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Dark Western Trilogy May 1, 2019

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, Haiti, history, New Mexico, outlaws, weird westerns, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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It’s been a long time since I dropped a few lines here. Release of a boxed set of my (as Jackson Lowry) dark westerns for a bargain price (!) prompted me to pass along the official release blurb and to urge you to spend a buck and get all creeped out!

OFFICIAL BLURB FOR PUNISHED: A DARK WESTERN BOXED SET

BOOK ONE: UNDEAD
The day the Yankees came and took everything from wealthy landowner Vincent Bayonne was a day he’d never forget—how could he live with the uncertainty of not knowing what happened to his wife and children? Forced to watch as his plantation was burned to the ground by one of the slaves, Bayonne has sunk to the bottom of the barrel. A drunkard who has only his consuming hatred to sustain him, he makes his way from Louisiana to San Francisco, barely managing to survive on the Barbary Coast.
Just when he thinks he has nothing to live for, he discovers that William Sherman, the former slave who torched his home, is alive and well—and Sherman bears a hatred for his former master to match Bayonne’s. When Sherman bests Bayonne in a fight, the once-wealthy Southerner wakes up in a coffin, prepared for a fate he could never have imagined.
Hatred fuels Bayonne’s survival, but Sherman has cursed his nemesis with powerful voodoo magic that dooms him to an eternity of only half-living in the twilight existence of a zombie. Can an old Chinaman provide the answers Bayonne needs to survive in the world of the UNDEAD?

BOOK TWO: NAVAJO WITCHES
Vincent Bayonne has gone from wealthy Louisiana plantation owner to penniless drunk in a very short time. But that’s not all. William Sherman, the ex-slave who put the torch to Bayonne’s beloved plantation, Dark Oaks, has done the unspeakable. Sherman, a voodoo priest, has placed a curse on Bayonne and made him one of the undead—living, but not truly alive.
The elusive Dr. Glencannon is the only man who can stave off the sense-dulling effects of the curse with his elixir—but Bayonne is always one step behind him. A young Navajo boy tells Bayonne his uncle, Begay, can help—but for a price—killing the skinwalker that has been terrorizing the Navajo people.
Though Bayonne resents having to hunt the supernatural shapeshifter, there is no choice for him. For Begay, true to his word, concocts a potion that holds the zombie traits at bay and allows Bayonne to do what he must do—including hunting the skinwalker.
As Bayonne stalks the skinwalker, he makes a surprising discovery. Will he be able to kill the beast? And can he make it back to New Orleans in time to meet the Queen of the Cape when William Sherman comes ashore?

BOOK THREE: BAYOU VOODOO
Hanged twice, but still . . . undead.
Vincent Bayonne’s luck may have run out at last. The former plantation owner must find William, the freed slave who placed the zombie curse on him, if he wants to avoid the unholy fate of a living death. To reach William in New Orleans, he makes his perilous way across the untamed American frontier while escaping from US Army patrols, dodging lawmen and railroad detectives after the reward on his head, and trying not to get killed by those who hate him because of his cruel rule over Dark Oaks Plantation.
Bayonne’s quest for revenge is now a fight for sheer survival. The medicine he needs to hold back the slow coarsening of his body and mind, turning him into a zombie, is long gone. His only hope is to find William, and to do that he must first get Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, to befriend him. His only allies are a beautiful woman from his past and his own incredible strength while under the curse. With the choice of becoming totally undead or begging those he hates most for aid, Bayonne plunges into the darkest recesses of black magic, hoping for a cure—and redemption.

Check it out (and the other fine fictional tidbits at Sundown Press:

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White Oaks and the Drain Plug July 23, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in Billy the Kid, education, ghost towns, history, New Mexico, nostalgia, outlaws, westerns, Wild West.
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It’s no secret that New Mexico is circling the drain in many ways, fiscally, population, jobs, education. Small towns are dying and it’s as if someone folded the state in the middle, the cities and towns on the east and west rolling to the crease that is the Rio Grande Rift. Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces are becoming the only populated places in the state.

