Death Wind, by Travis Heerman and Jim Pinto is a paranormal western, also known as weird western, that makes the reader believe in legends, if only for a short time. In a time of war between the white man and the Indians, there comes a foe of unspeakable power and cruelty only known through the stories of the native American people.
There is a great evil on the horizon, bearing down upon White Pine and the Lakota Souix reservation following the Wounded Knee Creek Massacre in 1891. The evil is hungry and it feasts on anyone in its path, threatening to consume them all, no matter the color of their skin. The only hope of survival lies in the ancient legends of the native peoples of the land and will unite white and Indian in a common goal.
Carefully crafted to produce graphic imagery and a captivating story line, Death Wind kept me reading until the last page. I give it 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.
I wanted the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest to be a challenge, to motivate authors and writers to reach outside their comfort zones and write a short story in a genre they maybe hadn’t tried yet. But, from the low number of entries received thus far, I’m wondering if I didn’t scare a lot of writers off when I named the genre as paranormal western.
It’s one of those combination genres that have risen up in recent times, also called weird westerns, that has both elements of western and elements of paranormal. I presented it as western ghost stories, because the old west has plenty of potential for ghosts. (Mark and Kym Todd’s Wild West Ghosts is filled with the stories of many real life characters whose ghosts are said to haunt the west today, if you’re looking for inspiration.) However, I fear our friends abroad may be shying away because they just don’t know a whole lot about the American western frontiers.
While westerns usually take place in the American west, they don’t have to. The movie Quiggly Down Under, with Tom Sellak comes to mind, taking place in the Australian Outback, but with plenty of western elements. Every country has its own frontier history that helped to shape it, some may be still developing their frontiers. So, let me re-itterate, a western does not need to be set on the American frontier, but it does need to have some of the elements of the western genre. Man (or woman) against the elements, man (or woman) fighting for justice in an untamed landscape where the only law may be what he (or she) can manage to dole out. Western characters lead nomadic lifestyles, carry guns, ride horses, drink whiskey and face their own mortality, sometimes on a daily basis.
Weird westerns tend to use these elements, but they add elements of the paranormal or speculative fiction. I’ve reviewed a few and found their authors to be quite creative in combining the two genres. Chris Barili’s Hell’s Butcher series features a gun toting Marshall who is tasked with keeping all the outlaws in hell and tracking down any who happen to escape into the realm of the living. In DeAnna Knippling’s Chance Damnation is a paranormal western fantasy, where hell breaks through and wreaks havoc on the western frontier. And a book that I’m reviewing this month is Death Wind, by Travis Heerman and Jim Pinto, tells a tale of ancient Indian legends come to life. (You can catch my review of this book on Friday, March 20th).
So, with this in mind, I’m asking each of you to re-consider entering your own paranormal western short in the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest. It’s only $5 to enter, and the winner will be featured in the resulting anthology and receive a $25 Amazon gift card. Other entries may also be included in the anthology by invitation, so get those entries in to me by April 30. There’s still time, and you can find the complete submission guidelines here: https://wp.me/pVw40-49e
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The western genre has always been about man against the elements, man against man, and man against nature. Western heroes are tough and rugged, and ready to face outlaws, Indians, wild animals, and any inclement of bad weather to uphold right and see justice done. In the western genre that I grew up with the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black, and there was no question as to who was who. Cowboys were rough and rowdy, but they were gentleman when a lady was present, tipping their hats and addressing her as Ma’am. There was a clear sense of right and wrong in westerns written by Louis L’Amore and Zane Grey, and right always won out in the end.
