Monday, January 26, 2015

Special Guest--Western Author J. D. McCall

My guest is J.D. McCall who was "born too late to be a cowboy," but does write westerns by night. By day, he is an industrial hygienist in the field of occupational health and safety.
His full-length novel intrigued me and kept me glued to the pages. Please welcome him by leaving a comment. He will give away a copy of his book to one lucky person.
Celia Yeary
 
1.  Hello, J.D. Thanks for visiting and answering some questions.
Your stories take place in Kansas. What about the early settling of Kansas inspires you?

First of all, thanks for having me on Sweethearts of the West. 
 I think it's a combination of things. Kansas was born in the midst of violence and played a significant role in precipitating the bloodiest conflict our country has ever been in. Then after the Civil War ended, Kansas was THE hub of the Old West.  With the exception of Billy the Kid and a few others, nearly every iconic figure from Old West history lived or spent significant time in Kansas.  All the cattle trails and railheads dead ended in Kansas, giving rise to the wild and legendary cow towns which have been the subject of countless books, movies and television shows.  And if you look past the best-known of these wicked little cities, you can even discover lesser-known cow towns such as Caldwell, Brookville, Newton, Ellsworth, and others, many as lawless and untamed as the big three. If you like to write westerns, Kansas is the perfect setting to find a story.    

2.  You live in Ottawa, Kansas. Does this city boast of anything in its past that resembles the wild and dangerous Kansas towns, especially Dodge City, Abilene, or Wichita?

Excuse my laughter at this question.  My mirth is because Ottawa has probably the least interesting early history to it of any Kansas town, much to the dismay of this western writer.  It was founded in 1865 by Baptist ministers, so it never had much going for it in the way of sin, depravity and evil. You know, all the things which make a western town fun!  Hard as I tried to find something juicy about Ottawa's past I could use for a story, the best I could do was to learn of an Ottawa nurseryman who ran off with a man's wife in Winfield, which forced the sheriff there to hunt them down when the husband filed charges against the man for "alienation of affection."    

 3.   From reading your bio, I wonder how you have time to write while holding down a full-time profession and caring for a family which includes three Labrador Retrievers.

Now you know why I take so long to write a story.  Fortunately, my family has been wonderful about giving me time to write.  At the same time, I feel like I have to keep myself accessible to them, so I don't lock myself away in a quiet room when I write.  My writing space is the recliner in the middle of the living room which means there is always a TV show or a video game going on, or else one of our dogs is badgering me to pay attention to them.  Between all that and the occasional conversation, I'm surprised I finish anything.  Seriously, I get out of my chair almost every fifteen minutes.  I sometimes wonder if I have adult ADD or som . . . Oooh, look! There's a squirrel outside my window!     

 4.   I can identify with the adult ADD! What are some of the pros and cons of a writer's life?

I think the pro portion of the job is the fun in being able to create something using only words and your mind.  What I see as the con to being a writer is that for many of us, we'll never be able to support ourselves by our writing alone.  That and getting a sore keister from sitting on my rear so much (no, really).  In all honesty, I wouldn't want to give up being an industrial hygienist because I like what I do, so there's actually no down side to it for me.  I'm perfectly fine with writing as a hobby.
MCCALL AND FRIENDS--JUST HAVING A LITTLE FUN
5.  You're a child of the fifties. What do you remember from your childhood that is special to you? How did that period in time shape your life?

I was in a coma for the first ten years of my life, so I'm a little hazy about that period, lol.  Lord, am I that old?  Yeah, I guess I am.  Looking back, it was all pretty special, from running through the dark scary hallway that separated our dining room from the living room where I watched the Saturday night Chiller movie by myself moments earlier, to summer afternoon sandlot baseball games with the neighborhood kids.  Having a fun childhood has probably kept me from becoming a stodgy old grump. 

