Thursday, December 8, 2016

Best of the West 2016

It's hard to narrow things down, so I'm helping you out.

I am still in the midst of a stack of friends books - I am a polygamist reader - I am in Utah after all - so don't anybody worry if theirs wasn't mentioned or reviewed just yet - I will get to it, but for the here and now, this is a list of favorite reads for the year.

So without further ado.

Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy is among my favorite fantasy period. So coming back to the world of the First Law with this collection of shorts was welcome indeed. The tales are all over the place with characters we know, love and hate - and best of all we get to meet some new great ones too. These stories are are gritty, action packed, and funny. Its a perfect combination.
Gritty, bizarre Lovecraftian adventure and mayhem! This is the stuff! Charles Phipps delivers some serious bone crushing action amidst a destroyed American landscape that owes as much to H.P. Lovecraft as Mad Max. Something I realize going through this list of favorite reads of the year, how much I love humor with my darkness, I think it helps balance it all out and you need that when you are dealing with  ghouls, ghasts and the undead in general - not to mention the matriarch of the Biake. Right when I wonder where Phipp's is going to take a story he throws in some great surprises and always raises the stakes! Wake the Dreamlands, we have a new walking nightmare!

I enjoyed Larry's Monster Hunter International, but wondered what I'd really think of his foray into epic fantasy. I was not disappointed, Larry has the chops for action, humor and intrigue but he also has the world building skills for a great new series. I'm glad I was surprised with this one. Built around a survivor and warrior - not your average chosen one - this had so many surprises both dark and wonderful. The villains are delightfully despicable and mysterious. We really feel like our hero is in danger  - but did I just say hero - even he doesn't really think he is.

I don't review or talk about non-fiction too often on this blog even though that's gotta be at least half of what I read - research and history and such - Steven Pressfield type books are about as close as I ever get to self-help and that's kinda why I picked this one up - Pressfield's blurb was right there on the cover. That was enough for me to crack it open. Seeing how much Holiday puts stock in Marcus Aurelius was the clincher. I had to read this. Its short but very worthwhile.

My fiend Craig is a true renaissance man. He rocks, acts, creates games and off course writes killer books. His latest could be my favorite, a trippy noir ghost story in rural setting is amazing. Mixing teenage angst and stories that feel like we know them and then getting the rug pulled out from us is a tough job, but Craig delivers in spades. Do yourself a favor and grab this!

Another friend of mine I truly admire is Dave Butler. His work is all over the place and this jump into middle grade is an amazing amalgam of Steampunk Pinocchio along with a bevy of fairy-folk creatures. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a middle grade book, Butler's work is clever, even esoteric, there are lots of folklore references inside, whether from our own world or his that is enchanting and deep. This is quite the book. Check it out. Butler has lots more coming.

This is another of the non-fiction books I use for research, though if you have read anything else by Boren it reads like historical fiction. I'm not even sure I believe everything he has to say but it literally makes for a fiction writers gold mine. Not to be missed.

My friend Jason King wrote this one a few years ago, so its an oldy but goody in this list. This is phenomenal flintlock fantasy - something I know I'll be reading more of in the new year - and even has spoiler alert - some unearthly manifestations involved. Think low magic historical science fiction or something like that - its different but great. So great I even wrote a novella in the world of Valcoria that will be released in an anthology that sits between this book and its sequel (coming October 2017)!

Much thanks to Paul McNamee for pointing this out to me. Weird westerns! I love them and this one knocked my socks off! I wasn't even halfway done and I had to write to author Joel Jenkin's telling him how great this was. It blew me away. Somebody was writing exactly the type of weird, adventure, with Lovecraftian references stories I dig. And with "Last of the Mohican's raised by Mormon's vibe to boot! These are collected from numerous anthologies of the the weird that Jenkins has been doing for awhile - he has quite the body of work out there and I've got to check out more! You should too!

This has been a great year for fiction - I still have lots more to catch up on along with working on my own and I have got big plans for 2017. How about you guys?

Oh and for the next two days, Cold Slither is just .99 cents - it could always use a little more love = reviews etc - thanks.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

To Market, To Market, Jiggety Jig

Sure hope I haven't been spamming people too bad lately, but I've discovered the last couple months that simply writing a book, throwing it out there and telling family and friends to buy it only gets you so far.

I typically got the first month release spike and then not too long later the sales flatline, so getting frustrated with the day-job and wanting to transition into ONLY writing I finally started trying to learn something about marketing rather than just hoping my books would just go viral, so I've entered the necessary evil world of marketing.

