Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How Hard is It To Get a Western Novel Published?

So how hard is it to get a Western novel published nowadays? According to C. Courtney Joyner who spoke at OutWest Boutique and Cultural Center yesterday, it ranges somewhere between not completely impossible but requiring a lot of tenacity and more than a little ingenuity. In other words, it's difficult and maddening, but not impossible.

And, as Court emphasized, it's really important to pay attention to what's going on in the market right now and to not rely on the traditional avenues for leads and for manuscript submissions. Sources like The Writer's Market and Hermann's Guide are still useful, but it's imperative to keep your ear to the virtual ground, namely, for leads via blogs and web sites. As a VERY interesting aside, Court also mentioned that in current sales of Western fiction, 40% are anthologies.

And sometimes it takes looking in places that, for many Western writers might seem counter-intuitive. Court's journey down the western publishing trail is a good example. While he has extensive experience as a screenwriter, mainly in the horror genre, Court hit a brick wall when it came to publishing Western fiction. In one of his early marketing moves, he decided to join the Western Writers of America, but even then he couldn't join right away because one of their requirements for membership is to be a published Western writer. But, as it was, a non-fiction article Court wrote became his way in the WWA door. There, Court connected with editor Gary Goldstein, who helped Court find a home for some of his short fiction with publishers such as Pinnacle and Citadel. One of his stories, "The Two-Bit Kill," is in the anthology LAW OF THE GUN, which is now out in mass market paperback.

But it wasn't until Court became acquainted with Black Horse Westerns, an imprint of Hale Publishing in London, that he found an avenue that would publish his Western novel. His short story, "Bloodhound" was included in the anthology A FISTFUL OF LEGENDS, which led to his first BHW novel, TRACKING THE DEVIL, which should be released in late 2011.

So, ironically, this writer of Westerns had to go across the pond to get his first publishing contract for a traditional Western. But this is not unusual. Many fine Western writers, namely Matt Mayo and Howard Hopkins, found homes for their Westerns with Black Horse.

These types of non-traditional avenues are becoming more and more important, especially with the demise of Leisure Westerns, which for some time held a huge chunk of the traditional Western mass market paperback market. For those of you who aren't familiar with the what's been going on at Leisure, Leisure has now pulled out of the mass market paperback field and is focusing solely on e-books and trade paperbacks. As an aside, Court's friend Shane filled us in that, in the past week, Dorchester Publishing (the corporation under which Leisure resides) has imploded on its other mass market paperback genres, namely horror and romance. To make a long sordid story short, it appears that almost all of the Dorchester authors have left the building, many of them not having been paid since 2009.

What does all this mean for those of us who want to get published in the Western genre? Some of this many of you already know: you need to keep your eye out for online submission announcements and don't rule out contests. Those short story contests, like the one Rope and Wire just held, can be a ticket to getting your short story in a traditional book some day. Definitely keep looking at traditional publishers like Pinnacle and Citadel, but be aware that you may have to eventually go overseas to try something like Black Horse or to self-publish. If you do self-publish, by all means hire an editor to review your manuscript and to proof it, because nothing will tarnish a writer's reputation like a book full of typos.

Self-publishing still has something of a stigma attached to it, but not nearly as much as it used to. Many a self-publishing author has been able to carve out a niche for themselves with going that route, because it's becoming more and more apparent that it's not the imprint that your book appears that makes the difference: it is how much marketing you are willing to do on your own.

Marketing matters, whether or not you get published with a "Big House" (good luck with that) or whether you go to one of the smaller or foreign publishers, or whether you print it off an old xerox you've got in your garage. It's up to you nowadays to market your book. Even the big publishers have limited budgets and really rely on their authors to do most of the work when it comes to publicity. Book tours, while not unheard of, are a thing of the past for most of us. Elmer Kelton filled up the trunk of his car and drove across the country, peddling his books, and that was his and his wife's way of spending their vacation. Nowadays, you can still do that if you want to spend that much money for gas. But you can also use the Internet in very creative ways when it comes to marketing. You've got blogs, web sites, and social media to find ways to push your title.

