Monday, 19 September 2016

News: Release information for The Badman's Daughter


When mysterious stranger Daniel Cliff arrives in Ranch Town, he has no shortage of job offers. But the town is caught in the stranglehold of a brutal tyrant, and Daniel refuses to take sides. That is until the spirited Charlotte 'Charlie' Wells, heir to the Crooked-W ranch, crosses his path.

When she offers him the chance to help her right the wrongs being rained down on the town, Daniel doesn't have to think twice. After all, she's the reason he's there and he has no qualms in using her troubles to further his own ambitions.


However, Charlie is no pawn in a man's game. She is the badman's daughter and nobody is going to stand in her way when it comes to delivering revenge on those who have wronged her.

Available: 1 October 2016 from The Crowood Press and all good booksellers.



Excerpt - Meet Daniel Cliff


When he reached the Good Night Hotel, he stepped easily out of the saddle and tied his grey horse at the hitch rail. After loosening the cinch, he paused to once again survey his surroundings. Besides the saloon, everywhere was dark and quiet. Even inside the hotel, Daniel could have been forgiven for thinking the place was abandoned. The shabby foyer offered nothing more than a layer of dust, a sagging sofa and a desk.


Daniel’s boot heels made a pronounced clicking sound as he approached the old woman dozing behind the reception. Stifling a yawn, she turned up the lamp, a frown deepening the lines in her weathered face as she looked him over.


It didn’t bother him. He knew he was a little bit tall, a little bit skinny, and his high crowned, wide brimmed hat shadowed most of his face. A dusty bandanna obscured the rest.

Her gaze rested on the gun, holstered against his hip. It wouldn’t tell her much since most travelling men carried one.  The scowl she gave him as her appraisal moved upwards again told him she couldn’t quite make up her mind about him. It also reminded him that while his boots, canvas trousers and corduroy jacket were in good shape, his hair hadn’t seen a barber in a while. The bandanna rasped over three-day-old stubble as he lowered it. When he gave her a smile that usually put people at their ease, his face felt stiff.

Still she continued to stare through narrowed eyes.

‘Evening, ma’am.’ His voice sounded raspy after hours of inactivity. ‘Do you have a room?’

‘They call me Ma, not ma’am, and as you can plainly see, young man, this is a hotel so it makes sense there would be rooms. As to whether I can fix you up with one, that depends. It’ll cost you fifty cents a night, paid up front, and another twenty-five cents for breakfast in the dining room between 7 and 9. How does that suit you?’

He nodded his approval, again flashing her an easy smile designed to counter any remaining doubt.

With only a slight hesitation, she slid the register towards him. ‘And when you’re ready to leave, I can pack you up something to see you on your way.’

He chuckled. She was a tough cookie. No doubt she had to be to survive.

‘Ma, is that your way of telling me to get out of town?’

For a split second, her expression registered confusion, maybe a little fear, and as she floundered for an answer his grin deepened.

‘Don’t worry, I’m not looking for trouble.’ But a little mischief never did any harm. ‘That’s not to say it won’t come looking for me. Let’s start with one night and see what happens.’

The wink he gave her, as he handed over a dollar, apparently cast away enough doubt and she invited him to sign the register. When he was finished, she checked the name and handed him a key on a wooden fob with the number 3 scorched into it.

‘For an extra twenty-five cents I’ll put your horse in the lean to at the back and give him a few oats.’

He glanced at the clock on the wall. ‘Is it too late to take him to the livery stable?’

‘Don’t matter what the time is. The livery burned down two days ago. Probably shouldn’t say this but you might want to sleep in your clothes, just in case this place goes the same way.’

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Author Interview: Nik Morton

This will be one of the last interviews I do this year so I hope you'll enjoy meeting, or reacquainting yourself with, long standing fellow BHW author and all round nice guy Nik Morton. He is a man with many strings to his bow, so enjoy.

Thank you for inviting me, Jo.

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been writing for about 52 years. I wrote my first novel when I was 16, but it was rejected, not surprisingly. Since then I joined the Royal Navy (where I learned to touch-type, useful), took a correspondence course on writing (fiction, articles etc) and became so successful the organisers wanted me to be a tutor, but the naval commitment precluded doing that. I left the navy after 22 years (having travelled to many exotic and interesting places), took up IT and was made redundant twice so took the hint and became deputy editor of a local monthly magazine, Portsmouth Post.  My wife Jen and I moved to Spain in 2003 and we’re still here. In that time I’ve published a sci-fi/horror/fantasy magazine Auguries, sold over 100 short stories and many articles, chaired writers’ circles, run writing workshops and given talks on writing, and for a couple of years I was editor in chief for Solstice Publishing in the US.

