Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Several years ago, I had just sold my first short story to Adams Media's Rocking Chair Reader series. I was on Cloud 9! This story, SILVER MAGIC, was the 2nd story I sold to them and would appear in their first Christmas collection, Classic Christmas: True Stories of Holiday Cheer and Goodwill. I want to share it with you here. This story is true, and is one of the most poignant tales I could ever tell about my grandfather--he died when I was eleven. I never saw this side of him, and I don't think very many people did--that's what makes this Christmas story so special. I look forward to your comments!

SILVER MAGIC by Cheryl Pierson

Did you know that there is a proper way to hang tinsel on the Christmas tree?

Growing up in the small town of Seminole, Oklahoma, I was made aware of this from my earliest memories of Christmas. Being the youngest in our family, there was never a shortage of people always wanting to show me the right way to do—well, practically everything! When it came to hanging the metallic strands on the Christmas tree, my mother made it a holiday art form.

“The cardboard holder should be barely bent,” she said, “forming a kind of hook for the tinsel.” No more than three strands of the silver magic should be pulled from this hook at one time. And, we were cautioned, the strands should be draped over the boughs of the tree gently, so as to avoid damage to the fragile greenery.

Once the icicles had been carefully added to the already-lit-and-decorated tree, we would complete our “pine princess” with a can of spray snow. Never would we have considered hanging the icicles in blobs, as my mother called them, or tossing them haphazardly to land where they would on the upper, unreachable branches. Hanging them on the higher branches was my father’s job, since he was the tallest person I knew—as tall as Superman, for sure. He, too, could do anything—even put the serenely blinking golden star with the blonde angel on the very highest limb—without a ladder!

Once Christmas was over, I learned that there was also a right way to save the icicles before setting the tree out to the roadside for the garbage man. The cardboard holders were never thrown out. We kept them each year, tucked away with the rest of the re-useable Christmas decorations. Their shiny treasure lay untangled and protected within the corrugated Bekins Moving and Storage boxes that my mother had renamed “CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS” in bold letters with a black magic marker.

At the end of the Christmas season, I would help my sisters undress the tree and get it ready for its lonely curbside vigil. We would remove the glass balls, the plastic bells, and the homemade keepsake decorations we’d made in school. These were all gently placed in small boxes. The icicles came next, a chore we all detested.

We removed the silver tinsel and meticulously hung it back around the little cardboard hook. Those icicles were much heavier then, being made of real metal and not synthetic plastic. They were easier to handle and, if you were careful, didn’t snarl or tangle. It was a long, slow process—one that my young, impatient hands and mind dreaded.

For many years, I couldn’t understand why everyone—even my friends’ parents’—insisted on saving the tinsel from year to year. Then one night, in late December, while Mom and I gazed at the Christmas tree, I learned why.

As she began to tell the story of her first Christmas tree, her eyes looked back through time. She was a child in southeastern Oklahoma, during the dustbowl days of the Depression. She and her siblings had gotten the idea that they needed a Christmas tree. The trekked into the nearby woods, cut down an evergreen, and dragged it home. While my grandfather made a wooden stand for it, the rest of the family popped and strung corn for garland. The smaller children made decorations from paper and glue.

“What about a star?” one of the younger boys had asked.

My grandfather thought for a moment, then said, “I’ve got an old battery out there in the shed. I’ll cut one from that.”

The kids were tickled just to have the tree, but a star, too! It was almost too good to be true.

Grandfather went outside. He disappeared around the side of the old tool shed and didn’t return for a long time. Grandma glanced out the window a few times, wondering what was taking so long, but the children were occupied with stringing the popcorn and making paper chains. They were so excited that they hardly noticed when he came back inside.

Grandmother turned to him as he shut the door against the wintry blast of air. “What took you so long?” she asked. “I was beginning to get worried.”

Grandfather smiled apologetically, and held up the star he’d fashioned. “It took me awhile. I wanted it to be just right.” He slowly held up his other hand, and Grandmother clapped her hands over her mouth in wonder. Thin strands of silver magic cascaded in a shimmering waterfall from his loosely clenched fist. “It’s a kind of a gift, you know. For the kids.”

“I found some foil in the battery,” he explained. “It just didn’t seem right, not to have icicles.”

