“No Secret Too Small”: A historical western novel

No Secret Too Small

I always love reading the historical western novels of Loretta Miles Tollefson, and No Secret Too Small was no exception. It has all the attention to detail that I’ve come to expect from her Old New Mexico Novels, placing me into a setting and time that no longer exist, yet Tollefson makes it feel oh, so real, even if only for the time it takes to read the story. Loretta Miles Toleffson masterfully paints a visual picture for the mind’s eye, bringing historical times and events to life with brutal clarity.

Miles’ Old New Mexico Novels are skillfully written to feature many of the same characters at various points in time. So, while No Secret Too Small features Alma, who was introduced as a baby in Not My Father’s House, (see my review here), this story is easliy followed when read as a stand alone book. This story is a part of more than just the saga of one family, it is a part of a piece of history, a time when living was a gamble, in a land where survival is no game.

No Secret Too Small speaks to that struggle to survive, but it also speaks to the racism and predjudice of the period. Old New Mexico in the 1800’s is no place for a woman alone with two children. But pride is a funny thing and that is just where Alma and her mother and brother find themselves in a time of civil unrest and rebellions, after her mother discovers the truth about her father’s heritage. We receive Alma’s story through her young eyes, as she watches her mother struggle to survive as she discovers and deals with the predjudices she didn’t even realize that she had. Alma learns much about the world and human nature, much of it too ugly for such young eyes to view. She yearns to return to her valley, and to be a whole family once more, but she has little control over the adult world around her. She can’t make her father come for them any more than she can make her mother decide to return home.

If you like historical novels that paint their periods vividly for readers, and features characters you can care about, then No Secret Too Small is a must read. A well-crafted story that holds the reader’s interest until the last page has turned, Tollefson draws you into the story and takes you back with her characters into times long past with period details that have obviously been well researched. A story that will no doubt touch hearts, I give it five quills.

Buy Link for No Secret Too Small

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Spirits of the West Book Blog Tour

Spirits of the West Book Blog Tour

Welcome to the first official WordCrafter Book Blog Tour featuring the WordCrafter western paranormal anthology, Spirits of the West. We’ve got a great tour lined up, so let me tell you a little about this unique anthology and the stories featured within. I hope you’ll all follow along with the tour as the week progresses, to learn more about this colorful story collection.

It’s no secret that I love ghost stories, which is why the theme each year for the WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest always seems to lean toward the paranormal genre, although other genres may be involved. It’s also no secret that my first novel was a western and I enjoy writing and reading this genre, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the 2020 theme was western paranormal. I didn’t get a lot of submissions, but the ones I did get were top notch stories, and the resulting anthology, Spirits of the West, contains eight stories with western and paranormal elements, from six very different author’s worlds. The theme for the contest was not a traditional genre mixture, and there’s not much that’s traditional about the anthology.

My story, “Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”, is a western paranormal mystery, to confuse the genres even more. It’s a colorful story, about the disappearance of a saloon owner, a ghostly nighttime visit to leave a warning, and a young boy named Stinkweed, who holds the key to the mystery. You’ll be able to learn more about the inspiration behind this tale on Jessica Bakkers.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle contributed two South African western paranormal tales, which help to make this anthology very unique. “The Thirstyland Journey” and “The Ghost in the Mound” tell stories of pioneers, traveling across the South African wilderness – a different type of western, but with just as many ghosts. Both are powerful stories of survival, courage and determination and are welcomed additions to Spirits of the West. Robbie will be telling us more about both of these stories on Roberta Writes and Robbie’s Inspiration.

Jeff Bowles, the author of the winning story in 2019, contributed “Wenekia”, an excellent story of Native American folklore and traditions. When two young boys sneak out to eavesdrop on the tribal council gathering, they learn more than they bargained for when they witness the reality of legend. Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo will have a post for us about Jeff’s story on Saturday.

“The Clouds in the West”

Arthur Rosch contributed a science fiction western paranormal story, “The Clouds in the West”, which takes the cowboy to another world, where the rider may not always control of his mount, and leaves the ending open to reader interpretation.

The winning story in Spirits of the West was submitted by Enid Holden. “High Desert Rose” is a more traditional western tale of revenge, but Holden does it with a heroin, rather than a hero, and the spirits are watching. Patty’s world will feature an interview with Enid on Wednesday and wrap up the tour on Sunday for us.

“Gunsmoke”

Also included in the anthology are two stories that were not contest submissions. Tom Johnson’s story, “Gunsmoke” really doesn’t have a paranormal element, and is included as a tribute to Tom as his only western story in a lifetime of science fiction and pulp titles, as the author is no longer with us. And Enid Holden contributed a second story, “Queen of Spades”, which didn’t make the submission deadline, but is every bit as good as her winning story.