I've been listening to a variety of fantasy themed author marketing podcasts and reading more and trying to see and understand what more successful people do. And I realize I've been doing it wrong, sitting back never works, so you gotta get out there and tailor things, on the bright side it has paid off.
I got my first #1 last month in western horror for Cold Slither and yesterday (and today) #1 in Ancient Civilizations and the LDS categories for Bless the Child

Granted there are tips and tricks to everything. I've changed up Amazon categories and keywords, I've looked at best release/promotion times and just plain old experimenting too. I have found you need to tailor your promotions, target and work out how these things will come about - its a lot more than I can say in one blog post, but I'm there for you my friends if you ask, anything I can help with, I will.

The other big thing I'm working on is planning for my next big releases which I decided need to be in January so as to avoid the holiday shopping blitz - I didn't want to be screaming into that holiday madness if I could help it. That just gives me more time to polish and prepare. I've also got my mailing list going finally! I'm doing a giveaway ebook for people that sign up here
It's all a start, and I'm getting to that goal even if I still have a long way to go.

And along these lines and for the rest of the weekend my Spartan mercenary Sword and Sandals novel BLESS THE CHILD is free on kindle - It's #1 in Ancient Civilizations and top ten Historical so grab it if you haven't already here!

On top of all this new found knowledge (for me that is) I'm still open to learning everything more I can,
If you have any tips, techniques or questions, lets hear it!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Books Read Lately: Friends Edition

This batch (which I'm forever behind on) is all by people I like to call friends and I've got a round two of books by friends I'll be trying to post by the end of the month too.

Cthulhu Armageddon, by C.T. Phipps
Phipps does an amazing job of weaving the Lovecraft mythos with some hard-knuckled action. While I love the mythos as we all first read it by Ech-Pi himself, I always felt more kinship to those larger than heroes born out of Robert E. Howard's imaginings that don't just go mad by the sight of the unspeakable horror.
And here is where Phipps shines with his narrator, Booth. As the head of his unit in this post-apocalyptic wasteland Booth gives us all we need to do to know about our familiar yet horribly different and shattered world after the rising of the Old Ones. Familiar names are doled out in a reasonable non-info dump manner, so that anyone familiar with the mythos can say Oh I know what that is before Phipps can surprise us with an imaginative twist. We get to meet the grooviest ghoul of them all for example.
I enjoyed the pacing and at one point, I actually wondered - How can they top this! And we're only halfway into the book - I was afraid it was going to wrap up too soon!

IF you like action, horror and some grimdark humor, you have got to check this one out! I look forward to reading more of Phipps work!

Dream Breaker, by Jason King

This is a short by my friend Jason. He does amazing world-building (as he should being an epic fantasy author) and he get's you right in the gut with this tale of Dareth and crosing over into the dream realms where all is not what he expected. Its free at least right now on kindle so you gotta check it out. Dareth battles another Arkyn (arcane-kind) across two planes of existence as he fights to protect his client - The High Priest of Faelon - from assassination.

Murrmann, by Michael Arnzen

I got to meet and chat with Michael Arnzen at this last World Horror Con, great guy, I've read a lot of his stuff on the craft of writing (brilliant work)  and finally snagged this short to read his actual fiction stories. Murrmann is a great little sequel to Dracula capturing the quirks of Van Helsing in his own hand along with a flair for wonderful locales and real local legends. Arnzen knows both the physical territory having been there and of course the horror landscape to grip us cold. The imagery herein is amazing. Do yourself a favor and don't miss this bloody disturbing tale reminiscent of Stokers "The Squaw" along with "Dracula" too of course.

Sands, by Kevin L. Nielsen

Kevin is setting us up in a brilliantly imagined new world populated with dessert clans and their own traditions and such and of course the dramatic struggle against the genesauri—giant, flying, serpentine monsters who hunt across the desert in enormous packs. This has a new take on the epic fantasy story in that this is more son the level of man vs. nature than a dark lord. Its a refreshing new spin.

There were of course some surprises on the human end too as the desert culture of the seventeen-year-old Lhaurel's clan forbids her from even wielding a weapon in her peoples defense. Exiled she begins a new adventure to save her people and herself. This is the beginning of a trilogy that is worth checking out.

