal speed was somewhere between 10 to 15 miles in one day, with rest periods for grazing at midday and at night. This meant that a drive could take several months to complete on a long trail. One of the most famous trails, the Chisholm Trail, was 1,000 miles long, stretching from Texas to Abilene, Kansas.




The more cattle you could move, the more money you made when you sold them at the end of the drive. A typical drive consisted of 1,000 to 3,000 cattle. With this many cattle, it was highly profitable for a town to encourage a drive to pass through, or even make it their destination once the railroads began expanding. So-called cattle towns experienced a boom between 1866 and 1890, as railroads reached them and the towns made themselves available for gathering and shipping cattle. The most famous towns were railheads, where the herds were shipped off to Chicago stockyards.

Abilene, Kansas was one of the first, and most famous, cattle towns. Other Kansas towns included Wichita and Dodge City. There were certainly other famous cattle towns, however: Las Vegas, New Mexico; Greeley, Colorado; Medora, North Dakota; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Ogallala, Nebraska; Miles City, Montana; and Prescott, Arizona are but a few of them. Texas was a frequent starting point for many drives, and Amarillo, Fort Worth, and Wichita Falls were all important cattle towns.




A drive couldn't exist without the cowboy, of course. A crew of at ten to fifteen men was needed for a sizeable herd. Each man needed from five to ten horses (ridden in shifts so that no one horse became exhausted), so a drive also included a small herd of horses, called a remuda. The cowboys worked in shifts to watch the cattle around the clock, herding them in the right direction during the day and making sure they were safe at night. Theft was a big danger, as was a stampede, when cattle became frightened and dashed away at top speed in any direction.

A typical drive would consist of the trail boss, who might be the owner of the cattle, the crew of cowboys, a horse wrangler to handle the remuda, and the cook, who drove the chuck wagon. This wagon carried not only food for the crew, but also the medical supplies and bedrolls. The cook was especially well-respected by the crew for his knowledge of food and practical medicine.




Once the herd was moving, everyone had an assigned spot. A good trail boss would rotate the positions of his crew so that no one cowboy had to ride in the most unpleasant spots all the time. First out of the camp would be the chuck wagon. This would travel in front of the herd, and usually be out of sight before long. A scout traveled ahead of the herd as well, seeking out the best routes and serving as go-between for the chuck wagon and the trail boss. The main herd followed the trail boss and the point riders to his right and left. Swing riders were positioned to either side of the herd, and were responsible for keeping the cattle bunched together, chasing down stragglers and driving them back into the herd.  To the back of the herd, in roughly the same positions as point, were the flank riders. Their job was to push the herd along, making sure they kept to the desired speed. The worst job of all was drag, which was directly behind the herd, pushing them forward and watching for stragglers. Drag riders were covered with dust and less-desirable products of the cattle, kicked up by thousands of hooves.


Here are some words of wisdom from cattle rancher Oscar Thompson to his son Webster before his first drive:

·      First of all, obey your boss -- he's paying you for your service
When you camp at night, always point your wagon tongue toward the North Star.
Explain to your men in a quiet voice what they are to do.
·      Never say "no" to your employer.
·      Be ready to go at all times.
·      Don't say "You boys do this," but "Come on, boys, follow me."
·      Put your best two men on point.
·      Water your cattle and fill them up before night.
·      Explain to your cook that he must be ready with meals at all times.
·      Watch your horses -- don't let the men abuse them.
·      Keep your harness and camp equipment clean and up out of the sand.
·      Don't fight your men unless they jump you; but if they or anyone else jumps you, give them the best you have.
·      Don't ever misrepresent anything to your employer; tell it just like it happened.
·      Don't get rattled. No matter what happens, keep your head clear.
·      Don't lose confidence in yourself.
·      Look after the comfort of your men, and they will follow you to hell.

·      Keep your mind on your business and make your head save your heels.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Book Publishers of Western Novels


The Peacemaker Awards competition has been announced, pursued, and closed as of January 15.  In the process of the judging (for me, of Best Western Novel) still going on, I became interested in learning what I could about publishers of Western Fiction. 

Book Publishers

Two search strings, “Book Publishers of Western Novels” and “Who Publishes Western Novels” turned up 41,900,000 and 17,800,000 hits respectively.  At first, I could not figure out where they all came from. 

