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All Posts Tagged: Wandering West

Writing The Ship

No, I haven’t given up writing.

That to my readers who regularly ask the related question. Thanks for asking.

Actually, I completed my third novel some time ago. I think it’s written well enough–in fact, I think it’s pretty darn good–but wife Becky thinks it’s too dark, that maybe I shouldn’t be writing that kind of stuff. Not that Where Shadows Loom didn’t have its–well, shadows. She liked it well enough, or so she said. But this third one, Water Standing, was my attempt at a full-blown dark story, a la Edgar Allen Poe with a dash of Stephen King. Or is it the other way around? However feeble some may judge the attempt, it was fun to write; dark stuff usually is. The human psyche being checkered and all.

So, we’ll see what comes of it. Maybe I’ll post chapters of Water Standing, one at a time, to gauge your interest.

Meanwhile, I write when the spirit moves me, searching for just the right vehicle of expression. I want to write something uplifting, now that I’ve tiptoed out from the standing water. Maybe a love story of sorts; I’m a sap for a good love story. Like I said, we’ll see.

Thanks again for asking about my writing. As always, I appreciate your interest, your reading of my work, and your passing the word. My marketing skills need all the word-passing they can get.

Until next time, let’s all keep reading good books. If you need an idea, I have a couple.

Thank you!

I just want to take up a little cyberspace to say thanks to those of you who have commented so favorably about Where Shadows Loom. As I have said many times, that means more to me than you know. For me to take blank sheets of paper–cyber or perfect bound–turn them into a story, and then have you, the reader, say it was a task well done–well, that truly is the essence of what motivates me as a writer of fiction. Moreover, my success as an author is directly correlated to your promotion of my work as a reader. In a nutshell, I depend on you.

So, thanks again for the kind words. They are at times overwhelming and yet humbling always. Now, if you will–please–turn those kind words into favorable reviews and into a subject of conversation, I will be grateful all the more. After all, a writer needs an audience, or what’s the effort for?

Echoes Are Always Cool

Ever stood between canyon walls and yelled a word or two?

Like virtually all of you, I have. In fact, I’m standing along a rugged, geological basin right now–between two sheer, rock cliffs–shouting at the top of my lungs. Metaphorically, of course. Don’t anybody call 9-1-1 to have the Loony Farm come pick me up. But you see, every writer, short of those fortunate few at the pinnacle of success, needs readers to echo the release of a new book.

So, here I am, hands cupped around my open mouth, screaming, “PASS THE WORD: WHERE SHADOWS LOOM IS OUT!”

It’s easy enough to do. Type Gary C. Stalcup inside the search bar of most any online bookstore, and that will take you to Where Shadows Loom and Wandering West, paperbacks and eBooks alike. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are two popular sites, but don’t forget Apple iBookstore, Kobo, Alibris, etc. Your local brick-and-mortar store can get it for you, if they don’t already have it in stock.

Then again, just share this post, retweet it a time or two. Pass it along on Goodreads. Let people know they can google it, for crying out loud. And here’s a novel approach, pardon the pun (I couldn’t help myself.): talk to people about it. There are any number of ways to echo the release of a new novel.

And, of course, the easiest of all: go to and click on the Buy tab.

Thanks, as always, everyone. I hear you shouting already.


More on Book Release

Gary pictures 023As I mentioned in a previous post, Where Shadows Loom will be going live before long. I still have the galley to proof and the cover design to approve–that sort of thing. Now that it’s about done, I can say I had fun writing this book, its twists and turns, developing its unsavory characters. The story is largely about greed, how it can get the better of people. One bad act leads to another and so on. It is also about one’s facing his or her fears. These characters are forced to confront issues that have haunted them throughout their lives. How they deal with these confrontations is what propels the story to its conclusion.

As you have probably figured out, Where Shadows Loom is a departure from Wandering West. Though Wandering West certainly has its episodes of suspense, Shadows is a suspense novel, a genre that seems to come naturally to me. I hope you enjoy the read, and as always, let me know your thoughts.

Meanwhile, I feel another story stirring inside these creaky old bones. Time will tell whether or not this one succeeds in nudging my quiescent brain into the manic state of writing fiction. If it appears destined to make its way onto perfect-bound paper and electronic screens, I’ll let you know.

Why Write?

Gary pictures 045Good question. I don’t really have a good answer, just the ‘write’ one. (Sorry, I inherited a propensity for making puns from my dad.) Actually, writing can be a royal pain in the butt. Excruciatingly so sometimes. To be honest with you, I dread the thought of it, until an idea strikes me the way a chair rocking over an outstretched tail enlivens a slumbering cat. It gets me moving, if you will.

