WANTED: DEAD OR REVIVED

My latest novel, written under my Western pen-name is a departure from my normal style. This is a steampunk-weird western.

As the Civil War rages, Confederate Army surgeon Oscar Chamberlain uses his years of research to invent his Regen formula—a medicine so powerful it can promote healing at unheard-of speed. With this incredible discovery, he will revolutionize medicine, and hopes for the ultimate victory by the Confederacy.
But when a crude and tainted sample of his formula falls into the wrong hands, a devastating plague, more virulent than any other contagion known to mankind, is released. It spreads like wildfire, afflicting both armies, leading to cessation of hostilities between the North and the South in what becomes known as The Great Stalemate. 

With Chamberlain being blamed for the Revenant Plague, both President Andrew Johnson and President Jefferson Davis agree that he must be found and brought to justice.  Somehow, a cure must be discovered—or the entire country will become infested with the walking dead. In desperation, they turn to a medium and a ghost catcher to lead them to the man who is WANTED: DEAD OR REVIVED…

WESTERN BUNDLES

I am pleased to say that there are a couple of Western bundles with  Clay More stories in them. Clay More is the western pen-name of Keith Souter, who is also sometimes known as Keith Moray.

The first is WESTERN ROUNDUP, a bundle from High Noon Press, which includes the short story DEAD IN THE SADDLE, the first Doc Marcus Quigley story. 


Doctor Marcus Quigley, qualified dental surgeon, gambler and sometime bounty hunter has gradually been working his way west. His reasons for choosing such a lifestyle are personal and pressing, as well as expedient, for there is someone he means to track down and hold to account for a murder committed some years previously.

In DEAD IN THE SADDLE Doc Marcus Quigley has set up a temporary consulting room in Hagsville. He has just pulled the tooth of one of the town’s loafers when Jordan Parker, the town banker falls dead from his horse in the middle of the main street. When Sheriff Dan Morgan asks him to examine the body Marcus discovers some strange things that to a trail of death and duplicity and which put him right into the jaws of danger.

And just look at the other writers!

******
The second ebook collection is published by Western Fictioneers Library. It is called SIX GUNS: SIX CLASSIC WESTERN NOVELS. My novel is STAMPEDE AT RATTLESNAKE PASS.
Six classic Western novels. The good old shoot-’em-up westerns are still around, and this collection has six by the masters of the genre. 

William M. “Bill” Tilghman had one of the most illustrious careers of any Old West lawman, but he faced perhaps his greatest and most dangerous challenge when he rode alone into the wild Oklahoma Territory settlement of Burnt Creek on the trail of a gang of rustlers and outlaws with some unexpected allies . . . THE LAWMAN, by New York Times bestselling author James Reasoner, is the first novel in the West of the Big River series. 

In Frank Roderus’ HOME TO TEXAS, Charlie McMurty brought a herd north, got a great price, and had enough left over once he repaid his neighbors to buy a ranch so he could ask for the hand of his sweetheart. Unfortunately, on the way back to Texas he was robbed and left for dead. To make matters worse one of his attackers was his friend he’d hired to help him with the herd. All he had left was a big debt back home and a big hole in his chest. His new quest became the need to be able to return his neighbor’s money. First he had to heal and learn some fancy shooting. 

Violence stole young Ben Brand’s family from him, but blessed with uncanny speed and skill with a gun and befriended by an old mountain man, Ben sets out on a bloody quest for vengeance. As he tracks his enemies over the years and the miles, Ben battles men and the elements—and risks his own soul—to become the avenging nemesis known as Iron Heart! Long out of print and originally published under the pseudonym Walt Denver, IRON HEART is a classic Western from Jory Sherman. 

Veteran author Clay More spins a fast-paced Western adventure in STAMPEDE AT RATTLESNAKE PASS. With her father murdered and her brother crippled by bushwhackers, half her herd stolen and her crew massacred by vicious rustlers, beautiful blond Elly Horrocks is going to have her hands full keeping the family ranch going. Luckily for Elly, drifting cowpoke Jake Scudder has a nose for trouble. It’ll take all of Scudder’s skill with guns and fists to save himself and keep Elly from being wiped out. Diamondbacks aren’t the deadliest varmints in Rattlesnake Pass anymore! 

