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.

https://www.amazon.com/Neil-Waring/e/B00XV26KLC

 

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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Wyoming the Almost A Square State

Remember one of the first puzzles you put together as a kid, sure we all do? It was the wooden map of the United States. Just find the shape of the state and put it in the correct place, which was properly embossed into the cardboard or wood backing for young learners. Every state had a unique shape and this made learning where each state was located fast and easy. But wait a minute, hold on here, what about Colorado and Wyoming, they are square, or almost so, properly rectangles. How did they get their rather non-unique shape? Not sure about Colorado as I am a Wyoming guy, but as for Wyoming.

Wyoming is the only state whose territory was taken from all four of the major land accusations of the United States. Parts of Wyoming have been claimed by five different countries and parts of Wyoming came under the rule of a dozen Spanish kings between 1479 and 1821. Not that it’s important but there were four kings named, Charles, four Phillips and four named Ferdinand.  

France also ruled parts of Wyoming under kings, Francis One and two, three Henry’s, Charles IX and four guys named Louis. At long last the little Emperor himself, Napoleon, gave up the French claim to Wyoming when Jefferson made the greatest land purchase in history, the Louisiana Purchase, in 1803.

Wyoming was also part of:  Utah Territory, Washington Territory, Nebraska Territory, Colorado Territory, Dakota Territory, and Idaho Territory.

It took thirty boundary changes to come up with the present day shape of Wyoming, an almost square rectangle- ahh, the government at work.

Oh- then we named it after a valley in Delaware.

Wyoming where mule deer sleep in your front yard, bear’s wander through local parks, elk, moose and pronghorn outnumber the people, mountain views are everywhere and people ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon. It really is like no other place on earth.

It’s good to be back.

Wyoming Funny Guy -Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye

Like all states Wyoming has had its share of colorful characters, none more colorful than Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye. Nye came west to Wyoming in 1876 and stayed seven years until 1883. He settled in Laramie and found his true passion and maybe what he was put on this earth to do – writing humor.

Nye practiced law, became postmaster of Laramie and worked for the local paper before started his own, The Laramie Boomerang, (still a six day a week paper) his newspaper columns became so popular that they were reprinted far from the small town in Southeast Wyoming being picked up by papers all over America and reprinted by more than a dozen newspapers in Europe.

Nye was indeed a first rate humorist, one of the best of his time, later in life he often shared the stage, and equal billing with Mark Twain. Unfortunately Nye’s humor has not been as lasting as Twain’s but in the last quarter of the 1800s he was one funny guy.

One of my favorite excerpts from his writing follows. This writing explains his resignation as Laramie’s Postmaster.

It is a full newspaper column I have reduced to only four of the thirteen paragraphs.

Enjoy!

Postoffice, Divan, Laramie City, W.T.

Sir.—

I beg leave at this time to officially tender my resignation as postmaster at this place, and in due form to deliver the great seal and the key to the front door of the office. The safe combination is set on the numbers 33, 66 and 99, though I do not remember at this moment which comes first, or how many times you revolve the knob, or which direction you should turn it at first in order to make it operate.

You will find the postal cards that have not been used under the distributing table, and the coal down in the cellar. If the stove draws too hard, close the damper in the pipe and shut the general delivery window.

Tears are unavailing. I once more become a private citizen, clothed only with the right to read such postal cards as may be addressed to me personally, and to curse the inefficiency of the postoffice department. I believe the voting class to be divided into two parties, viz: Those who are in the postal service, and those who are mad because they cannot receive a registered letter every fifteen minutes of each day, including Sunday.

