Monday, August 20, 2018

The Untamed West + "Gunmen Can't Hide" Excerpt

I can't tell you how excited I am to be listed among the great writers and stories in this new anthology from Western Fictioneers. This is a book I'd buy no matter what. Just read the names in the description.

A collection of twenty-nine tales of the Old West featuring previously unpublished stories by such classic Western writers as James Reasoner, Douglas Hirt, McKendree Long, and Michael R. Ritt. Edited by award winning author, L. J. Washburn. Western Fictioneers is the only writers’ organization devoted solely to traditional Western fiction, and this huge collection will take readers from the dusty plains of Texas to the sweeping vistas of Montana and beyond.

Western Fictioneers was founded in 2010 to promote the oldest genuine American art form, the Western story. Its worldwide membership includes best-selling, award-winning authors of Western fiction, as well as the brightest up-and-coming new stars in the Western field. The organization*s third anthology features original stories by Big Jim Williams, Easy Jackson, Jeffrey J. Mariotte, McKendree Long, Michael R. Ritt, S. D. Parker, James Reasoner, J. L. Guin, J.E.S. Hays, James J. Griffin, Jesse J Elliot, Ben Goheen, Barbara Shepherd, Nik Morton, S. L. Matthews, James Clay, Keith Souter, Tom Rizzo, Matthew P. Mayo, Dorothy A. Bell, L.J. Washburn, Angela Raines, Gordon L. Rottman, Charlie Steel, Douglas Hirt, Dennis Doty, and Cheryl Pierson.

You can purchase the ebook from Amazon, Kobo, or Barnes and Noble today. The paperback is also available from Amazon.


Now, I'm equally as thrilled with the story I submitted. "GUNMEN CAN'T HIDE" is probably my favorite story I've written this year. It features a new character that I enjoyed so much, I'm already working on a sequel or two.

Here's a brief description of my story and a short excerpt.

Uriah, Blake, and Orim Brink are outlaw brothers. They are cooling their heels in Laredo, Texas, after their most recent bank robbery. And murder. Uriah, after winning at poker and pocketing his money, goes upstairs to celebrate with a woman. But what he finds up there will make him wish he would have lost it all…

"Gunmen Can't Hide" Excerpt:

Not waiting another moment, Uriah reached out and slid all his winnings in front of him. His heart slammed in his chest with the thrill of the win. It wasn’t the same as robbing banks and shooting lawmen, but it was the next best thing. He arranged all the coins in stacks of five and evened the greenbacks. He tossed his cards to the ranch hand on his left and was ready for the next hand when he noticed Orim approaching.

The youngest of the three Brink boys, Uriah knew what Orim was going to do even before his brother put a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“Why don’t you take a break, little brother,” Orim said. “The bartender told me there’s someone special waiting.” He paused for emphasis. “Upstairs.”

Uriah was about to open his mouth in protest, to say he was back on a streak of luck, but caught the look in Orim’s eyes. It told him all he needed to know. Do what I say. Just like always.

To maintain some semblance of choice to the other members at the table, Uriah made a show. He inhaled deeply, drained the last of his warm beer, and collected his winnings.

“Wait a minute, seƱor,” Rodrigo said. His hands balled into fists on the table. “I want a chance to win back my money.”

Uriah stood and sneered. “It ain’t yer money anymore.” He nodded to the two ranch hands, scooted the chair back with his legs, and pocketed the coins. The jangling sound was music to his ears.

Orim put a hand on his brother’s shoulders. “Upstairs, third door on the left.”

The thought of what awaited him instantly got Uriah excited. He had just won back his money. What better way to celebrate than in the arms of a woman. A grin spread across his freshly shaven face, a touch Orim had insisted on. The better to hide in plain sight.

Uriah stepped away from the table and made his way across the crowded saloon. It didn’t matter he was going to pay for the woman’s services, he nevertheless tucked his shirt in and smoothed out the front. He looked around for the third Brink brother, Blake, yet saw no sign. No, there he was, leaning on the bar top, hand curled around a beer mug, talking to a man dressed in nice clothes. Uriah wondered if Blake was trying to get another job or just passing the time.

He ascended the stairs and reached the second floor. He opened the door at the end of the stairs, entered the hallway, and closed the door behind him. The general chatter from downstairs mixed with the piano player’s tunes were muted up here, but what wasn’t muted were the sounds coming from behind the closed doors. His heart quickened with the knowledge he’d soon join the chorus.

Uriah counted three doors and then softly knocked. He heard movement, the gentle sashing of flowing fabric.