That’s why I was delighted to see the small town of White Oaks down in Lincoln County giving a shot at putting in the drain plug by getting folks (ie, tourists) into their town, if only for an afternoon. The population is 70 and is situated in gorgeous terrain in the Sacramento Mts, near Ruidoso and oozing with history from the Lincoln County War to serious gold mining. There is a cenotaph in the cemetery memorializing one of the deputies Bill the Kid murdered (James W. Bell’s body is there somewhere–they don’t know where, so…). The last mine in town was a tungsten mine. The special occasion was the reinstatement after 40 years of a tribute potluck dinner for

David Jackson
His acceptance in the town so long ago is especially noteworthy because the first black to ride into White Oaks was hanged as a horse thief. David Jackson was the second and became a pillar of the community and brought electricity to Carrizozo, the county seat 12 miles away.

After the potluck at a very nice former schoolhouse turned museum, we got a tour of the town, including a soon-to-be-open bed and breakfast, a pre-1900 house with copper shingles and the town’s main draw now, the No Scum Allowed Saloon. Here’s a picture (Lorene Mills, photo):

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Getting Weird…But It Always Has Been April 2, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in history, robot rights, science fiction, serial fiction, steampunk, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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I am talking about weird westerns, of course. Writing has taken me on a curving path the past couple years, but weird westerns have always been there along the way. Awhile back I looked into the history of WW and found, to my surprise, that they have been around almost as long as western fiction and, more than once, have saved the traditional western from extinction.

Back in 1860 Beadle’s Dime Novels ran a story, “Captives of the Frontier” by Seth Jones. Straight ahead western–and it sold 400,000 copies. The appeal of the frontier, the Wild West, the freedom offered by endless vistas (and the dangers, such as being kidnapped by ferocious savages) proved to be a big hit with Eastern audiences starving in rat-infested tenements. But even such derring-do and fraught-with-danger tales can pale. In 1868 Edward Sylvester Ellis perked up the field with what is likely the first WW: “The Huge Hunter or The Steam Man of the Prairies.”
Even better (for me) it’s got a robot in it!

Tale tales in the West (or anywhere else) are hardly unique. Paul Bunyon and Pecos Bill and La Llorona and…lots. Creepy and funny, outrageous and maybe hinting at what it was like to be an explorer, the stories were told around the campfire. But the Dime Novels gave a new dimension–the printed word. As the western rose, WWs languished, but as the traditional western fell out of favor, WWs flourished in many forms. Today the traditional western (published in NYC) is on the wane. Indie publishers are taking up the slack but WWs are proliferating (and along with them steampunk stories set in the Wild West). A forthcoming WW anthology has some of the best sf writers around in it but very few western writers–that’s good for cross-pollination. It’s hard these days to find such an anthology of only traditional western writers (and if you know of a new one, let me know. I missed it.)

The Great West Detective Agency October 5, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, history, outlaws, westerns, Wild West.
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October 7. Write it down. Check it out…the release of The Great West Detective Agency by “Jackson Lowry,” of course. It has been a long trip getting here, or so it seems. Time travels in crazy spurts and long stretches like silly putty being pulled endlessly. The wait is over now and the book, both print and ebook, is available.

GWDA is my attempt at combining some elements of the traditional western and some humor a la Maverick with a mystery thrown in. I don’t think mysteries have to be murder mysteries necessarily. There are plenty of gunfights and bodies littering the pages, but this is a “Maltese Falcon” type of story with the ultimate discovery, amid political infighting and double-crosses, popping up at the end to wrap up a lot of subplots.

And it all starts with a gambler being hired to find a lovely lady’s poor little puppy dog.

This is the kind of story I enjoy reading. Something trivial snowballs into full-scale mayhem. GWDA has Russian revolutionaries, filibusterers, the possibility of Colorado seceding from the Union, millions in hidden treasure–and it all begins with Amanda Baldridge having her puppy stolen.

