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Friday 30 August 2013

Death of the Western - refer to Mark Twain

Another blog of interest is Matthew Pizzolato's The Western Wordslinger:

His latest blog echoes my introduction in Write a Western in 30 Days. (The reference of course is to Mark Twain declaring that 'The report of my death was an exaggeration'.) Word about the 'flop' The Lone Ranger killing off the western is ludicrous; you mean there've never been any spy/detective/sci-fi/fantasy movies that didn't do well at the box office? Well, I never!

Here's the beginning of Matthew's blog:

Every few years or so, rumors start up again about the supposed "death" of the Western.  It seems to go on a cycle and if the rumors are to be believed, then the Western has died a thousand times. 

Yet, the genre is still around and going strong today. Granted, it is not nearly as popular as it was during the Fifties and Sixties, but it is a long way from being dead.

Iconic Western actor John Wayne believed in the durability of the genre. 

"Don't ever for a minute make the mistake of looking down your nose at Westerns. They're art–the good ones, I mean.  They deal in life and sudden death and primitive struggle, and with the basic emotions–love, hate, and anger–thrown in.  We'll have Western films as long as the cameras keep turning. The fascination that the Old West has will never die."

Thursday 29 August 2013

Blog - Gravetapping

Here, I'd like to recommend a fascinating blogger Ben Boulden who has been blogging since 2006, a time when I'm not sure I knew what a blog was, let alone how write one!

His other blogs comprise:
This is one of his latest, which highlights a truly broad collection of book covers for the Jack Higgins early period/golden age novels:

Tuesday 27 August 2013

CELEBRATIONS IN AN OSSUARY - and other poems by the late Kyle J.Knapp, 23

Kyle J. Knapp (September 1, 1989 – June 18, 2013) was a poet, musician, and short story writer from Freeville, New York. His debut collection of prose, Pluvial Gardens, was released in 2012. He studied Social Sciences at Tompkins Cortland Community College and worked for the school as an English tutor. Kyle enjoyed nature, fishing, and playing guitar. Kyle passed away in a house fire this past June. He was twenty-three years old and just coming into his own as a writer. He was a prolific artist, who, at the time of his passing, had written enough material for two additional collections of poetry and a near-complete novel.

Kyle's Professor of English states in his introduction: ‘An ossuary is a place for bones of the dead, oftentimes many dead. But . . . Kyle Knapp offers a celebration. In the ossuary! And what sort of celebration might we expect in a storage container for bones? Paradoxically, it is a celebration of life. In “Camping” we see the joy of nights in the woods, so pleasant that for the rest of the year “nothing at all seemed to matter.” Or it is a perfect day composed of simple pleasures and ending with “her laughter.” . . .But it is an ossuary, and these poems capture the loss, the regret, the acknowledgement of ultimate doom. There is an edge to the celebration, the clear sense that much of what brings pleasure brings pain as well.’

Amazon UK

Amazon US/Europe

Kyle was the nephew of David Cranmer (creator of the Cash Laramie series of stories). Celebrations is the first of three posthumous collections that will be released over the next few years. David explains a little more in the book's poignant afterword: ‘The memories of moments spent in his home along Fall Creek discussing our mutual reading passions are what I’ll cherish most, and, I will do my best not to be sad when I recall these memories, because, as Kyle says in these very pages, “Those days will come again, They were eternal, after all …”. And he has a post devoted to Celebrations on his blog 

 Also, Kyle will be the Pulp of the Week  September 1st, his birthday.

Like all writers, Kyle was a writer who wanted to be read. As David says, he just wanted his words out there. In his blog, David says, 'It saddens me Kyle didn’t conquer his alcoholism, but he touches on that in his poetry, and maybe, just maybe, it will help someone else.'

All profits will go to his family and the college he attended.

Rest in Peace, Kyle.

(My title heading should be in THE ossuary, if I'd only checked! Editors are the worst offenders, I find... I've left it like that since the link has been passed on elsewhere!)