Killing Trail, by Charles Gramlich

I love Charles work, from pulpy sword and sorcery to the chilling terror to sword and planet adventure and now the old west. Gramlich has a flair for poetic language with his salty action and then just wins me over everytime. Now of course these shorts are quick and to the point with white hats and black hats but there are clever surprises you don't see coming. Highly recommended.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Weekender Kindle Sale

Today and tomorrow I've got a .99 cent sale running on my  Whispers Out of the Dust 

This was one of the most fun writing and research books I've ever done. It was inspired by a real ghost town that was buried by Lake Mead. It was a fantastic backdrop for what I wanted to do which was essentially do for the American west what M.R.James did for the English countryside and ghosts.
It was also about the fastest I've ever written a book about a month.  Granted it's short at just 53k but still an absolute labor of love.
If you haven't had a chance to check it out please do this weekend since it just a buck!
Just for a taster here is Keith West's review on Goodreads of  Whispers- I was pretty pleased with this one and it's too bad that Amazon wouldn't let him post it because it thought we were related which we're not but such is life. So here it is:

Keith West (Lubbock, TX)’s review of Whispers Out Of The Dust: A Haunted Journey Through The Lost American West

Take the Mormon settlement of the West, mix in some M. R. James and H. Russell Wakefield, throw in a healthy serving of H. P. Lovecraft and a dash of Robert E. Howard, stir in Native American lore, bake in the desert heat and wash down with a lake formed by a damn, and what you’re likely to come up with something that resembles Whispers Out of the Dust.

David J. West has begun to build a body of work in the sub-genre known as the weird western, and his most recent book is a solid addition to the field. It’s also one of his most ambitious projects to date. (And I absolutely love that cover.)

St. Thomas, Nevada was settled by Mormon pioneers, but the area had been home to the Anasazi and other tribes long before. The Mormons, many of them anyway, moved away when they discovered they were in Nevada rather than Utah and Nevada wanted to collect several years of back taxes. Still, the town survived until the Hoover Dam was built, and the waters of Lake Mead covered it up.

That much is historical fact. What David does is add a dose of fantasy which he blends so smoothly that you find yourself believing things you know can’t really be so. (At least you don’t think so.) The footnotes (end-notes, really) certainly add to the feeling of verisimilitude. David includes a number of photos he’s taken, which give you an idea of what the area looks like.

Whispers Out of the Dust traces the story of the area from the first Europeans to wander into the area until the waters cover the town. Along the way there are a number of ghosts, some cosmic horrors, and an appearance of West’s bounty hunter Porter Rockwell (“Right Hand Man”).

The voices and styles here are quite varied. Sometimes a single author collection gets pretty repetitive, and before you’re done all the stories read the same because the author only has one voice. That isn’t the case here.

You have tales told by educated men, by illiterates, by women, by cowboy poets, by Conquistadors. Some are short, and some are not so short, and “Right Hand Man” is downright long. Some ghosts are friendlier than others. Some aren’t friendly at all. There are characters who show up in more than one story, and we see them age and die.

What Whispers Out of the Dust is is supernatural slice of life in a forgotten corner of the United States. Small town and rural communities move at a pace all their own, and while that pace has increased in recent decades due to improved transportation and communication, that slow cadence that arises in an area where everyone knows everyone and people look out for their neighbors is still there. Whispers Out of the Dust catches that pace perfectly and adds a counter-tempo that can only come from a ghost or two hanging about. Or maybe it’s the drums in the hills…

If you like ghost stories, weird westerns, or both, you should definitely check out Whispers Out of the Dust. David J. West is a writer who is not afraid to stretch himself and grow and take literary risks. As I said earlier, this is one of the most ambitious projects by him that I’ve read. His risk-taking is our gain.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Grim Dark Western Films

I'm hard at work on my western series the Dark Trail Saga, and I'm at least halfway done with the first Scavengers - (Cold Slither will fit into this but more as a collection of shorts that pertain to it at large as opposed to the rest which will be novels).

So besides just my readings - (I'm enjoying Killing Trail - Charles) I'm also watching some iconic westerns for that feel. I want to capture the great american mythology of the west and a lot of what I enjoy is the revisionist western.

So I'm catching up on a few that you all may or may not have seen.

The Hateful Eight

I like a lot of Tarantino's work (not everything but you know). With this one I have found myself thinking a lot about it the next few days afterward. If there is one thing I'd like to take away from this is how great Tarantino's dialogue is. The essence of capturing character and slick reveal of motivation is a lot of fun.
I definitely liked this more than Django Unchained as this seemed a lot more realistic and had better reveals.

Slow West 

I had seen ads for this and I wasn't sure I was interested despite Fassbinder's great performance in another weird west role in Jonah Hex.
Then I listened to the Weird West Radio podcast and was impressed by what they had to say about Slow West. It is a pretty gritty western, not so bloody as say a Tarnatino pic or Bone Tomahawk but still, it has a bang to it.

