Sunday, June 30, 2013

Writing Tips: Prologues

I've seen plenty of discussions on prologues. Whether they're a good idea or not. Arguments may be made in either direction, but I'll come down firmly on the side of ... maybe.

For what it's worth, I think prologues can be useful, but I have some definite rules:
  • A prologue shouldn't run more than a couple of pages.
  • If the prologue concerns events immediately before or simultaneous to the first chapter, then it's the first chapter. Realize that a prologue reeks of literary pretentiousness, especially in a genre novel. 
  • Prologues are good for background set way before the events of the book and, if possible, with completely different characters.
  • Background information in the prologue should be difficult to deliver by a character without it sounding like a lecture.
Those are my rules, and I live by them. Here's an example of a prologue opening the first book in my Witches of Galdorheim series. First, I want to say why this is a good prologue. It's set hundreds of years before the beginning of the events in the books. It has no characters who appear in the book. It's very short. Because of the timeframe and lack of character overlap, it HAD to be a prologue, not chapter one.

Now to the prologue of Bad Spelling, Book 1 of the Witches of Galdorheim series.

Prologue
November, 1490—Somewhere in Germany

“They took Helena,” Edyth whispered, grabbing John’s arm the moment he walked through the doorway.
Wide-eyed, John looked at Edyth. “But she has never–”

She shushed him. “I know, I know. They’ve cast a wide net. It shan’t be long before they suspect us.”
John gazed around the one-room, thatched hut they called home. “I’m afraid ‘tis nothing else we can do. We must flee.”

Tears welled in Edyth’s eyes. “What they are doing to us, ‘tis hateful. Why cannot they just leave us be?”

He took Edyth’s shoulders, pulling her to his chest. “‘Tis not just us. The inquisitors condemn many not of the craft. They find black magic where it does not exist.”

His eyes darkened. “‘Tis the fault of that wretched Heinrich Institoris and his cursed Malleus Maleficarum. Even the Church has banned it, yet the so-called citizen courts use it to condemn any who disagree with them.”

Edyth shook her head, her face grim. “You speak the truth. ‘Tis shameful they accuse whoever dissents, be they witch or not!”

John nodded. “We shall have one last coven gathering. All true witches must leave this place soonest.”

“But where will we go, John?”

“North. So far north that no mundanes could live there. If we move away from their grasp, we can make our own way in the world.”

John dropped his hands from Edyth’s shoulders. “Come. We’ve messages to send. I do not think it wise to wait any longer.”

The witch and the warlock gathered foolscap and invisible ink. As they penned each word, it faded and disappeared from the paper. They wrote in the Old Runic language as an additional safeguard from prying eyes. Only a true witch could read it.

That very night, the ashes of the messages flew up the chimney, carried by incantation to the far corners of Europe, to all known witches and warlocks. Within the month, the trek northward began. The Wiccans reached the ends of the earth then went further. Finding a tiny island, completely removed from any other piece of land, they stopped and laid their claim. They named their island Galdorheim: Witches’ Home.

* * *
You can see I followed my own rules, and this prologue works. It's set 400 years in the past. It has no cross-over characters. It quickly explains why the witches are living on a remote arctic island. In chapter one, I can move ahead with the specific problems facing my main character, and nobody is wondering why the heck she's living on an ice-bound island. 

Go ahead. Tell me why I'm not right. Or, give me an example of how a prologue can work when it breaks my (arbitrary) rules. Don't argue against my rules. They're mine, and I'm keeping them. What are your rules? If you don't have any rules, then you'd better do a bit of soul-searching. That's the premise of jazz. Know the rules, then you can break them.



BAD SPELLING - Book 1 of The Witches of Galdorheim Series
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?
If you’re a witch living on a remote arctic island, and the entire island runs on magic, lacking magical skills is not just an inconvenience, it can be a matter of life and death–or, at least, a darn good reason to run away from home.  

Katrina’s spells don’t just fizzle; they backfire with spectacular results, oftentimes involving green goo.  A failure as a witch, Kat decides to run away and find her dead father’s non-magical family. But before she can, she stumbles onto why her magic is out of whack: a curse from a Siberian shaman.

The young witch, accompanied by her half-vampire brother, must travel to the Hall of the Mountain King and the farthest reaches of Siberia to regain her magic, dodging attacks by the shaman along the way.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Writing Tips: Point of View and Voice

Many newbie writers have trouble maintaining a consistent point of view (POV). It's entirely possible to develop scenes and chapters in different POVs if you don't allow your mind to meander all over the place. Clean POV also requires a consistent use of person. First, second, third, etc.

FIRST PERSON

Suppose you write in first person. That means you say, "I walked down the path." Third person means you say, "She walked down the path." Let's forget about verb tense for now. If you want to write in present tense, then go for it. However, you're not as likely to have me as a reader.