Now, if I had to pick the thing which influenced me to write westerns, two come to mind.  Seventy years ago, my parents found an 1871 Richards Mason Conversion Model Army Colt Pistol which I now have.  It was always sort of magical when my mom would bring it out for a little while for us to look at and hold.  It felt like it weighed a ton!  

The other circumstance is that from the time I was six years old, my dad was a projectionist for the drive-in and indoor theaters in our town, so while growing up, I got to see all the current westerns for free.  Once I got to high school, I too, became a projectionist at both theaters, where I met, Polly, the woman who eventually became my wife.  Interestingly, the indoor theater (the Crystal Plaza) is now recognized as the "Oldest Continuously Operating Movie Theater in the United States."  It may actually be the oldest in the world, but they're still trying to document that.

 
http://www.amazon.com/South-Rising-Sun-J-D-McCall-ebook/dp/B00QD0D332/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422053531&sr=8-1&keywords=J.D.+McCall

6.  You know I love your novel South of Rising Sun. Would you tell the readers the meaning of this title? 

I'm really thrilled you liked SoRS, Celia.  As for the title, my tale takes place in Lecompton, Kansas, but unfortunately, Lecompton just doesn't have a very lyrical sound to it.  What was fortunate is that in 1861, just north of Lecompton and across the Kansas River, was a little town called Rising Sun.  It had a reputation for housing a few horse thieves and some wild saloons, plus it had the distinct advantage of having a terrific name for a title.  None of that, however, was enough to keep Rising Sun from completely disappearing from the Kansas landscape a few decades later.  Not a board or a foundation stone exists today.

 7.  The hero in South of Rising Sun is an aging U.S. Marshal named Alistair Taggart. I know you created Al Taggart using the memories you hold dear of a good friend. Can you explain?

My friend was a wonderful older gentleman who helped me get into the field of industrial hygiene, and in the process, became my best friend (not counting my wife, of course).  He was the most interesting and colorful fellow I have ever met, with many unusual stories to his past, some of which have western analogs in my books.  Every year since my first son was born, whenever we went on vacation, we would have an old time western photo taken (I now have twenty of them on my living room wall).  I had always wanted to do one with my friend as I always pictured him in the role of a lawman had he been born in the Old West.  Several years before his passing, I talked him into doing a photo with the two of us, and he looked so much like he had stepped out of time and into the past, I was inspired to write a story about a marshal based on him.  I even used the photo on the cover of my first book.             

 8.Your writing style somewhat resembles classic novels from another century. Yes, you use tough words when needed, and some scenes are somewhat violent and wicked, but the flow and cadence of your sentences and paragraphs is almost lyrical. Did this come naturally, or did you write in this manner for this novel?

I guess this style comes naturally to me, which I think is a by-product of having a good ear for music.  I don't have the talent to get proficient at playing an instrument, but I constantly have original music popping into my head and always have. (For the first time ever, I found someone to help me put a couple of these on a tape and I used them as music for my audiobook.) I also have for years, entertained my family by spontaneously making up funny lyrics to popular songs, sort of in the same tradition as Weird Al Yankovich. When I write, I seem to be very aware of the rhythm of my words, as you would be in a song, and if they don't flow well, I can't be satisfied until I achieve the cadence I'm comfortable with.   

9. Marshal Taggart befriends a young black man named Jerome Jenkins who lives and works on the ranch belonging to Al's friend. Through this character, we learn the Marshal Taggart is also a teacher, and he uses his knowledge to teach Jerome to read and write. This part of the story touched me, and gave me an additional perspective of Alistair Taggart. Why did you include this side story?

The dear friend upon whom I based the character of Marshal Taggart actually taught high school chemistry for three years before switching to industrial hygiene. His students loved him and always invited him to their class reunions whenever they had one.  Teaching would forever be his first love, and though he left the profession, he remained a teacher in spirit and deed throughout the rest of his life.  He was also a very caring man, one without prejudice, and once the character of Jerome was introduced, I couldn't conceive of Taggart not doing everything in his power to help this runaway slave fashion a new life for himself.

