My New Book is Out

I am happy to say today that I, at last, got out my second book in the Blade Holmes western mysteries. This one entitled, The Ghost Dance, follows Marshall Holmes from Fort Robinson, Nebraska to Nevada and back to the Sioux Reservations of Southern, South Dakota.  The book centers on the famous circle dance of the white shirted dancers, the Ghost Dance. This one has lots of authentic western history and is a very nice follow up to, Commitment, the first Blade Holmes historic novel.

In other writing news, I am nearly finished with my final touches of my gardening book, then it will get final edits and off to my first readers. If everything goes well, I hope this one is only a few weeks away.

So what am I reading? Thomas McGuane – Keep the Change, so far I am enjoying it, even if it does fit best into the dreaded category of Literary Fiction. I am also reading and enjoying, Postcards, by famed Wyoming writer, Annie Proulx.

My book sales are picking up right now, always a good thing and the weather is looking more and more like spring. Can’t wait to start digging in that terrific garden soil again.

Keep on reading and keep on writing.


Published in: on April 10, 2017 at 11:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Writing to the End

img_6880Seems like my book sales always tail off in the first part of each month. I am not sure why, but there might be a reason. I am not much of a self-promoter and usually see an uptick after I do some type live of presentation. I do not have thousands of follows on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus like many writers do. My numbers have grown the past few years slowly, as I usually hand select which one’s I want to refollow.

It is embarrassing how slow I have been in getting new books published. I get down to the last few edit, revising and first reader steps and then start something else, or stall out on a book cover. I have always enjoyed writing the words, not so much with selecting or building book covers.

The last few weeks have been full of meetings, travel, Dr. Appointments and bad weather for us. Those seem to be pretty good excuses for my slow down.

I read a nice post recently about plotting or not plotting when writing a novel. It always interests me when I see how others go about putting a story together. I start with an idea, usually an event. In the two books that I am working on covers for, here is the ideas I started with. With my children’s book, book three of a series, It was easy, the entire series has a theme. In my newest, my three protagonist kids meet up with a vampire. This follows the theme of the first two where they met up with a ghost and a zombie.

My historical fiction is a bit more difficult. In the first of what will be four or more novels with protagonist Blade Holmes, he gets involved in a real mystery following bad guys back and forth from Laramie City to Fort Laramie Wyoming. The second book, also partially set at Fort Laramie ends with the Ghost Dance in the Black Hills.

After I have an idea, with nothing else to go on, I write the first chapter, letting my mind take it where it may. After that, I put together a few notes on where I want the story to go. With these notes, I will often write down scenes and places I want to include. Then I start writing. I never pick an ending at the start, often half way through I know how it will end, sometimes I end in a place and with an event that surprises me.

Love to hear from others as to how you put a tale together.


Published in: on February 10, 2017 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Saturday Thoughts on Writing

Seems like western movies are here to stay. Every year or two a couple of new ones are fairly well received, at least well enough for someone to make another. I still see quite a few new, westerns that look and read a lot like the pulp westerns of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Not sure there is much of an audience for these and all are self-published. On the other hand, historical fiction, historical mysteries, and historical romance seem to still have quite a large audience. It also appears that writers of historicals are finding success with both self-publishing and traditional publishing.

Although I call this site, Confessions of a Writer of Westerns, I actually write, in most cases, historical fiction. MY definition of historical fiction is a work where the story is fiction, but the setting, events and some of the characters are real to the time and place.img_2964

My present novel, which I am still in the process of editing is a fictitious look at the Ghost Dance in the weeks before the terrible massacre at Wounded Knee.  In the work I use six main characters to carry the tale, and of the six, three are mine, and three are real people from the period and place. I enjoy writing this type of fiction, but to keep it authentic, it takes many hours of research. The research material becomes part of the story and adds to the history lesson that many historical fiction works carry. I hope that after reading my historical fiction, readers will do some research, finding out more about the events, people, and places in the story.

Before finishing I always run my stuff through a readability check. I like to make sure my works fall into an area where they are readable and understandable but not too hard. My kids’ books I try to get to a fourth-grade level my regular books around a low high school level. This lower high school level is above what is allowed on most government regulations that are to be read by all of us, ordinary people. By the way, this post comes in at 9.8 or just under, 10th-grade reading level, pretty normal for most novels today.5 horses

Published in: on February 4, 2017 at 8:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Western Short Stories – What A Ride

I cannot say how terrific it feels to see my book of Christmas short stories is still selling. Although the stories are set around Christmas, they are stories for any time of the year. The short tales are more of love, hope, relationships and most of all, the west.

The book did well before Christmas and is still going strong, selling a few copies, now, nearly every day. I often get notes on blog posts or by email about my books, and occasionally by mail. Recently I received a most heartwarming note about this book. It was so appreciated, as all of us that write hope that we are making a difference in our readers day, if nothing else, but to bring a bit more pleasure and happiness into someone’s life.