SECOND PERSON

Second person is possible, but incredibly awkward. Speaking to the reader is sort of like breaking into their apartment and acting like a serial killer. "You are walking down the path." The poor reader might think, "No, I'm not! Wait! Am I supposed to be walking someplace? But I'm sitting here reading. I don't want to walk elsewhere. It's hard to read when I'm walking!"

So, let's just say that second person is out of the picture. I really couldn't advise you on how to do this with any grace or style. If you insist upon second person, then I commend you, but don't expect to sell a lot of books.

VOICE

Okay, 1st person and 3rd person are both fine, but what if you want to get into the head of another character, perhaps the villain? Can you do this when writing 1st person? If both your main character and your villain are talking aloud referring to themselves, it might be a tad confusing, but it's doable if you carefully divide scenes and chapters and make it entirely clear who the "I" is in each. Also, you'll need to be watchful of voice. Oh, right. Voice. Did you think everybody talks exactly the same way? Of course, your MC is nice, good, heroic, etc. and your antagonist is mean, awful, and villainous. Here's some first person examples if you decide to present both MC and villain in first person:

"I walked down the path, my heart yearning for any sign of my beloved, but I continue to be ever watchful of signs that Mr. Blackness had passed this way."

"I stood in the shadows, watching the poor, sad sucker meandering down the path without a clue that I've got his beloved stashed in a dungeon guarded by ogres."

These examples, of course, are exaggerated to make the point of voice incredibly important when you're writing with multiple points of view.

THIRD PERSON

Easiest to do is third person. Everybody can have their say with little difficulty for the reader recognizing who's the star of a given scene.

Thing is, 3rd person is the writer's voice, the omnipotent story teller from on high (imagine your god-like presence hovering over the characters in your work).

Still, separation of points of view by scene or chapter is the best, easiest, cleanest way to keep the reader on track. You can change points of view between paragraphs, but expect your reader to have to backtrack to figure out who is out front in the story.

If you think you absolutely need to change POV without a scene or chapter break, then your last resort is a paragraph break and a time or place changing word to allow the reader a moment to switch gears.

Fred walked along the path, hoping to find some clue to Hilda's disappearance. MEANWHILE, Hilda pounded on the bars and screamed, desperately hoping to attract attention.

Here the time/place changing word is MEANWHILE. It signals the reader that the story is jumping elsewhere.

RECOMMENDATION

Stick to 3rd person. Change POVs only on a scene or chapter break. Keep the voice consistent to the character.

See? That's not so hard, is it?

EXCERPT EXAMPLE FROM SCOTCH BROOM

“Not at all, Barry. Pleased to meet you. I’m Ru...Ron Galdor.” Rune extended his own hand to shake and winced at the dart champion’s hard grip. When Barry turned his back on him, Rune mumbled a quick spell to change the name on his passport from Rune Fenwick to Ron Galdor.


“We’ll play ane-on-ane. Be that guid for you?” Barry asked, twirling one of his darts between his fingers.

“Sure, but I don’t have my darts with me. Can I borrow a set?” One of the men held out his set of three darts. Rune weighed them in his hand. He held up one and sighted it toward the board. “Hey, thanks. These are nice.”

“Da game is 301, double-in, double-oot?”

“Great. Anything is fine.” Rune watched the dart loaner erase the blackboard next to the dartboard and write Barry and Ron at the top. He added the number 301 under each name.

Rune smiled. He ought to make enough for the train in no time at all.
* * * *
“Hello, Ole? Is that you?” Thordis shouted over the Satphone. The sunspots were out and playing havoc with reception.

“Yes, yes. Thordis, so glad you called.”

“We just wanted to check whether Rune had any problem getting a ride to Transylvania.”

“Transylvania? According to Endy, he took the troller coaster to the Shetland Islands.”

“He did, eh? Well, that’s not what he was supposed to do.”


X X X

See, scene changed, POV changed and not even a hiccup in the readers forward momentum. The first scene shows what Rune is actually doing, while the second scene shows his Aunt Thordis discovering that Rune isn't doing what he was supposed to do.

SCOTCH BROOM: Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.

Kat expects to have a great time on her graduation trip to Stonehenge. However, from the moment she leaves the witches’ arctic island, Galdorheim, she gets in nothing but trouble.  Her younger half-brother tries to horn in on her trip, she gets lost in the magical Otherworld realm, is led astray by a supposed friend, then she has to confront a Scottish goddess who’s fallen on hard times.

While dodging the goddess’ minions and trying to find her way out of the Otherworld, Kat soon learns she shouldn’t underestimate the old has-been for one second; the crone still has a few tricks that can drain a witch’s magic in a flash. To make matters worse, Kat's brother secretly followed her into the Otherworld. Now he’s in danger too.  Kat has to go one on one with the goddess to save herself and her brother.