Monday 26 August 2013

The 'Dark Side' - Interview with crimewriter Frances di Plino

I’m pleased to have Frances di Plino as my guest today. She is the author of the crime thrillers Bad Moon Rising and (just launched) Someday Never Comes, published by Crooked Cat Publishing. Both books feature DI Paolo Storey [I’ve got them on my Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading them - Nik] Frances di Plino is the pseudonym of columnist, editor, non-fiction author and writing tutor, Lorraine Mace. Writing as Frances di Plino gives her the opportunity to allow the dark side of her personality to surface and take control. As Lorraine Mace, she is a gentler creature, being humour columnist for Writing Magazine and a deputy editor of Words with JAM. She writes fiction for the women's magazine market, features and photo-features for monthly glossy magazines and is a writing competition judge for Writers' Forum. She is a fiction and non-fiction tutor for the Writers’ Bureau, and is the author of the Writers’ Bureau course, Marketing Your Book. She is also co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam, of The Writer's ABC Checklist (Accent Press).

NM. Tell me a little about DI Paolo Storey. It’s an interesting name. What’s his background?

FDP. Detective Inspector Paolo Storey owes his roots to my own Italian ancestry. My great-grandfather was an Italian immigrant to Britain in the late 1890s. He settled and married an English woman, but that Italian blood lives on in his descendants. So, when it came time to create my main character, I decided to give him a similar background to mine. His mother was Italian, but his father Scottish. He’s tenacious and uncompromising when it comes to his own conduct, but compassionate and understanding when dealing with others.
NM.  The release of Someday Never Comes just occurred. Is this another Storey thriller to follow Bad Moon Rising?

FDP. It is. It’s the second in the series. The blurb on the cover reads as follows:
Has Detective Inspector Paolo Storey come up against a criminal he cannot defeat? Paolo is determined to shut down the syndicate flooding Bradchester’s streets with young prostitutes. When a child is murdered, Paolo becomes aware of a sinister network of abusers spread across Europe, and spanning all levels of society. But Joey, the shadowy leader of the gang, always seems to be one step ahead in the chase.
                   “dark and uncomfortably believable.” JJ Marsh, author of the Beatrice Stubbs Series

NM. What are you currently working on?

FDP. The third in the Detective Inspector Paolo Storey series, Call it Pretending. After the harrowing crimes in Someday Never Comes, Paolo is once again dealing with murder. This time it is a murderer with an agenda. He isn’t killing to feed any dark desires, as in Bad Moon Rising, but to get revenge on those he feels wronged him in the past.

NM. How long have you been writing?  What influenced you to start?

FDP. I had my first short story published when I was twelve and then didn’t write another thing for (cough, cough number of) years. I started again in 2002 and had a short story published in a women’s magazine. That was enough to get me fired up and I decided to take the Writers Bureau comprehensive course. I’m glad I did because I learned how to write non-fiction and I’ve been a columnist and regular contributor to glossy magazines for over a decade. In 2007, I was appointed as a Writers Bureau tutor. I now run my own critique and mentoring service for writers.

NM.     How do your family/friends feel about your writing?

FDP. My husband is ridiculously proud and a bit of a bore at social gatherings. If he’s on the other side of the room and I find people staring at me, I know he’s been leading with the line: did you know my wife is an author? My children just seem to accept that it’s what Mum does for a living. My sister amuses me. She reads my books and loves them, but won’t tell anyone I’m her sister. She sent me an email after reading Bad Moon Rising saying I need to wash my mind out with soap and water. So far, she’s only read the blurb for Someday Never Comes, but her response to that was that I needed therapy – followed by the question: when can I get my copy?

NM.     Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

FDP. Doing exactly what I’m doing now, which is writing part of the day and providing writing services the rest of the time (critiques, author mentoring and teaching creative writing). I love my working life and wouldn’t change it. Well, maybe a small change. I’d love to see Paolo on television. A number of readers have said they think Bad Moon Rising would be perfect for the small screen.

NM.    I believe you’re also writing outside the crime genre. Do you want to tell me about that?

FDP. Under my own name of Lorraine Mace, as mentioned above, I write mainly non-fiction, but I have my first children’s novel coming out in the USA next April. It was accepted by an American publisher and I’m really excited about it. I’d love to tell you more about it, but the publishers have asked me to keep the title and plot to myself for now as they want to make a big splash with it pre-launch. Maybe I could come back nearer the time? [Of course you can! – Nik]

NM.     A tall order, I know, but what is your favourite book? And why?

