Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Have you ever read a story that made you wonder why the author spent such a long, boring time describing an item or place that seemed of little importance to the story?

Usually when that happens, it’s because its importance will be revealed later on, or some scene will call up that particular memory or description for some reason—and its usually a pretty darn good reason!

Let’s look at Cinderella’s slipper as our first example for this. Of course, a glass slipper would be highly unusual, wouldn’t it? In fact, most likely, there would be no other slippers like that one pair!

This particular pair of shoes serves as a symbol for the entire story—improbable things happening to a young woman who has been treated so terribly for so long that lead to her ultimate happiness—it’s a story we can all relate to!

The magic that brings her happiness is not just going to the ball and all the wonderful things that happened on the way—the beautiful gown, the carriage, and so on—the true magic for Cinderella is falling in love. And how can the two lovers hope to be reunited? Well, if it weren’t for those exquisitely, perfectly-fitting glass slippers, everything else that came before—all the magic, hopes, and dreams—could have amounted to nothing at all. Everything hinges on the glass slipper fitting!

Hence the description of the slippers themselves, carrying the slipper on a pillow (which I always believed was taking a terrible chance!) and the endless search and trying on of the slipper throughout the kingdom.

The slipper is all-important because it is the proof that she is “the one” –and it has come to symbolize the very story itself. When we see a picture of the glass slipper, we know it “means” Cinderella, right?

Think about Lous L’Amour’s iconic western, Conagher. Two lonely people meet and fall in love through heartfelt notes that Evie, the heroine, writes and ties to tumbleweeds. They could be found and read by anyone—or no one at all.

But the fact that Conagher feels they speak directly to him, shows us how important what she did is to the story. This is further borne out when, in conversation with him, she uses a phrase she’s written on one of the notes—and he knows immediately it is she who has been writing them.

Loneliness and the vast emptiness of the land is a common theme throughout the book. It was unimaginable to her that Conagher would be the one who found “that note” – the one she repeated the phrase from in conversation with him—but it wasn’t impossible. And his line to her is one of the most romantic of all time, in my opinion.

He takes one of the notes out of his pocket and asks if she wrote it, and she says yes, she did. She tells him she was just so lonely she had to talk to someone, even if no one was there to hear. He says, "There was, Evie, there was me." 

The details of:

1. The land around them and their feelings about the emptiness and aloneness of where they are...
2. Evie’s acting on those feelings by just writing them down on paper and tying them to tumbleweeds...
3. The act of Evie repeating the phrase in conversation she’d used on the note Conagher found...

all add up to make this story so special and memorable—and one you will not want to put down once you start reading!

Conagher isn’t a fairy tale, but it does have its own brand of magical connections that lead to love. The details and descriptions in both of these stories, as different as they are, give the reader insights that the author, in both cases, was masterful in providing throughout the story!

Finally, another couple of tales that come to mind are two short stories many of us read in our high school English classes—The Necklace, by Guy De Maupassant, and The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry. Do you remember these—both based on objects that were described in great detail—and the twists at the end that left you gasping in surprise?

If you haven’t read them, or even if it’s been a while, they are always good to revisit and are classic examples of why detailed descriptions of “things” can be so important to a story’s premise.

Can you think of an example in your reading where the detailed description of something had deep importance to the story?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Western Fictioneers Announces the 9th Annual Peacemaker Awards

(For Westerns Published in 2018)


GRIT by Ron Schwab (Uplands Press)

THE PISTOLMAN’S APPRENTICE, Linell Jeppsen (Wolfpack Publishing)
TIMBERLINE, Matthew P. Mayo (Five Star)
GYPSY ROCK, Robert D. McKee (Five Star)
FATHER UNTO MANY SONS, Rod Miller (Five Star)


WHERE THE BULLETS FLY, Terrence McCauley (Kensington)        
I AM MRS. JESSE JAMES, Pat Wahler (Blank Slate Press)


THE CHAPMAN LEGACY, John Neely Davis (Five Star)
THE SCARRED ONE, Tyler Boone (Charles Gramlich) (Sundown Press)
REBECCA’S HOPE, Kimberly Grist (Winged Publications)



