Joshua Unruh Y'all don't want to hear me, you just want to dance

5Nov/120

The Point of Bullets

Here's a few things I wanted to let every one know all at once. Sadly, this means some of them that could become blog posts probably won't now, but I don't care because I have lots of opinions to wave around at people.

  • A random conversation with AaronPoguedid result in my plan to write the first drafts of several fantasy novellas I won't have to do second drafts of because it's Somebody Else's Problem, the first drafts of not one but two fantasy novels (one very fun and low fantasy, the other very serious and high fantasy), and fixing my Weird Western novella finally. I'm going to try and do most of this in about six weeks. The biggest hurdle is how little prewriting I've done on the novels.
  • This may result in some more silence here, but it may not. We'll just have to see.
  • I still haven't caught up on Arrow but I really, really want to. Watch this space for more reactions.
  • The above is brought to you at least in part by the responses to my last blog post. Apparently I can manage to be some sort of bridge between the Nerd Culture that produces Rage over changes to things and the Pop Culture that wants to care about guys in masks punching criminals (for instance) but only on their terms.
  • BTW, as much as I understand and accept the above, I'm taking suggestions on future topics because right now, other than Arrow, I got nothing.
  • The Man with the Iron Fists was freakin' AMAZING, you guys. Go and see it. Lovingly crafted Grindhouse Kung Fu Cinema. If you don't love it, I'm not sure we can be friends.
  • I'm seriously wondering how people have time to watch television. I have a lot of what sounds like quality television I'm really interested in watching, but have no time in which to do it. Yet Big Brother and Honey Boo Boo get audiences. WHO HAS THE TIME FOR CRAP?

Okay, more semi-random musings to come I'm sure. Especially as I pre-write such vastly disparate styles of writing, I bet all kinds of wisdom (or what passes for it around here) drips from my blog like honey from the comb. Also, tomorrow is Election Day in the USA where I live, so if you aren't entirely cynical about the process, go do your civic duty!

18Sep/120

The Nicest Thing I Can Say – A Review of The Sixth Gun

Over the weekend I came down with an unpleasant cold with a side order of debilitating fever. It took me out of the game for the two days I'd set aside to write the second part of my ongoing how-to series. So that's still coming, but it's too rough to post today. Instead, I'm going to do a mini-review of a comic book series I recently discovered called The Sixth Gun. It gets my stamp of approval because it made me say the nicest thing I can say about any piece of fiction I read.

The Sixth Gun made me want to write.

Written by Cullen Bunn and set in a recently post-Civil War America, The Sixth Gun is a Weird Western tale of six evil guns with horrible magic powers. The weapons bond themselves to a single living person until that person dies at which point the next person to touch the gun becomes the new owner. My favorite part of Bunn's writing on this is how every character either wears a hat of pitch black or, at best, one of smoky, dirty gray.

Those pitch black hats are undead Civil War generals, his vain and vicious widow, and Civil War criminals willing to follow the aforementioned undead general. Seriously, how much do you love all of that? Evil magic guns, undead Confederate generals and their wicked crews? There is nothing in there not to fall into a swoon over.

The "heroes," though, are where this series shines. And they all wear hats of gray. As a fan of Noir, that couldn't make me happier. I love that. Drake Sinclair, a dandy gunfighter with a very shady past, never does anything for just one reason. But he does enough protective, "good guy" things that you can almost forget he's a self-interested bastard. Naturally, he's bonded to four of the six guns. He seems to hate that fact, but he also went in with eyes wide open so he must be up to something...

Most of Drake's protective moves are for Becky, a young girl who accidentally found herself bonded to the Sixth Gun which gives the gift of prophecy or insight. That sounds like a pretty great power, but at the same time, everyone is at pains to explain to Becky that the gun serves only its own interests, never the interests of its owner. Becky took up the gun without realizing what was happening to her, so she's as close to a victim as you get. But that doesn't mean she's pure as the driven snow.

Gord Cantrell is an ex-slave and leader of men with a wealth of occult knowledge. He seems interested in helping Drake and Becky manage the evil of the guns, but he's also got dangerous secrets lurking in his past that might suggest he's traded bits of himself for power and revenge before.

Standing in the middle are Kirby Hale, a handsome gunfighter/bounty hunter that strikes me as a sinister Brett Maverick, the Sword of Abraham, an evil-fighting order of Catholic priests who have fought the evil of the guns for millennia, and Asher Cobb, a mummy with the gift of prophecy, and Pinkerton detectives with a connection to the Knights Templar. These are the secondary characters, people! How amazing is that?

