Category Archives: My Published Writing

When the Book Goes Live

I’m an author. To quote the Irish writer, Brendan Behan, I’m a drinker with a writing problem. I do love that quotation. It sums up a lot of the feeling of this profession. The Muses are real, and they visit affliction upon writers, but we praise them for it.

But inside every author–even the ones who say otherwise–there’s a yearning for the world to read and enjoy our work. Some people say they write only for their own amusement, but I have my doubts. Writing is bloody hard work. As Samuel Johnson said, no one but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money. If you’re not a writer, try it sometime. Then try it again. And again. And again. Keep trying it, and you’ll be a writer one of these days. The Muses work that way.

Now and then comes the reward for the work: the book for sale. Is it like giving birth or coming home from a hard journey or getting out of prison? I don’t know. The end of the journey idea sounds right, since once the book is published, that moment is a destination. There are new journeys to go on next, and as Robert Frost told us, way leads on to way, and we don’t get to go back and walk the old paths over.

The written word becomes the possession of the reader. How you see the character or the scene, what you’re feeling and learning and experiencing is yours.

And thus, I submit for your approval, The Willing Spirit.

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It was a lot of fun (and work!) to write. I hope it’s a pure pleasure for you to read.

But I’m writing the next book in the Dowland series now. It’s set on Catalina Island and the mainland in 1871. There’s Spanish treasure, a gambling lady, and even grunion fish.

You’ll have to wait for me to finish it.

Crossposted on English 301: Reading and Writing.

A Promenade of the Devil

A short story that gives the earlier days of my western character, Henry Dowland, is now available on Frontier Tales. That’s an on-line magazine of western short fiction, though this story lets us see Dowland right after the end of the Civil War, going south to find his family.

If you like my tale, vote for it as the best of December. You won’t get a calendar, but you’ll help get my work into the next anthology.

Crossposted on English 301: Reading and Writing.

The Willing Spirit, Second Teaser

It’s time for another excerpt from The Willing Spirit. If you’re getting tired of teasers, you can read the whole thing soon.

“Why’re we stopping, Mister?”
Dowland sat on a bed of pine needles with his back against a tree, while Joe paced in front of him. In the starlight from the gaps in the trees, he was just a dark shape passing before darker shapes.
“We’ve been moving for the whole day and some of the night. My eyes are tired, and so are my feet.”
“But they’re still after us. I know it—they’re still after us.”
“Sit down, Joe.”
The boy collapsed to the ground, and his feet scraped the soil as he settled.
“I think that we’ve lost them, but we won’t know it if you keep making noise.”
“So what’a you reckon we do now?”
“Sleep.”
Joe jumped up and paced again.
“Good land, Mister. Are you crazy?”
“Not that I know of, but I will be if you can’t calm yourself.”
Heavy feet crunched the twigs and dry needles on the forest floor until the boy thudded into a tree. He commenced to pounding the bark with his fists.
Dowland picked himself up and walked over to grab Joe’s arms and hold them at his sides.
“Stop it! You’ll make yourself bloody.”
“I don’t care.”
“I do.” Dowland put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and guided him back to the small clearing. “Lie down and sleep.”
Joe stretched out on the ground, and Dowland sat once more to keep watch. In an open patch between the trees, the square of the Big Dipper filled the sky. No one had guided Dowland through the Slough of Despond, as much as he had needed a helper, and he didn’t know what he could offer the boy. Joe was still, though his wet breathing told that he was struggling to hold back tears.
But the calm didn’t last. Joe sat up. “It ain’t no good, Mister. I can’t sleep.”
“I know. I couldn’t, either, after my first time.”
“Does it ever go away?”
“Not really.”
Faces floated through Dowland’s memory. He waved his hand in front of him, a futile gesture for dark ghosts in a dark forest.
“You will learn to live with it.”
“How?” The boy wasn’t even trying to hide his tears.
“Some men stop caring.”
Joe was silent for a moment.
“I don’t reckon I wanna be like that.”
“Good for you.” Was it good, though? Was it better to have a soul in pain than to be a man with no soul at all?
“What about you, Mister? What do you do?”
There was the question. Dowland couldn’t have given an answer to it before—it would have made no sense—but after this battle, Joe had crossed over into his world.
“I remember every time. It hurts like hell most days, but it reminds me to watch what I do. If I’m honorable in that, the ghosts have no claim against me.”
“That’s thin.”
“Yes, it is, but we have to take what we’re given. You killed one man to save another. That has to be good enough.”
The sounds of pine needles being crushed in fists stabbed through the darkness. “Did I save him?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can we go find out?”
Dowland stood and walked over to the boy to offer him a hand up. “We may as well. I can’t sleep anyway.”

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Crossposted on English 301: Reading and Writing.

The Devil Ain’t Buying

Regular readers of this weblog, casual visitors, and even passersby on the dismal prairie that is the Internet know by now that I’m pushing a book. This has led me to do a number of things that I don’t like, including replacing the beloved Gadsden flag

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with a picture of me lighting off my Remington revolver. It’s a good picture, even though it’s of me, taken by Oghma Creative Media‘s graphic design partner, Casey Cowan. He’s good at his job, and would be pleased to take your picture or design your book cover as well.

See? I’m shovelling all manner of schlock today.

But he thinks this blog needs my picture, rather than Johnston Green’s flag. (Points if you know the reference.) I’m raising this subject because I’m curious about what makes someone buy a book. Major publishers seem to think it’s a big name. If you’re a known writer of military thrillers, there’s no point in dying, because someone can keep writing in your name ad nauseum, for example. Quality is of no consequence. But since there are some 500,000 books published in America and Britain in a given year and many more cranked out elsewhere, authors that aren’t as widely known–in other words, aren’t as widely promoted–have to find other ways to get their books in front of the reading public–a sadly too small group of people.

