Wednesday, January 28, 2015


“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools)to write. Simple as that.”
― Stephen King

Before I read westerns, I read a LOT of Stephen King. I started with Carrie, and was enthralled from start to finish by the girl who could call down wrath on the people who mistreated her.

The more I read, the more I admired the way King was able to pull me right into the story he was telling. (This was before I knew anything about POV or any of "the rules" of writing that King is so good at bending and breaking to write his bestsellers.)

In the afterword to his acclaimed guide On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King shares his own reading list of 96 books of fiction and non-fiction titles.

Here's what he has to say about his choices:

These are the best books I’ve read over the last three or four years, the period during which I wrote The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Hearts in Atlantis, On Writing, and the as-yet-unpublished From a Buick Eight. In some way or other, I suspect each book in the list had an influence on the books I wrote.

As you scan this list, please remember that I’m not Oprah and this isn’t my book club. These are the ones that worked for me, that’s all. But you could do worse, and a good many of these might show you some new ways of doing your work. Even if they don’t, they’re apt to entertain you. They certainly entertained me.

This list was put together several years ago, when his book "On Writing" was published. How many of these have you read? If you were asked to create a list of the top five books you've read, what would be on your list?

1.Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
2.Peter Abrahams, Lights Out
3.Peter Abrahams, Pressure Drop
4.Peter Abrahams,Revolution #9
5.James Agee, A Death in the Family
6.Kirsten Bakis, Lives of the Monster Dogs
7.Pat Barker, Regeneration
8.Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door
9.Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
10.Richard Bausch, In the Night Season
11.Peter Blauner, The Intruder
12.Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
13.T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain
14.Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods
15.Christopher Buckley, Thank You for Smoking
16.Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From
17.Michael Chabon, Werewolves in Their Youth
18.Windsor Chorlton, Latitude Zero
19.Michael Connelly, The Poet
20.Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Project Gutenberg)
21.K.C. Constantine, Family Values
22.Don DeLillo, Underworld
23.Nelson DeMille, Cathedral
24.Nelson DeMille, The Gold Coast
25.Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (Project Gutenberg)
26.Stephen Dobyns, Common Carnage
27.Stephen Dobyns, The Church of Dead Girls
28.Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors
29.Stanely Elkin, The Dick Gibson Show
30.William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
31.Alex Garland, The Beach
32.Elizabeth George, Deception on His Mind
33.Tess Gerritsen, Gravity
34.William Golding, Lord of the Flies
35.Muriel Gray, Furnace
36.Graham Greene, A Gun for Sale (aka This Gun for Hire)
37.Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana
38.David Halberstam, The Fifties
39.Pete Hamill, Why Sinatra Matters
40.Thomas Harris, Hannibal
41.Kent Haruf, Plainsong
42.Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow
43.Stephen Hunter, Dirty White Boys
44.David Ignatius, A Firing Offense
45.John Irving, A Widow for One Year
46.Graham Joyce, The Tooth Fairy
47.Alan Judd, The Devil’s Own Work
48.Roger Kahn, Good Enough to Dream
49.Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club
50.Jack Ketchum, Right to Life
51.Tabitha King, Survivor
52.Tabitha King, The Sky in the Water
53.Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
54.Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
55.Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
56.Bernard Lefkowitz, Our Guys
57.Bentley Little, The Ignored
58.Maclean, Norman: A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
59.Maugham, W. Somerset: The Moon and Sixpence (Project Gutenberg)
60.Cormac McCarthy, Cities of the Plain
61.Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
62.Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
63.Alice McDermott, Charming Billy
64.Jack McDevitt, Ancient Shores
65.Ian McEwan, Enduring Love
66.Ian McEwan, The Cement Garden
67.Larry McMurtry, Dead Man’s Walk
68.Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Zeke and Ned
69.Walter M. Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz
70.Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie
71.Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods
72.Stewart O’Nan, The Speed Queen
73.Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
74.Richard North Patterson, No Safe Place
75.Richard Price, Freedomland
76.Annie Proulx, Close Range: Wyoming Stories
77.Annie Proulx, The Shipping News
78.Anna Quindlen, One True Thing
79.Ruth Rendell, A Sight for Sore Eyes
80.Frank M. Robinson, Waiting
81.J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
82.J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban
83.J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
84.Richard Russo, Mohawk
85.John Burnham Schwartz, Reservation Road
86.Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy
87.Irwin Shaw, The Young Lions
88.Richard Slotkin, The Crater
89.Dinitia Smith, The Illusionist
90.Scott Spencer, Men in Black
91.Wallace Stegner, Joe Hill
92.Donna Tartt, The Secret History
93.Anne Tyler, A Patchwork Planet
94.Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus
95.Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
96.Donald Westlake, The Ax

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

HaPpY New Year!

