Top-selling DS Productions Western writers
Nick Wales, ace publicist and expert in all things western, commissioned a painting of the top-selling western writers at DS Productions, and I was flabbergasted to be included. I’m the dude on the left in the purple shirt. Yee haw!
‘The Nearest Town is Purgatory’ New from Outlaws Publishing
Get this one; my latest from Outlaws Publishing: ‘The Nearest Town is Purgatory’
Interviewed by Nick Wales on ‘Novel Ideas’
Read my interview with Nick Wales on his site, ‘Novel Ideas,’ talking about how I came to write westerns.
A new collection of political cartoons
Just published! A collection of political cartoons that I’ve drawn over the past couple of years, primarily in reaction to the tumultuous 2016 political campaign, and the surprising victory of a former TV reality show star. I’ve chronicled his often outrageous behavior, as well as the reactions of those around him, in a series of pen and ink sketches that I think you will enjoy. The book is available on Amazon and other retail book sites, in paperback and Kindle version.
Get them here: Paperback – $9.50. Kindle version – $3.99
Help Turn ‘Frontier Justice’ into a Movie
Help turn Frontier Justice: Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal into a motion picture. Click http://igg.me/p/the-deadline–4/x/10033849 to support independent film maker Josey Well’s production of ‘Deadline 200 Marshals,’ an adaptabion of my novel about one of the American west’s most famous lawmen.
‘Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways’ Available Soon – an Awesome Anthology of Short Stories
What do you think happens when 21 authors, writers of different genres from all over the globe, collaborate to put together a collection of short stories? Magic – that’s what happens. Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways, was edited by acclaimed author Tahlia Newland, with the able assistance of Dixiane Hallaj and Richard Bunning, all three of whom contributed stories as well.
Published by AIA Publishing (part of the Awesome Indies family), this eclectic anthology has a little bit of everything. The diversity of the genres – from funny to far out – and the international nature of the authors, makes this a collection of short fiction that is unique. As it says in the introduction, “Awesome Indies listed fiction is often unique and sometimes ground-breaking. Our authors are the bold new voices in fiction . . .”
I got my start writing short stories, winning a national Sunday school short story writing competition when I was in my teens. For the past decade or so, I’ve concentrated on novel-length fiction and non-fiction, as well as blogging, but when I saw the call for stories for this volume, I decided to take a flyer.
I’d been working on a piece for several months about a zombie – but, I was trying to write a different kind of zombie story. I’d read an interview with comic mogul Stan Lee in a magazine in my wife’s doctor’s office while waiting for her one day, in which Lee had told the interviewer he didn’t like zombie movies or stories because they were always portrayed as shuffling flesh eaters. His view was, if someone has been given another shot at life, even as a zombie, they’re more likely to want to make up for the things they didn’t do in their first life – and chasing people down to eat their flesh wasn’t one of them.
So, I’d been working on this story about a zombie that knows he’s dead, but not how or when he died. He finds himself stuck in a strange city and his impulse is to help the weak. He runs into this girl who is not freaked out by his zombie status, and – well, you can guess how it might go from there. I’d actually written two stories, the second being a sequel to the first. I submitted the first, and the response was, ‘it’s nice, but can you make it longer?’ So, I combined the two stories, and I had to admit, it did read better that way. What was really surprising to me – it was accepted for the anthology. ‘I, Zombie,’ became one of 26 stories by 21 authors to be included in Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways. It’s not kosher to review your own work, so I won’t tell you how fantastic I think ‘I, Zombie’ is. Instead, I’ll recommend ‘Cut Throat’ by Joan Kerr or ‘Clearing The Shed’ by Tahlia Newland. Hell fire, why don’t you just read the whole thing. It’s a surefire winner – you can take my word for it.
The e-Book version will launch at the end of October 2014, followed shortly by a paperback version. If you’re a fan of short fiction, and you’re looking for something awesome to curl up with as the days grow short and the temperature plummets, this book will warm you up like nothing else. Check it out – you won’t regret it.
Awesome Indies Site to Relaunch!
In addition to coming out with this amazing anthology, Awesome Indies will be re-launching it’s Web site November 1 – 2, with giveaways, contests, and lots of other interesting stuff. don’t miss it.
Awesome Indies Short Story Anthology to Launch on Nov. 8
Awesome Indies, whose Web site will be relaunched in a newer more exciting version November 1 – 2, is also launching an anthology of short stories on November 8. The first 50 people who buy the anthology will get a free novel of their choice.