And that’s why all this social media is necessary. If you don’t know that the book is available for sale, you can’t buy it. At this point, I’m willing to try lots of methods of getting you to see my books and those of others. And Oghma Creative Media will keep an eye on what works for future use. In the comments, tell me what draws your eye to a book and what moves you to buy it.

The rattlesnake flag will return.

Nuts, Casey.

The Willing Spirit Teaser, First Peek

My western novel, The Willing Spirit, comes out on the 8th of December from Pen-L Publishing.

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But you can read a few teasers here to see what you’ll be buying (and you are buying it–of course, you are). Here’s the first:

The sun had risen twice since the nighttime shootout and was setting again. Dowland’s body bore the weariness of continual shock and labor. He sank into a bed of needles beneath an elder pine, surrounded by a cover of trees, sure that the lot of them would stand aside and show him to a waiting world at his enemies’ command.
There had been men on horseback both days, always in the distance on the top of a hill or the far end of a valley, too far to shoot and too far to identify as belonging to the Willises. Was it hours between each one or only seconds? Weary bones and empty stomach made time swirl and blend together, and fear exaggerated every sighting.
They all may have been railroad workers, ranchers, and prospectors, but his nerves told him that he was watched, that the encirclement was tightening. For every one he’d seen, a hundred more must have been hiding behind rocks and trees and boulders. They were coming for him. Every step, whether at a full run or a furtive creeping from cover to cover, shoved him like a fox toward the hunters’ waiting guns.
But surely that was foolishness. The rugged land stretched too wide for even this gang to cover every mile. Besides, a man had to rest sometime, even if the whole world were after him.
And he had to eat. Dowland dug through his pack, but nothing more than one good meal was left. He had only a guess as to where he was, but the nearest settlements were at best many days of hard walking away. Taking a shot at game would announce his presence to anyone within miles. Hunger, though, no matter how quiet it was, offered no satisfaction.
He stood and pressed forward toward an open space filled with light from the west. A broad field of grass with a stream flowing through its middle presented itself. Somewhere, a creature must be grazing in the calm of the evening.
The thought of fresh meat gnawed at his stomach. One shot, then a little time to clean the kill and a small fire to cook it wasn’t too much to ask.
He scanned the land about him. Nothing moved. Dowland knelt beside a boulder and drew Alpha. He rested his elbows on the rock and steadied his right hand with his left. He turned from side to side, the muzzle following his gaze. His joints scratched across the rough surface, but his stomach mattered more at the moment than did his sleeves.
Brown ears rose above a tuft of grass.
An orange ball of fire erupted and was consumed in white smoke. A rabbit sprang forward, only to tumble and collapse in the grass.
He’d fired without a thought. When his mind caught up with what had happened, he gazed at the rabbit’s body, sixty yards out, but it lay still, dead by the flowing water where it had been drinking a moment before.
His stomach growled, and he stood to get his meal. A stone under his left foot shifted, though, and he stumbled and swung his right foot around to save himself.
There on a far hill, two miles at least, a sparkle of light caught his eye. The rays of the setting sun reflected back to him for a second, then the glint vanished.
Damn it! Someone was watching him. He shoved Alpha back into his belt and ran toward the stream. That rabbit still called to him, and he leapt over the water to the muddy ground beyond and hurried toward the kill. He snatched up the body and tore it open, eating what pieces he could as he ran on toward the cover of the forest on the other side.

Watch this site for more teasers and announcements.

Sturm und Drang

The term, sturm und drang, is German for storm and yearning–often translated storm and stress. It refers to the wild emotions and actions of romanticism in the arts of the late eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries. But for today’s discussion, I’m using the phrase about black powder guns.

firing

That’s me, touching off my Pietta copy of the muzzle-loader Remington New Model Army revolver–ably photographed by my partner at Oghma Creative Media, Casey Cowan. Regular readers of this weblog know that I enjoy firearms, but I have a special love for the charcoal burners. The revolver in the picture was, in fact, my first gun. Yes, my advice is to start with a .22 Long Rifle, but such words of wisdom as I have to offer come from going about things all the backward way. Or perhaps not, since pouring powder into one chamber at a time, ramming home a wad and ball, then smearing Crisco across it is an interesting occupation for an afternoon. Oh, and eventually, I get to shoot the thing…

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But perhaps you need a little more to see the joy here. As I said, it’s a fiddly beast, and I enjoy fiddling. Then there’s the connection with history. As a writer of westerns, I want the feel of the old smoke engine. Yes, I can read about that, but it’s a lot more fun to try it out myself. And no book can tell your nose what burning powder smells like. (O.K., it’s bad eggs, but you just have to smell it.) But the best part is the thuder. It’s not a crack or a bang. It’s a deep bass boom. All in all, this revolver lets me add realism to my stories of the Old West.

At least, that’s my excuse. It’s research, you see.

A Draft of Moonlight

A Draft of Moonlight is now available for sale in print version or as an e-book. Here’s the blurb:

Every schoolchild is supposed to know that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren were the first human beings to reach the Moon on the 20th of July 1969. But what if that is not the true story?

In Greg Camp’s new science fiction political thriller, Robert Smith discovers a plot hatched in the Cold War Soviet Union to reshape the balance of power decades in the future. As he struggles to save Earth from disaster, he has to weed through the tangles of corporations and the Lunar government. Along the way, he finds something even more important: human connection.

Enjoy.

Crossposted at English 301: Reading and Writing.

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