The art is equally amazing. Brian Hurtt drew some of my favorite books of all time including an arc on Queen & CountryGotham Central, and unfortunately short-lived Hard Time. He's had to master the American West's deserts, the city, swamps, and bayous of New Orleans, prison camps, flashbacks to other times, Catholic missions all look beautiful and hideous or both at the same time.

Not to mention the fantastical creatures like ghosts, demons, thunderbirds, loa, golem-style zombies as well as the stock Western characters of gunfighter, thug, miner, codger, sheriff, and all the others you remember from Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. The art works as both fantasy story, traditional Western, and murky Spaghetti Western.

The book is a tremendous read with 50 issues (bound together in three collections with a fourth on the way in November) and it deserves to be read by you. GO BUY IT! The first issue is free on Comixology and each "volume" is bundled together for $8.99. That's a tough deal to beat, but your local comic shop will hook you up if you prefer the dead tree version.

I couldn't recommend this series more. In fact, as I mentioned above, I have the nicest words I can say about it: It made me want to write. That'll be good news for you guys as well.

As longtime readers will recall, I have a Weird Western languishing unpublished. This is mostly because it was my first finished novel. For those of you that don't know the curse of the first novel, that means it is a horrible mess of a manuscript. It is such a mess, in fact, that it has been easier to just write new things than to fix it. Well, no more!

Hell Bent for Leather has demons and a gun full of blessed magic and a cowboy roped (see what I did there?) into a a larger world full of evil monsters and Devils that make deals for your best friend's soul. It also has a finished but unpolished sequel titled On Leather Wings with definitely non-sparkly vampire-type things.

I'm looking to polish Hell Bent and release it as a serialized novella via Amazon's new Serials project. That lets me fix it in smaller, bite-sized chunks and release it to you as I do so. That's super exciting to me and, I hope, to you guys also. So celebrate some Unruh-style Weird Western fun by reading Mr. Bunn's and Mr. Hurtt's supernatural rollercoaster ride across the Old West today!

Tomorrow (not literally) you can celebrate by buying mine. I won't be jealous in the meantime, I promise.

5Dec/110

How high’s the water, Mama? Five Feet High and Risin’

Hey gang! I'm sure my six week hiatus followed by begging for money basically killed whatever readership I had, and I'm sorry about that, but I'm back with a VENGEANCE! Here are some things I've been up to and some things you can look forward to.

  • I won Nanowrimo for the third time this year. I nearly did it before Thanksgiving, too, which was a very new experience. Both the last two times I scraped by with the skin of my teeth. Another new experience was starting on the second draft of a nano novel before Nanowrimo was even over.
  • The reason I'm working frantically on the second draft of a novel I finished one day after Thanksgiving is because, without quite knowing how, it's going to be the first full length novel I've ever published.
  • Sad news: Hell Bent for Leather has been bumped from January 2012 until  later in the year. Happy news: This is to make room for The Secret Life of TEEN Agents (working title), my Young Adult espionage thriller with three female protagonists.
  • Despite the fact that the timeline on TEEN Agents is hella short and sorta freaking me out, I think it's going to turn out really well and with a beautiful cover that's a modern take on Spy Fi.
  • This has opened up a huge opportunity for me on Hell Bent for Leather that I don't think I'm at liberty to talk about yet. Needless to say, it's going to make the book a lot better and also aid in its promotion. Watch this space for more info.
  • I'm also neck-deep in reworking the short story for the Winter issue of A Consortium of Worlds. That's also coming in January, so check it out!
  • We have a cover for the Kindle All Stars book and it's BRILLIANT! I'm so proud and excited to be part of that project I can hardly stand it.
  • Lastly on the Consortium and writing front, please take a moment to visit the Kickstarter page for The Dragonswarm and pledge whatever you can manage. We have some lovely thank you gifts for your pledges and you'll be helping both an amazing cause AND a great book (I'm reading it now).

Now, a little news about the blog, if you please.

  • I will be returning to a regular schedule next week, but it's going to shift to Tuesday/Thursday. A lot of my fellow Consortium bloggers are Monday/Wednesday, so I'm switching it up for anybody that reads all of us.
  • I owe you guys a comic book review. I have a thing in mind and, if I get to do it, it'll rock your socks and be live next Tuesday.
  • I passed on an opportunity to join an anthology of essays and true stories from stay-at-home dads. But it reminded me I've got a few great stories on the front, or at least stories of wicked misfortune that others take joy in hearing. So those tales will be a semi-permanent feature for a while. They won't be the only thing on the blog, but they might be the only thing for a while since I've been thinking about them so much.
  • That said, I've got a couple writing exercises that might make interesting blog posts, so that'll hopefully break up the monotony for those of you that don't care about my (mis)adventures in parenting.
  • I'm also taking requests. If there's anything I've touched on or any questions you'd like followed up on, let me know. Comics, mythology, writing theory, future projects, none of the above, just let me know.

