Friday, December 16, 2011
Hard on the heels of the newly reissued Gunsmith #'s 1 & 2 comes TRACKER #1: THE WINNING HAND and ANGEL EYES #1: THE MIRACLE OF REVENGE. These series appeared in the 80's under the pseudonyms "Tom Cutter" and "W.B. Longely" but are now being published by Speaking Volumes LLC under the Randisi name, with kick-ass covers! Available in POD paper and Ebook, and soon to be on Audio. Order from the Speaking Volumes LLC website, or Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
The Kindle edition of THE TRADITIONAL WEST, the first anthology from the Western Fictioneers, is on sale for a limited time for $3.99. This is a great price for a huge collection of stories by the best Western writers in the business. It's also available at the same price for the Nook.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Sunday, November 6, 2011
WF (Western Fictioneers) Peacemaker 2011 Award submissions
Submissions for the WF Peacemaker Awards are being accepted for works published in the year 2011.
Qualifications: Copyright dates must be between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011. Works must have been published by a reputable publisher that pays advances and/or royalties. No self-published works will be considered for a WF Peacemaker Award. This includes works published directly by the author on web sites and programs such as iUniverse, Kindle, or Lulu. Proof of the viability of the publisher is the submitter’s responsibility; author, agent, or publisher. Publishers that cannot be verified to meet the above standards will not be considered for a WF Peacemaker Award. Books and short stories may be published in any country in the world (submissions must be in English). WF reserves the right to decline any submission for consideration of an Award.
Authors, agents, or publishers may submit a work for consideration of an Award.
At least three entrants in the Best Western First Novel must be received for an Award to be presented.
Novels and short stories must be set in the time period between 1830-1920 to be considered Westerns under WF guidelines.
Nominees for the WF Peacemaker will be announced on 04/15/2012 and the winners will be announced on 06/01/2012.
The WF Peacemaker will awarded in three categories:
Best Western Novel – Any novel published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920), 45,000 words and higher. There are no format requirements. The novel may be a hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, or eBook, as long it has been published by an appropriate publisher.
Best Western Short Story – Any short story published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920), 500 words to 10,000 words. There are no format requirements. The short story may be published in any publication, print or electronic, as long as it has been published by an appropriate publisher.
Best Western First Novel – Must meet the same requirements as Best Novel, and must be the author’s first published Western novel. If the author has published novels in any other genre they will notdisqualify the author from the Best Western First Novel Award competition. Submissions may be made in both novel categories in the same year.
One copy of the work must be sent to each judge (3 per category), and the awards chair, accompanied with the appropriate form. Links for the forms can be found at the bottom of this Western Fictioneers Website. All entries must be postmarked by January 31, 2012. Judges should not be contacted by any entrant concerning their entry during the consideration period. Doing so may result in disqualification of eligibility for the WF Peacemaker Award. Works submitted will not be returned after the awards have been announced.
**FOR SHORT STORIES ONLY: If you choose not to mail entries to the overseas judges, you can send the story as a Word file or .rtf file to the Award Chair (firstname.lastname@example.org). The chair will still need to be mailed hard-copy (in the case that the short story is not an electronic publication) so the copyright date can be validated.