“Uriah Brink?”

The woman’s voice was soft and sultry. Images flashed in Uriah’s mind as he imagined the type of woman who would possess such a sweet voice.

“Yeah,” he said. His voice cracked a little despite himself. He cleared his throat and repeated himself.

“Come on inside. I’m ready.”

Uriah reached out and gripped the door knob. He turned it and the door opened. He pushed it wide. The room was small. A brass bed was centered in the room. A bedside table held a lamp turned low. A mirror off to the left was next to a chest of drawers. Lavender permeated the room and he inhaled deeply. He detected perfume.

But he didn’t see the woman.

With slight concern, Uriah stepped inside the room and closed the door.

Something hard struck Uriah Brink on the back of his head. He saw stars. He blinked rapidly, trying to clear his vision. Whoever hit him was behind the door. Uriah tried to turn and confront his attacker, but something swiped at his ankles. He fell forward, feebly reaching out a hand to stop his fall. The wooden floor rushed up to his face. In another couple of seconds, he only saw black, but not before he noticed the deep red of a woman’s dress.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Hoover by Kenneth Whyte

Even to a historian, Herbert Hoover was a mystery.

Before reading Kenneth Whyte’s new biography of our 31st president, Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times, I knew three general things about Hoover. After World War I, he was instrumental in helping Europe feed itself and get back on its collective feet. As Secretary of Commerce from 1921 to 1929, he helped steer the American economy to high levels before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. And, as president, he was unable to stem the tide of Depression. On that last point, I had the general impression Hoover did little other than to say the Depression was just the way of business. It was only when Franklin Roosevelt came into office that the American government possessed a man willing to try anything to help.

But as I listened to the book and read about his energetic performance in just about everything he put himself into, a question began to form: what went wrong during his presidential administration? That is, didn’t Herbert Hoover try to help people?
When one reads a biography of a famous figure, generally you find things you like and can admire. Funny thing with Hoover: he was a peculiar man and, at least until his later life, an almost shy person who didn’t always enjoy the company of some people. In fact, during the early years of this biography, I got to thinking Hoover wouldn’t always be a guy with whom you’d want to just hang out. He was just peculiar. Even his marriage seemed rather perfunctory. The more the biography went on, the more it seemed, as the author noted, Hoover was a mere spectator of his own family.

Yet his engineering mind was fantastic. He worked all over the world which gave him a global perspective on things. In one of the more remarkable events I admired, it took Hoover, then living in London, barely a day to start setting up a group to help stranded American caught unawares at the outbreak of World War I. Many folks were stranded with no means to obtain money to buy a ticket back to America. Hoover started up a committee and did the thing he almost always insisted on: make him the one decision maker and leader. In this capacity, he was able to direct resources where needed and helped get over 100,000 Americans back home.
He repeated the feat during the war as he headed another committee to aid in relief of hungry Belgians. What I found fascinating was Hoover’s group, The American Relief Administration, was the only group recognized by both sides of the war. Each side allowed Hoover’s ships—flying its own flag—through enemy lines.

He was a data-driven man in an era just beginning to understand what data was and how it could be used. As Secretary of Commerce (and “under-secretary of everything else” as his detractors said), Hoover took an activist role in government. President Harding encouraged this and, when Coolidge assumed the office, kept Hoover on. He was in prime position to bring his expertise to American when the Mississippi River flooded in 1927. There Hoover was, on the ground, doing what he was most able to do: harness the goodwill of people and direct it to those in need.

He was a logical choice as the Republican nominee in 1928, and he won easily. His help to the poor in 1927 brought a large majority of Americans to his side in addition to the typical GOP voter. In an era of the Roaring Twenties, everyone seemed to like Hoover. Yet the man himself saw the warning signs looming on the horizon. He tried to thwart a potential downturn as Commerce Secretary, but others didn’t share his views. When the crash arrived, Herbert Hoover did what he had always done: gather a team with mounds of data and attack the problem.

It was here where I had my eyes opened. Rather than be the man who seemed to sit idly by waiting for the market to correct itself, Hoover actively pursued solutions. Sure, his personality wasn’t suited to leading the country in its most dire time before World War II, but he wasn’t a bystander. True, he preferred the government not to actively intervene if at all possible. He extolled the virtues of volunteerism, by individuals as well as businesses, seeing it as the best way for Americans to get back on their feet. But when businesses didn’t respond, he led the way. Not all his policies worked—the notorious Smoot-Hawley Tariff being the most famous example—but it is easy to see how Hoover paved the way for the direct government intervention of the Roosevelt years.