Some men deserved to die like rabid animals. In FAST HAND the Thornberrys and their worthless cousin counted among those the world would be better off without. Judge Sebastian Hand sentences the Thornberry gang to the gallows for rape and murder. But when they escape, the judge trades in his gavel for a gun, and suddenly he’s judge, jury, and executioner all in one. Karl Lassiter is the pen name of a prolific author who also writes under the pen name Jackson Lowry. 

James J. Griffin’s famous character Texas Ranger Jim Blawcyzk isn’t really working for the Rangers this time. In fact, he winds up on the wrong side of the law with the Rangers after him, because he takes off his badge and goes after the gang that attacked and possibly murdered his wife and son. As a result, RANGER’S REVENGE is a little grittier than Griffin’s earlier books, but it has the same fine action scenes, interesting settings, and welcome touches of humor.

NINE DEADLY LIVES

Goodness, where does the time go? I have been so busy with various books and writing projects that this poor old blog has been rather neglected.

So in the next few posts I’ll focus on some of my upcoming work.  First up, a cat-based mystery story in a great new anthology. My story is written under my western pen-name of Clay More.


MISSING LYNX

It is 1926 and the world mourns silent movie heart-throb Rudolph Valentino who has suddenly and tragically died at the age of thirty-one. His secret lover, the movie star Kay du Maurier is bereft, but must keep her secret hidden from the world and especially from her husband, the famous adventurer and big game hunter, Colonel Fenton Carlyle. Rudolph’s death is only the first in a series of tragedies in this supernatural feline murder mystery tale from the silent movie era.

Rudolph Valentino
I have always been fascinated by the silent movie era and the idea just came to me when thinking about Lily, my little writing buddy who died a couple of years ago, but who still seems to be around when I write! It is loosely woven around the great Valentino and Clara Bow, the original It girl.  (She had starred in the 1927 romantic comedy It.)


It appears in an anthology of feline mystery tales by some great writers: Livia J Washburn, Bill Crider, Cheryl Pearson, Deborah Macgillivray, Angela Crider, C A Jamieson, Molie Hunt, Isabella Norse, Rochella Spencer, Mariah Lynne, Brandy Herr, Faye Rapoport DesPres  and myself, Clay More.

From magic to murder, from felines to faeries, the authors of NINE DEADLY LIVES spin thirteen tales featuring those sometimes aloof and occasionally dangerous but always adorable creatures we know and love as cats! Whether it’s mystery, fantasy, historical, or romance, these cat tales provide plenty of entertainment and thrills! 

It will soon be available both as an ebook and in paperback, published by Fire Star Press.

NINE DEADLY LIVES

FRONTIER DOCTOR a TV show from the 50s, starring REX ALLEN

As you may know I write the character of Doctor Logan Munro of Wolf Creek. He is the town doctor in the Wolf Creek series of novels, written under the house name of Ford Fargo, published by Western Fictioneers.

I am interested in everything to do with medicine as it was practiced back in the Old West. I was particularly keen to get hold of a DVD of FRONTIER DOCTOR, about the adventures of a small town doctor in Arizona set in  the 1880s. It is the collection of 39 half-hour episodes of a TV show featuring Rex Allen, originally broadcast in 1956-57.

It is good fun and typical of the Westerns of the day. It certainly took me back to those glorious times when Westerns were supreme.

The Frontier Doctor is a combination of medicine and adventure, about Dr Bill Baxter.  And with each episode only a half-hour long they are a good stimulus for a writer of westerns. The stories all have pretty decent plots, too.

Rex Allen (1920-199) was a an American actor, singer and songwriter. He gained fame as the Arizona Cowboy and as The Voice of the West.  One of his biggest hits was “Don’t Go Near the Indians.’ In his later career he narrated over 8 Disney movies.

