Sunday, September 25, 2016

But Wait, There's More!

I wanna make you an offer; one I hope you can't refuse: I'd like to give you a FREE copy of my collected short stories -

Skins Game, and Other Short Fiction.

Click Here to Download

You gotta ask yourself, "Why would I do this?"

Well, I'll tell you: Because you get an e-book of my award-winning (some of them) short stories absolutely free, no obligation. This collection has never been published, nor will it be. It's offered exclusively to my club of loyal readers.

"Okay, fine," you might counter. "Then why would you do this"?

A couple of reasons:  
1 - It's what marketing hotshots call a 'loss leader.' I give you this book, hoping you'll like what you read and want to read more of my stuff, namely, my novels...which you will buy cheap on Amazon. OR, if you do Kindle Unlimited, get them free, too.

2 - You'll join my Readers Group wherein you'll get periodic updates on things like new releases, more freebies or discounted books, blog posts, and my alleged whereabouts. 
DO NOT WORRY. I will never spam you, sell your email address, or have Russians hack your server. Besides you can unsubscribe at any time, but hopefully you'll want to remain in the gang. I'm working on some signs and tags for that, but a lot of the good ones are already taken.

Here're excerpts from a couple of the stories
for those of you still hesitating:

Skins Game
At the green Cletis was away. He crouched behind his ball and held up his putter like a plumbob, closing one eye to check the line.
“You boys know why I won all them skins on the front nine?” he asked.
No one answered.
“I took them holes, and your generous monetary donations I might add, because I have inner strength.”
Bluehorse snorted. “Crap, Cletis, you ain't got no inner strength. What you got is piss ant luck.”
“You sure got that right, Blue,” Whitey snarled. “Hell, Cletis, in all the years we’ve been playin together you never been good enough to win on skill. You mostly win because of your constant jawjackin, which would drive a magpie to distraction.”
“Well, Blue's right about the luck,” Cletis rose and walked to his ball. Leaned over it.
“Yeah, luck knows me. It's always been that way.” He eyed the hole, swung a practice putt. Straightened and looked again at the hole.
“But my luck works for me in two important ways.” He leaned over the ball again, padded his feet in place, up and down. He shook his left gloved hand and re-gripped the putter.
“It gives me confidence.” He drew back and gently stroked the ball, his putter giving off a soft ping when it hit.
“And it really pisses off those I compete with, which, of course, works to my advantage.”
The golf ball slid up one swale and broke right, skimmed along the base of another and broke left. When it got to the hole it orbited the rim two and a half times and fell in.
Cletis Worley raised his putter and rested it on his shoulder. “Like I said, inner strength.”

The 5th Regimental Combat Band

The sergeant major, a highly decorated veteran of the two prior wars, didn't have a lot of love for officers. His rank specifically, and his demeanor in particular, served to give him the right of way, and the benefit of any doubt by all those in uniform up to the rank of brigadier general. In his opinion, he'd forgotten more about running and fighting a war than most of these snot-nosed college boys would ever learn. He'd quit addressing anyone at or below the rank of major by "sir" in 1953.
“Major Wedenhoffer,” he addressed the pudgy and myopic engineer battalion's XO with indifference. “The Old Man wants this hospital company crap squared away.” He caught the Major in mid-munch of his second sugar-coated cinnamon roll one of the cooks had brought to HQ earlier. Wedenhoffer had made the trip to Brigade for two reasons: to deliver Colonel Lembacher's Morning Report, and to eat several cinnamon rolls.
“Get on the horn to Four Corps and see what you can do,” the sergeant major ordered. “In the mean time, billet these band people with your battalion in the hospital company's hootches. That's them out front. Take 'em with you when you leave.” He slapped the papers into the major's soft chest, and left out the back door.
       “But...who? What hospital company? Did you say band?!” the befuddled former CPA shouted after the sergeant major sending cinnamon roll tracers with his words.

I do appreciate ya - Phil

Of course, you don't have to read Skins Game before taking a look my novels. Here's the Amazon links for them. 

