Monday, November 16, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What Makes A BHW So Good?

I'm still amazed at the amount of people I meet who have never dipped their nose into a Black Horse Western. If you ever wondered what you are missing, read Gary Dobbs (aka Jack Martins) take on the imprint in his Tainted Archive blog.

Read it HERE

Friday, October 16, 2009

Help Is Out There...

All of a sudden, writers blogs are filled with advice on how to win NaNoWriMo 2009 as the clock slowly ticks down to midnight on 31st October.

I found this post and I particularly like it as there is so much good stuff about writing whether it is for NaNoWroMo or not.

Check it out HERE at Routines for Writers

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Part 11 of 'The Story With No Name' (Short Story Challenge)

Part 11 now up and running at Jacks Open Range


Write or Die!

Here's a novel idea for getting over writers block!
Try this website from Dr Wicked - it's a bit of fun but actually might be helpful for those of us trying to develop a writing habit of writing every day and churning out a certain number of words in a given time period. Perfect for NaNoMoWri participants!
Settings go from 'mild' to 'electric shock' although I haven't tried that yet!

The Story So Far!

Thanks to I.J. Parnham over The Culbin Trail for putting all the ten parts of the short story challenge together in one spot.

It's shaping up to be a great yarn!

Check out the whole story here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New BHW from Jack Martin

After the spectacular success of his debut novel, The Tarnished Star, (it is the fastest selling BHW western ever!) new author Jack Martin announces the release of his second book, Arkansas Smith.

Find out more on Jack Martins blog and don't forget to preorder your copy from

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Hit Pay Dirt!

As a post script to the post on Time Life books.

I was in the local Oxfam shop in Lanark, browsing the shelves looking for Western related material, of which there is always invariably none!

Anyway, as I was standing there, a couple came in with bags obviously for donations. I didn't pay them much attention until I saw one of the store assistants starting to sort through the contents.

In one of the bags was a pile of Western Time Life books! I went straight across and sure enough, thirteen books of the series in pristine condition. The assistant was pricing them at £2 each. I said I would take the lot if she did me a deal, which she did. We shook hands on £20!

I was going through them at the weekend and there is enough material for a dozen BHW's

And of course, now I'm hooked. I've got to get the whole 27!

National Novel Writing Month

A few weeks ago I posted some information about National Novel Writing Month - also known as NaNoWriMo.
Well, I decided to register as an official participant to see if I could indeed write a 50,000 word book during the month of November. What I'm hoping to do is to 'brain storm' a first draft which after a lot of rewriting may be suitable as a BHW. I've never tried anything like this before so it should be interesting!
I'm beginning to put some notes and ideas together prior to the big event which starts at midnight on 31st October.
If you want more information or if you want to have a go yourself, click on the icon on my blog and it will take you through to the official website.
I'll let you know how I get on!

Time Life Westerns

A recent query on the Black Horse Writers forum asked where a good place would be to start researching the history of the Wild West. A few people suggested that the Time Life series of books on the West would be a good place to start.
This was a series of 26 handsome, leather bound books (27 if you include the master index) covering all aspects of the West including The Cowboys, The Miners, The Gamblers, The Mexican Wars, The Women, The Pioneers etc.
They were very popular when they were first issued but now are no longer produced by Time Life. However, they have become something of collectors items.
Following the advice of the forum I went onto Amazon and was delighted to find a lot of them from second hand dealers - and quite cheap too at about £2 or £3. I ordered The Cowboys, The Gamblers and The Forty-Niner's as I am currently writing a book set in the California Gold Rush of 1849 called Gold Fever!
The books were great! In very good condition and with a wealth of information that is invaluable to the western writer really trying to understand the context of the stories he/she is writing. I found the style informal but informative - an easy read - and unlike more 'academic' tomes, the book is liberally filled with photographs, maps, paintings and drawings which brings the whole thing to life. It's true about a picture being worth a thousand words!
Already it has given me a load of information I can include in Gold Fever which I hope will make the story more credible and interesting for the reader.
It also gave me an idea for a short story which I am currently editing called Angels and Devils which I will post on this blog once it is complete.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Louis L'Amour Official Website

After reading my first Louis L'Amour novel (see previous post) I was scouting around the Internet looking for more information on the man and came across this wonderful website.
Have a good look around - everything you wanted to know about the great man but were afraid to ask!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Writers Groups

To join or not to join? That is the question!

