Monday, February 29, 2016



To some authors, they’re about as much fun as a root canal.

Booksignings, after the initial ego gratification of a first book, are a unique form of torture where one sits astride a cold metal chair in a corner of a musty book store while passersby presume you’re registering voters or offering petitions to “save the whales.”

But they can be a career builder, sometimes even ego gratifying, and a way to sell books. To some of you, that concept, selling books, may be repugnant. In fact, selling anything may be repulsive to you. Having been a salesman all my life, it’s second nature to me, and, by the way, it’s also the highest paying profession in the world. To put it in your perspective, even Patterson, D. Steel and S. King are pikers in the income department compared to some of this country’s great salespeople.

Nothing happens in this free enterprise system of ours until someone sells something. Publishers can’t pay the help, or buy manuscripts, or sponsor book tours unless someone is out there selling books.

And it’s my belief that it’s your responsibility, as author, as a major contributor to the book process, to contribute to that effort--at least to not hinder it.

But selling, like writing, is a craft. A learned art that takes some practice.

The fact is your writing career can’t grow unless your readership grows. So the more of your books you get into the hands of readers, the more opportunity you have to find a few who like what you do, and may just look for your next book without you personally shoving it into a reluctant hand.

There’s only one primary reason to do a booksigning, and that’s to sell books. Delbert, the bookstore manager at D. Balton has not gone to the trouble of stocking a case of your Cruising the Strip Joints of Southern Louisiana, of contacting your publisher or his own corporate office and getting that great poster made, of rounding up a table and chair and vase of plastic flowers because he wants your sparkling company for a couple of hours.

And Delbert sure doesn’t want to re-pack and return forty five of the fifty books he’s stocked because his “author” has elected to read a good book rather than sell his own while he or she’s warming the booksigning throne. And you sure as hell don’t want him to strip the covers off those paperbacks and irritate your sacred sell-through. For those of you not familiar with the term “sell-through,” it’s the percentage of books not returned (presumed sold) of those shipped. In the case of Westerns, many times that percentage is as low as 40%. And I’m sure you’re aware that returning a book, when it’s a paperback, means only returning the cover. The rest of the 250 pages go to the shredder.

But back to booksigning. Reading a good book is definitely the wrong way to do a booksigning.
Besides selling books, there is a secondary reason for doing a booksigning, and that’s to please a bookseller. But trust me, you’ll please and impress them more if you sell the hell out of those books.

If you don’t want to sell, stay home. A signing is not an invitation to be idolized by an adoring public, it’s a bookstore to which you’ve been invited. A bookstore, with rent and light bills and personnel costs.

Unless you’re D. Steel or S. King, the likelihood of having a line of patrons salivating for a signature is slim-and-none and Slim’s out of town.

So what do you do? You take advantage of every live body within polite (and sometimes not so polite) speaking range. And you can do that far better if you set four simple ground rules with the bookstore before you agree to sign.

1. Find the right day to sign. An event at the location of the bookstore, a sidewalk sale for instance, that’s the best day to sign. More people, more targets.

2. You have to have people to sell to in order to sell, so locating in the highest traffic area of the bookstore is best, and out on the sidewalk or in the mall walkway itself is even better. You want to send the guy who came to the mall for a pair of BVD’s away with a book and a pair of BVD’s. It’s usually much easier to sell him a Western, than to sell one to the guy who came into a bookstore to buy a manual in order to pass his concrete contractor’s exam.

3. You need the books on the table, not on the shelf, even if you’re outside in the mall walkway. (You’ll see why later)

4. You don’t need a helper. Save the chat with the bookstore personnel until after the scheduled signing time. (He’ll “step on your close,” which I’ll explain in a moment.)

Now it’s up to you.

You’ve got the table, the prime location near the front entrance or out in the mall; a pile of books on hand; a great poster on the window behind you; and the manager and his employees, at your request, are leaving you to do your job. There are a lot of folks passing by, most intent on buying new underwear.

Now what?

Sell books, that’s what.

All direct selling is an interchange between buyer and seller. Great salespeople sell to those who may not yet know they want to buy. You can’t ask a closing question unless you establish a relationship, even the most tentative of ones, and you can’t do that without talking--communicating.

Step one is letting them know why you’re sitting on that cold chair.
Greet everyone who passes. “Hi! Are you a reader?” Or, “Do you read westerns?” Or, “Do you like strip joints?” Or whatever is applicable.

It’s seldom you get a “no” to the first question. You do occasionally get “What do you think I am, an imbecile?” To the second you may get a straight out “no,” then the question is, “How about your dad, or husband?” Or “An autographed book makes a great gift.”

This is the easy part. “Good morning, are you a reader?” is an easy question, but not a closing one, and closing questions are how you sell. If you get the least encouragement, the next piece of selling business is to get the book in the buyer’s hand. And you do that by handing it to him. “Have you read mine?”

This also informs him that you’re not about to ask him to sign a petition. Even though you’re sitting there with a pile of books and a poster, his mission was to buy a pair of skivvies or socks, so you’ve got to slow him down and make him think books. Let him read the cover copy. Don’t talk while he’s digesting the product. It, too, is there to sell.

Now maybe he gets it. You’re an author.

“Did you write this?” is something near what his next question will be.

“Yes, it’s a great guide if you’re into strip joints,” gives you a chance to relate to your buyer and his/her interests. The easiest sell is one that satisfies a need.

“Looks great,” he says. . . .And now is when 99.99% of you farm it out.