You’re a British writer, what attracted you to writing westerns?
As a youngster I was brought up on the many western TV shows, and several comics too – Pecos Bill, Lash Larue, Roy Rogers et al. I’ve always been interested in history, and the era of the American West holds a great fascination for me. However, for a long time I thought only Americans could write authentic westerns! Naturally, as my writing evolved I realised that this wasn’t the case. There were plenty of British (and non-US) writers of westerns out there. I wrote my first western Death at Bethesda Falls in 2007 and it was accepted by Robert Hale. As I’d been concentrating on other genre books for many years prior to this, I metaphorically kicked myself: I should have been writing westerns a lot sooner!

Do you write under any other names?
My Black Horse Westerns are written under the pen-name Ross Morton. At the time, I wanted to keep separate my crime, thriller and fantasy identities; that is no longer the case, since the revolution of the e-book: authors can write in several genres using one name if they wish, where before publishers would have baulked at this mixed branding. The last western I wrote was Coffin for Cash in the Beat to a Pulp series about Marshals Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles; that was published in May, written under my Nik Morton pen-name; my first earlier outing for these characters was Bullets for a Ballot, which has picked up 50 reviews.

How many books have you written?
I’ve written 24 books, and 23 of them have been published (though some are at present out of print): 8 westerns, 7 crime thrillers, 1 horror, 2 fantasy, 2 non-fiction, 1 anthology, and 2 paranormal spy thrillers. The 24th is a sci-fi time-travel adventure, still seeking a publisher. I’ve also written a film script for the horror book.

What motivates you to put pen to paper book after book?
I’ve got an active imagination. I have stories to tell. I have started five other books, but have yet to move forward on them.

Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
Ideas come from reading – whether that’s non-fiction, articles, newspapers, and magazines, and just keeping one’s ears open. It can be the simplest germ of an idea or a full-blown item. While training in the RN, our group got together one evening to have a go at a Ouija session. Gibberish seemed to result. But I suggested that what if it wasn’t nonsense at all, but in code? Thus evolved the story ‘The Ouija Message’ that finally became The Prague Papers some years later!

Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Nothing unusual. I do create a spreadsheet for any piece of reasonable length (that is, short story or novel), so I can monitor progress – very useful if there’s a word-count limit!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard about writing westerns?
Be true to the period and the people. Where that came from, I don’t know. Some people might misguidedly think that westerns, which are generally shorter than most genre fiction, are easier to write, and that the plots are simplistic. They’d be wrong on all counts, of course. Yes, there’s research to get historical aspects right – guns, horses, clothing – but we’re also dealing with the human condition, and that essentially hasn’t altered greatly through history. With a western, some characters will be shaped by the land they inhabit; then again, that’s not so different for a modern crime tale, where a deprived environment might create a monster.

What inspired you to write your excellent how to book – Write A Western In 30 Days? What kind of response have you had to it?
Thanks for the praise! As I mentioned, over the years I’d given a number of talks on writing, and for one writers’ circle session I used my book The $300 Man in my talk (the attendees having read it the previous week). Out of this session sprang the idea for a book on genre fiction writing. Originally, I thought of offering the full text of the book as part 1, with discussion and ‘how to’ as part 2. Hale wasn’t happy about that idea, but gave permission for me to use excerpts from the book. I used a western because it’s a shorter prose piece. Naturally, since the book I was using as an example was a western, it meant I should concentrate on ‘how to write a western’ rather than any genre fiction novel. This wasn’t difficult, as I’d plenty of research under my belt for my other BHW books. The response to the book has been very good indeed, and I’m grateful for all those positive reviews! The publisher asked me to write a similar ‘how to’ for science fiction, but I doubt if I can fit it into my schedule!

What does the well-known adage ‘write what you know’ mean to you?
We’ve experience of people in many walks of life, through work and leisure, and we’re observers, whether a writer or not. So, we know people, by and large. As for the other stuff, even if a writer knows about a certain discipline (the forces, IT), research is still necessary to check memory. It comes down to write what you know from research (without overdoing it)!

What do you read for pleasure and what are you reading now?
I’ve got over 4,000 books, many still unread after thirty years. I’m trying to catch up on that backlog in order to reduce the number. I’m currently reading Brian Stableford’s six-book sci-fi series about The Hooded Swan. I’ve been reading several books about Afghanistan, for research purposes.

Is there one book or author you’ve read that inspired you to write westerns and, if so, why?
I read Shane at school and I’m sure that influenced me at the time. I’ve read L’Amore and Brand and many others (see Appendix E of my book). I also read widely outside the genre, whether that’s classics, like Conrad or crime like John D. MacDonald. I reckon Edgar Rice Burroughs impelled me to write at that early age.

