Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah

Once again, we are in Omaha to celebrate the holidays with our daughter and her family. After Christmas we all fly to Orlando to meet up with our son and his family. All six grandkids together at Disney World ... won't that be grand.

My wife and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a fantastic 2012.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Shopkeeper #1 Bestselling Western on Amazon

The Kindle version of The Shopkeeper has moved to the Number 1 bestselling Western on Amazon for print or eBook formats. The print version of The Shopkeeper has taken the 34th position. The Shopkeeper is also 23rd bestselling Action/Adventure book and the 27th bestselling Historical. Thanks to everyone who is buying the book. It encourages me to get working on the 4th novel in the Steve Dancy Tales series.

Amazon Western Bestseller List

Sunday, December 18, 2011

5-Star Books Selects Tempest at Dawn

5-Star Books has showcased Tempest at Dawn in their Historical Novel category. 

From the 5-Star Website: "How do we pick the novels featured on 5-Star Books? First, the book must have predominantly 5-Star reviews on After that qualification, we look at the cover design, the number of reviews, what readers are saying in those reviews, when the book was published, and other subjective factors."

Fifty-five men came to Philadelphia May of 1787with a congressional charter to revise the Articles of Confederation. Instead they founded the longest lasting republic in world history. Tempest at Dawn tells their story.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Learning About the Constitution

In order to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, we need to understand it. Luckily, there are some great learning tools available to every American. These include an online course at James Madison’s Montpelier Center for the Constitution, the webcast series Introduction to the Constitution from Hillsdale College, and several good books, including The Heritage Guide to theConstitution, Tempest at Dawn, and Decision in Philadelphia.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

The ideal life

“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” — Mark Twain

“Knowing you have something good to read before bed is among the most pleasurable of sensations.” — Vladimir Nabokov

Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.” — Philip Pullman

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”  – Ernest Hemingway

“I am simply a ‘book drunkard.’ Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.” — L.M. Montgomery

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” — Oscar Wilde

“Be awesome! Be a book nut!” — Dr. Seuss

“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.” — Louisa May Alcott

“The one way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy.” — Gustave Flaubert

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I owe everything I am and everything I will ever be to books.” — Gary Paulsen

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” — Stephen King

“Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to lose.” — Neil Gaiman

“Reading brings us unknown friends.” — HonorĂ© de Balzac

“When the Day of Judgment dawns and people, great and small, come marching in to receive their heavenly rewards, the Almighty will gaze upon the mere bookworms and say to Peter, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading.” — Virginia Woolf

“Our favorite book is always the book that speaks most directly to us at a particular stage in our lives. And our lives change. We have other favorites that give us what we most need at that particular time. But we never lose the old favorites. They’re always with us.” — Lloyd Alexander

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book.” — Marcel Proust

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges

“It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” — James Baldwin

“It is so unsatisfactory to read a noble passage and have no one you love at hand to share the happiness with you.” Mark Twain

“I cannot live without books.” — Thomas Jefferson

Monday, December 5, 2011

Books are a perfect gift.

Some people can be hard to buy for—unless you give them a book that matches their special interest or taste in fiction. Suddenly, your thoughtfulness becomes part of the gift. Whether your relatives or friends are interested in the Civil War, romance novels, Westerns, railroads, guns, cooking, collecting old comic books, or some hobby, there's always a book around that will bring a smile to their face.

Books are the best entertainment value around. They provide hour after hour of personal pleasure, and then they can be passed on to another person. I also like that when I give a book as a gift, I can write a personal note that won't get tossed out like last year's Christmas card.

Children's books are great gifts. We always search for autographed storybooks for our grandkids. A great find is when the author and the illustrator both sign the book. We've done this for several years, so now our grandkids' bedrooms have dedicated shelves for signed books. The icing on the cake is that we get to read them a story from one of these books whenever we visit.

Here are links to bestselling books in a few categories. There are many categories a click away, but you can also search for books on a specific subject.

