Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Christmas Gift for Steve Dancy Fans

Honest Westerns filled with dishonest characters.

The seventh book in the Steve Dancy Tales is available for the holidays. Steve Dancy fans will enjoy the gift of a print or Kindle copy. Take my word for it. Why would I lie?

Dancy has married and settled down but without warning his world reverts to the savagery of his bygone days. There will be no peace.

No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale

By the way, if they have gotten behind in the series, you can gift them more than one book.

The Steve Dancy Tales
Read an excerpt here

Saturday, November 30, 2019

18 Ideas for Gifting Books

Christmas gifts top 10 ideas

At times, friends and relatives can be hard to buy for. Some seem to have everything. Due to age or illness, others may be less mobile than in years past. Some don’t really want much. Families scatter across this huge country and selecting a gift, packaging, and shipping can be a chore.

A book is a perfect gift ... and a great way to avoid the crowds. Books provide a great entertainment value, delivering hour upon hour of pleasure. Reading fiction is like taking a mini vacation without leaving home. An engrossing story makes worries fade away. Reading nonfiction can also entertain while learning how-to tips, gaining perspective, adding to knowledge, or finding enlightenment.

If you take the time to match the recipient’s taste in fiction or nonfiction, your thoughtfulness becomes part of the gift. Whether your relatives or friends are interested in the Civil War, literature, romance novels, photography, westerns, paranormal fiction, fishing, railroads, guns, cooking, collecting old comic books, antique automobiles, politics or anything else, there's always a book that will bring a smile to their face.

Top Tips for Book Gift Giving
  1. Write a personal message on the title page that won't get tossed out like last year's Christmas card.
  2. Write surprise messages in the margin of random pages.
  3. There are books about every hobby and interest in the world. Picking a book that fits you’re your recipient’s interests shows you care.
  4. Search out an author signing for your recipient’s favorite author.
  5. Gift an entire series, like a complete set of Harry Potter books.
  6. Gift a collector’s version of the recipient’s favorite book. (I’d like a First Edition of The Virginian.)
  7. Shop at an independent or specialty bookstore to get professional help selecting your book.
  8. With Amazon Prime, gift wrapping and shipping is free and the book can be sent direct to the recipient.
  9. Mail early to take advantage of media class at the Post Office.
  10. Give a book as a piece of art, like a fine print book, unique coffee table book, favorite book as a child, or collectible cover art. (I like early 20th Century Westerns with period cover art.)
  11. Make a highly personal photo book with ShutterFly or Mimeo.
  12. Give a bookseller gift card for e-book and audio book enthusiasts.
  13. Give a new model Kindle or a nice cover to an e-book enthusiast.
  14. College students appreciate gift cards for their campus bookstore. (For fun, I put it inside a trashy novel for them to read on Spring break.)
  15. As a bookmark, tuck in crisp currency.
  16. If your friend or relative already owns piles of books, give a unique set of book ends to hold them in their proper place.
  17. Children's books are great gifts. We search for autographed storybooks for our grandkids. The icing on the cake is that when we visit, we read these books to them.
  18. Coloring books now come for every age.

If you choose to gift one of my books, thank you.  I appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Book Review -- How Literature Works by John Sutherland

50 key concepts for writing fiction

John Sutherland is a literary critic and columnist for the Guardian. The sub-title of his book is "50 Key Concepts" and it's organized into 50 4-page chapters. Fancy that. I read a couple books a year on writing and occasionally read books on literary criticism. Literary criticism tomes tend to be esoteric and assume the reader already has broad knowledge about the subject. Sutherland's book is concise and written in clear English any layman can understand. I read these books to improve my writing and most of the time I need to wade through lengthy jargon-laced verbiage to find nuggets that are helpful. Sutherland's clarity, short chapters, and headings make this task relatively easy. I find what I'm looking for or move on to the next chapter.

