The Next Big Thing

Friend and author Jacqueline Gum suggested I look into “The Next Big Thing”-a sort of blog chain. I did, and author John Cammalleri invited me in. Here I answer a few pre-set questions about my next book, and invite some more authors to follow suit. Here’s a link to John’s blog to view his answers to the same questions:

The questions/responses:

Q: Working title of next book?

A: HIGHER GROUND. I figure that’s what Lieutenant Colonel Custer was desperately seeking at the end of his career.

Q:Where did the idea for the book come from?

A:It’s the third piece of a trilogy, behind NO GOOD LIKE IT IS and DOG SOLDIER MOON.

Q: What genre?

A: This is Historical Fiction, on the US Civil War/Western Era.

Q: What actors would you choose for your characters in a movie rendition?

A: Dobey Walls:Matt Damon. Boss Melton: Josh Brolin. Doc: Ed Harris. Annette Walls Balliett: Marisa Tomei. Bear: Denzel Washington. Hickok: Vigo Mortensen

Q:One sentence synopsis of the book:

A:Retribution is the major theme, with Dobey and Boss continuing their search for the rapists/murderers who nearly destroyed their families, while the Cheyenne (Monahsetah, Striker, and Weasel) gain their revenge on Custer at the Little Bighorn.

Q: Will it be self-published or represented by an agency?

A:Probably self-published. I doubt any agency would want to pick up the third book of a series, despite sales of over 3500 of the first two books. The first was self-published (Createspace), and the sequel was picked up by a small press (Goldminds Publishing); I do virtually all marketing on both.

Q: How long did it take with the first draft?

A: I’ve still got 170 pages to go, though it’s all in my head. Each of the first two books took about a year.

Q: What other books in the genre compare to this?

A: Terry C. Johnston’s series, The Plainsmen, is probably best known, but Johnny Boggs has some great ones too, such as The Big Fifty, about the fight at Adobe Walls. As for style, I like Elmore Leonard, Robert Parker, and Larry McMurtry, but I’m not comparing myself to any of those amazing writers. I just want to be like them when I grow up.

Q: Who/what inspired the book?

A: This is just the natural continuation and conclusion of the series, which taken together will read as a 900 page epic spanning twenty-five years. I wanted to introduce non-historians to some real people that I find interesting (Chief Black Kettle,Monahsetah, Stand Watie, J.B. Hickok, Benteen, and Custer) and events (the Fort Pillow Massacre, Wild Bill’s gunfights, and the battles of the Washita and the Little Bighorn), and give them some depth through fictional characters and dialogue.

Q: What else might pique interest in it?

A: I didn’t see a need for the “F” word, but these are soldiers so there’s profanity. To counter that there’s also a ‘Soiled Dove’ who pushes the men to clean up their language-she’s worried about lightning strikes. There’s some romance, but it’s complicated; some sex, but it’s understated. There’s shocking violence which is almost casual-but realistic. You’ll learn a lot about the guns of the period whether you want to or not, an ongoing failing of mine. And there’s humor throughout the epic, as there always was.

Here are the authors I’ve invited to participate: John Huffman, Dale Jackson, Troy Smith, Carol Buchanan and Steven Law. Watch for their answers in two weeks on their sites.

Favorite Questions I’ve Answered

I cherish some of the questions I hear about the writing business. I wish I’d written more of them down, but maybe a few will give you an idea of how they flow.

The serious ones are fairly standard and predictable:

  • “How did you begin?” (“I was drinking, see, and I wanted to do a non-fiction gun book…”);
  • “Who published your first novel?” (“Me.”);
  • “How’d you get discovered?” (“You been drinking?”);
  • “Do you make much money?” (“It’s an expensive hobby-so far.”)

Another level of queries include,

  • “Why don’t you make it into a movie?” and,
  • “Have you tried to get on the Oprah show?” or,
  • “Nice covers. Did you draw them yourself?”

A regular one is,”I think my life has been really interesting; I want to, like, write it down and get somebody to help make it good, you know, and get me a really good agent- you know anybody?”     There are always concerns about content, of course. “Are you dead certain that Colt made revolving RIFLES? I ain’t ever seen one.” (“Wanna see one? Wanna SHOOT one?”)

On page 92 of DOG SOLDIER MOON, one of my protagonists has a chat with his two year old daughter. A couple of folks warned me that the conversation was simply unbelievable for so young a child, yet it was almost verbatim one I had with my granddaughter when she was twenty months old. Which is why it’s still in the book, despite the warnings.

A writer friend was doing an event in a tent at a Civil War reenactment, up in the Shenandoah Valley. Two ladies spotted his sign, came in and said, “So, this is a book signing?” When he answered yes, they each picked up a book, signed it, put it back down and walked away. As he said later, they probably don’t get out much.

My favorite questions have been about my book covers, which are displayed throughout the site. At a recent county fair a forty-ish school teacher picked up NO GOOD LIKE IT IS and asked if the Confederate cavalry officer on the cover was me. Not fifteen minutes later, another teacher picked up the same book, read the back cover, then asked if the novel was about my ‘wartime exploits.’ I suppose they thought I looked pretty good to be 170 years old.

The cover of DOG SOLDIER MOON shows a Cheyenne Dogman in full battle regalia including an eagle feather war bonnet; it’s a striking painting by Steven Lang (, exquisite in the details. When I gave the first copy to my granddaughter, a freshman at the College of Charleston, she said, “So, Pop-what’s the deal with the dude in the Afro?”

Two for One Chosen for Petigru Review!

I was just notified that my short story, “TWO FOR ONE,” has been selected for publication in The Petigru Review (2012), the literary journal of the South Carolina Writers Workshop.

I’m pleased and surprised — never thought I’d see me connected with the word ‘literary’ — so I’m telling everyone. I’ve stopped strangers on the street.

Thing is, this story has nought to do with Westerns or the Civil War, but is about a little girl I know, Mia, who has EB (epidermolysis bulosa, both horrible and incurable) — a truly tough kid.

I’ll post more about this tale in September when The Petigru Review releases!