Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Peacemaker Nominee: Christmas for Evangeline by C. Courtney Joyner #western

Christmas for Evangeline

Peacemaker nominee for Best Short Story

RTW: All the stories in Six-guns and Slay Bells are excellent, but your story was especially chilling — and enthralling.  How did the concept of Christmas for Evangeline come about?

CCJ: When I heard that the concept behind Six-guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas, a great title, was going to be westerns with a Christmas theme, I was very excited. And then, it was going to be Christmas but with a supernatural or horror element. That sounded great, since I am a huge horror fan, and then my heart sank, because I realized I would have to write one – and had no idea what to do.

C. Courtney Joyner, Author
For me, the holiday means Dickens’ Christmas Carol, in every incarnation, from the novella to Mr. Magoo. At its center, it’s a story of past sins catching up with us, and our own conscience determining what we can and can’t live with, which Scrooge certainly finds out.

After a lot of head scratching, I thought there might be a way to transpose that idea into a Christmas western with a dark stripe running through it.

As we know, Scrooge is visited by the three spirits, and then re-makes his life to compensate for his wrongs. In a traditional western, wrongs are taken care of with a gun, so “personal growth” might be a little tough here. Old Ebenezer wouldn’t have the chance to accuse the Ghost of Christmas Past of being a piece of undigested potato before being blown away, so I shifted gears to focus on the power of guilt. After all, it’s Scrooge’s deeply hidden feelings of guilt that trigger his nightmare.

But what about those ghosts?

This was a true wrestling match; I’ve written western horror for comics and other anthologies, with outlaws facing down vampires, shape-shifters and even a succubus. Since I’ve had that freedom to go as wild as I wanted before, I shifted gears, and made the imagination of the main character his demon.

In practical terms, if someone were becoming mentally unhinged because of the guilt of their past, couldn’t you play with that person, and convince them of things that weren’t real? God knows, it worked on Mission: Impossible about a zillion times, and so, with Mr. Dickens spinning in his grave, that was the jumping off point for my little story.

Elmore Leonard’s 3:10 To Yuma is about as perfect a western short story as one’s going to find, and so much of it is strictly a conversation between the farmer and the outlaw, sitting in a rented room. I thought an interesting way to bring out all of the elements of the Christmas story was to do it the same way, through a conversation between two characters on Christmas Eve, which was the anniversary of their shared crime.

And, of course, things go very wrong from there.

My mental mash-up of inspiration from all of these great authors produced this little story, and I’m very pleased, and proud, that it made the cut for Six-guns and Slay Bells. To be included in this anthology, alongside all the other terrific writers, is a Christmas gift indeed.

RTW: Tell us everything there is to know about C. Courtney Joyner.  Okay, only what you want us to know.

I’m primarily a screenwriter and sometimes book author, I do make the distinction, and live in Los Angeles. I’ve written more than 25 films, including The Offspring starring Vincent Price and Prison starring Viggo Mortensen, both of which have been newly released in special Blu-ray editions (plug!). My writing journeys have taken me from the movies to comics to prose, with equal time spent with horror and westerns. My most recent short story is included in the anthology Hell Comes to Hollywood from Big Time Books. I created the new series Shotgun for Pinnacle, and the first installment will be published in December. Another love is film journalism, and besides writing several movie books, I’ve been fortunate enough to do commentaries on DVDs and documentaries. I currently have regular columns in both True West and The Round-Up magazines, and I am very, very proud of this second Peacemaker nomination.  To find out more about my stories, please visit my website.

Congratulations for your nomination, Courtney!

The Lifetime Achievement Peacemaker will be presented to Robert Vaughan

  • City of Rocks (Five Star Publishing — Cengage) by Michael Zimmer
  • Unbroke Horses (Goldminds Publishing, LLC) by D.B. Jackson
  • Apache Lawman (AmazonEncore) by Phil Dunlap
  • Wide Open (Berkley Publishing Group) by Larry Bjornson
  • Christmas Comes to Freedom Hill” (Christmas Campfire Companion — Port Yonder Press) by Troy Smith
  • Christmas For Evangeline” (Slay Bells and Six Guns — WF ) by C. Courtney Joyner
  • Keepers of Camelot” (Slay Bells and Six Guns — WF) by Cheryl Pierson
  • The Toys” (Slay Bells and Six Guns — WF) by James J. Griffin
  • Adeline” (Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT — Goombah Gumbo Press ) by Wayne Dundee
  • High Stakes (Musa Publishing) by Chad Strong
  • Wide Open (Berkley Publishing Group) by Larry Bjornson
  • Red Lands Outlaw, the Ballad of Henry Starr (AWOC.com Publishing) by Phil Truman
  • Last Stand At Bitter Creek (Western Trail Blazer) by Tom Rizzo
  • Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave (Sunbury Press) by Mark Mitten
Winners will be announced on June 1, 2013 


  1. Hey Court. Congrats. Really. Couldn't happen to a better screenwriter. See ya in Vegas?

    1. Thanks so much, Charlie! I'll be in Vegas with bells on,
      and pockets (probably) empty!

  2. Jacquie, this was so great of you to post these profiles; sincere thanks for your very cool, very generous support. Always the best to you.

    1. It's not exactly an effort to promote talented authors and great books. :) But you're welcome.

  3. Court, I am in awe. You've really got an incredible body of work under your belt, and to me, screenwriting is the hardest genre of writing there is. You did a great job on Christmas For Evangeline, and like you, I'm honored to be in the company of so many fine writers, not only in the Six Guns and Slay Bells anthology, but in the nominations for the short story Peacemaker category. Though there can only be one "winner"--I consider all of us "winners" to be nominated. The very best of luck to you in all your projects!


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