Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Outlaw Women of the West by @MattPizzolato

Matthew Pizzolato, author
Outlaw Women
of the West
by Matthew Pizzolato
Copyright © 2012 Matthew Pizzolato

Perhaps one of the biggest myths perpetrated by Hollywood is the role that women played during the days of the Old West. According to Western mythology there were basically two roles for women during the time period: the whore with the heart of gold and the schoolmarm. While both of those characters did exist, they have been so overdone in Western fiction that they have become cliché.

Women served a in a multitude of roles that went against the social conventions of the day. Mary Fields, an ex-slave, drove a US mail coach. Martha Jane Canary or Calamity Jane, as she is more popularly known, was an Army scout. Charley Parkhurst dressed like a man and drove a stagecoach. Poker Alice Ivers was one of the most famous gamblers of the time. However, some women of the time resorted to full scale outlawry.

Sally Skull

Although most of her life and death is shrouded in mystery, Sally became known as a ruthless killer who was a dead shot with the two pistols that she wore. She made her living as a horse trader and wasn't particular about how she acquired her livestock. It was said that she was so proficient with a bull whip that she could snap the head off of flowers.

Sally arrived in Texas with her family as one of the first settlers of Stephen F. Austin's colony. When the Civil War started, she became a Confederate blockade runner and hauled cotton to Mexico for shipment to Europe.

There are no known photographs of her and the records of her life consist of marriage licenses and divorce degrees. Sally was married five times and is suspected of having killed at least one of her husbands.

It is believed that Sally killed more than 30 men during her lifetime. There is no record of her death, but rumor has it that her last husband killed her and disposed of her body in Mexico.

Belle Starr (Myra Belle Shirley)

Belle Starr

Belle Starr was born as Myra Belle Shirley into the life of a spoiled rich girl and received a classical education. Her life changed when the Missouri-Kansas border war broke out. After her brother was killed in 1864, her father moved the family to Scyene, Texas.

She married Jim Reed on November 1, 1866 and bore him two children. When Reed was killed in a gunfight with a member of his own gang in 1874, Belle left her children with her mother and rode the Outlaw trail.

She met a Cherokee named Sam Starr and settled on his place near Briartown, Oklahoma. From that base, the couple formed a gang and began rustling, stealing horses and bootlegging whiskey with Belle calling the shots.

Belle became a target of the Hanging Judge Isaac Parker and was brought before his court several times, but was usually released because of lack of evidence. Eventually, she was caught attempting to steal a horse and was sentenced to two consecutive six month prison terms but returned to the outlaw life upon her release.

After Sam was killed, Belle married Jim July. The relationship was fraught with arguments. On February 3, 1889, Belle was shot and killed from ambush. The killer was never found. Suspects included her husband, a neighbor named Watson, as well as both her estranged daughter and son.

Pearl Hart
Pearl Hart

By the time she became the first known female stagecoach robber in Arizona history, Pearl Hart had already lived a hard life. At the age of seventeen, she married an abusive husband who gave her two children before leaving her.

She left both of her children with her parents and went West. She found survival difficult, suffered from depression and attempted suicide several times.

In 1899, Pearl met a miner named Joe Boot with whom she decided to rob a stagecoach with to raise money to visit her sick mother. On May 30, 1899, with Pearl dressed as a man, the couple stopped the coach between Florence and Globe, Arizona, taking about $450 and a revolver. Their escape attempt was unsuccessful and they got lost. After making camp for the night, the pair woke up to discover they were surrounded by a posse.

During her time in jail, she became known as the "Bandit Queen," often giving autographs. She escaped from the jail but was caught and returned where she faced trial. She was sentenced to five years in Yuma Territorial Prison but was paroled after 18 months.

Pearl tried to profit from her fame as a lady bandit, but was unsuccessful. The circumstances of her death are unknown.

Flo Quick alias Tom King

Flora was born into a wealthy family and married Ora Mundis. The couple moved to Guthrie in Oklahoma Territory in 1892. She inherited the family fortune but quickly squandered it. When the money ran out, so did her husband.

Flora stole horses to make a living and began dressing like a man, using the name Tom King to confuse authorities. She met a fellow outlaw, Earnest "Killer" Lewis and began robbing trains.

