I’ve done a few photo shoots for my author pictures, and they are always so much fun. I get to feel like a model. For FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD, we decided to do things a little differently. Aaron Siddall illustrated the book and I wrote it; we both brainstormed the concepts. Because this was a joint collaboration, we decided to have a joint photo.
A good friend of ours, Monica Reid Keba, met with us at the Utica Train Station, known as Union Station. The building is beautiful, with marble pillars and chandeliers. Stepping inside is a little like going back in time. Many of the fixtures are original from the construction in 1914. I have a special fondness for the waiting room benches. Not only do they incorporate the heating system, but they are gorgeous to look at. The station was designed by Allen Stem and Alfred Fellheimer. In case you aren’t familiar with those names, they are the architects who designed New York City’s Grand Central Station.
Aaron Siddall and I posed on the benches, beneath the chandeliers, and outside. The autumn day was crisp, with a light drizzle in the air. I hiked up my skirt and scaled the side of an old trolley car. We also explored the park next door. The train station is located in the historic Bagg’s Square neighborhood. The quaint park, surrounded by a stone fence, is home to the site of a log cabin known as Bagg’s Tavern. This log cabin saw esteemed guests such as George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant.
If you are ever in the area and love visiting historic sites, check out the train station and Bagg’s Tavern. Your eyes won’t be disappointed by the sites.
Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author. She is most likely gazing at something in awe, something she will soon include in one of her novels. You can connect with Jordan – and point her in the direction of some paranormal activity – via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.
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When I began seeking my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, back in 2012, I would have said that the western was a dying breed. Even as I tried my hand at writing a western novel, with Delilah, I didn’t think the book would get very far. I figured publishers didn’t want to put out westerns anymore, because they were looking for books that would sell. I thought the only readers westerns had were old men who’d grown up on Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. I didn’t believe there was an audience for western any longer.
Today, I have to say that I was wrong, since there seem to be new western authors popping up all the time and a good portion of them are female. In fact, the genre seems to be expanding, rather than dying out. I’ve made the acquaintence of several who I did not previously know as a result of my research for this month’s genre theme. That first assignment eventually grew into the first book I was able to get published, but when I began to write Delilah, I looked at westerns as a male realm where a female author might find difficulty being accepted. Now, I’m seeing a lot more female authors of the genre than was previously the case and I am pleasantly surprised.
But I don’t think this is because publishers are eagarly scooping up western novels. A majority of western authors with books in the marketplace are self-published authors. I think western authors must self-publish first and prove themselves before publishers are willing to take a chance on the genre these days.
For a look at a new twist on classic historic western fiction, you can check out my review of Not Just Any Man, by Loretta Miles Tollefson. Like all good things, the western genre has had to change with the times to survive. Many authors are finding a selling point by combining western with other more popular genres, like romance. If you look, you’ll find that a good portion of today’s westerns fall into the category of western romance, although romance isn’t the only genre authors have combined with western. I’ve read a few paranormal westerns, as well. For an example, you can read my review of Joanne Sundell’s, A Slip on Golden Stairs. There are even a few science fiction westerns out there, as well as western dark fantasy, such as Chance Damnation, by DeAnna Knippling, which I reviewed earlier in the month, or check out my 2016 review of Chris Barili’s Hell’s Butcher series, which both feature supernatural elements.
I’d also venture to say that the number of westerns featuring tough female protagonists would tip the scales if measured against those featuring male heros in today’s westerns. It seems the cowgirl is determined to take her place in history, even though old cowboys never really die. But, all western heroines are not cowgirls. Western heroines may take the form of pioneer women tough enough to brave the western frontier and win, or a homesteading wife who loses her husband to one of the many threats that come with living in a harsh landscape and must survive in a brutal landsacpe and fend for herself, or prostitutes who lived lives of servitude and put up with indignities not spoken about in polite company in order to survive an isolated existence, or young girls full of dreams to see the world who are looking to escape and determined to do whatever it takes to achieve them. They aren’t all Calamity Jane, but they are each tough and bold and gritty in their own ways.
But don’t take my word for it. Maybe the western genre hasn’t changed as much as I think. You can find out what other western authors think by checking out this month’s interviews. My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest was western adventure author Scott Harris, and I also interviewed Christian western romance author Patricia PacJac Carroll, and western author Juliette Douglas. And if you’re interested in further discovery, you can check out my January interview with western author Loretta Miles Tollefson.
