Sunday, June 30, 2013

Troy D. Smith: Wolf Creek: Hell on the Prairie #western @paladin_68 #amreading #giveaway

Hell on the Prairie
by Troy D. Smith
A short story in
Hell on the Prairie
Wolf Creek: Book 6

This week Romancing The West features the July 2 release, Wolf Creek: Hell on the Prairie. It's an anthology of seven short stories, all featuring characters in or connected to the Wolf Creek series, and offering  in-depth understanding of your favorite Wolf Creek residents.  There'll be giveaways on each post, so please check back each day.

If you're not familiar with the Wolf Creek series, you're missing out! Written under the house name Ford Fargo (the house name for Western Fictioneers), each book is the collaboration of some of the best western writers in the business, steered by Troy Smith, who also writes two characters: Marshal Sam Gardner and Charley Blackfeather. Links to all the Wolf Creek books are at the end of this article, just above the contest announcement.  For more information on the story world, visit Wolf Creek, Kansas.

Troy D. Smith
Today's guest is none other than the head wrangler himself, Troy D. Smith, the current president of Western Fictioneers and editor of the Wolf Creek series. Winner of the Peacemaker and Spur Awards, he teaches American Indian history at Tennessee Tech University.  He's a talented author and I love his Blackwell stories.

RTW: Troy, your story features Wolf Creek Marshal Sam Gardner. What's going on with him?

TS: Marshal Samuel Horace Gardner is outraged — and a little concerned for his job — when he learns that the newspapers have started calling his town “Hell on the Prairie” because of all the violence. He is trying to figure out what to do about it when a notorious, and widely feared, gunfighter calls him out on the town street. Sam decides to give the papers something to write about.

RTW: What prompted you to write Westerns? What keeps you writing them?

TS: I love 'em.

Oh, should I say more? Well, I love the inherent drama and danger of the frontier, and the opportunities that gives a writer to explore people’s primal emotions, with all the “civilization” stripped away. I suppose I was prompted by the impact great westerns had on me as a kid — the novels of Elmer Kelton, especially, and films like High Noon, The Naked Spur, and Ride the High Country.

RTW: If you lived in 1871 and lived in Wolf Creek, Kansas, what would your job be and how well would you get along with your character, Sam Gardner?

TS: Actually, I imagine I’d probably be the newspaper editor — and I’d be the one Marshal Gardner was furious with!

RTW: Oh, but you could make him a star. :)  What surprised you the most about Sam Gardner? Are there more surprises coming in future Wolf Creek books?

TS: I wanted Sam to be similar to Wild Bill Hickock and Wyatt Earp — a Midwesterner, Union man, not above taking a piece of the action, arrogant, and a bit of a dandy. I have been surprised by how he has come alive — I didn’t specifically plan for him to be so sarcastic or so funny. And I’ve been surprised by how much I enjoy writing for him. My step-daughter says I’ve poured all my best qualities into my other character, the Seminole scout Charley Blackfeather, and all my worst qualities into Sam. But that may just be because she has been the victim of my sarcasm.

RTW: You've done a great job with both characters and I couldn't say which one I like the most since they're so different.  But back to the marshal.  What would give Sam Gardner the ultimate happiness?

TS: If one of those sensationalist dime novel authors wrote about his adventures, causing ladies from miles around to come throw themselves at him. I can easily see him running his own Wild West show if he lives long enough.

RTW: I bet he would. :) We'd love to read a little teaser. Would you please share an excerpt?

TS: I reckon the best place to start, and to introduce, is the very beginning.

Wolf Creek, Book 6: Hell on the Prairie
Hell on the Prairie
by Troy D. Smith

“Hell on the Prairie!” Marshal Sam Gardner slammed the newspaper onto his desk in disgust.

“Did you read this trash?” he asked his deputies.

Quint Croy shrugged. “I seen it, yeah. When that drummer coming in on the train from Wichita brought it in here, and said you might like to have it. I never picked it up and read it, though.”

“How about you?” Sam asked the other deputy, Seamus O’Connor.

The huge Irishman shrugged as well. “I skimmed over it some.”

Sam grunted. “Well, I guess you’re too damn tall to read anything too close.”

Sam and Quint were both puzzled over that comment, but their boss’s comments often puzzled them, so they let it go.

“Listen to this,” he said, picking the paper back up. “ ‘Sodom and Gomorrah would blush, we are told, at the vice and iniquity that run rampant in the southern end of Wolf Creek, the area that locals have given the appellation ‘Dogleg City.’ It is said that Negroes, Mexicans, and Celestials have the run of that neighborhood, making it into a heathen Empire where white Christian lives are as cheap as they were in Nero’s Rome.’ ”

“Well, that’s malarkey, right there,” Seamus said. “We ain’t even got that many Mexicans this time of year.”

The marshal ignored him. “But this!” he thundered, jabbing the page with his forefinger. “This is what really chaps my hide. Listen!”