Larry D. Sweazy, 18078 Benton Oak Dr., Noblesville, IN 46062
Best Novel Judges:
Terry Burns, 1414 Sunrise Dr. #51, Amarillo, TX 79104
Anthony Clark, 1884 Willow Oak Dr., St. Charles, Mo 61303
Robert J. Randisi, 106 S. Alley Street, Clarksville, Mo 63336
Best Short Story Judges:
Frank Roderus, 3241 Montano Ave, Spring Hill FL 34609
Charlie Whipple, 1-10-11 Miyanogidai Hanamigawa-Ku, Chiba 262, Japan
Dr. Keith Souter, 106 Manygates Lane, Sandal, Wakefield, West Yorkshire,
WF2 7DP, UK
Best First Novel Judges:
Phil Dunlap, 410 North Rangeline Road, Carmel, IN 46032
Larry J. Martin, 48 Rock Creek Road, Clinton, MT. 59825
Matthew Mayo, 591 Shore Rd., Northport, ME 04849-4216
Monday, October 3, 2011
Larry D. Sweazy's fourth book (Berkley Western Novel, $6.99) in his award winning Western series thrusts Josiah Wolfe into yet another cauldron of intrigues where friends and foes are interchangeable and the fate of the Texas Rangers seems to hang on the threads of his personal actions. In his third year of service, Ranger Wolfe is caught in events swirling around the financial crisis of 1873 and the lingering aftermath of the War Between the States [Civil War to northerners]. He's also at the cusp of facing up to his own need to provide a stable home for his young son and balancing new love against haunting memories of his deceased wife and daughters. Josiah Wolfe is a flawed hero, which is what makes us embrace him all the more fiercely. He's anyone of us across time and place trying to do the right thing against odds. And that's Sweazy's gift as a storyteller - Texas circa 1870s is immediate, with officials entrusted to serve the greater good actually acting in their self-interest and motivated by personal greed. Josiah is basically a simple, decent person most often out of his element in a world of intrigue. How he balances his integrity against political machinations set to destroy the fabric of a good life for the "little people" is the stuff of Sweazy's page turner series. The Cougar's Prey is a worthy companion to The Rattlesnake Season, The Scorpion Trail and The Badger's Revenge. - RITA KOHN.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
In any case, shared here for the first time, the cover of Gunsmith #1--which will also be the cover of the POD trade paperback, and the Audios which will appear in January and February.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
1. What was your first Western novel or story and was it published?
My first two Western novels, Riding to Sundown and Brothers in Arms, were written in 1990... purely for my own entertainment. In those days I buffed and waxed floors for a living, and would be locked in Wal-marts and K-marts alone for up to twelve hours a night. I wasn’t paid by the hour, and it only took about half the time to do the work, so I wound up writing to occupy myself. It never even occurred to me at the time I could be published. A few years later I got serious about writing, and decided to do a few short stories to see if I could get them published and at least have something on my query letter when I tried to sell my novels. My first short story was accepted at Louis L’Amour Magazine; they took several others too, and I thought I’d found my gravy train, but then the magazine folded right after my first story appeared. I kept selling stories, though. In the past year a lot of my older stuff has been reprinted by Western Trail Blazer, and those first two short novels I wrote while my wax was drying twenty years ago finally got into print for the first time.
2. What Western writer or writers of the past were the biggest influence on your work?
Louis L’Amour was a big influence; I’d been reading his novels while locked up in those stores before I ran out of books and started writing my own. I also loved Elmer Kelton, and often paraphrase his great quote: he didn’t write about a bad guy in a black hat versus a good guy in a white hat, he wrote about two guys in gray hats, one trying to institute change and one resisting it. I like that. I was also influenced by Larry McMurtry; I like the way he plays with history, and how he uses humor to endear characters to you before he suddenly visits horrific death and destruction on them, making you care deeply about their fates. Beyond that, I could name a whole slew of writers active in WF right now as big influences, and dozens of classic writers –from Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, and Steinbeck to Stephen King, Robert E. Howard and Stan Lee.
3. What's the first Western you remember reading from cover to cover?
Bowie’s Mine, by Elmer Kelton. I read it in 1976, when I was eight… it was the first “grown-up book” I ever read. I read it over and over, in fact, and can still remember the opening scene in great detail.
4. Who is your favorite historical Western figure, and why?
This one is a tie. Crazy Horse is inspirational; he fought for his people and culture, and in innovative ways, even when many of them abandoned him. I am also quite fond of Bill Tilghman; he saw it all. Serving as a lawman in Dodge City with Earp and Masterson, federal deputy marshal in Oklahoma Territory, and still taming oil boomtowns when he was an old man in the 1920s. He had a sort of quiet efficiency that got the job done while more boisterous attention-seekers got all the fame and glory.