I think that's it...for now. There's a bunch of little stuff (like the holidays and my children) mixed in there as well, so I'm likely to be fairly insane for the next couple months. It's sink or swim, but I prefer the breast stroke!

(That's what she said...)

29Aug/110

Riotous Round-Up!

So you've heard the excuses and seen the dearth of posts, but now it's finally time to explain just what the high falootin' hell I've been doing with myself for the last couple weeks. Well, here it is in no particular order...

  • A Consortium of Worlds, the speculative fiction magazine The Consortium is putting together, will be in the world by the end of September. I'm the associate editor and have a story in it. This is the first time I've ever done a magazine. It's the first time any of us have ever done a magazine. It's the first time a lot of us have ever done short stories. But day-um this thing is going to be sweet! High fantasy, low fantasy, angsty science fiction, and even some steampunk that doesn't make me want to tear my own eyes out.  This is totally going to be worth the thin greenback you have to spend on it.
  • The Kindle All Stars Project got my attention even before Harlan Ellison blessed it. Yeah, that's right, Harlan Effing Ellison. Bernard J. Schaffer, author of the current  number one Sherlock Holmes book on Amazon, is the ramrod behind it and I'm really excited to be a part of it. I have no idea how many stories will be in it, but it'll also be a single greenback and all profits will go to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
  • The story for Kindle All Stars will star Hob Lesatz who you met in a sneak peek last week. The story I gave you a look at, Lesatz for Hire, should be available by September 13. That's another 15k word story full of brutal criminals doing terrible things to one another, all for just another thin dollar bill.
  • I'm going on vacation at the end of next week and plan to write an entire novel while on the road. The novel in question, The Big Sleep Mode, A Copper Lincoln, Robot Detective Mystery, will combine with all the Hob stories to guarantee I don't want to write anything noir fora  good long while.
  • Courtney Cantrell and Aaron Pogue both keep giving books that are about to be published so they can get my feedback on them. And so I can write the back cover copy for them. Oh, go ahead and add back cover copy (or a letter from the editors) to everything I mentioned above. Except for the Kindle All Stars. I just have a bio to do on that one.
  • They're mostly backburnered at the moment, but Hell Bent for Leather will be going to copy edit at any moment and On Leather Wings will be coming back from story edit probably at EXACTLY THE SAME TIME. Because Aaron hates me.
  • In real life news, I'm like two weeks away from being a foster parent. I don't know how that goes in other states, but in Oklahoma it is HELLA HARD. Not hard like difficult, hard like complicated. And LONG. So many classes...so much training.

I think that wraps up the bigger stuff. Imagine that in between each of those bullets there are a lot of smaller bullets with either other projects or links in the chain to make those projects happen. If it seems like I'm complaining, then I'm doing it wrong, though. I LOVE THIS. I can't believe I'm writing this much or that so much of it will be in front of the public eye so soon. And that I'm helping other writers get their stuff ready to sell in the meantime. It's very exciting and I pretty much can't wait to do my bits of it every day.

Come back Wednesday, though, and I'll talk about how I was surprised to find that Robert E. Howard probably couldn't find a market in fantasy today. It blew my MIND. See you then!

15Jun/112

There is no great writing, only great rewriting

The quote that makes my title is by Justice Brandeis. I agree with it completely. But it leaves out a very important point of wisdom I'm going to share with you now.

Rewriting SUCKS.

You can feel free to quote me on that.

Alan Dean Foster said that he gets bored rewriting because he already knows how the story is going to go and wants to read new stuff. I get that BIG TIME. On the other hand, Rose Tremain says she finds the act of rewriting enjoyable because she's not in that existential crisis of not having a novel at all. I get that in a big way as well.

My problem with rewriting Hell Bent for Leather this last time was that I made such huge sweeping changes that I was honestly somewhere between having a novel and not having one at all. Okay, that's a lot of quotes and lead in, let me get down to what actually happened.