By the way, if you're thinking about a gift for me, I collect vintage Western books from the first half of the twentieth century. I especially like the ones with great illustrations on the dust cover. But if you give me one of these, do me a favor and write your personal note on a Post-It.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Bighorn

About a month ago, my wife and I took a road trip with some good friends through many of the Westerns states.  We visited Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska.  One of the highlights was a visit to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

Every time I visit a historic site, I end up buying at least one book about the events that took place at the location.  I wanted to buy only one book about the battle because we had already visited so many sites that I was weighing down the motorhome.  The store at the National Monument had dozens upon dozens of books on Custer, the battle, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull.  I spent some time going through them and ended up taking two to the clerk for a recommendation.  The two books were The Last Stand, Custer, Sitting Bull, and The Battle of Little Bighorn, by Nathaniel Philbrick, and Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors, by Stephen E. Ambrose.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Guest Appearance on the Glenn Beck Show

On Tuesday, November 22, 2011, I had the opportunity to be a guest on the Glenn Beck Show. This was my second appearance, which made me feel good because it meant they didn't think I was really terrible the first time. The show launched Beck's new book, Being George Washington. I was invited onto the program because I had helped with research. I had loads of fun, and Glenn Beck is is a great guy. No surprises...he's just as he seems on his radio and television programs. Being George Washington is an accurate portrayal of the Father of our Country, but told with a more personal touch than other written portraits.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Candelaria, a.k.a. Pickhandle Gulch

The Shopkeeper, the first Steve Dancy Tale, started in Pickhandle Gulch, Nevada. I visited southern Nevada ghost towns researching the book. Pickhandle Gulch was actually a suburb of Caldelaria (okay, side street), but I liked the name and used it in  my story. I took many photos, but few as good as the ones in this slideshow. The town is far off the beaten path, but if you're a ghost town enthusiast, I would highly recommend a trip to Candelaria, known to Steve Dancy as Pickhandle Gulch.

Candelaria Slide Show by Warren Willis

Caldelaria Circa 1880

Caldelaria Today, Author Photo

Steve Dancy Tales
Honest Westerns filled with dishonest characters.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Three Days at a Dude Ranch

Although I'm a western writer, I've never stayed at a dude ranch. At least not until this week, when my wife and I spent time at the White Stallion Ranch outside of Tucson, Arizona. I discovered I had missed out on a lot of fun.

I had always assumed dude ranches were for Easterners who wanted to experience a controlled Old West. To a degree that's true. We found ourselves riding, eating, and drinking with people from all over the nation, as well as from England, Germany, Sweden, and Japan. Some were novices, but most were experienced riders who loved horses and beautiful, wide open landscape. 

It surprised me how many had been coming back year after year. One reason many returned to White Stallion was the ranch staff. They were always gracious and at your elbow whenever you needed something. The ranch hands' politeness seemed contagious. All of the guests were in a holiday mood and eager for the next adventure. This was resort living, seasoned with bit of adrenalin. What a combination.

And the biggest surprise … the adventures seemed genuine. This was especially true for the popular riding lessons. The lesson occurred in a huge corral, and focused on pushing skills to the next level. I had ridden a horse many times, but never had a wrangler give me a private lesson. It made a world of difference, and I'm sure my horse appreciated it.

It was a great stay. We relaxed, ate too much, met interesting people, and became much better riders. We intend to be back in the spring with friends. Maybe we can even get the grandkids out here to race around the corral on a pony. It never too early to help them become Western enthusiasts.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Western History, Breathtaking Monuments, and Great Balls of Twine

A Friend with a gas station horse.
He couldn't find the quarter slot.
The first time I drove across the country, I was ten years old and shared a cramped back seat with two brothers and a sister. Our comforts included an evaporation cooler locked in place by a rolled up window, stale sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, and a static-prone radio that kept losing stations. We saw lots of the good ol' American West, but in truth, the highlight of the day was picking a motel for the night. We drove up and down the main drag of some small town along Route 66 checking out places to stay. Would the motel be a real Indian teepee, or a fort right out of Rin Tin Tin, or just a boring row of doors in an L-shaped building with parking slots in front. Did the pool have a diving board? If during the day we had kept our arguing to a minimum, maybe we could stay in a prehistoric cave with dinosaurs as lawn art? As we cruised back and forth, the four of us in the back seat would shout out our preferences, but our parents whispered some adult secret stuff to each other and we soon found ourselves bouncing into a driveway.