But if writing creates such an emotional upheaval, why do it? Are you just a glutton for punishment? Are you just stupid? I refuse to answer that–and don’t you answer it. Well, why not just curl your tail between your legs–away from the blasted rocker? Another good question. I guess the answer to that is, I can’t. You must really love to write then.

I love to create. If I could paint, I suppose I would paint. If I could make music, surely I would do that. Either of those would be wonderful vehicles for creating, if only I could ride them. I know what many of you are thinking right about now. Gary, you can’t pedal the writing tricycle without a wobble either. Well, that said, we do the best we can with the tools available to us, don’t we? I create the only way I know how. In my mind, I am a painter of canvas. I am a composer of music. Only I use words rather than paintbrushes or piano keys. Words are my notes. Paragraphs are my backdrop, my rhythm; and chapters, my melody. The story is my song and I sing it as best I can.  So, yes, I guess I do love to write fiction. Because that is how I create. I find my rhythm, work toward a crescendo, and then let the music play itself to a conclusion.

I hope you listen to my music. I hope you envision the image on my canvas. Creating–it’s what I am compelled to do. My painting. My song. So let the music play.

Book Release Update

For my readers and my readers-to-be, Where Shadows Loom is going through final editing as I write this post. I’m excited about this dark novel of suspense. The feedback, thus far, has been encouraging indeed. So look for the release later this year. I’ll have more to say about that as time goes on. Meanwhile, for those of you who still fall into the reader-to-be camp, my publisher is offering Wandering West free of shipping now through May 4th. Use code MAYDAY right here at my website under the ‘Book’ tab.

Where Shadows Loom is quite a departure from Wandering West, but the latter will give you a sense of my writing style. And who knows, maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Maybe that snotty-nosed kid-turned gimpy-legged old man from South Texas really can spin a yarn. That’s not for me to say. Ask one of my readers about that. Better yet, pick up a copy of Wandering West and decide for yourself. Maybe you’ll be encouraged to write a review and help me get the word out. If you do, thanks in advance!

Once in a Blue Moon

I realize this past full moon was no blue moon. How could it be? It occurred on November the sixth. It’s mathematically impossible to be a blue moon. It’s astronomically impossible.

Most full moons–blue moons included–are cause for angst. For me anyway. I dread them. I really do, in a mild, casual sort of way. Experience has taught me that full moons, more often than not, bring with them more than night shadows and starless skies. They generally bring me higher blood pressure and sometimes a bruise or two from furniture jumping in my path at the most inopportune times. There are goblins and spooks in those shadows. Pranksters for sure. I’m telling you, there are. Full moons make things happen. Most of those happenings are of the unpleasant variety. I could go on and on about my bloodied, nerve-wracked bouts with full moons, but that’s not why I’m writing this post. Not this time anyway.

I’m writing about the fact that this past full moon was a blue moon of sorts. It was one of those rare occasions when the stars align themselves to my unexpected pleasure. This time, there was a distinct lack of furniture jumping in front of my shins, and the blood pressuring through my veins was surely a meander. For once, there was no struggle between imagination and actual occurrence. My focus was harnessed in fact. The coffee table sat perfectly still. Even my heartbeat was steady, harmonious and rhythmic. Pleasant things occurred. This time, they did.

First, out of the blue–pardon me for overusing that word, but I couldn’t help myself–I got a call from my marketing person with the publisher. She imparted no startling piece of news really. She just wanted to ask how I was doing and pass along the comment that she uses Wandering West as an example for would-be authors to follow. I’m not sure what the significance is to that, but you must admit, it’s a rather kind thing to say. Especially to an author who mopes around waiting for kindly spoken comments about his book. Then, not long after I set my smartphone on my desk–without its giving even one hint of leaping to the hard, unforgiving, tile floor–I got an email from Writer’s Digest. I had long since forgotten that I had sent the publication a copy of Wandering West for a review. It so happens that Wandering West was critiqued in glowing terms. I mean, they rated it a 5 in every writing category (5 being the best on a scale of 1 to 5). The only blemish received was the publisher’s cover design which measured in at a 4. Not too shabby. I thought about pasting those comments for you here, but in some ways, it explains too much of the story for those of you who have been dilatory in picking up a copy of my book. Incidentally, you can do that right here on my website, as soon as you finish reading this post. Oh and shipping is free for the next few days with code HSQ2. Talk about blue moons. I wonder if that’s the publisher’s way of apologizing for Writer’s Digest’s sticking my cover design with a 4. I need to see if I can leverage that somehow. And speaking of picking up copies of Wandering West, I moseyed on over to my account on the publisher’s website and, to my great pleasure, discovered that I had sold more books in the past few days than I had in the entire previous month.