 10.  Here you are on Sweethearts of the West, where the all-female members generally write western romance novels. Is your novel "South of Rising Sun" in any way romantic?

Well, having five older sisters, you would think I might have an inside perspective on what could make a good romantic scene for a novel (or real life), but sadly, I'm like the majority of men who are never sure if they are getting it quite right.  There is a tender moment in SoRS between Taggart and a soiled dove in Rising Sun which never comes to fruition, but even in this occasion, I'm not all that confident I nailed the scene the way seasoned romance writers like you ladies could.  In my next novel, I might try flexing my romantic muscles a little more, provided the consensus is I didn't botch this minor attempt too badly. 

(Note: You see how well he writes?) 

 11. Here are a few trivia questions for short answers:

What is your favorite meal?

**Anything I don't have to cook myself.

How do and your family spend free time?

**We're big movie buffs and we like to discuss lots of different topics.

If you had one wish, what would it be?

**That everyone in the world had a decent quality of life.

I know you love Kansas. Have you lived in other places that you also enjoyed?

**I've spent all my fifty-nine years in the most boring part of the state, but I'm not complaining.  I really do love the majestic scenery of the western states, though.   

In your opinion, what would be a perfect day?

**Being on vacation with my family out west somewhere.  Doesn't matter what we do, just so long as we are all together.
See?  I can be brief when necessary, lol.
~~*~~*~~

BLURB for "South of Rising Sun.":
U.S. Marshal Alistair Taggart has spent almost seven years protecting the citizens of Bleeding Kansas from the lawlessness surrounding its push to achieve statehood. Now, Kansas has entered the Union as a free state, but the violence threatens to continue when the Civil War erupts only three months later. 
During one of Taggart’s regular visits to the former Kansas territorial capitol of Lecompton, local rancher James Harper enlists the marshal’s help to catch the cattle rustlers intent on stealing his livelihood. But Kansas is just beginning its reign as the wildest state in the Union, and Taggart must also deal with Jayhawkers, highwaymen, unpredictable weather, and those hell-bent on revenge. Taggart finds his job further complicated by a runaway slave and animals gone delinquent, along with his own concerns that age may finally be catching up with him. 
Solving the case will prove harder than Taggart ever imagined, and its resolution will cost him dearly. Sometimes, justice only comes with a price… 


EXCERPT:
It was all Taggart needed to hear. "Don't move! Any of you. If you so much as twitch, I'll blow a hole in you big enough for me to see the man standing in front of you. I have two guns aimed at you, and I have no concerns about shooting you in the back if you force my hand. Now, throw down your weapons."

No one moved, but the middle rider spoke. "Mister, I don't know who you are, or what business this is of yours, but there's four guns aimed at the man you're trying to protect. Either you throw down your guns, or we'll open fire on him."

"Then you best contemplate how much comfort that will be to you when you're dead," Taggart said. "I can take down three of you before you can get turned around, starting with the two holding rifles. I figure I can shoot at least two more while you're busy firing at this man. The remaining two need to be damned certain they're expert enough to hit me from atop a spooked horse. I'll have no such difficulty shooting you, as my horse doesn't startle at the sound of gunfire. Is this a gamble you really want to pursue?"

Still, there was no response. Taggart refused to give them time to weigh their odds.

"Gentlemen, I have things to do and places to be today. If you intend to turn this into a fight, then I would be wise to give myself the advantage and shoot first." A double click pierced the silence as he thumbed the hammer of his left gun.
~~*~~
LINKS:
http://www.amazon.com/South-Rising-Sun-J-D-McCall-ebook/dp/B00QD0D332

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/497440

http://www.mccalljd.com/

Please leave a comment for J.D. He would love to give away a copy of his book in PDF, Mobi, or ePub.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Nat Love




The west was full of famous cowboys and cowgirls, and I love when I stumble upon one I’d never heard about. While researching the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad for a work in progress, I came across Nat “Deadwood Dick” Love. 