Now what.

Step two. A close, that’s what.

“May I sign that for you?” you ask, with your best smile.

It’s decision time. The book is in his hand, he’s already said it looks great. You’ve offered to autograph it. And more importantly, you’ve given him an easy question to answer. You haven’t asked, “Do you want to part with a hard-earned $5.95 rather than have lunch?” That’s a much tougher question to answer. His choice is replying, “No, doofus, I don’t want your autograph,” which is a little like saying “Who the hell are you?” Or admitting that he doesn’t have the $5.95 until pay day. All tough ego-preventing responses to your close. A much easier answer is “yes.”

You’ve asked your closing question, and he’s silent for an interminable five seconds. . .and you know what 99.999% of you will do? You’ll get sucked right into that maelstrom of torturous silence with, “That’s a great belt.” And you know what--you’ve let him off the hook. Now he can tell you about his Uncle Charley who does leather work, and ignore your close while casually slipping the book back on the table. You’ve given him the easy out--right through your big mouth.

Don’t ever forget that you’re doing them a favor by selling them your book. If you don’t believe that, stay home. Let someone else who believes in you, even if you don’t, sell your books.

The largest real estate deal I ever sold, I waited in silence 23 minutes (by the watch) after asking a closing question. Now, when you’re waiting for an answer that may mean a 50 foot sailboat or six bedroom house, 23 minutes seems enough time to read War and Peace. But, I knew the rule--first guy to speak loses. So I waited, and he took a couple of phone calls, looked out the window across San Francisco Bay for a while, and finally spoke--and I won, or should say “earned,” the largest commission of my life.

You speak, and he’s off the hook. Silence, is the salesperson’s best friend. Silence is the loudest closing technique of all. Not chatter. But silence after a closing question. Silence is what separates the salespeople with yachts from those with yearning. That’s why you don’t need the help of the manager or store personnel. They can stand the pressure even less, and they’ll speak into the silence. Hell, if they were trained to sell, they’d probably be making a lot of money somewhere else, not schlepping your books in a chain store while working their way through college so they can get as far from that bookstore as possible. They, in their well meaning enthusiasm, will “step” on your close every time--by speaking and letting your buyer off the hook.

You can’t get that book into their hands unless the books are on the table in front of you. If the bookstore owner is worried about someone hooking a book, then he doesn’t think much of the value of your time. You might be better off staying home and working on your next, Strip Joints of Northern Louisiana.

Kat, my wife, and I make a game out of booksignings. A contest, with inner self to sell more than we sold the last time, and with each other. Sometimes the closing questions go a little overboard, such as the time I suggested to a haggard looking man that he was probably going to have a heart attack if he didn’t relax with a good book. I lost that sale. But it was good advice. Or when Kat turned to a passing lady and asked, “Do you read?” before she noticed the red and white cane. To the lady's credit, she laughed even though she could not see Kat’s red face.

But then again, we sold 650 books in six hours—three two-hour booksignings in three consecutive days. And made a lot of friends at Anderson News.

And not one of those folks who walked away from that table with a book in their hands knew Kat or Larry Jay Martin from Adam’s off ox before that day.

Now they do.

A few other tricks to help you sell books for that hard-working bookseller.

Have a representation of all your titles on the table if you have more than one, not just your newest book—including a couple of your audios and large print titles, if you've got them.

Help him and yourself by providing him with press releases a couple of weeks in advance, or by offering to contact the press yourself and get those articles in the local paper. Sometimes large malls have their own newspapers! Sometimes military bases have their own papers, radio stations, and T.V. stations.

Sign all the unsold books before you leave. The bookseller is less likely to strip covers and return them if the books are signed. Chains will sometimes circulate those signed copies to other stores. And take and use your own “signed by the author” stickers.

Make sure some of your books remain on the shelves during the booksigning. Many times a shy customer will bypass you, but look for the book on the shelf or in the racks.

Don’t presume your buyer realizes you’re the author, even though you’ve got the book in his hand and told him it’s yours. He thinks it’s yours, as in ownership, and you want to sell it to him, not that it’s yours, as in authorship, even through you still want to sell it to him. Many times he thinks you’re a bookstore employee. Even these “not-so-quick-ones” may have the $5.95, and may become fans. Usually they’re not really slow, just distracted by the need of a new pair of BVD’s.

If you’re selling a Western, don’t be bashful about calling it a Historical if it’s a woman buyer, or a man who has expressed a dislike for “Westerns.” Or if she says she only reads suspense, your book is suddenly a suspense, in a western setting. Cross genre lines, you may do us all some good.
Dress the part. They want to see a star, give them a star.

Don’t be offended by anyone. Tell those who say they’ll wait until it’s in the library that you hope they do and to please read it when it arrives there, or those that want to wait to buy it in the used bookstore to make sure they tell their friends if they like it. Go on to the next live one. What you’re doing, after all, is not just selling, but selling in order to spread the word and build your readership. So spread the word, even if you don’t make a sale.

“I don’t read that crap,” is the worst you’ll normally get by being assertive. You must then assume he’s stupid because he probably doesn’t read any crap, not only your crap. Or more likely that his hemorrhoids are flaring up--as yours will be if you sit there unmoving and un-selling for two hours.
Get a signing partner if you’re so inclined. I sell a lot of books to ladies Kat stops, who don’t read romance or romantic suspense; and she sells a lot of books to women (and even men) I stop, who’ll buy for themselves or for mom or sis or grandma. But make sure you don’t step on each other’s closes.