What’s your latest writing project?
I’m writing The Khyber Chronicle, the third in the psychic spy Tana Standish series. It’s set in Afghanistan in 1979 – the lead up to the Soviet invasion.  The previous two are The Prague Papers and The Tehran Text, all published by Crooked Cat, who also publish my ‘Avenging Cat’ crime series – Catalyst, Catacomb and Cataclysm.


Which of your westerns would you recommend to a first time reader? Why have you chosen it?
I’m fond of them all, but of my six BHWs only three are available on Amazon at sensible prices. I’d recommend Blind Justice at Wedlock, as it’s a variation on a non-western theme. The aforementioned Coffin for Cash is I hope intriguing, as it’s a noir western with elements of Edgar Allan Poe…

If you could be anyone or anything, anywhere and at any time - past, present or future – who or what would that be, where and why?
I’m going to be boring and say that I’m happy with the life I’ve been given. Of course, as a writer, I can be anyone anywhere at any time in one of my novels!

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.

It was a pleasure.

Nik's books are available from all the usual outlets (Amazon, Book Depository, etc.) and why not have a look at his blog Writealot.









Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Random - A writing prompt I tried

I don't do much prompt writing but I like this one. It's just a 5-minute bit of fun so no critique required thank you.

Prompt – first line of any song
I picked – Dixie Chicks ~ Cowboy Take Me Away

I said, I wanna touch the earth.

The lawdog looked up at the prisoner and frowned. “When I asked if you had any last words, they weren’t exactly what I had in mind.”

Bo Brown smiled but there was no joy in it, only mournful disappointment. He supposed he knew what the sheriff was getting at. He’d seen enough hangings to know that the accused man usually broke down, confessed his sins, asked forgiveness and called God his friend.


But Bo couldn’t bring himself to do it. He had committed the crime. True. But he felt no remorse. It had been old man Smithson or him and at the time he had thought his life was the better option. But now, with the noose chafing against the day old stubble around his throat, maybe on reflection a bullet to the brain would have been preferable to a slow choking death.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Book review: Hell Paso by Matt Cole

Morgan Latimer is a drifter, riding through the West trying to escape his past and especially trouble. He seeks peace. During his travels, he is forced to take shelter in a cave as a massive and ominous dirt storm plunges him into darkness. After the storm passes, Latimer overhears a scuffle breaking out between a man and a woman at a nearby creek. When the man becomes too fresh with the woman, Latimer – not being a man to sit back and watch a woman be assaulted – intervenes. Immediately, he knows he has found the trouble he was trying to avoid…

The thing I liked most about this book, apart from the title, was that it involved a feud rather than a range war. The scenario, the build up and the conclusion were quite believable and enjoyable. From a writing perspective, it wasn't limited to one or two points of view and therefore allowed for a complete picture full of detailed characters all contributing to the storyline. The pacing was steady, almost relaxed, with a few nice surprises and an unforeseen twist. Bearing in mind the plot, it wasn't overly bloody. If anything, I'd have liked a bit more violence, believe it or not.

This is the first book I've read by Matt Cole but it won't be the last.

To find out more about the author, read a recent interview here.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Publisher Interview: The Crowood Press


I have to admit to being nervous when I heard that Hale had sold their business to The Crowood Press. I hadn't submitted anything for awhile and whilst I felt quite comfortable with Hale and their processes I was full of doubts about submitting to a new (to me) publisher. Would they like my style? Would they see flaws that Hale hadn't? Would they be looking to shake things up? New broom sweeps clean and all that. Most importantly, would they maintain the high standards that Hale had cultivated over many years?

Well, I needn't have worried. The Crowood Press is well established having been an independent publisher since 1982 and from first contacting them to enquire whether there would be any special requirements for making a submission, through acceptance, editing and proofing I have been highly impressed with their friendly, professional attitude.

Although I have had contact with several people at Crowood, I thought it would be appropriate to approach the editor and ask a few questions that new, would-be or maybe even existing authors might like to know about the publisher, their process for publishing Black Horse Westerns and future plans for the brand. Luckily, as well as being a thoroughly nice person, the lady is a fan of Alias Smith and Jones and willingly agreed.

So without further ado...

Could you tell us a little about yourself and your role at Crowood Press.

I’ve worked at Crowood for nearly ten years and am one of two editorial managers. My job is to oversee the editorial process from acceptance of manuscript through to sending the final files off to the printer. When we acquired the Black Horse list, Westerns were a fairly new genre to me, but I’m really enjoying reading the pacy exciting tales that the authors tell.