Welcome to the party... 


2014 was a year of ups and downs, success and failure, and changes for all. 
Yet, we struggled, slid, or waltzed through and it's time to look forward.

Help us bid GOODBYE to 2014 and HELLO-o-o! to 2015.


Enjoy a virtual glass of champagne or sparkling grape juice without fear of a hangover.

Have as many savory snacks as you want from our virtual buffet - guaranteed to be calorie-free.

Please leave a comment (or 2, or as many as you like) and tell us your resolutions for the New Year, ask the authors questions, or share a greeting. 

If you leave a comment you will be entered in our drawing for ebooks which include:

This Time Forever by Linda Swift
Kathleen by Celia Yeary
Stopped Cold by Gail Pallotta
 The King's Daughter by Miriam Newman
Familiar Shadows by Bert Goolsby
Fishing for Love by Hilda Lassalette
Texas Dreamer by Celia Yeary
His Leading Lady by Paula Martin
Soul Taker by Karen Michelle Nutt
Soul Taker (Audible Version) 
Loving Luc by Vicki Crum
Amy, Jen, and the Demon by Hilda Lassalette 

The more comments you leave, 
the more chances to win!

(If you win ebooks which you already have, we will allow substitutions) 

Free Gifts for You in appreciation of your support

Thank you for your wonderful support in 2014 and we are looking forward to bringing you many new titles and some new authors in 2015!

Now, let's PARTY!

Entries for prizes ends at 11:59 pm EST on Jan 1. 
Prize winners will be announced here on Jan 2 
and contacted by email where possible.

Monday, December 22, 2014

JD McCall Shares Tranquility

Meet the Folks of Tranquility Wild West Town, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

by J.D. McCall
It's no secret among writers of Westerns that the genre has enjoyed some popularity overseas in places like Great Britain, Germany, and a few other European countries.  Recently, I came across a group of Western devotees in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, who really take their Western interest seriously.   

Tranquility Wild West Town is a diverse group of individuals dedicated to preserving the life and times of the Old West, even to the point of building their own Western town, hence the name of the group.

Group founder, Alistair (Ally) Baranowski came up with the idea of building his own Wild West town back in 2005 on property he owned near the Glendronach Distillery in Aberdeenshire.  Quite fittingly, the first building to be constructed was the Saloon, which was to be the heart of the town and gathering place for their future community, much like the saloons of the Old West functioned as a social hub in the 1800s. 
Ally, his brother, Stan, and Billy Beaton started construction in June of that year, aided by a few others as schedules would permit, and by November had completed the first building in Tranquility.  Once the story hit the media, Ally had no trouble finding others who wanted to share in his Wild West dream.  Currently, the group has about thirty members.

I recently contacted Ally and a few of his fellow enthusiasts, who graciously agreed to answer some of my questions about Tranquility and this Western obsession they have immersed themselves in.