Monday, June 24, 2013

Short Story as Promo

Perhaps you already know I have a series with three books collectively known as The Witches of Galdorheim. A fourth part of the series is not so well known since it has only been offered in PDF format from my publisher as a bonus if somebody bought Bad Spelling direct from MuseItUp. I also gave away a few copies of this freebie in various promotions.

I thought the short story would be a good promotional tool for drawing attention to the entire series. So I have uploaded Spellslinger to Amazon Kindle and signed it up for the KDP Select program. That means I can offer the story free for five days within the 90-day promotional period covered by KDP. It also could make a little money from the KDP program if it is borrowed from Amazon.

Since the story is short (only 3K words), I added the first chapters of the three books which make up the series. It feels a little more worth the 99 cent price tag with the extra material. The ebook is already available at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DKABHC2

I put together my upload file and included the information for MuseItUp as the rights holder for the series and my own copyright for the short. I also wanted a cover to coordinate with the Witches ebook covers. The color scheme and font is similar enough they don't jar.

Here's the cover for Spellslinger, followed by the ebook covers for the series. I think it looks pretty good for an amateur, but what do I know? Hm. Maybe it needs a little more green. Oh, well. It's just a short story which will most likely be a freebie.



Saturday, June 22, 2013

Writing Tips - Overwriting

Stephen King has lots of good advice for writers in his book "On Writing." The one that struck me the most is to write your book, then cut 10%.

I have the opposite problem. I need to add 10% because I tend to write tersely. That's my 35 years of tech writing kicking in. Say whatever you have to say in the fewest words possible.

In reading many of my fellow authors work, I tend to think Mr. King's advice is not followed often or well. Here, in my opinion, are the areas in which writers should just learn to shut up.

Environmental Description: Let the reader use their imagination a bit. You don't need to mention everything the protagonist is seeing everywhere they go. If your hero is spending two minutes in a village asking questions, then we really don't need to know everything about the village from its inception to the current time.

Is the description furthering the storyline? If there's a building with many columns and open windows, you had better have a darned good reason for mentioning those details. If the hero isn't scaling the columns or climbing into or jumping out of the windows, why would we care? Less is more.

Dining: The hero does have to eat on occasion, but he or she doesn't have to stop for three meals and an afternoon snack every day. If the villain is poisoning food, then the dining experience might be important. Otherwise, a simple statement that the hero (or villain) took a moment to snack is fine. We don't need the details. *See "Bathing, Sleeping, Eliminating Below.*

Clothing: Aside from weaponry or armor, we really don't care. The exception to this rule is if the character's attire plays into the plot. High heels on a female sleuth are only important if she can't run down the creepy guy because stilletoes are impractical.

Secondary Characters: If the hero stops to inquire if the villager has noticed any unseemly activities recently, we really don't care what said peon is wearing, the status of his facial hair, or the curviness of the barmaid's figure. This is excess information. Leave it out.

Sleeping, Bathing, Eliminating: You can mention these activities only to allay the readers' fears the character doesn't perform any of these functions.

Here's a picture since all posts look better with some type of graphic.




Thursday, June 20, 2013

Interview - Bahaar, Harib, and Parvaiz

Part of my release blog hop for Faizah's Destiny. This post originally appeared on Cheryl Malandrino's Children's and Teen's Book Connection. If you missed it there, you might enjoy reading it here.

The Boys Have Their Say

(Marva Dasef) I am the author of “Faizah’s Destiny” and decided the three boys in the story might like to share their views while Faizah isn’t in the room.

(Marva) I’m pleased to have Faizah’s three male companions here today for the interview. How are you doing?

(Parvaiz) Sure, make us out as secondary characters. Typical. Snorts in disgust.

(Marva) A little testy aren’t you? After all, the book is titled “Faizah’s Destiny” not “Parvaiz’s Destiny.”


(Harib) Sorry about Parvaiz, ma’am. He’s a little touchy since he was a slave all his life. He’ll loosen up the longer he’s free.

(Parvaiz) Easy for you, Harib. Your father is the richest man in the territory. He owns slaves!

(Bahaar) Hey, Parvaiz, lighten up. Harib or his father weren’t ever mean to slaves. His dad has even freed most of his workers, and they chose to stay on.

(Parvaiz) mumble...

(Marva) Hey, sorry to hit a sore spot Parvaiz. Maybe if you talked it out a little. Don’t you feel a little grateful to your father for adopting you as his son and heir?

(Harib) What’s that, Parvaiz? I don’t hearrrr youuuu!

(Parvaiz) Yeah, yeah. I am grateful to Ahmadj, but at my age it’s a little hard to adapt to having a father.