Red Lands Outlaw, the Ballad of Henry Starr

Game, an American Novel

Treasure Kills, Legends of Tsalagee Book 1

West of the Dead Line, the Complete Series

Friday, June 6, 2014

West of the Dead Line

Read my latest post over on the Western Fictioneers blog.

While I haven't totally abandoned this site, most of my blogging takes place over there. I would sure welcome your visit, and invite you to leave a comment if you're so inclined.

I'm currently working on a series of Western short stories put together in a volume called West of the Dead Line. The first two tales are currently available as e-copies on Amazon for $0.99 ea., or no charge if you're an Amazon Prime member:

The plan is, once we've gathered about a dozen of these stories, a print version will be made available as Volume I. Seeing as how we're introducing a new story about once a month, it'll be about a year before the printed volume comes out.

In the meantime, come on over to the Western Fictioneers blog. I'm posted there the 1st Friday of every month.

I do appreciate ya - Phil

And, of course, I would sure like for you to take a look at my other books, if you haven't already done so:

Red Lands Outlaw, the Ballad of Henry Starr

Game, an American Novel

Treasure Kills                                                                                                                                  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Where Lips Go to Sync

“It wasn’t that big a deal, Gramp,” Jakey said. He sat at the kitchen table working on a Lego project, and his gramp had just expressed disgust at the TV news about a pretty lady singer who’d lip-synced the National Anthem at the Presidential Inauguration.

“Why would you think that?” White asked his grandson.

“’Cause all she did was pretend to sing. It didn’t hurt anybody.”

“Maybe you’re right,” White said, rubbing his chin. “I suppose her fakery, considering the grand scheme of things, ain’t going to add to the final outcome. On the other hand, it might could take away a little. You see, done enough times, by enough people, for a long enough period, it could bring down the whole country.”

The eight-year-old scrunched his eyes and looked askance at his gramp. “Whadda you mean?” he asked.

“Well.” White scratched his head trying to think how he could get across to Jakey what he meant. He spotted the pile of Legos on the kitchen table the boy was working on. The picture on the box showed that, once all 538 pieces of the interlocking blocks were put together in the right order, they’d form a rather large and intricate space vehicle; one from a galaxy far, far away.

“You take building that…that…,” White jabbed a finger toward the heap of plastic building materials.

“Millennium Falcon,” Jakey said.

“That Millennium Falcon. It’s got a thousand pieces.”

“Five-hundred thirty-eight,” Jakey corrected.

“Okay, five hundred thirty-eight,” White said. “Some of them pieces are really big. But a lot of ‘em, it looks like most of them, are small; some you might could even call eensy. Now, according to the plans you have there, you need every one of them pieces to build that whole thing, right?”

“Uh-huh,” Jakey answered. His expression said he feared his gramp was about to launch into another one of his “lessons.”

“Let’s say someone at the factory where they put all them pieces in the box got lazy and decided to leave out one eensy piece. Most wouldn’t notice, and the kid who got that box of Legos would probably still be able to put that spaceship together without it. As the builder, you’d eventually know the piece was missing, but you could get by without it. However, the structure of that ship would have what’s called compromised integrity. It’d be an eensy one, though. It wouldn’t be no big deal.”

Jakey turned a piece over in his hand, studying it. “What’s ‘compermize intregity’ mean?” he asked.

“Integrity means something has wholeness, it’s sound and undamaged. It can also mean sticking to high moral values, like honesty. If something’s compromised that could mean there’s a hole in its wholeness, it’s exposed to failure…or disgrace.

“Okay,” Jakey said. His tone seemed to add, “So, what’s your point?”

White picked up on that. “So let’s say this woman in the factory told all her co-workers how easy it was for her to leave out that one little piece, and they all thought it was a good idea. It’d mean they could get by with doing less work, and no harm would be done…well, not much, anyway. Let’s say they all decided to leave out a piece, too. So, eventually, anyone trying to put that spaceship together wouldn’t succeed. Its integrity would be compromised so much, there wouldn’t be a great deal left.

