Second’s Chance, by Kwen D Griffeth, is about a middle-aged woman named Miriam and an enigmatic man named Reuben. By a coincidence, Miriam finds herself in the middle of a mysterious yet enchanting place amid mountains called Beaver’s Slap, Wyoming. She came as a traveler and a wanderer but destiny had something else in mind. She finds herself caught up in the attraction of not only Beaver’s Slap but also a new life that seems to be forming around her. She starts to get familiar with the surroundings and makes new friends. But what sparks her interest the most is the handsome man Reuben, whose entire past is a mystery to everyone. Under the common spark of attraction lies a story of both the character’s hidden past which brought them to an isolated location in the first place. They are both running from their past and find solace in the company of each other and the people around them.
Kwen D. Griffeth did an excellent job of keeping just the right pace in the story. With every line, I was more glued to the book than ever as there was more to know and more mystery to uncover. The writing is very powerful and you can feel the character’s every emotion and their personality as well. The scenes are set beautifully. The friendship between Evelyn and Miriam is very refreshing and so is Oliver, the owner of Happy Trappers.
The characters were very well developed, each was intriguing in their own way and felt authentic. Miriam’s character as a woman was a breath of fresh air. She has a depth and intelligence that comes out organically throughout the novel. Her character is a strong, independent woman with wit, humor, and charm. She can talk and hold an audience’s interest with ease. Reuben is written with equally engrossing style as well. Although he’s a typical form of a handsome man, he’s still enigmatic and he’s one character that I felt was consistently alluring because of it. There were some moments where the narration of the surroundings felt a bit elongated and stretched, but this did not have much impact on the overall readability of the book.
Second’s chance is a wonderful book with an amazing hook that will keep you captivated until the end. Fans of western’s that are looking for a grounded but enthralling will find plenty to love in Kwen D Griffeth’s charming novel.
Pages: 317 | ASIN: B08HPCNDVM
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Beyond the Goodnight Trail follows a former Texas Ranger who goes on a trail drive where he expects danger, but finds much more than expected. What was the inspiration for the setup to this wild western?
My love of the mythic West. The inspiration was that I really just wanted to write a good cowboy story. I have always loved westerns. My generation grew up reading Westerns, and I have always been thrilled by them. My books revolve around real-life historical characters and I do intense research.
A large factor, although I’m not so sure it was a conscious decision, is the racial makeup of my family. My son is black, as are my five grandchildren. Writing a story with identifiable characters they can relate to, I guess, was always somewhere in the back of my mind. In Beyond the Goodnight Trail, my protagonist Pete Horse is a Black Seminole, and real-life black cowboys and frontiersmen Bass Reeves, Britt Johnson and Bose Ikard play prominent roles.
I also thought following a cattle drive would be a good plot device for delivering what Western readers want in a story, and a way to cross paths with many of the amazing people from that era. Originally the book was going to be about the Chisholm Trail and the protagonist was going to be Cage Carew, the college professor turned Civil War warrior from my first novel, How Can A Man Die Better. However, once I started Beyond the Goodnight Trail, I decided the “easterner new to the wild west” story had been done to death, and that there was only so far I could go with Cage without it devolving into cliches. I wanted to stay true to the genre, while hopefully avoiding that trap.
Pete Horse, a minor character in How Can A Man Die Better, emerged as the fictional narrator of Beyond the Goodnight Trail. Pete’s backstory is that he is the brother of real-life Black Seminole hero and leader John Horse. He was a child-warrior in the 2nd Seminole War. After some more investigation, I discovered the immense role the Black Seminole had in the settling of the West, and that became the central focus of this book and the forthcoming series. The more and more I researched the Black Seminole, I found it to be an absolutely fascinating history that very few people seem to know about, or have ever written about.
Following the history of the Black Seminole, I just kept finding one great character after another that I wanted to read more about, write about, and not only tell a good story about, but inspire folks to look into these fascinating people even deeper. I knew once I had decided Pete was going to be the protagonist, I wanted to add Bass Reeves. While I was researching Bass Reeves, I discovered the incredible story of Britt Johnson. Some of the other historical characters in Beyond the Goodnight Trail are Charlie Goodnight, Bigfoot Wallace, Bose Ikard, Quanah Parker, and James Henry Carleton. So, I was researching several different historical stories at once and they slowly dove-tailed into what I thought was a pretty original, and historically detailed, story. I stayed true to the real-life experiences and personalities and each one of their respective backstories kind of guided my story to its conclusion.