As for myself, I’m working on the rewrite of the first 45,000 pages in the second book in my frontier western saga, Delilah: The Homecoming. I know you’re not supposed to edit until you’ve finished the first draft, but that’s what happens sometimes. Your character walks up and smacks you and says, “Where the heck are you taking me?”, and you realize the story has taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. But I’m getting her back on track now. While Lois L’Amour is the reason I love reading westerns, Delilah and the other colorful characters featured in these books are the reason that I love writing them.
It’s been a great western round-up and I hope you’ll all join me in June, when will be riding the thriller train and looking at ways to give readers the thrills and chills they crave. My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be thriller author John Nicholls, and I’ll be interviewing author Dan Alatorre and reviewing his new thriller, “The Gamma Sequence”. My second thriller review is yet to be determined, so it will be a surprise. I hope you’ll drop in and see what’s in store.
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Today my author guest on “Chatting with the Pros” is a successful western author, who also happens to write his own blog, which ranked in the top 10 western blogs by Feedspot. He has written many western novels and numerous western short stories. His Brock Clemons Series was a finalist in the Western Fictioners Peacemakers Award and is ranked as a top selling series by his publisher, (and mine, as it happens), Dusty Saddle Publishing. According to his website, he grew up on Louis L’Amour. When it comes to the western genre, he really knows his stuff. Please help me welcome western novelist Scott Harris.
Kaye: What is most challenging about writing western for you?
Scott: Since I am still working full-time running my company, finding the time to write is the most challenging thing. I usually write in the morning and have to drag myself from the keyboard to go to work. I’m hoping retirement fixes that.
Kaye: You have three books out in the Brock Clemons series? What can you tell me about that series?
Scott: There are actually eight books in the series. The six novels (in order) are: Coyote Courage, Coyote Creek, Coyote Canyon, Mojave Massacre, Battle on the Plateau and Ambush at Red Rock Canyon. Additionally, there are two collections of short stories based on the Brock Clemons characters: Tales From Dry Springs and Tales From the Grand Canyon.
Brock was my first series, so it holds a special place in my heart. The characters are more complex than those in my subsequent series, which makes writing the stories more difficult and more rewarding. I will come back to these characters, but probably not for a year or two.
Kaye: What can you tell me about your CAZ: Vigilante Hunter series?
Scott: This series is pretty much the antithesis of the Brock series. It is six books (Slaughter at Buzzard’s Gulch, Never Shoot A Woman, The McKnight Massacre, Fire From Hell, Hell on Devil’s Mountain and A Whore’s Life) about a man named Caz (no last name) who travels the West searching for and killing evil men who have evaded justice. The series was an absolute blast to write.
Kaye: When writing for a series, do you outline the whole series from the start, or do you add books as you go? Are the books stand alone, or do the follow a chronological path which should be read in order?
Scott: I am on my 3rd series now (Stagecoach Willy) and I’m in the middle of the 2nd book. I have no idea where the next books are going to go and won’t think about the 3rd book until I finish this one. As a matter of fact, I do not outline my books at all. When I finish a chapter, I have no more of an idea of what the next chapter holds than the reader will. I know that’s different than most writers, but for me, it keeps the writing fresh.
For the most part, the Caz books can be read as stand alone, there is very little crossover from book to book. The Brock series is different and benefits by being read in order.
Kaye: The most recent book in the Brock Clemons series is Coyote Canyon. Can you tell me a little about that book?
Scott: Coyote Canyon came out early last year and was the 3rd book in the Brock series. The series can be thought of as two different trilogies (Dry Springs and Grand Canyon), so in that sense Coyote Canyon was the last in a trilogy. It was a fun book to write because it wrapped up Brock and his families time in Dry Springs and set the stage for them to move to the Grand Canyon.
Kaye: In addition to your western novels, you have also contributed to several western anthologies. Do you prefer writing book length works or short fiction? Why?
Scott: I think that depends on my mood. My short stories range from 500 words to 5,000 words and sometimes I have an idea that I think is powerful, but requires no more than a short story. It can be freeing to write shorts without having to worry about the continuity that novels require.
On the other hand my novels (Brock averages about 50,000 words per book and Caz closer to 30,000 words) allow me to explore ideas and characters in depth. I would hate to be limited to one or the other.
Kaye: You wrote a collection of short stories together with your son, Justin. How did that work? Did you write each story as a collaboration or did you each contribute stories of your own? Was it a good experience? Would you do it again?