Quint stifled a yawn. He had the graveyard shift, which had ended two hours before, and was having trouble concentrating on anything other than his awaiting cot.

“‘Nor is the so-called reputable part of town much better,’” Sam read aloud, “as corpses are stacking up like cordwood in the town square. Wolf Creek is developing a reputation as one of the most ‘wide-open’ towns on the frontier, its legacy being written in the blood of its hapless denizens. It has truly earned the sobriquet so aptly bestowed upon it –Hell on the Prairie.’”

“What does it mean by ‘hatless denizens’?” Quint asked, his voice a little slurred by fatigue.

“Sobriquet is Mexican for hat, I think,” Seamus said with a sly grin.

Sam spared them an annoyed glance, then continued.

“‘Much of the blame for the town’s unfettered lawlessness can be laid at the feet of the itinerant pistolero the town fathers have employed to organize Wolf Creek’s constabulary, one Samuel Horace Gardner.’”

Seamus braced himself for the wave of fury that would surely be flowing from the marshal at that accusation. Quint yawned again.

Wolf Creek: Hell on the Prairie
Available in print, or ebook at
and soon at other online stores

♠ ♥ ♣ 

RTW: Tell us about your other current releases.  I just finished Blackwell Chronicles.  Loved all the stories and waiting for volume 2.

TS: I have two new ones out that I think your readers would enjoy. The first, from Western Trail Blazer, is Blackwell Chronicles Vol. 1 — it collects the first six of my Blackwell short stories. 

The second, from Western Fictioneers Library, is The Trail Brothers — about a cattle drive, the bond that develops between cowboys from very different backgrounds, and the decision they have to make when something terrible happens.

RTW: Anything else you’d like to add?

If you haven’t visited Wolf Creek yet, you don’t know what you’re missin’. This series has developed beyond my wildest dreams, and just keeps getting better.

RTW:  That's for sure!  I devoured the first five books in the Wolf Creek series, and books seven and eight will be available later this year, plus a Christmas anthology.  This is a must-read series for any western aficionado, or anyone who loves action-packed stories.

Wolf Creek, Book 1: Bloody Trail
Wolf Creek, Book 2: Kiowa's Vengeance
Wolf Creek, Book 3: Murder in Dogleg City
Wolf Creek, Book 4: The Taylor County War
Wolf Creek, Book 5: Showdown at Demon's Drop
Wolf Creek, Book 6: Hell on the Prairie
Troy is giving away three of his ebook shorts, to three different commenters:

A romance between a very young disabled Civil War veteran and a prostitute.

Also a romance, of sorts… two men pursue the killers of the woman they both loved. This was my first published fiction; it appeared in Louis L’Amour Western Magazine in 1995.

A Pinkerton detective must rescue a kidnapped little girl – but he is haunted by the memory of another assignment, one that went terribly wrong.

Winners will be announced July 6, at 9pm Pacific Time.  To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment, and be sure to include your email address.

Thanks to Troy for visiting RTW today.
Be sure to check back for more interviews with other Wolf Creek authors.
You can enter to win books all this week!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dr. Liebig's Lost Manhood Restorer #western #amreading #humor #romance

Every once in a while, research tosses me a gem and there's no way I can pass it up.  So it was with Dr. Liebig's Lost Manhood Restorer.  When I saw the ad in an 1885 newspaper, there's no way I could pass this one up.

The scene I'd just written in Much Ado About Marshals had the town gossip all huffy because she didn't think taxpayers' money should go to the new town marshal. 
“And while we’re speaking, I’d like to voice my protestations of hiring a wounded marshal. Half a man, he is, not being able to walk and all. I certainly do not approve of city monies going toward paying a man who isn’t capable of satisfactorily performing his duties.”
  The new marshal was, indeed, wounded, and the heroine--who'd vowed to marry him--took it upon herself to heal him as quickly as possible.

To back up a little, the book is about Daisy, who wants to be a lady detective, but she's stuck in a dinky town in Owyhee County, Idaho Territory.  Worse, her parents are insisting she marry.  What to do?  Ever enterprising, she cooks up a plan to build a new jail (the town did) and hire a new marshal.  Then she plans to marry him.

But the new marshal arrives wounded, and what she doesn't know is he's not the man she hired at all--this man is wanted for robbing the bank in Silver City.  What's more, her sister was working in that bank and she's the one who shot him!  But he goes along with it, mostly because he's wounded and can't get away.  

Now to get back to Daisy's dilemma.  Here's the scene.  She needs the drool-worthy new marshal to get back on his feet in a hurry, and while she's stocking shelves in her father's store, she sees a bottle of Dr. Liebig's Lost Manhood Restorer.
“Sarah, I think we have our answer! Listen to this. “Nervous Debility, Impotency, Seminal Losses, Physical Weakness, Failing Memory, Weak Eyes, Stunted Development, Impediments to Marriage, etc. from excesses or youthful follies, or any cause, speedily, safely and privately cured.”