Sell those books, and that two hours on a hard seat won’t even be noticed.
And maybe, just maybe, you'll win a few faithful fans.

L. J. Martin is the author of over 40 book length fiction and non-fiction works and has been published by major NY publishers Bantam, Avon, and Pinnacle.

For more about the author see,

Sunday, February 28, 2016

THE MERIWETHER MYSTERY:The Final Steps of America's Greatest Pathfinder (by Vonn McKee)

Meriwether Lewis


In my very first blog post for Western Fictioneers, “A SACRED PATH,” I shared some history of the old Natchez Trace, which meanders within a few miles of my house. (If you’d like to read that post for backstory of the Trace’s beginnings as a buffalo and Indian path, click here.

  I mentioned that the grave of Meriwether Lewis is located at Mile 385.9, near Hohenwald, Tennessee. I was amazed to learn that the man called “America’s Greatest Pathfinder” met an untimely and mysterious demise in the dense forest of south central Tennessee.

 It’s a lot like one of those “The Rest of the Story” segments written by the late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. We all know a bit about the Lewis and Clark Expedition…that President Thomas Jefferson handpicked Meriwether Lewis (who happened to work as his personal secretary) to lead the Corps of Discovery Expedition across the great American West in search of a waterway to the Pacific.

Lewis was bright, energetic and forceful…else he would not have survived working for the obsessively organized Jefferson. In order to round out the skills needed to command such a journey, the president arranged for his aide to study medicine, astronomy, and navigational methods. By the time he assembled the Corps of Discovery team, Meriwether Lewis was quite the Renaissance man.
Map Detail
(Drawn by William Clark)

He recruited William Clark, with whom he had served in the Army, and their company of thirty-three men embarked westward from near St. Louis, spending more than two years battling extreme terrain, disease and hostile natives.While they were unable to find a continuous river route to the west coast, they returned with hundreds of plant, seed, and soil samples, along with Lewis’s meticulous flora and fauna illustrations and splendid maps drawn by Clark.
From Meriwether Lewis's Journal
(Corps of Discovery Expedition)
After dedicating years of his young life to preparing and carrying out the adventure of a lifetime, Lewis suddenly found himself without a purpose. President Jefferson appointed him Governor of the Louisiana Territory, which esssentially shackled the former explorer to a desk in St. Louis. Always prone to moodiness, Lewis proved ill-suited to politics and brokered several questionable deals that brought criticism from Washington. He began to neglect his duties and took to drinking heavily.

On September 3, 1809, Meriwether Lewis boarded a ship at St. Louis bound for New Orleans and, ultimately, Washington, D.C. He hoped to resolve financial issues surrounding his government dealings and to present his expedition journals to a publisher, although he reportedly had not completed them—even after Jefferson’s continual admonishments.

There are some reports that Lewis, in mental distress, attempted suicide on the voyage but was restrained. For unknown reasons, he changed his mind about making the trip by boat and disembarked at Memphis. He struck out overland via the Natchez Trace—a dangerous trail fraught with robbers and murderers.

On the evening of October 10, he stopped at Grinder’s Stand. (“Stand” was the common term for “inn” at that time.) During the night, the proprietess heard two gunshots and peeked through the cracks of the cabin to see Lewis crawling to the door, asking for water. She was too terrified to let him in, possibly since her husband was away. Early the next morning, October 11, Meriwether Lewis was found dead in his room with bullet wounds to his head and abdomen. He was thirty-five years old.

The cabin at the Meriwether Lewis gravesite is not
an exact replica of Grinder's Station
Most who knew him well believed it was suicide. Thomas Jefferson noted his “sensible depressions of mind.” William Clark, upon hearing the news of Lewis’s death, wrote “I fear the weight of his mind has overcome him.” It is thought that Lewis may have contracted syphilis or malaria, the latter of which can cause dementia.

Descendants of the Lewis family have long maintained that he was murdered and have campaigned unsuccessfully to have his body exhumed. (The grave is on National Park Service property.) Their claims are explained at Some scholars agree, although speculations of the murderer’s identity run the gamut from highway robbers to a government-hired assassin. They point out that Meriwether Lewis was too skilled a marksman to botch his own suicide.
The answers lie beneath a stately monument of Tennessee blue limestone. Even after 200 years, forensics could accurately analyze the skull (if intact) for gunpowder residue and fracture patterns. DNA samples could reveal details about Lewis’s health.
A broken column...
the symbol of a life cut short

We may never know the truth of Meriwether Lewis's last night on earth. Whether suicide or murder, it was a tragic and senseless end for the courageous American explorer. Rather than dwell on his final moments of suffering, I choose to picture him sitting tall in a keel-boat, journal in hand, ready to document the sights waiting around the next bend in the river.

 Information about the Meriwether Lewis Monument:

“I could but esteem this moment of my departure as among the most happy of my life."  Meriwether Lewis  

All the best,
Vonn McKee

2015 WWA Spur Finalist (Short Fiction)
2015 Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Finalist (Short Fiction)

Friday, February 26, 2016


I had no idea that three days ago, Darryle would post about western films. But hey, it's a great subject. And I've always wondered if a lot of beginning writers believe that watching old movies will give them plenty of research material. Oh ye of little knowledge! Read my lips -- Hollywood almost always shows a skewed view. A VERY WRONG view. And no. This post is not all about (ahem) boobs. It's about costumes. And exposed flesh. AHEM.