Born in Tennessee around 1854, Nat (pronounced Nate) Love was granted his ‘freedom’ from slavery in 1863. His father died shortly thereafter, and Nat took on odd jobs until he won a horse in a raffle at the age of 15. Then he headed west. 

In Dodge City, Kansas, he found his dream job—that of being a cowboy. He asked a trail boss out of Texas, Bronco Jim, for a job. Bronco said he’d hire Nat, only if he could break a horse named Good Eye—the wildest horse in the outfit. 

Nat later said that was the toughest ride of his life, but he broke the horse and was hired for $30 a month. Driving cattle north wasn’t an easy task, but Nat loved it. He soon became an accomplished cowboy in riding, roping, and marksmanship. 

1n 1876 while in Deadwood, South Dakota, Nat participated in a rodeo and won all seven of the contests he’d entered. After winning the roping and wild horseback events, he placed 14 out of 14 shots in the center of a target at 250 yards. His accomplishments that day gave him the nickname “Deadwood Dick”.

A year later, while rounding up mavericks Nat was captured by a band of Pima in Arizona. Eventually, he stole a pony and escaped back into Texas. He said his life had been spared because of his fighting abilities, but later, in the biography he published in 1907, he wrote his life had probably been spared because he’d been too scared to fight. Those had been the first hostile Indians he’d ever encountered.

After the cattle drives, Nat spent several years working as a Porter on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad before he passed away in California in 1921 at the age of 67.

www.laurirobinson.blogspot.com

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Sport of Kings in . . . Montana



By: Peggy L Henderson

When I’m not writing about mountain men in the Tetons and time travels to Yellowstone National Park, I write about time traveling cowboys. My books are almost always set primarily in Montana, (unless the story takes my characters along the Oregon Trail), and my “cowboys” aren’t really cowboys, but horsemen. I know a little about raising cattle from my years in pre-vet school, but my love and interest lies with equines, not bovines. So, I usually apply the old “write what you know” adage to my books, and my heroes and heroines end up being superb horsemen and horsewomen.
In my teenage years, I fell in love with thoroughbred horse racing, also called The Sport of Kings, from its European origins. I spent my early teen years memorizing the names of every Kentucky Derby winner, researching pedigrees of famous horses past and present, and even writing stories about race horses (which will never see the light of day).

For my latest book, the first in a series of historical western romances (no time travel in these), I once again went with my love of horses to weave a story. My intent was to rewrite an unfinished old manuscript that I had written as a contemporary romance set in Kentucky, and turn it into a historical western romance set in Montana.
My first dilemma was that a main part of the story was about the business of breeding thoroughbred racehorses. I had a vague idea that, yes, people undoubtedly raced horses in Montana in the old west, but did they breed blue-blooded thoroughbreds during a time when prospectors were digging for gold, and Montana wasn’t yet a state?
I did what every good writer will do – research. And to my surprise and delight, I found out that Montana has a rich history in horse racing.
The Native Americans who lived in the area that is now Montana first acquired horses in the 1700’s, and racing them was a common sport. The first thoroughbred thought to have been brought to Montana was a Kentucky-bred stallion named Billy Bay. He was supposedly brought to the territory by Blackfeet Indians. A trader by the name of Malcolm Clarke owned the horse for a time, racing him in inter-tribal races. Clarke had been married to a Peigan Blackfoot woman, and most likely acquired the horse through his in-laws.
When gold was discovered in Montana in the 1860’s, horse racing quickly became a popular sport among the miners. Races in the streets of the mining camps were common. If someone owned a fast horse, he’d travel around to different mining camps, looking to race his animal and make bets.
The area around Deer Lodge, Montana, became a popular area for breeding horses intent for racing. Several large stables and ranches sprung up, owned by rich investors and bankers.
When racetracks were built in the larger cities of Helena and Anaconda, it put Montana on the racing map. The construction of the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds and the territorial fairs in Helena brought sizeable purses and the first organized races.
The Kentucky Derby is the premiere horse race in America, run on the first Saturday in May each year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It is a race for three-year-old thoroughbreds. When it was first run in 1875, the Derby was 1 ½ miles long (it has been shortened to 1 ¼ miles). In 1889, a Montana-bred colt by the name of Spokane won the Kentucky Derby, by a “flaming nostril,” setting a new race record for the 1 ½ miles. 1889 is also the year that Montana became a state. It was said that the chestnut colt received more attention for his victory in the Derby than news that Montana had been granted statehood.