You can get published. It is infinitely much harder nowadays due to the economy and many publishers who are still somewhat reluctant to publish Westerns. But it's not impossible. Some things I guess never change: you'll still need tenacity and a thick skin. Now it also helps to be willing to look for opportunities where you wouldn't normally look.

Some Websites and Publishers mentioned by Court in his talk:

Keep looking at websites, such as the Western Fiction Review for news on newly published work. (I personally love this blog, which is well known in the as one of the finest blogs around for reviewing western fiction, if not THE finest blog. Plus Steve Myall is a great guy).

(Another place that I recommend: Sandra Seaman's My Little Corner. This blog focuses more on crime fiction, but occasionally Sandra has information on leads for Westerns.)

Western On-line Forums he recommends: Western Fictioneers @ Yahoo Groups, and Black Horse Westerns @ Yahoo Groups.

Organizations:
Western Writers of America: www.westernwriters.org
Western Fictioneers: www.westernfictioneers.com

Publishers:
Kensington Books (Pinnacle): kensingtonbooks.com
Robert Hale Publishers (Black Horse Westerns): www.halebooks.com
Create Space: www.createspace.com
Five Star Publishers
Berkeley/Penguin

C. Courtney Joyner's website: www.ccourtneyjoyner.com


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Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Two-Bit Kill in the Law of the Gun.

Just got back from a great afternoon at OutWest, where C. Courtney Joyner talked to our group about the state of Western fiction publishing right now. I'm going to gather my notes together and put together a more coherent post tomorrow.

One of the things I learned is that Court's short story, "The Two-Bit Kill" is in the Pinnacle anthology LAW OF THE GUN, that is now out in mass market paperback.

LAW OF THE GUN can also boast a Spur Award finalist. "Gunfighter's Lament," by Ellen Recknor, was announced as a Best Western Short Story finalist today. If you want to see the rest of the Spur Award finalists and the winners, go here.

I'll be digging into this collection as soon as I clear the dinner dishes.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Meet Chloe

My goddaughter and I found her at the Castaic Animal Shelter yesterday. I named her Chloe after a black Belgian Malnois dog we had when I was a kid.

She's 8 years old, full of mats and nothing but bones underneath all that hair. Her hair is so matted that we may have to shave her; I'm taking her to the vet tomorrow for a check up and to see what they think. I'm hoping that her teeth aren't a mess.

There isn't much backstory that we know of; someone surrendered her, but they had only had her for 3 weeks. Apparently she had showed up at their home as a stray. So the poor thing has been through the ringer. She was so depressed at the shelter that we had to coax her to even lift her head. But once I saw her eyes and how she responded to me, I knew I was taking her home.

So far she's stayed in my closet and she only comes out to eat. But at least she's eating - a lot. And now, 24 hours later, she comes right out of the closet when I call her name. It's baby steps, but it's progress.

Annie was very excited to see her, but Chloe hissed at her and I think it kind of freaked Annie out. But Annie has always been respectful of cats, so I'm hoping that they'll eventually get along.

No animal can replace Xena, but Annie seemed to be quite lonely and depressed over the last few weeks. I don't want to get another dog, but I believe a cat is a nice addition. And there's no way that she's going to be an outdoor cat.



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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Speaking of C. Courtney...

There's a great interview with Mr. Joyner over at Larry Sweazy's blog Tense Moments. Court talks a lot about his writing habits - I found his comments about screenwriting to be very interesting.Bookmark and Share

Some Personal Thoughts About Elizabeth Taylor

When it was announced yesterday that Elizabeth Taylor had died, it took my breath away. Not that it wasn't expected: she had been very ill for a long time. But Taylor had been a movie star, a major star, as long as I have been alive. I have always loved her, especially her early roles like National Velvet and A Place in the Sun. Who can forget that kiss with Montgomery Clift on the balcony, which has got to be one of the most romantic moments in movie history?