Jakey held up a pea-sized Lego, and looked at it. “So you’re saying that singer lady was dishonest?”

“No, I ain’t saying that, exactly. I’m saying she lost a bit of her integrity. Same goes for all those who went along with her on that deal.”

Jakey thought about it some more. “Yeah, but still, all she did was move her lips without saying anything,” he concluded.

White sighed. “You do have a point, son. A lot of that goes on where she was that day. Some traditions are hard to break."

Please check out my novels:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tom and The Duke

Roaming one of my favorite haunts last weekend, The Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, Oklahoma, I came across a gallery of signed photographs from past Hollywood western movie luminaries – Jimmy Stewart, Walter Brennan, Will Geer, Roy and Dale, and a host of others. Like old Tom, most of them are dead. I leaned in closer to look at one. “Best of luck to the Tom Mix Museum – John Wayne” it was inscribed.
Tom Mix

“Dang, The Duke,” I said, clearly impressed.

Next to me, my associate Russ Maddock – historian and photographer extraordinaire – said to me, “You should ask Fawn [Lassiter, museum Manager and Curator] about John Wayne and Tom Mix.” Russ and I had both come there that day to sign our respective books for prospective readers.

Here’s what I found out.

Tom Mix and John Wayne didn’t much like each other. Tom, it’s said, was a bit jealous and feared Wayne would unseat him from his position in the Hollywood Cowboy limelight at a time when Mix’s role as a film star had begun to fade, and Wayne’s star was rising. Once when a reporter asked Tom what he thought of Wayne, he said, “The only Christian words I could use are ‘no-talent upstart.’”

As for The Duke – a nickname he picked up as a kid – it’s said his dislike for Tom went back to his (Wayne’s) football playing days at USC. Supposedly, Tom had told Wayne and several of his teammates that they should stop by Fox Studios and he’d get them jobs in the movies. When Wayne and some of the boys showed up a few weeks later, the guards were told Mix said he never made such an offer, and the bunch were summarily thrown off the lot. However, Tom did get John a summer job in the studios’ prop department in exchange for USC football tickets.
John Wayne

The two men had diametrically opposed styles in their approach to the western genre of film acting. Mix was sort of a dandy, a showman avoiding realism for more melodramatic scenes and attractive visuals like fancy well-tailored outfits and trick-riding on his famous horse(s) Tony. Tom once said, “From the beginning I decided to make clean pictures. I decided to give boys and grown-ups good wholesome entertainment, free from suggestion or anything harmful to growing and fertile-minded youth. I try to convey to the boys and girls a message of helpfulness. In no picture have I ever smoked, taken a drink, played cards or gambled.”

Of course, the film genre evolved, thanks in large part to Wayne. We all knew The Duke as a tough, gritty, no-nonsense guy with maybe some smoldering anger issues. I believe it would be fair to say, in most of his movies he was a hard-smoking, hard-drinking kind of guy, and I can also recall a few card games. I always supposed that ever-present faded red shirt and leather vest he wore got kind of gamey. The world view John Wayne projected from the screen seemed to be pretty much black and white, and he was somewhat intolerant. He was short and direct with the spoken word, often confused with women; something that appealed to his audiences, especially us men. We weren’t always sure how the Duke’s relationships would play out, but we knew for certain we’d want to be on his side in the end.

My favorite John Wayne quote is, “Life is hard; it’s harder if you’re stupid.”

The irony of the whole comparison between these two men is that Tom Mix lived more of the western-style life in his younger years than did Wayne. Mix worked as a real cowboy on one of the biggest ranches in Indian Territory, the Miller Brothers’ 101 Ranch near modern day Ponca City. There he worked cattle and horses and performed with (an elderly) Bufflao Bill and Pawnee Bill in the Millers’ Wild West Shows. He was also a bartender and town marshal in the town of Dewey. John Wayne, on the other hand, grew up in Southern California where he worked in an ice cream store as a teen and played football at USC, losing his scholarship at that due to an off-field injury while body-surfing.

