Thursday, November 26, 2015

Random Thoughts About the West and Westerns

Who put the West in westerns? Sounds like a bit of an odd question, but it might be a tougher question than it first sounds. The old west, the one of so many books, is both a place and a period of time. The where is the old west is a tough question, but by most definitions it is west of the Missouri River, south to Mexico and north through Alaska. The old west as a period of time, I see as from the end of the civil war until the introduction of the automobile in America. Commonly this time period is seen as from the Gold Rush to Wounded Knee, 1849-1890.

In Wyoming, we like to say we are the last of the old west, or that we are the real west. If that is true, the west of today refers to wide open spaces. That’s the reason California and most of the highly populated Pacific coast are no longer thought of as the west. Genre westerns often were set in California, gold rush, land grabbers and city builders all made good plots. Today the west coast still makes an excellent setting for movies and books, but none are thought of as westerns. Western’s weather set in the 1800s or present day need wide open spaces.

 Today writers of westerns set in modern time seem to follow this idea. It is easier to write a western if there are wide open spaces involved, Wyoming and Montana come to mind here.  Mountains, forest, wild rivers and long lonesome highways seem to make good modern western stories.

But the real west is defined by the cowboy. If a cowboy is involved, it must be a western story. Western romance sells millions of copies each year, the book covers usually depicting a cowboy, shirt unbuttoned, hat, boots, and beautiful women. Why do they sell? Is it the western flavor, the romance element, or the wide open spaces? I would guess it is a bit of all of the above. Today the sparsely populated west is full of romance and mystery to many people, especially people from metropolitan areas.

One of the reasons we live in Wyoming is because we love the empty areas. I know, this is not for everyone. We have to drive more than an hour to the nearest Wal-Mart and nearly two hours to a Shopping Mall. For many this would be a disaster of colossal proportion. Even worse, the closest hospital is a half hour away and to find a lawyer, accountant or college we must drive at least half an hour. But we trudge on. The reason we like it here, all of the photos on this page were taken closer than the nearest Wal-Mart.

Love the west!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Write a Book and Get Rich - NOW

On the weekend,  I often spend extra time looking at writing blogs. Some have good advice, others are not very understanding of self or Independent published authors. One blog post suggested that spending 10 to 15 thousand dollars on promotions and advertising would be a good idea, money well spent.  After a two or three thousand dollars edit, that means a book would come in with expenses of 12 to 18  thousand dollars before the author makes a dime. Big traditional publishers might spend this on A-list authors, but I know of not a single Independent author or small publishing house who would, or could, spend that much money. Most of us don't have a bank account with more than a number or two on the left side of the decimal.

I read somewhere that 95% of books sell less than 100 copies, others say 200. I have no idea if that stat is real or made up, but it sounds reasonable.  With an author making two or three dollars for each book sold, it looks like tough sledding for most. Spending 15 thousand to make $600, is not very good business, not even in and author's imaginary world.  

This has nothing to do with the post, but we had a terrific sunset this evening

The good news, I have one book that is long past 200 copies sold, and another well past 100. Guess that puts me in the category of top 5% of all authors. Maybe I'm famous, or at least a best-selling author. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek)

Tellin' stories and Sellin' books - loving it!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Christmas in the West

My new book of Christmas stories in the west is finished.  

Out west, Cowboys and Christmas have always been a near perfect match. I’m not sure that there has ever been a Cowboy that didn’t love Christmas. 

When it’s Christmas in the west magical things happen. Tales set in both the old west and the modern west, a few serious and some humorous but western stories through and through.

Give it a try today – makes a great gift. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Rod Miller's Poetry - Review

Last evening I completed Rod Miller’s wonderful book of poetry, “Things a Cowboy Sees –and Other Poems.” I don’t read a lot of poetry, not anymore. Much of today’s contemporary verse is either beyond my comprehension or is simply incomprehensible. I still read Robert Frost, my all-time favorite, and a few others from a century or more ago. In my most recent book, the historical novel, Commitment, my protagonist, Blade Holmes is known to quote some of the great poets of the day.

This one, Things a Cowboy Sees – and Other Poems, by Rod Miller, I liked, liked it a lot. He breaks the book into five sections: Horses and Hosses, Life Out West, The Rodeo Road, Roundups and Trail Drives and Making a Hand. My favorite section, well I live in Wyoming and loved the -  Life out West, section. Miller’s poem, A Guide to Ranching for the Politically Correct, is hilarious. That poem gave me my laugh of the day, two days in a row.