Mr. President, as an official of this Government I now retire. My term of office would not expire until 1886. I must, therefore, beg pardon for my eccentricity in resigning. It will be best, perhaps, to keep the heart-breaking news from the ears of European powers until the dangers of a financial panic are fully past. Then hurl it broadcast with a sickening thud. *

*Excerpt taken from—Bill Nye’s Western Humor

Selected and with an Introduction

By T. A. Larson

University of Nebraska Press

Lincoln, NE 1968

If you would like to see the letter in its entirety you can find it here- http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/10/here-roads-seem-to-fork.html

Published in: on January 26, 2013 at 8:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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A Cowboy’s Christmas Tail

Just The Kind of Guy He Was
The old cowboy rode along at a slow walk, he’d owned cars and trucks for more than 20 years, maybe time passed him by, he didn’t care, it was 1952 and he remembered a time before automobiles , a slower, gentler time and then the wars, two big ones, changed everything. Something in the wind moved him back to 1952 again. He tipped his nose toward the sky and sniffed. It was wood smoke. A half hour back, before the wind freshened, he thought he smelled smoke but passed it off, thinking if old people could start seeing things and hearing things maybe he started smelling things that were not there. But now he was sure, it was smoke.
But that couldn’t be, not in December, matter of fact it’s the 24th, Christmas Eve. Good memories started to fill his head but he pushed them away as quickly as they had come on. Christmas was just another day in December, nothing special, at least to him, not anymore.
People didn’t camp this high up in December, hunting season was long past and the only house, except for his five miles away, was the old Godfrey place. It was maybe three quarters of a mile over the ridge to the north. The smell of burning wood was coming with the north wind, but that place had been vacant for what, 20 years, at least 15?
Clark Banks pulled up to think, but only for a moment, he had to know, that was the kind of guy he was. The sun was setting, it would be late, long past dark, when he got home, but he tapped his heels in his gray gelding and loped north picking his way though flat rocks and yucca.
He always liked the old Godfrey place, isolated, but picture perfect, like a bank calendar picture. The place set in a natural mountain park surrounded by junipers and berry bushes. Years ago when he and Bette last visited the Godfrey’s they were old and frail and the place had been falling apart. Couldn’t be much of anything left now.
Another minute and Clark Banks reached the crest of the hill overlooking the long deserted place. Only three times in his 65 years had something left him speechless, the day he got married, when their only child was born and now as he looked down on the old Godfrey place.
It was spectacular, the Junipers were sparkling with thousands of multi-colored lights. The cabin he remembered in complete disrepair was larger, much larger, than he remembered. It was old but perfect, looked sound, complete with light showing through the windows and the smoke he’d smelled was wind angling north from the chimney in great black and white puffs. There was a large barn that hadn’t been there 20 years ago along with half a dozen out buildings and four large corrals.
Banks had not taken a drink of alcohol for years, right now he needed a drink, but he settled for a thorough rubbing of his eyes and another look at the scene below, a scene that did not change. He let the gray pick his way down the steep hillside, he had to see, he had to know, that’s just the kind of guy he was.
A thought crossed his mind as he neared the twinkling cabin, what if this place is full of outlaws, escaped convicts or crazy people. This could be his last minute on earth, then he smiled at the lights twinkling as dollar sized snowflakes started to fall. If this is his last minute to live it would not be too bad. He warmed as the snowflakes splattered his face, chuckled to himself, and then laughed aloud, “don’t think bad people decorate for Christmas,” he said to no one or to the snowflakes and cold.
The old cowboy tied his horse to the rail in front of the cabin, stepped on the porch and the door opened as if he were expected. A white bearded gentlemen in a red vest smiled and motioned him in. Banks felt rather young looking at the old fellow, thinking,“This guy has me by at least 20 years.”
“Can I get you something to warm ya up, Tea, Arbuckles’, whis”
“You have Arbuckles, real Arbuckles, haven’t tasted that since before I went off to France in the first war, love some.”
Banks watched the old man take a one pound bag of Arbuckles Ariosa Blend from the cabinet and make coffee on the massive wood stove in the kitchen part of the cabin. It was good, better than anything the old cowboy had tasted in years, but how did he do it, Arbuckles’ hadn’t made coffee, let alone Ariosa Blend for years.
The two men sat and talked for hours, talking about everything and chatting about nothing, like two old friends they talked into the dark of night.
When the old cowboy woke up he could not remember falling asleep. Now he was stretched out on the couch, his boots beside him on the floor. He was toasty warm as he rolled back the red and green feather comforter and turned to get up. He was all alone. He thought the old man must be outside. Slipping on his boots he walked out on the porch, half a foot of snow covered everything in sight, his horse was gone, but he knew it was in the barn. He also knew he was all alone, he could feel things, just the kind of guy he was.
Banks went back into the house, he was hungry and he wanted to taste that Arbuckles one more time. A skillet of bacon sat on the stove, beside a pot of mush and a fresh pot of coffee, and of course it would be Arbuckles, he thought. Funny but he was sure there was nothing on the stove when he stepped outside, must have failing vision along with everything else in his old age. Then he felt it, or didn’t feel it, he had no aches and pains, the ones that had been with him since his army days. The coffee was good but he wasn’t sure it had magical healing powers.
It was time to go home, he wished he could say goodbye to the old timer, thought he might ride back up here in the spring. But now it was time to leave, he had things to do, and he felt different, happy and healthy. Walking to the barn it seemed almost warm, Banks felt like he had stumbled upon the fountain of youth.
Tracks near the barn stopped him, some kind of sleigh tracks, but the animals pulling it were not horses, smaller like deer tracks, but larger, really big deer. He saddled the gelding and rode out of the barn right into the bright sunlight of his own place. How it happened he did not know, but he was home.
Was it a dream, did he have a stroke and die, was he in heaven now? Nope, he was pretty sure his place would not do for heaven. Didn’t matter, he had things to get done.
Clark Banks rode to town in a gallop; it was early, old man Tatum would open the store for him, especially after he told him he intended to buy a present for every kid in town.
He wasn’t sure why he had so much Christmas spirit, maybe it was just the kind of guy he was.