Recently there was a passionate debate on the Black Horse Western writer’s forum concerning ‘How To Write’ books. Both sides of the fiery debate, for and against, were well represented.

I think that Writers Groups (or Circles as they are sometimes known) have a similar polarising effect.

Personnally, I knew that there was a local group called The Lanark Writers but I resisted joining for many years. I really didn’t understand what they did and therefore couldn’t consider what they had to offer – or indeed, what I had to offer them!

I’ve been a member now for over three years and for me, it’s been a great experience and one that I would heartily recommend – but I realise it’s not for everyone.

Of course, I have only ever been involved in one writing group and I would suspect that we are one of the more proactive and innovative but I don’t know. It would be good to hear about other peoples experiences.

I think if you were considering joining a writers group, you might wish to weigh up the following:


You’ve got to write something every week! No sitting around waiting for the muse to visit. I’ve been amazed how many times I’ve been asked to write about a subject that I have absolutely no knowledge or interest in and would never have written about it under my own steam and yet something half decent comes out of it.

It exposes you to other styles of writing, ideas, genres etc that you just would not discover on your own. I would never have written my first Black Horse Western if I had not been listening to a guest speaker relating his experiences with Robert Hale and I thought, “I’ll have a go at that!”

It helps you network. Authors, competitions, Arts Council, publishers, guest speakers and loads of other invaluable contacts.

As long as the criticism is constructive, it can really boost your confidence. Good ideas are reinforced and bad ideas are nipped in the bud before you go and churn out 50,000 words.

It’s a pleasant (and cheap) evening out sharing your enthusiasm with other equally enthusiastic writers.

You may end up writing to please the group. One of the great challenges of writing is to find your unique ‘voice’ which may not go down well with members of your particular group.

Harsh criticism can destroy the confidence of a budding writer. The key word is ‘constructive’ criticism.

You can find yourself distracted from your own writing goal. For example, if you are working on a novel and most of the group are into poetry you may feel frustrated.

Although I have never had this experience, a more experienced writer may dominate the group.

I wonder how many other Black Horse Writers are or were members of writing groups and what their experience was in terms of a help or a hindrance to their writing careers? Would be good to know!

Monday, October 5, 2009

'Tucker' by Louis L'Amour

I have a confession to make - this is the first Louis L'Amour novel I have read.

I know that for Western fans he is a giant but I focused all my reading on Black Horse Western authors so only now have I got around to catching up on other writers.

I found Tucker in a second hand bookshop and immediately snapped it up. The blurb reads:

"Saddlebags filled with gold! They were the prize in a desperate manhunt that led across Comanche-infested prairies into rough frontier towns. When he began to pursue the three gunslingers who had stolen the gold and left his father to die, Shell Tucker was a boy. At the end of the bloody trail Shell Tucker was a legend-and a man."

It was great and I'm just sorry it's taken me so long to 'discover' him. Very quickly, within a chapter or two you get to realise why he is held in such great esteem. For me, it ticked all the boxes both as a reader and as a student of the Western genre. Believable characters, a plot that at times leaves you breathless, accurate dialogue, well-researched and in short, a riveting read.

I'll be looking out for more of Louis L'Amour. Highly recommended.

Part Eight of the Short Story Challenge

Part Eight HERE
There will soon be a novel at this rate!
(Flick through the blog to see the other parts)

Cowboy Joke

Three cowboys were hanging out in the bunkhouse. "I know that smart aleck Tex," said the first. "He's going to start bragging about that new foreign car he bought as soon as he gets back."

"Not Tex," the second cowboy replied. "He'll always be just a good ol' boy. When he walks in, I'm sure all he'll say is hello."

"I know Tex better than either of you," said the third. "He's so smart, he'll figure out a way to do both. Here he comes now."
Tex swung open the bunkhouse door and shouted, "Audi, partners!"