Then,as I struggled to create a coherent 1,000 words out of this, I noticed that the results varied every time I logged off and came back to my search later under the same string.  So, 41.9 million hits became 24 then 31 then 37.  I switched strings and 17.8 became 8.1 then 12.
 
I stopped.  What started out as an amusement had evolved into a suspicion.  To fantasize about the time and energy to track down every one of them clearly would be a wasted fantasy (I am a subscriber to the belief that not all fantasies are wasted—in fact, they are necessary precursors to discovery) because whatever the search string algorithm was doing, it was doing it differently every time I logged on and off. Alas, it was all I could manage to try to figure out whether this was a subject that could even possibly hold enough interest for today’s first Monday.

I decided to focus on the first ten pages of results.  That, at least, provided a tangible number out of which to create some kind of understanding.  (About 15 listings per standard Google page, of which 4-5 were paid listings.)

So out of 100 assumed legitimate listings of “Book Publishers of Western Novels” I found—drumroll because you are not going to believe this—25 discrete names that I could identify as separate entities ready and able to publish western novels.  Western Fictioneers was one of those discrete names. Both Amazon and Create Space were not, although a recently purchased company, now a subsidiary of Amazon, showed up on the list as an ongoing, independent company that publishes westerns.
 
While my instinct tells me this count is off by a factor of four, there are several aspects of this “discovery” (if such un-earthing of truly self-interested information can truly be labeled a discovery).

  • For one, some publishers I know from my personal (and woefully inadequate) knowledge did not even show up on the hundred unadvertised Google entries or any of the lists contained within the hundred entries.  
  • For another, Five Star showed up on the 9th page, about listing 83.  Three other publishing companies, one of which is Five Star’s parent, showed up as discrete listings in the preceding nine pages.  Happily for us Western Fictioneers, WF showed up on page 2, the 12th listing, just before WWA and right after the Five Star facebook page.
  • On that latter, the Five Star facebook page did not show up as 11th (unpaid) listing until I had checked the positioning of WF.  No, I don’t think Google has figured out a way to monitor my blog drafts and sneakily try to undermine my shock.  I just take it as a learning experience. Like, build it and they will come, well, click and it might change.
  • Finally, what is surprising to me about this is that I was reliably able to find what I expected to find:  a compiled list of publishers, but only for mystery and romance novels (and each had about 100, what my instinct tells me would be the number for publishers of western novels if ever a true list gets developed.) 

  • Agents, Books, Resources, Writers


    So what do those 8 – 42 million hits really hit?  Here is an impressionistic list.  I gave up trying to be systematic.

    Agents – to my great surprise, I found a list that identifies itself as “Western Literary Agents.”  It listed 67 agents who accepted western novels, or more precisely, the writers of western novels.  There are several sites that purport to tell writers all about agents but this one came as a surprise.  (Since I have not vetted it, I do not show a link. Having said that, I will acknowledge that the agent I suspect is most well known representing Western authors was not on the list.)

    Books – well, this really means Amazon.  Think about how many categories, let alone books, are ordered under the word “western.”  I suppose, although I did not test it, the “western novels” led the algorithm to identify everyone published and listed on Amazon.

    Resources – now this was an unwelcome result that was truly useful.  I had absolutely no expectation that I could start out with this (to my eye) pointed and limited question and turn up so many references to resources for writers.  I suppose four trigger words—book…publishers…western…novels—scream out to the algorithm “We got a live one.”

    Writers – and this one really surprised me.  The search string turned up three very long, not entirely in agreement with each other, essays on the history of westerns, western literature, and western writing.  It also turned up a compiled list of Western writers.  Since I was looking for a compiled list of Western novel publishers I greedily swallowed this list whole.  It lists 217 writers, living and dead, and a lot of Western Fictioneers.  Among those names listed are those of many writers I personally know (and, blessedly, they are all still among the living.) Alas, coming as no great surprise, it does not list mine.

    To bring this all back where it started.  The Peacemaker Awards competition is well underway.  Until it is over, it is not appropriate to identify or comment on the publishers who made these 2015 entries possible—except to say it is wonderful that there are book publishers of Western novels. 