Flora had no trouble supporting herself by horse stealing and often resorted to prostitution when necessary. The circumstances of her death are not known but her life is a constant source of speculation among historians to this day.

Rumors persist that she may have been the sixth "man" of the Dalton raid on Coffeeville and that she may have been a sweetheart of Bob Dalton, even that her real name was Eugenia Moore, but none of this has been substantiated.

In conclusion, the historical record is full of women who broke social conventions and lived life how they saw fit, regardless of what Hollywood would like to portray. Although the times have changed since the days of the Old West, human nature remains the same.

The Wanted Man
by Matthew PizzolatoAmazon ~ B&N ~ Goodreads
Excerpt plus an RTW interview with Matthew Pizzolato

Win a $20 Amazon Gift Certificate!
Contest Question:
What do you consider the best Western (either movie or novel) of all time? Why?  Comment and you'll be entered to win the $20 Amazon Gift Certificate !

Small print:
Email address must be included to be eligible for the drawing (so we can contact you).
Drawing will be held Saturday, June 30 at 9pm Pacific Time.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Matthew Pizzolato: The Wanted Man

The Wanted Man
by Matthew Pizzolato

Romancing The West welcomes a friend of all Western readers and writers, Matthew Pizzolato. His short stories have been published online and in print in such publications as: BEAT to a PULP!, The Copperfield Review, Pulp Modern, Frontier Tales Magazine, and The Storyteller. Matthew also writes a weekly NASCAR column for Insider Racing News and is a contributing writer for He's a member of Western Fictioneers.

Matthew can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter at @mattpizzolato. When he's not writing, Matthew is the editor and webmaster of The Western Online.

RTW: Thanks for stopping by this week, Matthew. To get us started, please tell us about your new release.

MP: The Wanted Man is a collection of eight short stories set in the American West and touches on themes of vengeance, abuse and honor. Texas Ranger Jud Nelson appears in the title story and receives some aid from an unlikely source in chasing down a killer. Outlaw Wesley Quaid discovers that not only is the law on his trail in the form of Ranger Jud Nelson but a hired assassin has been paid to kill him. Is Texas big enough for the three of them?

Matthew is giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Certificate.
(See details below)

RTW : What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into The Wanted Man?

MP: Self reliance. In my opinion, self reliance is something that is lacking in today's culture that was prevalent during the Old West. During that time period, people had to fend for themselves. There were no policemen to call if someone harmed them. They had to provide food and shelter for themselves and their families. People have become too dependant on modern convinces and forget that hunger, thirst and cold are still lurking in the shadows.

All of my characters, whether they are lawmen like Jud Nelson, outlaws like Wesley Quaid, killers like the assassin Sabrina, or just everyday people are self reliant. They may work together to help each other on occasion, but they depend on no one but themselves.

RTW : If you lived in during the Old West, what modern convenience would you miss the most?

MP: Air conditioning. I work as a meat cutter when I'm not writing, so I've become accustomed to being inside in cool temperatures. That is one convenience that I take for granted and am reminded of how much I miss it whenever I spend a weekend civil war reenacting. Everything we do has to be period correct, from how we cook our food to the tents and the clothes we wear. I live in Louisiana, so wearing wool in ninety degree plus temperatures can get quite warm.

RTW: You'll get no argument from me on the air conditioning! If a person who had never read a Western asked you for a recommendation, what novel or movie would you recommend and why? What did the author do to bring the story alive for you?

MP: The Sackett Brand by Louis L'Amour, or anything else by L'Amour for that matter. His characters are portrayed as real people who live by a code. The Sackett Brand exemplifies what I consider to be the three virtues of a Western: honor, integrity and loyalty. Even the villains in L'Amour's work had a sense of honor. There was a line that they wouldn't cross and that is what draws me to his work.

RTW : Are there any common errors in westerns that bug you? If so, please set us straight.

MP: There are too many to name. The Old West mythology that is portrayed in the popular Western is highly romanticized and not always historically accurate. As an example, the role of women in Westerns is probably the most glaring error. While the whore with a heart of gold actually did exist, it's been so overdone in Westerns that it's become a cliché.