“Queen of Spades”

Time constraints did not allow for posts on some stories, but I hope you’ll join us on the tour this week to learn more about this very special collection of stories and their authors.


 

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Looking Back on 2020 and Forward to 2021

2020 has been an difficult year for all of us as Covid 19 turned lives upside-down. Here at Writing to be Read and WordCrafter, we saw some great accomplishments, in spite of the fact that my genre theme schedule fell apart half-way through the year on the blog and content was a little more sporadic. I had to figure out how to adjust to my own “new normal”, which life changes brought my way, but they also led me to remember who I am. Now, I’ve analyzed and regrouped, and I’m ready to head into the new year with new ideas and projects.

WordCrafter’s 2020 Virtual Writing Conference

One of the biggest things for WordCrafter was the 2020 Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference back in April. We ended up with twenty-two distinguished authors, offering live stream and video lectures, and interactive workshops and discussion panels, with free content for the Facebook event and a Zoom platform for the interactive stuff. We had a good turn-out with only a few glitches, and we’re preparing to do it again in 2021.

WordCrafter Press releases in 2020:

Ask the Authors

In April, the Ask the Authors writing anthology was released after two years of compilation. This book is an ultimate writer’s reference with tips and advice from twenty-two authors, and it started right here, from a 2018 blog series of the same name. In November, the print edition of this book, (and all WordCrafter Press books), became available, as well.

Spirits of the West

The Spirits of the West western paranormal anthology resulted from the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, and was released in October. The winning story, “High Desert Rose”, was written by Enid Holden and is included in the anthology. The theme for the 2021 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest was announced and WordCrafter Press is now taking submissions to be considered for next year’s anthology, Where Spirits Linger.

Hidden Secrets and Last Call

Two of my own books were also released. Last Call and Other Short Fiction is a collection of my short stories, and my paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, is now available in print on Amazon, but the digital edition can be purchased through other retailers. In the coming year, I will have a story in the Where Spirits Linger anthology, and I’m working on a new book, The Outlaw and the Rockstar which I hope will be ready to release before the end of 2021.

Raise the Tide

WordCrafter Press‘ first stand alone author’s book was released in December, Raise the Tide, a devotional book by James Richards. We also look forward in anticipation to adding the January release of a massive poetry collection by Arthur Rosch, Feral Tenderness, to this list.

Feral Tenderness

Writing to be Read 2020:

We had some great guests on Writing to be Read. On “Chatting with the Pros”, my author guests featured Diana Raab, Amy Cecil, Cherokee Parks, L. Deni Colter, and Kevin J. Anderson. I’m hoping to transform this blog series into a podcast, which can be accessed through the blog, in the coming year, and I hope you all will join me there. Other authors interviewed in 2020 included Mark & Kym Todd, Jade C. Jamison, and Alan Dean Foster. The most viewed interview was with erotic romance author Nicky F. Grant. Interviews fell by the wayside along with the genre themes, but I’m planning to bring back author interviews for 2021, and I’m working on a new blog segment, “The Authors’ Covid Coffee Clache”, which will address issues of the pandemic specific to authors.

Treasuring Poetry

Robbie Cheadle’s poet guests included Sally Cronin, Colleen Chesebro, Victoria Zigler, Sue Vincent, Annette Rochelle Aben, Christy Birmingham, Kevin Morris, Frank Prem, D. Avery, Geoff Le Pard, and Balroop Singh. Of course, each segment on “Treasuring Poetry” are filled with poetry examples and includes a review of the poet’s latest poetry collection.

Growing Bookworms

Robbie Cheadle’s “Growing Bookworms” has great ideas for promoting literacy in children. Topics discussed “Making Learning the Alphabet Fun“, “Reading and Mathematics“, obtaining a balance of parental approval, “Sir Chocolate and the Valentine Toffee Cupid“, the benefits of singing and rhyming verse for children, “Teaching Children to Read“, “Introducing Non-Fiction to Children“, “The Future of Education“, “The Great Roald Dahl“, “Chapter Books vs. Short Stories for Children“, “The Joy of Nursery Rhymes: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat“, and “Incorporating Reading into Christmas Activities“. The post with the most views this year was a “Growing Bookworms” post from 2019, “Developing Imagination and Creativity Through Reading“, and in fact, it is also the post with the most all time views.