5. How much historical research do you do, and how do you go about it?
It helps that historical research is my day job. I spent several years familiarizing myself with 19th century Indian Territory / Oklahoma for my dissertation, and I plan to use that in future fiction works. Generally speaking, though, it depends on the project. If I am writing about a historical figure like Champ Ferguson, I want to get all the details down right. For Bound for the Promise-Land I spent six months doing nothing but research, filling up several notebooks and poring through slave narratives before I wrote my first sentence of narrative. I spend a lot less time on a typical adventure story, but I still read a lot to make sure I know the difference between point and drag, gee and haw.
6. Who is your favorite fictional character that you have created?
This one is a tie, too. Both my favorite creations were supporting characters in Civil War epics, and each served as a conscience for the hero. As such, they were intrinsically good people, and therefore (to me, at least) very lovable. The first is Lonnie Blake, ex-slave-turned-soldier-turned-preacher in Bound for the Promise-Land. I wanted my hero, Alfred, to be a sort of everyman, and torn by conflicting emotions about life and about racial issues. His two best friends, Lonnie and Chamas, played the roles of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, each trying to sway him to their perspective. Lonnie was the MLK figure, and –while a flawed human being –approached life with love, compassion, and faith. My other favorite was not quite so saintly –Rains Philpot was the sidekick of Champ Ferguson, the notorious Confederate guerrilla that I wrote about in Good Rebel Soil. I wanted to structure Champ’s story like a Greek tragedy: a brave, and likable, hero who has a fatal flaw (in Champ’s case, his angry passions) which draws him inexorably to a doom that he knows he can’t escape no matter how hard he tries. Rains is kind of simple-minded, intensely loyal to his friend, and –despite the band’s violent activities –kind of an innocent. It’s his voice that tries to pull Champ back from the abyss when he goes too far. I had a soft spot for him –although his positive qualities were entirely of my own invention, for the sake of a good story. I’m pretty sure the real Rains Philpot was just as ruthless as Champ.
7. Who is your favorite fictional character that someone else created?
Oh, hands down, Augustus McRae from Lonesome Dove. They just don’t come any better than Gus. Although I also have a soft spot for Hewey Calloway, Elmer Kelton’s great cowboy character.
8. Do you make a living writing? If not, what is your day job?
I am a history professor, currently teaching at Tennessee Tech. My dissertation, which I hope to publish soon in book form, is about the Five Tribes of the Southeast (and later Oklahoma –Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles) and the process by which, in the first half of the 19th century, they adopted plantation slavery and developed racial concepts unknown to previous generations in their leaders’ quest to become “modern,” eventually allying (for complicated reasons) with the Confederacy during the Civil War. I explore what that whole process says about the connections between racial identity and national identity, and how each is formed. This pulls together my three fields of research: American Indians, slavery, and Southern history (Western history, too.)
9. What do you plan to write in the future?
My next big fiction project will be a crime novel. I plan to write several short stories before that, though, to be included in various series of ebook shorts. I’ll do a couple more tales for the Blackwell Western series being published by WTB, as well as a couple of mystery series which should be available in the next few months. One stars a 5th century Irish chieftain, Conor Mac Cormac, who has a tendency to get involved in political intrigues in the days of the late Roman Empire –where the murders are never as simple as they seem. The other series will be called “Dead Rednecks!” and centers on an ex-con in Knoxville, Hoss Qualls, whose efforts to keep his nose clean are complicated by his many crazy relatives, especially his semi-delusional brother who has opened a detective agency and constantly needs Hoss’s help. Right now I am working on a story for an upcoming Lone Ranger anthology.
10. What made you decide to write Western fiction?
I actually write in various genres: Western, mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, and horror. What success I have had, though, has mostly come from Westerns, and I don’t think that is an accident. I like to write about characters who face their most primal emotions. A story set on the frontier is very conducive to that; the veneer is stripped away, and the primordial comes to the surface. You can cut through the crap, in other words, and pretty darn quick.