Need I say more? I mean, this movie poster is just totally wrong in all ways. Yes, Jane, you had a brain, but Howard Hughes exploited -- you in your first film. The censors had a field day over her assets, which "hung over the picture like a thunderstorm over a landscape. They were everywhere." The soldiers had a field day, too, with Jane as a pin-up. Here's more to read about Jane and her jugs: Jane Russell in The Outlaw

One of my favorite things to do when watching western films is noting all the wrong-nesses in these movies. I have no idea who is to blame, since there were plenty of wonderful costume experts in other movies, but it's probably due to the male directors who figured a little bit of sexy, or a LOT (see poster above), would go a long way.

Okay, let's get some other examples on the table.

First, Ann Margret in The Train Robbers. Lovely actress. And paired with the Duke as a poor widow who wants to retrieve the gold her late husband stole to clear the family name. Who can resist, given that cleavage? The Duke's sure enjoying that view. But why is Mrs. Lowe in a room with a man who is not her husband and with her hair down? Uh huh. Maybe they're debating the ribbon and buttons of her corset cover. Hmm.

And here she is wearing "duds" like a man. Hello? Women NEVER wore pants, and if they did, they were treated like Calamity Jane -- eccentric, odd, clearly someone no lady or true gentleman would associate with -- and before you get your knickers in a twist about women working in the fields, yes. They did. In skirts. Look at how Ann Margret's hair is down (see later on for another rant). I bet she's wearing false eyelashes, too. And - and - look at that modern belt buckle, which only came into use due to Hollywood movies. Ha.

What can I say about Ann is clearly showing even MORE of her "charms" like a 1700s century woman -- when fashion had gone to the extreme -- ladies of the French court often exposed one breast. Hey, Ann might as well pop one out! Again, her lovely curls are flowing loose down her back. As for that dress, she looks ready to take out the sheep as Little Bo Peep. Whatever. Someone get her a crook. (cough bad pun cough)

Let's check out to another film, where Judy Garland stars in Meet Me in St. Louis, set in the summer of 1904 before the World's Fair. Take a listen to the "corset scene".

I bet this clip started the whole "Why do I need to wear a corset, for heaven's sake" trend for historical heroines in fiction. Writers figured, "Yeah, why? She'd be far more comfy without one!" Uh, no. First of all, going without a corset back in the 1800s would be like going bra-less in the 1970s. A sign of rebellion, all right, and what in the world are you gonna use to support those puppies? A pair of chin straps? Good grief. Everyone wore corsets in that day -- men, women, even young children. It definitely taught good posture and form. And they really aren't all that uncomfortable -- ask any historical re-enactors -- unless you're trying to achieve a sixteen inch waist like Scarlett O'Hara, which is nearly impossible without taking out a rib. Where's Doc Keith? Scalpel, STAT!

Second big thing, all the nearly grown daughters wear their hair down like young girls. A young woman of fifteen (for sure by sixteen) would be excited to begin wearing skirts down to her shoe-tops (if not the floor) and put her hair up with the fashionable styles. And these young girls in the film prance about the house in front of their father and grandfather, in their corsets, petticoats, and unbuttoned beribboned "dressing gowns". Tsk, tsk. Not that I don't enjoy watching Meet Me in St. Louis, of course, especially the Halloween scene. But you'd think they would have taken the extra few steps.

Okay, let's visit another film: True Grit, with John Wayne (sorry, Duke) and Kim Darby -- who was too old at twenty to play a 14-year-old. She also looked like a boy. What's up with that? Couldn't she have worn a wig? Or pigtails, like Hailee Steinfeld in the latest and far more accurate version. Oh well. At least Kim spouted authentic dialogue.

But how about Grace Kelly in High Noon? She portrays a Quaker bride (no idea what year it's set in), but she also had quite a different reputation in Hollywood than Jane Russell. Which means the costume she was given to wear proved quite tame, if not completely accurate. Sleeves would have been to the wrist, but the dress does have a high neckline. Except for the hat, which looks a bit pre-Civil War, and the lack of a real bustle. And the hot red lipstick and obvious makeup. Yes, Grace has good skin, but nobody looks that polished without powder and blush.

However, if you want to see perfect costuming, see Lincoln. They've got Mary Todd Lincoln's absolutely stunning gowns, based on historical museum references (and Mrs. Lincoln had a 30-inch waist, whoa!), plus President Lincoln's shabby clothing that hung on his 6'4" frame -- he really didn't care about his dress, and stored important papers in his stovepipe hat -- in direct contrast is his shop-aholic wife. She may have been homely in looks, and overweight, but Mrs. Lincoln was definitely fashionable for a First Lady.

Anyone else love to laugh at the costuming gaffes for English Tudor films? Check this out and see the problems from gowns to hair to neck ruffs:

Award-winning author Meg Mims writes historical and contemporary novels and novellas, plus short stories for anthologies. She is also one-half of the writing team of D.E. Ireland for the Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins Mystery series. Book 1, Wouldn't It Be Deadly, was nominated for a 2015 Agatha Award and Book 2, Move Your Blooming Corpse, is set at Ascot Racecourse. Meg is working on a cozy mystery series for Kensington that will debut in 2017 under the pseudonym Meg Macy. She lives in Southeastern Michigan, loves tea, books, Mackinac Island, cookies, and currently has a sweet Malti-Poo rescue.