It is a rare figure where both sides of the political spectrum can claim a man as their own. The Progressives saw in Hoover a man willing to try things and have, as his ultimate aim, the betterment of his fellow Americans (and humans, as per his work prior to his government service). At the same time, the modern conservative movement can also claim Hoover as their own. After his defeat in 1932, he became a critic of what he saw as the overreach of FDR, and laid down a philosophy picked up by other conservatives in the 1950s and 1960s.

Herbert Hoover was a complicated man, yet there was more to him than meets the eye (or is contained in a Wikipedia article). He was certainly far from perfect and Americans needed a leader more personable than him during the Depression, but Hoover was a more-than-capable man who stands as a unique member of the American presidency. Whyte’s new biography is a fascinating exploration into a man hard to pin down, but is well worth the time.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Day Job Writer and Multiple Income Streams

 I am a day job writer. You know what I mean: fiction writing is not how I pay my bills. The day job as a technical writer does that. Fiction writing is the thing I do on the side. But recent events have me very aware that the revenue I derive from fiction writing could, one day, become a lifeline.

In the past couple of weeks, my day job suddenly became shaky. Yes, I’m still employed, but the project on which I worked was cancelled for the remainder of the year. I have a fallback project that I’ll begin on Monday, but the news of the cancellation was a shock to the system. It broke apart the great team with whom I’ve worked since last October. It also put my personal finances into peril.

It was then, surprisingly, that I realized my fiction writing must act as a bulwark against the ever-changing nature of the day job. In many, many places—podcasts, blog articles, and interviews—independent authors talk about the necessity of multiple streams of income. Typically, this talk circles around the choice between going exclusive to Amazon or making our books available widely in as many different bookstores as possible. Amazon exclusivity has its place, especially for short-term discoverability. But long term? Going wide is the optimal way to ensure any disruptions can be weathered.

Imagine you are exclusive to Amazon and they decide to change a feature without notice. What might you do if you find yourself the victim of Amazon’s crackdown like these folks? You have little to no recourse. Unless you have other sources of income. The concept is so strikingly obvious in the fiction world. Why had I never truly considered it for my day job?

Not sure.

But as I plan my publishing and writing schedule for the rest of 2018 and into 2019, I have an achievable goal: amp up the success of the fiction writing so it can act as a second source of income in the event my day job falters. It only makes economic sense.

How many sources of income do you have?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Deep Diving Into the Mind of Christopher McQuarrie

This summer, I have seen every major film. But there is only one I want to see again. This time, in IMAX. Yeah, I’m talking about Mission Impossible: Fallout again.

Last week I wrote about sixth film in the Mission Impossible franchise. In the week since, I read every article I could find and watched every video featurette (discussions of the heists, that HALO jump, English slang, and the oh-so-charming one where Tom Cruise gets James Corden to jump out of a plane) but the crown jewel was the deep dive into the mind of director Christopher McQuarrie. Specifically I’m talking about his interview with the Empire Film Podcast. Host Chris Hewitt and McQuarrie talk. And talk. And talk. In fact, their interview is longer than MI: Fallout, which is the longest film of the entire series. But you will never be bored. You’ll want them to keep on going.

You might’ve already heard about some of the tidbits from this interview. Yeah, I’m talking about MustacheGate. Henry Cavill, deep into the filming of Fallout, was called back for reshoots on Justice League. But he had grown a mustache. Superman doesn’t have a mustache. What to do. McQuarrie relates the honest tale.

He also discusses the conspicuous absence of Jeremy Renner. His character, Brandt, starred in the two previous films, so why wasn’t he in Fallout? Again, the answer is as basic as it gets.

Those are likely the headline-grabbing pieces that might get someone to invest nearly three hours of listening. But that’s not the best. Not even close. The real gems of this interview is getting into the head of McQuarrie as he discusses, in intricate detail, aspects of the film. He talks about movie making in general, but most of his points can easily be applied to art of writing fiction. It was a master class in storytelling and making choices. More than once McQuarrie faced a deadline while shooting this film, and in nearly every time, he had to improvise. We writers talk about pantsing vs. plotting. The creation of Fallout is as close to pantsing as I’ve ever heard.

Best thing about the end of this episode? It’s only part 1. Part 2 arrives next week.

Do yourself a favor and listen to this interview. I bet you’ll come away not only with a greater appreciation of the film, but you’ll get a spark of creativity to boot. And sometimes, we all need a little spark.

You can find the interview here or via your favorite podcast app (I use and love Overcast).