Part Seven of the Short Story Challenge

Catch up on the adventure HERE

Thinking of Writing a BHW Western?

Here's a great article for anybody who's considered writing a Black Horse Western. Good, solid advice that's stood many a beginning writer in good stead.

Friday, September 11, 2009

No Demand for Westerns?

I hear and read about it all the time.

The reason WH Smith, Borders, Waterstones etc don't stock Westerns is that there is no demand for them.


I for one am a big book buyer. However, I never bought Westerns when I visited the big chains because I couldn’t find them. Pure and simple. When I asked the assistant why they didn’t stock a range of Westerns when every other genre is so well represented, she told me, “They don't sell!" How do they know if they don't stock them?

Like many others, I get my Western fix from the local library where there are dozens of them - great! When you look at the inside back cover you find lots of scribbled initials, markings and symbols. These are, the librarian tells me, where people mark their books with their own ‘brand’ so they don’t take out the same book twice. Some of these books have twenty or more markings on them. The librarian tells me there is great demand for Westerns but budget constraints limit how many they can buy.

For the last couple of weekends I’ve been visiting our local car-boot sale where, I was glad to see, a pretty professional book seller has set up. The books are good value and generally of a high quality and I was delighted to see a few trays marked ‘Westerns’ but then disappointed to find only a few books in each. “Does nobody read Westerns any more?” I asked the bookseller.

“Quite the opposite,” he told me, “I can’t keep up with them! These trays were full this morning but I just cannot get enough cowboy books – especially those Black Horse Western ones they do in the library!” and to prove his point, I bought ten books from him – Matt Braun’s and Louis L’Amour's among them.

Since I’ve started writing Westerns and joined forums and on-line communities, I find there are literally hundreds of people out there who are real Western enthusiasts who would buy books if they were available and printed in a more competitive paper back and marketed as effectively as say, Mills and Boons.

Now let me get one thing clear! I am NOT criticising Robert Hale Ltd who have done a fantastic job in keeping the Western genre alive and kicking in the UK and without whom there might be no Western books being published at all which would be a calamity! They have also been fantastically supportive of new authors who might not be in print otherwise and for which I will be eternally grateful.

It’s just that, there is always a little niggle in the back of head that says that tastes and fashions in books like every other product come and go. Who would have thought that a book about a magician in a private school would have captured the imagination of children the way it did? Where did that sudden interest in vampires come from? A few years ago there might have been one or two harrowing tales of childhood now the book shelves are heaving with them!

So on the one hand, I’ve got to listen and respect the judgement of the professional publishers and retailers who have been doing this a long time and who say that there is no mainstream demand for Westerns.

But everywhere I come across Western books – libraries, car boots, online enthusiasts, I hear a different story.

What’s going on?

Where Legends Ride!

Yesterday I received my pristine copy of Where Legends Ride – New Tales of the Old West; a great collection of fourteen short stories published by Express Westerns and edited by Matthew P. Mayo.

The line up of talented authors is impressive with a good mixture of ‘old hands’ like Chuck Tyrell, Gillian F. Taylor, Ben Bridges, I.J. Parnham and Lance Howard to relative newcomers such as Lee Pierce and Ross Morton.

Most contributors write for the Black Horse Westerns series published by Robert Hale Ltd and the one thing they all have in common is they can tell great yarns. According the blurb the book is full of tales of ‘hot lead, cold hearts and more leather-slapping action, adventure and edge-of-the-seat danger than you could ever hope to find on either side of the Mississippi” – and lives up to this claim and more!

The quality of writing is superb and as David Whitehead says in his introduction, “despite what its critics say to the contrary, the humble but oh-so-much-fun Western isn’t ready for Boot Hill just yet. And the newer generation of writers represented here are determined to make sure it not only survives for a good long while to come but that it also positively thrives.

For anybody new to reading Western fiction and for those who think they may want to have a go at writing it, Where Legends Ride, would be a great place to start - available from Amazon!

PS - Rumour has it there is a second anthology of Western Stories soon – watch this space for news!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gun Law Still In Best-Seller Lists

Thanks to fellow BHW author IJ Parnham who compiled this list of best-selling Black Horse Western books according to Amazon as at 7th September.