Thursday, February 25, 2016



the blog about the medicine and surgery of yesteryear

Dr Keith Souter  aka Clay More

Beyond seeing an oldster nursing a drink with a hearing trumpet held to his ear, usually only for comedic effect, you don't come across ear problems very often in western novels or film. Yet ear problems would have been all too common, as indeed they are today.

Infections would have been common. Nowadays a family doctor will see three or four cases in virtually every clinic session. We divide them up into inner, middle and outer infections.

Inner ear infections affect the inner ear, which anatomically is where the labyrinth, the structure that contains the cochlea, the organ of hearing and the semi-circular canals, the organs of balance. These  infections are often viral in origin and make the person very dizzy, sometimes so badly that they cannot stand up. Some hearing loss can also occur. Nowadays we have drugs that can help, but in the Old West it was a waiting game, or some bland drug containing small amounts of quinine may have been given.

Middle ear infections affect the chamber containing the ossicles, the three tiny bones which transmit sound from the ear drum to the organ of hearing. They are usually secondary to a common cold or other upper respiratory infection. The middle ear chamber becomes inflamed and the Eustachian tube,  which links the chamber and the throat, collapses or gets filled with mucus. The main symptom that they produce is pain. The doctor diagnoses it upon inserting an ear speculum and seeing an inflamed ear drum. These infections are exceeding common in childhood. The majority of case are viral, but some are bacterial, for which an antibiotic could be given nowadays (although, because of the threat of antibiotic resistance, the tendency nowadays is to treat symptomatically).

Antique otoscope. The speculum on the left is inserted into the ear and the doctor looks into the eyepiece on the right. There is a small mirror inside, angled to reflect light  shone into the horn.

A modern medical bag (well, the author's!) with a modern otoscope in the centre.

In the 19th century the treatment  for earache usually consisted of applying an external poultice, Linseed-meal was advocated, sprinkled with 20 to 30 drops of laudanum. If this failed to relieve, then a paste of belladonna and glycerine could be rubbed over the area around the ear. Or a few drops of chloroform on a handkerchief held against tear (not near the nose and mouth!) would be an alternative.

An outer ear infection usually takes the form of an infection of the skin of the ear canal. These can be fungal or bacterial and today would be treated with ear drops or various topical creams. In the old days a common testament was to use glycerine of tannin and instil that in the ear and plug with cotton wool.This would be replaced every day until settled.

Ear wax
This was the commonest cause of deafness and all doctors would be used to testing with an ear syringe.  The presence of wax would be confirmed by using a speculum, as above. If it was hard, then some olive oil would be used fora few days to soften it, before syringing with lukewarm water.

Ear syringe

A small bowl is held under the ear and a towel wrapped around the neck, barber fashion, to prevent water running down under the clothes. The technique is to draw the ear upwards and slightly backwards, so as to straighten the ear canal. Then the nozzle off the syringe is gently inserted and a jet of water directed at the roof of the canal, to get past the wax and push it to with the water.

Hopi ear candles 
Nowadays many natural therapists offer to clear the ears of wax and treat tinnitus, congestion, balance problems and to improve general well-being, by using Hopi ear candles. These are purported to have been used by the Hopi for centuries.

Hopi ear candles

It involves using a cylinder or cone of waxed cloth, often impregnated with honey, beeswax and  various essential oils. The cylinder  s inserted into the ear with the patient lying on there side. The end of the candle is lit and allowed to burn down to 2-4 inches away from the ear. The theory is that a vacuum is created which draws the wax and toxins out of the ear.

Researchers have found no evidence of the use of these by the Hopi. Experiments fail to demonstrate the vacuum effect and a survey of 122 otolaryngologists (ENT specialists) identified 21 ear injuries resulting from ear candle use.

In short, do not use these in your stories, because it seems their pedigree is pure fiction!

Ear trumpets
Several types of ear trumpet were available, as shown in this diagram from The Family Physician on 1884. The top is a speaking-tube, advocated for conversation. It could be directed at the speaker. The second and third ones were metallic, of the type alluded to in the opening to this article.

Ear trumpets


 If you have enjoyed, or found some of these medical blogs interesting or helpful, you may like to know that THE DOCTOR'S BAG - MEDICINE AND SURGERY OF YESTERYEAR has been published by Sundown Press, available on ebook or paperback.

Also recently published, this medieval novella  of the Order of the Black Rose in ebook

Or writing as Keith Moray, there is a  short story about Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty in this anthology

and a short story about the identity of Jack the Ripper in this anthology

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


As a long-time fan of A- and B-westerns of the 1930s into the 1960s, I believe a current motion picture big boy may hold full responsibility for the film genre’s continued demise, or at least life-support existence.

In explaining my views, I’ll throw in a little history while champing at a bit of opinion that could cause one to see me as a man of my age cursing at children to get off my lawn. And perhaps I have listened to The Statler Brothers’ brilliant Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott far too many times.

Under the studio system of the first half of the 20th Century, B-westerns were cranked out to fill theater seats at Saturday matinees. Adults supported their children’s interest in the film adventures because of the Code of the West all-American values they embraced. Even at 10-cents per ticket, low-budget westerns were profitable, enough so that the larger studios could afford to invest in A-films – many of which were not profitable.

The great talking A-westerns, beginning with starring roles for Gary Cooper, Richard Dix, Preston Foster and Warner Baxter, kept the white-hatted value system espoused in the Bs while expanding storytelling and humanizing the subjects for an adult audience. John Ford and John Wayne, among others, polished the genre to an art form that, with The Searchers, focused a Rembrandt-level spotlight on what a western could be.