Miller was born and raised in Utah and grew up with ranching and rodeo. His background shows in his writing with a depth of understanding that could not have been written by a drug store Cowboy type. He has a long list of writing credits and looking through his books on Amazon, I see that I have read several of his western novels. Miller is a three-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award and also a winner of the Westerners International, Fred Olds Award for Poetry.

All in all this is a terrific read for anyone who enjoys the west or westerns. Give it a try.

Monday, November 9, 2015

For the Want of a Good Western

Seems like most everything I see on author/writing sites deals with fantasy. Science fiction still has a bit of popularity but does not seem to be as strong as it was a few years ago.
What I don’t see are non-fiction and westerns.
My new Western - give it a try
I can find a bit of historical fiction, but most of it is of the romantic genre. I still enjoy reading both nonfiction and westerns, although I shy away from the old fashioned, shoot-um-up type. I also can lose myself in a good detective murder mystery and there are still a few good writers working in this genre.
Looking for a good western novel

I have a nice start on a detective mystery, modern times, but set in the west of course but haven’t looked at it in years. I drug it up this weekend and thought, “hey, not bad.” Pretty good story with some humor and three interesting main characters. Maybe I will take a longer look at it this winter.

In the meantime, my new book of Christmas stories in the West looks to be good to go this Friday. 
Cover photo from my new book

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Reading the Old Letters

I spent much of the late afternoon and early evening reading through many letters written by Owen Wister. I never found what I was looking for, but something did hit home as I read through about a dozen letters. Where will letters be for researchers in the future? I love Twitter, texting and sending short emails but doubt that this type of correspondence, by people of interest in today’s world, would make for much research material.
Got me to thinking that if future generations need to learn more about today’s world it may take historical research into their topic person’s blog posts to find anything. And if they didn’t blog? Well, we will be left with things like this.

 Text Messages!

C U @ 10
Or maybe something like this.
How R U feeling
Ok wht ur it gone

Not sure that kind of reading would give much insight into someone’s life. Maybe Twitter, but I don’t think so. 140 characters does not allow much to be said. That is also one of the reasons I like it, but there is no depth.
Possibly, video blogs and news articles, most highly slanted in today’s world, will do for research of this generation.

Sad, I love reading through those old letters, it can give insight into a subjects, real life, real thoughts, and to the person outside of the public spotlight.  This week alone I have read through three collections of letters.  Other than Wister I have spent time combing through letters from soldiers at Fort Laramie and another few hours looking at some of the personal correspondences of one of my Wyoming heroes, Edgar Wilson Nye.

Might just be nostalgia.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Writing Update

The review copy of my fifth book, Under Western Skies – 14 stories of Christmas, should be here tomorrow. I hope I don’t have too many things to clean up. Still would like it available, both as a book and eBook by next week. I like the book and have another book of short stories in the planning stages. This next one will be traditional western stories, not Christmas stories. I find writing short stories both relaxing and challenging. Sometimes it can take me a week or more to write a four or five-page story and get it the way I want.
Early draft of the cover for my book of Christmas shorts

I am also finishing up the first draft of my sixth book,  Mystery at Hell’s Half Acre, Wyoming. This is my first teen/young adult offering and will come in at a bit over 50,000 words. The book is set in modern times with flashbacks to the 1800s. It is both a discovery/growing up book and one that deals with American Indian (Arapaho) legend and beliefs. I am hoping for a release by February 1st but will not hold my breath on that date.
Hell's Half Acre Wyoming - setting for my teen mystery

 Work continues on the research for my second nonfiction book, this one about Fort Laramie. Nonfiction is a whole different kind of animal – takes a lot of time, but it seems worth it, I learn a lot.
Old Bedlem on the grounds of Fort Laramie

For me, with winter, comes more writing. Not crazy about doing too much out in the cold any longer so writing occupies most of my days December through February. We do hope to take a trip south in February which should warm us up, but it may slow down the writing.
Winter is coming soon to the mountain west

Yesterday I found a tongue in cheek novella, I wrote 15 years ago about the trials and tribulations of starting a business. It still seems pretty timely, might give it another look. We have started up several, none succeeded, although one try lasted five years. Mostly we discovered much work – little money.

Enjoy the day!