It's historical fact that while women were repressed during the time period, some of them still lead successful lives in the same roles as men. Belle Boyd was a civil war spy. Charlie Parkhurst was a female stagecoach driver. There were women outlaws, such as Belle Starr and also Flo Quick, who regularly dressed like a man and went by the name of Tom King. Then you have Poker Alice and of course, Calamity Jane, just to name a few.

RTW: What drew you to writing Westerns? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

MP: I started writing Westerns because I ran out of Louis L'Amour stories to read. When I realized I'd read everything he'd written, I felt like I'd lost my best friend. But aside from L'Amour, I draw my biggest inspiration from two of Clint Eastwood's movies, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven.

Those two movies dumped Western mythology on its head and introduced the anti-hero. Suddenly, there were shades of gray in the Western instead of clearly draw lines of black and white. Yet while Josey Wales and Will Munny are both killers, they still possess elements of the hero, namely honor and integrity.

It is these characters that were the inspiration for Wesley Quaid and I drew on the historical record for inspiration for the assassin, Sabrina. Jud Nelson is my version of the typical Western hero, and he appears in one of the stories alongside Wesley Quaid.

RTW: Why must Wesley Quaid take this story journey? What does he have to prove? Why is Sabrina the perfect match for him?

MP: Wesley Quaid has become discontented with his life as an outlaw and is on a journey of self discovery. He's always been a man of honor but he wants to become a man of whom his father would be proud. Sabrina is a perfect match for him because she's not the typical woman who needs his protection. She's his equal who earns his respect.

RTW: That sounds right up my alley! Please set up your excerpt for us.

MP: This is a scene from one of the stories in The Wanted Man collection, Killer for Hire, where Wesley Quaid meets the assassin, Sabrina. This scene transpires after Sabrina makes an attempt on Wesley's life but fails and Wesley tracks her down and confronts her.

Excerpt from
Killer for Hire, a story in The Wanted Man
by Matthew Pizzolato
Copyright © 2011 Matthew Pizzolato

Not ten feet away, the cloaked figure bent into the water and submersed her head. Behind her and slightly adjacent, a prairie rattler as big around as my forearm slithered toward the water.

The woman appeared oblivious.

So I did what any gentleman would do. I stepped from the trees, drew my pistol and shot the snake.

The woman lunged to her feet and would have sprung at me.

I cocked the pistol again and smiled.

She froze with her legs poised to leap.

"Who are you?" I asked.

"It doesn't matter."

"What's your name?"

Several seconds passed while she considered. Her sodden straight black hair clung to her skull. Beads of water cascaded down her face. "You may call me Sabrina."

"Oh? I may?"

She gave a curt nod.

"I didn't ask what I could call you. I asked you your name."

Anger blazed in her eyes.

I chuckled. This woman wasn't accustomed to impertinence. "In that case, you may call me Wesley Quaid."

"That isn't you're name either."

I smiled and it reached all the way to my eyes. Then I winked at her and raised an eyebrow.

She blinked and the appearance of rage vanished from her face. Her posture relaxed, and she glanced at the still writhing snake. "Are you going to return my gun?"

"No thanks. I kind of like it. Besides, I couldn't find mine."

She rolled her eyes. "I could kill you from here and take it off of your corpse."

"I enjoy shooting knives out of the air. What are you waiting for?"

Her eyes blazed again but not as furiously as before. Or was my imagination running away with me?

"Return my gun and I will let you live."

I snorted. "Do I look stupid?"

"Actually, yes." A trace of humor reached those icy blue eyes.
♥ ♥ ♥
Available at: Amazon ~ B&N ~ Goodreads

RTW: Ha! I love it. :) What’s next? Will you have a sequel to The Wanted Man?

MP: I've just finished a novella length work with the outlaw Wesley Quaid as the protagonist. The stories featuring Wesley Quaid in The Wanted Man are precursors to the novella, Outlaw. I will have it available later this summer or early in the fall.

RTW: It's good to get to you, Matthew, and thanks again for joining the RTW family. Anything else you’d like to add?