At that time, television took over the role of the Saturday matinee while B-westerns filled the small screen. Cooper, Wayne and Scott, who were joined by veterans (in more ways than one) James Stewart and Audie Murphy, kept western fans coming to the movie palaces. Then the 1960s happened.

Cooper died. Scott retired. Producers found it was less expensive to film a car chase on Los Angeles streets than it was to truck horses and actors farther and farther out of town. Youths were sent to Vietnam, with their hands tied, to fight communists – eventually leading to politicians negotiating a loss for America. Cynicism began to replace the Code of the West.

As the American film industry struggled, the B-western immigrated back from Spain and Italy. The producers and directors of those low-budget films decided to put a European slant of the genre. There were no good guys, only bad guys with supernaturally fast draws killing even worse guys. The so-called Spaghetti westerns were basically caricatures of America’s films. Yet, they were profitable, for a while.

Then former TV cowboy Clint Eastwood returned to the states and began to recreate the American western, using the quick action and ultimate revenge of the European films while bringing back a bad-assed version of the good guy taking out the bad guys for the right reasons. His films got better and better – climaxing with The Unforgiven.

Then nothing rode the silver screen west – until just recently. Bone Tomahawk, The Revenant and The Hateful Eight have been touted as the long-awaited revival of western films.

I don’t believe strangely non-empathetic characters spouting 21st Century views while engaging in scenes of agonizing torture and murder are going to inspire other filmmakers to make westerns or audiences to return to the theaters. Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight) ignored the art that John Ford honed while embracing the worst of the European caricatures. In my opinion, his movies, especially his westerns, are, at their best, bad imitations of not very good films.

Following the release of his picture, the not-so-humble Tarantino spouted his anger at many theatergoers’ decision to see an upbeat space opera instead of his black-hatted bloodbath. That director has always been open about his personal views, so I doubt he cares if someone like me believes his cowboy-film efforts could be the final knife thrust in the murder of the western movie genre. And I have to call the murderer, the murderer.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Western Fictioneers Announces New Release -- Stories Along . . . THE HUNGRY TRAIL by Christine Matthews

A frontier con man who claims he can raise the dead...a prisoner desperate to escape from the hellhole of Yuma Prison...a legendary Texas Ranger...a famous gunfighter and peace officer turned newspaperman...a family that's both dangerous and strange...These are only some of the characters who inhabit the tales in STORIES ALONG...THE HUNGRY TRAIL by Christine Matthews. Poignant, expertly plotted, and filled with compelling characters, these stories capture the human drama of the Old West and the people who lived in that time and place, and will stay with the reader long after the hungry trail has come to an end.


The trail is always hungry. No matter how much you feed it, it always wants more—never satisfied. It chews up animals, leaving behind only bones to bleach out in the blazing sun. Many have offered a sacrifice to the earth, tearfully burying a wife or little brother, deep down, begging for forgiveness because they're forced to leave a loved one behind. They pile rocks to mark the grave and keep wild things away. But they never stop to think that the trail is their real enemy.

Old ones, too tired to go on, stumble and finally fall. They pray with every step for renewed strength. But they can't get back up. The trail grabs hold of them, never letting go until they all become one with the dirt.

And when the trail is thirsty, it drinks up the rain, the blood, anything wet. It doesn't care. Sometimes, when it's had enough, which isn't often, it spits up a flood. But sooner or later, everything soaks back down, causing the trail to parch and crack again, craving only to drink more. Men who respect the trail do better than naive travelers who insult the ancient soil they ride over in their wagons, for they never forget the trail is alive. Dirt, grass, even the rocks, forever chewing, gnawing at the life moving above it.

I was arrogant. But it didn't take long for me to learn that the trail isn't particular. It'll beat the hope right out of a man—make him its slave. 

BUY LINKS  Barnes and Noble   Smashwords    Kobo 


Thursday, February 18, 2016

LADY LAW by Ken Farmer

I discovered the existence of lady marshal, F.M. Miller, in the Indian Nations while researching through the 3,000 felony warrants Deputy US Marshal Bass Reeves served in his 31 year career and any other useable information I could find...I was immediately intrigued.
Very little is known about this iconic woman, save these small quotes from some newspapers of the day: The Fort Smith Elevator, in its November 6, 1891, issue described her thus: "Mrs. Miller is a dashing brunette of charming manners who also carried a Winchester rifle strapped to her saddle." The same article described her as " expert shot and a superb horsewoman, and brave to the verge of recklessness. It is said that she aspires to win a name equal to that of Belle Starr, differing from her by exerting herself to run down criminals and in the enforcement of the law."
An article from the Muskogee Weekly Phoenix, November 19, 1891, discusses a female Deputy United States Marshall named F. M. Miller. The newspaper reported that Ms. Miller was commissioned out of the federal court at Paris, Texas. She was known to be the only female deputy that worked the Indian Territory. Ms. Miller had the reputation of being a fearless and efficient officer and had locked up more than a few offenders. It was stated in the article that she was a "young woman of prepossessing appearance, wears a cowboy hat and is always adorned with a pistol belt full of cartridges and a dangerous looking Colt pistol which she knows how to use."
Further research turned up this from an internet question, September 1, 2005 and answered by Marshall Trimble: "In the Old West, was there ever a female peace officer? His answer, from the article, "Frontier Women at Arms", in the July 2005 issue of True West, features female hunters, cowgirls, ranchers, teamsters, prospectors, exhibition shooters, adventurers and outlaws…but I haven't run across a female peace officer in the Old West. I believe if there was one, she would have been heralded in print by now."
Well, not to leave such a stimulating subject uncultivated, I decided to add Mrs. Miller to the award-winning historical fiction series featuring Bass Reeves…THE NATIONS in the fifth volume entitled, BASS and the LADY.