Monday, August 1, 2011
What was your first Western novel or story and was it published? The first Western I had published—book or story—was The Gunsmith #1: Macklin’s Women.
What Western writer or writers of the past were the biggest influence on your work? Louis L’Amour, naturally, since he was pretty much the first one I read, but a larger influence on my work was actually Jory Sherman. Reading his GUNN series helped me learn to write westerns. Meeting him and becoming his friend was also important to me.
What's the first Western you remember reading from cover to cover? You know, I’m not sure about this, but it was either SACKETT or THE SACKETT BRAND.
Who is your favorite historical Western figure, and why? BAT MASTERSON. I feel a connection with him, might even be a reincarnation of him. He and I had a lot of the same interests—Boxing, Horse Racing, Poker, Writing. I enjoy writing about him.
How much historical research do you do, and how do you go about it? I do quite a but, depending on the story I want to tell. I have a research library of my own, which I’ve built up over the years, but—and I hate to admit this--Google might be making it obsolete.
How do you choose where to begin your story? Do you use prologues?
The stories usually choose their own starting places. I just go with it. I have used prologues, when I feel they’re necessary. Obviously, I don’t agree with Dutch Leonard, who says they are NEVER necessary.
Do you do all your research ahead of time, or as you go along? Some ahead of time, a lot as I go along. My desk is usually covered with open books, or print outs from Google.
Which of your characters do you identify with the most, and why? Was there a role model for this particular character? I identify with Bat Masterson from my book THE HAM REPORTER, for reasons I covered in question #5.
Do you outline and plot your story or do you write as the inspiration or MUSE leads? I start with the character and then go where he goes. I have only ever outlined in order to show it to an editor and get a contract.
Are you a conservative in your writing and stick with traditional ideas for your characters and plots or do you like to go beyond the norm and toss in the unexpected and why? The simple answer to this is that my approach to writing has never been conservative or traditional. In fact, the same is true of the way I live my life.
Do you need quiet when you write, listen to music, or have the TV on and family around? I need SOMEthing. A ball game, music, t.v. , anything, but NOT silence.
Have you experienced the "dreaded" writer's block and how did you deal with it? I have never experienced writer’s block. I’ve never been able to afford to. My schedule just would never permit it.
Who is your favorite fictional character that you have created? Too many to choose from. Some of them are mystery characters—Nick Delvecchio, Eddie G. Western characters? Lancaster, Tracker and, probably, The Gunsmith.
Who is your favorite fictional character that someone else created? In westerns I’d say William Tell Sackett, for sentimental reasons. When I was young I liked Max Brand’s Silvertip. Also Edge, Steele, Gunn, but probably my VERY favorite character is Fargo, from the Ben Haas series.
Do you address "modern" issues in Westerns? Racism. Feminism. Downs Syndrome. Mental disabilities. Genetic disorders. Sociopathy. Immigrant questions. Brutality. Pedophilia. Any more? I do, probably more lately then in the past. In GALLLOWS recently I covered spousal abuse in the West.
What are you writing right now? The first in a new Nashville based P.I. series, 2 historical short stories, and about to start the new Gunsmith and another Rat Pack book.
Do you make a living writing? If not, what is your day job? I have made a living writing for the past 30 years.
What do you plan to write in the future? Everything!
What made you decide to write Western fiction? I backed into it when I was asked if I could write Westerns. I had no idea, so I said yes. I was asked to create an Adult Western series and came up with The Gunsmith. After that it was just fun—and profitable—to keep doing it.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
The classic American Western returns in this collection of brand-new stories by some of the top Western writers in the world today. Twenty-four members of Western Fictioneers, the only writers’ organization devoted solely to traditional Western fiction, take readers from the dusty plains of Texas to the sweeping vistas of Montana and beyond, in the biggest original Western anthology ever published!