Words to Live By

On “Words to Live By”, Jeff Bowles offers up his thoughts on writing and life, and writing life. In 2020, he reflected on “The Creator in the Creative“, “The Kid in the Machine”, “Sex, Love, Warfare and Death“, “Fear, Creativity, and that Pesky Pandemic“, “Love in the Time of Covid“, “Be Here Now (Sanity for the Modern Writer), and”Creative Legacy“. The most viewed “Words to Live By” post was “The Big Chill“.

Mind Fields

With Art Rosch’s “Mind Fields”, you never know what the topic will be, but in 2020, they included “T.V. Addicts Annonymous“, “Nightmare with Tracphone“, “The Power of Villians in Story Telling“, “The Big Grief or Computer Wipe-Out“, “The Air in the Sky“, “Obsession: Craving Flashlights“, “Curvature: An Essay on Discernment“. The most view “Mind Fields” post was “Am I Real“.

Super Heroes and Supervillains

In May, Jeff Bowles took over the spotlight as he took over the Super Heroes and Super Villians theme, with a look at “The History and Evolution of Comic Books“, “The Rise of the Comic Book Film“, “DC Comics Gets Animated“, “D.C. Comics vs. Marvel – Rivalry and Inspiration“, and a celebratory posts for comic books and super heroes, “Look Up in the Sky!

Craft and Practice

Also in May, Jeff introduced a new blog series “Craft and Practice”, filled with great writing advice, which covered topics such as “The Revision Process“, “To Self-publish or Not to Self-publish“, “Writing for Catharthis“, “Story Synthesis: The Ultimate Tool in the Tool Kit“, “To Comma or Not to Comma“, “The Odds and Ends of Worldbuilding“, and “What’s the use of Trunk Novels“. The most viewed “Craft and Practice” post was “Should You Write Every Day?“.

Jeff’s Movie Reviews

Jeff’s Movie Reviews” covered The Invisible Man, Birds of Prey“, Hamilton on Disney+, Bill and Ted Face the Music, The Trial of the Chicago 7, The Queen’s Gambit, and The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. The most viewed movie review post was for 1917.

Arthur’s Visual Media Reviews

“Art’s Visual Media Reviews” covered Homeland, Better Call Saul, 13 Reasons Why, Just Mercy, 13 Reasons Why (the later seasons), a critique of Marvel movies, and The Secret: Dare to Dream, but the most viewed review was a life review in “My Life with Jazz“. Unfortunately, “Arthur’s Visual Media Reviews” will not be appearing in 2021, but Art’s “Mind Fields” will be appearing twice a month.

My book reviews included Missing: Murder Suspected: True Crime Stories Brought to Life, by Austin Stone On Being a Dictator, by Kevin J. Anderson and Martin L. Shoemaker; Saint, by Amy Cecil; Heat: Book 1, by Jade C. Jamison; Old One Eyed Pete, by Loretta Miles Toleffson; Death Wind, by Travis Heermann and Jim Pinto; Severed Wings, by Steven-Elliot Altman; X Marks the Spot, an anthology of pirate fantasy tales edited by Lisa Mangum; Indominable, by J.B. Garner; Echo One, by Mercedes Lacky, Denis K. Lee, Cody Martin, and Veronica Giguere; the audio edition of Shadow Blade, by Chris Barili; Love/Madness/Demon, by Jeff Bowles; In the Shadow of the Clouds, by Jordan Elizabeth; Keeper of the Winds, by Jenna Solitaire with Russle Davis; Inspirational Visions oracle cards, by Judy Mastrangelo; The Freedom Conspiracy by Nathan B. Dodge; Disappeared, by Lucienne Diver; Fool’s Gold Rush, by Tim Baker; Terminal Sequence, by Dan Alatorre; Gunslinger, by Edward J. Knight; and Clay House, by Jordan Elizabeth. The top viewed review was Hold Your Fire, an anthology edited by Lisa Mangum.

Judging the Spurs

I was also honored to be a judge for the Writers of America’s Spur Awards and I reviewed my top six picks, and the winner of the western romance category, The Yeggman’s Apprentice, by C.K. Crigger. These were the best of the best, and I was honored to be given the opportunity to read and review them.

WordCrafter Book Blog Tours

Also, in 2021 Writing to be Read will be a host for the WordCrafter Book Blog Tours, so we’ll be keeping you up to date on several new releases as they come out. Robbie Cheadle will bring us a new blog series on nursery rhymes and fairytales, “Dark Origins”, and I plan to bring in a new series, “Writer at Work”, which will talk about different issues that writers face. Subscribe to this blog with one of the buttons in the upper right-hand corner to be sure not to miss this great new content or the tried and true content of continuing series on Writing to be Read in the coming year.