What to Do When Things Go Wrong
If there’s one thing in life that’s sure, other than death and taxes, it’s that things will always go wrong. The power will go out, the street you’re on will be closed, or some other roadblock will get between you and the destination for which you’re heading.
When things go wrong, you have to make choices; do you give up, or do you find a way around the obstacle? If you’re armed with a plan, whether it’s a personal quest or a professional objective, getting around or over obstacles becomes less of a problem. If you don’t have a plan, you find yourself wasting precious time trying to figure out what to do.
Make no mistake about it; if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. Even with a plan, things will often go wrong – no plan survives the first shot. So, it’s not enough to just plan; you must plan intelligently.
Not to worry, though; learning to plan effectively is as easy as learning to ride a bicycle. I’ve written a little book, based upon my fifty years of experience in the government bureaucracy, of the lessons in planning that I had to learn the hard way. I offer it to my readers in the hope that it will help them get to where I am in far less time than it took me.
It’s simple really. My philosophy is, ‘there’s always a Plan B. When Plan A runs into a roadblock, I’ve anticipated it, and immediately move to Plan B. You can too.
If you want to learn how to make planning easy, and more effective, get your copy of There’s Always a Plan B today. It’s available in paperback or Kindle version at the links below.
There’s Always a Plan B: How to Cope When Things Go Wrong by Charles Ray (Oct 14, 2013)
- Order in the next 23 hours and get it by Friday, Oct 18.
- Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping
There’s Always a Plan B by Charles Ray (Oct 13, 2013)
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Where Story Ideas Come From – 1
Ideas for writing come from all kinds of places. My Buffalo Soldier historical series grew out of a combination of inspirations. One day, I was sitting at my computer, surfing the Internet, and I came across a site about the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th US Cavalry on the western frontier, and I realized that not many Americans know a lot about the colorful history of these African-American soldiers and the role they played in the westward expansion of the country.
The germ of an idea was planted. What if I did a series of short stories (more like novelettes actually) that introduced them to readers? The more I thought about it the more it excited me. Several years ago, when I lived in North Carolina, I was a writer and artist for a short-lived magazine, Buffalo that was based in California. I had a regular cartoon feature, did a few historical articles, and did the illustrations for several of the magazine’s covers.
So, I already had a bit of grounding in the subject; it was just a matter of how to kick it off. I decided to center it on a few fictional characters, with the main character, Sergeant Benjamin Franklin Carter, and show the kinds of activities they were engaged in. While I strive to make it historically accurate, I try to avoid long lectures on history. Instead, I insert the historical facts and incidents in through the characters’ dialogue, or short descriptive passages to establish context. My main objective is to tell an interesting story that will keep the reader turning the page.
I can’t be sure I’ve succeeded. Reader feedback has been limited, but what has been received is encouraging. There is, for instance, this review of the latest in the series, Buffalo Soldier: Incident at Cactus Junction that a reader posted on Amazon:
Charles Ray does a great job setting the stage for a slightly different classic western tale involving the “Buffalo Soldiers” of yore. The story follows Sgt. Ben Carter and the soldiers he commands on a mission to the sleepy town of Cactus Junction which needs help with finding out who is rustling the local rancher’s cattle. The townsfolk are surprised to see black men in uniform and are at first reluctant to accept them or work with them. However as Ben and his men take on the task of finding the missing cattle – and the tough men who took them – the town soon warms to the Buffalo Soldiers. The story was put together well with great characters and descriptions. Although the plot is simple and the story straightforward, it should satisfy those readers who, like me, enjoy the old American west tales of adventure and action. If you’re a western fan you’ll enjoy this one.
This California reader gave the book four out of five stars, which I take as high praise indeed. My friend, Zimbabwean author Virginia Phiri (Highway Queen), who has read and reviewed a number of my books, also commended the series, describing them as ‘good writing, and good reading.’
I use a lot of my own military background, as well as my childhood in Texas during the 50s and 60s, to establish the social, cultural, and geographic setting, as well as trying to make the language used by the characters as credible as possible. None of the specific incidents in the stories are real, but they’re all based on historical events of the era after the Civil War when America was opening up the western frontier to settlement and development.
I do research on a continuing basis seeking new story ideas, and to make sure that the equipment, tactics, and events have a ring of credibility. For instance, during my research, I discovered that the US Cavalrymen, contrary to what you might see in the movies, didn’t use repeating rifles during this period. They used the single shot Springfield because the army viewed it as more reliable and durable than the new Winchester repeaters, and it was cheaper. Even in those days, the government was concerned about the bottom line. I also learned that white soldiers received $24 dollars a month pay, and black soldiers $12 – which wasn’t bad money in the 1870s when you consider that when I enlisted in 1962, my pay was $72 per month.