What I liked was the world weary wisdom of Silas (Fassbinder) and the blind optimism of the kid he has been hired to help out. There were  a lot of little asides where you thought something would happen and then great surprises, sometimes with grimdark laugh out loud surprises. There were also a couple of things that reminded me of a classic horror western Blood Meridian. For a new European/New Zealand depiction of the American west this was a great outing.

Bone Tomahawk 

In a way I have certain expectations for Kurt Russell in a western movie but both Hateful Eight and Bone Tomahawk give some character surprises while still allowing Russell to be that tough guy. I wanted to see this for awhile especially considering that the creator behind it is doing weird west books - S. Craig Zahler and his Wraiths of the Broken Land is coming to film soon too.
This one has interesting characters and great play back and forth between the dandy gunfighter and crippled husband and ne'er do well deputy. In some respects I had reservations about the cannibal tribe, it is cool that it is something different from others westerns but in that there were just a few f them made it a little hard to believe they would be that feared by other tribes etc. I did like their body modifications - that was a nice creepy touch.
My one reservation about it was I thought it was overly gory for gores sake. Just my opinion but still it was a compelling story.

The Wild Bunch 

This is another I had meant to see forever and it opens in an epic way, Peckinpah's imagery of the children having the scorpions fight the ants is so telling of our characters and the world they live in.

I loved the premise of the outlaws being a part of the Mexican revolution while still being hunted by  their former partner. betrayal is a powerful theme in this one and what's not to love about Ben Johnson mowing people down with a Maxim machine gun. This one like Tarantino has a pretty bloody ending without feeling over the top gross like Bone Tomahawk. Still I find myself comparing it to the Lee Marvin pic The Professionals which I still think I like better.

A Fistful of Dollars

I grew up watching Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns ( I also recently rewatched The Good The Bad and The Ugly and Outlaw Josey Wales just because) but it had been a long time since I had watched this western reworking of Yojimbo/Red Harvest. It stands up, its one helluva movie.

In my wondering about how to paint the western world I'm writing you can't go wrong with the classic Eastwood films.

I loved seeing the final showdown and Clint's reveal on his invulnerability.

There are a lot of elements in these that I'll sift through and percolate into the upcoming project.

What are some of your favorite western films, scenes etc?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


This has been a long time coming and I gotta tell you it feels pretty damn good!

I was first published in April of 2010. Since then I have had twenty five more Amazon related products released and numerous non-commercially available material and finally today I hit the #1 bestseller list in something! Western Horror to be precise. It is a niche market but as of the last check (because I am compulsively looking) I was at 6,298 overall on Amazon books and even made it into the top 100 Westerns category at slot 78, and slot 175 in Horror.
That little orange badge thrills me to no end.
I believe this is the highest I have ever had a book rank that is mine alone. I did do quite well with the first Space Eldritch collection but even that only ever got to #2 in Space Opera because we couldn't unseat OSC's Ender's Game.

So this is a big deal for me and I am riding high. Cold Slither was already doing relatively good by my standards so I'm keeping on with what I was already planning and having some Porter novel's coming down the pike soon.
Think spaghetti westerns, Peckinpah and a lot of Tarantino grit and wit, along with my own voice and stylings based on this real person I love to make stories up about.

Thanks to everyone who has grabbed a copy for getting me there!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Utah Halloween Expo

I'm a special guest at the Utah Halloween Expo this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Sandy Utah at the Southe Town Expo Center. I'll be at booth 139  - signing books and speaking on the awesome nature of fear in writing on Saturday at 3:00 on the DIY stage.

They'll have a lot of horror related guests and what I'm sure will be some of my kids favorites some of the folks from SyFy's Face Off. My kids do love making masks.
Plus I'll get to hang with some good friends and hopefully make some new ones.

It promises to be a scary good time!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Pulp's and Pixelry

I've got a few scattered thoughts I thought I'd jot down here while it was fresh on my mind. Partly inspired from a  couple of conversations and blogs posts from friends - like Paul McNamee and Jay Barnson  but its also something I've pondered for awhile now.
As huge fan of the old school pulp fiction I pay attention anytime I
hear someone say something like a resurgence is coming like say in perhaps the sub genre of grimdark or new collection like Skelos magazine - which I heartily approve of. But while grimdark is just a new repackaging of sword and sorcery its not quite what I'm thinking of today.

The "pulps" were pulps by the very nature of being printed on cheap materials as opposed to the "slicks" with their fancy glossy paper.

