Monday, June 7, 2010

Novel as Memoir by Stephen Bly

Last month, Western writer Stephen Bly visited on a Fortifying Friday to share his journey to publication story. For June, he's back with Manuscript Monday visits on craft. We're excited to host him. Even if you don't write in his genre, I know you'll find some useful nuggets. Enjoy!

Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon/Novel As Memoir
By Stephen Bly
Copyright©2010

The Matador Hotel died on July 5th, 1965, but they didn’t bother burying it until last fall.
Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon, Stephen Bly

The plot for Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon developed like homemade stew in a crockpot. A slow simmer. Then, the image of the 1950s kitchen filled with sweet aromas and sights and sounds. Hours later all the parts seemed ready.

The story grew out of fond memories from my childhood. What makes it real personal is that I was ten years old in 1954, just like the narrator. And I did hear numerous accounts about the “old days.”

It seems quite natural for me to write about a grandpa and the game of cribbage. My grandpa taught me to play when I was four years old. I played him once or twice a week until he died when I turned fifteen. In the book Pop’s name is Theodore and his wife is Katie, same as my grandparents.

My bedroom teemed with White Owl cigar boxes, my granddad’s favorite cigar. He didn’t smoke them much; mainly he chewed them. And because I lived across the road from him, I got many of his boxes. Lots of childhood treasures can be stored in a cigar box.

I did not know cowboys named Quirt, Bronc, Thad, Shorty, Coosie or Pop. But I knew men much like them. In fact, most folks called my Grandpa Wilson “Pop.” I once met an old-timer in Magdalena, New Mexico, who had been a sheriff in the 1930s. He still packed a pistol and watched the door, just in case someone he sent to prison got out and scouted him for revenge. I based my character, Quirt Payton, on him.

I don’t suppose the current generation has ever ridden in the open trunk of a car, nor let the air down in the tires to drive down a railroad track. At one point, the six cowboys in the novel, plus Miss Diane Anderson, and the boy narrator, pile into a ’49 Plymouth, without seatbelts. I could have been the poster child for the need of such safety devices. I fell out of my parents’ car, going about 55 miles per hour, in 1949. I spent ten days in the hospital nursing a major concussion.
At least one of the stories happened to me. In 1994, in Telluride, I was told by the hotel clerk I couldn’t get a room. My gruffy appearance after a week’s research in the wilds didn’t impress them. So, I drove all the way to Cortez, arriving about midnight. To say I was ticked is an understatement.

It’s like I’m right there in the room with these old-timers. Some of these scenes I do recall first-hand. I remember going to see a friend of my grandfather’s at a four-story hotel in central California in the mid-1950s. His room was carpeted with out-dated newspapers that he hadn’t gotten around to reading yet. Such images last forever.

My favorite things to do when the weather threatens and I can’t play golf: oil the saddles, clean the Winchesters, or write a novel about the Old West.

In Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon I discover that maybe I wasn’t born 100 years too late.

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Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon (hardback, Center Point) will release this month (June 2010). Available through Amazon or www.BlyBooks.com

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More about Stephen Bly:

Married to writer, Janet Chester Bly, 46 years; they’ve co-authored 18 books. Resides in northern Idaho at 4,000 ft. elev., on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. Father of 3 sons: Russell, Michael, & Aaron. The family includes daughters-in-law, Lois, Michelle & Rina Joye, plus grandkids: Zachary, Miranda (& husband Chris), and Keaton. Third-generation westerner, Steve spent 30 years working family ranches and farms in central California. His hobbies include collecting and restoring Winchesters; studying histories of Old West; doing construction on Broken Arrow Crossing, a false front western village next to his home. He also plays a par game of golf.

* authored and co-authored 102 fiction and nonfiction books,
including historical and contemporary westerns
* Christy Award winner, Westerns, 2002, The Long Trail Home
* Christy Award finalist, Westerns, 2003
* mayor of Winchester, Idaho, pop. 308 (1999-2007)
* pastor of Winchester Community Church
* speaker for men’s and writers’ groups, USA and Canada
* roving editor, Big Show Journal
* mentor, Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild
* represented by agent Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary
* Interviews and Media Kit available, http://www.blybooks.com/
* Fresno State University, CA, Philosophy, summa cum laude
* M. Div., Fuller Theological Seminary, CA, 1974

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