Families don't travel across country by car anymore. I wouldn't even do it with my kids. The trend was already leaning toward flying to vacation, and then the Griswolds ruined the family road trip forever.

Except … a few ol' timers still want to see fly-over country from ground level at a comfortable speed. We just did, and we had a blast. With a couple of good friends, we toured Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska. When you slow down to a leisurely pace, you discover a great country filled with great people. Pioneer and Western History reminds you what it means to be an American. Monuments like Mount Rushmore and the Dakota Badlands are more impressive than the latest iPhone app. Really. And if you have a taste for Great American tacky, you can still find plenty of it along the road. The thirty-foot dinosaurs may be gone, but you can still sidle up to a six-foot garishly painted horse.

A road trip across the country still presents hardships. I think we ran out of ice once for our evening cocktails. It surprised me that a thirty-eight foot diesel-pusher wouldn't have an automatic icemaker. It had everything else, including a satellite entertainment system that could pull in countless radio and television stations. I don't believe there was a roll of wax paper either. The motorhome did have a full kitchen, with an endless supply of wholesome and unwholesome food, but we used zip-lock baggies to store leftovers. Our roomy vehicle leveled itself, kept the temperature perfect, and had a sound system that would make a concert hall envious. We did have to make our beds in the morning. What we didn't have to do was cruise up and down the main boulevard looking for a place to eat or park for the night. A pair of iPads made researching the options for the next few hours or days an enjoyable pastime.

The trip was reminiscent of my youth, but somehow better. We had fun, relaxed, enjoyed good company, and learned a lot about our country. If you get the chance, hit the road. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Would the Founders Think? Reviews Murder at Thumb Butte

Best does a great job of weaving historic Prescott into the story with accurate depictions of well-known features like Whiskey Row, the court house, Gurley Street, and other famous locales in the historic town.  It’s clear he’s been there and mapped out his story accordingly.  The great thing about this is that this part of Prescott looks much the same as it did then. The story itself is as good, if not better than the first two books in the series.

Book Page at Amazon
Book Page at Barnes & Noble

Read the entire Review

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rejected Books that Became Bestsellers

Jill Harness reports at Flavorwire that these are ten huge bestsellers that were originally rejected numerous times. She writes, "Anyone who has ever wanted to work in a creative field, be it writing, painting or playing music has been told they better develop thick skin. After all, it doesn't matter how good you are, someone will always be there to tear you down. It's hard to think of a better example of this than to look at some rejected books that would later become some of the best-selling titles in the world."

Read her complete article

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Would the Founders Think? reviews Leadville

What fun!  It’s no wonder that Jim is as popular as he is on Amazon and that readers clamor for him to release his next installment of his Steve Dancy western series.  I recently had a business trip to the east coast and downloaded Leadville and Murder at Thumb Butte to read on the trip.   On the way out, I read another book, which, while entertaining, wasn’t nearly as good.  On the way back, a 5.5 hour flight, I read this fast-paced, fun book and half of Murder at Thumb Butte.  I was almost wishing that the flight were longer! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mr. Madison Writes a Letter to Mr. Jefferson

Prior to championing a Bill of Rights in the First Congress, James Madison wrote a revealing letter to Thomas Jefferson in October of 1788. Interestingly, much of the letter was written in a secret code only the two of them shared. The following extract from the letter gives insight into Madison's mindset and the thinking of many of the Founders.

Read the full article

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Western Fiction Review reviews The Shopkeeper

"With all the plot developments the story has a natural fast pace and before I knew it I had reached the end, leaving me wanting to read the next in the series."

Read Full Review

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Saddle Up ! Denver Post article on resurgence of Westerns on TV

Joanne Ostrow writes a article summarizing television networks new fascination with the Western genre.

"The rugged individualism of myth, the challenge of uncharted territory, the bad sanitation and awful racial stereotypes ... the TV Western is back in the saddle."

Read more ...