Could you outline the process that a manuscript goes through from acceptance to publishing?

Once a manuscript has been accepted, I send it out to a copy editor, who has a very close read through for any editorial anomalies, such as a character name or a place name changing during the course of the story (you’d be surprised just how often this happens!), as well as checking for typos, slips in punctuation, places where text seems to be missing, etc. If there is anything that the copy editor feels is in need of clarification, then she will insert a note into the text. The edited text will then be sent out to the author, just to check that nothing untoward has happened in the editing process and also to answer any queries. Once the author is happy with the text and any queries answered, the book is then sent to be typeset. A professional proof reader will then read the typeset book, and further queries may occasionally have to be sent to the author. Then when all concerned are happy that the book is as perfect as it can be, it is sent to be printed.

How many submissions per month are you receiving on average?

Sorry, Jo, that one is impossible to answer! It can vary so much. But all submissions are sent direct to Crowood and it is only after a book has been read and approved that I am involved.

How many do you accept?

Around six or seven a month, I’d say.

Who decides what you keep and what you reject?

Decisions are based on reports from our team of manuscript readers.

What are Crowood actually looking for in a western?

Here I can do no better than to quote from a recent Black Horse appraisal from an ex Hale editor, who occasionally reads for us: ‘Black Horse Westerns are, essentially, tales about how the West was won, about the migration westwards, conflicts between ranchers and sodbusters, Indians and the European invaders, North and South, the attempts to establish law and order, etc, etc. Obviously violence figures very largely in these conflicts, as does rape occasionally – or romance, but gratuitous violence or excessively detailed descriptions of sexual encounters are not considered to be appropriate or necessary.’ Basically, we want a good yarn that will appeal to everyone.

I've been very impressed with the latest covers, who chooses the designs and layouts?

This is my responsibility. The design of the Black Horse covers remains the same in terms of typography and layout – Robert Hale established a winning formula here, and I can see no reason to change it. When it comes to the cover image, we have a bank of illustrators who send in batches of generic Western-type artworks, which are then matched up with the appropriate story. The artists all work digitally, so can make minor adjustments if necessary. For example, at the moment we have one book in production where the hero is a youngster with flaming red hair and a temper to match. I had the ideal piece of artwork for this, but it showed a boy with dark hair – but thanks to modern technology, the artist was able to turn him into a fiery redhead more or less at the touch of a button.


The illustrators are all passionately interested in 19th century American history and are happy to do additional research where necessary. For example, a recent book had as its central theme an uneasy but necessary alliance formed between an American horse wrangler and a Jicarilla Apache warrior that slowly develops into friendship. The cover artist really enjoyed researching what a Jicarilla Apache should look like.

I was surprised by the quick turnaround time on my last submission, what is the average time from acceptance of a manuscript to publishing?

That will vary, but at the moment (mid August), manuscripts that are accepted are being scheduled for publication in the spring.

What is the biggest market for BHWs? Do you think this will change in the future?

At present we publish in hardback for the library market, but we are shortly launching a new website dedicated to the Black Horse imprint, and through this site we hope to develop new sales strategies and new audiences.

That sounds very positive. I’ve been thrilled to see the latest releases coming out in e-book format. Do you think e-books will ever eclipse the paper book market?

Personally, I love the portability and convenience of my Kindle (and also the price of downloads!), but to me there will always be something magical about the smell and feel of a printed book, not to mention the experience of browsing in a bookshop or a library. But our company view is that ebooks will not eclipse the book market; however, the book market is constantly changing, and some types of publication do better in ebook than others. Once our website has been up and running for a while, we shall have a better idea of ebook sales possibilities for BHWs, and in the meantime we have to be remain positive! It is certainly true to say that across the board ebook sales have plateaued recently, settling at about 10% of total sales (in terms of revenue).

Is there anything in particular that you believe BHW authors can do to promote the brand?

Today it is all about social media, blogs, and so on. And indeed interviews such as this. I also think it important to capture the imagination of the young. Keep the genre alive by telling the tales to your children and grandchildren.

Finally, is there any advice you would give to a would-be BHW author?

I would say to keep it plausible and mind your language! By this I mean keep an eye on your dialogue – our copy editors are always flagging up instances of characters using 21st century slang. But most of all, I’d advise authors to write the sort of book that they would like to read. Most of our authors seem to be keen Western readers themselves.

Author guidelines will be published on our new website, but as this is under construction, I cannot provide a link at this point. Ask me again in September!

Thank you for taking the time to give us some insight. I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that The Crowood Press have a long and successful future.