Dark Origins

Happy New Year and Happy Writing!

From Writing to be Read and WordCrafter

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“Gunslinger”: The old west with trolls, dwarves, dragons and ghosts galore

Gunslinger

Gunslinger, by Edward J. Knight manages to combine two of my favorite genres, western and fantasy, into an adventure I won’t soon forget. Six guns, swords or sorcery, no weapon is off limits in this fantasy western landscape. And of course, there are a wide variety of villains to fight off, and Beth isn’t your typical female in the story world of Gunslinger created by Knight.

Taught by Wild Bill Hickock, she shoots like Calamity Jane, and sees her ghost. When an Arapohoe Indian spirit leads Beth and her friends on a quest to stop a dragon from wiping out the army outposts, will her gun be enough to stop the beast? Add dwarves being guided by an angry ghost who is out for revenge, hostile Indians and and a ghost guide with a personal agenda and you have a western fantasy adventure of the highest caliber.

Gunslinger is full of surprises and quite entertaining. I give it four quills.

Four Quill Rating

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


For the Love of Halloween

Happy Halloween

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. We get to dress up and be anyone or anything that we want to be. As adults too big to trick or treat, we find one Halloween party or another to attend, so that we have a legitimate excuse for donning a costume and pretending to be someone or something else for a while. Or we turn our yards into graveyards to scare the kids who come to trick-or-treat, or maybe we channel or Halloween fantasies into the costumes we make for our children. But no matter how well we hide away our inner children, the longing to once again play make believe never really goes away.

But this year, things may be a bit different. The Covid 19 pandemic has turned the world upside-down, and trick-or-treating poses new threats to both us and our children. Social distancing is the new buzz word and large social gatherings are falling out of fashion. Although masks are in style, they aren’t the kind that will go well with our costumes. In fact, in many places trick-or-treating has been cancelled and other types of holiday celebrations are emerging in its place.

It’s sad, really. We may be seeing the destruction of many time-honored traditions which are no longer deemed ‘safe’ activities. Thanksgiving celebrations are being limited to maximum numbers, as well. Apparently, no holiday is safe.

2020 WordCrafter Halloween Book Bash

I hope all of you will join us for the 2020 WordCrafter Halloween Book Bash tomorrow evening. For the past two years, WordCrafter has hosted or participated in Halloween book events on Facebook, and this year is no exception. Many of the activities and events being used to replace traditional forms of celebration are of a virtual nature, so our celebration this year is probably trending. It is a short one this year, only three hours, from 6 p.m. MDT to 9 p.m. MDT, but we’ve got some great contests and games, and some fantastic book promotions and new releases. My co-hosts are authors Mark McQuillen, Ellie Raine, Jordan Elizabeth, and Amy Cecil. It’s my way of keeping Halloween traditions alive during tradition crushing times.

Spirits of the West

I think the thing that I’m most excited about though, is that WordCrafter will be promoting their newly released western paranormal anthology, Spirits of the West. This anthology contains eight unique stories with hints of paranormal and western flare. Contributing authors include myself, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Jeff Bowles, Art Rosch, Tom Johnson, and the author of the winning story, “High Desert Rose”, Enid Holden. It’s an antholgy like no other and I am so pleased with how well it turned out.

However you choose to celebrate this Halloween, be safe and have fun.

Happy Halloween!

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Anthologies: An alternative path to publication

I’m seeing a lot of promotions for anthologies these days. This excites me because short fiction anthologies are a wonderful way for rising authors to gain new readers. If you look for them, there are plenty of opportunities for short fiction submissions and contest entries, and many of those hold the possibility of having your short story featured in a new anthology.

All authors want to see their work published, but full length novels take months or even years to craft and polish before being ready to consider publication. And if an author is considering the traditional route of pitching their work until they find an interested publisher, they could be looking at that manuscript gathering dust on the shelves for a very long time. Short fiction offers a chance for authors to get their names out there on multiple works in a much shorter period of time than it would take to write and publish multiple novels.

Even before I published Delilah, I had two short stories accepted for publication online. Then my story, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, was accepted by Zombie Pirate Publishing and it appeared in their The Collapsar Directive anthology. I learned very quickly that one difference in having short fiction published in an anthology, as opposed to being published online, was the spirit of comraderie among all the authors featured. The other cool perk of being published in an anthology was the invitation to submit to the next planned anthology. Hence, my story, “The Devil Made Her Do It”, appeared in the next anthology ZPP put out, Relationship Add Vice.