In 1975 he gained his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

My novel about Dr George Goodfellow, the Tombstone doctor known as the surgeon to the gunfighters, published by Westrn Fictioneers Library in the West of the big River series.

And if you like dipping into shorter works, rather like the Frontier Doctor series with Rex Allen, my linked collection of short stories Adventures from the Casebook of Dr  Marcus Quigley is available, published by High Noon Press.

Both books are available in print or ebook.

I HAVE BEEN BUSY LATELY

It has been a while since my last post. In part it has been because I was over in the USA driving route 66, and in part because I have been busy on the keyboard. As a result there are a few works coming out now.

ADVENTURES FROM THE CASEBOOK OF DR MARCUS QUIGLEY 

The collected short stories is out now published by High Noon Press.

Doctor Marcus Quigley, qualified dental surgeon, gambler and sometime bounty hunter has gradually been working his way west. His reasons for choosing such a lifestyle are personal and pressing, as well as expedient, for there is someone he means to track down and hold to account for a murder committed some years previously.

It is actually the featured paperback on Helping Hands Press this week. Check the link:

HELPING HANDS PRESS

THE HEAT OF BATTLE

 A while back Jeremy Jones came up with the idea of getting a bunch of writers together to pen some boxing tales for an anthology, the profits of which were to go to help a writer-in-need. He was so successful in getting authors to write stories that he was able to produce two anthologies.

My story, The Heat of Battle starts during the Korean War and ends up in the old boxing booths of England.



Fight Card Presents: Battling Mahoney & Other Stories is the second in a series of charity anthologies from the Fight Card authors’ cooperative – a writers’ community featuring many of today’s finest fictioneers, including James Reasoner, Loren D. Estleman, Len Levinson, James Hopwood, Mark Finn, Jeremy L. C. Jones, Michael Zimmer, Marc Cameron, Nik Morton, Marsha Ward, Clay More, Chuck Tyrell, Bowie V. Ibarra, Art Bowshire, and featuring an extensive essay, On Boxing, by Willis Gordon. 

Compiled by Paul Bishop and Jeremy L. C. Jones, 100% of the proceeds from these anthologies go directly to an author-in-need or a literacy charity. Words on paper are the life blood of a writer. The writers in this volume were willing to bleed in order to give a transfusion to one of their own – and then continue to bleed to give a transfusion to literacy charities in support of that most precious of commodities…readers. They are true fighters, every one…


WELLS FARGO EXPRESS


Another collection of short stories written under the collective house name of Remington Colt. 


Best-Selling authors Murray Pura, Jen Cudmore, Clay More, James J. Griffin and Clay Dolan bring to you the adventures of Wells Fargo agents Remington Holt and his assistant Amos Drewery. 
Are they who and what they appear or are they that and much more? 
Take the high octane ride with the Wells Fargo agents as they solve the big mystery that awaits them. 


WESTERN TALES VOL 7

My story redemption Trail is one of five stories in this anthology from Western Trail Blazers.


Sam Gibson used to be a lawman, until the day he made a terrible mistake that could never be taken back. Since then, he has alternated between wishing there were a way he could redeem himself and believing he deserved punishment. 

He’s about to get both… 


THE DOCTOR

My novel about Dr George Goodfellow, the surgeon to the gunfighters, one of the most remarkable doctors of the 19th century.


West of the Big River, published by Western Fictioneers is a stand-alone series that can be read in any order. In Tombstone, Arizona Territory, the town too tough to die, Dr. George Goodfellow is known as the Surgeon to the Gunfighters. Friends with the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday, his services as a doctor are needed in the aftermath of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but Goodfellow is handy with a gun and his fists, too, and he needs those skills to survive when he’s stalked by a crazed miner and has to untangle a deadly murder mystery! 


And coming out at the end of August from Robert Hale….