FDP. Wow, only one? That’s so hard. If I’m pushed into a corner and have to choose, it would be Terry Pratchett’s The Night Watch. It is clever and funny, as well as showing every aspect of human nature. It has a cracking plot, the pace never lets up and the circular nature of the tale succeeds in a way few time travel stories actually do. Most of them leave unanswered questions or unresolved issues, but not this one.

NM.    How do you cope with writing under two names? Is the division of work easy?

FDP. It’s interesting, to say the least. I find I sign off emails under the wrong name, which is fine with those who know I’m Frances di Plino and Lorraine Mace, but I have had a few replies from bewildered people wondering who this Frances person was and how she’d come to intercept a personal email addressed to Lorraine.

When sitting at my computer, it doesn’t matter which persona I am writing under. I get completely immersed in whatever I’m doing. Online, it’s a different matter. I confuse myself sometimes and once nearly thanked myself for retweeting one of my other persona’s tweets! That way madness lies.

NM.  Where can readers find you?
FDP. Here are my websites
Frances di Plino Website
Frances di Plino Blog
Frances di Plino Twitter

Many thanks, Frances/Lorraine!




Sunday 25 August 2013

Dear Editor-05

Believe it or not, some writers can get a mite stroppy after a rejection. This is probably one of the reasons why so many agents and editors refrain from commenting on a rejection... Usually, I've tried to point out where I felt the submission didn't work for me - and usually my comments are accepted in the light they're offered; it's all subjective, after all.

Friday 23 August 2013

Dear Editor-04

Another one - I know that some editors get this kind of letter from time to time - happily, not too frequently!

Thursday 22 August 2013

Dear Editor-03

I'm sure some publishers and editors have received something along these lines... Sigh.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

R.I.P. Elmore Leonard - dies, 87

Elmore Leonard, novelist and screenwriter, has been the inspiration for many writers. He authored  45 novels, and was in the process of writing his 46th.

Born in New Orleans in 1925, he lived in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before his family settled in Detroit in 1935. He served in the US Navy during WWII and afterwards studied English literature at the University of Detroit, graduating in 1950. From 1949 to 1961 he worked as a copywriter in various advertising agencies and, apart from a few book reviews, he has concentrated on writing novels and screenplays since 1967. He started out writing western stories before turning to crime fiction in the 1960s.
He was renowned for his terse, no-nonsense style and sparse use of dialogue, stating at one time that he left out the bits that readers would skip.

Much of his work found its way onto the silver screen, for example: Last Stand at Sabre River (19590, Hombre (1961), Valdez is Coming (1970), 3.10 to Yuma (a 1953 short story, filmed in 1957 and 2007), Get Shorty (1990), Rum Punch (1992, filmed as Jackie Brown), and Out of Sight (1996).
One of his more heroic characters, US Marshal Raylan Givens in the books Pronto (1993) and Riding the Gap (1995), inspired the TV series Justified, while his 1978 novel The Switch was filmed this year as Life of Crime.

His 10 Rules of Writing, published in 2001,contains some tongue-in-cheek advice but also some great common sense and salutary admonishments, viz: "Never open a book with weather" and "Keep your exclamation points under control".
He has many writing accolades: the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best mystery novel, La Brava, 1983. In 1992 he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. The F Scott Fitzgerald was awarded in 2008, the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 and a further lifetime achievement prize, which he received at last year's National Book Awards.

He suffered a stroke earlier this month in Detroit and was in hospital. He subsequently died at his home in the city's Bloomfield Village suburb. He is survived by five children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren; he divorced his third wife Christine last year.

Another great and influential writer bites the dust, but his words and characters live on.

Sunday 18 August 2013


This is a guest blog from Barrie Mahoney, who lives in the Canary Islands. Barrie was a teacher, head teacher and school inspector in the UK, and also a reporter in mainland Spain, before moving to the Canaries as a newspaper editor. He is the author of two crime thrillers: Journeys and Jigsaws, Threads and Threats and several non-fiction books, Twitters from the Atlantic, Message in a Bottle, Expat Survival, Living the Dream and Letters from the Atlantic. His weekly column ‘Twitters from the Atlantic’ is featured in several newspapers, including the English newspaper The Leader (, where this article appeared on July 22, 2013.  His article, while being of general interest, should also prove fascinating to anyone fond of the Old West. Here it is:

No, rest assured, this is not another harrowing tale of domestic violence, but a skilful performance by Dorian Ledda and his family who have been performing in Gran Canaria’s Sioux City for the last 28 years of so...