The trick to getting into an anthology is to read the submission guidelines and submit a story that meets them. Most of the time, that may mean writing a story specifically for that submission call or contest. When I was invited to submit a story for Dan Alatorre’s Nightmareland, the guidelines were pretty general, “horror”, and I happened to have a piece of flash fiction that fit into the genre. All it required was a bit of polishing and my story, “The Haunting of Carol’s Woods”, was ready for submission and acceptance. But, many submission calls are more specific.

For the above mentioned submission to ZPP for Relationship Add Vice, submission guidelines required a story that contained elements of romance and crime fiction. Chances are that you don’t have a story sitting in your files with those elements and you would need to create a new story to submit to meet these guidelines. I did have the beginnings of one, as it happened, but that certainly isn’t always the case.

The submission guidelines are important. Read and follow them carefully. Other than the type of story, they may include specific formatting requirements and other submission instructions. Many publishers are strict about their guidelines and will put down a story without finishing it, if the story doesn’t meet even one of the specifications. Of course, that doesn’t apply only to anthologies. Every submission you make should conform to the given submission guidelines, whether we’re talking about short fiction, novel manuscripts, articles or poetry. Why read something if the submitting author can’t even follow directions?

With each of these anthologies, I got that same feeling of comraderie and networking with my fellow authors. I love that feeling. Because anthologies, by definition, have several different authors, they also carry with them the advantage of widening the pool of possible readers. Each author promotes the anthology to their reader audience, so it is possible to extend your own reach beyond your own reader following and gain new readers who read your work in the anthology and want to read more. It’s a win-win for all authors involved.

Naturally, when I started WordCrafter Press in 2019, the first undertaking was to launch a short fiction contest and compile and publish the resulting anthology, Whispers of the Past. The submission guidelines required a paranormal stort story and the contest winner received a $25 Amazon gift card.

Spirits of the West

For 2020, the contest submission call requested a piece of short fiction with elements of both the paranormal and western genres. It may have seemed a weird combination to some, but to me, it seemed only natural. The old west is filled with ghosts and spirits, and my first novel was a western. I think it was the western genre that threw potential authors off, but what resulted from this genre combination were some very interesting stories, including two South African ‘westerns’ by WtbR team member Robbie Cheadle, “The Thirstyland Journey” and “The Ghost in the Mound”, and a science fiction ‘western’ by WtbR team member Art Rosch, “Clouds in the West”. This author of this year’s winning story is Enid Holden, and she has two stories included in the anthology: the winning story, “High Desert Rose” and another paranormal western, “The Queen of Spades”. And my contribution is a story I wrote specifically for the occassion, “Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”. “Wenekia”, by last year’s contest winner, Jeff Bowles and “Gunsmoke” by author Tom Johnson are also included. This unique collection of paranormal westerns have been compiled into the Spirits of the West anthology and scheduled for an October release.

Authors can find calls for submissions or short fiction contests all over the internet these days. If you just look for them, you’re sure to find one that works for your writing style and preferences, or maybe one that offers a challenge and takes you into writing realms where you’ve never before ventured. In January, I’ll be announcing the theme for the 2021 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, so be sure to watch for that, too. If you want to get your name out there, grow your audience and have people read your work, short fiction anthologies are a great start, or they can be a supplement to already published books. Find one that suits you and submit a story today.


What’s Up?: WordCrafter/Writing to be Read Update

In the world of WordCrafter, I’ve been preparing for the release of the WordCrafter Press 2020 western paranormal anthology, Spirits of the West. This anthology is compiled from entries in the WordCrafter 2020 short fiction contest, including the winning story by Enid Holden, “High Desert Rose”. Each story has western flavor and paranormal elements, although a few take some surprising creative twists. This is one story collection that you won’t want to miss. I was shooting for an October release for this anthology, but I’m really excited about this anthology, so don’t be surprised if you see Spirits of the West release later this month.

As I may have mentioned before, there are changes coming for Writing to be Read. In truth, some of them are already here. Writing to be Read is now a paid blog site, which will enable readers to hook up with the new “Chatting with the Pros” podcast, which will be coming in the near future, among other new features. That’s right. I’m turning this monthly blog series of author interviews into a podcast. And, while your here, pop over to the “My Westerns” page and check out the video trailer for Delilah, which is now featured there. Be sure to watch for other changes to the site in the near future.

As always, I would love to hear from you readers with suggestions on what else you’d like to see on Writing to be Read, what your favorite blog series are, or any questions you might have. Your feedback is important, because it helps me to determine what is working and what isn’t, and helps me to see in which direction the blog should go next. So please, don’t hesitate to let me hear your thoughts and ideas.


Announcing the Winner of the WordCrafter 2020 Short Fiction Contest

WordCrafter Press

It’s taken twice as long as it should have, but I am now proud to announce the winner of the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest. This year’s theme genre was western paranormal, requiring story submissions to contain both western and paranormal elements.  WordCrafter left the guidelines open to loose interpretation, resulting a wide variety of story submissions, in which the required elements were used in some very creative ways. It was a difficult choice, but I’m happy to congradulate Enid Holden on her wonderful story, “High Desert Rose”.

Spirits of the West cover image

As the winning submission author, Enid will receive a $25 Amazon gift card and her story will be published in the WordCrafter western paranomal anthology, Spirits of the West. We’re aiming for a release date sometime in October, so be sure and watch for it. The anthology will also include “Gunsmoke”, as a tribute to the author, the late Tom Johnson, as well as stories by several of authors from last years antholgy, Whispers of the Past.


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Judging for the 2020 W.W.A. Spur Awards

Judging the Spurs

It was a great honor to be asked to be a judge for the Western Writers of America’s 2020 Spur Awards, but I had no idea what I was signing up for. I envisioned hours of luxurious reading in one of my favorite genres, while leisurely sipping wine and taking bubble baths, and once the event opened to entries last August, for a while, a new book came in the mail every day or two and it felt a little bit like Christmas.

I began reading the first entry right off, and kept steadily working my way through them. The inflow trickled off mid-September, although there were a few later entries that didn’t come until November and December. The stack of books were large, but I’ve always been an avid reader and I felt confident that I could manage it easily.

Then, as often happens, life got in the way. I lost two dogs within a month and a half of one another, and in November, had a death in the family, and for a time my life was turned upside down. My work schedule received adjustments and travel arrangements were made for the viewing and services, and writing and school were shoved lower on the list of priorities. Suddenly, everything was up in the air and all my leisurely reading time disappeared like a magician’s rabbit. Abracadabra. Poof!

During the last part of December, I started trying to get back on track and found some reading time to begin trying to catch up on the Spur entries. At this point, the stack of books I had left to read seemed immense, and I began to wonder if maybe I should be worried about getting all of them read in time. I admit, I had to cram at the end and read every night until my eyes wouldn’t stay open, but I managed to read every entry and send in my judging choices before the deadline.

It was harder than I thought it would be to be a Spurs judge. Not because I ended up playing catch-up on the reading, but because there were some many really excellent stories submitted to the western romance category, and I had to narrow it down to the top five. Making the choices as to which were best was really tough. The opportunity to read some of the best westerns of 2019 made it worth every struggle. It was great!

I took my role as a Spur judge seriously. While reading I noted things like how well-crafted the story was, how prominent the elements of western and romance were in the story, how historically accurate the story was, and how well the story captured and held my interest, to base my choices on. Now that the winners have been announced, I am able to provide you with brief reviews of the ones that were my own personal favorites. All of the books reviewed below I found to be well written and historically accurate to their time period, and each would receive a five quill rating in my regular book reviews. They were my top picks and they include the winner in the romance category and one of the finalists.

 


MollyfarMollyfar, by Bonnie Hobbs: This is one of those stories that is just a fun read. It has strong western elements in a classic romance tale, but the unique and interesting characters are what carry the story.

Sometimes in the old west you had to grow up fast, and life wasn’t always kind, especially to members of the female persuasion. Molly finds herself on her own in the west at a young age, at a time when the choices for a girl on her own were very limited. She’s on her way to becoming a soiled dove for a life of squalor when she meets Wade and it’s love at first sight. Wade vows take care of Molly, so there will be no need for her to go down that road, but he is young and there are several obstacles preventing him from following through. Then Molly met Heeshe, the new amorphidite brothel owner and they saved each other, but there was always a place in her heart for Wade, if she could only admit it and let herself surrender to him.

Amazon Buy Link


This New DayThis New Day, by Harlan Hague: This book made Finalist. It has the strong western element of a true pioneer tale with a sweet romance that just feels right. The story line draws the reader in and doesn’t let go.  It made me cry.

When Molly’s husband dies, there’s nothing left to go back to. They sold up all their worldly goods to make the trek across the mountains to Oregon, and she is determined to complete the journey with her two children. She meets hardship and heart ache along the way, and Micah, a mysterious rugged rider, who turns up just at the right moment to save her from Jeb, an unsavory member of their party, who has had his eye on Molly and grown tired of just watching. Soon Micah is riding with she and the children, and bedding down near their wagon at night, working his way into the children’s hearts, as well as her own, but she has to wonder where he goes when he rides off for days and then, reappears. She has doubts as to whether she is strong enough to make it at times, but soon finds she doesn’t want to make it without Micah.

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The Express BrideThe Express Bride, by Kimberly Woodhouse: This story has western and romance elements that are prominent. Likable characters make you care, and a fun and playful story line makes you want to keep reading. Jaquelin (Jack) is a strong, gritty female protagonist, who you can’t help but like.

Since her father died, Jack has run the Pony Express station in his stead. And why shouldn’t she? Even if she had to mislead to corporation heads a little, implying that she was male by signing her letter Jack instead of Jacquelin, she knows the workings inside and out, and the riders all like her and look to her with respect. Then Elijah Johnson looking for a mystery woman from the past arrives, along with a U.S. Treasury agent, Mr. Crowell, enlisted to help uncover a suspected conterfeiting ring operating in the area. As she unravels the mystery surrounding her own past, she ponders who she is, and who she wants to be, and struggles with the nagging feeling that Elijah Johnson may hold the key to revealing the truth.

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The Outlaw's LetterThe Outlaw’s Letter, by Angela Reines: A classic romance story with a strong western element and a hint of mystery. Good, solid story line that is everything a romance should be.

Harriette “Hetty” Osgood is just school teacher in Kiowa Wells, but when a dying man stumbles into her school house, she vows to deliver a letter to his brother, Grant Davis. Dressed as a boy for safer travel, she sets off on an adventure to find Davis, and crosses paths with Conover Boggs, who she sent to prison in the past, and would like nothing more than a chance to make her pay. Boggs catches up with her just as she catches up with Grant Davis, who has ridden with Boggs in the past. To save them both, they claim to be married to fool Boggs. They have little choice but to help one another, but Grant is on a quest to clear his name and leave his past behind him. Could they each be what the other is really looking for?

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A Slip on Golden StairsA Slip on Golden Stairs,  by Joanne Sundell: I actually reviewed this book before I was asked to be a judge. You can see my original review of this book here.

This paranormal western romance is really two romances, one in the present and one in the past, in one tragic searches for both love and riches. Sundell does an excellent job of weaving the past into the present in a tragic and heartfelt tale of lost love and possibilities.

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The Yeggma's ApprinticeThe Yeggman’s Apprentice, by C.K. Crigger: Winner of the western romance category. Great characters and a captivating plot that draws you in and keeps you reading. Light natural flowing romance within a western setting and a truly enjoyable read. 

Wilke thinks her first solo job in Butte, Montana will be a piece of cake. Simply, lift the ledgers for the designated accounts from the bank safe for the client. What could be easier? But things quickly go awry when she finds there are two sets of ledgers and they don’t tally. Suddenly, she finds herself being pursued by the shady lawyers who hired her uncle, who will go as far as murder to cover their tracks. When Hixson rides her back to her hotel on his motorbike, they discover her uncle dead, Wilke finds herself on her own and in need of getting out of town with the falsified documents.

Hix agrees to help her, but gets more than he bargains for, when the shady lawyer’s henchman is waiting at the train station. Wilke isn’t sure she can trust Hix, there are several signs that he might have a shady past and could be an outlaw, but she doesn’t have much of a choice. Hix has reasons of his own for wanting to get out of  Montana, but he finds that Wilke is full of surprises, as they try to evade the bad guys.

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Interview with author Alan Dean Foster

 

Alan Dean Foster with Mayotte brown lemur. M’bouzi island, French Comoros. Photo credit to Michael Medford.

Alan Dean Foster with Mayotte brown lemur. M’bouzi island, French Comoros. Photo credit to Michael Medford.

Today my author guest is a multi-genre author who dips into the western and weird western genres on occasion. He’s published over 100 books, including novelizations of several well-known science fiction films, such as Star Wars, Alien, and The Chronicles of Riddick. He’s also credited with the first ever book adaption of an original video game in his novel, Shadowkeep. He’s a New York Times bestselling author and he’s joining me here to share a few tidbits about the weird western genre, writing a novelization of a movie, and his latest book, Mad Amos Malone and other weird western works. Please welcome author Alan Dean Foster to Writing to be Read.

Kaye: The majority of what you write is science fiction or fantasy, so obviously these are your preferred genres, but you have western tales thrown into the mix here and there. What is it that draws you to the western genre?

Alan: For one thing, I have lived the past 40 years in a famous western town: Prescott, Arizona. Virgil Earp was the marshal here. Doc Holiday’s mistress, Big Nose Kate, is buried in one of the local cemeteries. The Palace Saloon, the oldest operating saloon in Arizona (since 1877) is here. And much more. You cannot live in such a place without soaking up some of the historic atmosphere. Also, like most kids of my generation, I grew up watching TV westerns in the ‘50’s. Hop-along Cassiday, The Lone Ranger, and more.  My favorites were the Cisco Kid (“Hey Pancho!…Hey Ceesco!) and Disney’s Zorro.