So, you see, ideas for your writing can come from anywhere. You just have to open all the doors and windows in your mind and let the light shine in.
What to do when characters develop a mind of their own
The one thing that you can be sure that all writers have in common is that at some point we have read a book or article on the writing craft. One thing that I have encountered a number of times in reading about writing is the statement that it is not true that characters can take over a story.
This is usually accompanied by detailed instructions on outlining a story, whether it’s a short story or novel, before you begin writing. I suppose if you happen to be a WWO, a writer who outlines, this is probably true. I don’t know what applies to WWNO, writers who never outline, because I fall somewhere in between. I usually start with a fairly clear idea in mind as to where I want the story to go, who the characters are, the nature of the conflict, and the setting. I write a concise description of the main plot, make a list of the characters, and even sometimes make a time line.
In most of the stories I write, things go according to plan. But, on occasion, things take a turn that I have not planned for. Because I tend to write serial stories, novels and short stories, I try to carry over the main theme from story to story. Sometimes, though, either readers who have taken a particular liking to a character, and offer compelling justifications for their views, or the characters themselves, turn my nice neat story line on its ear.
About a year ago, for instance, just for fun, I wrote a short story about an urban kid with money problems. He’d borrowed money from a loan shark and couldn’t make his payments. This particularly story had a postal theme, so I gave it the title, “Dead Letter.” The plot was simple; my protagonist was trying to lay low to keep from getting his legs broken, so he changed his name and moved. Unfortunately for him, the Post Office tracked him down by delivering a letter sent to his old name and address to his new digs and, you guessed it, the loan shark found him.
I ended the story with a shotgun blast through the door and him being slammed against the wall. Fortunately, I didn’t specifically say that the shot had killed him; I preferred to allow readers to come to their own conclusion. One perceptive reader, though, had taken a liken to my character, Louis Dumkowski, and sent me an email asking if I could do a follow on story bringing him back to life. While I don’t normally make such drastic changes because of just one reader, her email was so sincere, I decided to take a crack at it.
Since I hadn’t actually killed Louis, in the second story I had him regain consciousness with a chest full of splinters from the door, which had absorbed almost all of the buck shot from the shotgun. Now, of course, I had to give him a new challenge, so I put him on the run. After all, if the loan shark learned that he’d failed, he might try again. Doing the second story got me interested in Louis’s fate, so I did a few more, putting him in one crazy situation after another. Some readers liked it, and kept asking for more.
Louis matured a bit, but only a bit, from story to story; mostly with the help of his high school buddy, Cleatus Washington. And I finally wrote a confrontation story, with Cleatus convincing Louis to face the loan shark. That led to some more humorous situations as the loan shark, a superstitious street punk named Vinnie ‘the Enforcer’ Williams, was so freaked that he hadn’t killed Louis, he hired him to collect loans. For good measure, he hired Cleatus as well.
A couple more stories had the two of them encountering customers, and developing a conscience. Well, Cleatus developed a conscience, and drug Louis along, which brought me to the last story in the series – or at the last one that I’ve written.
My plan was for Cleatus to convince Louis that they should stop bleeding the poor people in the neighborhood and get into a more decent line of work. My plan was to have a confrontation with Vinnie, perhaps with a bloody nose or two, but with Louis prevailing in the end. As I wrote, I could see the story in my head like an old black and white B movie, and the dialogue was clear in my head. The problem was, these two reprobates didn’t want to say what I’d planned for them to say. And, when Vinnie appears near the end of the story, the confrontation just didn’t seem the way they wanted to go. He’d been around them so long; well, actually, he’d been spending most of his time soaking up Jack Daniels and coke in the local bar while they did all the work, but his earlier nearly religious superstition, and the fact that he was sponging off his uncle, didn’t make a fight logical. What the characters wanted to do, in fact, was become respectable and liked members of the community. So, I just let the movie play out, and the three of them end up shaking hands and deciding to begin helping the community – for a profit of course; they didn’t totally change their mercenary ways.
The response to “Outside Parcel” was immediate. One reader expressed pleasure that the guys were trying to go straight, and looked forward to their new adventures. As for me, I’m just curious to see what they might get up to the next time I sit down and start typing.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the adventures of Louis and Cleatus, check out “Dead Letter,” “Return to Sender,” “Unclaimed Package,” “Rural Free Delivery,” and “Outside Parcel” at http://www.fictionwritersplatform.net.