I discovered Charlie’s close ties to Quanah Parker, which I did not realize went so deep. Being true to history, I could not make Quanah and Charlie adversaries. Also, researching the Goodnight trail drive, I discovered legendary gunslinger Clay Allison was actually on that drive. Of course, Clay needed added.
Even though legendary Texas Ranger Jack Hays doesn’t appear in this book, he will in later books in the series and I wanted to show his influence on Texas. The vast landscape plays an important role, the beauty and ruggedness of the Llano Estacado and the Palo Duro Canyon.
Saying all that, it’s not a hodge-podge, slap dash collection of western fables. It’s a carefully crafted and accurate historical fiction.
What were some themes that were important for you to focus on in this story?
That’s actually a pretty tough question, as I didn’t really go into it thinking in terms of literary themes. It’s about the quest, and the code of the mythic West. Individualism. Personal courage. Self-determinism. Independence and self-dependence. Traits and attributes that seem to be taking a beating in the media these days. I tried to portray the wanderlust of the cowboy, the nomadic wanderer, the “knight errant” with his own code of honor. A cowboy that is always loyal to “the brand.” One who has Integrity. Chivalry. It’s about revenge and redemption.
It was important to me that I stayed true to the genre that I grew up reading, and re-reading, and re-reading: Ralph Compton, Charles Portis, Louis L’amour, Owen Wister, Alan LeMay, Elmore Leonard. It’s somewhat of a morality tale. I wanted to give the readers exactly what readers of Westerns want. Identifiable good guys, bad guys. A sense of the land. Justice. “True Grit.” That good wins and that even if reached by a circuitous route, bad guys get their deserved fate.
There is also a theme just sort of emerged with the work. There’s an interconnectedness of the historical characters that pops up about every third paragraph. That’s how the research progressed; that’s how the story progressed. Going down those rabbit hole was great fun, even if it slowed the writing process considerably. I could get lost for days researching and reading about new people.
I wanted to show my reader that history is cool and messy and ugly and enlightening and illuminating and fascinating and ignored at our own peril.
Westerns these days seem to get very bad, and un-earned, rap as sexist, racist, whatever. However, the fact is, Westerns have always taken a leading role in addressing social issues of the day. Maybe not as “sophisticated” as these issues are allegedly addressed today in books and movies, but they often tackled, and in a very progressive way, women’s rights, racism, immigration, government corruption, war, violence. Sure, the cowboy can be cliché, but there’s nothing wrong with heroes. If people spend a few hours watching them, or reading them, with an open mind, they might be surprised.
I’ve received mostly very positive reviews, but there were a couple, from a review service, that actually criticized my Western for being…a Western. Which in itself tells me we need more Westerns. Kind of irritates me, saddens me at the same time, that apparently so many (actually only three, but it still stung) people were so unfamiliar with the traditional western theme. I stay true to the genre, but I also think it will appeal to many readers.
Pete is an interesting character with an intriguing past. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
The Black Seminole played a huge role in the adventures and settlement of the West. There were many more black, brown and red cowboys than are usually depicted. Pete is John Horse’s brother, and John led the Black Seminole from 1835 through the 1870s. Pete’s background stays pretty close to the actual tale of the Black Seminole. They did fight the U.S. Army to a standstill in the 2nd Seminole War. They were removed on the Trail of Tears. Once out West, they did face repeated slave raids by the Creeks, whites, and Comanche. They did later scout for the U.S. Army, U.S. Marshals, and Texas Rangers. They did become the U.S. 10th Cavalry that conquered the Comanche and charged up San Juan Hill in 1898.
I’ve had an interest in Black Seminole history for 40 years, but I didn’t actually create Pete to ever be a protagonist or even central character. However, Pete was persistent and as I dug deeper into Black Seminole history I realized I could use him to explore another fifty years of history of the American West. As his personal backstory grew, it really served as a great catalyst to work the other characters into the story in a natural way.
Pete has a past. He’s done some bad things in the violence-filled West. However, he’s not a conflicted, angst-ridden, guilt-filled narrator. The brooding, introspective (or moping, self-pitying and whiney, depending on your perspective) anti-hero filled with inner turmoil and doubt is sooooooo boring. So 2020. So tedious, but Pete’s not exactly the ever-virtuous Hopalong Cassady in his enormous white ten-gallon hat either. There are still things that need done, unpleasant, tough, dangerous, but he’s going to do them, because that’s what cowboys do.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on a series featuring Pete Horse and the Black Seminole. The next is actually a prequel, beginning in 1835 and covering through 1844. Teen-aged Pete is removed from Florida and forced to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears. He then becomes a scout for Jack Hays’ Texas Rangers. Right now, it’s four or five more books, just depending, that will follow the Black Seminole from the Second Seminole War through the relocation to the days of their being the U.S. 10th Cavalry “Buffalo Soldiers” that eventually conquered the Comanche in Texas. The Black Seminole 10th remained an active U.S. Army unit for many years and led the way in Teddy Roosevelt’s 1898 famous charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. I’d like to follow them that far. We’ll see. I’m still looking into the Black Seminole story between the 1870s and 1898.
