Thursday, December 3, 2020

Author Interview - Ciccone

Today's interview is with Western Fictioneer Member James Ciccone. James' debut novel "A Good Day to Die" was released on August 26, 2020. Please join me in welcoming James Ciccone. I know I learned a lot and look forward to his next story.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’d like to begin by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to share some of my experiences writing my debut novel, “A GOOD DAY TO DIE.” I am busy writing the third draft of “MORE THAN ENOUGH WOMAN,” a Western, and the first few chapters of the third novel in the Western series, which remains untitled, so the request to reflect on the process is timely. Furthermore, your questions are framed in a thoughtful way. The prompts are really more than decoration. They trigger expansive responses. The simplicity of open-ended, direct questions, at least for me anyway, tends to confront, challenge, and, finally, haunt. I spent many years as a trial lawyer, so I like to believe I am a fairly good judge of effective direct examination. Congratulations. You’ve hit the mark.

Now to address your first question, I have always fantasized about seeing my name in print, and the idea of achieving the permanency or finality of published writing began to wash over me as a teenager. You have to realize that I grew up in the rural areas of the Northeast. There was so much about the world that came to us in published writing. The spot where the publications ended is where the imagination took over. The imagination played a role in forming our group reality. This was exciting. I could go to all of those faraway places we read about in the newspapers, the places that were shining with excitement and possibility, by simply letting the imagination take over. Then, of course, I was influenced by the immediacy of the things I was immersed in growing up, too. I began to realize early on that these things all could become the stuff of published writing, especially among the poets. I tried my hand at poetry, all forms. I began publishing bad poetry as a teenager. Furthermore, I began publishing awkwardly written newspaper articles as a teenager as well.




Is there a writing routine you follow or do you write when the muse strikes?

There is a mysterious inner voice that does the writing for me. I am just the person who is present to strike the keys on the keyboard. The voice tells me where all of the connections or linkages are in the story, reminds me of certain things, like the rules of grammar and stylistic tricks and where the arc of the story is going. It is a weird trance. It is not just a case of the characters speaking to me. We have all heard that one. This voice is the writer’s voice. I absolutely do see the scenes in my mind, and this is entertaining. However, the more I write, the more aggressive the voice becomes in taking over the process. Then, when the voice gets good and ready, it makes me take notes or launch into a sit. The notes are narrative outlines, bits and pieces of dialogue or descriptive prose, and the sits can go on for hours, many hours. If you want to call the mysterious voice a “muse,” so be it. I guess I would have no objection. However, I think calling this a “muse” is a way of politely referring to a mental defect. It is a euphemism similar to the way people use euphemisms to avoid talking about death and dying. Anyway, I don’t profess to understand it at all. I am not even sure it is wise to begin speaking about this topic in detail. I am sure all of your writers understand exactly what I am talking about. The issue, and it is an issue, stands somewhere at the crossroads of fraternizing with a third party and navigating a mental defect, doesn’t it? The next steps in the process involve the rewrites. I found that switching the type of the manuscript helps create an editorial distance. I spot mistakes that way. Then, if you are as fortunate as I was with “A GOOD DAY TO DIE,” your manuscript is discovered by a small group of consummate professionals, wonderfully angelic figures who are expert storytellers and editors, reliable eyes and ears, like the editors in residence at Sundown Press. Those gifted editors, Cheryl Pierson, Livia Reasoner, and Michelle Reed, stood at the final stages of the rewriting process. They suggested changes that ranged from peripheral changes or marginalia to substantive or sweeping changes involving POV, etc., etc., etc. In the case of “A GOOD DAY TO DIE,” the rewrite covered the spectacular period of one year. Finally, historical accuracy is paramount in Western fiction, so research plays a key role at each step of the process. Research, of course, influences the outcome.


Are you a plotter or pantser?

I am a hybrid. I am both a plotter and a “pantser.” This is the first time I’ve considered explaining what is going on. It is definitely not a formulaic, rigid process. The fluidity of the process essentially follows the story’s intrinsic momentum, and I am not entirely convinced the word process is the right word here. The idea of momentum is probably much closer to the truth.

I start out as a “pantser.” The inspiration to tell a particular story in a particular way hits me, and I start writing it from the seat of my pants. However, as the writing is underway, the inspiration begins to move things around. I take notes and record bits and pieces of inspiration as I am writing the story. The narrative in my notes begins to assume a chronology or sequence or arc of the story. These notes ripen into something resembling an outline. However, I do take notes.

I started writing poetry years ago. That is where the habit of notetaking got started. I’d write these little notes. The little notes would begin blossoming into lines, counting syllables, stuff that typically contributes to the process of writing bad poetry, that is, perfecting the art of writing bad poetry. I have been told that character development and dialogue are my strengths. This interests me, since I had to work hard at those things. The descriptions and figurative language should have been much easier, given all of the bad poetry I have written and all of the outstanding poetry of have read, but I guess this is not the case. I am not sure.



Is there a process where you find your next story or does the idea just hit you?