But it’s like the fella said, “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

Please check out my novels:

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Debtor to the Law

Historical novels are a different kind of beast; you do your research, you write your book. Some facts you include, others you leave out, and the rest you make up to suit whatever story-telling goal you've got in mind. Then there are the bits you miss.

You call it a novel because there's a story you want to tell, an angle you want to reach thinking - hoping - the way you've put it down will reflect the illumination you're trying to achieve without corrupting the shine of the history you've set it in. But sometimes you miss things, sometimes things get by you.

So, after all the edits are made, the presses roll, the bookseller shelves are stocked (virtually or otherwise), you come across a little something you wish you'd been able to include. Such is the case with my book, Red Lands Outlaw, the Ballad of Henry Starr.

My friend and Oklahoma historian, Dr. Bill Woodard, came across a little piece concerning Henry Starr. It literally fell into his lap. Bill was doing some research on Western artist Joe De Yong - who grew up in Oklahoma and was a protege of Charles M. Russell - about whom he was to give a talk at the Bartlesville (Oklahoma) History Museum.

Bill Woodard
Woodard, a retired engineer at Phillips Petroleum which was founded in Bartlesville, was born in Dewey, Oklahoma, the small town neighbor of Bartlesville. Dewey holds a lot of western heritage (see 9/25 post - Tall Grass Prairie Interlude), and is the burial place of Henry Starr. Because of this and Bill's passion for western and Oklahoma history, we became fast friends. So during his research on De Yong, he told me that as he was opening a book about Russell from his grandfather's library, an old yellowed newspaper clipping fell out of it. It appears to be a column relating a pre-statehood vignette from one of Bartlesville's founders, a merchant named George Keeler, and his encounter with the outlaw Starr. I don't have the date of the column, nor the source. Bill figured it was most likely from the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise printed sometime in the late 1940's or early '50's. With apologies to the author/publisher, here's the content:

In the early days, well before statehood, when there were only four or five businesses here, no streets or sidewalks, no rural  highways and no banks, the business men would take their money to Caney, Kansas to bank [a distance of about 20 miles].

The story goes that one time Keeler had assembled some cash and was beginning to feel quite nervous. In those days this locality was the headquarters for a lot of bandits, among them the famous Henry Starr.

Keeler decided that he would saddle up and take off for Caney with the bank roll, for it began to look like that was the less desperate chance to take. As Keeler would tell it, he started up the trail toward Caney, hoping he would be lucky and not meet up with some of the bad boys and get relieved of the cash.

He had traveled about a fourth of the distance when he saw a man on horseback coming down the trail toward him, only a short distance away.

“When I got a little closer,” Keeler would relate, “I saw that it was the one whom I most feared to meet – Henry Starr himself.

“It was too late to run, for Starr always had one of the fastest mounts in the country, and he would be sure to overhaul me and take my money.

“So I put the spurs to my horse and came up to him plenty fast and said, ‘Henry, I sure am glad to see you. I thought for a moment it was someone who might rob me. Now I would like to get you to ride along and guard me up to Caney so that I can put this sack of money in the bank.’

“And, do you know, Starr took me up on the proposition and rode guard over me all the way to Caney. And I got every cent of the money in the bank."

I wish I could've used this story in my novel because it perfectly illustrates the picture I wanted to paint of Henry Starr - he was certainly a thief and an outlaw, but he was surely no scoundrel.

Please check out my other novels:
Legends of Tsalagee

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tall Grass Prairie Interlude

With all due respect to my big city-dwelling friends, this was something you just don't see in New York or Chicago or Philadelphia; maybe in Ft. Worth or Oklahoma City, certainly not in Washington D.C. It was purely Heartland, small town Americana. It was the 8th Annual Western Heritage Weekend in Dewey, Oklahoma - Lots of flags, plenty of patriotism, thousands...well, at least hundreds, of western boots and hats, cowboy cut jeans, shirts. 

And a parade. A parade preceded by the Star Spangled Banner sung over the PA system by a local sweetheart, and then a prayer unabashedly offered for our nation, our well-being, our fortitude and our gratitude. Every cowboy there removed his hat and placed it over his heart without hesitation.