“He doesn’t look too nervous.”

“No, but maybe he doesn’t show it.” Daisy concentrated on the next word, trying to decipher its meaning. “Do you suppose Impotency means general weakness? After all if a medicine is potent, that means it’s strong. So impotency would mean that a man has lost his strength.”

Sarah nodded. “Must be. And he can’t be all that strong with a hole in his leg.” She picked up another bottle, unwrapped it, and studied the label. “Why on earth do you need a cure for not wanting to be a preacher?”


“Well,” Sarah explained, “it says Seminal Losses. I guess that must refer to men who have quit seminary school.”

Daisy shrugged. She didn’t know, either, so she studied the label again. “This medicine sounds like just the thing to speed his recovery, especially if it removes any Impediments to Marriage—although I don’t know how on earth it could do that. Mama says love potions are hoaxes.”

“But it couldn’t hurt.”

“It might help.” Daisy stuffed a bottle in her apron pocket. 

“How are you planning to pay for it? Aren’t you going to tell your Dad?”

Daisy shook her head. “He won’t mind. I’ll just record it in the account book.” Where, she didn’t know — maybe on Mrs. Courtney’s account, but she wasn’t about to let her father in on her plans to marry the marshal until she had him bagged good and proper.
I couldn't copy the entire advertisement because the original was longer than letter-size, and the copier would only copy that much.

Want a Kindle copy?  I'm giving away five books so leave a comment and you'll be entered to win one.  If you already have Much Ado About Marshals, let me know and we can work something out.

♥ Hearts of Owyhee ♥
Where the Old West really happened!
Much Ado About Marshals
Much Ado About Madams
Much Ado About Mavericks

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Formatting Books the 21st Century Way #amreading #ebooks #giveaway

A Not-So-Short Rant
Reader first, author second

I absolutely love my ereaders, a Kindle 3 and a Kindle Fire—both are used every single day. In fact, because of my vision, print books are beyond me and I can only read on my Kindles. So, from the perspective of someone who only reads ebooks, I learned a thing or two about writing them.

Amazon has a nifty feature called Look Inside that enables a reader to get an idea whether or not to buy the book. But if you have pages and pages of copyright material, dedication, acknowledgements, maybe an author’s note, reviews of that and previous books, you’re not letting the reader get to the story before they give up and go away. Here’s a suggestion:
  • Cover
  • Title page
  • Praise (maybe three brief snippets)
  • Table of Contents
  • Story
  • Author’s Notes
  • Copyright
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • Other books out
  • More Praise
  • Author Bio

If you format the book in this manner, then your reader can actually read a few pages and maybe even the first chapter of your book. You want to hook your reader and you aren’t going to do that with anything other than your outstanding story.

A paragraph might not look all that long in a print book or a manuscript — 10 or 12 lines of 12 point text — but that same paragraph will be five or six pages long on my Kindle. Authors, please give your readers’ eyes a break! I use medium-large type size on the K3, and even larger on the Fire. About 160 words is all that will fit on a page. Yes, this paragraph is too long to comfortably read on a Kindle with a larger than standard size typeface.

Contrary to what we hear, poorly edited books come from every class of publisher, from NY to the self-pubs. You can’t tell by the publisher whether or not the grammar will be correct and the typos will be caught. Same with copy errors. I’ve read Big Six books where the hero’s eye color changes, or they ride a horse five hundred miles in a day, or they pump their own gas in Oregon.

Then there are the reissues. I just read a book that was originally published by Dorchester. It was a mess. If I saw an ‘m,’ it was probably supposed to be a ‘th.’ The contractions were all weird and I think a couple pages were missing (can’t know that for sure, but there was a definite continuity break). Someone scanned that puppy and just chunked it into KDP without proofreading — and unfortunately that’s a frequent occurrence. No matter where the book was previously published, please run it by a proofreader before uploading.

I listen to books when my eyes get too tired to read, and if you only space once after a period, there’s hardly any break in the speech at all. Please use two spaces so there’s a pause between sentences. Please.  I'm begging you.

Also, you don’t know where the line break will be — it depends on both the ereader and the size of type. Because of that, em dashes can make the ereader display one word at a time, especially if you’re using long words. Consider this line:
“...Obediah’s constitution—unnecessary refreshments...”
That will definitely look wonky on an ereader. Placing a space before and after the em dash will improve the display, and also create a pause when the reader uses text-to-speech.

End of Rant
My first four books were published before I bought my Kindles, so they have the old-fashioned formatting. I’m going to redo them all. The last book and my short stories have the new format and display much better. And you know what? They look better in print, too. So there you have it.

Two winners!
Yep, two commenters will be drawn and will receive winner's choice of any two of these Kindle books:
Drawing will be held June 7 at 9pm Pacific time.

Hearts of Owyhee 
Where the Old West really happened!
Much Ado About Marshals
Much Ado About Madams
Much Ado About Mavericks