(Bahaar) I wish I had even a fake father to get used to. Me and my brother are all on our own. We don’t carry a chip around on our shoulder.

(Parvaiz) All right! I’m grateful! Now can we just drop it?

(Marva) Of course. Tell the readers about your search for Master Wafai.

(Harib) Jabs his hand in the air. Oh, me, me!

(Marva) Go ahead, Harib.

(Harib) One day, we all went to school in the morning at Master Wafai’s house. But he was gone and the room was a mess! We couldn’t think of anything other than he was kidnapped.

(Bahaar) You see, his herb bag was still there. He wouldn’t go anywhere to treat anybody without that. It had to be a kidnapping.

(Parvaiz) But Faizah doesn’t accept that story. Well, she didn’t say Wafai wasn’t kidnapped, but she thought he left a sign we were supposed to find the Simurghs to find out where he was.

(Marva) Why did she think that?

(Harib) His book of magical beasts was open to the page about the Simurghs and a big X was chalked on the page. She figured he’d never mark up a book except for good reason.

(Marva) So you all set out to search for the Simurgh?

(Parvaiz) No way! I thought it was an idiot idea. Faizah being a girl and all...

(Bahaar) interrupting Hey! Faizah can take care of herself. She made that pretty clear when she caught up to us.

(Harib) Yeah. She never hid behind her skirts or us. She always jumped in and started swinging. Remember when Raziq and his gang were beating you up?

(Bahaar) Huffs I could of taken them. But it was nice you and Faizah showing up to help.

(Marva) So, you’re saying at first that you all didn’t want Faizah to go along on the search, but you changed your mind.

(Parvaiz) Well, yeah. I didn’t know her like these guys. She pulled her weight once we got going. She even saved the rest of us from Pazuzu’s ill wind.

(Marva) Ill wind?

(Parvaiz) Yeah, it’s a demon who makes everybody sick. Most of the time, people die, but Faizah knew what plants to use to cure us.

(Marva) Speaking of demons, what was that all about?

Bahaar and Parvaiz turn noticeably red.

(Harib) That jerk demon didn’t take me over like these two.

(Bahaar) We apologized for that! It wasn’t our fault.

(Parvaiz) Right. Harib didn’t even have a very good demon try to tempt him to Dev’s side.

(Marva) Who’s this Dev?

(Parvaiz) God of war. What could we do? Both Bahaar and I wanted to be warriors, and the demons promised we would be great heroes.

(Harib) Yeah. All Nanghaithya did was try to make me feel bad. Not a good way to convince somebody to join the dark side.

(Marva) I know there’s plenty more to tell the readers about your search for Wafai, the battle with the demons, and so forth. But since I’d like to sell a few books, we’ll leave it for now and let folks read about it themselves.

Thank you, boys. You’ve been a great interview.

(Boys) Sure. Anytime. Hey how about a story starring me?

Excerpt:

She looked at Harib when he said, “Ahmajd is a good man, but he’s hardly the type to run off after mountain raiders. Matter of fact, I can’t think of anyone in the whole village who’d even consider it. You heard Faluj. He didn’t even suggest forming a search party. I don’t think anybody is going to do anything.”

Faizah bit her lip in frustration. The villagers lacked any adventurous spirit. Most preferred to live their lives as quietly and safely as they could.

Leaning over the table, Parvaiz stared thoughtfully at the open page of the book. “I haven’t had the chance to get to know Master Wafai, or anybody else yet, but I have a feeling Faizah is on the right track. Still, I think he just meant for us to search for him in the mountains, not go looking for these birds.”

Bahaar stood looking down at his feet, lost in thought. Now he lifted his head to look at Parvaiz for a second and then turned to Harib. “How about you, Harib? What do you think?”

Harib sighed and scratched his head. “I agree with Parvaiz. But we can’t go charging into the raider’s camp and tell them to give him back. They’d just laugh at us...or worse.”

Parvaiz nodded. “However, we can at least try to track where he is. If we find some evidence, we can come back to tell the village elders.”

“All right. I’ll concede Master Wafai was just directing us to the mountains, but we still need to figure out how to get started,” Faizah said. “Once we convince our parents,” she continued, glancing at Bahaar, “or brother, to let us go, we can work out the rest ourselves.”

Parvaiz stared at her and then gave a short bark of a laugh. “What makes you think you’re going? This is going to be hard enough without having a girl tagging along. That’s the last thing we need!”

Faizah glared at Parvaiz, her face flushed with anger. “I can take care of myself! Nobody has to watch out for me. Least of all some slave boy,” she shouted at Parvaiz. She regretted the last comment the moment she said it. Still, it didn’t make her any less angry that these boys, she thought were her friends, would so casually dismiss her just because she was a girl.