A herd of longhorns were driven down the parade street, then a troupe of spangled, flag-toting cowgirls on horseback. Some antique tractors chugged by, followed by a man riding a huge longhorn steer. Pioneer-costumed locals stood and waved atop flatbed trailers. Pawnee Bill's stagecoach came along, and a light-flashing, siren-whooping fire truck and a parade-ending street-sweeper brought up the rear.

A gang of desperados robbed the bank, immediately following the parade, and had a shoot-out right there on Main Street. Then a drawing was held on chances purchased to win a working replica of an 1860 Henry .45 caliber lever-action rifle, a real beauty of a firearm. This is absolutely a place where traditional Americans proudly cling to their guns and Bibles.

But that wasn't the end of it. Sunday took me to Prairie Song, an authentic Old West town built and re-created by long-time ranchers Kenneth Tate and his wife Marilyn Moore-Tate. The Tate's stated mission of Prairie Song, which sits atop that part of the Tall Grass Prairie in northeastern Oklahoma, is "to preserve and honor the heritage of Pioneers who crossed the plains to settle in Indian Territory and to acknowledge the Cowboy and Indian cultures of Oklahoma."

I had a small part in all the weekend's activities. Fawn Lassiter, the manager of the Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, had invited me to do a book signing for my historical western novel Red Lands Outlaw, the Ballad of Henry Starr during the Saturday celebrations, and Marilyn Moore-Tate asked me to come out to Prairie Song to do the same on Sunday. You see, Henry is buried in the Dewey Cemetery, and Marilyn was instrumental in getting a new and bigger headstone put on the outlaw's grave. Although an outlaw, Henry is well thought of in that area of Oklahoma. Probably for his historical value, more than his career.

The highlight of that Sunday afternoon at Prairie Song was a Wild West show. They had bronc riding, fancy gun handling, trick riding and roping, wild cow milking, and on and on. Those cowgirls with flags rode the arena full-tilt in a well choreographed display of horsewomanship, and they wound it all up at the end with a stagecoach robbery by the same group of no account hombres who were shot dead trying to rob the bank the day before.

But my favorite part of the show - this sounds like a lead-in to a Tim Conway* bit - was the goat-herding monkeys on dogs. Actually, the dogs - border collies - did the herding; the monkeys were just along for the ride.

All the events and happenings were fun, but the best parts of what I came away with were the people I met. Like the co-book signer at the table next to me, Shirley Lucas Jaurequi, who wrote a book about her career as a trick rider and Hollywood stunt woman, having been a stunt double for such as Lauren Bacall and Betty Hutton and worked in movies with John Wayne. Then there was the 84 year old Aussie cowboy, who'd worked a big "station" in Australia before coming to America to be a professional bull-rider. He'd quit doing that some years back, he said, after getting busted up so much he could no longer sit astride one. Now he makes bullwhips, and teaches youngsters how to crack them. Rooster Cogburn was there, or at least an impersonator so uncanny you'd swear you were talking to The Duke.

It may not have been a weekend in Vegas, or a walk through Disney World, but it was dang sure more than good enough for me.

Please check out my other novels:
Legends of Tsalagee

*For those of you not familiar with Tim Conway, I've embedded the following. I suggest you go to the bathroom before you watch this, as you'll run a good risk of wetting your pants laughing.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Good, the Bad, the Hugly

One reader of Red Lands Outlaw, The Ballad of Henry Starr commented, “I couldn't decide if Starr was a good man with a bad heart or a bad man with a good heart.” My response would be, um…yes.

Well, my hope is you, too, will embrace the quandary and the story. The novel was released August 1st, and is available for the Kindle, Nook, etc., and in trade paperback.