Yes. I wrote dark, psychologically complex, Dostoevsky-esque, epistolary novels filled with plenty of gore and more and more surprising ways to involve a body cavity in a murder scene. I am not sure where all of that imagery came from in the first place. It may have had something to do with all of the startling crime scene photographs and morgue shots I dealt with throughout my career, especially the ones involving children. Who really knows? My sister, Diane, read this epoch, cavernous piece of catharsis and advised: “Jimmy, why don’t you just write books people might like to read?” Did the idea just hit me, you ask? Yes. That idea hit me right between the eyes.

The idea came from my sister. She inherited all of the brains, good looks, and money in our family. I got whatever was left over. I am afraid all that was left over for me after the estate inventory was tallied was the idea that I could write stories people just might like to read. Do you think I was shortchanged in life? Perhaps. That is how I came upon the idea to just write entertaining stories, hopefully stories of value, stories people might like to read. The operative word, of course, is “just.”

I would argue Western novels hold the potential to become stories of value on many levels. The historical accuracy of a well-written Western reminds us that history cannot be “un-lived.” The genre gives us so much space to invent and to deliver messages. For me, it creates the situation for satire. It challenges the reader to observe the many things in society that evolved rapidly while, pointedly, distinguishing those things from the many other things that remain paralyzed, fixed in time.

There is something mystical about capturing the sitz im leben of the Western novel, the audacity of the Old West and the Western expansion, the audacity of Mr. Lincoln, for example, to take his philosophy to the doorstep of the South, and the audacity of the South to resist. In my view, audacity is what made the Old West tick.

Audacity doesn’t need an introduction. Folks recognize it when they see it. Audacity is what the world admires about the Old West, the gunplay, the settlers, the ranchers, the farmers, the cattle drives, the bandits and stagecoach robbers, the relentless will to brave cruel winters, the courage to just keep going West no matter the odds and no matter the obstacles. All of it boils down to audacity.

Audacity describes the spirit of the Old West better than all of the other words put together. Audacity is the quality historians bump into when they are trying to make sense of it all. Audacity built the railroads. Audacity possessed Mr. Lincoln to insist upon change, and audacity possessed the South to resist. Audacity encouraged formerly enslaved people to rise up, run away, and confront their captors. Audacity rushed for gold. The characters of the Western novel, and the Old West, display plenty of audacity. I find the idea to write stories somewhere in this notion of audacity. I think many other Western writers do, too. I think delving into the psychology of audacity is one of the keys to achieving stories people might like to read.


Do your life experiences influence or hinder your writing?

I certainly think growing up in the rural areas of the Northeast, borderline Appalachia, influenced the foundation of these stories.


If you had a choice, which is your favorite to write, short stories, novellas or full-length novels?

All of the above. I don’t agree with the premise that these forms are mutually exclusive.

You can follow James on his Amazon page here: James Ciccone - Amazon


I find there is so much to learn from other authors. Please keep an eye out for future Western Fictioneer author interviews. Until then, stay safe, warm, and keep those stories coming. The world needs them, even if they don't realize it, yet.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

TALKING WITH THE DEAD - BOOKS

Post by Doris McCraw writing as Angela Raines 

Photo (c) by Doris McCraw

I recently came across the phrase 'talking with the dead'. Initially, I thought it sounded rather morbid until I thought about what it was really about. To me, it's connecting with the past in ways we might not think about. This also follows an earlier post about what inspires your stories. For those who would like to take a look at that post, here is the link: What Inspires Your Stories 

The second post on inspiring stories: Talking with the Dead- Photographs

The third of what I include for inspiration is Cemeteries: Talking with the Dead - Cemeteries

Part four: Talking with the Dead - Newspapers

This fifth and last post in this series is about books. Perhaps the first book you think of is Edgar Lee Masters work "Spoon River Anthology".  This book is literally people talking to you from their graves. This work is the epitaphs of the residents of Spoon River telling their tales to the reader. I confess I've read it many times. It typifies small-town life and it doesn't hurt that the author lived not far from where I grew up. The stories the residents tell I can relate to. If you are interested you can download a free version of the book here: Spoon River Anthology - free ebook - Gutenberg

However, I am referring to books in a broader sense. The classic Westerns we love are the authors talking to us, telling us how they perceived the area they wrote about. For some, it was based on actual events they observed or took part in. For others, it was retelling the stories they grew up with or read about.

There is also the diaries and snippets contained in various books that have been published over time. Helen (Hunt) Jackson wrote about the life and people she observed as she traveled. Her work, "Bits of Travel at Home" is an enlightening read. Published in 1878, Helen's essays are an on the ground view of train travel, city growth, and people who caught her eye. You can download the book here: Bits of Travel at Home or perhaps "Century of Dishonor", first published in 1881 chronicling the Indian's treaties with the government. You can download the free book here: Century of Dishonor

The "Covered Wagon Women" series of books uses letters and diaries to tell the story of the trek west. Or perhaps Isabella Bird's book about her travels in the Rocky Mountains. "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains" published in 1879, is a fascinating read, as Isabella recounts her journies through Colorado. You can download the Gutenberg project ebook here: A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains

These and many more books have given me numerous pieces of information on life during the time I write on. They have inspired ideas that become short stories or novels. So when I talk and write about 'Talking with the Dead', I am referring to the wealth of information those who came before have left us. 