Althought Gun Law is not officially released until 31st December, it is available for pre-order through Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith and of course, not forgetting your local library.

The full list looks like this:

1. The Short Creek Rustlers by J.D. Ryder (Jul 2009)
2. The Frontiersmen by Elliot Conway (Oct 2004)
3. Trail Scum by Corba Sunman (Jan 2001)
4. Ruben's Ruse by Ben Coady (Jul 2001)
5. Iron Eyes Makes War by Rory Black (Oct 2009)
6. Bowie of the Alamo by John Glasby (Dec 2002)
7. The Tarnished Star by Jack Martin (Jun 2009)
8. Trail of the Burned Man by Thomas McNulty (Nov 2009)
9. Bad Men Die Hard by Dave Hooker (Mar 1994)
10. Gun Law by Lee Walker (Dec 2009)

Part Six of the Short Stoy Challenge

This thing keeps rattlin' along like a locomotive!

Keep up to date with the Short Story Challenge. Read Part Six HERE.

(You can go through the archives to see what this is all about!)


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Keepin' It Real!

As a new writer, I have already came across a number of situations where my hero has found himself in a life threatening fix but with a mixture of ingenuity and guts has lived to tell the tale. I then have to stop myself and ask “Would this have really happened? Is the reader really going to believe this?”

The other night I was watching a favourite TV show of mine called Mythbusters, which if you haven’t seen it, is all about taking ‘urban myths’ and either proving them or debunking them using semi-scientific experiments. They often take examples of Hollywood stunts and test to see if they could have actually worked in reality and a lot of these stunts are from Westerns. For example…

Can you shoot the hat off a cowboys head? We’ve seen it a hundred times in movies but turns out you can’t! A handgun bullet travelling at a few hundred miles an hour will just go straight through hat material with almost no resistance leaving the hat unmoved. You can shoot a hat off with a shotgun but you tend to take off the top of the guys head as well which sort of defeats the purpose!

How many times have you seen a baddie get shot and fly off his feet through a window or door with the force of the blast? Won’t happen. No matter the calibre of gun, according to the Mythbuster guys, the body will just drop vertically – which of course seems kind of boring on the big screen so they’ve got to spice it up!

A few weeks ago there was a lively discussion on the Black Horse Western Writers Forum about whether you could ignite a barrel of gunpowder by shooting it. Again, big explosions are great TV but the consensus of opinion from people who know a lot about this stuff says it just won’t happen!

How many times did we see in the old movies our hero getting busted from jail by his compadre. They tied a lasso round the bars, tied the other end around the pommel of a horse and then pulled the bars out. The hero climbs through the square gap and is away before you can say, “Hi Ho Silver.” ‘Couldn’t have happened’ say the Mythbusters team. They constructed a replica frontier jail using the same materials and construction methods. A modern JCB couldn’t pull the bars out never mind one horsepower.

Not to be outdone, they decided to use a stick of dynamite! They’ve done that in the movies hundreds of time, haven’t they? This time it was a success! It blew the bars out sure enough but using pressure sensors on a dummy inside the jail they proved that nobody could’ve withstood the pressure from the explosion in such a confined area and even if they had, nobody could’ve got out the window because it was so small.

And so here lies the dilemma! Readers are looking for adventure. Writers have to keep coming up with fresh ideas and angles on old scenarios. It’s a fine balance between fact and farce and it takes a lot of skill to keep a story historically accurate and entertaining too but it’s a balancing act Black Horse Western writers are particularly good at!

I’d love to hear of any other Western Myths debunked!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Part Five of the Short Story Challenge

Here is the latest part of the project that started over a month ago where a BHW author writes a five hundred word section of a book started by IJ Parnham.

In a literary relay, the current author takes over where the previous author laid off. There's no telling where this thing might go!

Check out the next thrilling installment at Jack Martins blog!

(Don't forget to scroll back through the archives to read the previous four parts!)


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cowboy Joke

The Lone Ranger and Tonto walked into a bar and sat down to drink a beer. After a few minutes, a big tall cowboy walked in and said, "Who owns the big white horse outside?"

