Monday, August 7, 2017

no rules, no fences, no referees

Recently I tweeted an article I wrote about the Old West. Many people have weighed in on what the American frontier was really about. I think many miss a key point which, at least in a literary sense, ties Westerns, Science Fiction, and Fantasy together.

Here's one paragraph from my article, “Is the Mythology of the Old West Dead?”  . 
“The West, outer space, the future, or a make-believe land represents a new beginning in a fresh place away from home—the shrugging off of disappointments and a chance to start all over again. The romance and adventure of frontiers draws people desperate to escape the travail of their current existence. We've seen this in real life with the migrations to the New World and the Old West, but today many people satisfy this longing vicariously with fiction. If you're poor, your family makes you miserable, you've committed an act that offends society, or wanderlust has gripped you, then the adventure and limitless opportunity of a frontier beckons like a siren's call. Emigrating to a frontier means you get a do-over in a land with no rules, no fences, no referees.” 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Now what?

I've written ten books and contributed to another five. Millions of words, all typed with two fingers. I would have learned to touch type, but I don't think that fast. When I finished the sixth Steve Dancy Tale, I wanted a break, not from writing, but from Steve. Now, I writing a sequel to The Shut Mouth Society. Actually, it's not a sequel, it just uses the same characters. The title is Deluge, and it's a disaster story. I'll vent all my frustrations in relentless waves of destruction and mayhem so I can return to Steve fresh as a huckleberry.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Western Fiction Review reviews Wanted II

New review of Wanted II by the Western Fiction Review. This is a U.K. based website and it's great to get some overseas exposure.
You don’t need to have read any of the previous tales to enjoy any of the stories found here, but you may well find yourself rushing out to read more about some, or all, of them.
Here you will find stories that range from the traditional approach to western storytelling to one that borders on the mystical. There is plenty of action, some shocks, animal stars, and humour to be found in these fast moving tales, so there should be something to satisfy every western reader.
The Western Writer's Group is back, bringing you brand new,
original stories from characters you love. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Story arcs drive the popularity of TV series. Can it do the same for a book series?

In novels, a story arc usually refers to rhythm of a story from introduction, to big trouble, to resolution. Basically, the rise and fall of tension and emotion in a story. In most novels, this story arc is self-contained in a single book. Not so, for television.

How does a story arc work different for television? defines it as "a continuing storyline in a television series that gradually unfolds over several episodes." I would add "or seasons." Think about the hunt for Red John in the Mentalist, or the quest for the throne in Game of Thrones, or the feud between Deputy Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder in Justified. In television, a good story arc threads it's way through multiple episodes that tell self-contained stories with a beginning, middle, and end. 

Despite the pervasiveness of the term, everything carried along from one episode to another is not a story arc. "Space: the final frontier" from Star Trek is setting, not story arc. The solution of the crime in Bosch takes an entire season, but this television program is more akin to what we used to call a mini-series. Same for the old television program 24. These are dramatizations of a novel or single story over many episodes. A true story arc involves an embedded, larger mystery in a series of smaller stories. Without closure to this grand mystery, the series is hard to put aside. It's also important that a story arc can be resolved. In fact, it is the promise of resolution that draws in the audience week after week. They want the answer to this puzzle. 

So, can the television style of a story arc help pull along readers of a book series? I'm not an expert, but J. K. Rowling is. Each Harry Potter included a self-contained story, along with the gradual reveal of the Lord Voldemort mystery. Handled deftly, a long running story arc can pull readers through the entire series. The problem is you can't string along readers forever. Readers feel they are owed resolution. The trick is to present this resolution in a manner that is not the death knell of the story.

Crossing the Animas resolves the series-long story arc of the Steve Dancy Tales. It's yet to be seen if I did it in a manner that allows me to reboot the series with a wholly new story arc.

I bet I did. Just wait. See where the story goes next.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Evolution of a Big Diehl Book Cover

Book covers are a big deal. People really do judge a book by its cover. The Steve Dancy Tales always use black and white photos with only my name in color. For those who follow this blog, you already know my son designs my covers. (I joke that I'm getting his pricy art school tuition back one book cover at a time. In truth, his billing rate to real clients makes me embarrassed to ask him to do yet another cover.)

For Crossing the Animas we picked a great photo by William Diehl. Admittedly, this is a modern photograph, but the subject matter is vintage. Here is the original photo and resulting cover side by side. It may look simple, but there's craft in the cropping and lettering.

railroads photography

We didn't just select this photo on a whim. Here are some of the concepts covers we considered.


The construction of Denver & Rio Grande line between Durango & Silverton plays a key role in the story, and Diehl's iconic photograph fit the plot perfectly.

If you like trains, the Old West, or just great photography, visit the William Diehl website. Here are a couple more samples of his art.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Crossing the Animas

The trade paperback edition of Crossing the Animas is now available. You can buy it at Amazon here.

You might be surprised by the plot. Steve gets into trouble once again. McAllen builds a horse ranch, Sharp finds a long-lost love, and Steve and Virginia plan a wedding. Bad guys aplenty want to disrupt all of their plans. Wonder how it will work out.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Crossing the Animas, A Steve Dancy Tale

Crossing the Animas is available for the Kindle. The print format will along shortly. Center Point plans to publish the large print library edition early in 2018. No contract has been established for an audio version, but I'm sure that will come along later this year.

“Ben Law is tough… and mean. He enjoys taking care of problems for his boss. He won’t just verbally assault you. He and his men will hurt you. Bad.”
Steve Dancy is about to find this out. With his new home in Durango, Colorado, the kind with a nice white picket fence, and marriage on the horizon, the last thing Dancy wants is trouble.  Especially with a mining tycoon and his henchmen. But this is the frontier … and sometimes a feud finds you. Sometimes, it even chases you. When the quarrel endangers Dancy’s fiancée and friends, he has no choice but to fight.
And this is a fight Dancy must win.

P.S. Evidently Crossing the Animas is so new that searches may not turn it up. You can go directly to the product page here.

Wanted II, a collection of seven western short stories, is now available for Kindles. The paperback version will be along shortly. Try six western authors for only $2.99. You'll discover I have good company on these pages.

Don't forget about the recent release of the audio version of Jenny's Revenge. Even if you already read it, listening can double the pleasure.

I'm also writing three essays this year for Constituting America. This is a great site about the founding of our country. My first essay on Home Building & Loan v. Blaisdell (1934) has been published here. I'll let you know when the other two become available. Both are due by May 1, which looks pretty close. As the famed author, Douglas Adams said, "I love deadlines. I love the whoosing sound they make as they go by."

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A New Steve Dancy Short Story

Wanted II is now available for pre-order at Amazon. Again, the book includes a Steve Dancy short story. This was a fun one for me. Steve is traveling by horseback from San Diego to Los Angeles when he's attacked by highwaymen. Grab a copy. At $2.99, the ebook is a great bargain with short stories by some of the best western writers of our day. Present company included, of course.