I've known for a while that I was going to have to do a big rewrite on the book. I had some harsh but mostly accurate feedback from an outside source and some very similar but slightly less harsh criticism from my editor, Jessie Sanders. I finished a few other projects for the Consortium and did some pre-writing packages to put it off, but there came a moment where it had to be started. I sat down with about three hours of writing time ahead of me because I wanted to dive in and really get some work done  on the rewrite. The first thing I did was highlight the first four chapters and hit delete.

Eighteen thousand words gone. Just like that.

It affected me a lot more than I expected it to. In fact, that took about two minutes  of that three hours I had set aside and it was all the rewriting I got done that day. It just took the wind out of my sails. But the next day, I got to work. I added a new beginning, I wrote from scratch a very difficult, very daunting scene to fill in some of the lost information from the deleted chapters, I reworked a key scene, then I kept on going through the manuscript looking for anything else that needed tweaking to get in line with the new beginning. I found several more interpersonal scenes that needed anything from a tweak to a full rewrite. I discovered new problems like "What Is My Novel's Big Question?" and "How Will I Answer That Question?".

Those are questions you ask BEFORE WRITING THE NOVEL! I mean, I'd instinctively asked and answered them but not in a definitive, strong way. So here I was threading that through along with all this new emotional and interpersonal stuff that had just been subtext before. It was a MAJOR rewrite. And, to be honest, it wound up shorter. Remember this is a novel that I originally intended to be pretty short and punchy. It will likely turn out to be more a novella than a novel.

But you know what?

It is GOOD, man. It's WAY better than it was the first time around and I don't just mean in a technical way. Things matter more in this version, they carry more narrative weight. Things happen faster and they happen harder in the newest draft. It is all around an improved piece of work. Even better, I've lined up another couple passes by smart, talented people that will help me make it better just like I talked about doing for Aaron on Monday. (He's one of the smart, talented people of course.)

So, yeah, rewriting sucks. But you know what sucks worse than rewriting? Not rewriting.

18Apr/114

Hell Bent for an Update

In final preparation for the publication of Courtney Cantrell's Colors of Deception, a chunk of the Consortium braintrust had a meeting at my house and I discovered that rules were being broken for me. First, in case you were wondering, I was at the braintrust meeting because I'm Director of Marketing for the Consortium (which is a very "shake the rust off" combined with "learn as I go" kind of gig). Secondly, I was there to see the final edits process for Courtney's book because my own first novel would be coming out soon. While in the midst of this discussion I discovered that rules were being broken for me.

Apparently, it had been the policy that an author publishing with the Consortium would have two or three books in the can before the first one went to press. At first, I balked at this. Partly because I only had one in the can and a second one being turned into a second draft, but also because that seemed like a very high bar for an aspiring writer. And it is, but this was actually much more about the Consortium itself than it was about the individual author.

See, the Consortium is about way more than just writers. We want to support all kinds of artists as they hone their craft. And I love that idea, too, if only because of how closely it puts different types of artists who might need one another into close contact. I'm writing a play and need music, I have musicians to work with. I want to become a rapper, I have people in my Rolodex who know how to produce. We want to turn books into podcasts and audio books, we know people who can do that. A book needs a cover and one of our artists paints it from scratch. A musician has a song but no lyrics, he has writers and poets to call. A filmmaker wants to make a movie but has no script (or music, or box art, or costumes), he knows people who can help him. And all of this gets released into the culture basically free. But we need money to support that and publishing is the easiest (though not easy) and quickest (though not necessarily quickly) way to have the Consortium turn a profit.

One way to make the publishing side profitable is marketing. That is a many headed hydra that has to be managed both singly and corporately, so I'm not going to talk about that much now. But the other way to do it is a combination of a steady stream of new releases and a deep backlist. Obviously those go hand in hand. The more new releases we have, the deeper our backlist gets, but we don't want to just throw them all out there at once because that doesn't make any of the releases special. So we want a book coming out every three months this year with that moving to every two, maybe every month, next year. We get to deliver new books with much fanfare and develop the backlist quickly. I approve of this plan.

That's why a new author has to have two or three books in the can before the first one comes out. That's lead time to work on the next batch of three. If you can manage two to four novels a year in some combination of first draft, second draft, beta read, or fully edited, then you've got some cushion if you fall ill, have a family emergency, whatever. Cushion is good policy for both noobish writers and a burgeoning but growing publishing company. Obviously, I supported this wholeheartedly.

But that meant I had to push back the release of Hell Bent for Leather until January of next year. Because I need the time to get Death On Leather Wings past the second draft and into the hands of beta readers as well as write at least the first draft of Dead as Leather this year. If I'm crazy diligent then I'll also get a jump on the fantasy novel and be neck deep in a series of novellas about an original neo-pulp character of mine,  Ajax Stewart, Engineer of the Impossible. THEN I'll have some cushion on my own books and the Consortium will have some cushion on me.

