Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Templar Reprisals — Time to Edit for Continuity, Clarity, and Crispness


My latest book project is The Templar Reprisals. To stay fresh, I write a different book between each of the Steve Dancy Tales. My latest is a contemporary thriller that uses the truth and myths surrounding the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, commonly called the Templar Knights. 

To escape a deadly attack in Paris, a small-town police chief and his wife end up killing two terrorists.  This fateful clash draws them into a centuries-old feud between two secret societies. Returning to America, they discover the incident has followed them home. To survive, they must figure out who has ensnared them in a conspiracy that endangers their lives and their hometown. Are they the victims of intrigues by a secret society … or have they been betrayed by their own government?

Before I send a manuscript to my editor, I make a final pass-through for continuity, clarity, and crispness. What I call the three Cs is explain fully here. Basically, I check to make sure that events, people, scenery and the timeline remain consistent; everything makes sense; and unnecessary words and explanations are stripped away. Good storytellers never yank the reader or listener out of the story. Properly applied, the Three Cs smooth the path for the reader so he or she never drops the book in their lap exclaiming, what the hell? A good editor also removes speed bumps for the reader and saves the author embarrassment. 

Polish your manuscript provides another perspective on the final stage of manuscript revision and editing.

Simultaneously, I've started the next Steve Dancy Tale, tentatively titled, Los Coronados.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

A New Fan for Steve Dancy


Alice Gentili teaches visual art to middle school students and writes a blog. She says "the purpose of this blog is to share the goings-on of my middle school art room and sometimes other things." One of her other things was describing her husband's new interest in reading books. It's a great story that you can read in full here.

When my husband, Dick, told me he’d like to try reading a book for the first time since he was in high school (over sixty plus years ago) Charlotte’s Web immediately came to mind as a good place to start because I knew the book well, and like Fern, we live on a farm.

I was aware of the cowboy and western genre of novels, yet never having read them, I wasn’t sure what he’d like. I did some research and ordered the collection The Steve Dancy Tales by James D. Best for him.

Dick reading The Shopkeeper, A Steve Dancy Tale

Once received, the James D. Best series took a little while to get through. It was a joy to see Dick reading with intent. He would happily fill me in on the sequence of events as he read. I enjoy hearing his perspective on plot twists and character pitfalls and triumphs.
I asked him what he likes about reading and he said, “It’s like you’re in the story. You’re there wherever it takes place. You feel what the characters feel.” So here we are, essentially grounded by the pandemic, and through his reading, Dick has traveled from the Texas panhandle to Monterey, California and throughout Montana and Wyoming.

Nicely put. I've written previously that a good story is a time travel machine. 
We’ve all experienced time travel whenever we’ve opened a book and been transported to another place and time. When you slap the book closed, it returns you to where you started. Well, sorta. You may lose a few hours, but nothing's free.

Here are a few of my Time Travel Posts. Next time you open a book, think bon voyage.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

A town named after Kit Carson should have a story.


A couple Steve Dancy Tales take place in Carson City. I like the town. I like it today and I like historic Carson City. Since statehood, it has always been the capital of Nevada which made it a political town with pretensions of civility. Virginia City, however, was twenty miles away and it rightly deserves its reputation as one of the rowdiest mining towns of the Old West. Until the mines played out in the 1880s, the Comstock Lode made Virginia City and Carson City very wealthy.

Carson City acted as a freight center and supply depot for the mines. Extensive flumes carried pine logs down the eastern slope of the Sierras to Carson City. Sawmills to finish these raw logs were a major city industry and the finished lumber shored up mine tunnels and provided boards for building above ground. The short run Virginia & Truckee Railroad transported timber, people, and foodstuffs from Carson City to Virginia City. At its peak, thirty-six trains a day passed between the two cities. The pair of towns were bustling, with the best housing, food, liquor, and entertainment that money could buy.

Here’s a description of Carson City excepted from The Shopkeeper. Steve Dancy and Jeff Sharp are just riding into town.

Carson City had been settled as a trading post less than thirty years earlier, so I should not have expected the sophistication of Denver or St. Louis. I had visited both cities, and neither was the primitive hinterland a New Yorker might expect. Carson City, on the other hand, lived up to the image of a new-made town populated by people who had nothing but wanted everything.

After we passed the railroad station and approached the statehouse, the town began to look a bit more established. The main thoroughfare was crowded with wagons, horses, and people bustling about with purpose. Although the commercial district had the same disheveled look as most of the other towns in the West, the residences along the side avenues set Carson City apart. Radiating off the central artery were numerous tree-lined lanes with houses substantial enough to indicate that people intended to stay awhile. In fact, some of these homes were large and well designed.

I glanced up another side lane with nice homes set back from the street. “Looks like there’s some money in Carson City. Settled money.”

“For a mine to prosper, you need two things: lumber to shore up the shafts an’ a way to transport your bullion to market. Trees an’ trains. Carson City has a lock on both. Sometimes I think we miners just toil for a bunch of shysters in starched collars.”