MYSTERY ON THE PECOS, Alice V. Brock (Pen-L Publishing)
CASTLE BUTTE, John D. Nesbitt (Five Star)
THE CHRISTMAS BEAR, B.N. Rundell (Wolfpack Publishing)                                                                                   


“The Lake Spirit”, Troy D. Smith (THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO: FRONTIER JUSTICE, Moonstone)


“Byrd’s Luck”, Jeffrey J. Mariotte (THE UNTAMED WEST, Western Fictioneers)
“The Gamble”, Cheryl Pierson (THE UNTAMED WEST, Western Fictioneers)
“Father Pedro’s Prayer”, Michael R. Ritt (THE UNTAMED WEST, Western Fictioneers)
“Peyote Spirits”, Ron Schwab (Uplands Press)

Western Fictioneers would like to thank the judges for the excellent job they did and the long hours they devoted to reading the submissions.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Michael Atkinson – American artist by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #americanartist

In the early 1990s on one of my visits home to Fort Morgan, Colorado from where I’d moved to take a teaching position in the southeastern corner of the state (a 500-mile round trip), I stopped in Limon at a convenience store/souvenir shop. The shop had a bin of posters and prints that you could flip through. This is where I came across my first Michael Atkinson painting. I was immediately enthralled, captivated, and in love with Atkinson’s work. (The images I'm sharing are prints I've purchased.)

'Western Majestic' - Michael Atkinson
'Unknown Title' by Michael Atkinson

'Pueblo Sentinel' ceramic tile by Michael Atkinson

For the next several years, I checked that same shop for Atkinson prints every time I passed through Limon. I also looked in shopping malls, other souvenir shops, second hand stores, etc. Every time I found an Atkinson, I thought I had a treasure. It mattered not at all that the prints I bought weren’t originals or even expensive. Keep in mind, this was just as the Internet launched (1991), and years before eBay (1995) and Amazon (1994) started and it took these venues a few more years to gain their current popularity and convenience for finding what you want at the click of a few keyboard keys.

'Emerald Lake' by Michael Atkinson

L-R: 'Scouting Party' | 'Unknown Title' | Mountain Reflections
by Michael Atkinson

Upper Left to Right then Below:
'Spring Rider' | 'Thunderstorm' | 'Crystal Cliffs'
by Michael Atkinson

'Unknown Title' by Michael Atkinson

So, who is Michael Atkinson? He is a painter and sculptor, but beyond that, an Internet search produces scant information about him. These two websites, and, offer a tiny bit about him.

From his Smoky Ridge studio in Texas, Atkinson seeks to capture the emotion, be it subtle or exaggerated, a pursuit that has been in evolution since he started painting as a child in the northwest Texas town of Lubbock. Attracted early to the study of architecture, he earned a degree from Texas Tech University, then taught and worked in the field for a time. From the first, his art, prints and posters have reflected his training, experience, and wide-ranging interests, as he creates images buildings, oceanscapes, animals, and Southwestern landscapes through a unique, semi-abstract style and a mastery of watercolors, spontaneity, and freedom. White space is an essential element of the composition that characterizes Atkinson's art, prints and posters. The white is not empty. It is completely finished. Treating the paper as an element of design, the artist works from one concentrated area of detail and color, leaving much of the paper white and allowing the eye to focus on the central image without intrusion from the periphery.

The other source of information I have is this paper that is attached to the backs of several of my prints. There is a reference to ‘seven years ago’, but there isn’t a year listed, so there’s no point of reference. You’ll notice this information is stamped with Diversified Art, Inc., Tucson Arizona, but an Internet search didn’t reveal much about this organization.

I have a Pinterest board of Michael Atkinson’s artwork, and these few prints hanging on my living room walls are enough.

Kaye’s Michael Atkinson Pinterest board:

Are you familiar with Michael Atkinson’s works? 