“You have no call?” Parvaiz began and then shut his mouth. He looked at Harib and Bahaar, who were both studying their feet with intense interest.

Bahaar looked up at him and then over at Faizah and shrugged. “Sorry Faizah, I have to agree with Parvaiz. I...I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

Faizah turned to Harib. “Well? Do you agree?”

The boy’s face reddened, and he wouldn’t meet her eyes. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

She glared at each of them in turn, spun on her heel, and stormed out of the house, her fists clenched and her head high. Stiff-backed, she marched across the tiny courtyard and through the archway. Only when hidden by the wall, did her shoulders slump and the tears begin to flow.

* * *

FAIZAH'S DESTINY
The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.

MuseItUp (all ebook formats): http://tinyurl.com/faizahsdestiny 

Blurb:

The village magician has gone missing. His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis--the book of magical creatures. They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains. Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.


A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Guest Poster - Lorrie Struiff

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT BLOGGING?

I’v been on many guest blogs as I’m sure most authors have. My question for this post is; Do you think blogging helps spread the word of your book? Get your name known? Does it help you sell books?

Now I’m not talking spreading it to each other. You know, the whole “preaching to the choir bit.”

How many of you really have a large enough fan base/ readers, not authors that follow your guest posts? How many of you have a fan base following your personal blog?

If so, give me numbers, please.

I guess I’m having a hard time believing doing all the promoting we authors must do is garnering us much notice in the writing/selling world.

Oh yes, there are a few who have small fan bases. We don’t have the following of the biggies like Konrath or others who post.

And of course I’m constantly reading that the more stories you put out there the more notice and fans you will get to follow. Is that true? I’m not so sure.

Write a good story, all say, and you will get a following. Well? Don’t we all write good stories? We think so or we wouldn’t work so darn hard on them.

So, tell me where you stand on blogging or blog hops.

I really don’t know where I stand. Of course I’m a very slow writer so I’d rather write than promo.

Sheriff Cole Walker has no choice when Beggar, a run-away ringtail monkey, decides to move in with him. Now, Cole doesn’t like any critters much, but he doesn’t dare shoot the ringtail that sneaks out at night to steal the townsfolk’s valuables and hides them under the bed. Why doesn’t he just shoo the animal away?

Because, Mattie Wells, a pretty woman, and new in town sure jingles Cole’s spurs. She thinks Beggar is adorable and takes a shine to men who love pets. What’s a poor sheriff to do but grin and bear it?

JJ wants to start a war with the farmers for rustling his cattle. But, are the farmers to blame?

To keep the peace in town, track down cattle rustlers, return valuables from the prowling night thief, Beggar. With his deputies Wade and Sully, and Beggar, his unwanted sidekick, Cole must find a way to win Mattie’s heart, find the rustlers, and bring peace once again to Cold Creek, Kansas. Yep, Cole has a heap of trouble on his shoulders.

Excerpt

Mattie hurried to look under the desk. “Oh, my, it’s a little monkey.” She crawled on all fours to reach for the varmint, offering Cole a tantalizing view of her frilly petticoat and pretty ankles. “Come here, you poor baby.”
“Miss Mattie, stop.” Cole rushed over, a palm on his pistol. “He might bite you.”
Mattie got to her feet, the monkey curled in her arms. “Oh, don’t be silly. He’s what they call a ringtail and he’s half-starved to boot. I had a school friend once whose dad was an Organ Grinder. He had bought one like this shipped in from South America.” Her eyebrows lifted, her eyes on his hand hovering over his pistol. “You weren’t really planning on shooting this little fella, were you?”
“Me?” He let out a chuckle and quickly hooked his thumb over his gun belt. “I’d never think of doing something like that.” He made a show of glancing around the room. “I was just sharin’ my lunch, but he sure made a darn mess of the place.”
She petted the monkey, cooing softly while it lay snuggled in her arms. She bit her lip her eyes twinkling. “Oh, I see. And now you’re sweeping up the scraps. How sweet.”
Cole shuddered at how she could handle the critter so easily. He tried to smile. “Yes, ma’am. Sure was. Cleaning the office and feeding him, that is.”
Her eyes narrowed as she inspected the creature closely. “This fella’s too thin, must not have eaten for a while.” She fingered the metal band around its neck. “We need something to wedge the clip lock off his collar.” A frown pulled at her mouth while her eyes scanned the office. “Oh, hand me that ring of keys hanging on the peg. You hold the monkey and I’ll work the ring under the clip.”
“Uh, you keep a hold of him. I’ll pry the clip loose. I mean since he’s so comfortable with you and all.” He snatched up the key ring and edged closer. His hands trembled. “Why we doin’ this for anyhow? Must be someone’s pet with this fancy collar.”
“Probably, but this collar has sharp edges. It scratches his neck.” She perched on the edge of the desk, holding the monkey firmly, exposing the lock.
Cole moved his hands slowly. “Ah, hold on to his head nice and tight now. We don’t want him wiggling.”
She giggled. “Don’t worry.”
Sweat beaded on his forehead, the heat rushing to his face nearly searing his eyebrows. He reached for the collar, his heart racing. The ring slid under the clip and he forced it up. It snapped open with a ping.
“Now pull the collar apart.”
He did. The collar pushed open wide enough for him to twist it off.
“Yeow!” Pain shot from his hand to his elbow. He dropped the collar as if he had grabbed the hot end of a branding iron. The metal band clunked and spun across the floor. He stared at the bloody strip streaking his palm.
“I told you it was sharp.” Mattie set the ringtail on the desk and led Cole to the basin of water sitting on the ledge in the corner. She soaped a cloth and bathed his palm while he glared at the monkey. Her soft, warm hands gave him a little tingle in his belly, until she poured the whiskey over the cut.
“Yeow!” Cole blew on his hand. He didn’t know which was worse, the cut or the unexpected whiskey wash.
The ringtail rubbed and stretched its neck, then clapped. Cole gave him a scathing look.