Here's to the story inspired by the past. Here's to those who keep the Western alive with tales taken from pieces of history. Here's to the next book or anthology celebrating our shared past.

May you all have the best remainder of November possible. Please stay safe and well. I look forward to your next story.


Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Author Interview - Jerry Guin


During the end of this year and going forward I hope to interview Western Fictioneer members on their new releases and writing. The plan is to post at least one and sometimes two interviews a month. For those who would like to be considered, you can contact me and I will give you the parameters and questions for inclusion. I am starting off with Jerry Guin who has had two releases this last quarter. 

Enjoy the interview and take note of what makes Jerry's stories and journey so interesting. I know I learn from his continuing journey and hope you will also.  


Jerry, when did you realize you wanted to write?

     Back in 1995 a western magazine I was reading called for submissions.  I had some time on my hands and a computer, so I thought I’d give it a try.  Interestingly enough, my short story “Caught Red Handed” was accepted.  I wrote a couple more imagined stories to see if I could find a home for them. I soon found out that the correct way to submit a short story is to answer a call for submissions. 

In 1997, my first book, a nonfiction guide, and journal,  “Matsutake Mushroom” was published by Naturegraph Publishers.


I've heard non-writers say they wonder where authors get their ideas. What sparked the idea for your book, “Reluctant Partners”?

That was easy.  I had a couple friends that asked about what happened to the characters in Unlikely Partners, the first book in that series, so I picked up the story where I left off and continued.  I might even do a third book.


Authors are many times put into categories of plotter or pantser. What do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser?

I generally am a pantser.  The only beforehand plotting I do is to begin with a basic idea of someone doing a job, perhaps a lawman, perhaps a villain.  A circumstance develops involving that person which allows me to build on a story.

The exception to that is writing a second novel using first novel characters in order to continue the main plot of the first story. 


I know, other than my Thursday writing group I have a hard time with routines. Do you have a writing routine or write when the muse calls?

Since retirement, I have no set schedule and write when the mood strikes.


You also had a duo of novellas released at the end of October. If you had a choice, do you prefer writing a shorter piece of full-length novels?

Well, I feel that novels are more desirable for a broad scale of readers and is more palatable to the eyes of my publisher.

I usually do not write a short story unless a call for submissions to a particular theme is made.


Thank you for sharing your time and process with us. Anything else you think people would find fascinating about you or your writing process?

After High school, I served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Mullany (DD528).  After my service, I worked various lumber labor jobs. After college, I then went into wholesale lumber sales for a good 25 years which included my own sales company for a few years.  Afterward, I finished my working career as plant manager for a local propane company. 

During my working career, I was busy making a living while helping my wife raise our son and daughter. During those years, I did not find the time or desire to write until I was near fifty years old. 

Now days, I write when I get an idea that I figure could be made into a worthwhile novel story. Once I take on that thought process, it could take as much as six months before I feel the story is finished and I could submit to my publisher, the great folks at Sundown Press.  Writing is not the only thing that I currently do.  I am an outdoorsman, have been all of my life, which has aided in my relating to the characters I write about and also, helps me to keep a clear mind and enjoy life.    

If you are interested in Jerry's work check out his author page on Amazon: Jerry Guin 




Friday, November 20, 2020

What's the Score? The Big Country by Jerome Moross


Nominated for an Academy Award for its musical score composed by Jerome Moross, The Big Country (1958) was an all around epic success.

The film was directed by William Wyler and starred Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston, and Burl Ives. Based on Ambush at Blanco Canyon, a serialized novel from the Saturday Evening Post by Donald Hamilton, the film was a hit with audiences.

Likewise, the music.

Bruce Eder at Allmusic.com says “If it were possible to rate a record here at higher than five stars, this might be the place to do it, as a sort of "best of the best."

Like the themes in the movie itself, the soundtrack releases build on one another over time. In 1958 came the original 12-track vinyl release, then in 1988, a re-recording of the score by the Philharmonica Orchestra conducted by Tony Bremner. Finally, in 1991 a 42-track CD came out from Screen Classics which goes beyond the original record and harkens back to the film —although the original masters of Moross’s 80-piece orchestra had been lost.



Moross says he composed the main title after walking in the flatland around Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1936, and indeed the majesty and open expanse of that geography is echoed in the music.

Moross is best known for The Big Country, but also made music for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960), The Valley of Gwangi (1969). He also composed the Season 3- Season 8 theme song for TV's Wagon Train based on his score for the 1959 film, The Jayhawkers.

After growing up on a Nebraska farm, Richard Prosch worked as a professional writer, artist, and teacher in Wyoming, South Carolina, and Missouri. His western crime fiction captures the fleeting history and lonely frontier stories of his youth where characters aren’t always what they seem, and the windburned landscapes are filled with swift, deadly danger. In 2016, Richard roped the Spur Award for short fiction given by Western Writers of AmericaRead more at www.RichardProsch.com

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

REMEMBERING THE GOOD THINGS by CHERYL PIERSON

When my husband Gary and I were first married, he would laughingly call me “Pollyanna” –the girl who always saw the good in every situation. Through the years, I have to admit there have been times when that quality has failed me, when things were so bad I didn’t know what we were going to do. I know we’ve all had “those” times. But in general, I’m one of those people who does try to see the good in things.
I think I “learned” to do that from my mom. I thought a lot about this over the last few weeks—fall always makes me remember and miss my parents more than any other time of the year. One night Gary and I were talking about the things our parents had taught us, and I told him one thing my mom taught me was to look on the bright side of things.
I imagine she had to do a lot of that, being the oldest of eleven children in the Dustbowl days of Oklahoma—which was also during The Great Depression. Growing up, I remember how she’d comment on things that meant nothing to me…at the time.
“Oh, Cheryl, I saw the first robin today! That means spring is on the way,” she’d say, with a smile.
And>? my young brain would ask. So spring is on the way.


When spring came along, maybe she’d comment on how green the trees were, or how blue the sky was today—just look at those clouds! Now that I’m older, I realize why these things were important and such a cause of joy to her.
Growing up dirt poor in a small house that had no insulation and very little heat, I’m sure that seeing the first robin was important because it meant those cold days and nights would soon be at an end and warm weather was soon to blow in.
The green of the trees meant there was enough rain to allow things to grow—something I know, as the oldest in such a large family, she was acutely aware of since my grandfather was a hardscrabble farmer and had so many mouths to feed. What a relief, especially here in Oklahoma, that there had been plentiful rain and things were growing well!


The blue of the sky—can you imagine growing up in a time when you could look outside and see huge billowing gales of dust—and nothing else? Animals had to be put up in the barn, families had to be inside, and still, the houses were so poorly constructed there would be layers of dust on the windowsills once the dust storm had passed. So a blue sky was important—no dust, and those beautiful white clouds must have looked heavenly in her eyes.

Mama always found happiness in the small things—small in MY eyes. A good meal she’d cooked for her family, getting the laundry done and put away for the week, finding a good sale on orange juice—yes, those were the days when people would look through the Sunday or Wednesday paper at the grocery store ads, make several stops to find the things at each store that were on sale, and several trips home to put the perishables away—a very different time.
It was not just the fact of the accomplishment itself, but what it meant to her from the things that had happened in her past. A good meal meant there was enough food to go around for everyone, served on a matching set of dishes. No one went to bed hungry. Laundry being done meant that everyone had clothes for a solid week—not one or two good dresses that had to be laundered over and over. Making the rounds of the different grocery stores and finding good “deals” meant she was able to provide some extras with what Dad made in the oilfield. She knew how hard he worked.
So though I didn’t have the past that Mama had—mine was much easier in comparison—I think I learned that attitude through watching her. I’m sure there were times she wanted to just go into the bathroom and have a good cry, but instead, she looked for the good, and found it.
I think of her every time I see that first robin. What a gift that has been to me, in so many ways. Part of writing is thinking about our characters and WHY they act and react like they do. This has been a whole new area of enlightenment for me. I understand so many of my characters even more than I did when I wrote them—their reasoning, and their motivation.
Do you have an aspect to your personality that you inherited or learned from one of your parents or another family member? What are they? Do you think that these behavior patterns can be multi-generational? My mind is whirling! What do you think?
ONE OF MY FAVE PICS OF MAMA AND DADDY TAKEN APRIL 9, 1991, ON THEIR 47th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

Monday, November 16, 2020

There is always something to be thankful for by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #prairierosepubs #thankful #westernromance


Events
throughout 2020 have pushed our stamina and challenged us all in so many ways - in our friendships, with our families, medically, politically, intellectually, emotionally, physically...

The list goes on.

When I lose sight of the good in life, I bring out this reminder.





I want to say how thankful I am to be able to write stories, to be published, and to be a part of the Western Fictioneers community of authors and readers.

I'm also thankful for my publishers at Prairie Rose Publications, Cheryl Pierson and Livia Washburn. Being included in Prairie Rose Publications' recently released boxed set of western romance novels - Gambling on a Cowboy - has been the emotional and psychological boost I needed.



Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who observes this holiday on the 26th whether it be in person or socially distant this year.

My family's plans are uncertain at this point. If, and that is a large IF, we gather, we will be a group of 10 or 12 gathered outdoors as safely distant as is reasonable.


Until next time,
Kaye Spencer


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Happy Veteran's Day!

 November 11 is Veteran’s Day. Of course, Veteran’s Day wasn’t actually invented until 1947, but your characters may have had their own version of the Great War, in 1861. More than three million people (all but around 300 were male) fought in the U.S. Civil War, which lasted until 1865. About two percent of the population, or over 600,000, died during the war. Considering that we only lost around 116, 000 in World War I, you’d think the country would have celebrated some sort of yearly memorial to those soldiers. Of course, in fairness, we should remember that diseases actually killed twice as many men as battle. The men were confined in poorly-ventilated tents and camps became breeding grounds for childhood illnesses like mumps, measles, and chickenpox.



 

The main weapon of that war – and the one responsible for 80 percent of wounds – was the single-shot, muzzle-loading rifle. Your character’s odds of actually surviving a wound during the war was seven to one, chiefly because doctors of that time had no idea of germ theory or blood types. Additional weapons utilized during the Civil War included the cannon, the revolver, swords or cutlasses, hand grenades and land mines, and “Greek fire” (the recipe for which probably included petroleum, pitch, sulfur, pine or cedar resin, lime, and bitumen). 

 

Lest you think muzzle-loading weapons fairly ineffective in a pitched battle, the average soldier could reload and fire three times a minute, or once every twenty seconds. In addition to his rifle, a soldier typically carried about seven pounds of ammunition, including a cartridge box with 40 rounds in it. If he expected an extensive battle, he might even carry another 60 rounds along with him. Although artillery was heavily utilized during the war, only about 10 percent of the wounded were actually injured by it.

 

After the battle of Gettysburg, discarded rifles were gathered and sent to Washington to be inspected and reissued. Out of over 37,000 rifles that were recovered, 24,000 were still loaded. Most rifles were equipped with bayonets, but very few men showed up at the hospitals with bayonet wounds. This was taken to mean the bayonet just wasn’t a lethal weapon, but what actually happened was that soldiers rarely made it to grappling range, and if they did, they were more likely to use the rifle butts as clubs.




 

If your character was a Union soldier, he’d have gotten $13 to $16 a month for his work (if he was white, that is; black soldiers only got $10 to $13). That three-dollar raise came in June of 1864. Black soldiers weren’t too happy about that pay difference, either, especially as they were charged three dollars a month for clothing! In protest, black regiments refused to accept this inferior pay. Eventually (in September of 1864), pressure from the abolitionists, along with the bravery shown by black regiments in battle, persuaded Congress to rectify the inequality. Black soldiers finally received equal pay retroactive to their enlistment date.

 

Officers for artillery or infantry units earned the following at the beginning of the war:

·      Colonels: $212

·      Lieutenant Colonels: $181

·      Majors: $169

·      Captains: $115.50

·      Lieutenants: $105.50

 

Pay for one-, two-, and three-star generals was $315, $457, and $758, respectively, so it certainly paid to work your way up in rank. The Confederate pay schedule was modeled on the U.S. Army. Privates made $11 a month until that magic date of June 1864, when every soldier got an eighteen dollar raise.

 

Of course, since your general usually led the regiment into battle, they earned those paychecks. Generals were 50 percent more likely to die in battle than privates. Just at the Battle of Antietam,  three generals were killed and six wounded – on each side. 

 

Nobody knows the age of the youngest soldier of the war. One George S. Lamkin from Mississippi joined the Confederate army at age 11. And one entire regiment of volunteers in Albany, New York was composed of men over the age of 45. And then there’s Private Thomas Stewart of Ohio, who served at the age of 92.




 

One-third of the Union forces were immigrants, and almost one in ten were black. In fact, one in four regiments were made up mostly of foreigners. You’ve probably heard about Irish soldiers – they made up around 7.5 percent of the army. However, there were even more Germans in the Union (around 10 percent), such as the Steuben Volunteers. Also counted were Englishmen, Frenchmen, Polish, Italians, and Scots.

 

If your character didn’t actually serve in the Civil War, he or she may have had relatives or friends who did. I hope these bits of trivia will help add a dash of flavor to your character’s fictional life. Check out the sources for even more facts.

 

J.E.S. Hays

www.jeshays.com

www.facebook.com/JESHaysBooks

 

Source:

 

Legends of America’s Civil War Facts - https://www.legendsofamerica.com/ah-civilwarfacts/

History.com’s 10 Surprising Civil War Facts - https://www.history.com/news/10-surprising-civil-war-facts

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Empty Coffins by Scott Dennis Parker


Before I shine a light on EMPTY COFFINS, let me ask you a question: what’s your favorite book or movie that takes place on a train? Films at the top of my list include The Train (1965), The First Great Train Robbery (1979), and Runaway Train (1985). Yes, I’m a huge nerd for these types of plots ever since seeing mister 'Death Wish' himself, Charles Bronson, in Alistair Maclean’s Breakheart Pass (1976). Some of my favorite episodes of TV shows like Gunsmoke, The Big Valley, or The Wild Wild West (most especially) take place on an express with murder, shootouts, or various other combinations on the loose. Please feel free to name your picks in the comments—you may have one that I would enjoy being reminded about. And now, on to Scott Dennis Parker with EMPTY COFFINS featuring Calvin Carter: Railroad Detective. 

Carter is a thespian at heart—he loves the stage but has found a secondary calling as a railroad detective. That’s good news for western readers because he’s one entertaining son-of-a-gun. In the opening chapter, he’s disguised as a con man, managing to get close to the fugitive he’s trailing by offering to play a version of ‘spot the ace.’ The criminal is so captivated by Carter’s card hustle persona that he fails to note he has been collared. Carter has a partner, the more straightlaced Thomas Jackson, and both operate under the tutelage of Colonel Jameson Moore. It’s a wonderful set-up for nonstop action.

Indeed, a big factor in the EMPTY COFFINS enjoyment is the pacing that Parker has plotted like an old fashion pulp serial. Each chapter is brisk, snapping right along. Though, unlike many of those classics, which were often pithy on backstory, I appreciate the time Parker has put into developing the lead character. Carter isn’t a cardboard cutout going through the motions. We learn for example that his father, Elliot, had been a trainman his whole life, and when he was murdered, Calvin tracked down his father’s killer, discovering he had a knack for detective work. In this outing, Carter witnesses a good friend of his dad’s, lead engineer, Elmer Osgood, shot down before his eyes. The loss propels his emotions forward, as well as our investment as readers.

Still, Calvin Carter has a similar air of fun that Artemis Gordon sported in The Wild Wild West and that Hannibal Smith had by the bucket loads in the A-Team—why do something ordinary when you can bring a sense of theatrics to the occasion. He doesn’t waste a moment when donning a disguise and always finds time to flirt with the ladies. Great fun. I highly recommend Empty Coffins.

Note: In full disclosure, Scott is a good friend of mine and we are finishing a book, Cash Laramie and the Sundown Express, that we hope to see released next year.

David Cranmer is the editor of the BEAT to a PULP webzine and whose own body of work has appeared in such diverse publications as The Five-Two: Crime Poetry Weekly, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, LitReactor, Macmillan’s Criminal Element, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Under the pen name Edward A. Grainger he created the Cash Laramie western series. He's a dedicated Whovian who enjoys jazz and backgammon. He can be found in scenic upstate New York where he lives with his wife and daughter.


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Union Printers Home - A Place to Live Out Your Life, however long it might be

 Post by Doris McCraw writing as Angela Raines

Headstones of members of the National Typographical Union
Evergreen Cemetery
photo property of the author

In 1892 the International/Nationa Typographical Union built a facility in Colorado Springs for the care of its ill members. Part of the reason for the choice was the reputation Colorado and Colorado Springs had for curing diseases of the lungs. 

Image from Pinterest

It was during the founding of the town in the Pikes Peak region during the early 1870s that those suffering from lung problems found that the clean air helped alleviate the symptoms. Dr. Samuel Edwin Solly and his wife arrived in the region hoping the cure the tuberculous they both were suffering from. Dr. Solly survived. His wife did not. Still, Dr. Solly remained and did much to promote the region as a cure. He published papers and articles on the subject. 

At the time the typographical union decided to build its facility in Colorado Springs, a number of its members were suffering lung problems as a result of the carbon-based ink used in their profession. Due to this problem, the average life expectancy of a printer was about forty-one years. The facility and its grounds grew over the years to encompass more than 260 acres and included a dairy farm, gardens, and a power plant.

Image from the Historic Preservation Alliance, 
Colorado Springs

The Printers Home also had/has a large area in the local cemetery for their deceased members. Although the home is now closed, its presence and history continue to fascinate. And for those who might be interested, it is located close to where Nikola Tesla had his laboratory in 1899.

One such resident was Ezekial H Brady. Born in 1852 and he worked as a book-binder and printer in Des Moines, Iowa. The census shows he was still in Iowa in 1925 with his wife Mary, who he married in 1872, and still working as a printer. Sometime between 1925 and 1937, he moved into the home to live out his remaining years. He died in 1937 and is buried in the Printers Home section of the cemetery.

Image property of the author

My short story in the Western Fictioneers anthology "Under Western Stars" is about a newspaperman. Although the work of reporters, printers, and others involved in the dissemination of the news is what we know, there was so much that we don't think about. Histories of places like the Union Printers Home help us to understand. 

 

Amazon

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

AUTUMN FEVER by Cheryl Pierson

When I was growing up, I remember looking forward to the first day of school each year. “Back then” we didn’t start back to school in the fall until after Labor Day. In Oklahoma, it was still hot as blue blazes in September, but at least, the evenings and nights were cooling off. I dreaded seeing summer end, but by September, I was feeling the pull to go back to school, see my friends—and I’d never admit it—start learning again!
By the time October rolled around, things had definitely become more “fall-like” and the sun had taken on the “autumn slant” as the days grew shorter, as well. My mom used to take note of the seasonal changes very keenly, and I remember her saying, “Well, fall is here.” There was no need to explain—it was in the coolness of the air, the more orange tint of the sun, the shorter days.
Of course, to a child, “fall” meant that Halloween was coming! Back in those days, it was still safe to go door-to-door with friends, all of us together in the crisp night air, a giggling mass of energy all dressed in our finery (most of us with homemade costumes, not store-bought) and those little plastic pumpkins with the handles to carry our “loot” home in. “TRICK OR TREAT!” we’d call out at each door, and our neighbors would always pretend they thought they were giving candy to princesses and pirates, superheroes and witches.
November brought Thanksgiving—a time when we’d usually go to my grandparents’ houses. I was the “lucky” one of all my cousins (and I had 40+ cousins!) because in the small town of Calera, Oklahoma, I had my dad’s parents who lived at one end of town, and my mom’s parents who lived at the other end. Cousins, aunts, and uncles from both sides also lived there, so many of my cousins from both sides of the family went to school with each other and knew one another as friends and fellow sports teammates. Those were simpler times—we could walk all over town without fear of any foul play, and I had grandparents at each end of town, so no matter which cousins I was with, we had somewhere to walk to.
The town of Calera, Oklahoma, year unknown. It was a water stop for trains and was called Cale Switch or Cale Station, but when the railroad wanted to rename it Sterrett, the people insisted on a compromise--and Calera was born. This is the main street of the town--much more lively than it was when we kids were walking it back in the mid-late 60's and early 70's.
The big treat was stopping in at the one and only “grocery store”—more like an Old West mercantile store—that was about at the halfway mark through town. It had a glass case with bologna and ham inside and a big slicer that the store owner, Petey, would use to cut your lunchmeat. Then, he’d wrap it in freezer paper and tie it up with twine. Petey’s store also had one of those big chest-type coolers with a sliding top, filled with ice and bottled pop. That was back when a bottle of pop was ten cents or so—and a candy bar could be had for a few pennies more.
There’s nothing like family and Thanksgiving dinner all together to bring “Autumn Fever” to the highest level. Doesn’t Thanksgiving just speak to us of autumn? By that time of the year, even in Oklahoma, the leaves have turned some beautiful rich colors of gold, red, orange, and brown and drifted from the trees. The winds have become colder and more cutting (and that’s saying something here in Oklahoma!) and of course there’s that “fall smell” in the air. And probably that’s one of the things I love most about autumn—the smell. There is nothing like the feeling of being tucked up inside four strong walls with food to eat, a fire going in the fireplace, and a good book to read. And did I mention a dog’s head on my lap? But celebrating fall took on a whole new meaning when we moved to West Virginia. I had never seen colors on the trees like what we saw there--such a wonderful display of nature--and it happens every year!
Rick Burgess is an excellent professional photographer who is a good friend--he specializes in pictures of the natural beauty of "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia" and this is one that was taken at Plum Orchard Lake in the fall. Isn't it gorgeous?
I know a lot of people will think this is strange, but I’ve never been a coffee or hot tea drinker. Yet, in the fall, I DO want something warm to drink—and this is it. This drink is very easy to make and keep on hand—and I haven’t tried making it with any artificial sweetener yet, but this year I’m going to do just that instead of using sugar and see how it turns out. This “friendship tea” is also good to make and give as a gift in a pretty container (that’s how I got it in the very beginning, and I have been so glad someone did that for me so many years ago!)
FRIENDSHIP TEA
This wonderful drink is ready in 5 minutes, and makes 4 cups of the instant mix.
Ingredients:
1 -1 1⁄2cup sugar (or less, to taste)
2 cups instant Tang orange drink
1⁄2cup sweetened iced tea mix powder
1(1/4 ounce) envelope unsweetened lemonade mix
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1⁄2teaspoon ground cloves (or you can also put in whole cloves if you like)
Directions:
Combine all ingredients well and store in an airtight container.
To use, fill a mug with boiling water and stir in 2-3 teaspoons of mix, to taste.
If all you can find is presweetened lemonade, then use the amount of dry mix needed for a 2 -quart pitcher according to the package instructions and leave out the sugar.
This recipe has been around for many years, but this iteration of it came from GENIUS KITCHEN and is close to the one I’ve had in my recipe box for all this time.

I have to admit, by Christmas I’m certainly missing fall, and “Autumn Fever” takes on a new meaning—I want it BACK! As sad as I was to see summer end, that’s how I feel when the winter ice and snow comes—I’m immediately nostalgic for fall!
What do you do in the autumn months? Are you glad to see them come and herald summer’s end? I do read a lot, as I’m sure many of us do here at WF. Please share any good books you’ve read so we can all build our reading list!
I’d also love to hear your childhood memories of fall--and I do hope you’ll try this wonderful “friendship tea” recipe when those autumn winds begin to blow—it’s a sure cure for AUTUMN FEVER!

Monday, October 19, 2020

5 Colorful Colorado Ghost Stories by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #ghoststories #halloween

 


This article kicks off my series of 13 Days of Spooky Blogging for Halloween, that I will post daily on my blog HERE and on Facebook HERE

Several of these 13 spooky blog articles are my first-hand, paranormal experiences. 

On to my first spooky article...

Every state has its paranormal stories and urban legends. Since I’m a native Coloradoan, I’m sharing five ghost stories from my home state.

Baldpate Inn, Estes Park, Colorado – Newlyweds Gordon and Ethel Mace homesteaded in Estes Park in 1911. They built a cabin for themselves along with small tourist cabins as a money-making endeavor. In 1917, they were financially able to build their inn. They named their inn after a novel in which guests received their own metal keys to the inn. They continued this until WWI when metal was too expensive to continue doing this. Instead, their regular visitors started bringing them metal keys, which became a “Key Room” of over 20,000 keys from all over the world. After their deaths, staff and visitors have continued to encounter Ethel in the Key Room, where she sits in a wing-backed rocker near a fireplace reading the Bible.


Baldpate Inn - Key Room (citing HERE)

Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, Colorado – This hotel is host to several ghost stories.

Henry Cordes Brown opened the hotel in 1892. It soon became ‘the place’ to stay. One of the ghost stories involves a Denver socialite who lived in Room 904 from 1940 – 1955. The story of her life involves heartbreak and a lost love. When the hotel began offering tours after 1955, phone calls started coming into the switchboard from her room, which was undergoing renovations and did not have telephone service connected. Once Room 904 was removed from the tour, the mysterious phone calls stopped.

Ellyngton’s is the current name of the main dining room. It was the San Marco Room during the Big Band Era. The story goes one night an employee heard sounds in the room. He investigated and discovered a string quartet practicing. He told the musicians there weren’t allowed there. The reply was not to concern himself, because they lived there.

The apparition of a man dressed in ‘old-fashioned train conductor’s uniform’ was seen for a moment then it disappeared through a wall. The wall was where the railroad ticket used to be.

A uniformed waiter is frequently seen in the service elevator.

Happy, laughing children have been seen running in the hallways.

A baby’s cry is often heard in the boiler room.



Brown Palace Hotel (citing HERE)

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado – Stephen King put the Stanley Hotel on the map as a result of his book, and later movie, The Shining. Freeland Oscar Stanley opened the hotel in 1908 as a summer hotel, because the hotel was unheated. For whatever paranormal reasons, the hotel has had hauntings and odd happenings throughout its history.

The ghost of a Lord Dunraven has been seen in Room 407 where he stands or peers out one of the windows. Lights in the bathroom also turn on and off of their own accord.

Inside and outside of Room 481, sounds of children playing can be heard when there are no children around. Doors open and shut by themselves, elevators take off on their own, invisible footsteps move along the hallways, music plays without musicians, and apparitions of men, women, children, and Mrs. and Mrs. Stanley are regular occurrences.


Stanley Hotel (citing HERE




Red Rocks, Morrison, Colorado – Red Rocks, the outdoor amphitheater, is the site of the legend of the Headless Hatchet Lady. There are various renditions of this legend from the hatchet lady simply being a homeless woman who chased people away from the cave she lived in to her being a headless woman with her coat over her head who rides a horse and wields a bloody hatchet as she chases anyone, particularly young couples, who dare explore the remote Red Rocks.

Yet another version explains the hatchet lady as a woman homesteaded in the Red Rocks area, who guarded her daughters’ reputations with that hatchet. Any man she caught taking liberties with her girls would come up missing important body parts.

Hence, the reason the rocks are red.


Town of Morrison - Red Rocks in background (citing HERE)

The Hotel Colorado, Glenwood Springs, Colorado – The Hotel Colorado opened in 1893 as a luxury resort. This hotel is associated with all sorts of paranormal activity. One origin story for the on-going and unexplained paranormal happenings is the land where the hotel sits was cursed by the Ute Indians, when they were forced to relocate around 1880.

Since then, there have been sightings of ghosts of people who died in the hotel walking the halls, sounds of women’s voices and the clicking of typewriters where neither exist, and faces peering in (and out) of windows.

The basement served as a naval hospital and morgue during World War II. On the main floor, the story of a ghost named Bobbie has been traced back to the 1940s. She was a nurse in the naval hospital, and she was possibly killed by her jealous lover/military officer who was stationed at the hotel/hospital. A cover-up followed, but hospital staff spilled the story.

Soon after the murder became common conversation around town, guests and staff began smelling a specific perfume in the area of Bobbie’s favorite table to the buffet line and back to the table. (‘Gardenia’ – perfume from 30s and 40s and no long produced)

Another ghost named Walter hangs out in the hallways and in the lobby, particularly in the evening. When Walter shows up, cigar smoke accompanies him. There is controversy over the identity of Walter. It’s thought he might be the spirit of E. E. Lewis, who became the general manager in 1905. Lewis took great pride in the hotel.

In Room 661 upstairs, a ghostly woman wearing a floral dress is often seen standing over the bed, and she will doggedly come into the room and close the window when a guest opens it. She has been heard to insist people stay out of the draft.


Hotel Colorado (citing HERE)

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer




Sources:

American Farmhouse Style
Legends of America
Denver Post
Colorado Homes Magazine
Hotel Colorado