    E-mail Edward Massey with comments, author of 2014 Gold Quill winner, Every Soul Is Free and Amazon ABNA 2009 Quarter-finalist, Telluride Promise.

    Friday, January 29, 2016

    New Western Fictioneers Officers Announced




    Western Fictioneers is proud to announce that Bill Crider will serve as president of the organization and Douglas Hirt will serve as vice president for the next two years.


    Greetings and Salutations to all the Western Fictioneers.

    I learned today that I’d been elected as your president by an overwhelming majority of the vote. Or possibly by only one vote.  But numbers don’t matter.  I am the president, and I’m honored to serve such a fine organization of writers.

    Most of you, I know, have never met me, but I met at least a couple of our founders, James Reasoner and Bob Randisi, long ago.  Those two and I go back over 35 years now, and counting.  Both of them are younger, more prolific, and better looking that I am.  They’ve been publishing longer, too, as have a good many of you here.  I’m humbled to be the figurehead of a group with so many distinguished and successful writers in a genre we all love.

    The first westerns I remember were movies.  Every Saturday afternoon, I’d be at the Palace Theater in Mexia, Texas, for the double feature with Johnny Mack Brown and Monte Hale, or Tex Ritter and Wild Bill Elliott, or Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.  I remember radio, too.  The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, Bobby Benson and the B Bar B Riders, Gunsmoke, Have Gun, Will Travel.  The books came later.  Will James, Zane Grey, the Whitman books about Roy and Gene.  The 1950s brought some great western movies for grown ups, like Shane and Winchester ‘73 and Seven Men from Now.  I saw them all, and I was watching TV, too.  Wanted: Dead or Alive, Wyatt Earp, Maverick, and many, many more.

    My own career in westerns began back in 1987 when I told my agent that I’d always wanted to write a western novel.  She asked me why, and I more or less recited the previous paragraph.  She told me to go for it, and Ryan Rides Back was published by M. Evans the following year.  Some of you, I know, wrote books for that house.  I can only hope you got paid.  My own experience with the company was less than pleasant.  A couple of the books were reprinted by Ballantine.  One of them went into a second printing, which I found out about when I saw it on the stands.  I was never paid a penny for any of the paperbacks.  The only benefit I got from them was that I met the Ballantine editor at a convention for mystery writers.  That’s when I learned that the western field was in trouble.  She told me that Ballantine wouldn’t be acquiring any more westerns, and when I asked her why, she said that while westerns were making money for the company, they weren’t making “enough money.”  She didn’t specify what “enough” was, but I knew that attitudes like that weren’t good for the genre.

    In the years since then, I’ve written a good many westerns, some of them under my own name but most of them under other names that some of you have also assumed from time to time.  I don’t know about you, but I loved writing those books.  Some of the most fun I’ve had in writing was in working out plots for characters that someone else created.   

    We don’t see a lot of westerns on the paperback racks now.  (For that matter, we don’t even see paperback racks.)  Westerns on TV are hard to find, and western movies don’t come along very often.  It’s a shame, for sure, but the members of Western Fictioneers keep the flame burning.  A good many of you have not only continued to write high-quality western fiction but are actually making money at it, thanks to the eBook revolution.  We old dogs have learned new tricks, and westerns are selling well, no matter what the traditional publishers say.  Western Fictioneers keeps calling attention to the genre with the Peacemaker Awards, too, and I’m very proud to have won one of them.

    I hope that in the next year, this group will continue to flourish and grow and that we’ll see westerns continue to sell and to rise in prominence.  If we all keep plugging, it can happen.

    I’m not quite sure yet what my duties as president are, but I’ll do my best to fulfill them.  For now let me say again that I’m happy to serve, and I think you all for bestowing the honor of the office on me.

    Bill Crider

    BILL is the author of more than fifty published novels and numerous short stories. He won the Anthony Award for best first mystery novel in 1987 for Too Late to Die and was nominated for the Shamus Award for best first private-eye novel for Dead on the Island.  He won the Golden Duck award for “best juvenile science fiction novel” for Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror.  He and his wife, Judy, won the best short story Anthony in 2002 for their story “Chocolate Moose.”  His story “Cranked” from Damn Near Dead (Busted Flush Press) was nominated for the Edgar award for best short story.  Check out his homepage at www.billcrider.com, or take a look at his peculiar blog at http://billcrider.blogspot.com. 