In our modern world of disposable commodities, can any of us imagine being so poor that we would recycle an old battery for the metal and foil, in order to hand-cut a shiny star and tinsel for our children’s Christmas tree?

A metal star and cut-foil tinsel—bits of Christmas joy, silver magic wrapped in a father’s love for his family.

I know Christmas is over, but this is a fantastic little anthology you might enjoy any time of year. If you'd like to read the wonderful stories in this collection, here's the link at Amazon. This is a true "bargain" at only $5.18 for a new copy!


Sunday, December 28, 2014


Welcome to Western Fictioneers
An organization of professional authors of western novels and short stories.

What sort of person becomes a writer and meets the requirements to join Western Fictioneers?  I would have to start with age, most of us are old.  The majority of us have a long life experience to draw upon to write what we write.  Many of us are senior citizens and those who are not, are not far from becoming one.  In analyzing the biographies of the members of this organization, it is clear most have accomplished various careers of merit before turning to writing.  Some are scholarly in their backgrounds, others come from the military, some were journalists, policeman, teachers, ranchers, etc., etc.  From all walks of life our members have carried out various occupations to raise families and meet their needs.  The point being most of us have attained a modicum of success and to some extent stand out as hardworking individuals in our society---all of whom have written and published a Western book.  And, of course, some have distinguished themselves as professional full-time writers with extraordinary output of novels and stories published by New York houses and other venues.  It was those very same professional full-time writers who graciously extended their expertise to start this organization.  That core group consists of Robert Randisi, James Reasoner, Livia J. Washburn (Reasoner), and Frank Roderus.

Robert Randisi is a prolific writer of unparalleled output, crafting over six hundred books to date, millions of words, a lifetime of daily focused effort, carefully written for the reader to enjoy.  He writes Mysteries and Westerns and is responsible for creation of at least two writing organizations including Western Fictioneers and The Private Eye Writers of America.

James Reasoner, New York Times bestselling author has penned over three hundred books, a phenomenal output.   Humble about his 35 years of writing successes, he pays tribute to his life partner, his wife, Livia J. Washburn/Reasoner, for her assistance and support.  His Civil War Series has huge critical acclaim.

Livia J. Washburn/Reasoner has penned dozens of books.  She has written Westerns, Romance, Historical Fiction, and her famous culinary Mystery novels.  Livia has been the secretary of Western Fictioneers and is the premier orchestrator behind the scenes that helped launch this writing organization and made it what it is today.  She helped set up the Yahoo Western Fictioneers web site, the biography section for its members, and a Western Fictioneers internal writing forum where individuals can daily express ideas to each other.  She has worked hard to promote writers, written book reviews, set up a Western Fictioneers Blog to reach the public, and most importantly published and promoted a plethora of books for other authors under the Western Fictioneers label.  Among these are THE WEST OF THE BIG RIVER series, an idea offered by Kit Prate.  They are iconic stories of real life characters presented in a fictional format---books Livia edited along with Kit Prate and James Reasoner, She designed the cover for, completed the layout, and published the series.  She is undoubtedly the one single individual who has been the workhorse of Western Fictioneers and should be commended and recognized for her inexhaustible accomplishments in making the organization the success it is today.  Livia J. Washburn/Reasoner has also entered the publishing business with her partner Cheryl Pierson and formed Prairie Rose Publications for women Romance Writers along with a number of offshoot publishing houses, promoting Westerns and Children’s Stories.

Frank Roderus is a professional Western writer with a lifetime of work accomplished and over three hundred books published.  In 2014, he was awarded the Life Achievement Peacemaker award, the highest award offered by Western Fictioneers.  His novels are currently and daily on the best selling Western Authors list.

In addition to the founders, these other prominent members have joined this organization.

Jory Sherman, is a multi-award winning author who is recently deceased.  In 2012, Western Fictioneers also awarded this noted writer the Life Achievement Peacemaker award.  Jory Sherman has published more than 400 books since 1965, more than 100 articles, and 500 short stories.  In 1995, he was inducted into the National Writer’s Hall of Fame.

Robert E. Vardeman is a nuclear physicist and an award-winning writer in the field of Science Fiction and has written hundreds of Westerns under various pseudonyms. He is a one man writing force (having published over 350 plus books) and cannot go unrecognized among this organization.