“Which reminds me, I want to buy some clothes while we’re here.”

Sharp pointed ahead. “That’s the new state capitol building. Wherever ya find politicians, ya’ll find haberdasheries.”

The stately capitol building looked sturdy and permanent, as befitted the only pretense to law and order in a society struggling against anarchy. The structure sat in the center of a city block, surrounded by a pleasant park with footpaths, trees, and neatly groomed grass. A white cupola with a silver roof capped the two-story sandstone building, giving it a Federal-style appearance that I had seldom seen west of the Continental Divide.

“Looks impressive.”

“Looks deceive.” Sharp spit. “A more corrupt state government you will not find.”

Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Thomas Edison Created the Movie Industry and Produced the First Western

When people talk about the film industry, they seldom mention Thomas Edison, yet he filmed the first western at his studio in New York City. In 1903, the Edison Manufacturing Company distributed The Great Train Robbery. The nine minute film set many of the constructs for the genre. Stay till the end to see one of the motion picture industry's most iconic visuals.

I believe this makes Mr. Edison a cowboy at heart, which gives him the right to cavort in a Steve Dancy Tale. In The Return, Steve travels to New York to acquire rights to sell Edison's inventions in the Western states. Needless to say, he runs into trouble. I suppose The Return could be called a mash-up. The Old West conquers another world, one where a cosmopolitan refinement barely disguises a violent underworld run by gangs and overlords.

The Edison and gangland history is accurate. Steve Dancy's participation, not so much.

Honest Westerns filled with dishonest characters
The Return, A Steve Dancy Tale
143 Amazon Ratings for 4.6 stars
James D. Best is arguably one of the best writers of westerns, but his newest novel, The Return, is set in the East. --Alan Caruba, Bookviews
It's the summer of 1880, and Thomas Edison's incandescent bulb is poised to put the gaslight industry out of business. Knowing a good business opportunity, former New York shopkeeper Steve Dancy sets out to obtain a license for Edison's electric lamp. Edison agrees, under one condition: Dancy and his friends must stop the saboteurs who are disrupting his electrification of Wall Street. More worrisome, he has also unknowingly dragged along a feud that began out West. The feud could cost him Edison's backing ... and possibly his life.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Should the Dallas Cowboys Change Their Name?

It’s all the rage to change sport team names, especially if they’re based on Native American culture. But, hey, what about the Cowboys? I know the Dallas Cowboys reside in Texas but should football appropriate the name of a common laborer? I mean, is that culturally acceptable? Remember, cowboy has been used historically as a derogatory slur. Reagan’s enemies called him a cowboy, and they didn’t mean it in a good way. A rodeo clown got vilified for wearing an Obama mask. It was criticized as disrespectful. Then you have Wyatt Earp’s bitter enemies. They were a street gang called the cowboys, or sometimes cow-boys. In Britain, a cowboy is someone who sells shoddy goods or services. In popular culture, a cowboy is almost always portrayed as a young white male who flaunts his independence and may even embrace lawlessness. Snobs with self-described good taste disdain cowboy fiction, film, music, and even poetry. Historians, of late, have made them out as the villains in the country’s push westward.

In truth, cowboys were mostly migrant seasonal labor. They might have been hired hands, but they deserve to have their culture preserved intact and not mocked by throwing around a piece of cow skin. (They call it pig, but we know better.)

These hardy men kept the nation fed, cow towns profitable, and were so in tune with nature that they knew in which direction the sun set. Granted, they were rowdy, smelly, and profane, but they were also honorable and hardworking. It’s ludicrous to assert that their image is honored by a bunch of multi-millionaire play-boys in tight pants? 

 Let’s face it, the Dallas team-name offends the sensitivities of twenty-first century Americans. 

It must be changed for the sake of diversity and inclusiveness. 

But leave the girls alone. We like them just as they are.

P.S. Out of respect for this noble profession, there are few cowboys or cows in The Steve Dancy Tales. Instead, I appropriated the culture of miners because I liked their square toed boots.

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Cowboy Explains 4th of July

Modern Americans are hazy about our history. With the Fourth of July on the horizon, I thought a cowboy could bring clarity to the origins of this popular holiday.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Monday, May 25, 2020

Happy Memorial Day -- Sorta

My tribute to our forefathers who fought to protect our nation.

My father never met me. He died in WWII in the cockpit of his P-51. I wouldn't be here, except for a brief leave between flight school and his assignment to Iwo Jima. He provided escort service to the B-29s that bombed Japan daily.

I don't have many pictures of him, but this one was posted to a website honoring the 506th Fighter Group. My father is the furthest out on the wing.

My father and many soldiers throughout our history fought to preserve our freedom. Now in a matter of weeks, it has all been taken away. Sometimes it's hard to believe this is still the United States of America. I believe it's time to once again become the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

I'd like to wish him and all of his compatriots that helped keep us safe and free, Happy Memorial Day ... and thank you.