Western Fictioneers was founded in 2010 to promote the oldest genuine American art form, the Western story. Its worldwide membership includes best-selling, award-winning authors of Western fiction, as well as the brightest up-and-coming new stars in the Western field. The organization’s first anthology features original stories by Steven Clark, Phil Dunlap, Edward A. Grainger, James J. Griffin, Jerry Guin, C. Courtney Joyner, Jackson Lowry, Larry Jay Martin, Matthew P. Mayo, Rod Miller, Clay More, Ross Morton, Kerry Newcomb, Scott D. Parker, Pete Peterson, Cheryl Pierson, Kit Prate, Robert J. Randisi, James Reasoner, Dusty Richards, Troy D. Smith, Larry D. Sweazy, Chuck Tyrell, and L.J. Washburn. With original cover artwork by acclaimed artist Pete Peterson, THE TRADITIONAL WEST is more than 120,000 words of classic Western fiction.
Available on Amazon. Barnes and Noble and a trade paperback will be coming soon.
Monday, July 18, 2011
What was your first Western novel or story and was it published? The first western novel I did was one I called Texas Tornado. This was before I’d published anything at all, and it was never published, either. However, several years later I told my agent that I’d always wanted to write a western. She said, “Go ahead.” I wrote Ryan Rides Back, and the agent sent it to Sara Ann Freed at M. Evans. Sara Ann bought it, and I decided to write another one. I pulled out the old Texas Tornado manuscript, threw out some of the plot and characters and put what was left into one called Galveston Gunman. Years after that I was asked about writing a house-name western, and most of the rest of Texas Tornado went into that one. So while the first western I wrote didn’t get published as it was, a lot of it eventually saw print.
What Western writer or writers of the past were the biggest influence on your work? Harry Whittington, Donald Hamilton, Brian Garfield, and Elmore Leonard. I don’t write like any of them and I don’t write half as well, but I loved their books. Still do.
What's the first Western you remember reading from cover to cover? Will James’ Smoky the Cowhorse. I got it from the library when I was seven or eight and read it several times. We didn’t have many books in the house, but one slim one my parents bought me, maybe before I read Smoky, was called Little Bear’s Pinto Pony. I must have read that one dozens of times. I still have it.
Who is your favorite historical Western figure, and why? Buffalo Bill, the legendary one, not the historical one. My parents had something to do with that, mainly because of my name. They talked about Buffalo Bill a lot, and they gave me a little book with a story about him in it. I lost that one somewhere along the way, but I still remember a couple of the pictures in it.
How much historical research do you do, and how do you go about it? It depends on the book. I did a lot of research for Galveston Gunman, and it’s probably my most historically accurate western. Sometimes I rely more on what I remember from books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen. I probably shouldn’t admit that.
Do you do all your research ahead of time, or as you go along? Usually I do the research beforehand. That’s how I did it with Galveston Gunman. I had stacks of books all over the place as I was writing, however, so I could refer to them. Maybe I do some research as I go along, after all.
Do you outline and plot your story or do you write as the inspiration or MUSE leads? I’m a seat-of-the pants kind of a guy. I start with a vague idea, maybe a scene or even just a sentence, sit down, and start typing to see what happens. Usually a book comes along and fills the pages. I’ve discovered that by the halfway point, I know pretty much what’s going to happen the rest of the way, but sometimes surprises happen even then.
Are you a conservative in your writing and stick with traditional ideas for your characters and plots or do you like to go beyond the norm and toss in the unexpected and why? I do whatever I want to, so sometimes odd things occur. I’ve never had singing pirates on the prairies like some people I could name, but I probably shouldn’t even mention that lesbian vampire cannibal western. I blame James Reasoner for that one.
Do you need quiet when you write, listen to music, or have the TV on and family around? There was a time when I wrote with music playing on the computer and a baseball game on the radio. Now that I’m an old codger, I often don’t have those distractions. My wife still feels free to interrupt at any time, however.
Do you make a living writing? If not, what is your day job? Until I took early retirement, I was a college English teacher and administrator. I was writing three or four books a year, writing only in the evenings. Now that I’m no longer teaching, two books a year is about what I do. I’ve gotten old and lazy.