Robert Vaughn is a distinguished writer with over 350 books published and his past involves three tours in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot and decorated soldier.  In 2013, he was awarded the Life Achievement Peacemaker Award.

Another prominent member is Dusty Richards, a double Spur Award winner.  He is a well-known author with nearly a hundred books published.  He recently started a Western publishing house and an on-line Western Magazine.

This list would certainly not be complete without mentioning former Western Fictioneers President, Dr. Troy Smith.  A full college professor of Indian Studies at Tennessee University, Dr. Smith is both a Spur and Peacemaker Award winning author.  He is the creator of the well known Wolf Creek Series and developed the idea of multiple writers contributing to a single book about a growing town in the Wild West.  Recently, Dr. Smith, along with his wife, has branched out taking over the publishing company, Western Trail Blazers.

Cheryl Pierson, the current Western Fictioneers President is a Western writer and has written more than sixty books.  She has been instrumental in helping others set up a writing schedule for W F Blog and in promoting members of Western Fictioneers.

Among others who stand out in the organization is marketing promoter and book reviewer, Kathleen Rice Adams, who is not only a writer but a prolific wordsmith who has helped promote Western Fictioneers’ writers.  Her daily output of promotional material for writers is indeed impressive.

Mr. Tom Rizzo has been a journalist his entire adult life and continues to write and post well researched historical articles about the west on his blog nearly every day.  He has worked in radio, news, and as a correspondent.  This vast experience gives him the skills to research and write his pieces which reach the World Wide Web through his blog and Google+.  His STORYTELLER7 series of interviews of writers is a vastly important legacy documenting the lives and careers of Western authors.

Another prominent hard-working member is Western writer and publisher, L. J. Martin, who has created Wolfpack Publishing.  As a marketing guru extraordinaire, he has managed to push Frank Roderus, Robert Vaughn, and himself, L. J. Martin, into best selling Western Authors status on

We even have among us Hollywood actor, Ken Farmer; a practicing medical doctor, Dr. Keith Souter (current vice president, writing under the name Clay More); and screenwriter/director of twenty-five movies, Courtney Joyner.

To be more specific, currently there are eighty-four members listed publicly on WESTERN FICTIONEERS’ web site.  Going over the bio’s of those willing to reveal information, there are eight writers from California, seven from Texas, with the rest coming from nearly every state in the union.  There are two writers from England and one each from Canada, Spain, Germany, and Japan.  Many are writers with various major awards including the Peacemaker and Spur Awards.

Those writers and members of Western Fictioneers not mentioned (because of limited space) are a mature and skilled group, working hard every day to produce a work of excellence in the many avenues of Western writing and their publishing success shows this.

Why was Western Fictioneers started in the first place, given that another Western writer’s organization existed?  Cheryl Pierson, current president, pins the following on WESTERN FICTIONEERS HOME PAGE:  “Western Fictioneers is a professional writing group that encourages and promotes the Traditional Western.”  Vice President Dr. Keith Souter writes on Western Fictioneers ABOUT page:  “The members of Western Fictioneers are doing their best to satisfy the reading public’s almost insatiable appetite for Westerns. Through Western Fictioneers Library we are producing a steady flow of novels and anthologies. And with the increasingly popular Wolf Creek series of novels we are seeing a virtual Western town become a place that seems as real as Dodge City or Deadwood.”  Dr. Souter goes on to state:  “It is the friendliest writers’ organization that I have ever belonged to and I consider it a privilege and an honor to serve a term as vice-president.”  This gets to the core of what WESTERN FICTIONEERS organization is about for its members.  To reemphasize, it promotes writers, it offers publishing opportunities within the organization and by members of the organization, it has a membership list allowing writers to submit a bio, and what is crucial and extraordinary is that it is interactive, promoting communication among its members.  This site allows the unique opportunity to explore ideas, expound on Western history and many other subjects, thus increasing and expanding the creativity of the members of the organization.  There is also other communication going on by extending access to each writer’s private email.  In addition there is a Western Fictioneers Blog written by Western Fictioneers members exploring Western subjects for each other and the public on-line.

WESTERN FICTIONEERS recognizes outstanding writing each year with the prestigious PEACEMAKER AWARDS.  With the prolific output of books by its members, Western Fictioneers has become a force to reckon with.  For these reasons it can be said the fresh blood of this new organization has done more to promote Western writing and Western authors, than any extant organization existing today.   This is categorically an active writing group, challenging its membership to write and publish quality Western manuscripts.