DRY GULCH REVENGE


Fate handed Hank Hawkins the opportunity of achieving his ambition of buying a ranch, and all he has to do to make it happen is to make it easy for a gang to rob the stage in Devil’s Bones Canyon. Hank soon realizes, however, that the robbers never had any intention of leaving anyone alive and had planned a dry gulching. He survives but regains consciousness back in Hastings Fork, he vows to track down the murderers who betrayed him and have his revenge. But, when he sets off, he finds he has a companion – Helen Curtis, the fiancee of the messenger whose death lies on his conscience. Hank has many things to figure out, such as why there was one body missing and things are about to get even more complicated with the threat of death for both of them never far away.

There are also a couple of stories in upcoming anthologies, but more on that in a later post.

SPRINGY CHICKEN AND THE ART OF WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING PICTURE BOOKS FOR CHILDREN



By Isabel Atherton
Illustrated by Bethany Straker
It is a pleasure to have a successful children’s book team with us, in the persons of author Isabel Atherton (who also happens to be my literary agent-extraordinnaire) and illustrator Bethany Straker. 
A few months ago we talked to them after the publication of their adult picture book, ZOMBIE CAT, which has gone on to develop cult status. Now they have followed their success up with a string of children’s books.

We’ll talk about a few of them. First up we have SMELLY GHOST.


In Spooky Town, there live many ghosts, ghouls, skeletons, and scary creatures. However, none of these creepy characters wants to play with a particular ghost—Smelly Ghost. The reason is simple: Smelly Ghost only consumes frightening junk food. He devours bone chips, chocolate toes, and eyeball pizza. Sadly, these foods make his tummy growl and yell—keeping everyone far, far away. Devastated, Smelly Ghost wonders why no one wants to be his friend.
The story is exciting and has a message.


The West Uist Chronicle gives this book an unreserved ***** rating. So too, did my granddaughter, which is quite an accolade in itself.
So now, here are the creators to tell us about themselves and about their collaboration.
Welcome, ladies.
Isabel, tell us a little about yourself and your background.


 Isabel Atherton

Hello Keith! Thanks so much for inviting us to talk about our work. A little bit about myself – well, I’ve been in publishing for nearly a decade. I’ve been running my own agency Creative Authors Ltd (www.creativeauthors.co.uk) for over six years. I relocated to New York City last year and live in a 188 year old apartment in the Village, which I feel I am always cleaning. I also have a little black pug called, Rosie, who sleeps on me as I work. I thoroughly enjoy exploring the city with her. Being in NYC has been brilliant for the agency and my clients, who are based all over the world.
Bethany, give us the lowdown on yourself.


 Bethany Straker

Hi Keith! Thanks for having us! I’m an illustrator based in deepest Kentish countryside, and I’ve worked on a range of materials from picture books to magazines. I mostly work with humorous subject matters as I think my main style fits best with that and I like making people laugh. I do have a softer side though, and have worked with the talented author, Rose Mannering, on a sweet watercolour picture book called ‘The Spotty Dotty Daffodil’. I’ve also worked with the wonderful writer Kate Ormand on a picture book about recycling, called ‘Pierre the French Bulldog Recycles,’ so both of those have a more serious theme. Teaching children is an important part of my work, and I’ve worked with the super brainy James Duffett-Smith on space themed books, notably an educational book about planets called ‘Stella and Steve Travel Through Space.’ I have also written my own stories which are due to be published soon.
Their second book was SPRINGY CHICKEN. It too is funny, witty and beautifully illustrated. Again, it is a ***** rating from us.


Martha’s the tallest chicken on the farm—and it’s not because she hit a growth spurt. Unfortunately, instead of normal chicken legs to hold her up, Martha’s legs are two giant yellow springs. After a run-in with a nasty fox, the farmer does the best he can to fix poor Martha, but it just isn’t the same. Now, she’s too tall to fit inside the chicken coop like all the other hens, her eggs are always smashed and scrambled since she’s so high off the ground, and it’s difficult to maneuver such big legs without stepping on a few toes and ruffling some feathers. But when the fox comes back, can Martha and her spring-legs muster the courage to save the day? Will that be enough for the brood to welcome her back?