If you're a writer, reader, or like to study literary criticism, How Literature Works is a fun find. Besides, most academic books on the subject require a new mortgage while Sutherland's perfect-bound paperback is only $11 on Amazon. The Kindle version is $9.50.

If you're interested in writing, be sure to check out my Writers and Writing pages on this blog.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Free Steve Dancy Kindle books, audio books, and short stories ... while supplies last

I have some fun giveaways.

The Steve Dancy Tales include seven novels and two short stories. The short stories were originally published in the Western story anthologies Wanted and Wanted II.

  • Limited Kindle Promo Codes for free copies of The Shopkeeper. (Also the Best Thriller, Deluge.) 
  • Unlimited free copies of “Snake in the Grass, A Steve Dancy Tale” or "Relentless, A Steve Dancy Tale." 
  • Limited Promo Codes for free downloads of any of the Steve Dancy audio books. (Actually, the codes work for all of my books.)

To request any of the above, send a note to First come, first serve. Please put "Free Steve Dancy" in the subject line and remember to specify which items you want. Feel free to request Promo Codes or stories for friends and family. 

Thank you for reading Steve Dancy Tales.
Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.
A new way to enjoy the Steve Dancy Tales
A Western Story Collection

Best Thrillers
Storms, politics and street gangs pummel California ... and that's not the scary part.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Why things have been quiet here

I just returned from a great vacation that explored the northeast of North America. My wife and I flew to Montreal to meet my sister and sister-in-law for a three-week trip. We spent three days sightseeing in Montreal and then boarded a sanely-sized ship to cruise the Saint Lawrence River around Nova Scotia and on to Boston. We stopped daily at Canadian and then American towns, with plenty of time to go ashore to explore and spend money. I used to live in Boston, so our four days there were nostalgic. We even took a day trip to Concord, my favorite New England town. Next, on to New York City for more sightseeing and a week with the grandkids. Just arrived home and tuckered out.

Did I get some writing done? I did. But not nearly as much as I thought I would. The ship moved at night from one interesting location to another, so down time on the cruse was limited. On occasion, I returned to the ship and let the women shop. When alone, I wrote while sipping whiskey in the Crow's Nest bar. Pretty cool environs.

Now I’m home and eager to write on a daily basis. That is, after I unpack, get the house winterized, go to a couple of my grandson’s soccer games, and pay a few bills. How in the world did I find time when I worked steady?

Don't forget to buy the latest Steve Dancy Tale

Friday, September 13, 2019

Deluge Reviewed at

A First-Order Disaster Story About an Atmospheric River

It’s to his credit that he focuses his attention on the human element of the deluge, rather than going all technical on the reader. We read as citizens, law enforcement, academia, politicians and outlaw gangs deal with the deluge. In the process, Best makes this a compelling—indeed frightening—story. Again and again I was impressed with Best’s characterizations and grasp of how profoundly a storm such as this can disrupt life. The potential power of water stayed with me for days. This is a highly recommended natural disaster thriller, written with acute attention to reality and little, if any, needless melodramatics.
Storms, politics and street gangs pummel California ... and that's not the scary part.

Monday, September 9, 2019

No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale — Available Today
No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale

Available in paperback (6X9 Trade Paperback) and for Kindles.