Now, I know there aren't many, if any, novels written about female law officers in the old west. There are a few about lady bounty hunters like Marcia Tomasiello writing as Juliette Douglas's  Freckled Venom - Copperhead series.
As mentioned earlier, since there is precious little mention of F.M. Miller in historical tomes and the newspapers articles of the day, I felt she was a natural fit for literary license to create a character based on existing information. There is no mention anywhere of her given name, other than initials, F. M., so I gave her Fiona May to match her initials…Who's to say?
The newspaper descriptions, "…a young woman of prepossessing appearance…a dashing brunette of charming manners…an expert shot and a superb horsewoman, and brave to the verge of recklessness" is an absolute banquet of information for a fiction writer. Could there possibly be a better character to work with Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves than Deputy Marshal Fiona Miller?
My style of writing is to first make a movie in my head and write down what the characters do and say.  I felt Fiona's personality back story was already well laid out and my mind conjured up a physical image that was sort of a blend of Gail Russell, Barbara Rush and a young Judy Garland. Beauty, strength and innocence…That's what I saw.
We had just started writing Bass and the Lady when we were invited to be guest celebrities at the first annual Billy the Kid Film Festival in Hico, Texas. Among the other film celebrities were Alex Cord, Robert Fuller, Dean Smith, Dan Haggerty, Allison Balson, Don Reynolds, Craig Hensley and his lovely wife Jenna Miller.

                                               Photography by:

                                          Jewelry by:

When I first saw Jenna's picture, my jaw dropped. "Oh, my gosh, she is my Fiona Miller." As luck would have it, she and her husband work out of Tombstone as film actors and in re-enactor skits. She also has an old west costume design company, Ravenna Old and New West Ventures. (  How lucky can I get?
I called her and asked if she would like to portray the previously neglected, but soon to be legendary, Deputy United States Marshal F.M. (Fiona) Miller on the cover of my next book in THE NATIONS series, LADY LAW? Lucky me once again, she was thrilled to. I had some ideas for the cover and explained them to her for a possible photo shoot in Tombstone. A few days later, she sent the results…the pics were perfect.

In LADY LAW, I'm teaming Fiona up with Deputy US Marshal Brushy Bill Roberts aka Billy the Kid as per Billy the Kid - An Autobiography (The Kid's Identity Revealed!) by Daniel A. Edwards. Marshal Brushy Bill Roberts has been a character in The Nations series since ACROSS the RED.

Fiona and Bill are assigned to help former Deputy US Marshal William Barclay "Bat" Masterson in his tangle with New York criminals trying to take over the exhibition prize fight he is promoting in Garden City, Kansas. It's a rematch between the great John L. Sullivan and Gentleman Jim Corbett.
While on this mission, the evil full blood Cherokee murderer, Fiona thought she had killed in BASS and the LADY,  Cal Mankiller, has resurfaced back in the Indian Nations and is looking for his revenge. Stand by...There will be more to come about the Lady Law.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


I don’t know why, but lately I’ve been enthralled by mail-order brides. No, I’ve not been “studying” them, or “researching” them—yet. I’ve just been wondering why this became such a practice—and a successful one—among women of all walks of life, or so it seems.

What would make a woman leave everything familiar to her and travel to “parts unknown” to marry a man she knew nothing about? What’s scarier than online dating? Being a mail-order bride! Once they’d made the commitment to leave their homes behind—much to the consternation of many family members and friends, in some cases, I would imagine—the die was cast.

Here's one of the first mail-order bride stories I wrote--FOUND HEARTS, penned for the PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS 2014 Valentine's Day anthology, HEARTS AND SPURS, and later released as a single sell story.

Southern belle Evie Fremont has lost everything—except hope. When she answers an advertisement for marriage to Alex Cameron who lives in the wilds of Indian Territory, she has few illusions that he could be a man she might fall in love with—especially as his secrets begin to unfold.

Ex-Confederate soldier Alex Cameron needs a mother for his two young half-Cherokee sons more than he needs a wife—or so he tells himself. But when his past threatens his future on his wedding day, he and Evie are both forced to acknowledge their new love has come to stay—along with their FOUND HEARTS.

A woman would have to be certain in her own mind that what she was going to was better than what she was leaving behind. She would have to be resourceful enough to plan some kind of “exit strategy” if things didn’t work out. And I suppose, many times, women resigned themselves to the fact that they would become a soiled dove—the lowest of the low—in order to survive.

Here's a wonderful collection of mail-order bride tales from Prairie Rose Publications, LASSOING A MAIL-ORDER BRIDE. Take a peek at what's inside:

A woman would have to be loco to become a mail-order bride...wouldn't she? Leaving everything behind and starting fresh in the untamed west is the answer to a prayer for these ladies! A beautiful socialite needs a husband fast —but her husband wants a bride for life. A pregnant young lady becomes desperate —almost as desperate as her soon-to-be husband, who just inherited his sister's kids. A man is in love with a woman he can’t have —or can he? A woman’s reputation is tarnished and professional career compromised —she runs, but she can't hide. Will they all find love with strangers they've never met who are set on LASSOING A MAIL-ORDER BRIDE?