Read related article on popularity of Westerns

Thursday, October 6, 2011

2nd Annual Avondale Writers Conference

I will be presenting at the 2nd Annual Avondale Writers Conference in Avondale, Arizona. The title of my talk is How to Get Your Book Published: No Nonsense Advice. The all-day conference is on Saturday October 29th, starting with registration at 8:00 AM. I'm refining my presentation during down moments on my road trip. We've driven from Las Vegas to Salt Lake. City. Great country, great company. Next stop, Butte, Mo.
Conference Link

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Road Trip!

On Tuesday, my wife and I fly to Las Vegas to meet friends with a diesel pusher. From there, we'll drive through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska, and then we'll fly home from Omaha at the end of the month. No agenda, no wake-up calls, and only occasional peeks at email. Good friends and the open road in my favorite part of the country. This is gonna be fun. Film at eleven.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Founders’ Fear

We often hear laments that our politicians no longer honor their pledge to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. This is backward. The Constitution was never written for politicians. Our political leaders have no motivation to abide by a two hundred year old restraining order. Americans must enforce the supreme law of the land. The first outsized words of the Constitution read We the People. It’s our document. It was always meant to be ours, not the government’s. It is each and every American’s obligation to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Constitution Day -- Celebrated this year on Sept. 16

To commemorate Constitution Day, the blog What would the Founders think? is posting articles all week on the Constitution. 

Constitutional Speed Bumps, by James D. Best

“The powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.” Thomas Jefferson

To a degree, each branch of the national government operates in slight fear that another branch will chastise or even overrule its actions. This was an intended consequence of the design. Madison wrote in Federalist 51, “the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Cover for The Shut Mouth Society

For a long time, I've wanted to change the cover of The Shut Mouth Society. Although the story has strong historical elements, it's a contemporary thriller. The old cover looked like a historical novel, or even a non-fiction book on Lincoln. With the completion of Murder at Thumb Butte, I was able to dedicate some time to work with a designer on a new cover.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Capacity to Annoy or Injure

During the Constitutional Convention and state ratification conventions, the judiciary was the least discussed branch of the national government. From a design perspective, almost all of the debate and alarm seemed to have been focused on the executive and the legislature. The simplest explanation is that the judiciary was familiar and non-controversial. Hamilton wrote in Federalist 78, “[T]he judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them.” 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Murder at Thumb Butte print edition is now available

The print edition of Murder at Thumb Butte, a Steve Dancy Tale is now available at Amazon, Books-a-Million, and Barnes and Noble. (The official publication date is September 15, 2011.) The third novel in the Steve Dancy series can be purchased with 24-hour shipping or ordered at any bookstore. Murder at Thumb Butte is also available on the Kindle, Nook, iPad, and any device that supports the Kindle app. (It may take another month for the Sony Reader.) The large print edition will be available in January, 2012.

I want to thank all the readers who have bought Murder At Thumb Butte in an eBook format ... and thanks for all the kind comments. I'm glad you're enjoying the story.

Murder at Thumb ButteThe Shopkeeper (Center Point Premier Western (Large Print))Leadville: A Steve Dancy Tale (Center Point Premier Western (Large Print))

From the Publisher
In the spring of 1880, Steve Dancy travels to Prescott, Arizona to gain control of a remarkable invention. But on his first night in the territorial capital, his friend, Jeff Sharp is arrested for a midnight murder at Thumb Butte. Dancy launches a personal investigation to find the real murderer, only to discover the whole town wanted the victim dead. For help, he turns to another old friend and associate, Captain Joseph McAllen of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

Can Dancy discover the true killer before his friend stretches a rope on the courthouse square?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hollywood—Get Real

Hollywood must believe that the only way to draw us into a theater is to give Sherlock Holmes the glitter of James Bond, portray the Three Musketeers as superheroes, and pit cowboys against ghastly aliens. If the script is really weak, they shove it in our face by releasing the movie in 3-D. Are there no real writers left in Hollywood? Are kids the only ones that can gin up box office? Flash and dash is great when it’s integral to a story, but a bore when it consumes the entire one hundred and ten minutes. Storytelling is an art. It seems Hollywood commits all of is creative talents to bookkeeping. It’s hard to believe that they’re still is an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Good Book

Just finished The Dirty Dozen, How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom. I barely got a B in my only law course, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom

Read my review at What Would the Founders Think?