Where to find "A Heap of Trouble."

Heap of Trouble E-Book




Heap of Trouble Print


Monday, June 17, 2013

How About a Western Movie?

I'll finish up with Father's Day promo for TALES OF A TEXAS BOY with the book trailer. The music is worth a listen if nothing else.


Now how about another. This one for my good friend, Lorrie's book, "A Heap of Trouble." She'll be my guest poster tomorrow.


Take care ya'all!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day from Tales of a Texas Boy

If you've been following this blog this month, you would have seen blurbs about some of the stories in TALES OF A TEXAS BOY. Since today IS Father's Day, you can still get a gift certificate to buy Tales in print format or send an ebook as a gift.

These are stories about my father. He's passed now, but he took great pleasure reading his almost true tall tales. I think you'll enjoy them too.

Here's a bit on the rest of the stories in the book:

The Luck Brothers

While nobody lived so close by you could talk over the fence, there were neighbors. Some of them were just a bit stranger than the others.

FRED AND FRANK Luck lived up the road about six miles. We didn’t have much to do with them, but one time we, meanin’ Pa and me, had to go visiting. They was an odd pair, bein’ identical twins who purely hated each other. Their ma died when she birthed them and their pa pretty much let them go wild. A few of the womenfolk hereabouts helped out when they were just babies, but once they got to ten or so, they pretty much did what they pleased.

Ma’s Story

Mothers have their own joys and sorrows. Too often they keep their feelings to themselves and even their own families don’t know.

WHEN I WAS a boy, my Ma was a woman of few words, which surprised quite a few folks. The town ladies came out to visit on occasion and she’d go to town to return the favor, but mostly she listened. That did set her apart from the gossipers and them that just liked to talk to hear themselves.

Cage McNatt’s Prize Sow

Even small towns can come up with odd characters. Cage McNatt had to be one of the oddest.

I’VE HEARD OF men gettin’ all fired up about their horses. I’d even heard of a man who had a steer he took with him duck huntin’. But, I still can’t understand how Cage McNatt was so taken with a pig. After all, a pig generally ends up bein’ ham and pork chops, but Cage McNatt was mighty fond of his sow. He even named her, which is unusual right there. He called her Petunia, which I thought was a darned silly name for anything, even a pig.

Crossin’ the Creek

Kids went to school, but they didn’t exactly catch the school bus outside the house. Getting to school could be an adventure.

IT’D BEEN RAINING forty days and forty nights is what Ma said, but I only counted up eleven days myself. She did tend to put things in Bible sayin’s, so I won’t say she was lyin’, just exaggeratin’ for effect.


The Thief

The Great Depression was beginning to seep into the lives of the people in West Texas. Insulated to some extent, they began to see the repercussions of the droughts by the people who came south from Oklahoma for relief from the dust storms.

IT ALWAYS MEANS a good time when Pa lets me go with him in the truck. I liked the truck a lot and sometimes he’d let me drive a ways, too. This time, Pa planned on goin’ further than Hereford. We were goin’ to go to Amarillo, the trip some fifty miles. It would take us most of one day to get there and do what we needed to do, so we’d have to camp overnight somewhere along the way.

Chance Encounter

All kids eventually grow up, but in that in-between time interesting things can happen. When Eddie moved to East Texas and began High School, he joined the football team. The team was good enough to go to the State Championship. Along the way, he meets a woman who turns his head around.