During the 1960s, when she was a major star and even a bigger tabloid fodder, I really didn't pay much attention to her. That may have been because her roles during that time were very adult and I was still a child at that time. Her first Oscar-winning role, Butterfield 8, was a very mature role and I don't think my mother would have ever allowed me to see that one. By the time I became an adult in the late 1970s, Elizabeth Taylor was divorced for the second time from Richard Burton and, as an actress, almost passe. She never did recoup the acting clout she had after she won her second Oscar for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

When I started to watch more movies and study film in the late 1990s while I was at Smith College, I started to appreciate her roles more. Part of that was sparked by learning that Virgina Woolf was filmed at Smith, and I could walk by the residential house where it was filmed every day. It was at Smith that I watched Virginia Woolf for the first time, and it floored me.

How intimidating it must have been for her: She was an actrees known more for her beauty than for her acting chops, and she took on a role as a frumpy, bitchy, furious matron, and she acted against her real life husband Richard Burton, who is arguably the finest actor of the 20th century? She did it, and boy did she.

I think I loved her for her guts more than anything else, and not only for the movie roles she took on. She was one of the first celebrity activists in the fight against AIDS, and the one who stood by Rock Hudson when he publicly came out about his illness. She supported Michael Jackson through some of his dark days, and even though we may question his behavior through this period, the fact that she stayed by him says a lot about her character. She was a true friend, even though it could cost her in the public's eye.

Even though she suffered through dozens of ailments, married eight times, and was cursed with a beauty that always undermined her acting talent, I think she lived exactly the way she wanted to, and died triumphantly, knowing that she had never compromised. This, more than two Oscars and a stunning face, is what I will remember about Elizabeth Taylor.



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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Books: Otto Penzer's adventure stories collection and Ian Parnham's new Fergal O'Brien

There's a couple of very interesting new releases coming out in the next month or so.

The first is Otto Penzler's new anthology - this time it's adventure stories. It's not a collection of stories solely from the magazine ADVENTURE; rather, it does have some from that fine pulp, but has some from other pulps as well. I think we were all a little surprised that the book is coming out so soon - according to Amazon it's going to be released in May. Penzler's collection of BLACK MASK stories was just released a few months ago (or it seems like it).

Anyway, Otto is known for his fantastic anthologies, so I'm sure this collection will be the same. You can pre-order it here at amazon.

I was a little surprised with the cover art - it's totally different from the ADVENTURE covers; this new cover has more of a 1950s or 1960s feel to it. Here's some ADVENTURE covers from the 1920s-30s in contrast.




But the quality of stories is always so good in Otto's collections that they speak for themselves.

The second book was a wonderful surprise to find out about, and I immediately put in my Amazon cart: a new book by I.J. Parnham. You all might remember the wonderfully funny Fergal O'Brien western THE TREASURE OF ST. WOODY last year.

Now Ian has a new book of the Fergal O'Brien series coming out in April, THE MIRACLE OF SAINT MARIA. Ian told me that this book is in the same style and spirit of ST. WOODY, which means that it will be hilarious and a page turner.

You better believe I'll be reviewing this new one here. SAINT MARIA can be pre-ordered at Amazon here.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do You Wanna Write a Western? Don't Miss C. Courtney Joyner's Talk This Weekend

Some of you might be familiar with C. Courtney Joyner, who is a screenwriter, novelist and now also a Black Horse Western author. I met Courtney last year at the Republic 75th Anniversary, and now I'm looking forward to seeing him again this Sunday at Out West, where he will be talking on the topic of "Breaking into Western Fiction: (Both "E" and Paper!)"

Courtney has plenty of experience in all sorts of writing: as a screenwriter, he has 20 produced movies to his credit, has contributed to several books on film history, and is the author of THE WESTERNERS: INTERVIEWS WITH ACTORS, DIRECTORS, WRITERS AND PRODUCERS (which I will be reviewing later this week).