MP: I like to thank Jacquie for hosting me this week and I'm eternally grateful to all of the readers who have supported my writing and my website, The Western Online. If anyone has read The Wanted Man and could find the time to write a review on Amazon or any of the other sites, I'd be forever in your debt.

Win a $20 Amazon Gift Certificate!
Contest Question:
What do you consider the best Western (either movie or novel) of all time? Why?  Comment and you'll be entered to win the $20 Amazon Gift Certificate !

Small print:
Email address must be included to be eligible for the drawing (so we can contact you).
Drawing will be held Saturday, June 30 at 9pm Pacific Time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Women Who Disguised Themselves as Men

Josie Malone, author
Women Who Disguised
Themselves as Men
by Josie Malone
Copyright © 2012 Shannon Kennedy

March was “Women’s History Month” and as the saying by George Santanyana goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The difficulty in writing about women is that we are often not taught about those who came before us. When I was growing up, it seemed that the world was overrun with rules about what a “good girl” could and couldn’t do. I thought my grandmother was an aberration because she insisted upon working beside my grandfather in a real-life game of Monopoly until I went to Washington State University and began taking classes in a subject I’d never even heard of before, Women’s Studies.

And it changed my life. By learning my history, it brought the stories I told to a new level. Writing stories about women, whether it’s a romance or a young adult novel, always poses a challenge, even when I’m sure I already know the answers either as Josie Malone or Shannon Kennedy. I write mainstream western romance as Josie and young adult stories as Shannon.

In my book, A Man’s World, the main character disguises herself as a man in 1888 Washington (State) Territory. She successfully masquerades as a man throughout the story, fooling everyone but the hero. Surprisingly for most readers, this wasn’t an unusual occurrence in the Old West. Women might be expected to dress appropriately, but there were always those who didn’t.

Albert Cashier

Albert Cashier aka
Jennie Irene Hodgers

During the Civil War, Albert Cashier was born Jennie Irene Hodgers in 1843. In 1862, Hodgers disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry Regiment under the name Albert Cashier. The regiment was under Ulysses S. Grant and fought in over 40 battles. Cashier managed to remain undetected as the other soldiers thought she was just small and preferred to be alone. Cashier was captured in battle but managed to escape back to Union lines after overpowering a guard. She fought with the regiment through the war until 1865.

After the war, Cashier continued to live as a male, convincing everyone around her. For forty years Cashier worked as a church janitor, cemetery worker and street lamplighter, she voted as a man, and claimed a veterans pension. In 1910, she was hit by a car and broke her leg. A doctor discovered her secret but agreed to keep quiet. In 1911, Cashier moved to a soldier’s retirement home. After her mind began to deteriorate, attendants gave her a bath and discovered her true sex. She was forced to wear a dress from that time on. Cashier died in 1915 and was buried in her military garb. Her tombstone carried the words: “Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf.” – when she was finally traced back to Jennie Hodgers, a second tombstone was erected with both names on it.

Charley Parkhurst
Another famous woman who lived as a man was Charley Parkhurst, renowned stagecoach driver in California and I referred to her story in A Man’s World.

Charley Parkhurst aka
Mary Parkhurst

Everyone knew that "Mountain Charley" Parkhurst was one of Wells Fargo's most colorful stagecoach drivers. But until the day he died, no one knew his secret. Weighing close to 175 pounds and around five feet seven inches tall, he had broad shoulders and was beardless. Charley had big arms, a rather sharp, high-pitched voice and early on had learned to hold his own. He preferred sleeping in stables with the horses rather than going out with the boys. A patch over one eye was evidence of an encounter with a horse that obviously didn’t realize who it was dealing with; but the other gray eye, sharp as a hawk’s, squinted out from under a battered hat that shaded a leathery, brown face.

He smoked cigars, chewed tobacco, drank moderately, played cards, and shook dice for cigars and drinks; always cheerful and agreeable, but always reticent about personal matters. Those who rode with Charley said he was as skillful, as resourceful and as hard-boiled as any driver in the Sierras. His secret...Charley was a woman.