These were the opening words of an article that I wrote for a magazine several years ago, following a visit to Sioux City, which could best be described as a Wild West experience on an island in the Atlantic. It is the stuff that generations of boys and girls read about in their comic books and watched countless films of baddies being dealt instant justice by goodies. Sadly, Sioux City is no more, as it closed its gates for the last time a few days ago, for financial reasons, after 42 years of faithful service to the cowboy loving public on holiday in our island paradise.

The Cañon del Aguila (Eagle Canyon) offered a barren landscape and gave the perfect opportunity to recreate a pioneer Old West town based in the 1850s, with real buildings that are unique in Europe with a complete construction, and not just simple film set frontages. Sioux City was just the stuff to feed the imagination, relive childhood memories, as well as being a great place for a day out. 

The town was constructed and used as a film set in 1972, at a cost of two million dollars, for major Hollywood Wild West films, such as Clint Eastwood’s ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, ‘A Few Dollars More’ and ‘Take a Long Hard Ride’. Gran Canaria’s desert-like landscape in the south of the island was just right for this kind of film in those days.

Once filmmaking was completed, the set became redundant and was opened to the public as a theme park with a difference. Until last week, visitors would wander expectantly through the gates of this Wild West town and be instantly transported into a world of cowboys and Indians, bar brawls and bank hold-ups. 

It is in this Wild West town that I interviewed Dorian Ledda and his family – mother, Katy and brothers Davide and Daniele, an Italian family from Turin, who presented breathtaking performances of knife throwing, lassoes, whips and horse riding. Originally the Ledda family performed in Italian circuses, theatres and television before moving to Gran Canaria thirty years ago. Indeed, Dorian’s father was throwing knives at his mother when she was pregnant with Dorian, and so throwing knives at mother seemed the most natural thing in the world to do!

Dorian’s brother, Daniele, also featured in the Guinness World Book of Records for jumping with a lasso, as well as appearing in a feature for the BBC. Dorian and his two brothers performed at Sioux City and Katy had knives, axes and flaming torches thrown at her. Indeed, watching the poor lady endure this torment from her sons with such a contented smile on her face made for a very unusual Sunday morning’s entertainment! 

Although the knife throwing act was performed several times a day for the last thirty years, fortunately without an accident, I couldn’t help thinking that it would not be a good idea to have a row with your sons or let them throw knives at you after a night of partying!

Sadly, this fictional universe and unique recreational activity for tourists visiting the island, created as a labour of love by several generations of craftsmen and entertainers over four decades, has now come to an end. Like so many who know Sioux City well, I hope that a way will be found to open it once again to an adoring public, who can once again watch magnificent horses, can-can dancers in beautiful frilly costumes, cowboys falling from buildings, as well as Indians throwing knives at mother.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: and or read his latest book, Twitters from the Atlantic  (ISBN: 978 1480033986). Available as paperback, Kindle and iBooks. iPhone/iPad Apps: ExpatInfo and CanaryIsle now available from the Apple Store.
Thank you, Barrie! Interestingly, my next Black Horse Western The Magnificent Mendozas features a circus troupe, with two family members in a knife throwing act. And of course Tenerife features in my latest crime thriller Blood of the Dragon Trees - published by Crooked Cat and available from - And anyone interesting in the writing of a western or any genre fiction might like to cast an eye over Write a Western in 30 Days! -

Saturday 17 August 2013

'A lot of good advice...'

It's very pleasing to get a 5-star review, and it's appreciated!
By Suspense Fan on August 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Amazon Verified Purchase
Write a Western in Thirty Days is one of those books anyone who is thinking about writing a western should read before they get started. It contains a brief outline of the era that would be of great use to the beginner--and as a general reference for the seasoned writer. Besides tips on how to create plot, theme and chapters, there are dependable book references and online website suggestions for those who write in the western genre. Even for writers of other genres, this book has a lot of good advice about plotting, creating character biographies and setting up a book in general. Recommended.
Thank you, 'Suspense Fan'.