The OutWest website says:

Mr. Joyner's talk will cover a number of topics, from his own experience of breaking into the world of western fiction and getting a novel contract. He will discuss series westerns (and the reality of getting these gigs), agents, editor relationships and the importance of networking via The Western Writers of America and other groups. He will also discuss the changes at Leisure Books, what "shelf place" means to paperback writers, Kindle and Nook, university presses, the new avenue of personal e-book publishing, blogging, and private Amazon contracts for authors. Additional topics include writing contests and exploring over-seas publishers, such as Robert Hale (Black Horse Westerns).


I don't need to tell any of you that all of these topics are really important to anyone who writes Western fiction (and also those of us who are doing reprints, too). We could use all the ammunition we can get our hands on in order to get published nowadays, so Courtney's generosity in sharing his experience is something that certainly I don't want to overlook.

If you're interested in going, the event is this Sunday, March 27, at 2:00 PM, at the OutWest Western Boutique at 24265 Main Street in Old Town Newhall. There is no admission fee, but you need to call the store to make a reservation: 661.255.7087


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Monday, March 21, 2011

Back From Arizona

Well I got back from Arizona by the skin of my teeth. Everything went well (except I forgot to take pictures of what I went there for: to see my great Uncle George) but the ride home - the last hour - was hellish due to a torrential downpour that started just east of Los Angeles and didn't stop until about...midnight. Overall, though, it was good to get away from the pain of last week.

My Uncle George, who is 91, is my grandfather's half-brother. He's still in great shape and such a joy to be around. His two sons and their wives joined us for dinner and we chatted about various things. George also shared a story of spending time with Paul in the 1930s that was hilarious, but I can't share it publicly. Let's just say it involved a rite of passage, christened by plenty of whiskey.

And this week started off well with finding out that I've been asked to join a panel at this year's Pulp Fest that will focus on Pulp Writers Granddaughters. Karen Cunningham, granddaugher of Frederick C. Davis, (Operator #5, among other magazines) and Nicky Brown, granddaughter of Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, (writer for the adventure pulps and founded what eventually became DC Comics) will be the other panelists. I'm so looking forward to this - it kind of takes the sting out of the fact that I won't be able to go to the Windy City Paper & Pulp Convention coming up next month (and I was really dying to go to that Friday auction).

I'm thrilled and flattered that I was asked to be a panelist. After last year's panel on pulp Westerns, I figured I probably had met my panel quota for a while. Just goes to show that these pulp fiction convention people are gluttons for punishment.




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Friday, March 18, 2011

Road Trip to Regroup

I'm off to Arizona again tomorrow morning. You might remember I went last month to see my great-uncle George (my grandfather's half-brother) and his family, as well as my late great-aunt's daughters Carole and Claudia. Well, George was sick that weekend and being that he is 91, his kids thought it best if he didn't have any company that weekend. I went anyway, but changed plans slightly and stayed the entire weekend with cousins Carole and Claudia. We had a blast. But now I'm going back to see George.

I'm driving this time. It's kind of a crazy schedule: I'm driving to Phoenix tomorrow morning, then going to a Dodger game at their spring training camp at Camelback Ranch, meeting my friend Kristin there for the game. After the game I'll be visiting George for dinner. Sunday I drive back home. I think after all the stress this week and all the driving I'll be doing over the weekend, I'll be good and tired by the time I get home.

But I love driving, and I LOVE driving through Arizona. I'm looking at the drive this weekend as an opportunity to regroup after this week and also an opportunity to get some good photos. So look for lots of photos of baseball and cactus next week.

Annie will be spending the weekend at my best friend Kris' - they have a dog Jesse who Annie has met and gets along with. Normally I'd have a pet sitter come to the house a few times during the day and then stay overnight, but there's no way I'd leave Annie alone this weekend - even for a couple of hours.

To celebrate my drive, here are some pulp covers that are Arizona-ish in theme.







Everybody have a good safe weekend.


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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thank You All

Thank you to everyone who posted such wonderful comments about my lovely girl Xena.