One thing about novels I’ve enjoyed is speculating on the backgrounds of characters. I’ve addressed that here with 4 Lives (in both print and ebook), a four story background on characters that play important roles in the story. In addition, the GWDA’s first chapter is included as a taste of the book itself. This is a good way to ease into the world of ne’er-do-well gambler Lucas Stanton and how he came to be the reluctant owner of the GWDA.

It was great fun to write. I hope you’ll find it as much fun to read.

Great West Detective Agency

Great West Detective Agency

Playing In My Own Sandbox (part 3) April 20, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, history, VIPub, Wild West, writing.
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The word circulated last week that Random Penguin had axed four different western series. This wasn’t unexpected–I pretty much assumed this in December and realized what the merger of Random House and Penguin meant last year when it was announced. I said in an article by Rod Miller in the Feb 2014 issue of WWA Roundup Magazine about the merger: After the dust settles on most mergers, fewer titles are published and fewer editors are needed.

No swami crystal ball sf futurist navel gazing required. That’s how business is done. The easy explanation was also in the article where I said: A merger yields one company selling into a customer base inadequate to keep the two in business.

In other words, the number of readers for separate companies isn’t big enough but a smaller output of books to that same readership might let the merged company survive. That’s the way legacy publishers have to work. Be the biggest fish swimming in the ocean or die. The problem is when your ocean dries up to a mere mud puddle. Big doesn’t work for survival then.

VIPub is different. Ebooks have changed the game, and for the reader (and probably the author) for the better. Four cancelled series = 50 books a year. That’s quite a void for the nimble VIPub ebook author to fill. In the case of westerns, a lot of the readers don’t want or use ereaders, but thanks Amazon, thanks for CreateSpace. Print on Demand! With overhead smaller for independent publishers, smaller lead times and more agile editing and production, this deficit can be addressed fast.

And it seems to be in the works. At least one indie publisher is working on several possible new series, and I expressed my interest. I would love to have input into how these series are structured, since they can be done radically different from legacy publishing. I pitched several weird western limited series years back, to no takers. Maybe now. Interlocking stories is a possibility. A return to the old-school sf trilogy, only with westerns? Open-ended series are fine but sometimes you want a story to, you know, end. Fifty books is a big gap to fill and numbers are on the side of the VIPub/indie publisher. Ten percent of that former legacy market is good money.

But reaching it might be difficult since Walmart isn’t likely to take PoD books due to size and nonreturns. That will go into a future blog post on discoverability and pushing your own series titles.

A tribute to all the fallen heroes in those four series.

The Times They Are A’Changin’ January 26, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in history, ideas, sci-fi, science fiction, web & computers, writing.
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As they always do. We have lived through a unique span in history where we can watch (and know) major upheavals in the world. The Internet is as big as the Gutenberg printing press. The new Industrial Revolution is happening with 3D printing. A house in 2 days. No problem. An iPhone? I’ll print it for you today. Replacement organs? Feed in the DNA template and that kidney will be yours next week. What a chance to see and understand major influences driving our world.

To a lesser extent, there has been a change in writing, or rather in writing technique. In sf the late ’60s and early ’70s saw the New Wave. Story became less important than the characters, much as literary fiction was almost 100% angst and no idea. SF didn’t go that far but ideas took a backseat to the more literary emphasis on drilling down into the character. Somewhere in the early ’90s another change came about. This one hasn’t been touted or given a name, but it is there.

Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Thesis=pure idea sf of the ’40s. Anthesis=New Wave. Synthesis=now. SF has always been interested in the “what if?” playing with ideas–and still is. Social commentary or hard science extrapolation, doesn’t matter. SF is an idea fiction. But in the early ’90s what the readers expected changed. The “now” is a equal merging of the idea with the character.