Thursday 15 August 2013


My book Bullets for a Ballot was published as an e-book in March 2012 and, surprisingly to me, is still picking up review comments. This is thanks to David Cranmer, I suspect, offering the book at a bargain price. David created the two main characters, Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles in the short story ‘Cash Laramie and the Masked Devil’ featured in the anthology A Fistful of Legends I edited in 2009. At the end of 2011 he commissioned me to write a novel about these characters; other writers were also being given this opportunity. I was flattered and honoured and started to plot-plan a storyline. I had to be aware of what had already been written as well as salient facts in the Cash Laramie ‘bible’ – i.e. dates of birth, first kill etc.

This might be a good time to address a couple of issues that were raised in a few reviews. There are two instances of adolescent sex – neither gratuitous and the plot to a certain extent hangs on both. Neither is depicted graphically or for titillation. Yet they brought comment. I wasn’t surprised; yet a western, if it’s going to be truthful to its period, must depict what happened at that time. While we rightly deplore it, children as young as twelve were sold into marriage, or into bordellos, and young boys became men able to shoot and kill and do what men do at an early age. It isn’t salacious, it’s a fact – it’s history. Furthermore, having decided on my plot, I was constrained by two dates – Cash’s date of birth and the successful woman’s suffrage in Wyoming, Cash’s home state.  To balance the criticism, others were comfortable with it – ‘Loved Cash’s backstory’, for example.

I was aiming at a western tragedy tale and happily this was picked up on by a number of readers. As one put it, ‘I've been trying not to give anything away but this is a very exciting tale - with a bitter-sweet ending.’ While another reasoned, ‘…Bullets for a Ballot follows Aristotle's idea of a Greek Tragedy…’ Not that it was all serious – there are some puns to be groaned over, and allusions to a famous 1953 novel - and one reviewer almost spotted this.

When your book is published, in many ways it ceases to be your property. (As a writer for hire in this case, that is doubly true, as the rights belong to David). It has to go its own way – and stand or fall by the comments and opinions of the readership. Few writers do it for fame or big money, they do it to be read – and that’s where feedback is invaluable.

Reviews are wonderful. Any review is good, if it shows that the reader has actually read the book. Naturally, a particular storyline or set of characters may not appeal to all readers – that would be most odd. We all bring our prejudices, whether good or bad, along with expectations when we begin a book. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, they say, though I’d prefer to think that the opinion would be informed.

On the book has (to date) 17 five-star reviews, 3 four-stars, 4 three-stars, and 3 two-stars.

On it has 6 five-star reviews and 1 four-star (six of these are the same as seen in

On Goodreads the reviews break down to 5 five-star, 4 four-star, and 2 three-star; 1 one-star! (Again, some of these reviewers are repeats)

With regard to movies, when I read some critics’ reviews, I often wonder if we watched the same film! So it is with book reviews. A 3-star review says it was ‘a quick read – maybe I read it too quickly’ while a 2-star comment states ‘the book drags – didn’t even get halfway…’ You clearly can’t please all the people all of the time.

Another says, ‘A simple and basic plot although rather predictable, it's an interesting enough story…’ while another states, ‘The characters in the book were interesting. The story kept moving with unexpected twists and turns…’ You pay your money and make your choice.

A 3-star reviewer says, ‘Could definitely tell the author was a male.’ Another 5-star reviewer stated, ‘Morton should be commended for giving us an action-packed tale which also contains an undercurrent of feminism. I'm sure you'll agree that it's a western that's hard to put down.’ And a 4-star reviewer: ‘It was great to see a genuine female character in a setting where it easy to ignore them.’ I hasten to add that the reviewer who realised I was male stated she would read my work again - her 3-star review says, ‘…Would read this author again, think he has great storytelling ability.’

It’s always pleasing when a book receives a lengthy review, and this book has garnered several; one particular entry concludes, ‘Morton's pages share with L’Amour’s the authentic feel of western adventure and the relentless, irresistible narrative drive. I don’'t know another author with Morton’s range of time and geography. (Try his A Sudden Vengeance Waits for an exciting crime story set in contemporary England). But wherever he goes, he carries a torch for justice and a talent for pulling the reader into a compelling story.’ [A Sudden Vengeance Waits is now out of print, alas!]