I’ve labeled three of the pictures as “Untitled”, because the prints lack titles. I haven’t found them on the Internet, either. But I’ll continue to search. That’s part of the enjoyment of having a reason to browse through Michael Atkinson’s art.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

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Thursday, May 30, 2019


post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

With Memorial Day weekend behind us, and summer just ahead, with all its strange weather, I thought a list of fun facts about the region I live in might be a nice diversion.

1    Colorado Springs is the county seat for El Paso county. In 1861, when President Buchanan signed the order creating the Colorado territory, El Paso became one of the original 17 counties.

2     Although other towns may have been planned, Colorado City, now known as Old Colorado City, was the first actual town in El Paso County.

3      Black Forest was part of an area that was called ‘The Pineries’. It was from here lumber for the building of Colorado Springs, Denver and the various railroads was logged.

4      Fox run park has many trees that are Ute Prayer Trees. The Ute and Comanche inhabited the area until about 1800 when the Kiowa took over the area. They in turn were run out by the Ute and Comanche about 40 years later.

        Canon City had a territorial prison in 1871, five years prior to Colorado becoming a state in 1876. At that time, it became part of the state system.

Arkansas River - Canon City
photo property of the author
    Although Cripple Creek has the honor of being the place where Bob Womack located gold and started the last great gold rush in the lower 48, most of the mines in the area were located on Battle Mountain near Victor Colorado.

7        Manitou Springs was originally founded as town to be fashioned after the resorts in Europe. The town was known for its healing mineral waters that visitors would drink to improve their health.

1        The Pikes Peak Hill Climb had its first race 1916 and is the second oldest race in the United States. It was promoted and conceived by Spenser Penrose, who had converted the old carriage road into an auto road.

2        The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo originated in 1937 and took place at the Will Rogers Stadium, across from the Broadmoor, until 1973 when it moved to the Pikes Peak Equestrian Center. (now known as Norris-Penrose)

3        Colorado Springs was chosen as the national headquarters in 1977. It established the Olympic Training Center at the old ENT Air Force Base at the corner of Boulder and Union. Colorado Springs is now known as Olympic City USA.

4        Prospect lake originally was used as a reservoir to water Evergreen Cemetery, and the east side of Colorado Springs. It was also the place for ice skating in the late 1800s.

Heasdstone - Evergreen Cemetery -  Colorado Springs
Photo property of the author
    Pro Rodeo Hall of fame opened in 1979 and is the only museum in the world devoted to the sport of professional rodeo.

6        Winfield Scott Stratton, Cripple Creek Millionaire, donated land for a baseball park and even purchased bicycles for laundry ladies.

          On Saturday June 7, 1873 the Base Ball Club played their first game. The newspaper had a reporter on site, but he was sad, for no accidents of note occurred. ( source - Colo. Springs Weekly Gazette)

          In 1879 ‘wool growing’ was one of the top industries in the region.


          Colorado Springs has seen Eight plus railway companies come and go during the heyday of train travel. The Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway and the BN&SF are still active

    Tourism has always been a part of the region. Cave of the Winds was ‘first’ discovered in 1880. It was called ‘Pickett’s Cave’ in honor of the minister whose group found it. *source Colorado Springs Weekly Gazette, July 3, 1880. Pg.7, col. 1 *

           Out West, the first newspaper for Colorado Springs, had this to say about Garden of the Gods in the June 20, 1872 issue. “ The Garden of the Gods is one of the best know wonders of Colorado, its characteristic features being so striking as to arrest the attention of even such as may not be susceptible to the grander beauties of the mountains.”

     Author Helen (Hunt) Jackson has this to say about Cheyenne Canyon in her essay of the same name. “There are nine “places of divine worship” in Colorado Springs, - the Presbyterian, the Cumberland Presbyterian, the Methodist, the South Methodist, the Episcopal, the Congregationalist, the Baptist, the Unitarian and Cheyenne Canyon.”   

           There were numerous coal mines in the area making it an early and profitable industry for the region.


           Early on, Ute Pass was considered one of the easiest routes to the gold and silver mines in the Leadville and South Park area.

            Enjoy your summer, writing and may your book sales and reading be even greater than you expect. 

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
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