What are you writing now, or plan to write in the future? I turned in a book in my Sheriff Dan Rhodes series (a contemporary crime series) on June 1. Since then, I’ve been on vacation.
Monday, July 11, 2011
What was your first Western novel or story and was it published? My first Western novel was Vulture Gold. I wrote it in 1979 and entered it in a Louis L’Amour write-alike contest. Didn’t win. Decided I wasn’t cut out to write fiction and continued as a journalist, magazine feature writer, copywriter, and corporate literature writer. I don’t remember why I dusted the manuscript off and input it (it was written on an IBM Selectric). But I sold it to Black Horse Westerns in 2004. It was published in 2005, and republished in 2011. It is now available in several eBook formats and in print. Originally, the book was about 70,000 words long. Now it is 45,000 or so.
What Western writer or writers of the past were the biggest influence on your work? A bunch. People have things to say about Louis L’Amour, but I read every book he wrote. I donated my collection of LL books to a university of foreign languages in Kanazawa, Japan, some years ago.
Gordon Sherriffs is a favorite. Clair Huffaker is a favorite. Richard Wheeler and Elmer Kelton are favorites. Will Henry, too. I’m also finding Elmore Leonard’s early stories very interesting and informative.
All that said, if I were to pick a writer to emulate, it would probably be Robert B. Parker. And if a genie came out of a lamp I’d rubbed and offered to let me write exactly like any writer I chose to, I’d choose James Michener and John Gardner and ask the genie to mix them into one for me.
What's the first Western you remember reading from cover to cover? Smokey the Cow Horse by Will James
Who is your favorite historical Western figure, and why? Commodore Perry Owens. He lived the life we all write about. Named for Commodore Perry, hero of the Battle of Lake Erie. Had to leave home in his early teens. Punched cattle for the Rogers (as in Will Rogers) ranch in Oklahoma, drifted into Arizona at the age of 31. Worked as the horse wrangler for Wells Fargo at the Navajo Springs station (I have a piece of wood from the original station, no longer extant, just a swale that was once a watering hole). Ran for sheriff on a law and order ticket and won over the incumbent Juan Lorenso Hubbel, who, it was said, was in cahoots with the outlaws that used the Outlaw Trail through Apache County in Arizona. He enforced the county law with the barrel of his gun, shooting it out with nine members of the Snyder Gang in Round Valley, riding his horse to death to rescue three Mexicans held prisoner in a bar in Winslow, and killing Andy Cooper in the famous shootout in Holbrook, Arizona, in 1886. He was a dead shot, wore his blond hair down past his shoulders as a challenge to the Navajos who were constantly trying to shoot him, and he wore his sixgun on the lefthand side for a cross draw. He married at 50 and moved to Seligman where he opened a saloon. He worked as guard for the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. He died of a stroke at 61 and is buried in Flagstaff AZ.
How much historical research do you do, and how do you go about it? Depends on the novel. For the Snake Den, set in Yuma Territorial Prison, I went there and spent two days going through the prison, buying reference books, talking to the Arizona Historical Society people there, etc. Same kind of thing with Vulture Gold, which begins in Vulture City AZ, now a ghost town.
Revenge at Wolf Mountain is set in my own home country, which I know well. Most of the ranches actually exist, but I used a Mexican grant which does not exist in that area, although there are others in both Arizona and New Mexico. The same it true with Trail of a Hard Man. I create fictional towns at times, but often I use real towns as settings or as part of the narrative.
The Killing Trail takes place in a fictional setting, but is linked to Trail of a Hard Man.
Guns of Ponderosa takes place in the White Mountain town of McNary, which once was home to the largest sawmill and planer operation in the Southwest. I renamed the town, and shifted its founding back into history by about 40 years.
Hell Fire in Paradise is a prequel to Guns of Ponderosa.
A Man Called Breed is set in the desert area of southern Arizona, east of Ehrenburg and La Paz. The hero’s horse ranch is located in the Cherry Creek country just below the Mogollon Rim.