Little Joe Monaghan

Little Joe Monaghan

A third woman who successfully hid her gender was Little Joe Monaghan who lived as a man for nearly forty years in Idaho. Her story eventually became the movie, The Ballad of Little Jo, but the real life story is much more interesting than the Hollywood version. Just ask our wonderful blog hostess, Jacquie Rogers who knows all about her (Scandal: Little Joe Monaghan).

In conclusion, as my heroine says in my newest book, A Woman’s Place is “what and where she chooses to make it.” And we do have to know our past in order to create a future for ourselves and our daughters, one where they can truly do whatever they choose. One where they don’t have to pretend to be something they’re not, but can indeed be true to who and what they are.

♥ ♥ ♥
My newest release came out in April from BookStrand and it was fun to write especially since it was a spin-off of my first book, A Man’s World. In that historical western romance, Trace Burdette masqueraded as a man, fooling everyone but new neighbor, ruggedly handsome Zebadiah Prescott. With their love on the line, they had to deal with the past and the outlaw who killed her grandfather and stalked her. By the time that A Woman’s Place begins, Trace and Zeb have been married for just over six months when renegades rob the bank she owns in the town of Junction City.

So, our hero, Rad Morgan, the marshal of Junction City sets off to capture the miscreants. Along the way, he meets his match, and Iraqi War veteran/homicide detective Beth Chambers takes no prisoners. She’ll fit right into 1888 Washington Territory. Of course, I had to figure out how to get a woman from 2012 to the Old West and why she was even there, but that was part of the adventure and the paranormal elements kept escalating. Much to Rad’s initial dismay, Beth and Trace become fast friends.

A Woman’s Place blurb:

Trailing a serial killer, Homicide Detective Beth Chambers is thrust into 1888 Washington Territory where she encounters injured Rad Morgan, a ruggedly handsome marshal who believes A Woman’s Place is behind her man. Now, Beth must save Rad’s life, apprehend the killer, and prove herself capable as a law officer.

Former soldier and survivor of Andersonville Prison Camp, Marshal Rad Morgan faces his toughest challenge in Beth Chambers, a determined woman from the future who’s never learned “her place.” But when he is shot and left for dead, he must put himself in Beth’s hands if they both want to survive.

Can these two headstrong people put their pride aside and work together to find the deadly killer and stop him before he destroys this world and their future? As they fight for justice, love helps them discover A Woman’s Place is what and where she chooses to make it.

Where you can buy A Woman's Place:
Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Bookstrand

Josie Malone bio:
As a child, I loved to dream away the days in an old cherry tree on my family’s pony farm. In my imagination, the tree became a beautiful Arabian stallion, a medieval castle and even a pirate ship. I got in trouble for making my little sisters walk the plank, but hey, they never broke any bones. On rainy days, I headed for my fort in the hayloft. While the rain thudded on the cedar shingled roof, I read books, eventually trading Carolyn Keene for Georgette Heyer. I used the setting of the pony farm for my second romance from BookStrand. The Daddy Spell was a finalist in the Colorado RWA Award of Excellence contest.

Today I live on the family ranch in the Cascade foothills of Washington State in what was once a summer vacation cabin. It’s been modernized and even has indoor plumbing – woo-hoo! I share the cabin with my two cats or maybe, they share it with me.

I usually write at night after a long day on the ranch. Some days are longer and harder than others, but I still write from 8PM to 2AM, seven days a week. As a substitute school teacher, I love the school breaks but I’m just as busy, since there are 36 horses to look after, along with other assorted animals.

With all the critters on the ranch, I don’t have time for a husband. As for kids, I have to give back the ones who come to learn how to ride at the end of each day. Now, I’m teaching the kids and grandkids of the ones I taught way back when we started. I’ve had a lot of adventures over the years – and in my next 50 years, I plan to write all about them. I hope you enjoy reading about them!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Confessions of a Bookworm

What I Like in a Book
by Moriah McCormick

RTW Note: In lieu of an author interview, we have an avid reader who's willing to share her opinion of what makes a great book, and what makes a DNF (did not finish).

I love reading!!! It’s an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Reading takes me away to lands I want to see, time periods I would love to visit, and lets me meet new and interesting characters. I love to read a book that pulls me in and makes me feel like I’m actually right there with the characters, experiencing every thought and emotion they are going through.