So, all in all, November’s full moon was not so bad an occurrence. Once in a blue moon, the full ones are like that.


Lost in Translation

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am in the process of peddling to literary agents WHERE SHADOWS LOOM, my recently-completed suspense novel set in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas. A few weeks ago my query letter gained the attention of a highly-regarded literary agent in New York. Needless to say, I was thrilled. Signing with a big-time agent is a big deal. It can be a game changer. Doors will likely open that otherwise would not, at least not for a little ole writer like me. This guy read my manuscript, said he found the story “very compelling,” but after mulling it over, declined to represent me because “this genre is really struggling right now.”

My question is: What genre? Suspense/Thrillers? That genre appears to me to be healthy enough. I suspect–which is all I can do since I can’t read the collective minds of the publishing establishment–the guy was referring to westerns. You see, thus far, my stories have all been set in Texas, and so, naturally, they must all be considered westerns, right? Of course, the agent knows better. He read the story, after all. But his point is well taken: would-be readers will make that assumption, right or wrong. I know that is at least somewhat true, but why? Why is a thriller set in California not pigeonholed this way? Or one set in Connecticut? Or Florida?

I can’t do much about the stereotype, and for a guy born and raised in Texas, writing stories set somewhere else that attempt to reflect life seems a bit disingenuous, pretentious even. A setting is merely the vehicle for which the writer states his/her case. WANDERING WEST is not exactly a contemporary western, though I can see where readers who read word lines and not the spaces between them might draw such an incomplete and inaccurate conclusion.

So you be the judge. Below is the body of my query for WHERE SHADOWS LOOM. You tell me, after reading it, whether or not you deem the premise to be a western of sorts or a thriller of sorts. If you want to call it a contemporary western thriller, so be it. I can live with that, so long as that loose interpretation doesn’t prejudice your thinking before actually reading the story.


Wendall Connor isn’t sure what to believe anymore. His mind has begun to play tricks on him. After seven years in the NFL, he has suffered concussion more times than he can count. And what can he do about it anyway? A throbbing mass of mangled flesh and splintered bone, his body is held together by little more than titanium steel, surgical glue, and the sheer determination to put off the next surgery for as long as he can.

But he has to do something. Who else is there?

His friend and neighbor across the street, U.S. Senator Juanita Guajardo’s son, and the loan officer at the bank are both missing. Wendall left them alone for only a few minutes and now they’re gone. Are their stories true, as fantastic as they seem, or is this another distortion created in Wendall’s addled mind? 

Did his friend and business associate, Conrad Murphy, really kidnap Sergio Guajardo? Would he really murder Lester Russell? Wendall Connor knows Conrad Murphy is selfish and demanding. He’s well aware that Conrad’s business empire is struggling, and he once witnessed Conrad’s violent temper firsthand. But is the man so desperate he would steal public funds and then kill Lester Russell because the poor guy overheard the details of that scheme?

WHERE SHADOWS LOOM is an 82,537-word suspense novel set in a rugged, desolate area of the Eagle Ford Shale oil play in South Texas where the boom has gone bust.

So that’s my basic query for attracting the interest of agents and publishers. Regarding the genre, let me know your thoughts. A writer trying to break preconceptions in a world of preconceptions needs all the help he can get.

First, Let Me Apologize

I haven’t written a post in some time. You were sitting on the edge of your seat, wondering, I know. I must admit to feeling, let’s say, less than enthusiastic as of late. Why is that? Am I having trouble with my latest novel, WHERE SHADOWS LOOM? No, actually, I’ve completed the manuscript. I’m excited about that. I’ve taken SHADOWS as far as I can without a second and third pair of eyes poring over it. Now, I’m letting it stew while I mull things over. I need a proofreader with fresh, discerning eyes; a talented, perceptive editor; I could desperately use an agent with major contacts; and ultimately, of course, I need a good publisher. I’m panting for air just thinking about all that.

Writing is hard work, excruciatingly so sometimes, but it’s not the writing that gives me pause. Stirring the creative juices far outweighs the hammering out of a story’s devilish details. So why the weary sigh? Well, the fact of the matter is, selling books requires marketing, and believe it or not, pounding a fist against my chest while shouting how wonderful my work is, is not something I naturally am inclined to do. Frankly, I find it distasteful, and I suspect many of you find it annoying. For that, I apologize, as necessary as it nevertheless seems to be. Long since obliterated is my youthful notion that writers write and publishers promote. The thought that a writer’s time is too valuable to waste with the thorny details of marketing is, of course, laughable. Unless your name is Stephen King, you best learn to write fresh stuff while simultaneously shouting at the top of your lungs why readers should be buying up the stuff you already have in publication. Writing is a craft; in some cases, it’s an art; but above all, it’s a juggling act. And juggling requires a skill of its own–a concentration of its own.