“Stay put. You’re not leaving until I see my wife. Bring her to the door.”
“Hell, she’s fine. I was just trying to rattle you. You know how it is.”
“No, I don’t know how it is. That’s why I want to see her.”
“Which one’s your wife?” he asked tentatively.
“The older one,” I answered automatically, thinking only of Virginia and Jenny.
He laughed. “That old hag. I thought she might be your mother. Hell, she’s right as rain.”
I flipped my rifle up, grabbed the end of the barrel, and rammed the butt as hard as I could into the man’s face. I hit him square on the bridge of his nose, and I heard the cartilage crushed into his skull. I pulled back to hit him again, when I noticed the other men were going for their guns. Damn it. I dropped the rifle and went for my pistol, hitting the wall with my shoulder to get behind the collapsing man I had just hit. The first shot rang out from the next man on my side of the hall. I grabbed the lapels of the man I had bludgeoned and tried to pull him in front of me. I saw other muzzle flashes, one from my side of the hall and two from the men on Sharp’s side. I jerked my human shield away from the wall and extended my arm behind his head, firing at the second man on my side. I shot him three times before I shifted my attention to the other men. Both remained standing but writhed in pain. I shot them both again.
If the outdoor shooting had been noisy and hazy, the confines of the hallway made this fight ten times worse. If Virginia opened the door to see what was happening, I would never see her through the gun smoke. My ears rang, my eyes stung, and my throat felt raspy. The battle seemed like it had lasted for at least ten minutes, but I knew that was an illusion. The fight had lasted under five seconds.
I glanced behind me and felt relief to see Sharp still standing. I surveyed our assailants. None were dead yet, but three of them would die soon. I still held up the man I had clubbed. His bloody face appeared lifeless. Then I felt my shirtfront getting wet. Had I been shot? I let go of the body, and it fell to the floor. My entire front was soaked in blood. I ran my hand over my stomach and felt a wound. I probed a hole in my shirt with my finger and could feel a bullet just inside my skin. That didn’t make sense. Then I reexamined the man on the floor. He had been shot at least twice. I kicked him over with my foot. One exit wound. Damn. The bullet had spent its energy passing through his body, or at least most of its energy. I began to feel pain in my stomach.
 Someone put his hand on my shoulder and turned me around. Out of fear or shock, I almost fired my Colt but recognized Sharp at the last moment. I wasn’t reacting right. What was happening? My stomach hurt like hell, and Sharp’s mouth was moving, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I felt wobbly. Is this what it was like to get shot? I didn’t know. I didn’t know because I always won my gunfights.
My legs felt weak, and I knew Sharp was holding me up. I was passing out.

james d. best, action adventure novels
Honest Westerns. Filled with dishonest characters.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Author Interview at

Today, NFReads published my author interview. They ask good questions, so if you want to know my dark secrets, take a gander. Just kidding. I kept my darkest secrets in a closet under two tons of rubbish.

P.S. Don't forget to pre-order No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale

western novels western book
Publication Date, September 9, 2019

After marriage, Steve Dancy has quietly settled in San Diego. He can hardly remember his days of wanderlust, and he’s grateful to have left behind the violence of a raw frontier. In a celebratory mood, Steve invites his mother to a meet her new grandchild in a chic resort in Monterey, California. With the delivery of a handwritten note, his world suddenly reverts to the savagery of his bygone days.
There will be no peace.
Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Coming soon!

western fiction historical novel
Honest Westerns. Filled with Dishonest Characters

We've selected our book cover for No Peace. We chose this one out of a set of six prototypes. As you can see, the photo is watermarked, but I have since bought a use license. All that remains is the final art work. Getting close.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

How to get documents to your Kindle

One of the people who requested a free Steve Dancy short story (See the box to the right) asked if there was a way to get it transferred to her Kindle. I've been transferring documents to my Kindle forever, so I forgot that some people don't know it's possible. Every Kindle has an email address associated with it that can be used to get almost any kind of text document onto your device.

It's a two-step process:

1. Authorize the sending email address

This step safeguards your device. No one can upload to your Kindle without prior approval. Go to "Your Digital Contend and Devices under "Accounts and Lists." Then select "Preferences." Under "Personal Document Setting" you can add approved sender email addresses.

2. Attach a file to an email and send it to the Kindle email address

That's it. Before retiring, my assistant sent work documents to my kindle because I found it easier to read large documents on my Kindle rather than on my PC. It also works with a Kindle app on a phone or pad.