Blurb from IN HIS EYES (Blemished Brides Book 1), coming Jan 27, 2015
 
Carefree and strong-willed, Katherine Montgomery is the daughter of a successful Montana horse rancher. When a tragic accident claims her father’s life, Katherine is left to deal with an overbearing mother whose agenda does not include a young daughter. Fate deals her another devastating blow, leaving her to face an uncertain future far away from everything and everyone she’s loved.

Trace Hawley used to push the limits of the law, and no one was going to plan his future for him. The death of the man who always had his back leaves him to finally face responsibility. The promises he made a decade ago have shaped him into the man he is today, and will bring him face to face with the one girl from his past he always tried to avoid.

After a ten year absence, Katherine returns to the ranch she once loved to discover the shocking reason her mother summoned her home. Surprised to find Trace still at the ranch, her childhood infatuation grows into something far stronger as he challenges her to lead the life she once wanted, but seems to have forgotten. When Katherine is forced to make a choice between saving her father’s dreams or following her own, Trace might be the only one who holds the key to both.



EXCERPT

Deer Lodge, Montana Territory 1886

Trace Hawley pulled his hat from his head. He paced the boardwalk in front of the telegraph and post office. Running a hand through his hair, he peered through the window at the clock that hung on the wall behind the counter. He frowned. The stage was late.
Harley Wilson, the post master, glanced up from behind his thick spectacles. He stood, and walked around the counter, then opened the door and stepped outside.
The balding man shot Trace an indulgent smile, and pulled a watch from his waistcoat pocket. He flipped it open, and nodded. “I’d say another twenty minutes. Stage is never on time.”
Trace scoffed. He should have figured coming into town would eat up his entire day. Why the hell had he allowed his sister, Sally, to talk him into the trip in the first place? Their boss, Chantal Sinclair, had a personal servant who could have driven into town, but the man had apparently become ill today, according to Sally.
More like hung over.
Trace shook his head. That woman could drive any man to drink. Annoyance shot through him, and he gnashed his teeth. He should be grateful that the overbearing female hadn’t insisted that she come along.
Why the hell were his nerves on edge about being here to meet the stage? Neither Chantal Sinclair’s demands, nor Sally’s pestering, had ever bothered him before.
You wanted to be the one to meet the stage.
 Yeah, he’d wanted to come, out of curiosity. He could have easily told Mrs. Sinclair to send someone else, that he was too busy. As foreman of the Red Cliff Ranch, he could have delegated the job to one of the hired hands.
Harley cocked his head at Trace. “Must be something mighty important coming in on that stage to make you wear a path clean through these here floor boards. You waitin’ on a letter from them high-falutin’ horse breeders from back east?”
 “I ain’t expecting anything from Kentucky,” Trace said when Harley looked at him with raised brows.
“You still got plans to go to that fancy horse race they put on out there?” Harley asked, and twirled the curly end of his mustache between his thumb and index finger.
“If all goes the way I hope, I plan to be there in three years,” Trace said, and a smile passed over his lips. He didn’t conceal the confidence in his voice. He would be in Kentucky with a colt he’d bred, and show those blue bloods that a horse didn’t have to be foaled in the east to run with the best of them.
“Well, I wish you luck, son.” Harley slapped him on the back. “Wouldn’t that be something, to have a homegrown colt beat them fancy thoroughbreds they’ve got.”
Trace’s lips widened. “Yeah, Harley, it sure would be something.”
His smile faded, and he glanced at the dust on his worn boots. John Montgomery would have been proud, and so would his own father. Breeding a Derby winner was one promise he’d made to John that he planned to keep, even if he’d only been a wet-nosed kid at the time, and made that vow out of arrogance.
Maybe if he made good on that promise, the fine citizens of Deer Lodge would look at him differently, rather than whisper behind his back. As if he didn’t notice. But, as far as that other promise was concerned . . .