It's been a hard 24 hours, and Annie is just now starting to realize that something is very very different. She looks sad most of the time and is very subdued. When I gave her the usual cookie at noon, she wouldn't eat it at first; instead, she looked around as if she knew that this was a ritual that Xena always partook in as well. I had to coax her to eat it.

I took Annie to Petco after work to distract her and, for a while, she was happy and excited. We looked at all the turtles and birds and reptiles. She did a double take at the Guinea Pigs and sniffed every single thing at her level on the shelves. But now she's quiet again.

But all of your comments, both here and on Facebook, have helped me get through the day. Thank you all.

I found one last photo of Xena that I wanted to share. And in closing, I wanted to share something from my grandfather, who was a huge dog lover also. My cousin Jeanie wrote me and said that Grandpa wrote this inscription in an anthology of dog stories:

Why was your life so short, dear Curly Ears,
Our lives so long, so full of tears?




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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Xena. 2001 - 2011

My Xena, my Girly-Girl, my Xena Ballerina, my Zeenees, my Best Girl, is gone. She came into my life when I needed her the most and was a loving, devoted, sensitive and loyal companion. She's been telling me over the past few weeks that she wasn't happy, and this morning she told me it was time to go. My vet, Dr. Mariko Kramer from the Santa Clarita Animal Hospital and her tech Janice came over this afternoon and put her to sleep. Dr. Kramer and Janice were wonderful: kind and sensitive and not afraid to cry themselves. My best friend Kris, her daughter and my goddaughter Sara and Sara's boyfriend Marcus were also here. I want to thank all of them for being here.

I'm still not able to talk or write much about it, but wanted to share some photos of her over the years. I know so many of you have wished her well since she got sick last summer, so I want to thank all of you so much for your support. You may think your comments to a blog don't mean much, but they do. They really do.

Xena is in a better place now.











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Monday, March 14, 2011

Weekend Recap

The visit with my family this weekend went great, with one exception which I will fill you in on in a moment. We visited the Harry Carey Ranch on Saturday and then the William Hart house on Sunday. Two-gun Bill would be very pleased at the amount of people that showed up for the tour (which run every half-hour from 11 to 3ish on the weekends). For our tour at noon yesterday, there were about 20 people.

It's funny that even though this is probably the fourth time I've gone through the house, I learn something new every time. Each docent has a different style and emphasizes different aspects of the house or Hart's life. So it never comes repetitive.

On the way back, though, we had a big scare with my mother. My mom is 83 now - we celebrated her birthday Saturday night. On the way up the driveway at my house, she tripped and fell - nose first - and hit the bumper of my sister's car on the way down. She hit the bumper so hard that it sounded like two cars had hit, and she even broke the tail light. The only bleeding was on the outside of her nose but, needless to say, she gave all of us heart attacks and we insisted that she go to the hospital anyway to make sure she didn't have a concussion. Good news is that she was fine - nothing showed up on the CAT scan. And we all got to tease her about how hard her head is and how my sister's insurance agent will never believe this one.

Other than trips to the Harry Carey Ranch, the Hart House and the ER, we spent most of our time glued to CNN and MSNBC all weekend.

But I'm exhausted and am now going to bed.



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Sunday, March 13, 2011

New Bookcases Full of WILD WEST WEEKLYs

My family is visiting this weekend so I don't have much time to post. We're going to the William Hart house later today - I'm sure my family will love it.

In the meantime, I wanted to show off my new bookcases that I was talking about last week. The middle bookcase and the one on the right are filled with WILD WEST WEEKLYs and other books and pulps written by my grandfather.

I posted this photo on Facebook a few days ago and it produced a firestorm of comments on whether the pulps should be stored vertically or horizontally. I prefer to store them vertically because it makes them easier to find when I want to pull out a specific issue. They are all stored in the mylite archival bags which are pretty sturdy and they are very tight, so the pulps can't slip in the case.

Of course, you are welcome to chime in and add your comments to the debate.

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