The Lone Ranger stood up, hitched his gun belt, and said, "I do...Why?"
The cowboy looked at the Lone Ranger and said, "I just thought you would like to know that your horse is about dead outside!"

The Lone Ranger and Tonto rushed outside, and sure enough, Silver was ready to die from heat exhaustion. The Lone Ranger got the horse water, and soon, Silver was starting to feel a little better. The Lone Ranger turned to Tonto and said, "Tonto, I want you to run around Silver and see if you can create enough of a breeze to make him start to feel better."

Tonto said, "Sure, Kemosabe," and took off running circles around Silver. Not able to do anything else but wait, the Lone Ranger returned to the bar to finish his drink.

A few minutes later, another cowboy struts into the bar and asks, "Who owns that big white horse outside?"

The Lone Ranger stands again, and claims, "I do, what's wrong with him this time?"

The cowboy looks him in the eye and says, "Nothing, but you left your Injun runnin'."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Could You Write a Book in a Month?

A lot of people think they can – 119,000 people to be precise!

That’s how many signed up to the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) website last year to try and write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days (that’s about 1,666 words per day).

NaNoWriMo is the brainchild of Chris Baty who kicked it all off in July 1999 with just 21 people. But the idea has obviously scratched a creative itch for a lot of people and now, every year more people sign up and pass the magical 50,000 word target.

There is a full set of rules on the NaNoWriMo website but basically, starting at midnight November 1 people start churning out a novel which must reach a minimum of 50,000 words before 11:59:59 PM on November 30. Strictly speaking, of course, you will have had a year to think about your book and plan it accordingly but that’s okay as long as no previously written material is used.

Novels can be on any theme and in any genre and in any language. The definition of what is a novel is pretty relaxed. "If you believe you're writing a novel, we believe you're writing a novel too,” say the organisers.

50,000 is pretty short for a novel but is a perfect length for Black Horse Westerns. (It’s not a novella which is generally agreed to be about 40,000 words.) Notable novels around 50,000 words include The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Brave New World and The Great Gatsby – proof if any were needed that a ‘short’ novel can punch way above its weight!

Organizers of the event say that the aim is simply to get people to start writing, using the deadline as an incentive to get the story going and to put words to paper. What is really refreshing is that there is no prize - anyone who reaches the 50,000 word mark is declared a winner and the only reward is the achievement of the finished novel.

So if you need a deadline to get down that best-selling novel you’ve sitting on for years, why not try NaNoWriMo this year? Chris Baty has also written “No Plot? No Problem” which is a guide to the whole process of trying to write a novel in 30 days.

I’m seriously considering doing it myself to see if I can churn out a BHW. I’ll let you know how I get on!

Good Luck!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Short Story Challenge Part Four!

The fourth installment of the weekly Short Story Challenge is now available on the blog of author Dave Lewis'
Riveting stuff.
Look out for Part Five coming soon!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

New BHW Review - Packing Iron by Steve Hayes

Thanks to Thomas McNulty for this great review. Read more about Steve Hayes remarkable career at Black Horse Extra

The Western is not dead. I say this with total assurance because I have just read a Western that has rekindled my faith in a genre the critics have attempted to flog to death with their incessant negativism. It’s true the Western has had its high and lows, but this is natural for a genre so fraught with the very essence of the American experience.

The book I’m referring to is Packing Iron by Steve Hayes and it’s published by Robert Hale in London as part of their famed Black Horse Western series. For those unfamiliar with the Black Horse Westerns, they appear monthly and are generally lending library titles with a small print run. They have a devoted and passionate following among readers and writers alike, and in recent years the Internet has made acquiring titles a tad easier. The stable of Black Horse writers include many British, Australian, and American writers (men and woman) devoted to the thrill-a-moment action story that made Louis L’Amour a household name.

These writers are not getting rich; they are writing these books because they love the genre and they love to write. The books all run no more than 45,000 words and are packaged as small hardbacks with classic pulp-style illustrated covers. Certain titles, such as Haunted Pass by Lance Howard, command premium prices from collectors. It’s not uncommon for titles to go out of print within a few weeks because of the high demand and low print run. The stories are all noted for their attention to detail, fast pace and solid action scenes. Some occasionally rise above the traditional, entertaining oater. This brings us to Steve Hayes.