Peggy L Henderson is a laboratory technologist by night, and best-selling western historical and time travel romance author of the Yellowstone Romance Series, Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, and Teton Romance Trilogy. When she’s not writing about Yellowstone, the Tetons, or the old west, she’s out hiking the trails, spending time with her family and pets, or catching up on much-needed sleep. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart. Along with her husband and two sons, she makes her home in Southern California.






Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Two Legendary Cherokee Outlaws

When I wrote Dashing Irish, Texas Devlins Book Three, I incorporated cowboys from a variety of ethnic backgrounds because, as you may know, not all cowboys were white in the old days anymore than they are now. I gave Tye Devlin a black ranch hand friend who plays a part in the big trail drive to Kansas. There’s also a Mexican wrangler who teaches Tye how to break a wild bronc and a half-breed cowboy who makes Tye jealous by flirting with Lil, the heroine.

New Cover redo 2013

That character, Choctaw Jack, caught my attention from the first moment he popped into my head. I soon knew he would be the hero of the next Texas Devlins book, Dearest Irish. But how did he come to life? Where did I get the idea for his name and later for his sideline profession as a blacksmith?

Revised cover lg.

The answers lie in the research I did for Dashing Irish. There were trips south to Bosque County, Texas, home of the Devlins, and trips north to Oklahoma (the Indian Territory) through which the Chisholm Trail passed. And there were the books about cattle drives, ranching and the Indian Nations.

In one of those books I read about a notorious mixed-blood outlaw nicknamed Cherokee Bill who killed seven men and, with his cohorts, terrorized the Indian Territory for over two years. He was eventually caught and sentenced to death by U.S. District Judge Isaac Parker, the “Hanging Judge.”

Cherokee Bill

That story gave me the idea for Choctaw Jack’s name, although he wasn’t going to be an outlaw. (He does hide an unsavory past. Shh, don’t tell.)

I also learned about another legendary Cherokee named Ned Christie (NeDe WaDe in Cherokee.) He was on the executive council in the Cherokee Nation senate and served as one of three advisers to Chief Bushyhead. Ned’s parents were survivors of the Trail of Tears ordeal and belonged to the Keetowah band, most traditional among the Cherokee.

Ned Christie

Ned Christie was a large, powerful man at 6’4”. Perhaps that explains why he became a blacksmith and gunsmith. Now you know what gave me the idea for Jack to be a blacksmith as well as a cowboy.

Unfortunately, in May 1887, Ned was wrongly accused of shooting and killing U.S. Marshal Daniel Maples in the Cherokee Nation. Fearing he would not receive justice from a white jury, Ned hid out and appealed to the U.S. Court of the Western District of Arkansas in Fort Smith (also in charge of the Ind. Terr.) for bail to allow time to prove his innocence. Judge Parker turned down his request.

Labeled an outlaw, Ned Christie held off U.S. marshals in fortified locations for the next five years, fighting what has been called “Ned Christie’s War.” He was shot and killed in his final battle against the lawmen in 1892. His body was put on display in different locations so the lawmen and others could have their picture taken next to the notorious “outlaw.”

Twenty-six years later, a man named Dick Humphreys told authorities he had witnessed Marshall Maples’ killing. He said it was not Ned Christie who shot him, but a man named Bud Trainer. Christie’s name was finally cleared. Some researchers believe his opposition to railroad development in the Indian Territory may have led to him being falsely accused of Maples’ murder.

Dashing Irish:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1xzqpT9

Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/lk8w55d

Dearest Irish:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1pFwM39

Barnes & Noble:  http://bit.ly/VO3N5l