P.S. I don't want to know your Kindle address, so I'll send the free short story as an MS Word document that you can then transfer to your Kindle.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Point of View Shift

Stories are told from a point of view (POV) and I prefer a predictable POV. Within a story, I find sudden shifts jarring.
Jarring bad, keeping the reader in the story good.
The most predictable POV is one that never changes throughout the course of the novel. All seven Steve Dancy Tales are written from Steve’s POV in first person. My Best Thrillers never change POV either, but the stories are told in third person. The advantage of a single POV is that the reader develops a closer relationship with the protagonist. Another plus is that the reader is pulled through the story at the same pace and with the same information as the protagonist, which helps the reader participate in the story.
A single POV doesn’t always help the story, however. In Tempest at Dawn, I alternate POV between Roger Sherman and James Madison. This allows me to portray the conflicts at the Constitutional Convention as the two warring camps strategize and maneuver against each other.
What brought all this to mind was an offer I recently made to give away one of my Steve Dancy short stories. (See the box to the top right.) When I was invited to write this short story for Wanted, A Western Story Collection, I decided to do something different with the project. Captain Joseph McAllen is a recurring character in the Steve Dancy Tales, but we never got inside his head. (You only read the thoughts of the POV character.) I thought it would be fun to tell this story from McAllen’s POV. I think it worked out well, but you can see for yourself by requesting the story.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

No Peace: A Steve Dancy Tale

Available soon
No peace
After marriage, Steve Dancy has quietly settled in San Diego. He can hardly remember his days of wanderlust, and he’s grateful to have left behind the violence of a raw frontier. In a celebratory mood, Steve invites his mother to a meet her new grandchild in a chic resort in Monterey, California. With the delivery of a handwritten note, his world suddenly reverts to the savagery of his bygone days. 
There will be no peace.
New release adventure book
Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale

historical novels bestselling book
Honest westerns filled with dishonest people.

Progress Report

The latest Steve Dancy Tale has been returned from my editor and I have completed my review of her recommended changes. Again, she has done an excellent job of smoothing out my writing and catching errors. I have transmitted the manuscript to my book interior designer, who will prepare print and eBook formats for publication. As always, we're still flailing a bit with the cover design.

Friday, July 26, 2019

In remembrance of my father

On Father's Day and Memorial Day I've posted about my father who was a P-51 pilot in World War II. He flew bomber support missions out of Iwo Jima and never returned after his flight encountered a tropical storm that grew into a typhoon.

Recently, I saw an advertisement to ride in a P-51. I had worked ten years in the factory where the P-51 was built (the F86 and F100 as well), and it was the plane my father flew, so I jump at opportunity. I wanted to share an experience with my father. A very fun and memorable ride.


North American Aviation Factory Where I worked for 10 Years

army air corp, manufacturing
P-51 Production Line

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Deadwood: The Movie

Even the film poster celebrates the F-word

(Spoiler alert: if you're a Deadwood fan, you won’t like what follows.)

I watched Deadwood: The Movie last evening. A little late to the game, but it's difficult to watch this western with teenage girls in the house. Actually, the three thirteen-year-olds have only lived with us a week and the HBO Film has been available for over six weeks. In truth, I wasn’t keen to see it. After three separate attempts, I never finished the series … and I write Westerns for a living. What’s wrong with me?

I loved the television show until Wild Bill Hickok died, then I no longer cared about any of the characters. Deadwood didn’t draw me back because the story wasn’t compelling. Same for the HBO Film. The movie tied up every loose end, and every actor got to invoke their character’s iconic pose, but the main storyline could easily have been captured within a single episode. The rest felt like fill and forced nostalgia.

The problem with Deadwood is the overuse of visual and dialogue gimmicks to project an artful image. The ploys get old after a few episodes. The harsh profanity mixed with stylized formal speech reminded me of Betty White using the F-word; funny at first, tiresome with repetition. The cardinal rule of storytelling is to never take the reader/viewer out of the story, and the odd dialogue did just that.

Many believe the stilted speech—punctuated with swearwords—made the show unique and artsy. Executive Producer David Milch insists that the vulgar, Elizabethan-like dialogue is based on historical research. To steal a word from the era: poppycock. No characters talked this way in any of the stories by Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, or Owen Wister, who were all there. In that age of propriety, they would have omitted profanity, but I doubt Wild West speech would make rap singers sound virginal. In case you think I'm a prude, I occasionally use harsh profanity in my novels, but sparingly, so the impact is not diluted by repetition.