Here's an excerpt:

Spring 1893
Indian Territory

Henry didn’t quite know what to make of the boy. He stood there in the street strapped with six-shooters, his brown leather hat thrown back onto his shoulder blades, held there by its drawstring around his neck. He wore a faded blue cotton shirt and well-worn jeans tucked into plain cowhide boots, but he didn’t appear to be a farm or cow hand. His stance, the tight leather gloves he wore, and his surly attitude made him look like a range tough, a gunslinger wanabe. Henry himself was only nineteen, but he judged this youth to be no more than about fourteen or fifteen. He had a boy’s face, pocked with pimples, and no whiskers. He was a white kid, and a fair-haired one at that. The late afternoon sun almost gleamed off his thin blond hair, and he stared back at Henry with a look of insolence.

The boy had called out to Henry as he and Frank started up the wooden steps leading to the general store. “Henry Starr?” he’d yelled from twenty feet away. That annoyed Henry because he and Frank were going to rob the store they were about to enter, and it drew attention to him. The name Henry Starr had gained some notoriety in that part of the country, especially amongst the mercantile, as several of them had recently been robbed by him and his partner Frank.

Henry stood with one foot on the top step looking back at the youth. On the one hand he was pleased that the kid knew who he was; on the other, calling out his name on the town street of Inola at that particular moment was downright inconvenient and annoying. From the looks of it, the boy appeared to be calling him out for a gunfight, but Henry couldn’t be sure. He turned on the steps and walked back the twenty feet between him and the adolescent. Henry didn’t know if the kid would draw on him or not, but his irritation prevented him from calculating the risk.

When he stood two feet from the boy, he looked him in the eye and asked him, “How’d you know my name?”

Although three inches shorter than Henry, the lad didn’t appear intimidated.

“Didn’t really,” the youngster said with a smirk. “I’uz looking for a Indin about your description, and when I saw you making for that store, I thought I’d ask. A Indin named Henry Starr is said to be fond of robbing general stores in these parts.”

Henry placed his right hand on the butt of his holstered pistol. His partner, standing to one side of the boy, did the same. “You after the reward money, son. Is that it?”

“Aw, hell no,” said the boy, still smirking. “Can’t make no money on rewards. I want to join up with you.”

Henry relaxed his hold on his pistol grip. “You picked a heluva time to come job hunting. What makes you think I’m hiring?”

The lad shrugged, then spit to the side. He looked coolly over at Frank. “Sooner or later you’re going to need more help. Figured you could use someone good with a gun.”

Henry looked at Frank and they both laughed. The boy lost his smirk and got steely-eyed. “How old are you, son?” Henry asked.

“Don’t see that it matters,” he said. He looked back and forth from Henry to Frank. His expression had quickly become cold; his eyes danced with fury. “You want to try me?”

Henry looked at the ground and let out another small laugh. He leaned in closer to the boy and spoke to him in a lower voice. “Look, kid, we ain’t looking for a fight. We got a job to do right now. It’s kind of a small job, but it’s only because we need to outfit ourselves for something bigger. 

“Tell you what, you want to join us on this job, I’ll give you a try. If I like what I see we’ll consider letting you join up with us.”

The boy nodded.

“What’s your name?” Henry asked him.


“That your first name or your last?”

“Last,” the boy said. “First name’s John. Most folks just call me Wilson.”

Henry leaned in closer to the boy, and spoke in an amicable tone. “Now, c’mon, tell me how old you are.” 

“Eighteen,” the boy said.

Henry knew it was a lie. He smiled and nodded back. “Well, I already know enough Johns. Think I’ll call you, Kid...Kid Wilson. That okay with you?”

A small smile cracked the boy’s stony glare and he returned a slight nod.

“Awright, then,” Henry turned to his partner Frank, then looked up at the door of the mercantile. “Let’s do this.”

Just before he grabbed the knob of the store’s door to enter, it swung opened to the inside and a heavy-set woman came out. Henry stepped back and to the side, grabbing the rim of his hat in a tipping gesture to the woman. She nodded and smiled, moving on across the wooden sidewalk and down the steps. Watching the woman cross the street, Henry turned back to the boy behind him. “One other thing, Kid. Don’t shoot nobody,” he said.

Follow these links  to check out Red Lands Outlaw and my other novels:
Red Lands Outlaw
Legends of Tsalagee