And another long review says, among other things, ‘It is the characters and the settings that make a Western, ultimately they are set in a time, that no person currently living has a reference point for, other than what they have read in other books or seen in movies. Therefore to bring to life something without tangible direct history is an art, and Nik Morton is a master artist in this instance. From the taste and smell of the old west to the feel of the era violence, this is another five-star adventure for Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles… The tale unfolds, as page by page, Cash Laramie is relentless in his pursuit of justice. We learn more about the Marshall, as this story reveals more of the man's character, who he is and why he is driven to do the work of a lawman. The story also exposes just how the west was run, where principles are all very well, but where money also speaks, as do more baser urges.’

I’m not inserting excerpts from these reviews to bolster my ego, but to illustrate that here we have fine examples of informed and considered opinion in reviews. In my own reviews I strive to do that for fellow authors; because authors are readers too.
In the final analysis, like all writers, I hope to entertain readers and possibly supply occasional insights into the human condition along the way, and the readers must be the judges and their verdict is what ultimately matters. So be it.





Tuesday 13 August 2013

Torn from today’s headlines-01

While I write fiction, much of it is based on real or even current events. Whether that’s my Tana Standish spy stories set in the 1970s-1980s, or my contemporary tales about Sister Rose and PI Leon Cazador.

Reported this week, a Chinese smuggling gang was busted by French and Spanish police. Seventy-five people were arrested, 51 in Spain, 24 in France, including the two Barcelona-based heads of the organisation. Some of the people trafficked ended up in the sex trade. The gang charged up to £43,000 to transport Chinese nationals to Britain, the US, Spain, France, Greece, Italy and Turkey. The gang’s main European hub was Barcelona airport, a stopping off point where false documentation was prepared. (Photo - 2 days ago)

The truth is, Europe is being swamped by illegal immigrants from Africa, the Middle East and even Asia, many of them fleeced by criminal gangs of life-savings for the promise of a better life.

Vargas gestured at the beach. ‘As you can see, Mr Kirby, I have my hands full these days.’ He spoke in English as Kirby had confessed his Spanish wasn’t too good.

‘Yes, I can see only too well,’ Kirby replied. Tall, blond, tanned and dressed in khaki shirt and shorts, Kirby felt rather unkempt next to Vargas, who was immaculate in his avocado green uniform with its two gold star shoulder-flashes. Vargas had thick lips, a prominent chin and slightly protruding ears. He exuded competence and authority.

Kirby looked out to sea. Offshore, the twin diesels of the Guardia Civil boat Rio Palma purred, perhaps reflecting the satisfaction of its crew.

Forty-four African illegal immigrants were being helped ashore from their dilapidated 30ft-long open boat. The immigrants struggled to stand, their legs unused to firm ground after a seven hundred mile sea journey. Policemen wore protective facemasks and paper bodysuits and, with practiced ease, they stripped the Africans of their filthy clothing and dressed them in garish shell-suits and flip-flops. A mobile field hospital was drawn up on the dockside. Ambulances started ferrying the few who were being brought ashore on stretchers.

UK short Url is - short Url is -

Sunday 11 August 2013

Dear Editor-02

Although I don't believe in such things, maybe this will strike a chord for some writers!

Saturday 10 August 2013

Blood of the Dragon Trees just out!

Tigers slaughtered to cure pimples!

Laura Reid likes her new job on Tenerife, teaching the Spanish twins Maria and Ricardo Chávez. She certainly doesn’t want to get involved with Andrew Kirby and his pal, Jalbala Emcheta, who work for CITES, tracking down illegal traders in endangered species. Yet she’s undeniably drawn to Andrew, which is complicated, as she’s also attracted to Felipe, the brother of her widower host, Don Alonso.

Felipe’s girlfriend Lola is jealous and Laura is forced to take sides – risking her own life – as she and Andrew uncover the criminal network that not only deals in the products from endangered species, but also thrives on people trafficking. The pair are aided by two Spanish lawmen, Lieutenant Vargas of the Guardia Civil and Ruben Salazar, Inspector Jefe del Grupo de Homicidios de las Canarias.

Very soon betrayal and mortal danger lurk in the shadows, along with the dark deeds of kidnapping and clandestine scuba diving…

Friday 9 August 2013

Dear Editor-01

Quite a while ago, I wrote and drew a monthly comic strip for the British Science Fiction Society's Matrix (when it was a print magazine!). The basic concept is obvious and it was hijacked from Snoopy sitting on top of his kennel, typing. Mine, however, is an alien who fancies himself as a writer... They might strike a chord.

From time to time I'll feature another sample script.