Steve is no rookie; he’s enjoyed a fantastic career as a screenwriter and novelist. Now he’s turned his attention to Westerns. It’s not necessary that you read his previous Western, Gun for Revenge, although that fine book does introduce the central character in Packing Iron. Gabriel Moonlight is one of the more refreshing characters to appear in decades. He is the heart and soul of Packing Iron. A third Gabriel Moonlight novel, A Coffin for Santa Rosa, is forthcoming.
Steve isn’t a writer to waste words. His style is concise but each paragraph is loaded with more description and insight than you’ll find anywhere. This is a writer that cares about his story. Caring is a rare commodity among writers these days. While Packing Iron fulfills its obligation to be a traditional Western on one hand, on the other it’s unconventional simply because it’s so good.

With Packing Iron part of Gabriel Moonlight’s history is told in flashback, but Hayes is more concerned about Gabriel’s immediate plight. Wounded in a shootout, he is rescued by a young girl named Raven and her mother, a young widow named Ingrid Bjorkman. Raven is not your usual teenage girl. She had rescued a black stallion from an injury and hand-fed it water until the horse recovered.

Raven has a knack for handling horses. She’s also impetuous and highly intelligent. The heart of Packing Iron involves Gabriel’s growing fondness for Raven and her mother. His slow recovery from a near fatal wound offers him plenty of time to get to know them. But Gabriel has unfinished business, and there are men hunting him. To say more about the plot would be an injustice to the author. I leave it to inquisitive readers to discover Gabriel’s story on their own.
What distinguishes Packing Iron from other Westerns is the emotional investment Hayes offers his readers. As the story builds, it became impossible for me not to care about Raven and Gabriel. I soon forgot this book was even a Western. Naturally, Steve Hayes doesn’t let his readers down. Those requiring gunplay will find it, but the real heart of Packing Iron are the splendid characters.

In his introduction to his 1921 novel, To the Last Man, Zane Grey wrote: “Romance is another name for idealism; and I contend that life without ideals is not worth living.” I recalled those words as I read Packing Iron because Gabriel Moonlight lives by his own code of honor. Moonlight is the literary descendent of Zane Grey’s Lassiter from Riders of the Purple Sage or Buck Duane from The Lone Star Ranger.

It’s this attention to detail and, again, this compassion that Steve Hayes infuses into his narrative that elevates the book above the usual fare. Hayes has written a novel that outshines anything you’ll find among Dorchester Publishing’s monthly offerings, and Signet hasn’t published a notable Western in decades. The New York publishers have lost the footrace when it comes to Westerns, but the Brits at Robert Hale Publishers have kept it alive. Novels like Packing Iron are precisely why the Black Horse Westerns are prized by collectors.

I was fortunate to read an advance copy of Packing Iron. Hayes is a superb storyteller, with masterful pacing and plotting, strong characters, and swift action; his novels belong on a shelf with Louis L’Amour and Jack Schaefer. Given that the demand for Black Horse Westerns is growing, I suspect copies of Packing Iron will be scarcer than hen’s teeth upon publication. I recommend ordering it the moment it’s available, either through Robert Hale’s website or at (UK).

No, the Western isn’t dead. It’s in the hands of Steve Hayes and Robert Hale Publishers, and may they ride a long and fruitful trail for all of us to follow.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stagecoach RIdes Again!

I'd forgotten how good this movie was!

I remember watching it as a kid the first time with my grandfather, tucked up on the sofa with him on a rainy Sunday afternoon. He loved the old Westerns and kindled my life-long interest in them!

Last Sunday I was browsing through a car boot sale when I came across a DVD of Stagecoach so I gave the guy a couple of quid for it and last night settled down to watch it. It was as good as I remembered!

A quick search on Wikipedia provides lots of interesting back story to the movie; for example, John Wayne had starred in nearly 80 'B' movies before he got his big break, and Gary Cooper was the star the studios wanted in the lead role but John Ford held out for John Wayne and the rest, as they say, is Hollywood history.