I’ve had some sf stories from the 1980s reprinted and I cringed when I saw how little characterization there was in favor of the sweeping idea, the grand space opera adventure. But that was ok then. Readers expect more now with background on who is engaging in that grand adventure–and what drives them. Flaws? Better have them since this is more realistic, even in a superhero story (or maybe especially in a superhero story). Villains have to be more than bad because they’re bad or they turn into parodies as in Despicable Me.

I stand by what I did in, say, Alien Death Fleet because that was right for the times. But I much prefer putting in characters to go with the derring-do, as in Fate of the Kinunir

Not only do I enjoy writing the more complete package of idea married with characterization, I prefer reading it now.

You can still enjoy the galaxy smashing style of earlier space opera but today’s work has to be more complete, a synthesis of space opera and New Wave to stand out. And that’s not a bad thing.

Of Alien Worlds…and Adjectives and Nouns January 12, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, history, iPhone, movies & TV, sci-fi, science fiction, steampunk, Wild West, writing.
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I have mentioned before that writing westerns is now equivalent to writing sf. Science fiction envisions new and different worlds filled with characters unknown or unimagined by the reader. The traditional western set in the post Civil War era through 1890 and the closing of the frontier is now the same. Growing up, my oldest relatives lived at the edge of that time. Now that the WWII generation is shuffling off its mortal coil, firsthand stories are lost. With iPhones, 3D printers and wifi our everyday reality, the 1880s is completely unknown to modern readers through personal experience of family story. That means the same techniques we use to bring sf alien worlds alive are now necessary for westerns. We need to take the reader to a time and place completely beyond their ken with vivid description–and explanation of why the world is as we write it with “alien” elements like horses and cattle drives.

The style of writing has changed immensely in the last 25 years, where idea driven stories have fallen out of favor to ones with character driven plots. Westerns need to gear up, too, but a lot of writers already understand this and are working to give depth and motive (other than “revenge”) to their characters.

Along with this change is the broadening (I hesitate to say diluting, but that is part of it) with so many cross-genre stories. The noun is always the dictating form. For instance, ranch romance is a romance with all those conventions set in the west. If you happen to come across a romance western, you will have found a rare entry. Most all “…” romance is above all a romance. Paranormal romance. That’s romance with creepy happenings. Historical romance. A romance set in some other time period. And so on.

One interesting backwater is the western steampunk story. It can as easily be steampunk western. Adjective defining the type of western. Or the weird western. There aren’t many other sub genres that let us do a western with different overtones (there might be western mysteries like Longmire but check the adjective and the noun) but to maintain the structure, the very world of western lore requires us to understand what we are writing.

I love traditional westerns, but they were/too-often-are action driven with little regard to the characters. The best in the field like Elmer Kelton either consciously or unconsciously realized a western becomes more vital with living, breathing characters doing things the reader can identify with. With this additional writing technique, we now have to describe a world so far removed in time and space that it has become science fictional.

For your perusal, check out this Western Fictioneers series centered on individuals in the Old West. My Jackson Lowry title The Artist is an example of what I have been rattling on about. It is set in the Old West with a real character with a history, motivation and depth to bring him alive to today’s readers. It’s on sale right now, so you won’t be out that much to see what I mean. You won’t go wrong with the other novels in the West of the Big River series, either.

Happy trails, buckaroos.

A story of Charles Russell

A story of Charles Russell

Looking Backward Into the Future December 30, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in history, nostalgia, sense of wonder, writing.
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The year 2012 is about finished. Somehow the dark parts are remembered more than the upside, at least for me this year. Jim Young and Mike Montgomery both died unexpectedly, suddenly, both younger than me. Dave Locke’s death wasn’t as unexpected but still a shock.

I can’t help but think back on others who have meant so much to me and the friendship and utter resources of their great minds lost in prior years. Gwynne Spencer was a constant source of ideas and knew more about children’s books than, well, anyone. I was never quite sure how much of the Art Bell-esque stuff she believed or merely played with because of the imaginative challenges afforded in believing in such things. And I still find myself reaching for the phone to call Geo Proctor to get his take on…well, about everything. He never saw the ebook revolution. In a prior century we argued over so many of things that are commonplace today. His marketing expertise and artistic talents are lost–as is his friendship which I so highly valued.