    _______________

    Hello stranger.  Haven’t seen you around.  New to town?  Don’t be shy. Come on over and say howdy. Here, have a sarsaparilla on us.  Who are we?  Whal, we’re some of the friendliest folks you’re likely to ever meet.  We’re a passel of professional fiction writers, and although our members write about all sorts of things, what ties us together is that we mostly write westerns.

    We’re a purty young outfit and some of our shoots are still a mite green and tender, but not our rootstock.  Our roots are strong and they go down deep. You see, these roots have been nourished by some of the finest writers who ever put a quill to foolscap, or rolled a carbon copy set into a typewriter platen (you young’uns can look that up on Wikipedia), or have fought the infamous blue screen of death to beat a deadline.  You’ll certainly recognize some of their names: Zane Gray, Wayne D. Overholser, Donald Hamilton, Gordon D. Shirreffs, Elmer Kelton, Frank Roderus.  The list is long and proud, and it even includes a bunch of TV shows and exciting movies that go all the way back to 1903 with The Great Train Robbery.

    If you’ve a hankering to write westerns, then you just might want to ride along with us. We’re all pretty serious about this western writing business and so we’ve set a few requirements. They aren’t too onerous.  You simply have to have written a western novel or short story, and have been paid for it, not self published. If you have done so, and you think you’d like to ride for the brand, then welcome aboard.

    Tell them Douglas Hirt sent you. I’m honored to be vice president of this fine organization.  I’ve been writing westerns professionally for over thirty years, and I can truly say you’ll not meet a friendlier, more helpful group of writers anywhere than the Western Fictioneers.


    Douglas Hirt

    DOUGLAS was born in Illinois, but heeding Horace Greeley's admonition to "Go west, young man", he headed to New Mexico at eighteen. He drew heavily from this "desert life" when writing his first novel, Devil's Wind. In 1991 Doug's novel, A Passage of Seasons, won the Colorado Authors' League Top Hand Award. His 1998 book, Brandish, and 1999 Deadwood, were finalists for the SPUR award given by the Western Writers of America. A short story writer, and the author of thirty-four novels and one book of non fiction, Doug makes his home in Colorado Springs with his wife Kathy. When not writing or traveling to research his novels, Doug enjoys collecting and restoring old English sports cars. You can find more about Douglas Hirt at www.douglashirt.com

    WF thanks Cheryl Pierson and Keith Souter for their great service as president and vice-president for the past two years. 

    Sunday, January 24, 2016

    WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO NAME IT?



    At some time in the past, a tiny idea was germinated. It divided and grew and finally got its own little legs. You carried it with you everywhere…musing about it while you wandered through grocery aisles or drove the ten hours to your mother’s house. You had conversations with it when you were showering. You began to eat strange foods, most of them unhealthy, and drank lots of black coffee. (Health statistics, be damned.) Pretty soon, your clothes no longer fit, but you stopped caring.

    Simple tasks like carrying laundry and taking out the trash became a struggle. The burgeoning babe took all your time, attention and energy. Friends began to make comments about your complexion. “Are you getting enough vitamin A?” Or maybe, “My, you have such an otherworldly glow about you.”

    Somewhere along the way–right near the end of things–you grew tired of the whole ordeal. You just wanted it to be OVER. You wanted to lie on a beach and go to movies with friends and live a normal life again. Each minute seemed an eternity.

    At last…the momentous day came and, after much groaning and writhing and primal screaming, you produced a bouncing, beautiful creation that left you speechless with pride…even if it was in need of a good hosing off and some scrubbing behind the ears.

    Congratulations. You just birthed your first draft.

    After all the oohs and aahs and phone calls to family and friends, you are faced with a decision of utmost gravity. Just what are you going to name your little hatchling?



    While book titles are not protectable by copyright laws, you don’t want to use a generic title or one that’s been used extensively. You could devise a formula for choosing a title, such as Adjective Noun Verb (as in, Dead Man Walking). You could get all alliterative (Of Mice and Men) or just use a name (Elmer Gantry, The Sacketts).