JD: Even if they knew of the fair sized following that westerns have overseas, a lot of folks here in the U.S. would be surprised to learn there are organizations such as yours which embrace the period with such gusto. I would like to hear from some of your members how their interest in the Old West developed.  What initially drew your attention to this period in U.S. history?
Ally:  As a child I loved listening to western stories on the radio & being invited round to a neighbours to watch the Lone Ranger on TV and also had a diet of westerns at the cinema on Saturday mornings. Hollywood has a lot to answer for!
John Haram (a.k.a. Missourah Jack, a.k.a. Dr. Bob):  Growing up in England in the 50s you couldn’t switch on the TV without an almost endless supply of Westerns being shown every day – everything from children’s shows such as Cisco Kid, Range Rider, Hopalong Cassidy, etcetera, to more adult Westerns such as Wagon Train, Cheyenne, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke - (renamed Gun Law for some reason here in the UK!!), Rawhide, etcetera, etcetera. (My father would actually disconnect the phone so the family would not be disturbed on Wagon Train night on the TV).  In addition to the TV there was always a constant supply of really great Western movies to satisfy our quest for a good Western as well as a huge supply of Western comics.  I’m 68 years old now and I remember my mother often saying over the years: “Most boys go through the Cowboy stage – my son is stuck in it!!”
Dave Alexander (aka LoneStranger): My uncle used to buy me books and guns, etcetera, when I was about 5 years old.
JD:  It sounds like your childhoods were a lot like mine.  So, what aspect of the Wild West and its history do you find the most fascinating?
Ally:  I think the period from around 1865-1895 roughly is the most exciting period in Wild West history for me. The building of the railways, the migration west & hardships endured, conquering the wilderness, the outlawry. The weapons, the clothing, the backgrounds of those early settlers etc. It's all so very fascinating & colourful.
Dave: All.
John:  Although I have always loved Hollywood’s version of Western history, I also love all of actual Western history with, perhaps, a special interest in American Indian history – although I have much more to learn.
JD:  Have any of your members visited the U. S. and been to any of the western states?
Dave:  I toured all 48 States (continental) in 2010, doing 26,000 miles. When I came back I joined Tranquility. I wrote a book about it titled 48 @67 which refers to my age and the number of States visited.
Ally:  Quite a number of the members (perhaps almost half) have visited the US. I have friends in Dodge City, Cheyenne, Arizona, & New Mexico. Indeed, since 2012 I've been returning annually to visit friends in Arizona and New Mexico every March and each year I take more members with me. In 2015 I'm hopeful that at least 5 of us will be going.  I particularly enjoy traveling through Arizona and New Mexico with their ghost towns & historical links; eg Tombstone, Willcox,  etcetera.
John:  Yes, my wife and I have visited the U.S. several times – twice to Arizona & New Mexico.
JD:  Wow, some of you are well traveled.  I feel a wee bit embarrassed to say I have never visited Scotland, home to a lot of my ancestry.  So when it comes to books, which do you prefer when reading about the Wild West: fiction or non-fiction?
John:  I love good Western fiction such as Louis L’Amour. I also love Western non-fiction, for example when I was about 12 years old I found Paul I. Wellman’s two great works, Death in the Desert and Death on the Prairie far more interesting history than King Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell or the reign of Elizabeth l. (Incidentally I still have those Wellman books amongst a fair supply of other great Western history books).
Dave:  Factual, there are plenty of novels on other subjects to read.
Ally:  I like a good reference book to check out facts for accuracy but I do enjoy a well written fictional action western.
JD:  So, Ally, how did you fund the building of Tranquility?
Ally:  I personally funded about 90% of the cost of construction, the remainder has been financed through raffles, donations for doing western shows and other fundraising activities carried out by members of re-enactment team. The town is built on land owned by me.
JD:  Any plans to expand the town?
Ally:  Probably won't add any further buildings as land is limited and I don't want it to get too overcrowded, plus I'd need to get more planning permission! But I think we will continue slowly to upgrade existing buildings; e.g. currently we're adding a canopy to the Marshall's Office, and perhaps next year we may construct a gallows.

JD:  I see you hold some events where the public is invited to visit Tranquility. The re-enactments must be lots of fun. How big of a crowd do you usually draw?
Ally:  Spectator size often depends on the weather forecast as we're primarily an outdoor event. Average is around 150 folks (we only have three Open Days a year).
JD:  Since you started the group, you've branched out from re-enactments to short films.  How did that come about?
Dave:  It just seemed to happen. Maybe we secretly aspire to be movie stars, after all given the right direction and an endless number of re-takes we can all be made to look good.
Ally:  I'm a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to technology! However, about the same time I started the town I bought a basic camcorder and would video some of our re-enactment rehearsals. Of course everyone wanted a copy of the video and got a thrill from watching their performances on the small screen! One thing leads to another... one weekend we decide to make a short movie out of one of our reenactments. The result was pretty amateurish but everyone was happy with it! Each year we'd try to be a little more ambitious with some of our films running to over 30 minutes and we also started attracting pretty decent volunteers both as camera crew and as actors. In 2014 we made two films & will have a double premiere of them in a local cinema. We've entered one into the 2015 Glasgow Short Film Festival.
JD:  It looks like you've stepped up your game with your new feature.  Did you find it to be more of an effort than you thought to produce your current film, Return of a Son? 
Ally:  No, had a very good team to work with. 
Dave:  I didn’t find it much of an effort. All I did was turn up and do as I was told, but there were a lot of people who put in far more work than I did and I reckon they found it quite an effort.  
JD:  And any plans for making another?
Ally:  Yes! We hope to film at least one in 2015.
Dave:  I hope so, but it’s difficult to get a group of people together for a prolonged period sometimes due to work, commitments, etcetera. 
JD:  Well, gentlemen, it's been a pleasure talking with you and learning about Tranquility.  You've got a great group and a fantastic venue for it.  I must admit, I'm a bit envious that you have such a great way to live out your dreams of being in the Old West. And nobody gets killed!  
Thanks once again for taking the time to answer my questions.  I'll continue to follow you on Facebook and look forward to your posts.

For anyone wanting to know more about Tranquility Wild West Town, check out these links: