Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sample 2: Six-guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas

 For Halloween Western Fictioneers presents a sample of a second story in Six-Guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas

LARRY D. SWEAZY won the WWA Spur Award for Best Short Fiction in 2005, won the Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Fiction 2011 and 2012, and was nominated for a SFMS Derringer award in 2007. He has published over 50 articles and short stories, which have appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine; The Adventure of the Missing Detective; Boys’ Life; Hardboiled, and other publications and anthologies. Larry is the author of the Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger series (Berkley). He is a member of MWA (Mystery Writers of America), WWA (Western Writers of America), and WF (Western Fictioneers). Larry lives in the Midwest, with his wife, Rose, two dogs, and a

 The flames had died down, leaving only the glowing orange coals to give off any heat. Neither man noticed; they were fast asleep after a long journey. But the wolves noticed. They could smell the meat of a fresh kill, see the white-tailed deer strung up from a gangly cottonwood by its hooves, left, oddly, to bleed out overnight.
The alpha, a stoic gray wolf, his fur dotted with more than a fair share of scars, padded around the perimeter of the makeshift camp as softly as he could. The deer felt like bait left out to draw in the pack. Something wasn’t right. The behavior of the humans was unusual—or the alpha assumed they were stupid. Unaware of the way of the world beyond the fire.
The rest of the pack stood in wait, just beyond the shadows, listening for the grunts and growls that would command them into action.
The deer was easy pickings for a pack this size, bound and hung like it was, the hard work of the kill already done for them. There were twelve wolves in all, most of them hungry—but not starving. The pack was glad to see, and feel, the depths of winter, when the hunting was easier. The sick and tired were less of a challenge, less trouble to bring down. Especially the bison, weak, and caught knee-deep in snow. The snow season was more bountiful, but some of the pack still longed for the long days of summer when the sun offered more time to play—and kill.
There was snow on the ground, but not so much that it was difficult to walk. The leaves had turned to gold on the aspens and fallen to the ground, urging the elk to move to higher ground, off the moraine, more than two moons ago. The bison had begun to move, too, albeit slowly, gobbling at what tender roots they could find under the snow. All in the world was right, progressing along the way as it should. Except for the presence of the humans.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sample of Six-guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas

Sheriff Santa and the Ghost of Two Gun Jim

A “Sheriff Santa” Story

ROBERT J. RANDISI is the author of more than 550 books in the Western, Private Eye, Men's Adventure, and Horror genres. As J.R. Roberts he is the creator and author of the long running series "The Gunsmith." He also wrote and created the Tracker, Angel Eyes, Bounty Hunter, Mountain Jack Pike, Widowmaker, Gamblers, Sons of Daniel Shaye and Ryder series. Born in Brooklyn, New York he currently resides in Clarksville, Missouria town of 500 people overlooking the Mississippi Riverwith writer "Christine Matthews."

As the legend goes, Two-Gun Jim Turner suddenly changed his villainous ways on Christmas Day, stood up against a gang that wanted to take over a whole town as a Christmas present to themselves. He saved the town, but got gunned down at the same time. They say Turner died angry, and still roams the earth trying to find a way back.
That was forty years ago . . .
* * *
Kate Timmons told Sheriff Andy Tate, “Stand still, will you?”
“You’re pinching me.”
“We wouldn’t be having this problem if you hadn’t gone and got yourself shot last year while wearing your Santa suit.”
“Wasn’t my fault somebody tried to rob the bank during our fittin’,” he complained. “Besides, why couldn’t you just darn the hole?”
“It wasn’t just a hole, Andy,” she said. “You bled all over it.”
“Well, excuse me for bleedin’ when I get shot!”
Kate sat back on her heels and stared up at the man in the red suit, standing on a stool. They’d been playing this game for many years, and the townspeople were still waiting for them to make it legal.
“My God, Andy, did you get fatter since last year?” she demanded.
The Sheriff of Great Bend looked down at his own belly critically. She said this to him every year.
“I don’t think so,” he said, giving her the same answer.
Before Kate could respond a man rushed into Kate’s Dress Shop.
“Sheriff, that fella Brannigan and his boys are over to the bank.”
“Which one, Harvey?” he asked. The town had two banks.
“The Great Bend.”
“What are they doin’, Barney?”
”I think they’re gonna rob it.”
Andy Tate looked at Kate, then stepped down from her step stool and reached for his gun.
“Oh no, Andy Tate, don’t you do this again!” she said.
“I’m sorry, Kate,” he said, “but I gotta go.”
“Don’t you get shot in your Santa suit like you did last year!”
“Kate,” he said, “I’ll try my best not to get shot, at all.”

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review of Six-Guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas

. . . VERDICT This anthology lives up to its claim of being "the most unusual Western Christmas anthology every published." For horror and Western aficionados.       Library Journal Review

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Six-guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas

Now Available

Put on your Santa hat and saddle up for this collection of creepy Christmas stories from the Western Fictioneers, the world's only organization of professional authors devoted solely to Western fiction. 'Tis the season for ghosts, vampires, monsters, aliens, and other bizarre creatures to make these Old West holiday tales truly special. Legendary Western author Robert J. Randisi spins the spectral yarn of "Sheriff Santa and the Ghost of Two Gun Jim". Peacemaker and Spur Award winning author Troy D. Smith takes the reader on a murderous Christmas journey to "Bitter Mountain". New York Times bestseller and Peacemaker Award winner James Reasoner writes about a strange encounter on the Staked Plains in "Presents for One and All". Larry D. Sweazy, two-time winner of the Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western fiction, tells the story of an epic battle between good and evil in "The Longest Night". An isolated stagecoach station under siege by Apaches is the setting of Cheryl Pierson's "The Keepers of Camelot", a tale of rebirth and redemption. These and many other stories by some of today's top writers in the Western field make SIX-GUNS AND SLAY BELLS the most unusual Western Christmas anthology ever published.

SIX-GUNS AND SLAY BELLS is the newest anthology from the Western Fictioneers.  Founded in 2010 to promote the oldest genuine American art form, WF is the only writers organization composed entirely of professional authors of traditional Western fiction.  Its worldwide membership includes best-selling, award-winning authors as well as the brightest up-and-coming new stars in the Western field.

SIX-GUNS AND SLAY BELLS is a collection of 15 Christmas-themed original Western stories with paranormal elements including ghosts, vampires, monsters, and aliens. The best-selling, award-winning line-up of authors includes Robert J. Randisi, Chuck Tyrell, Troy D. Smith, C. Courtney Joyner, Matthew P. Mayo, Douglas Hirt, James Reasoner, Jerry Guin, Charlie Steel, Clay More, Cheryl Pierson, Larry D. Sweazy, James J. Griffin, Christine Matthews, and L.J. Washburn.

Western Fictioneers previously published THE TRADITIONAL WEST, the largest anthology of all-original Western fiction ever published, which met with critical acclaim and included the Best Short Fiction winners of both the Peacemaker Award, given by WF, and the Spur Award, given by the Western Writers of America, as well as several other finalists for those awards.  Earlier this year WF published BLOODY TRAIL, the first book in the Wolf Creek series of collaborative novels with more to come.

This is an anthology you're not going to want to miss. Trade paperback only $12.00 E book $2.99.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Western Writer Michael Newton aka Lyle Brandt

1. What was your first Western novel or story and was it published?

Vengeance Ride, published by Carousel Books in 1979.

2. What Western writer or writers of the past were the biggest influence on your work?

"George G. Gilman" (né Terry Harknett) and Elmore Leonard.

3. Is there a particular scene from a Western novel that was so powerful when you read it that it stuck with you? Perhaps has become a scene you've tried to live up to/equal in your own writing?

I'd have to go with a movie, actually: the climax of The Wild Bunch. Overall, I do try to write in a "cinematic" style, with various points of view to cover action from different sides. 

4. What's the first Western you remember reading from cover to cover?

The Deputy, by Roe Richmond (1960), a novel based on Henry Fonda's TV series of the same title.

5. Who is your favorite historical Western figure, and why?

Doc Holliday. I first encountered him on a "famous gunfighters" postcard at Calico Ghost Town, and have been fascinated by his strange life ever since, both factual and fictional.

6. How much historical research do you do, and how do you go about it?

I strive for accuracy, relying on a fairly extensive reference library—and, since the late 90s, on selective research from the Internet. Research online saves long days and gas burned commuting to and from libraries, but discretion and double-checking are obviously vital. There's a lot of nonsense floating around on the Web that can make a writer look foolish if s/he swallows it uncritically. (I've been burned on occasion by print sources, as well—including those published by one so-called "Dean of True-Crime Writers.")

7. How important is setting? How important is it to get setting right? What's the best use of setting in a Western as far as you're concerned?

Setting is critical in fiction, whether the characters circle the globe or spend the whole story stuck in one room. Setting is key to atmosphere. Whether you're describing a well-known location or "world-building" in the realm of fantasy or sci-fi, consistency is vital. Detail can vary. I admire—but do not emulate—authors who can name every plant in a villain's flower bed. That said, you can go overboard in that direction, too. Tom Clancy's "thrillers" always read like hardware catalogs to me; I've never been able to finish one. My favorite Western in this regard is Elmore Leonard's Hombre.

8. How do you choose where to begin your story? Do you use prologues?

Most of my contemporary thrillers have prologues, usually introducing a threat or a villain, but on Westerns I normally jump straight in with Chapter 1. I was taught to "hook" readers with action as soon as possible, so I always try to open with something that will keep them turning pages. Nonfiction, on the other hand, often demands a preface and/or introduction, but once I get to the actual text, I still try to lead off with something exciting, frightening, amusing—whatever fits.

9. Do you do all your research ahead of time, or as you go along?

I've written so many reference books and how-to volumes for writers over the past 20-odd years that I pretty well know what I'm talking about (or, at least, I hope so). If anything's vague to me as I go along, Google is my salvation.

10. Which of your characters do you identify with the most, and why? Was there a role model for this particular character?

In Westerns, I like to think there's some part of myself in my protagonists, though my life experience is nothing like theirs. I've lived in the West and witnessed an execution in Nevada, but that's the limit.