Published in: on December 25, 2012 at 12:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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Stage Coaches – Made to be Robbed

Ed Trafton was a pretty good stage robber he may have held up more coaches than any other western outlaw. And he did it all the same day.

On a hot July day in 1914 Tafton and his hidden, and not at all active, partner Charles Erpenbach robbed 15 stages in one day. All 15 were stopped near Shoshone Point on the way to Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. Seemed like as soon as he robbed one and sent it on its way another one was coming around the corner.

Tafton’s one day take was nearly a thousand in cash and over $100 in Jewelry. Oh—and five years in Leavenworth.

Note-The first autos came into the park the next year and by the next, 1916, stages coaches were gone from the park.

Published in: on December 16, 2012 at 12:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Last Battle of the Sioux

So when did the mighty Sioux nation fight its last battle and where did they fight it? How about east central Wyoming in 1903? Like many historical events this one has been reported and changed over the years, but this is what we know, with allowances for a few of my own interpretations of history.
Eagle Feather (early accounts called him Chief Charley Smith, a name purportedly given to him on the reservation by the U.S. Government and one he had to use to collect commodities) led a group of Sioux from the Pine Ridge into Wyoming, now a state for all of 13 years, on a hunting expedition, a hunt that had been given permission by Indian agent John R. Brennan. The small band headed for the area of Thunder and Lightning creeks in what is now Niobrara County Wyoming. The hunter’s accompanied by wives and children shot a few deer, sage grouse and antelope as they traveled across the plains, enjoying a taste of their old life style.
Weston county Sheriff William (Billy) Miller rounded up a posse of local stockmen and headed out to stop the Wyoming hunt. The stockmen may have been duped into believing the tribe was shooting cows instead of game and willingly traveled along to stop this new, “Indian uprising”. When the posse caught up the number of Indians in the party stopped them in their tracks. Miller believed there were too many Indians to arrest for various violations of game laws, trespassing and killing ranch stock and took his crew back to town. The next day the sheriff and his, now larger, posse caught up with the Indians at Lighting Creek and the,” Battle of Lightning Creek,” or “The Last Indian Battle,” took place.
Sherriff Miller and his deputy Louis Falkenberg were killed along with Chief Eagle Feather and several of his hunting companions. A few days later a hearing was held in nearby Douglas and the Sioux were released for lack of evidence that they had committed a crime other than defending themselves.
Wyoming Governor Fenimore Chatterton was enraged at the courts decision and tried to get the Indians in court for murder despite the findings of the Douglass court, but his power did not stretch that far.
Today if you Google, the last Sioux battle, you will first find, Little Big Horn (1876) then Wounded Knee (1890), both of great importance to the west but not the last, that would be Lightning Creek in 1903.
NOTE –A month after the Lightning Creek battle Governor Chatterton allowed popular range detective/shootest Tom Horn to be hanged in Cheyenne, a decision that most likely cost him reelection the next year.