Dollar a Day begins in Sunset, which no longer exists, and ends up in Payson, again, just off the Mogollon Rim in the Tonto Basin.
These are all places I know, but I still use an Arizona flora and fauna book to make sure I get my trees and stuff right. Wouldn’t want the hero bit by a Gila Monster up in the Tonto Basin because they don’t get that high off the desert floor.
I do a lot of looking up on guns. One character in my current WIP carries a Baker 3-barrel 10-guage. The hero in A Man Called Breed carried a Rogers & Spencer pistol, which were considered very accurate. He also carries a one-in-a-thousand Winchester ’73.
I’ve got lots of books on history and fashions and whatnot. I try very hard to put my people in places and circumstances that fit the times I’m writing about.
How important is setting? How important is it to get setting right? What's the best use of setting in a Western as far as you're concerned? I think setting can and probably should be one of the characters. I’ve been reading some early novels and it seems there’s always a rain storm. People seem to forget that places like Show Low, Arizona, get a total of 8 inches of rain a year. Chances of an all day all night rain storm in most of the southwest at least are so close to zero it wouldn’t be worth figuring out the difference. I vote for getting the setting right. Have a look at the towns. There are plenty of photos. See any alleys? Not likely. Know what’s out back? Piles of rubbish. We have the data. No reason to get setting wrong.
James Michener’s Centennial is as good a portrayal of setting as I’ve read, I believe, but there are many good stories. Some of Elmore Leonard’s early (1950s) stories have setting as one of the characters.
How do you choose where to begin your story? Do you use prologues? I have not used a prologue yet. That does not rule out using a prologue at some time.
Most often I see a character and a situation. Most often the first chapter sets up a tough situation. Mostly I know how the story starts and how it’s supposed to end, and I write the story in between. Sometimes the ending changes.
Do you do all your research ahead of time, or as you go along? Both.
Which of your characters do you identify with the most, and why? Was there a role model for this particular character? I have a bunch of characters I like, which is why they show up as walk-ons in stories that have nothing to do with them. Ness Havelock is one. Real Lee is another. I imagine Falan “Wolf” Wilder will see more action. Lightning By God Brewster will be around, as will his sidekick Sparrow. I’m now writing the second Matthew Stryker novel.
Do you outline and plot your story or do you write as the inspiration or MUSE leads? So far, as I mentioned, I tend to have an opening and a closing in mind when I start. That said, I think I would write better stories if I thought them out somewhat more detailed in advance. I’ve not found myself adept at plotting. I think I need to learn that skill, but I’m not losing sleep over it. At this time in my life, I have no aspirations of writing the great American novel. I just hope to do a few more before I, like Robert Parker, die at my desk, trying to finish my last . . . .
Are you a conservative in your writing and stick with traditional ideas for your characters and plots or do you like to go beyond the norm and toss in the unexpected and why? I suppose I am conservative. I am in most things. I imagine my characters are much more black and white than the shades of gray that were actually the case in the times we write about. You’ve got to remember that writing fiction is a relatively new thing for me. James and Bob and others have hundreds of novels under their belts. I’m trying to hit a dozen. I write some fiction every day, but I write a lot more other stuff – everything from CSR reports to magazine articles. I have a lot to learn about writing and writing fiction. I’m constantly amazed at the young whippersnappers who brazenly purport to be able to teach people to write. How’s that for wandering far from the point? Yes, conservative, but not hidebound.
Do you need quiet when you write, listen to music, or have the TV on and family around? I tend to want the same environment every day. Doesn’t have to be quiet. Doesn’t have to be musical. Just the same. A number of my books were written at Starbucks. That’s probably why I can’t lose weight. The chocolate is totally sinful.