Wednesday 7 August 2013


‘…the rest of these tips apply to every genre of fiction, which makes this one of the best How-to books I've come across in a long time.’

This is an extract from a review I received from my publisher, John Hunt. It’s by Jennifer Stewart (The Write Way/Write 101 - and she has sent it out to her thousands of subscribers.

Jennifer writes:
…The Western is an excellent genre for a first novel because it offers such scope for the Battle between Good and Evil, which is the mainstay of every good adventure story. You can have your hero on a quest (to right a wrong, avenge a lost loved one, prove himself etc) and already you have a structure for your story.

Nik Morton offers plenty of great tips to help write a Western (and promises you can do it in just 30 days -- if you work hard!)

His chapter on plot, "The Plot Thickens," outlines the various stages in plotting your story, from deciding on the emotions you want to arouse in your readers (do you want them to admire, love or fear your hero?) to choosing the theme that will run through your book and tie it all together (some he suggests are Justice Wins, Taming the Land, Death Isn't Particular).

You must also make sure your central character's "major emotional trait is essential to the theme and the desired emotional effect." No point in building a serious mood for your story and then painting your hero as a selfish buffoon.

And equally important is to "Give the protagonist a specific purpose -- one clearly arising from his major emotional trait; it must be of the utmost importance to him and must fit the theme."

Once you have your character up the tree, comes the fun part -- throwing stones at him! Every memorable tale involves conflict and clashes that test the resolve and courage of your character, so choose lots of different tests and dramatic high spots that push your hero to the limits.

Finally, you must present the climactic Black Moment -- this is the last crisis, the one where you "...demonstrate how the protagonist resolves the situation, possibly at great personal cost."

In a similar vein, this book explains how to create believable characters readers will care about, how to name your characters so they fit right into their setting (Luigi MacDuff is the wrong name for a cowboy for so-o-o many reasons!) Likewise how to dress them, what they eat, drink and how they sound.

All characters need to communicate, and there's a whole chapter on using dialogue not just to advance your story, but also to "foreshadow coming conflict, reveal character and indicate the setting."

He reminds us that "a book is a movie inside a reader's head," and as such each scene must be clearly depicted. The only way to do this is through the words you choose to describe the various settings, and the best way to describe any scene is to "... use all the senses when possible -- sight, touch, smell, sound and taste (because) ... People don't exist in a vacuum - they're standing, lounging and walking in a solid world of your making. Let the readers see it - but let them see it through your characters' eyes."

Then there's a whole chapter on a workable schedule to get your book written in 30 days!

You'll find some genre-specific information about where and how to research the Wild West, places that publish Westerns, and how to send off an appropriate synopsis and query letter, but the rest of these tips apply to every genre of fiction, which makes this one of the best How-to books I've come across in a long time. See why here:

If you have an unlimited data plan, you can watch all these Westerns online (I don't, so I can't vouch for the programs):

A list of the world's best-selling authors (note the writers of Westerns are right up there with the big sellers):

Thank you, Jennifer, for this endorsement!

Tuesday 6 August 2013

The Magnificent Mendozas - blurb

Due out some time next year, my sixth Black Horse Western novel, The Magnificent Mendozas. This isn't the official blurb, but it'll do for the time being:


Ross Morton

Southern Colorado, 1879. The gringo town of Conejos Blancos has just hosted the Mexican circus; no sooner do they move on to their next venue than Conejos is visited by Hart and over thirty desperadoes intent on taking over the place – and the adjacent silver mine! The sheriff is slaughtered and many of the townspeople are held as hostages.
            In desperation, two boys escape from the locked-down town. They recruit seven Mexican circus performers, the Magnificent Mendozas: the troupe comprises Mateo, the leader, and his wife Josefa, both expert knife-throwers; Antonio Rivera, sharpshooter; Juan Suaréz, gymnast and trapeze artist with his companion Arcadia Mendoza, who is also good with bow and arrow; José, younger brother of Mateo, a trick rider who lusts after Josefa; and Ramon Mendoza, escapologist. In order to penetrate the cordon of sentries and free the hostages, the troupe employs their many skills.
            Not everything runs smoothly, however. Soon, it’s a battle of wits between the Mendozas, Hart and his men and the townspeople. There’s betrayal, bravery and plenty of quick-fire action… and death on both sides.