I led with that other stuff because the Consortium's ideals are important to me and I wanted you all to understand why I pushed the book back. If we start breaking rules now then we're never going to follow the rules and we're barely a business right out of the gate. None of us want that. So, the bad news is that you won't get Hell Bent Until 2012 but the good news is you'll also get Death on Leather Wings and Dead as Leather in the same year. And maybe some other stuff of mine as well. That makes it a good move for me, for the Consortium, and for my readers.

At least I think so. What do you, the readers at home, think?

PS: I think I'm going to share a little bit of fiction with you all on Wednesday. It's a little thing I was tinkering with called Copper Lincoln, Robot Detective. Basically I'm playing with hardboiled detectives but with a bit of weirdness. This bite sized fiction appeared on another blog of mine, but  I'm going to edit it and take into account some suggestions from friends who read it the first time. I hope you all enjoy it.

2Mar/113

Hell Bent For A Finished Novel

I love National Novel Writing Month because itt is a HUGE kick in the pants to get a first draft done. Much like a marathon, you're doing it with a whole bunch of other people, there's immediacy, excitement, and, hopefully, the thrill of victory. I haven't really had the chance to do it with my Tribe (that is, other writers) but I finally have a Tribe this year and can't wait to see what that's like this November. I've played three times and won two of them (that is, wrote 50k words in the month of November) and it has been a thrill all three times. But Hell Bent for Leather wasn't one of those two wins. In fact, it came hot on the heels of one and was greatly influenced by that win.

The Good, the Bad, and the Incentive of NANOWRIMO

See, to win is just to hit a word count, not to finish the novel. I wrote 50,000 words of a novel in November of 2009 that was, at best, 2/3 finished. What's more, I'd had some worldview changes that made finishing that book VERY unlikely. I won, but in winning I'd discovered some shorcomings in the nanowrimo process. It didn't take away from the joy of winning, but it did give me a new plan. I needed a break from that pace, but when I next sat down to write a novel, I was going to do it somewhat according to nanowrimo rules AND when I hit 50k words, it would be done (or pretty close). A word count of 50k equals roughly 175 book pages. That's not very long, really, but I came from reading things that got into the story, got their hands dirty, and got the hell out, so it was a familiar length for me as a reader. What's more, fantasy had lost me as a genre because of the incessant page count just to build up worlds rather than do anything interesting in them. None of that for me. Fast to write, fast to finish, fast to read, those were my mottos.

Rules of Engagement

So my nano-lite rules were that I was shooting for roughly 50k words to have a finished story, I would write on the book everyday, but I would not give myself a time limit on when to finish it. I wasn't going to do another month long marathon, not and stay married, but I wanted to maintain forward momentum as I worked. To do that, I didn't allow myself  to read anything I'd written before writing more. Every time I sat down at the keyboard, there was no looking back, only forging forward. This created some fairly interesting and ridiculous problems I got to edit out on the second draft, but that's a later discussion and a pretty obvious rookie mistake I figured ways out of by the time the next nanowrimo rolled around. At any rate, it was going to take me more than a month, but I'd have a finished book and a ton of forward momentum.

I did it, too, but it took WAY too long. Now, to be fair, I was working on several work-for-hire pieces, doing a little game design, and a lot of other stuff that was definitely writing even if it wasn't Hell Bent for Leather. But it still took me way too long.  I still felt great about it, totally felt it was a win, because I wrote a little bit on the novel way more days than not and I never reread more than the last couple paragraphs to get me started again. I didn't edit a thing, that way lies madness and minutiae. I followed my own little rules and when I typed The End I had a punchy little weird western done in 180 pages or less.

Process? What's a Process?

So I did almost zero prewriting for Hell Bent. That's bad juju and I don't recommend it for anybody who wants to be serious about their novel. In this case, I got away with it but only because this story had been stewing in my head in so many different forms for so long that I knew how the scenes would lay out to get me from the PROLOGUE to THE END. That doesn't mean there weren't very hefty rewrites in the second draft that involved totally new scenes and moving old ones all over the manuscript to make the story flow better, because there most definitely were both. But, and this was a big deal at the time, I knew enough about where the story was going that I never got bogged down in the writing. Well, that's not exactly true, I did make that rookie mistake I mentioned above and it would be the next nanowrimo before I figured out a trick for that (and halfway through the month, too), but I never floundered with where to go next. That was a combination of luck and the fact that I'd done the process in my head by accident. Thank goodness I recognized both these things and resolved to never do that again.