LIFE WAS TOUGH in the 30s, but people didn’t complain, they just tried to get along as best they could. When I was gettin’ in my teen years, times were tough enough that Pa decided we’d move the family to East Texas. The reason for this is in one word: oil. My uncle Alex started up in the oil business and he’d invited Pa to come help out. This was fine with Ma, as Uncle Alex married her sister Alma. 


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Saturday, June 15, 2013

No Angel - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas 

Boy No Angel

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. So goes an old saying. A boy with nothing much to do can sometimes find the worst possible things to do.




FROM WHAT YOU’VE heard about me, you might come to the conclusion I was a well-behaved child. Well, I don’t mean to give you a false picture of what I’m really like. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes I did stuff that was not exactly admired by my Ma and Pa. I wasn’t exactly the devil, but I weren’t no angel neither.


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Friday, June 14, 2013

Beau the Jack - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy

 Beau the Jack

After Pa bought the jackass at the auction, Bucephalus earned his keep as a stud. However, he did provide some excitement on occasion.


A LOT OF people think a Jackass is just a mule. They’d be only half right since a Jackass is the daddy to a mule, with the mama bein’ a mare. You might hear someone call somebody else “son of a jack.” Well, that’s just polite language for sayin’ they’re a mule.

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Mr. Young's Arkansas Cedar Float - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy

Mr. Young’s Arkansas Cedar Float

All work and no play is not a way to grow up properly. Going fishing was an easy and cheap way to do both at the same time–catch some fish for dinner while enjoying a lazy afternoon by the creek.


EVER’ ONCE IN awhile, Pa lets me take off from my chores to go fishin’. This was one of those days, so I asked Ma if she could pack up some food to take along. She was agreeable to it, and made me a good meal with sandwiches and even a piece of chocolate cake. I filled my canteen at the pump.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

One Fine Dog - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy

One Fine Dog

Dogs weren’t just pets, but working members of the family. Sometimes, they could do amazing things and perform feats that were almost like magic.




MA YELLED LOUD enough for me to hear into the next state. “Edward Preston! Get yerself in here right now!”

I wondered what it was I done now. I didn’t recall any particular mischief I’d been up to. At least, not today. I finished throwin’ the hay into Beau’s corral and went on the run up to the house.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Cattle Drive - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy

The Cattle Drive

You can’t talk about Texas without mentioning cattle. Just about every little boy wanted to grow up to be a cowboy, although it was an occupation few would ever take up. For one brief and shining moment, Eddie realizes his dream of being a real cowboy.


I SEEN THE dust cloud down the road, so naturally I jumped up to the top rail of the fence to get a better look. It took about ten minutes before I could make out a couple of drovers was pushin’ a small herd up the road. By then, Pa come over to find out why I wasn’t doin’ my chores. The two of us were standin’ on the fence rail, peerin’ down the road. Ma came out of the house, but she just stood on the porch with her hand shadin’ her eyes.


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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Frank Norfleet: Detective - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy

Frank Norfleet: Detective

Oil became big business in Texas. Confidence men came with the wildcatters and sometimes regular folk fell for some scheme or other. When it happened, it was nice to have a real detective as a friend.


PA TOL’ ME to get to sleep early so we could leave before dawn. I was excited, so didn’t know how I’d get to sleep, but I didn’t argue with him none. Pa was takin’ me along with him to visit with a friend of his, name of Mr. Norfleet. He owned a big ranch down southeast of us in Hale County.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Ma Yote and Her Cubs - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy

Ma Yote and Her Cubs

Besides rattlesnakes and jackrabbits, the farmers and ranchers considered coyotes to be vermin. If the prairie wolves made the mistake of entering the world of people, they would be killed whether or not they’d actually done any harm.



I LIKED TO catch horny toads on occasion and keep them in a glass cannin’ jar, which Ma lets me do so long as I clean up good afterwards. I’d scoop up some sand and dirt into the jar and a couple of good sized rocks for them to sit on. I laid the jar sideways so’s they could stretch out to rest. I learned what kinds of bugs by feedin' 'em lots of different kinds. If they started to look peaked, I’d let ‘em go, elsewise I’d keep ‘em for a week or so. If you’re a city slicker, then I’ll tell you that a horny toad ain’t a toad at all. It’s a flat, fat lizard with a rough hide and a ruff of spikes ‘round its neck like a lace collar, which some ladies, but not Ma, wore to dress up.


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Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Bone Hunters - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy
The Bone Hunters

Between 1870 and 1937, the bone business played a major role in the economy of Texas. In the nineteenth century, the bones were from the millions of buffalo slaughtered for their hides and then left to rot on the plains. Once the buffalo were depleted, cattle became the primary source of bones. During the Great Depression, hundreds of families overcame droughts, debts, and famine by picking up and selling bones. Bone buyers made a circuit of the farms, collecting tons of bones to be ground to meal, leached of calcium phosphate to fire the furnaces of bone china makers, and made into buttons for the garment factories. 