That’s what I keep telling myself. But I don’t compartmentalize well when I’m engrossed in my writing. When I’m obsessed with my writing, some would say. I keep reminding myself about that, too. After all, as I mentioned, writing is hard work. And I didn’t sign on to be that clown, juggling knives at the weekend carnival, in front of a sparse crowd, never mind my feeling like the butt of a cruel joke now and then. Besides, catching knives with bare hands can be dangerous.

Tough shucks of worm-eaten corn, you say. Everybody has to toot their own horn nowadays. We live in a narcissistic world! It’s all about the self! More often than not, it’s about the id! If you don’t start shouting, who will? So, get to it! Roll up your sleeves and start juggling! Shout with the same enthusiasm you have when you peck away on the keyboard–and at the same time! Make people know you’re out there! Make them know you have something that must be read! This is a narcissistic world, remember? And what’s more narcissistic than thinking what you write actually is worth someone else’s reading? So make people hear you! Make yourself heard above the deafening roar of a screaming social media! Do it!

Okay, okay, alright already. Can I dry my eyes first?  Does anyone have a tissue? Oh thanks. Yes, better. (Deep sigh.) Now where was I? Oh yeah.  So–so, if you haven’t taken the time to read WANDERING WEST, please do! You can buy it right here on my website! I think you’ll like it–I really do! But don’t take my word for it; check out the reviews! You can find them right here on my website, too! And when you’ve finished reading, help me get the word out! Write a kind review, tell a friend to read the book, pass the word, and so on! Shout it at the top of your lungs, for crying out loud! Please? I mean–please! Meanwhile, amid my own shouts, I’ll keep working to get WHERE SHADOWS LOOM ready for publication. I can juggle, just like the next guy. And by the way, keep an eye out for more on WHERE SHADOWS LOOM. I’ll be posting about that again soon.

Now where are those knives?

Wandering West and Across the Border

In a scene in Chapter 1 of Wandering West, Jack, in his conversation with Sadie Mae, addresses the problem of illegal immigration and how its solution must be rooted in the country of origin. A porous southern U.S. border only exacerbates the problem, complex as it is. Sadly, this subject is being played out before our very eyes. I have pasted to this post below the excellent article of 6/22/14 by Kristin Tate, Illegal Immigrants Hopping ‘Death Train’ to U.S., Hoping For Amnesty.

HOUSTON, Texas–Thousands of illegal immigrants are flooding the U.S.-Mexico border and the problem isn’t likely to get better anytime soon. In a mad dash to make it to the U.S., many of the Latino minors are hopping aboard a network of Mexican freight trains called “El Tren de la Muerte,” or Death Train. The phenomenon may support claims that the Obama Administration’s lax stance on immigration is encouraging thousands of children to put their lives at risk.

Children who travel via Death Train must jump onto a moving freight car. Minors who cannot successfully pull themselves onto the traveling cars fall onto the tracks–many are left with extreme injuries.

Erica Dahl-Bredine, an El Salvador representative for Catholic Relief Services, told the Colorado Gazette that those who get injured on the train tracks often return home. She added, “The couplings between the cars are notoriously dangerous. I see children who have lost an arm and a leg or both legs.”

The Obama Administration’s actions and rhetoric, which has caused Central Americans to believe they will receive amnesty if they come to the U.S., is likely the driving force behind the surge at the border.

“The U.S. is partly responsible for foreign nationals taking extreme measures that risk the lives of their children,” Zack Taylor, Chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, told Breitbart Texas. “Our government is encouraging foreign nationals to come into our country illegally and stay.”

Upon arrival in the U.S., instead of being turned away, the Latino children are given taxpayer subsidized benefits that include housing, food, recreation, counseling, education, and legal advice.

On top of this, each week authorities are currently releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants onto U.S. soil. Many of the freed immigrants are told to show up in court at a later date and are then released and reunited with their family members in the U.S. Victor Manjarrez–a professor at the University of Texas El Paso, former Chief Patrol Agent of Tucson Sector, and former Chief Patrol Agent in El Paso Sector–told Breitbart Texas that the migrants are “scheduled for a hearing sometime in the future. They promise to show up then get released. They then [often] call up relatives in Central America and tell them they got released.”

It is easy to imagine that the release–coupled with the benefits while in custody–only further incentivizes minors to hop on the Death Train.

Despite such considerable factors, the Obama Administration has claimed no responsibility for the young lives being put at risk during the trek north. The only reason for the spike in illegal crossers, the White House claims, is violence and poverty in the migrants’ home countries. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson claimed at a press conference earlier this month that he is not “encouraging illegal immigration in any way, shape, or form.”