    Of course, the title and book subject should convey the same tone. If you pick up a copy of Lee Child’s Killing Floor, you can bet it’s not a good bedtime read for the kiddies. On the other hand, it sometimes pays to find a title that makes what could be considered a mundane subject appear more tantalizing on a shelf. Dee Brown's manuscript, originally titled A History of Indian Tribes in America, found its wings when renamed Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.




    It can prove a particular challenge to name a western novel. With over a hundred years of western fiction behind us, authors have pretty much run the gamut of titles about trails, canyons, riders, wagons, cattle, guns, bullets, horses or posses. And all of those have been described as dark, lone, lost, wild, blazing, cold, lawless, hungry and a hundred other adjectives. We’ve seen the word “of” after vengeance, revenge, attack, or any number of aggressive-sounding nouns.I found this interesting Western Book Title Generator online:

    Be careful with this one though. It had a few intriguing suggestions for me when I gave it a try, like Empty Boots, Black Arrow and The Shadow of the Wolf. More often than not, the random selections were nonsensical, if not a little creepy; for instance, The Tumbleweed of the Searching Meadow, The Ravaged Deer*, and The Cry of the Falling Windows. Yikes!
    *Name and Likeness Withheld


    I’d love to hear how some of the members of Western Fictioneers choose titles. Do you draw words out of a hat? Do you take a poll of the neigborhood kids? Write down whatever your spouse mumbles in his/her sleep?


    Until next time, happy writing and happy titling! May your baby book grow up to be a household name!

    All the best,
    Vonn

     



    Friday, January 22, 2016

    AUTHOR BRANDING - WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN? by Meg Mims



    J.E.S. Hayes has done a great job talking up social media and promotion lately. I figured for lack of another idea that I'd delve into one small part of the whole. Branding. Hmm.

    The idea of a brand is actually pretty smart. After all, we want readers to find us. And an author who does more than one genre - say inspirational romance - might not want their die-hard fans to know they also write horror. Or erotica. Yeah, that might be a bit of a shocker.


    That's a pretty funny quote. But while life might not be divided into genres, books are - absolutely.

    Let's say author Jane Doe starts her career writing sensual romance novels, but then she's got a hankering to use her Engineering/Science degree to dig deep into the science fiction/fantasy genre. What's Jane to do? Will her romance readers love her new stuff? Probably not, unless there's sensual romance in there - but they also might get pretty bored by all the technical stuff. Plus, Jane's romance-themed website might not draw the geeks she's hoping to snag.

     


    See how the pictures above clash? One possibility is for Jane to use a pseudonym - let's say J.J. Doe. Or J.D. Smith. Then Jane has double the work in keeping up both websites and social media promotion, but hopefully she's making enough money from book sales to hire that out. (Hey, it's possible! Don't we all wish.)

    Another possibility is to create ONE website, with multiple pages explaining her different books. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, used a pseudonym (and tried to keep it secret) when she started the Cormoran Strike series of crime fiction as Robert Galbraith. The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm are very different, clearly. And before she split off, her website was totally geared for Harry Potter fans.

    Now, however, her newly designed website handles it all. However, she does keep it consistent, and if you click the name Robert Galbraith above, you'll see a separate website. You don't need scads of money to do something similar if you're writing in multiple genres.

    But how exactly would a "brand" play a role? You might think of something you personally love, and incorporate that in your website and social media. For me, it's the color purple - I love re-tweeting photos of purple flowers or whatever. And tea - I frequently find tea photos to use. You can see on my website that I also love riding bikes and flowers. I highly recommend M.K. McClintock at Potterton House Author Services. M.K. is a talented website designer, and I love my new "look" and multiple "brand" style. My home page reflects ME, and readers get a sense of what I'm like behind the various books I write. It's like a personal touch.



    Now, what does this have to do with my westerns? Nothing much, but under my Books page, where the drop-down menu shows all the various genres, click on "westerns" to see how M.K. chose a totally different style. If you click "D.E. Ireland" under Books, you will see more of an English style. And again, under "Holiday Novellas" you'll see more of a winter style. I'll be adding a "Cozy Mysteries" featuring teddy bears under a different drop-down soon.