I also think that watching these movies is a boost when writing BHW's. It reminds me to keep the action going, to develop strong, believable characters, to give the story a cinematic quality. I know everything that came out of Hollywood wasn't historically accurate but they knew how to entertain, which is what BHW is all about!

So I'm glad I watched Stagecoach again. For just sheer enjoyment of a movie that heralded the golden age of Hollywood westerns, I don't think it can be beaten.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Short Story Challenge Part Two

Part Two of the Short Story Challenge can be found HERE

Getting interesting....

Short Story Challenge Part One

Here's a great idea from veteran BHW writer I.J.Parnham.

His suggestion is that he would start writing the first 500 words of a western story and then hand the gauntlet over to another BHW writer who would then carry on with the tale and see where it goes. Part One of the Short Story Challenge can be read HERE.

While you're there, have a read at the wealth of information on I.J.Parnhams blog The Culbin Trail. He has written over 20 novels and is a genuinely nice guy who is full of support for other budding writers - including myself (he lives here in Scotland, too!)

As each writer takes up the challenge, you'll be able to keep up with the story here and I for one am looking forward to seeing where this thing goes...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gun Law - Now Listed on Amazon and Ready for Pre-Orders!

Holy smoke!

I was looking at some other Black Horse Westerns last night and decided just to punch 'Gun Law' in for a search and lo and behold the image of my new book came up! The official launch date is not until sometime in December so I was surprised to see it listed for pre-order.

Time to take a leaf out of Jack Martin's book and get moving with some marketing activity and spreading the word!

Feel free to order it through your local library!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Howdy! - I'm Back in the Saddle!

It's been a while since I've posted on my blog mainly because I was busy packing up from Kuwait and heading home to Bonnie Scotland.

I've been back for a few weeks and hopefully now that we are settling into our lovely lives here in Lanark, I can knuckle down and get writing again - not to mention keeping this blog up to date!

Look forward to talking to you again soon!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"The Tracks We Leave..."

In the Links I Like section, I've listed one called Legends of America and it's full of interesting historical facts, legends, myths and trivia about the Wild West.

I love browsing through books and sites like this and often find they can be a gold mine of ideas, plots, characters and even just a strong title for a book which leads you off at all kinds of tangents. For example, the title for this post is from a quote from the Dakota tribe that says," We will be known forever by the tracks we leave."

If you were writing a story with Native Americans in it, this may be a useful way of immersing yourself in the manner of speech and vocabulary.

Check out more Native American Indian Proverbs and sayings at or I was amazed to discover how many sayings we use today that may have originated from the Native American Indians.

Some are amusing, like this one from the Cherokee's: "When the white man discovered this country Indians were running it. No taxes, no debt, women did all the work. White man thought he could improve on a system like this!"

Some are profound: "Our first teacher is our own heart..." from the Cheyenne

And some ring very true when faced with what we think are very modern issues like the environment: "We do not inherit the earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children..."

Food for thought indeed...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cowboy Jokes - No Laughing Matter!

A stranger rides into town. He ties up in front of the sheriffs office and goes round to the back of his horse which has just relieved itself. The stranger lifts a handful of mess and puts it round his lips.

Horrified, the sheriff runs out.
"Say, boy. What in tarnation do you think you're doing?"
"I got myself a mighty bad case of chapped lips, sherriff," says the stranger.
"And does that help cure it?"
"No - but it sure keeps ya from lickin' 'em!"

Friday, May 22, 2009

Camels and Cowboys!

In a previous post, I was talking about my stay in Kuwait and I mentioned I might include camels, sandstorms and deserts in a western in the future. It was a bit of tongue-in-cheek BUT then I was reading an excellent book called 'The Writers Guide To Everyday Life In The Wild West' by Candy Moulton (a highly recommended resource for historical writers) and I discovered this:

"American Camel Company: The first use of camels as draft animals occurred in 1855 by the military at Camp Verde, Texas. The American Camel Company used Asian camels to transport cargo in the area around Virginia City, Nevada, after 1860. The camels ate sagebrush, thistles and creosote bushes. They swam rivers and ignored rattlesnake bites. They sneezed, vomited and spit, caused dogs to bark and mules and oxen to stampede."