Published in: on November 4, 2011 at 10:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Hey-Where Is My Horse?

The cowhand raced to save the distressed maiden, he leapt from his trusty steed, and ground tied him, as whistling lead and the smell of gun powder filled the air.
I made that up, but did recently finish reading books by two different authors, where the hero ground tied his horse under all conditions- they ground tied so much I got tired of waiting for the horse to run off. Things that I have read, and or tried with ground tying indicate the cowboy may need hiking boots instead of cowboy boots if he ground ties too much.
Much like the cowboys that loop the reins around the hitching post in the old movies, horses will shy and get the heck out of Dodge if too much action and noise starts. Heck my pick-up doesn’t like to stick around if things get to wild——-but I do.
I like well researched western reads, not sure these writers had spent much time around horses. Too bad, one of them was fast paced and fun.

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 12:02 am  Comments (2)  
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The Last Stagecoach Hold-up

The summer of 1914 may have truly marked the end of the old west. Why, because that was the year of the last stagecoach holdup, and it took place near Shoshone Point in Yellowstone Park. Other places claim the last holdup, including one of the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage and one in Nevada, but I like this one. The year marked the end of the horse’s only transportation in the park, as cars came for the first time the next year, and a year after that, 1916 would mark the end of the coaches in the park.

I like this bit of history  because the robber, Edward Trafton, (Ed Harrington) did not just hold up a stagecoach, he held up fifteen in a row. The stages carried tourists seeing the sights of the park, and the sixteenth coach, sniffing out something bad, turned around and went for help.

Wearing several layers of extra clothes and a black mask,Trafton stopped each coach rustled out the passengers and asked them, while holing a rifle, to put their money in a sack lying at his feet. For his days work he collected a little over nine hundred dollars and jewelry worth another one- hundred and thirty dollars. Trafton, a ladies’ man, or one who believed he was, laughed and asked the ladies to hide their jewelry, he was only interested in cash. Not sure how or why he ended up with more than a hundred dollars worth anyway, maybe he didn’t like some of the women as much as others.

Trafton had so much fun holding up a stage every half hour that he even allowed some of the passengers to take his photo. Not sure Tafton was the smartest of outlaws, but he likely believed he was, because of this day, famous, and needed to secure his place in history. It did secure a place but maybe not what he had in mind.

The well photographed outlaws next stop was Leavenworth, where he rested up for five years. He died more than a decade later
with a letter in his pocket claiming he was the cowboy Owen Wister based the Virginian on. More likely, if Wister  ever met him and put him in the famous novel, he was one of the bad guys or less than bright characters in the story. Trampas?

Western Movies

In just a few days the new version of True Grit opens. Will it be a winner or just another western that today’s audiences don’t like? Fifty years ago nearly everything on Television was some kind of western series and many feature films were westerns. Did too much cowboy time on TV kill the western? Twenty-nine series westerns in 1959 –Over exposure, maybe! And maybe that is what killed the big budget westerns on the silver screen. There have been some exceptions but for the most part westerns, of today, are marginal hits at best.

Maybe westerns don’t lend themselves to enough special effects and big screen tricks to keep today’s young viewers in their seats.

Or likely we oldsters don’t go to the theater enough.

Just for fun here is a list of my favorite westerns (some well know some a little more obscure) – not in order just my top 15.

What are your favorites?

       Here is mine.

  1. Open Range

  2. 3-10 to Yuma

  3. The outlaw Josie Wales

  4. Winchester 73

  5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

  6. The Shadow Riders

  7. Last of the Dogmen

  8. Jeremiah Johnson

  9. Dances With Wolves

10.  Stage Coach

11.  Unforgiven

12.  The Good the Bad and the Ugly

13.  Rio Bravo

14.  Treasure of the Sierra Madre

15.  Ride the High Country