I’m also nearly finished with a hard-boiled private detective novel set in 1940s Hollywood. I also plan to make that a series. Unlike now, back then there were real tough guys in the movies. There were several big stars of the time that played heroic roles in World War II. Stories that should be told. My series will focus on a different one of those guys, Jimmy Stewart, for example, in each book.
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Stone Fever: Erebus Tales Book 1 by Norman Westhoff is a captivating adventure story full of inspiring narratives! In the story, we follow Keltyn, a geologist who is exploring a now defrosted Antarctica. Keltyn is trying to find iridium around Mount Erebus, a volcano that the local Onwei tribe has predict will erupt soon! While on her mission, Keltyn makes friends with two teens from the tribe; Luz and Joaquin. While on their adventure, the trio grows, learns, and discovers the ulterior motives of a certain Oscar Bailey! Keltyn must find a way to stop Oscar before it’s too late!
Despite the hardships found within this story, Westhoff has managed to create a heartwarming tale that I could not get enough of! He touched on so many relevant topics, including colonization, global warming, and cultural diversity!
The character development was spectacular and a particular focal point of this novel. We watch Luz grow emotionally from a naïve young girl to a fierce young woman by the end of the novel. I must say, I really enjoyed Luz’s relationship with her mother in this book; it strayed away from the typical nuclear family unit.
The world-building was fantastic! Westhoff took a risk using the real-life issue of global warming as a plot device and world-building tool, but he handled it with grace and elegance. His portrayal of the issue left me with a hopeful outlook, despite it being fiction.
Westhoff’s storytelling abilities are also praiseworthy! He can keep you hooked from page one all the way to page 299; it is incredible! There was never a dull moment; wait until you get to chapter 13; you will not be able to put the book down!
The writing style also captured my attention. It’s simplicity made the story easy to follow and a joy to read. There was never a moment where I had to go back and reread a passage due to intricate text, which can be a common issue amongst indie authors. The chapters where Keltyn was narrating were my favorite!
Stone Fever: Erebus Tales Book 1 is a thrilling adventure story that touches on important topics while always entertaining the reader.
Pages: 386 | ASIN: B085YF4RWG
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Roy V. Gaston brings us a Classic Western novel based on true historical events. This compelling story follows Pete, a former Texas Ranger, in an action-filled adventure. Pete rides with his friend, Charlie, with the goal of travelling across the state bringing cargo and other riders. All the while there is a dangerous threat looming over them. That is, they need to traverse through land owned by the Comanche; a Native American tribe who are tired of seeing other Natives being used, abused, and taken from their land.
Beyond the Goodnight Trail is based on historical figures and events, and author Roy V. Gaston effectively delivers an engrossing read that feels authentic. Not only did he choose a very intriguing time to write a novel about, but he was able to capture that time cleverly. The dialogue between characters captures the dialect and slang of that period especially well, this can get tiring depending on the reader, but it shows Gaston’s skill in depicting a certain time and place. The author puts even small facts in this novel, like calling Native Americans ‘Indians’ and describing fine details of riding in the West, which helped immersion immensely. Overall, this created a fully realized atmospheric setting that was easy to fall into, though this became easier after the first quarter.
I enjoyed this novel and felt that the pace was quick overall, but I did feel that the start was a bit slow as it was filled with long descriptions of characters. But characters in a novel are arguably the most important, especially for historical-based ones, so this time is beneficial in creating engrossing characters. Beyond the Goodnight Trail performs smoothly in this section as well with an antagonist you love to hate and charming protagonists and side characters. The small biography-like sections at the end of the book were a cherry-on-top as the reader gets to see what became of these historical figures afterward.
Beyond the Goodnight Trail is an exciting adventure novel filled with interesting characters and striking settings. Readers who enjoy a good western will truly appreciate this story, but anyone looking for an entertaining read will find plenty to enjoy.