Clearly, members of Western Fictioneers are hardworking and determined people.  It takes effort, skill, and fortitude to sit down and craft a story and our members, all of them, do it well.  Of course, as is in the case with competitiveness, some write, market, and sell their manuscripts better than others.  In this way we are all in competition with each other.  Even while in competition, such remarkable members as Dr. Troy Smith, made a call for writers and exhaustively worked on developing a western town and created the incomparable series WOLF CREEK---each with multiple members contributing chapters.  He also single-handedly orchestrated several WOLF CREEK ANTHOLOGIES to go along with the series, which very shortly will include 14 books.  Livia J. Washburn/Reasoner has published for Western Fictioneers members THE WEST OF THE BIG RIVER SERIES and has published or republished a large number of Western books for members of the organization.  To date, the enormous output of its members has already created notice and best sellers.  As the membership increases and as publishing opportunities morph and change, it is believed future success can only increase.

What I have stated here, in part, can be backed up by the number of books this group has published on behalf of its writers.  WESTERN FICTIONEERS is one of the finest writing organizations on the WORLD WIDE WEB and in the ENTIRE WORLD.

Charlie Steel

Saturday, December 27, 2014


At the close of 2014, I’m sure we are all assessing our accomplishments–and estimating damages–the year brought our way. Mine was a grand mixture: family illnesses and losses of friends but, for the most part, blessings beyond what I deserved. This year will always be special to me since it marked my introduction as a western author. Funny how these things come about.

It was just over a year ago that I met a bespectacled, erudite history professor named Dr. Troy Smith. It was more a stalking than a meeting, to be honest. 
I was a fledgling–widely unpublished and unknown to pretty much anybody who read westerns. I’d been working on a novel set in Cherokee Territory in the early 1800’s and was up to my eyebrows in research material. When I found out (through friend Cheryl Pierson) that an expert on Native American history lived 80 miles from my house, I set out to hunt him down. 

I cold-emailed Troy and asked if he could meet with me for a good old-fashioned brain picking. He graciously (and cautiously, I believe) agreed to meet for lunch. After fielding an hour’s worth of my nonstop chatter and interrogation, he took my card and said to email if I had any more questions. On the drive home, I was certain I had met every criteria for the word “gherm.” (a fan to an excessive degree; someone who sucks up to celebrities)

I was shocked when he emailed me about a month later. Troy shared that he was assuming ownership of Western Trailblazer Publishing and offered to take a look at my novel. It wasn’t even close to completion. However, I had a short story in the works and sent it instead. 

While I waited for a verdict from Troy, I made a resolution for the coming year of 2014. For years, I had allowed fears to squash my dream of being an author. It was a lengthy list: “It won’t be good enough. No one will read it. It will never get published.” I resolved that any excuse that began with the words “I’m afraid that…” was invalid. I could refuse to submit my work for other reasons but not out of fear. 

Friday, December 26, 2014


Christmas Tidings

Merry Christmas from the Western Fictioneers! Have you been following the Wolf Creek series? It's an exciting string of books by Ford Fargo, who is a "conglomerate" of WF members writing varied protagonists who populate the fictional 1871 Kansas town of Wolf Creek - "a wild, wide open town where no one asks about your past, because almost everyone has a secret." So soon after the "War of Rebellion", many residents have moved west and now scrape out a living in the prairie-tough town... but not everyone survives the dusty streets, back alleys and sometimes dangerous saloons.

Book 1: Bloody Trailstarts off with a literal bang - when a a small army of former Confederate guerrillas rob the bank, leaving many innocents dead after their hasty departure. Sheriff G.W. Satterlee and his posse must overtake the outlaws before they reach Indian Territory—but the chase is complicated by the secret pasts of several members… The series continued the adventures from Book 2: Kiowa Vengeance, Book 3: Murder in Dogleg City and all the way through Book 8: Night of the Assassins. You can bet the latter has some sinister action! It's such a great series, and best to read them in order - except for the Christmas anthologies. Those will give a reader a taste of just how interesting these characters are, and what kinds of trouble they face.