Isabel, where do you get your ideas from? And can you give us an insight into how you write your books?
I was actually having lunch two years ago with our editor at Sky Pony and she mentioned she really wanted a book about a chicken. I said to her I would give writing a script a whirl. There were two drafts from memory. One was quite sentimental and the other one (the one we ended up running with) was incredibly quirky. What I described to Beth as a chicken sort of meets Edward Scissorhands. Beth, who was on honeymoon at the time, (she is an incredibly hardworking writer and illustrator) came back and said she preferred the more quirky one. So we went with a chicken with springs for legs! I’ll always talk to the illustrator to hear their thoughts. It really is a 100% collaboration. Beth is simply awesome to work with – she totally gets my sense of humour.
Bethany, these illustrations are spectacular. How did you go about deciding how to illustrate your books? And can you give us a typical day for you?
Thanks Keith, that’s very kind! I think ‘Springy Chicken’ is amongst my strongest work. I find that as time has gone on I have grown in confidence and that has reflected in my work. My illustrations start off with a lot of talking to the author. Isabel and I are a great team, and we often have a huge amount of excitable chatter before we begin work on the illustrations! Isabel will tell me her vision for the characters, and the type of mood she would like to get across. Then I submit some character sketches to her, and we tweak until we are happy.
A typical day for me starts quite early. I like to have a good breakfast with my husband before he goes to work, and then I feed the dog and rabbit and get myself settled. I find it harder to work when the place is untidy, so normally I’m tinkering around the house before starting. Then I’ll put some music on, probably sing along very loudly and start on a spread. I’ll do a few thumbnails first, but not too many as I find my best work is spontaneous. Then I’ll start scribbling.
And coming up in September is RUBY MOO’S DEEP-SEA ADVENTURE. This looks like a real fun adventure.
Ruby Moo has always been different from the other cows. She isn’t content making yogurt, milk, and cheese on the dairy farm. Ruby wants to be an astronaut, an explorer, and, more than anything, she wants to be the first cow deep-sea diver. So one day, brave Ruby Moo stows away on a van and rides it all the way to the ocean. Borrowing a helmet, she dives right into the water and discovers an exciting shipwreck along with a scary, giant squid! Thankfully, the squid is only looking for a chess partner—and maybe someone to play with on his trampoline. Phew!
Isabel, what else have you got in the pipeline? Do you have any plans for a further adult picture book? Is Zombie Cat going to rise again?
Good question, Keith! I am asked this often. Zombie Cat may well rise again at some point in the future. I think, at present, I really want to carry focusing on building Creative Authors Ltd in New York. I’ve been getting some wonderful deals in for my clients and want to continue building both the UK & US side of the agency.

Bethany, what else are you working on?
I’ve just finished work on an adult picture book, called ‘Why Am I Scared of Everything?’ which I wrote and illustrated. Anxiety is something that’s close to my heart, having suffered from it myself. I wanted to create a book that addresses it, but makes the reader laugh in recognition and hopefully find some reassurance in the pages. There are inspiring quotes to contrast the character’s suffering, and to remind us that some things can be overcome.
I am also awaiting the release of several new books, including a second that I’ve written, this time for children, called ‘The Funny Bunny Fly.’ This one concerns a weird little creature who spreads illness by swimming around in dog poo. It’s a cautionary tale about washing your hands!
At the moment, I’m working on a knock-knock jokebook for Skyhorse, and a new pitch with Rose Mannering, which we are very excited about. I also tried my hand at illustrating a great new humorous history book, called ‘Faux Figures: Legends, Fakes, and Phonies Who Changed History’ by Brianna DuMont. So I’m pretty busy at the moment.
Ladies, it has been a pleasure. We wish you the greatest of success with Zombie Cat – and will be looking out for your next work.
Thanks so much, Keith!! Isy
Thanks Keith! Beth

REDEMPTION TRAIL

My alter ego Clay More has a new Western ebook novella out on Kindle, published by Western Trail Blazer.

 In a nutshell:

Sam Gibson used to be a lawman, until the day he made a terrible mistake that could never be taken back. Since then, he has alternated between wishing there were a way he could redeem himself and believing he deserved punishment. 

He’s about to get both… 


It is 18k in length, about 61 pages, so one or two sittings worth of reading. 