Pages: 264 | ASIN: B08KSKYZ2P
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Clementine Johanssen is Deadwood’s slayer and also doubles as the town’s undertaker. She’s responsible for burying the dead and protecting the region from paranormal creatures. When dead bodies start disappearing from graveyards, Clementine understands what she must do next. Her instinctive reaction is to attempt to get to the root of the matter and stop whoever is behind the strange events. However, another problem arises when a massive infestation of flesh-eating beasts looms in other parts of the region. Now she must decide which problem she must tackle first. Which would it be? Dead men walking or murderous mad dogs? Whatever decision she makes, she can enlist the help of the dependable trio of Hank, Jack “Rabbit” and Boone to bring an end to at least one of the evils. Or at least try to.
Can’t Ride Around It is the third part of a series that cuts across several genres, including horror and mystery. Penned by talented couple Ann Charles and Sam Lucky, it’s one of those captivating wild western tales. But this one packs an extra element of intrigue in the form of a splash of the supernatural.
Ann and Sam take us on a fast-paced, nail-biting journey of camaraderie and bravery punctuated by checkpoints of light romance. Throw these themes in alongside the breathtaking battles with scary beasts, and you have a real page-turner on your hands.
Set in the town of Deadwood, Dakota, this book has all the elements of the 19th-century Western fiction it is. From the language to the scenery described by the authors, you get a good feel of the old Wild West. Plus the authors include in tales of the Black Hill gold rush that add figments of authenticity to the book. Historical tidbits never hurt anyone.
The authors deliver the story with a sustained flurry of infectious verve that keeps you engaged all through. There are hardly any dull moments, and that’s not because the characters hack down otherworldly beasts from start to finish. It’s mostly down to the authors’ adeptness at using vivid language and riveting conversations to keep you interested.
And speaking of conversations, there’s no end to the characters’ exchange of humorous banter. You have witty remarks, cheeky comebacks and a lot of hilarious moments too. You can tell both writers would be fun people to have around from the way they write.
I also loved how the characters’ personalities didn’t get lost amidst all the freaky stuff. Rabbit’s childish playfulness jumps out, and Clementine’s tethered tenderness doesn’t go unnoticed either.
With the way 2020 has been, we all need some sort of escapism to keep on keeping on. And if you prefer to get lost in another good book, I’ll recommend this one. It’s so good that I’m giving it 5 solid stars.
Pages: 308 | ASIN: B08K5XJYCT
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Iron Dogs follows a group of outlaws who are wounded and on the run. They seek shelter in a deserted New Mexico town. However, they soon realize that something is seriously amiss in the town. Something evil lurks in the shadows. The band of outlaws, once the ones bringing the trouble to town, are now the ones who must fight against it. Each man is tested beyond his limits. Who, if any, will survive the evil that lurks within this desolate town.
Iron Dogs book mixes horror with action and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The story begins with Father Ramon, and immediately there are little tidbits that lead you deeper into an intricately woven story that continues to gain layers as the story progresses. The tone is set from the start, a blend of western thriller with modern horror. I could tell from the first page that the novel was setting a gritty and intense tone. The band of outlaws are close at first, but the challenges that lay ahead test their personal limits as well as the limits of their relationship when they must decide who will be sacrificed.
One of the characters, in particular, Virgil, reminded me of people I knew (in certain scenes) that had me feeling more invested. Especially as the book began to get creepier. One of the things that really thrilled me about this novel was the western feel that permeated the novel, reminiscent of George A. Romero’s gruesome and satirical horror films. Though Virgil was one of the characters who stood out the most to me, I enjoyed Frank’s character as well. As with any good book, the characters act the way they do because of inner motivations and characteristics, making the reader feel a connection to them. A word of warning Iron Dogs will pull you into the characters, but it takes a few chapters. They seem a bit shallow at first, but given time they develop into some intriguing characters.
Iron Dogs is one crazy good story. If you are a fan of riveting horror novels with plentiful action then Neil Chase has written a novel just for you.
Pages: 322 | ASIN: B07CV85D36
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Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a western, action, and science fiction as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
-“Blackheart Mountain” is actually a prequel to a novella I wrote last year, titled “Mercy”, which was only supposed to be a one-shot story. “Mercy” was so well received that it got me thinking about writing more for the character of Mahoney. While writing “Mercy”, it started off as simply another run of the mill post-apocalypse story that I began writing out of trying something new, since I don’t really dabble too much in either genres of westerns, science fiction, or post-apocalypseness, but as with everything I write, and I’m sure as it happens with a lot of writers, the story and the subject nature just kind of evolve on its own. About halfway through finishing the first draft of “Blackheart Mountain”, I came up with a story for a third book, to take place after “Mercy”, and just before finishing “Blackheart Mountain”, I came up with an idea for another story for Mahoney. So there will most likely be four books total for Mahoney and the world he lives in.