Have you experienced the "dreaded" writer's block and how did you deal with it? Writer’s block comes from two things, in my experience: One, a loss of confidence in your own ability to tell a story, and two, dead-ending in a story, that is, writing yourself into a corner. When your confidence goes out the window, as when you get especially nasty edits from someone, or when they tell you the story did nothing for them, you do something else. I suggest to others that they try Julie Cameron’s morning pages – three pages of handwritten whatever comes to mind first thing in the morning. Hand on paper with pen and ink tends to get your writerly blood flowing and tends to stimulate your frozen brain.
Who is your favorite fictional character that you have created? I suppose Ness Havelock is my favorite, as he’s showed up in a number of books, though only one as the main character. He was my first and so far only first-person narrator. I also like Shawn Brodie, the 14-year-old who was sent to Yuma Territorial Prison. I will pick him up in a new book if I live long enough.
Who is your favorite fictional character that someone else created? The one who sticks in my mind is Tyrel Sackett. No way you can figure out why, eh?
Do you address "modern" issues in Westerns? Racism. Feminism. Downs Syndrome. Mental disabilities. Genetic disorders. Sociopathy. Immigrant questions. Brutality. Pedophilia. Any more? Not sure if it’s an “addressing,” but often my characters have a disability. Garet Havelock, the half-Cherokee marshal of Vulture City, had a bad knee. Wynn Cahill, in Guns of Ponderosa, was a sadist sociopath. Loved to see things in pain. Judge Wilson in Trail of a Hard Man was a pedophile who “took in” orphaned boys. His pedophilia was not so much sexual as sadist. Squirly, in the present work in progress, is not very smart, but he takes care of Wildman Kelly, who is not “normal” by ordinary standards, but not violent either. I once did a story from the frist-person POV of Boo Radley. I imagine there was some PTSD following the Late Unpleasantness that is better known as the Civil War, too, but I haven’t seen a novel addressing it yet.
What are you writing right now? A story about a man who keeps the promise he made to the town drunk.
Have you found that being able to self publish through Kindle and Nook, that you find yourself writing more of what you want rather than what the agent, editor, and publisher wants? The biggest advantage, as I’m not a terribly prolific author, is getting books that have gone out of print, such as Vulture Gold, back out there so readers can find them. My second novel, Revenge at Wolf Mountain, will also reappear in the not too distant future in its original unabridged form at about 80,000 words instead of the 45,000 version published by Robert Hale Ltd.
Do you make a living writing? If not, what is your day job? Yes. But not writing fiction. I would starve on the proceeds from my fiction at the moment. That said, I get paid well to write advertising, corporate literature, web content, and non-fiction articles, many of them in narrative form. One article brings me nearly five times as much as one Black Horse Western book, and about the same as the advance for a paperback original, if I’m not mistaken. I also write non-fiction books under my own name. Seeing Japan is a perennial seller to visitors to this country.
What do you plan to write in the future? I have two “works in progress” outside westerns. One is a saga set in an alternative version of 10th century Japan, where all mythical creatures exist. The other is a gumshoe of an investigative journalist hero who searches for a missing woman in a Japan where a large amount of plutonium has been stolen from the Tokaimura nuclear fuel reprocessing plant. Naturally, the kidnapper and the kingpin who wants a nuclear Japan are one and the same. Trouble. Trouble.
What made you decide to write Western fiction? I was born 100 years too late. Since I made the decision to make my living with my pen, so to speak, I also set my sights on writing a Western novel. I also joined the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History (now defunct) with a lifetime membership. The Louis L’Amour writealike contest came about three years after I started writing newspaper copy and then advertising copy, but got put on hold while I formed my own company, edited two magazines, wrote for Time and Newsweek and the Herald Trib, then became a stringer for two technology industry mags, but I kept the home fires warm, kept sending the re-edited versions out and kept getting them back. Until John Hale at Robert Hale Ltd. said he’d publish the book if I’d cut it down to less than 45,000 words. I’d already written the follow-up novel with the same protagonist. It, too, went under the knife, and was accepted by Hale. Here I am. I love writing about the West, partly as I knew it growing up in a ranch-like environment in northern Arizona, partly because I feel there was something in those people that we need to remember and emulate.