And here is an extract:

Chapter 1
There were some days when Sam Gibson didn’t feel any guilt at all.
But those days were few and far between. Most days he felt chewed up inside and so full of self-loathing that he couldn’t bear to catch sight of himself in a mirror or see his reflection in a window. Yet he still had enough pride to keep himself clean, and not let his beard stubble grow too far. On shaving days he had learned the trick of imagining himself to be two people. He was both barber and customer, and if he, the barber, didn’t cotton to the customer, well, he’d just nick his face a little. That was why he generally added a cut or two to the other small healing scabs on any shave day.
“Are you coming inside for a beer, or something, mister?”
He stopped walking along the boardwalk and looked down at the young red-haired kid with a freckly face and a wide grin who was sitting on the chair beside the batwing doors of the Gold Nugget Saloon.
“No, son. I have no taste for beer or anything else that a saloon has to offer.”
“There are a lot of friendly folk in here. It’s the friendliest saloon in town, you betcha. Friendliest bartenders and the friendliest and prettiest girls in the whole of –”
“I guess you must be on commission. But the answer is still no. I’m just passing through town and minding my own business.”
“Can you shoot that gun?”
Sam’s hand unconsciously twitched. He swallowed as that familiar lump came to his throat. “Yeah, I can shoot. But like I said, I’m just minding my own business. It’s something that I practice a lot, just so that I can stay out of trouble. You might think about that, son.”
“Oh, don’t mind me. I like to talk, mister, that’s all. And I like to watch folks.”
Sam reached into his vest pocket and tossed a coin at the youngster. “That’s for your trouble. Just point me in the direction of a good eating-house. Not a saloon, just somewhere I can get food and coffee. And then a store where I can get tobacco and stuff.”
The boy had caught the coin and secreted it away in a pocket as quickly as any cardsharp could stow an extra card up his sleeve. “You want Ma Brady’s place, just past the bank. Then come back this way and go down Second Street and you’ll find Kincaid’s Emporium on the corner with Carson Street. That’s the best general store in town”
Sam tipped his hat and walked on along the boardwalk. He was starting to feel cross with himself again and that lump in his throat made him all too aware that the kid had touched several raw nerves and brought those memories that were never far from the surface back to haunt him.
He had thought of stopping wearing a gun, just as he had stopped drinking. That had been hard enough, owing to the fact that whiskey numbed his mind some. At least until he sobered up, when the self-disgust would kick in along with the nausea and the thundering headache that he always used to get.

But the worst thing was the kid himself. He had looked a lot like the youngster he had shot dead.


THE BEE LIBRARY

I was at the National Sculpture Park at West Bretton last week, walking along the trail above the upper lake. As you walk you have the opportunity to see a great piece of outside sculpture, which is functional and which is part of a global mission, to save the solitary bees.

The bee library comprises a collection of 24 bee-related books selected by artist and poet Alec Finlay. Once read, each book was made into a nest for solitary bees. The library of these books hang from branches of trees in the woodland walk around the lake. They have been there since 2012, surviving the ravages of the wind, rain and snow – and the bleaching effect of the sun.

Each nest consists of a cluster of bamboo canes, each with a roof made from a book.

A loose leaf from the bee library!

The bluebells are out at the moment and it is a bit like walking in The Shire! You have the feeling that there may be hobbits watching you.

The bee library at the National Sculpture Park is part of a larger project to amass a hundred books over five locations, evolving into a global bee library.

For more about Alec Finlay and his bee-inspired poems, visit the-bee-bole.com

The Bee Poems are a collection of found and collaged texts derived from the books that make up The Bee Libraries. The books are converted into nests for solitary bees and a residue of their content is refined into poetry, much as honey is refined from nectar. The poems derive from classic studies from Virgil to Von Frisch, apiculture, scientific studies of bee behaviour and representations of bees and beekeeping in myth and art from ancient times to the present day. The project is ongoing, published as a series of short blogs.

And at the heart of this is the solitary bee, whose numbers are in sharp decline.

Keith Souter