Today’s westerns are different. Although you can still find the classic western with authors such as my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest, Cherokee Parks, or the guest for my supporting interview, Alan Dean Foster. But, the western of today isn’t as clear cut. Today’s westerns look past lawmen and outlaws to the less known factions of western society, with protagonists such as soiled doves, Indians, Negroes, and immigrants from many different countries, who may be looked down upon by some as less desirable, so they must work harder to convince the reader that they are the good guy. They portray segments of the western populations which have been previously overlooked or devalued. Although members of near invisible populations, they were a part of the western culture and western fiction is now giving them voice. The tales may be fiction, but the portrayal of life in the western landscape is not romanticized as much as it once may have been. It may be more stark and brutal in many ways, but they are true to the places and times of their settings.
In the western genre market, there are more female authors than ever before, and that means more female protagonists. A woman as main character can’t be a delicate flower who cowers behind her man as in westerns of old. The women of the west were tough, because they had to be. It was often a matter of survival. Even in western romance, the women are strong willed and determined, and they play many different roles on the western frontier. We all know that many women made a living in the parlor houses, bordellos, and saloons, but women played many other roles on the western frontier, and today’s western authors are capitalizing on that.
My own western, Delilah, features a tough and gritty female protagonist who, at the age of nineteen, is already hardened against life’s trials. Although not actually a romance, it does have that romance element, but she must learn to love again before that story line can come to completion. Delilah is being re-released this month with a great new cover, (designed by WordCrafter), and new front materials, including forewords by western authors Robert Hanlon and C. Emerson Law. I’m looking for feedback, so please let me know what you think of the new cover in the comments.
The historical westerns of Loretta Miles Tollefson, such as her short fiction collection, Old One Eye Pete, which I’ll be reviewing, are embedded in New Mexico territory in the 1800s. Many of Tollefson’s books feature tough female protagonists who do what they must to survive the harsh landscape and harsher men of the times, who rise above the traditional female role through strength and courage. I think an author must work harder to sell to women characters in non-traditional roles to the reader, but if written well, they make interesting and, often colorful characters that enhance their stories. readers don’t want to put down. Western romance is in abundance. At the end of March, Writing to be Read will feature a special post about my experience as a judge of the western romance category, including reviews of some of my favorite entries.
But in contemporary times, space westerns venture into the science fiction genre, and there are even western fantasy stories, such as the steampunk western romance series of Jordan Elizabeth. Westerns have branched out to combine with the paranormal, creating the weird western sub-genre, such as Death Wind, by Travis Heerman and Jim Pinto, which I will be reviewing this month. This sub-genre is growing in popularity as authors realize the potential for supernatural tales from the old west. The western frontier leaves behind many ghosts and contemporary authors are realizing their story potential.
Paranormal western is the genre for the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, but there have only been a few entries. I think maybe authors shy away from the western genre, especially those outside the U.S. that are not so familiar with the history of the American frontier. But the American frontier is not the only possible setting for a western story. Think Quiggly Down Under, for a western story set in the Australian Outback. Every country has western style stories in their history. As long as there is a western element and a paranormal element of some type in your story, it qualifies as an entry. It can be about zombies rambling over the western prairie, on vampires nesting in the Rockies. It can be a haunted hotel or saloon in a frontier town, or a restless spirit that refuses to pass on until the hombre that pulled the trigger on them pays for what he done. If you are a creative writer, then step up and take the challenge to write a paranormal western and send it to me. The deadline is April 30th, so there’s still plenty of time. Don’t forget, the author of the winning story will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. You can find the complete submission guidelines here.
Join us on Writing to be Read as we ride the landscape of the western genre and explore the possibilities. The western genre is alive and well today, although it may look different than expected. I love to hear from readers, so be sure to leave a comment to let me know you’ve visited. Also feel free to like and share.
Reviews of westerns by Loretta Miles Tollefson:
Reviews of steampunk western romances by Jordan Elizabeth:
Reviews of weird westerns:
Hell’s Butcher series, by Chris Barili
Chance Damnation, by DeAnna Knippling
2019 interviews with western authors:
Scott Harris – classic western
Juliette Douglas – western romance
Patricia PacJac Carroll – Christian western romance
Loretta Miles Tollefson – historical western
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.