Take a look here, you can read the entire first story for free. Now that’s a good deal.

Interested in westerns? Read my western writing blog posts here –

Reading Through the Boring Stuff

I often pick up a book I think will be a great read then find it gets off to a slow start. At times I will keep reading with hopes the story will get better.  Sometimes I will put the book away for another day and never pick it up again. I have liked several of Elmore Leonard’s books over the years and have always been a fan of his 10 Rules for good Writing, especially his last one – “Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.”

As you may have guessed by now, I started an Elmore Leonard book and found most of the first chapter boring, went to the second, and then skipped ahead to see when a good Elmore Leonard story would break out. One last thought on this, what is boring and what is not, is up to the reader, other readers may find fascinating what I find boring. The old, “In the eye of the beholder,” thing.

Although Jack Kerouac is considered a genius by some writers and readers, others find him a bit too mystical to understand, count me as one of the latter. I do find much of what he wrote entertaining, just a little hard to understand such as – “It ain’t watcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.” I get it but am not sure it deserves an A+ for great use of the English language.

When I read the above, I may have said, “hummmm,” then scratched my head.

Meanwhile keep on reading and keep on writing.

Writing – 2016

Christmas is over, and now we are counting down to the New Year. Each year I make a few resolutions, and each year they seem to go quickly by the wayside. Last year I decided, for the first time, to keep track of how many words I wrote and published. I did it, but am not sure I will keep track this year, seemed to put too much pressure on me, and I started worrying about the days I didn’t write. Sometimes that causes a bit, or a whole bunch of bad writing, not worth saving. (Oh, for the record, I wrote a tad less than a quarter of a million words this year. Quite a bit for me but partly because I wrote a lot recently, trying to finish up last year’s goals)

This year my goals are simple – 2017

  1. Publish the third of my kid’s books – This book is finished but is yet to have a cover. I am sure to get this one out. The first two of the Mike, Moose, and Me series were fun and sold a good number of copies, I hope this one does as well.
  2. Publish the second, in what I hope will be a series of five, western mysteries, with Marshall Blade Holmes as the protagonist. This one is 90% written, but has some things I need to clean up. Then editing.
  3. Finish my modern day mystery, set in a Wyoming small town with murder on a golf course. This is to be a novella, and I am about the halfway Fun, especially for golfers and mystery lovers. (still in the western genre)
  4. Publish a book for gardeners, yep gardeners. This one started on a whim and now is about 2/3 complete. Gardening tips in the western high country with every fourth chapter a murder mystery.
  5. Continue research and writing of my second nonfiction book. I hope to add another 20,000 words to this one before the years is out.
  6. Keep on blogging, for the past few years I have written more than 100 blog posts each year, twice over 200, this year about 10-12 each month on my various blogs should do.

2016 – This year I published one book and one short story. I also ran a five-day reduced price, promotion on my Christmas book, which was well received. I also did a giveaway of a short story, that story is still doing well, selling for .99 cents. My newest book, Ghost of the Fawn, has enjoyed a good run on Amazon, staying in the top 200 for several weeks.

Will I Make This Year’s Goals? – Maybe I will do more than my stated resolutions in the New Year, I hope not to do less, it often depends on our travel and my love of photography and golf. Several things I am sure of. I will run a couple more promotions for my books, I will take lots of photos, I will write and edit, and put some time in at far away, but not too far, destinations.

See all of my books and my Amazon author site by clicking the link

Published in: on December 28, 2016 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Writing Western Books

Help for Writers – Seems to me that more and more websites and blogs are tossing around books I classify as, writer helpers. Kind of like hamburger helper but for writers. We I see a new add for plotting, finishing, starting, editing, character development or one of many other writers helps, I look them up. Not what they are offering but them, what have they written and did it sell, often not, or not so much. Makes me think there may be more money in writing books helping others to write books than there is in any other genre.  Just an observation.horses-skylined

Dusting off an old book – Years ago I started writing a book on failing in small business. It was a tongue in cheek look at how really difficult it is to be one of the lucky ones that actually makes money in a small business. Think I might drag it out, it was fun. But don’t expect me to ever come out with a book on writing, well maybe, if I sell a few million, which seems unlikely. Several years ago vanity presses were all the rage, pay upfront and got your book published. Today buy the book and self-publish, at least the new way is easier. In all likelihood, few books will be sold, but at least by self-publishing, the writer will not finish in the hole.

NANO Writers – As so many writers plug away trying to get sixteen hundred words a day in a quest to reach 50,000 words during November, the National Write a Novel Month, I have been taking it easy.  I could blame my lack of production on hand pain, and swelling brought on by arthritis, but it’s getting better, and I can type again. I don’t believe I have ever written much more than 30,000 words in any given month, guess that is good for me. Each year I think about attempting NANO, but each year I pass. Considering I was out of state the first week of the month and spend three days last week at a school board convention guess November is a bad month for me, writing production wise. Hey, maybe next year.