A pregnant mail order bride. A groom with three orphaned children. Some dreams get a rough start

A beautiful socialite needs a husband fast —for just one month —but the rancher wants a wife for life!

He needs a wife to get custody of his grandchildren. She needs a fresh start and a new reputation. Desperate men —and women —sometimes take desperate measures...but can she be A PERMANENT WOMAN?

THE BIG UNEASY—Kathleen Rice Adams
A man in love with a woman he can’t have. A woman engaged to a man she doesn’t love. A secret in common could destroy them all.

In spite of all the scenarios we might come up with for a mail-order bride to leave the life she has known behind her for something completely foreign to her, there are, I’m sure, many that we never could have even contemplated. For each story is personal, intimate, and heart-rending in its own right.

One of the most unusual books about mail-order brides is Jim Fergus’s story, ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN—which is not about “mail-order brides” as we think of them, but in a totally different way—a trade by the U.S. Government of 1000 white women to the Indians in order to achieve assimilation into white culture. Interestingly enough, this premise WAS discussed in reality, but not carried through. In the book, however, Fergus shows how the government emptied insane asylums of women and sent them to the Indians…only most of the women were not insane, but had been “put away” by their families for one reason or another.

Would you have what it took to be a mail-order bride in the old west? I’m not sure I would, but it’s fun to think about. And for you guys--would you consider "mail-ordering" a bride? What if either of you had habits the other couldn't abide? What if you just didn't "suit" in general?

A MAIL-ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE is a collection of Christmas mail-order bride stories that Prairie Rose Publications just released with some wonderful tales of how some women with pasts they needed to leave behind find new beginnings at the most joyous time of the year. These eight stories by Livia J. Washburn, Kathleen Rice Adams, Cheryl Pierson, Patti Sherry-Crews, Jesse J Elliot, Meg Mims, Tanya Hanson, and Jacquie Rogers will provide you many hours of reading pleasure all year 'round.

So what about it, y'all? Ladies, could you BE a mail-order bride? Gents, would you consider advertising for a bride? What would be your qualifications?

I’m giving away a digital copy of A MAIL-ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE to one commenter! The question is, would you leave your familiar surroundings and go west to be a mail-order bride? Be sure to leave your contact information in your comment!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Most people realize the value and joy of reading—to explore, to learn, or to just kick-back and relax and be whisked away to a crime scene in the Far East, a shootout on the high plains, or standing on the deck of a luxury ocean liner struggling to keep afloat. 

I learned the importance of reading early in life. Both my parents were readers, but my father harbored an enormous appetite for reading. He read everything he could get his hands on. Novels, biographies, daily newspapers, how-to books, and so much more. 

He was a stickler, however, for not reading during meals, so he banned newspapers and books and other materials. But I did manage to fool him by reading the marketing copy on the back of cereal boxes and other food products containers. 

He always kept a dictionary close-at-hand and a pencil for scribbling various remarks in the margins. When he was in his later-80s, before his eyes began deteriorating, I handed him an Ebook and explained how it worked. He looked up, glasses perched on his nose. “Exactly how would I take notes and underline or circle things?”

I mentioned it was possible to highlight certain passages in the text and access a dictionary—all electronically. He rolled his eyes and shook his head. “No thanks,” he said with a short, quiet laugh. “I’ll stick to paper.”  The memory of that brief conversation still amuses me. But, in reality, the debate continues over Ebook vs Paper. 

For the record, I love libraries and bookstores—even second-hand book shops. Visits to these places always bring to mind the character of Lt Col. Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, who proclaimed “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” 

It's the same with bookstores. The musty smell of old books or the scent of new paper and ink is intoxicating. 

Roaming the aisles represents a journey of discovery—untold stories, mysteries, and long-held secrets. One the other hand, I enjoy the portability feature of an Ebook—and the ability to store a broad range of books or documents inside a tablet less than a half-inch thick. 

But the convenience factor of an Ebook, I’ve learned, doesn’t appeal to everyone. 

Naomi Baron, a linguistics professor at American University, reported that in a survey of over 300 university students from Japan, Germany, Slovakia, and the U.S.,  92 percent preferred reading paper books when it came to serious reading. 

In an interview with the New RepublicMs. Baron said students “care about the smell of a book,” adding, “…There really is a physical, tactile, kinesthetic component to reading.”

In her book, Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, she points out students find Ebooks fine for casual reading but not for serious reading. 

At the same time, Professor Baron suggested there were a couple of physical issues involved.  

Students “say they get distracted, pulled away to other things. The second had to do with eye strain and headaches and physical discomfort.”

The reaction, on an informal basis, is all over the board. One person described Ebooks as a “minor blip on history’s radar,” insisting that paper books will always dominate. 

Someone else suggested that denying the relevance of digital reading products strike her as a head-in-the-sand mentality, almost like saying “the Internet is a fad.”

Author Michael S. Hyatt, blogger, speaker, and former chairman of CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, recently published a post declaring he’s focusing on physical books for 2016 and putting Ebooks on the shelf. And he cited for eight specific reasons. Among them:

  • Ebooks Engage Fewer Senses: 
  • Ebooks Result in Less Retention and Comprehension
  • Ebooks are More Difficult to Navigate
  • Ebooks Provide Less Satisfaction in Finishing
You can read all eight of Mr. Hyatt’s reasons here

So what’s your take on this?  Do you prefer Ebooks or physical books? Are arguments against Ebooks legitimate? Is it time to shelve this debate?