The Deadwood dialogue reminds me of James Fenimore Cooper’s attempt to invoke an earlier age with excessively formal language. Cooper wrote historical novels that occurred about a hundred years in the past. Mark Twain, my favorite Western author, didn’t like Cooper’s writing. Wait, that was far too mild of a sentence. In his article “Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses,” Twain ridicules, lacerates, and skewers Cooper.

I may be mistaken, but it does seem to me that "Deerslayer" is not a work of art in any sense; it does seem to me that it is destitute of every detail that goes to the making of a work of art; in truth, it seems to me that "Deerslayer" is just simply a literary delirium tremens. A work of art? It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are -- oh! Indescribable;  its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language.
Counting these out, what is left is Art. I think we must all admit that.

Twain wrote about dialogue in another section:

When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of the "Deerslayer" tale to the end of it.

Even the style of this article is meant to mock formalistic writing.

In summary, the starchy speech demanded attention but didn’t enhance the storytelling. I found the volume and volume of profanity off-putting and wearisome. The nostalgic scenes didn’t work for me because I hadn’t missed the characters. Excluding that, what is left is pretty good. I think we all must admit that.

You might also like: Mark Twain Tells Us How to Write

Monday, July 15, 2019

No Peace is one step closer to publication.

I have used the same editor for eleven books, and once again, I'm beholden to her for saving me embarrassment. I always think I've submitted a perfect manuscript, only to discover a prodigious amount of red ink on every page. Contrary to popular belief, novels are not entirely a solitary task. Beta readers, editors, book designers, and cover graphic designers all play a major part in bringing piece of fiction to market. I am grateful for them all.

Friday, June 28, 2019

New Review for the Shut Mouth Society has reviewed the Shut Mouth Society.  Read the full review here:

The Shut Mouth Society was a great and unexpectedly satisfying read. I’ve read several (not all) of Jim Best’s Steve Dancy novels and enjoyed them, but this novel is considerably more sophisticated and, well, interesting. Kind of like Russian Kachinka dolls, its setting is contemporary but within that it’s a historical novel. Like any historical novel, fact is married to fiction, and in this book it all works well together: the story carries the day and you don’t really know or need to care if every single thing is factual.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Father’s Day!

Both of my fathers are deceased, but I think of them more than occasionally. My biological father died in the cockpit of his P-51 and my step-father died behind the wheel of his Porsche. Since my mother remarried when I was only three and my step-dad treated me like his own, he was the father I knew. At least the one I knew directly. I remain in touch with my father’s family and have grown to know my dad through his brothers and sisters. He was a great guy.

My father is furthest out on the wing.

Fathers are important to kids. There’s a special lifetime bound between fathers and daughters, and fathers seem to have an edge in overriding peer group pressure to give sons purpose and direction.

Fathers deserve more than a day. They deserve our everlasting gratitude.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

An Odd Setting for a Western

Del Monte Hotel, Monterey, California

No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale takes place at the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey, California. A resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean may seem an odd setting for a Western, but not to worry, Steve finds a way to get into trouble.

Actually, it's difficult to get further West than the Pacific Ocean, and California had its share of desperadoes. The Hotel Del Monte provides an interesting setting and remains in use today. During WWII, the building and grounds were requisitioned by the navy. In 1951, the Naval Academy postgraduate school moved from Annapolis to facilities in Monterey. The hotel is now called Herrmann Hall, the main building of the Naval Postgraduate School.