Progress Report – The books I had hoped to have ready for Christmas are going nowhere, I have done a bit of work on two of them but now hoping for February.img_2167

Christmas Stories – I am considering some type of promotion for my book of western Christmas stories. Take a look here and read the first one or most of it at least for free. Under Western Skies.under-western-skies



Published in: on November 20, 2016 at 9:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wyoming’s Fabulous Spanish Diggings

I taught History of the American West and Wyoming History for more than 40 years and during that time attempted to visit as many of the places we studied as I could. Last Saturday, for the first time, I was able to take a trip to the Spanish Diggings, a site rich in hard quartzite rock used by ancient people. My first impression of the area is that it is spectacular, and the dig sites are incredible.

Dig sites

Dig site broken stone

The area lies between Guernsey and Lusk in both Platte and Niobrara counties in a remote and difficult to reach area. The major section of the site was deeded to the state many years ago, but the only way to reach this valuable resource is by crossing private land on a rough two track in an area of wheat strips.

Thanks to Patsy Parkin, President of the Platte County Historical Society, a group of 40 of us spent a memorable day going through the site. Our tour was led by Randy Brown of Douglas, a man who has taken numerous groups through the site. Mr. Brown took our group to the Barber Site and to the Dorsey Quarry #2, along with other unnamed areas.

The Spanish Diggings may be as old as 10,000 years or more. Some believe 5,000 years is closer, and some think the digs date back a mere 1,000 years. Although what year they started might never be known, we do know, the rock quarries at the site were likely not abandoned until trade goods made of iron reached the area. This would mean that the site, used for centuries, has been unused since the early or middle of the 1800s when the first trapper/traders reached the area.

Broken Rock Everywhere

Not only are the dates of use a mystery, but how the large rock outcroppings were worked is also a mystery.  Dozens of huge fields of broken rock can be found in an area of 400 square miles, smaller rock, some worked on two or more edges can be found strew about for miles in every direction. The size of many of the broken pieces, some half the size of a living room recliner and thousands the size of basketballs, leads me to believe that they had more knowledge of levers, and physics than most believe.


Taking a break on rock broken thousands of years ago


Who Built It?

Early visitors to the sites dismissed the idea of the Plains Indians having anything to do with the diggings. Odd, because we now know that they are the very people that built and used the dig sites for at least one hundred generations. Locals and experts, more than one hundred years ago, saw the diggings as something taking more knowledge than the primitive peoples of the Plains and Mountains could possibly have acquired. How these first visitors explained the teepee rings in the area has not been recorded. What was their theory if it was not the first peoples of the area? They came up with an idea far more bizarre. They believed it was the Spanish, the Conquistadors. The fact that none came within hundreds of miles of Wyoming and the additional fact, if it were the Conquistadors, they would have needed to stay for years seems to let that idea pass by common sense. But the name stuck – the Spanish Diggings.

So what do we know? First, the diggings were a project of native Indians of the plains, possibly before they were divided into modern tribal distinctions. Another thing we know is that it was not a project of short duration as evidenced by the hundreds, more likely, thousands of teepee rings in the area.

Two great mysteries remain. The first of these is the most puzzling, nowhere on the site has anyone discovered a fire pit or anything resembling a cooking site. Second, in modern time there is no water at the site. There are several dry stream beds in the area that may have been more active hundreds or thousands of years ago as running water or at least spring runoff having left behind potholes of water.

A Park

When John B. Kendrick was governor of Wyoming (1915-1917) he proposed making the entire area a drive through national park. The governor’s idea died out with World War I but was brought up once again during the Great Depression.  When the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps were putting together what was to become Guernsey State Park under the careful watch and design of the National Park Service, there was talk of expansion to the Spanish Diggins. This time, the idea nearly became a project for the CCC, but as did the first idea, it died with war, World War II.

the area

Our view from one of the small mountains in the dig area – that’s Laramie Peak at the top of the photo, 40 miles west

What did I learn?

Many things. If the Spanish Diggins go back as far as 10,000 or even 12,000 years, which is very possible, considering the absence of fire pits, the first stone workers were appropriately Stone-Age people. Stone Age people used primitive weapons and tools, arrowheads, spear points, hammers, and wedges. These people would have been from the Paleo-Indian culture, a nomadic hunting, and wandering people. They also show better than a rudimentary knowledge of hammers, wedges, use of levers, and an understanding of basic physics. Maybe they were more advanced than most people believe.

It is more than likely that thousands of years later, during the Archaic Period, around 7,000 B.C. that stone was being quarried in this local site. This was a period of time when stone weapons and stone tools were made by the tens of thousands by native peoples. From that time on, hundreds of generations used the Platte/Niobrara County site to mine the rich purple quartz.


The stone the ancients were digging for – these have been worked a bit


To almost borrow a line from an old Four Seasons, song –

Oh, What A Day!

Published in: on October 5, 2016 at 9:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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