But 2012 saw the deaths of others of note. N Jospeh Woodland, who invented bar codes (and who used to be a gangster). Martin Fleischmann of cold fusion infamy. Georges Lamour invented the paper chef’s hat. Jack Tramiel of Commodore 64 fame. George Rathmann founded Amgen. Jean Giraud (Moebius). There was also Ray Bradbury and Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride. And Airship Ventures, whose bankruptcy takes away a touch of wonder in our world.

The grains of sand run through 2012’s hour glass more like a river than a trickle. I doubt 2013 will be different, but then I am something of a pessimist. Will we see improvement in our lives next year? I think the opposite, but I am willing to be wrong. Entropy has set in to our society and the tides of prosperity ebb.

Leaving you with fond wishes for a better 2103 and this…

Merry Mayan Apocalypse December 20, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, death, End of the World, history, sci-fi, sense of wonder.
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Tomorrow, as I write this, the 5125 year Long Count Mayan calendar runs out. I personally think their next page with future 5125 years on it was lost. Or maybe got banned because it was a pinup calendar with sexy pictures of jaguars cavorting with Mayan maidens.

I have some fun with this and zombie apocalypses and so on, but too many people (even if it is just one, it is too many) take this seriously. Or at least use it for their own benefits, such as this sex hunt in NY.

Maybe not so bad? Will there be a population spike 9 months from now as after power blackouts? I doubt it. Like so much of this, just people scrambling for their 15 min of fame. (Doesn’t that 15 min come with some sort of inflation COLA? It’s *still* only 15 minutes. Unfair! We need a gummint commission to investigate the lack of increase.)

This hoohaw isn’t something making just occidentals crazy. Orientals can share it, too. China? Yup.

Serbia and France are seeing a rise in tourism to sacred mountains.

Only the Mayas seem unconcerned
. Fancy that. Can they be sued for causing such a furor worldwide?

If you believe we’re all doooomed, okay. As I write this, it is Dec 21 in Australia and they are doing just fine. Maybe better than the US but that’s another story entirely.

But if you are looking for some mighty fine reading post-apocalyptic fun, I have discounted sf titles on my store starting on Dec 21 and lasting a few days only.

Wishing you a nice eternity. And a cheery Saturday.

Book #1 Weapons of Chaos

Book #1 Weapons of Chaos

Slap Leather, Pilgrim October 7, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, e-books, history, iPad, New Mexico, outlaws, Texas, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing, zeppelin.
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The past few days have been spent getting a talk ready for the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium coming up at the end of the week. I’ll be on a panel Friday morning, give my talk on New Mexico railroads both Friday and Saturday afternoons. For me talking that much is a marathon event and I’ll likely end up hoarse (horse? Sorry!)

From a writing standpoint, I’m trying some new marketing ideas. I’m turning my notes into an epub for easier use on my iPad, then will post the ebook on my store next week (for free, of course) for anyone wanting to see more details since I don’t anticipate going too deep into any one part of the talk.) Along with the talks, I’ll be selling copies of Karl Lassiter and Jackson Lowry westerns, hyping Karl’s upcoming China Jack
because it is about railroads and specifically railroads in that region of the country, and seeing how a special project goes.

Just for the getogether, I’ve done a mini-anthology of three stories about Texas Rangers, past, present and future. A memento for the event. Something easily carried (as opposed to a copy of The Traditional West)

If this experiment works, I’ll do something similar, Tales from New Mexico, for the SW Festival of Books next May. Targeted to the regional interests, relatively inexpensive, a keepsake for remembering the event. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Who knows? I might even take pictures at the symposium and lost a couple here, but it will have to be next week. Still working on finding tidbits about railroads in NM (including the 1880 tale of a fish-shaped hot air balloon dropping blue origami flowers and a teacup on the Galisteo railhead. Most inexplicable.)

More soon. Until then you might want to check out