In 1929, at the age of nineteen, James Ridgley Whiteman discovered the existence of Clovis Man, believed to be the earliest human being to live on the North American continent.




“HEY, YOU DROP that right now!” I yelled at my little sister when I saw her pickin’ up a cowpie. Cowpies was fine, if they were good and dry, but the one Dorothy picked up looked a mite green.  

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Saturday, June 08, 2013

Moonlight Ride - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy

Moonlight Ride

Death is always a part of life and that was never more true than during the Depression. People lived, and died, out on the Texas prairies sometimes with nobody around to watch them pass.



DOROTHY and me grew up on a farm in west Texas. It was six hundred forty acres, which is the size most farms were in that part of the country. To tell the truth, I’d rather we owned a ranch with longhorn steers, but six-hundred-forty acres was only room enough for crops, not cattle. Still, Sister and me had our horses. We rode to school, we rode to town, we rode all over the prairie. Naturally, we got to be pretty good riders.

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Friday, June 07, 2013

The Corn Patch Incident - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy

The Corn Patch Incident

Barn raising is a community affair that takes place in almost all rural societies across the country. In Texas, nearly every community event also includes a barbecue, although it’s sometimes by default. It all depends on why the barn needs raising.



A LITTLE TORNADO came through last week and Nate Simmons’ barn got flattened. Specially bad for Mr. Simmons, two cows were in the barn at the time and didn’t make it out alive. All it meant was there was plenty of meat for a barbecue when all the neighbors came around to rebuild the barn.


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Thursday, June 06, 2013

Pa's Story - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy
Pa’s Story

World War I took many young men away from their homes and sent them off to foreign shores. Eddie’s Pa was one of those young men. He has his own tale to tell.



IN 1916, I was still a young buck and not yet married, so I signed up with Black Jack Pershing to go after Pancho Villa. Ol’ Pancho and his banditos came into US territory and killed a bunch of folks in Columbus, New Mexico.


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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Out of the Chicken Coop - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy 

Out of the Chicken Coop

Most animals on the farm were there for a purpose, rarely as pets. That meant that animals were not allowed in the house like they are today. If they got in, however, it wasn’t always easy to get them out again.




WHEN I WAS just a little kid, no more’n seven if I remember rightly, I was down in the chicken yard tossin’ grain like I was tol’. This one little red hen started followin’ me around instead of peckin’ up the grain like the other chickens. I thought it strange, but just went about my business.

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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Auction - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy

The Auction

Mules and jackasses have a special place on the farm. They’re strong and tough, so farms back in the early part of the twentieth century couldn’t operate without them. Fortunately, or sometimes unfortunately, they were also very smart and had a mind of their own.



PA HOLLERED AT me. “Eddie, you get outta bed and get dressed.”

I looked out the window and saw it was still dark, so I knew sumpin must be up. I jumped up and pulled on my pants and boots as fast as I could. I grabbed up a shirt and headed down the ladder from the loft where I sleep.


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Monday, June 03, 2013

Rattlesnakes and Jackrabbits - Tales of a Texas Boy

Tales of a Texas Boy
Rattlesnakes and Jackrabbits

Domestic livestock weren’t the only animals that the farmers and ranchers had to deal with. The wildlife of the region didn’t hide out in the bushes all the time. Sometimes they were pretty much in your face. Rattlesnakes came to the farms to catch the rats and mice that populated granaries. Rabbits also took a liking to the easy pickings. Both animals, rattlesnakes and jackrabbits, ended up being a nuisance that the local farmers and ranchers had to control.




TEXANS LIKE TO brag everything is bigger in Texas. That might be a little exaggeration, but with two things I think it’s pretty much the truth. In Texas, rattlesnakes and jackrabbits come in three sizes: big, bigger, and biggest. I’m also of a mind there are more of each of these critters per square mile than fleas on a stray dog.
  

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Sunday, June 02, 2013

Dad Boles and Sophie - Tales of a Texas Boy

TALES OF A TEXAS BOY

Dad Boles and Sophie

During the 1930’s in the rural region of West Texas, working was just about all people had time to do. However, even without television or access to movie houses, there was still some entertainment for the masses. The county fair became a yearly highlight for the farm families. Sometimes, the entertainment wasn’t inside the gate to the fair, but outside where a few folks who were just a bit different set up their own type of show.



IT WAS SUMMER again and the carnival would be here in a week. That’s about the most exciting event of the year, except maybe the roundup and branding. I surely was looking forward to the cotton candy and riding the Ferris wheel. Beins I’m a kid, a carnival was pretty interesting, but I looked forward to it most ‘cause that’s when Dad Boles came to town.

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