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!