Some of the authors participating in the Wolf Creek series include Troy D. Smith, Bill Crider, Phil Dunlap, Jory Sherman, James J. Griffin, L. J. Martin, Cheryl Pierson, Charlie Steel, Robert J. Randisi, James Reasoner, Clay More, Chuck Tyrell, L. J. Washburn, Big Jim Williams, Matthew Pizzolato, Jacquie Rogers, and many others. 

I introduced a new character in last year's Christmas anthology - Book 9: A Wolf Creek Christmas. Phoebe Wright, who is always right, is a widow who arrives in town to make sure her niece, Lucy, is safe. No letters have arrived from either Lucy or Phoebe's sister Ann Haselton, the town's teacher.

Unfortunately Phoebe soon learns that Ann died months ago during the guerrilla bank raid while protecting a child - and that Lucy has vanished. Phoebe knows her niece had very little money, so the search is on... She soon runs into other problems including the greedy saloon owner Ira Breedlove - whose place breeds only the love of money, and who doesn't appreciate Phoebe's righteous and judgmental attitude.

Phoebe definitely has her hands full in "A Savior Is Born" (written by Meg Mims).

But Book 9 also includes many other interesting stories featuring Roman Hatchett, a world-weary trapper (written by Jory Sherman), Gib Norwood, a dairy farmer (by Jacquie Rogers), Indian scout Charley Blackfeather and deputy marshal Quint Croy (by Troy D. Smith), and livery owner Ben Tolliver (by James J. Griffin) -- everyone seems to get a holiday surprise. The anthologies, as stated before, give readers new to the series a taste of great characters.
And the fun doesn't end there. Another Christmas anthology is Book 10: O Deadly Night, which explores more holiday happenings. Hutch Higgins needs a doctor (written by Big Jim Williams), new arrival Kelly O’Brian finds an unholy welcome (by Charlie Steel); town doctor Logan Munro just wants to celebrate Hogmanay (by Clay More), Billy Below and his favorite soiled dove team up for the holiday (by Chuck Tyrell), while Derrick McCain's sister slowly recovers from trauma (by Cheryl Pierson), and Marshal Sam Gardner stays busy (by Troy D. Smith) during the not-so-peaceful post-Christmas season in Wolf Creek.

While the series has slowed down a bit, with two books out since last year, it still continues the adventures of the town's embattled law officers dealing with a devilish rancher in Book 11: Stand Proud and Book 12: The Dead of Winter. And more books should be coming in 2015, according to Troy D. Smith, the series' editor - a tough job, given the interweaving of so many characters and so many viewpoints in a complex plot and setting. It's masterful, to say the least.

Once again, Merry Christmas, happy reading of the wild and woolly west, and a prosperous New Year in 2015 from the Western Fictioneers!

Mystery author Meg Mims lives in Southeastern Michigan with her husband and a 'Make My Day' Malti-poo dog. Meg loves writing novels, short novellas and short stories, both contemporary and historical. Her Spur and Laramie Award winning books - Double Crossing and Double or Nothing - are now among the Prairie Rose Publications book list. Meg is also one-half of the D.E. Ireland team writing the Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins Mystery series for St. Martin's Minotaur. Wouldn't It Be Deadly, Book 1, is out now! Book 2, Move Your Blooming Corpse, will be out in 2015. You can find Meg (and D.E. Ireland) on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. If you're in the mood for short, sweet Christmas novellas with rescue dogs and cats, check out the following:

Thursday, December 25, 2014


The Doctor's Bag
Keith Souter  aka Clay More

It is Christmas Day today and I hope that you all will be celebrating with friends and family. So as not to ruin your enjoyment of your Christmas turkey and your Christmas pudding I have desisted this month from giving you the gory details about the operations that the old frontier doctors performed. Instead, I thought you might like a little seasonal relief with a Sherlock Holmes tale, The Case of the Christmas Pudding.

This was one of a series of short movies made for TV in 1955 starring Ronald Howard as Sherlock Holmes and H. Marion Crawford as Dr John Watson.

I have always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. I am sure that Dr Logan Munro, the Wolf Creek town doctor would have had a copy or two of some of the monographs penned by Holmes, and would have avidly read Watson's accounts of his cases.

Anyway, enjoy Christmas and enjoy The Case of the Christmas Pudding.


Clay More's novel about Dr George Goodfellow is published in the West of the Big River series by Western Fictioneers. 