Mad Amos MaloneKaye: You have a collection of short western stories out that have a strange twist. What is so different about Mad Amos Malone?

Alan: Folks are fascinated by the mountain men who explored the American west. I thought it would be interesting to develop one who acts and lives like your typical mountain man, but who is considerably More Than He Seems. When you like a character but are never sure how he will react in a given situation it adds tension to a story. Think the character of Mike in “Breaking Bad”. Not quite what he seems. Also, in the end, thoroughly bad ass.

Kaye: In 1985 you wrote a novelization of the movie Pale Rider, with Clint Eastwood. How did that come about? Did you get to meet any actors from the movie? Did you consult with the screenwriters during the writing? What was the most difficult thing about doing a novelization?

Pale RiderAlan: Authors of film adaptations rarely get anywhere near a movie set (though I have, on occasion). Certainly I never met or consulted with anyone attached to the movie.

For me, the most difficult thing in doing a novelization is to expand on the characters without contradicting the characterizations in the film itself. That, and remaining true to the spirit and style of the filmmakers while simultaneously injecting a little bit of myself here and there. You always have to be aware.

Straight Outta TombstoneKaye: You have a story in Straight Outta Tombstone. The anthology is listed as fantasy, but its stories have kind of a western twist. Would you talk a little about that book?

Alan: The stories are fantasy with, generally, settings in what is called the American West. I think it would be more accurate to called them westerns with a fantasy twist.  Fantasy or science-fictional takes on actual history are a lot of fun to do, and can often be thought-provoking. Call it the “What if the South had won the Civil War”? trope, only often with more recognizable fantasy elements.

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a western novel or short story? What’s the least fun part?

Alan: Working with actual western history. Many of the Mad Amos stories take place in actual western settings and involve real folks from history. Just with the occasional witch, dragon, Chinese demon, visiting gnomes, etc.

Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Alan: Mornings, because I’m fresh, and also because I prefer to go to gym in the afternoon. But I will work late if and when necessary. And if an idea hits me, I’ll head for the study no matter what time it is.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Alan: Not getting bored with your own work. And persisting even when you are.

Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Alan: I think my historical novel MAORI, which takes place in 19th-century New Zealand. That’s a long way from writing science-fiction or fantasy. Very hard to research such a subject from Prescott in pre-internet days. Might also consider SHADOWKEEP, which was the very first novelization of an original computer game.

Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a story?

Alan: Character. If your characters aren’t interesting, then you’ve lost the reader no matter what kind of language, special effects, settings, or action you employ. True of any kind of writing, be it theater, film, prose, even commercials.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Alan: When I made my first two short story sales, to August Derleth and John W. Campbell. I figured if two giants in the field thought my words worth buying, I might have a shot at doing it full-time.

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Alan: Don’t make your heroes too powerful (Campbell). You can be interested in Superman, but it’s hard to empathize with him. Hence the need to invent kryptonite.

Kaye: Which is your favorite type of writing? Short fiction or novels?

Alan: I enjoy them both, but if pressed I’d have to say short stories. Get the idea down and out fast and dirty. I also very much enjoy writing non-fiction. Essays, movie reviews, history, etc.

Kaye: What is next for Alan Dean Foster? What are you working on now? Any more weird westerns in the future?

Alan: No weird westerns at the moment. Putting together The Complete Mad Amos Malone was a bit of a project in itself.

Forthcoming: April – The Unsettling Stars – original Star Trek novel set in the Kelvin universe.  Later this year: Madrenga – original fantasy novel from Wordfire PressThe Director Should’ve Shot You – non-fiction; a history of my involvement with film novelizations from Centipede Press.

Hopefully next year: Mid-Death and other tales of the Commonwealth – a collection of all the short stories set in the Commonwealth, featuring the never before reprinted Midworld novella “Mid-Death”, from Haffner Press.  Short story “The Treasure of the Lugar Morto” – Analog; no date yet.

Forthcoming at a future date: the completed Commonwealth novel Secretions and the stand-alone SF novel Prodigals.


I want to thank Alan Dean Foster for sharing with us here as we delve into the weird western. It looks like his work is cut out for him for the next couple of years. Obviously, many writing tips and tricks are not restricted to a single genre, but can be applied across them all. You can learn more about Alan and his books on his website or his Amazon Author page.


Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.