I understand that you have an educational background in computer engineering, automotive science and criminal justice. Has your familiarity with these subjects helped you write your books?
Actually not at all. There isn’t a shred of my formal educational background that I can say helped with my writing career. I can say that many people I met in college influenced some of the characters I’ve written about, but that’s where it ends. Most of my research for the stories I write is done on my personal time.
What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this book?
There was a lot of time and research put into Native American history, Manifestation Destiny, and the historical figures having lived during that time period. In regards to the history and the foundation of the book “Blackheart Mountain” itself, I purposely didn’t go terribly in depth with the history of how the world “fell” in my book, because how the world ended is really not what the story is about, and it would just seem like unecessary info to detract from what was going on in the story. I wanted it to remain a mystery, something for the reader to wonder about while they’re reading, as it is literally said in the beginning that the populace largely doesn’t bother itself with the history of how civilization ended so much as it does with maintaining the will and the means to survive, because they can’t find a relation to the two concepts. The going philosophy in this world is that the ability to survive has no reliance on an understanding of how humanity got to where it currently is(and in a way, that kind of mirrors today’s world). With forming the image and the history of the Tuskatawa, a tribe of survivors claiming to be the direct, albeit long and far-off ancestors of the native americans who were massacred long ago and far away, I wanted to make sure their culture was as concrete and concise as possible, from their funeral processions and how they handled their dead to their food recipes, their stance on violence, and exceptions to their own Law. In the end, I took from the behaviorisms and cultures of several different tribes, combining them into one, as at the heart of the Tuskatawa is their combined bloodlines of every tribe to have existed in the past. I picked up a half dozen books on the history of native americans and spent a decent amount of time reading just to familiarize myself with where the Tuskatawa “came from”. The title “Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain” is actually a spin on “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee”. Being that this takes place two decades before “Mercy”, the only real challenge I had was making sure nothing spoken about in “Mercy” contradicted the events that are taking place in this new novel, particularly with the main characters Rancid Mahoney and Til Drange. I’ll have the same task when writing the next book in the series.
While editing writers often have to remove things they want to keep in but just can’t for various reasons. What was the hardest scene for you to cut from this book?
I actually didn’t cut anything, but rather added a few scenes and expansions to dialogue to flesh out the character development of Mahoney a little better. Very rarely will I ever cut out material while editing, unless it’s just that awful, or during the course of writing I decided to change something about a character later on in the story that would have to be supported by something that happened earlier on. Most of the time, the first draft ends up being a pretty bland, almost point for point blueprint, more than an actual cohesive story. I use the editing phase to sort of “fill in the blanks”, and oftentimes it feels as if the first draft I wrote is a movie or a book someone else created that I’m changing to make better in my eyes.
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Sky Ranch is a riveting memoir of your life, and shows the stark contrast between city and rural life. Why was this an important book for you to write?
All my books are memoirs. SKY RANCH is about the time I lived on a ranch in Idaho. The first book, BEHIND THE SMILE DURING THE GLAMOUR YEARS OF AVIATION, is about the six years I was an international flight attendant, flying into Vietnam during the height of the war, telling about what goes on behind the scenes of an airline crew, and being captured in Cairo during the 6-day war. BLACK EMPRESS is about the 4 months I lived in Iran and rescued a black Labrador puppy and brought her back to the States. My next book, DARIEN WATERS, is about growing up in Darien, Connecticut (the good and bad of living in an upscale town near New York City). My last book will be about hitchhiking around the world twice. First for 4 months by myself. The second time for 18 months was with my former husband. We fly fished and hiked from New Zealand, to South Africa, to Scandinavia, and the British Isles. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, carrying my own pack with eleven other hikers (from Canada, Germany, and Australia. We were the only Americans). Only 6 made it to the top (my husband did not).
I appreciated the candor with which you told your story. Was there anything that was difficult for you to share?
I wasn’t sure I should have put the section in about making love to my husband while he was driving a combine through a grain field. I’m still not sure.
What is one piece of advice that you would have given yourself before you moved to Idaho?
No advice. I loved Idaho. What a beautiful state and such wonderful inhabitants. I’d go back in a minute but all my relatives live in the East. As we age, I want to be close to them.
The memoir ends around 1996. What have you been doing since then?
After I sold the Angler’s business in 1995, I ran a successful clothing store in Buhl, Idaho. Married a high school boyfriend, sold the business but kept the building (which is now leased to Edward Jones Financial Company) and moved to Tennessee. I have started a new life as an author. Never a dull moment.