Available at


And his collection of short stories about Doc Marcus Quigley is published by High Noon Press

Available at

And his latest western  novel Dry Gulch Revenge was published by Hale on 29th August.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa Claus and Abraham Lincoln

By Matthew Pizzolato

Just as the modern holiday of Thanksgiving was begun during the Civil War, so too was the tradition of Santa Claus begun during the same time period. Santa made his first public appearance in a Philadelphia department store in 1849.

The Christmas holiday has always generally been celebrated the same way. Caroling was done in public places and trees were cut down and taken into homes.  During the war, soldiers would set up trees in camp and decorate them with hard tack. (Because that's about all that stuff was useful for anyway.)

Harper's Weekly illustrator, Thomas Nast, did not create the idea of Santa Claus, but he popularized the image we have of Santa as a rather rotund man in a red suit with a flowing white beard in a series of drawings for the magazine.

Nast was a staunch Union supporter and allied Santa with the Union army, often depicting him interacting with Union troops. Abraham Lincoln later said that the Santa who appeared in Harper's Weekly was "the best recruiting sergeant the North ever had."

Yet, the war did not stop for Christmas and it greatly affected how the holiday was celebrated. The Christmas of 1861 was described by Sallie Brock Putnam of Richmond, VA.

"Never before had so sad a Christmas dawned upon us. Our religious services were not remitted and the Christmas dinner was plenteous of old; but in nothing did it remind us of days gone by. We had neither the heart nor inclination to make the week merry with joyousness when such a sad calamity hovered over us."

After the War, Thomas Nast popularized the idea of Santa's home being the "North" Pole as a way to further tie the tradition to the Union.  So, in case you didn't know, Santa Claus is a Yankee.

Matthew Pizzolato's short stories have been published online and in print. He is a member of Western Fictioneers and his work can be found in the Wolf Creek series as well as his own publications, THE WANTED MAN, OUTLAW and TWO OF A KIND. 

He is the Editor-in-Chief of The Western Online, a magazine dedicated to everything Western. He can be contacted through Twitter @mattpizzolato or via his website: 

Friday, December 19, 2014


I’ve written essays here on man-tracking, the hard realities of a fight, prostitutes, horse shoeing, Texas Rangers, US Marshals, and, among other things, beaucoup about my beautiful bride—who will have been married to my ugly mug for thirty-one years this Saturday. I write Thrillers now, and it’s been a while since I’ve written a Western. But, so many of our books in both genres feature lawmen and gunmen that I try to give a word or two of insight from the perspective of my career in law enforcement, even if the posts are decidedly un-Western.    

Yesterday, while watching her boys hack away at each other with orange Hot Wheels tracks, my daughter-in-law lamented that virtually everything they pick up becomes a sword. Of course, at Papa’s house, they don’t have to look far for the real deal. All the dangerous stuff—guns and sharp, pointy blades—are locked away in the safe, but there are still plenty of bamboo, wood, and foam swords, not to mention the fencing foils and a practice saber or two. None of these were handy when one of the boys decided he was a vicious snow leopard—so the Hot Wheels track became a stand-in for the other one to fend off the attack.

Notice the foam sword in my belt
Lest anyone think that we’re raising little bellicose Spartans, my grandsons get a goodly amount of training in faith, music, literature, and service to others. In addition to weapons, when they come to Nana and Papa’s house, they see Friberg paintings of Washington’s prayer at Valley Forge and Royal Canadian Mounted Police constables wearing Stetsons and red serge tunics as they live up to their motto to “maintiens le droit”—maintain the right. These larger than life heroes are also the type of men and women I try to write about—tough, and maybe seemingly uncivilized compared to some who didn’t live through the same situations. 

The pen is mightier than the sword” is a good sentiment, but I, along with the characters in my books, tend to favor the Japanese notion of bunbu ichi—“pen and sword in accord.”

One of my favorite scenes from Kipling’s KIM is when the monk chastises the old Sikh soldier for carrying a blade—

It is not a good fancy,” said the lama. “What profit to kill men?”
“Very little - as I know; but if evil men were not now and then slain it would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers.”

Spirited philosophy talks and striving for a better world are worthwhile endeavors, but sometimes the way we wish things were clashes so starkly with the reality of the way things are, that it can hit us like a boot to the head. I call it the Mermaid and Unicorn Fart Axiom—Just because something sounds like it should be fanciful and sweet, doesn’t keep it from stinking. It’s depressing, but that’s the reality of life. Sometimes it sucks, no matter how much we prepare for it not to suck.