Yup - that sounds like some of the camels I know! I feel a plot coming on....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Meet The Gang!

One of the many pleasant surprises in getting involved with Black Horse Westerns was discovering just how many other Western authors and enthusiasts there are out there.

Not only that but in these times of rampant self-interest it was refreshing to see how willing they were to share their wealth of information, help, news and views. They really are a very encouraging bunch - especially to beginners like myself - thanks everyone!

Many doom-mongers will have you believe that the Western genre is dying on it's knees - not according to this group. See for yourself at: (Ps - that's not really them in the photograph...)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

One Year in Kuwait!

Hard to believe but today marks my first year in Kuwait!

It's been interesting to say the least with some real highs and lows. I think the major challenge for me, especially in the first few months, was homesickness. For much of that time, for various reasons, I was here on my own and missing my wife and kids badly. However, 'every cloud has a silver lining' they say and rather than moping about, I got down to writing. One of my complaints when back in Scotland was that I never had the peace, quiet and time to write. Well, in Kuwait, I had an abundance of all three - although the lesson there is to be careful what you wish for!

Being completely 'dry' ie alcohol free (another challenge), there is a real coffee culture and most of the big chains have free Wi-Fi so I did spend a lot of time sitting in coffee shops and bashing away on the laptop. In terms of my fledgling writing career, I can safely say the last twleve months have been a big success with acceptance of Gun Law for publication and Gold Fever well on it's way with another four books roughly drafted out.

From a writers point of view, experiencing this extreme climate has been great material for future Westerns. When would a wee boy from Scotland been able to experience temperatures of over 50 degrees Celsius in the Summer, spectacular sand storms and the awsome remoteness of walking across real desert scrub land? It's all 'grist to the mill' as my old Dad likes to say!

It now looks as though this contract will be drawing to an end so we're getting ready to pack our bags, saddle up and move on out! Next stop might be Saudi Arabia, Kenya, India or.....Lanark! But wherever we end up, one things's for sure, I'll be busy on the next Western - look out for a plot involving camels, deserts and at least one sand storm!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My First Western Novel...

To kick things off, I thought I'd tell you a little bit about how I came to write my first Black Horse Western - Gun Law - which will be released by Robert Hale Publishing in December of this year.

Before I left my home in Lanark in Scotland last May to work in Kuwait, I belonged to a lovely group called the Lanark Writers. We met every Monday night to share our enthusiasm for writing and it was a great opportunity to review each others 'work in progress.' Sometimes, a guest speaker would be invited and one particular night, Tom Bryant, who was the current writer in residence at Brownsbank Cottage came along. He spoke about ways of getting our work into print; and one of those ways was writing for specific genres like Mills & Boon or Black Horse Westerns.

His words struck a chord that night (thanks Tom) and the next day I went to the local library and borrowed a handful of BHW's. I quickly read them over the next few days and once I had got a handle on the required style, I set to work re-writing a cowboy novel I had started and then abandoned (as usual) a long time ago. After a few weeks I had something I wasn't too ashamed to send off. Mr John Hale took pity on me and decided to publish the book, which I'm not afraid to admit, was a real thrill!

The point of me telling you this is that I know some aspiring writers may not want to be pigeon-holed into a specific genre or house style like BHW or Mills & Boon. For some, they may feel that these genres are somehow 'beneath' them (they're the ones who probably haven't finished a novel yet) but for a beginning writer like me, it's been a great experience. It proved that after starting and abandoning at least half a dozen other books, I could apply myself and finish a full length work. It made me get organised in terms of planning plot, structure and characters and researching historical facts (more of all that in later posts) and last but not least, it's given me a massive boost of confidence -so much so I'm now working on my second novel (working title, Gold Fever) and the ideas for more are piling up quicker than I can write them. Plus the fact, I'm now part of a great community of fellow Western writers (again, more on that in later blogs!)

Bottom line, anyone who feels that they have a book in them, they could do a whole lot worse than cut their teeth on a Black Horse Western! So get going and WRITE THAT NOVEL!