Scott: We wrote our own stories, though we talk 2-3 times per week about what we’re working on. He is my best story editor and muse. It was a great experience and we’re working on some things together right now. He’s also about halfway done with his first novel.
Kaye: What is the most fun about writing western for you?
Scott: Coming up and with sharing my ideas. It is really exciting to be able to create stories and characters and then do with them what you will. I have learned that it doesn’t take long before the character takes over and I find myself saying “He/She would never do/say that”
Hearing from readers that they like my work is tremendously rewarding. And I’m just old fashioned enough to still love seeing my books in actual print, with paper, ink and a cover.
Kaye: Your blog recently received the Feedspot award, ranking it up there with the top 20 western blogs out there. I believe your blog was actually ranked in the top 10. Would you like to talk a little about that?
Scott: It was flattering, of course. I try to write posts that are honest and candid. I share my troubles and mistakes (at least with regards to writing) and I believe that resonates with people. I love getting feedback from readers. I am absolutely certain that I learn as much, if not more, from my readers than they do from me.
Kaye: Since you write one of the top western blogs, and have been a fan of westerns since an early age, what do you see when you look at the genre today? Do you find more male or female western authors? Do you find the genre dominated by independently published authors? Do you find it trending more toward western romance these days?
Scott: The genre certainly leans toward being male dominated, but it’s changing and more and more women are getting involved, which is great. Certainly the 3-4 huge names dominate the book stores and it’s tough for most of us to get any shelf space. But, Amazon opens the world for independent writers and gives many of us a chance to find an audience. Can’t ask for more than that.
I have noticed the western romance genre getting more notice and attention. It’ll be interesting to see if that continues.
Kaye: Where do you see the western genre going in the future?
Scott: Wherever we want to take it, or maybe more realistically, wherever the readers want us to take it. There are plenty of different genres sitting under the Western umbrella, so it’s up to us to write some great books and pull in readers – new and old – and at the same time, we need to listen to what the readers are telling us.
Kaye: What is in store for the future for Scott Harris? Does Brock or Caz have more stories in store for them? You are working on the second book in the Shotgun Willy series? Tell me about that series, if you would.
Scott: I’m done with Brock and Caz for now. I am working on the 2nd book in the Stagecoach Willy series. Willy is a stagecoach driver and keeps stumbling into trouble and then I need to write him out of it. He has a sense of humor, which is fun to write and has a partner, Ten, that he’s been staging with for years. When I finish the 6th book, I plan to do a “capstone” book that brings Brock, Caz and Willy together in one grand book.
Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Scott: Spend as much time as possible with my wife, Randi, my son, Justin and my daughter Samantha and her husband Devin. Randi and I travel quite a bit, try to take one RV trip per month. Next month is a 3 week trip to South Bend to watch our daughter graduate from Notre Dame Law School.
Next year, we’re retiring and moving to Tennessee. Very much looking forward to it.
I want to thank Scott for chatting with me here and sharing some of his expertise in the western genre. I very much enjoyed this and hope all of my readers have, too. You can learn more about Scott Harris on his blog and website, or on his Amazon author page. Join me next month on “Chatting with the Pros”, when my guest author will be hardboiled crime fiction novelist Jim Nesbit. I hope to see all of you then.
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A true western makes you feel the landscape, and Not Just Any Man, by Loretta Miles Tollefson does just that. Tollefson’s use of present tense narration and vivid visual imagry don’t just help readers see the scene in their mind, but actually puts you there. Woven into true events in New Mexico’s history, Tollefson portray’s the landscape as it was, with a storyline and fictional characters which could have been, and for as long as it takes to read the book, maybe they were.
Gerald Locke is not just any man. He’s a man of mixed race, trying to find a place for himself and acceptance from his fellow man, which he believes might be found in the frontiers of what is today, New Mexico. In Gerald’s time, it is a vast land filled with open spaces and wildlife, plentiful with opportunity, and Gerald has hopes of finding a spot where he can settle down and live comfortably, but first, he must raise the funds to embark on such an endeavor. He hasn’t planned on sharing his dream, but when he makes the acquaintance of Suzanna Peabody, new dreams in which she is by his side begin to foster as he makes his way following the rugged life of a trapper. Upon his return to Taos, he finds his dreams haven’t changed but his doubts have grown. He’s not the same man he was when he set out. Will Suzanna have him when she learns just who he really is?
Tollefson’s masterful use of third person present tense and her vivid descriptions make this book seem like a journey into the past. I give Not Just Any Man five quills.
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.