No Peace takes place a few years after Steve and Virginia ride off to enjoy their honeymoon at the end of Crossing the Animas. Life has been quiet for the newlyweds, so a family gathering in Monterey seemed to pose no apprehensions. Steve could not be more wrong. A duly elected sheriff and gang leader has consolidated his outlaws with the local Mexican bandits and a Chinese tong that controls the docks. With peace between the three rival gangs, there is no peace for the residents and visitors.
“How can I find this leader of the white gang?” Dancy asked.
“People don’t go looking for him. Ever. He sends people to find you. If you did find him, you’d be out of your element … and outnumbered. He never meets anyone alone. He’s always got mean killers around him. Ruthless men, capable of anything.”
 “I have friends,” I said.
“A gentleman like you doesn’t have the right kind of friends for men like this. My advice: pay the ransom, go home.”
“I may pay the ransom, and I certainly will go home.” I leaned forward and lowered my voice. “If you won’t tell me how to find him, at least tell me his name?”
Nelson looked down at his lap and shook his head. Eventually, he looked up at me and shrugged. “Listen, his name is unimportant.” He leaned forward, hands folded, both forearms on his desk. “Stay away from him. He’s a murdering cutthroat who’d skin alive his own mother if there was money to be had. These are bad people. Very bad. Pay … and get the hell out of here.”
Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

No Peace: Progress Report

hand holding army colt gun
Honest Westerns filled with dishonest characters.

My beta readers have finished and I've incorporated their suggestions. (Or not, depending on my mood.) Subsequently, I competed my third draft and sent No Peace to my editor. When she returns it, I'll have a final set of red ink to deal with. After that, it's book design and cover. Actually, we started on the cover, but so far haven't made any decisions. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's a snippet to whet your appetite.
I thought about all of this and became dejected. “So, all the outlaws in the region have been consolidated into a single gang and the law’s in bed with them. In fact, it leads them. Combined forces of over two hundred. The main culprit is a greedy, duly elected sheriff who fancies himself a dandy, and to top it off, he kills indiscriminately.”
Nelson looked sympathetic. “That’s about it. He likes the high-life, controls every outlaw within a hundred miles, and is on the lookout for a big stake.” He hesitated. “One more thing, he’s exceptionally handy with a gun. Also knifes and fists. If fighting’s involved, he mastered the tools and techniques. Worse, he applies his skill with a rage you would never believe until you see it.”
“He sounds crazy.”
“Now, you’re beginning to understand.”
I stood to leave.
“What are you going to do?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Not sure. What do you think I should do?”
“If you can figure out a way to run, run like hell.”

book series westerns novels
The Steve Dancy Tales

Friday, May 3, 2019

No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale

western literature  westerns books
Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.

My new Steve Dancy book takes place in 1885, three years after Steve and Virginia took off for their honeymoon in San Diego. A lot has happened off-page. You'll soon be able to catch up with Steve and all of his friends in his latest adventure titled No Peace.

Maybe soon is the wrong word. I've finished the second draft and now two of my beta readers are spreading red ink all over the manuscript. When I finish incorporating their notes, it will be ready for my professional editor. Then she'll send back another red ink-stained manuscript. After I incorporate her changes, it will be ready for the book designer, who will format the word files for print and electronic versions. Simultaneously, my son will design the book cover. (As I've mentioned before, I'm getting back his Art Center tuition one book cover at a time.)

If everything goes without a hitch, No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale should be available sometime this summer.

In the meantime, if you haven't tried Deluge, download a sample onto your Kindle or buy the paperback. Deluge is the most adrenaline you’ll can experience while reclining in a Barcalounger. 
And if you haven't tried them yet, there are two Steve Dancy Short Tales in Wanted and Wanted II.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Arizona in Spring


We lived in Arizona for twenty-five years, then my wife and I moved to Nebraska to be close to our grandkids. Our life is busy, so I rarely thought about my previous home state. Last week, we visited friends in Arizona and I felt a sudden nostalgia for my old stomping grounds.