    NOT that this is the best way to handle "branding" an author, of course. My writing partner and I still maintain our own website and blog, and I may end up with another website for Meg Macy's books - with a link back to Meg Mims. When I branched out, I truly branched out. But having an expanded "presence" on the web might give an author writing multiple genres more links for readers to find them. And that has got be an advantage.


    Best wishes in branding your own multiple genre/multiple pseudonym books!


    Mystery author Meg Mims earned a Spur Award from WWA and also a Laramie award for her western historical mystery series, Double Crossing and Double or Nothing. She also writes short stories for anthologies and is one-half of the writing team of D.E. Ireland for the Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins Mystery series. Book 1, Wouldn't It Be Deadly, was nominated for a 2015 Agatha Award and Book 2, Move Your Blooming Corpse, is set at Ascot Racecourse. Meg is working on a cozy mystery series for Kensington that will debut in 2017. She lives in Southeastern Michigan, loves tea, books, Mackinac Island, cookies, and currently has a sweet Malti-Poo rescue.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2016

    EMPEROR OF AMERICA by Tom Rizzo


    HE LOST EVERYTHING 

    BUT PROCLAIMED HIMSELF ROYALTY


    On a cold, rainy Thursday evening in January 1880, a man with a cane hurried along California Street in San Francisco heading toward Nob Hill when he clutched his chest, staggered a few steps, and collapsed.


    EMPORER OF AMERICA

    The following day, The San Francisco Chronicle ran the man’s obituary on the front page under the headline: "Le Roi est Mort" ("The King is Dead").
    On Saturday, January 10, flags flew at half-mast.

    A crowd estimated at 30,000 jammed the streets to catch a glimpse of the funeral procession for the self-proclaimed Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, Emperor of the United States.

    Most businesses around the city chose to lock their doors for the day or, at least, part of it, despite it being a Saturday.

    His journey from obscurity to mythic proportions captured the imagination of those who lived in what was then the ninth largest city in the U.S.


    Born in London and reared in South Africa, Norton arrived in this commercial port city about 1849 as a young businessman.

    A young man with entrepreneurial vision, Norton was not above taking a risk. But when he be everything to take advantage of a rice famine in China, he fell on hard times.

    In December 1852, the famine pushed the price of rice in San Francisco from four cents to thirty-seven cents a pound. When a friend told Norton about a ship docked in the harbor with its hold full of Peruvian rice, he bought the entire cargo for twelve cents a pound.

    But, a day later, the clouds of a financial disaster began gathering when another cargo of Peruvian rice arrived in port, followed by several others. The price of rice plummeted to three cents a pound. Joshua Abraham Norton was broke.

    Following bankruptcy, Norton disappeared until Sept. 17, 1859, when the San Francisco Bulletin ran this announcement:


    "AT THE peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of San Francisco, California, declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these United States; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of February next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity."
    (Signed) Norton I, Emperor of the United States.

    The declaration signaled the dubious start of a reign as America's first Emperor, a title to which he later added Protector of Mexico.

    The usual whirlwind of rumors arose, some questioning the man's sanity and mental faculties, in general. For the most part, though, the public embraced Norton proclivities.


    Even the newspapers got in on the act. Soon, many believed the idea of an Emperor living in San Francisco could generate higher tourism numbers.

    Some restaurants and others businesses, which many never have even seen Emperor Norton, displayed signs in their windows reading: "By Appointment to His Imperial Majesty Norton I."


    Norton often patrolled the streets in his elaborate blue Emperor costume, highlighted by gold epaulets give him by officers of the nearby Presidio. Atop his head, he wore a beaver hat decorated with peacock feathers.

    When he wasn't parading through the streets, Norton stayed busy by issuing proclamations, most of which were outlandish but published by newspapers.

    In one proclamation, Norton abolished both the Republican and Democratic parties.


    Several other proclamations, however, made perfect sense.

    One called for the creation of a League of Nations. Another proclamation ordered the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to construct a suspension bridge and a tunnel across the bay. Ironically, both completed fifty and eighty years after he died.

    Norton died flat broke. 

    A local businessman's club paid for his casket and plot. In 1934, his remains moved to Woodlawn Cemetery, and an impressive headstone provided free of charge.
    _______