11. Do you outline and plot your story or do you write as the inspiration or MUSE leads?

I always outline, both the overall story for starters and "slap-dash" outlines for individual chapters as I proceed, though I feel free to deviate at any point. My publishers generally want to know where a story's going before they cut a contract—and, of course, in series work they don't want me killing off the protagonist(s) unless they're already pulling the plug. I admire authors who work solely from inspiration—like my mentor, Don Pendleton—but when I hear them say their characters "took over the story and wrote it themselves," I frankly don't know what they're talking about.

12. Are you a conservative in your writing and stick with traditional ideas for your characters and plots or do you like to go beyond the norm and toss in the unexpected and why?

I'll try anything and see if it flies with an editor. In one recent episode of my "Lawman" series, Jack the Ripper popped up in Oklahoma Territory, circa 1893. For the contemporary action-adventure stories, anything goes, as long as its feasible in real life.

13. Do you need quiet when you write, listen to music, or have the TV on and family around?

I'm overrun with cats in my office on a normal day. My wife plays music in adjoining rooms, which provides nice background, but I don't have any running in my office itself. I tried a Walkman once, for about thirty seconds. It was a no-go.

14. Have you experienced the "dreaded" writer's block and how did you deal with it?

I've been lucky in this respect, never suffering any significant writer's block. Sometimes I'm stalled for a few minutes on the opening line of a novel or chapter, but never for long. It helps that I work on several books simultaneously, both fiction and nonfiction, which allows me to switch off if something starts to feel stale.

15. Who is your favorite fictional character that you have created?

Western-wise, I'm fond of Jack Slade, still alive and kicking from Berkley after 11 novels. He's  about to have some competition from Gideon Ryder, an early recruit for the U.S. Secret Service at its foundation in 1865.

16. Who is your favorite fictional character that someone else created?

I grew up reading Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, James Bond, Tarzan, and Bomba the Jungle Boy, among others. More recently, my favorites include Jack Reacher, Raylan Givens, Kay Scarpetta, Gretchen Lowell, Aloysius Pendergast, Virgil Flowers, Lucas Davenport, and the inimitable Hannibal Lecter. 

17. Do you address "modern" issues in Westerns? Racism. Feminism. Downs Syndrome. Mental disabilities. Genetic disorders. Sociopathy. Immigrant questions. Brutality. Pedophilia. Any more?

I've definitely dealt with racism and women's issues, (hopefully) drawing some strong female characters. My protagonists always encounter brutal individuals, on both sides of the law, and some of them are absolutely "mental." I've only touched on pedophilia (and human trafficking) in some contemporary thrillers and nonfiction; ditto for genetic disorders and sociopathy, examined at length in my work on serial killers.

18. Have you found that being able to self publish through Kindle and Nook, that you find yourself writing more of what you want rather than what the agent, editor, and publisher wants?

I've self-published five books, with very disappointing results: $11 and change, so far. My living still depends on traditional publishers, much of it under "house names." The nonfiction published under my own name, however, is always focused on topics that interest me particularly.

19. Do you make a living writing? If not, what is your day job?

I'm fortunate enough to have been self-supporting as a full-time author since 1986, although our economic situation has caused some stress the past couple of years, along with belt-tightening or outright abandonment of traditional printed books by a couple of my longtime publishers. This time next year, I may be a Wal-Mart greeter!

20. What are you writing right now?

Two Western series from Berkley, written as "Lyle Brandt"; a four-book contract from Gold Eagle Books for the ongoing "Mack Bolan" action-adventure series; and a couple of nonfiction books for McFarland. One of those breaks new ground in the 1946 "Phantom Killer" case from Texarkana. I also have a continuing deal with Schiffer Books, my "Strange Monsters" series, touring the USA with a state-by-state review of unknown creatures reported by everyday folks.

21. What do you plan to write in the future

I hope to keep my two Western series going with Berkley, under the "Lyle Brandt" name. Beyond that, I'll write anything that has a hope of selling.

22. What made you decide to write Western fiction?

It was a fluke, in fact. While I've enjoyed Western films, TV shows, and novels since childhood, my entry to the field was suggested by an L.A. editor in 1979. A porn house I'd been writing for, run by Cleveland Mob associate Reuben Sturman, created Carousel Books as a way to "go legit"—and also, as I soon discovered, as a tax dodge. I'd done several XXX-rated books for them at the time, and got in on the ground floor with Westerns, thrillers, and police procedurals. Once they folded, in the early Eighties, I did no more Westerns until Berkley approached my literary agent, Nancy Yost, about starting a series under a pen name. They wanted something starting with a "B," to stand near the top of limited shelving in bookstores, and thus "Lyle Brandt" was born.

Writing under the pseudonym Lyle Brandt, Michael Newton has become a popular writer of Western novels. He has written a number of successful non-fiction titles as well, including a book on genre writing (How to Write Action Adventure Novels). His book Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Florida won the Florida Historical Society's 2002 Rembert Patrick Award for Best Book in Florida History. Newton's "Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology" won the American Library Association's award for Outstanding Reference Work in 2006. Newton is best known for his work on Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan series.