Every morning before breakfast, my friend and I walked the desert hills of his neighborhood. The weather was perfect and spring wildflowers bloomed everywhere. There is a stillness to the Arizona atmosphere that I have seldom encountered elsewhere. I used to say that there were two places in the world where you could deplane and immediately know your location by the feel of the air. One was Hawaii and the other Arizona. Different feel for each, but each unique. I also miss the desert landscape. Nebraska is flat, but in every direction, the Arizona skyline is serrated with craggy hills and mountains.

If it doesn't bite, and it's not poisonous, then it's not native.

Since I winter in San Diego, I can get good Mexican food anytime I want, but I forgot that Arizona Mexican food is spicier and the variety greater. Not as many taco shops, but more high end restaurants, some serving Mexico City cuisine that's outstanding.

The homes have a style unlike any other region of the country. Land is cheap, the temperature hot, and slab foundations means that even the largest homes are single-story with windows deeply recessed into the walls to ward off the sun. The architecture gives neighborhoods a spread out, open feel that's close to the ground. The big sky and vibrant colors invite you to enjoy the outdoors.

I encountered something I didn't like. With boom-town growth, traffic has become increasingly clogged, especially during work traffic hours. It's not as bad as Los Angeles, but frustrating just the same. When we moved to Phoenix in 1991, it took me thirty minutes to drive to work in off hours and thirty-five minutes in work traffic. A five minute penalty. That's all. That was nearly thirty years ago and the city's breathless growth has never paused. Now it's congestion galore.

Phoenix is called the Valley of the Sun. It's a fitting description because the sun dictates so much of life, architecture, and clothing styles. The sun isn't just a hot ball in the sky. Arizona has some of the best sunrises and sunsets in the world. And great nights. There is nothing like a cocktail and swim after supper in the warmth of a summer evening.

Damn. If my grandchildren were't so cute, I'd move back in a heartbeat.

Pine, Arizona. Where we had a summer cabin.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Time Travel Anyone?

I love time travel. 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.

All books do this, but I particularly like the time travel genre. Two of my favorite time travel books are A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and Lightening. In 1889, Mark Twain sent his character Hank Morgan back in time to the reign of King Arthur in the sixth century. Like all of Twain’s work, life lessons are delivered with humor and skillful storytelling. Another great time travel novel is Lightening by Dean Koontz. Written in 1988, Lightening takes a unique perspective that cannot be described without a spoiler. Despite being over thirty years old, the novel has traveled to the present wholly intact.

Up until recently, I didn’t believe time travel was real. Then my nephew showed me his time travel machine. After testing it, I assure you that it works perfectly. Instead of flashing lights, electric pulses, or whirling brass spindles, he made his machine with duct tape, a kitchen timer, and a bathroom scale. He duct-taped the kitchen timer to the bathroom scale. That’s it. When you’re ready to travel, you set the timer to where you want to go and then climb aboard. When you hear the timer’s ding, you’ve arrived.

Pretty nifty, huh?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Famous Last Words

The Washington Post has an article on “The 23 most unforgettable last sentences in fiction.” Many critics and readers focus on the first sentence, but the last sentence is the one that leaves the final impression. Here are a few of my favorites.

“I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
“It’s funny. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
“He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance.”
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
“After all, tomorrow is another day.”
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
“He loved Big Brother.”
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
I can't resist. Here are a couple of my favorites from my own books.

“I kept my head and Chestnut facing east.”
The Shopkeeper by James D. Best
(I didn’t want my hero to ride off into the sunset.)

“And then he was gone.”
Tempest at Dawn by James D. Best
(James Madison, an old man had left the room, but he soon after left the stage as our last remaining Founding Father.)

In truth, neither the first nor last sentence can make a good story. The entire narrative has to pull the reader forward until they read the last sentence. A story told properly will cause the reader to seek out another book by the same author.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Honest Westerns filled with dishonest characters.

New Release: Crossing the Animas, Audiobook Edition

“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 fiancĂ©e and friends, he has no choice but to fight. And this is a fight Dancy must win.

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If you would like a free copy of the audiobook, Crossing the Animas, send me an email ( and while they last, I'll send you a promotional code.