For instance—I love dogs. On any normal day, I wouldn’t consider harming a sweet little pooch, let alone shooting one dead. But I have. It wasn’t the poor dog’s fault that his meth-head owner sent him out the back door to rip out my groin. But it wasn’t my fault either and I responded like I’d been trained—protecting myself. It was harsh and it was quick and I hated that I had to do it. Thankfully, it all happened before social media took over our lives or I’m sure I would have received online death threats. Heck, after this confession, they'll probably come rolling in.

I’ve mentioned it before in these essays, but working on the back side of a badge has been a real boon to creating characters for my writing. It has also colored my outlook on the world in which I have to interact. Too much focus on the grimy side of reality—real and true though it may be—can be unhealthy if you’re not careful. It’s easy to start viewing everyone as a possible threat, or at the very least, a closet misfit. You don’t have to see more than one decapitated head in someone’s kitchen freezer to become convinced that society as a whole is pretty well doomed. Find a duffle bag full of Polaroids under a drug dealer’s bed—some of them including girls you went to school with—and you just can’t wash off the icky.

Homicide investigators like to say, “Everyone is a suspect but me…and sometimes I’m not so sure about me.”

Uncivilized as such work might be, the life and the outlook that go with it make it natural to live on the twitchy edge of impending conflict. And just like the tendency to view others as threats, it becomes a habit to view everything around you for use as a possible weapon.

We’re often asked as writers what inspires us to write the stories we do. Richard Prosch wrote an essay on this blog a couple of days ago describing an incident with his father that led him to imagine ONE AGAINST A GUN HORDE. I enjoy that kind of backstory.

I got this question on an authors’ panel in Long Beach a few weeks ago. Oddly enough, I could remember the exact moment I decided to write the story that became DAY ZERO, the next Jericho Quinn novel—which takes place on a commercial airliner.

After decades of traveling with my sidearm, I found myself retired and gunless on a flight between Alaska and Texas where I was to pick up my trusty motorcycle, Modestine. My worldview had softened some in the months since I’d hung up my badge, but it was still natural to look at the shifty guy who was trash-talking the flight attendant a few rows ahead of me and wonder what his problem was. Whether I have a gun or not, I will probably react as if I do until the day that I die. It’s ingrained. So, I decided I’d better arm myself, airplane our not, and began to look for things I could use as weapons if someone went all gonzo terrorist on us. Fiddling with an arm of my tray table, I listened to the flight attendant give her safety briefing. About the time she went through the part about how we could use our seat cushions as flotation, I noticed one of the pins that held the metal arm in place was loose. I figured it would be easy to snap the arm off if things got bad, leaving me with a metal club a little over a foot long. 

I began to imagine Jericho in the middle of a hellacious fight on board a hijacked airliner—one arm through the straps on the seat cushion he used as a shield, while he wielded the metal tray arm to great effect—like Samson wielding the jawbone of an ass against the Philistines. I realized I was turning more writer than lawman when I buried my nose in a notebook and began to write the scene—instead of keeping an eye on the troublemaker a couple of rows ahead of me.

I have to admit that I’m not quite as jaded as the above makes me sound. I may have leaned that way when I was younger, but maturity helps one see things with a little more hope—not a lot more hope, but a little anyway. I fully realize that there are a lot of good people in the world. I’ve ridden my motorcycle thousands of miles across the US and Canada and have yet to meet more than a handful of turds. But every time I think the world is really getting better, I stumble on the comments section at the bottom of some newsfeed. Then I imagine walking among the people who are capable of spewing such vitriol and hate. It brings back memories of the old days behind the badge—and makes me want to reach for a Hot Wheel track…or something a little stronger to defend myself.

Marc Cameron is a retired Chief Deputy US Marshal and 29-year law enforcement veteran. His short stories have appeared in BOYS’ LIFE Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post. He's published eleven novels, six of them Westerns.   
DAY ZERO, fifth in his USA Today Bestselling Jericho Quinn Thriller series, is the newest release from Kensington February of 2015. Marc lives in Alaska with his beautiful bride and BMW motorcycle.
Visit him at: