Tuesday, November 24, 2020


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


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?

Monday, November 16, 2020

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

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






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.