There are certain things in a book that make it a great read for me, such as the characters, rules of the story world, and attention to detail. I know, I know... pretty vague, huh. Don’t worry, I’ll give you more details.

I have always liked a strong heroine, but unfortunately I’ve read quit a few books in which the author had a hard time separating a strong independent woman with a rude bitch. On the same note, I love my heroes to be strong alpha males. Unfortunately sometimes this seems to be interpreted into an arrogant bossy jack-ass that won’t take into account anyone else’s thoughts, feelings, or ideas. I read books to fantasize, I love fiction and I don’t really care that people say it’s shallow, but I want my heroine to be beautiful and I want my hero to be strong and hot, hot, hot! Like I said I read to fantasize.

All books have their own story rules. This one is harder for me to explain but I’ll try. Down Home Ever lovin’ Mule Blues by Jacquie Rogers is a western/fantasy. In her world, the rule is that animals can communicate with each other but not with humans. If, in the middle of her book, Socrates (the mule) up and starts talking to Brody (the main character), that would be a clear violation of her story world rules (thank goodness this didn’t happen).

Detail, detail, detail! There are so many different elements that go into writing a book but if the author doesn’t pay attention to the little things, an excellent book can be ruined for me. Example, if someone is shooting a six-shooter, that means the gun only has six bullets and after six shots it needs to be reloaded. If the story takes place in Montana, there should be no saguaro cacti. People in Medieval England didn’t eat potatoes. I’m not a stickler for accuracy but sloppy errors take me right out of the story.

Another bit of information that for some reason gets overlooked is military details. In the Navy there are no sergeants. So many people seem to think that all the branches of the military have the same ranking system but let me tell you that’s a no-no that could cause a lot of embarrassment.

Reading is my escape, my way of maintaining what little sanity I have left after a long day with my bunch of wonderful (loud) boys. My idea of heaven is to curl up on the sofa and read a book that sweeps me away with smart, strong, funny characters, where the rules of the story stay the same from start to finish so I can play along, and where the details never interfere with my imagination.

Authors please, keep me involved your story.

I'd like to hear from other readers.  What do you love?  What trips you up?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chicken Dinner: Buffalo, Dry Powder, and the Big Dance

June brings great weather and sometimes it's pretty hard for writers to sit in front of the computer when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the grill is waiting for us to slap on the steaks. Ah, but sacrifices must be made.

May ended up with the buffalo--when two historical romance authors write articles about the American Bison. Mind you, none of the blogs know what the other is posting, so it's by mere coincidence these things happen.

Buffalo Hunters, by Ellen O'Connell

And just for fun (our fun, not the bison's) here's a video of two bulls fighting for the right to mate with the cows:

Sometimes I look at the terminology of old newspaper reports and have to take a step back, because the terminology used is, um, not amenable to our modern sensibilities. Here's the report from The Owyhee Avalanche of June 1, 1872, reprinted May 30, 2012:
KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY. It is the opinion of some that we are on the eve of another Indian war. We sincerely hope that such may not be the case, but from our experience in the past, we would advise people, especially in the outside settlements, to arm themselves, keep their powder dry and be prepared for the worst.

We are informed by Col. Geo. W. Hill, of Bruneau Valley who favored us with a call this week, that the red skins have recently disappeared from the Valley, as well as from Sinker and Catherine Creek. This is suspicious, to say the least, as all, who have had experience with the Indian Troubles, can vouch. Col. Hill also informs us that the Old Winnemucca, attended by twelve villainous looking red devils, passed through Bruneau Valley some two weeks ago, and appeared anxious to find out the number of men at each ranch. They were armed with guns and acted in a very insolent manner.
This report goes on about how cattle have been stolen, and while they don't have any evidence that the Indians were the culprits, clearly blame was placed on their shouders. And, after writing a rather stirring article about vigilance against the "red devils," it urges the settlers to not start anything or take the first shot, then goes on to with:
We understand that in a few days they're to have a grand dance and pow-wow at Big Springs, between here and Cope District. This may account for their leaving the valleys hearabouts and the present time, and all may yet be well.
Ya think?