Next Wednesday, I'll tell you about the Rookie Mistake and how it became painfully obvious when I started reworking that manuscript. I'll also tell you about the pain and terror that goes hand in hand with giving your precious, baby novel to beta readers. Hopefully, I'll even be able to tell you how that went (two of my four have already finished the book and had wonderful things to say as well as very useful suggestion; only two more to go!).

14Feb/115

No Review, But I Try To Love You Anyway

Hello, blog audience! I apologize for the crushing disappointment that is me failing to review something today. There are very good reasons for this, however, and I beg your largesse and hope to fill the void with something interesting in the meantime. The fantastic excuses for failing to read anything to review this week:

  • Did you notice I reviewed over 1500 pages of comic book last week? Yeah, that ate up some of my buffer.
  • I spent all my reading time this week checking out Aaron Pogue’s Gods Tomorrow. I recommend it; it’s a good, speedy mystery with a unique near-future sci fi premise. Plus, the sequel is about to come out.
  • I’m moving and the new house needed to be almost completely repainted before we could make the move.
  • Last but not least, I’ve been frantically editing/revising The Novel in order to hand it to The Consortium for gutting, reworking, and eventual publishing.

And it is that final piece of information I want to talk about as I’ve had a few people ask me for details on it. The Novel’s actual title is Hell Bent for Leather and it started out as a concept for a roleplaying game character combined with a few other ideas that were in the rock tumbler that is my brain banging off each other until an actual story came out of it. Today I’m going to tell you a little about the novel itself and Wednesday I’ll let you all have a peak behind the creative curtain of how the concept came about.

Hell Bent is a Weird Western. I admit that I’m not the biggest fan of this genre. No, wait, that’s not quite right. I really enjoy this genre when I read it, it’s just that I haven’t read an awful lot of it. Honestly, I didn’t set down to write a Weird Western, I just had a story to tell and that seemed to be the explanation that it fit best within. For those that don’t know, Weird Westerns are basically Western stories with horror elements, or vice versa.

I had somebody share with me a really interesting insight into the genre by pointing out that the Western elements never stop being very Western and the horror elements never stop being very horror, they just seem to coexist together and lend their flavor to one another. They created something that isn’t altogether different from the individual genres but is certainly singular from them. Weird Westerns aren’t exactly Westerns and they aren’t exactly horror, but neither are they some completely unidentifiable third animal either. I like the ambiguity of this and how it manages to combine what are otherwise fairly stark and well delineated definitions of Western and Horror separately.

Another interesting angle on Weird Westerns is that they’re sort of the purely American answer to all that “horror by gaslight” that’s set in Victorian England. They are obviously contemporary in time and often have a lot of overlap in the supernatural elements used, but the reaction to and dealing with those supernatural elements shows a very different mindset between the gunfighter-turned-monster-killer versus the English gentleman who finds himself face to face with powers beyond his ken.

I may go into more detail on this later, but suffice to say you can already see the different ways that such characters would react to supernatural goings-on without knowing anything about them other than “Western Gunfighter” and “Victorian Gentleman.” That’s pretty fascinating from a purely mythical or archetypal standpoint, which any of you who have  read much of this blog know is my bread and butter.

So, a little back-of-the-book synopsis. Chet Leather is a cowboy at a ranch near El Paso, Texas. He might just be the best cowboy ever and part of that is because he has the Sight, an ability to see people and objects as they truly are, to see to the heart of things. It also lets him see and speak with the dead, which is definitely the downside. However, the Sight comes in mighty handy when, at his best friend Dan’s funeral, Chet discovers that Dan made a deal with the Devil to sell his soul for something monumentally stupid. Regardless, Chet resolves to help save his friend’s soul and discovers that the West is a lot weirder than even he knew.

This begins with discovering that his good friend is a retired demon hunter for the Roman Catholic Church, continues as he goes mano y mano with an unkillable bandito and his army of a hundred ghosts, just gets stranger when Chet ropes a tormented soul that looks an awful lot like a steer, and comes to a head when he faces down the Devil himself (not to mention a couple Archdukes of Hell).

So, yeah, that’s the novel in a nutshell. Come back Wednesday and I’ll tell you how a fantastic roleplaying game combined with my love of pulp fiction and novel titles that are also puns to create this monument to rock’em sock’em Western adventure with a paranormal twist.