We don't have that anymore - what do we have - what has exploded in say the last five years? The ebook.

I've been listening to a lot of marketing podcasts lately especially the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast - loads of great thoughts - I caught upon an episode from almost a year ago with Moses Siregar and he mentioned how back in 2009 some of the bigger names he rubbed shoulders with at conferences said that ebooks wouldn't amount to anything. Kinda funny and shortsighted now but that was the attitude of BIG 5 or 6 writers and publishers just a little while ago.

I remember when I got my first publishing contract I asked about ebook rights and was told they wouldn't even bother with it. They later amended the contract (very good rates by the way) and nowadays anytime I get a royalty check from them its from ebooks sold. At the time I didn't want to try and do the ebook by myself either - hindsight is worse than 20/20.

In any case it got me to thinking that the real revival of that pulp stigma was the despised delivery method. Cheap pulpy paper back then and nowadays the independent writers pixel.

So many ebooks are being uploaded and you don't have but to turn around and careen into a dozen terrible titles - and by terrible titles I mean poorly made covers, horrendous descriptions and wretched grammar - and I am by no means a grammar nazi I'm pretty loose with the rules myself.

The challenge then is to find the diamonds in the rough. They are there but it can take some looking and of course the tried and true friends recommendation. On the plus side NOTHING should be out of print anymore, its surprises me when something actually is unattainable even in in ebook. But anyone can share their book and ultimately that's a good thing.

This may be a whole lot of scattershot thinking on my part but I thought I'd put it down somewhere.
What do you all think?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Weird Books I Own

You follow my blog. You subscribe to my newsletter (or at least you should - it will be worth your while soon) so as a matter of course you know I have a library of some seven thousand books. And being a writer of weird speculative fiction I own a lot of strange books - for research purposes. I thought I would share a few here today

I just finished this one the other day and it was fascinating. The author purports that there was a conspiracy between Coronado and De Alverez and that there really was the seven cities of Cibola located approximately in the Phoenix area. The proofs are circumstantial but compelling but going the next scientific step farther we are presented with the catastrophic reason - we don't find ruins in better shape there. The author present his reasoning on why a comet or at least a cometary fragment struck the area in approximately 1680 just a short time before the Spanish returned to the area and mapped the region. I realize this is a big step from what we have been taught but I found the book incredibly logical and well founded. Its well worth looking into, especially for historical fiction writers.

I bought this one years go for the title alone. That cover is atrocious, but inside Andrews details numerous bizarre accounts, even back to the middle ages. He is readable and entertaining and would recommend this book for science fiction aficionado's looking for some more meat.

I had to get this one from Amazon recently just for the bizarre inflammatory title - I'm sure my wife would not be amused. But I do love to collect all the weird American and Mormon historical books I can, and this fit the bill. I have yet to crack it open, but its short and will be a quick read.

You might not think this one is too bizarre or surprising until you realize it was written in 1938! It seems to be a conspiratorial piece aimed at Roosevelt for turning a blind eye to the Japanese and their invasion of China etc. The cover denotes a US made bomb being dropped on China by the Japanese. There is a whole lot more to the story and I am no fan of Roosevelt's manipulating etc.

This is great and is one of several books I own which purport Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid never died in Bolivia but came back to the states. It is circumstantial but as with the others mentioned above, compelling reasoning for its unorthodox posturing. I'm inclined to agree with its premise.

This was just a surprise. I have several of Winston Churchill's books on World War Two and so finding this little hardcover edition printed in 1958 was a pleasant surprise. Man's gotta unwind somehow.

This one is more strange and lost recordings of forgotten peoples who may or may not be accepted by traditional history. This is exactly the kind of book that works when you are trying to come up with your own lost Hyborian age.

This is a local rare book detailing Gale Rhodes foray into looking for lost Utah treasure maps. Its interesting reading for the sake of understanding markers and local legends. I found it at a used book shop and think I paid maybe a buck. Its at least 150.00 on Amazon now. But again I knew what I was seeing in the used shops, most people don't. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Salt Lake Comic Con 2016 Recap

I had a good time hanging with friends and even got interviewed three separate times! I'll share those when I know they are up. Would have liked to have sold more books but on the bright side I did get a few new fans!

The Space Balrogs Choose your Own
Apocalypse game went over real well - we packed the house!

I did get several books from friends which will be making it into the review Que. Overall it was a good time. I even got a photo with the Utah state Governor who stopped by our book booth.

And here are a few more pics I thought were cool.

And of course connections were made more books are in the works!