Best of the West

I’m working on a booklet to give away – a semi-exhaustive list of everything Western (books, movies, TV shows). Here’s a taste.


Top 10 Western TV Shows:

  1. Gunsmoke – Marshal Matt Dillon keeps order in Dodge. Stars: James Arness, Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone
  2. The Rifleman – A rancher and his son, plus a customized Winchester rifle. Stars: Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford, Paul Fix
  3. Rawhide – The crew of a cattle drive run into adventures every week. Stars: Paul Brinegar, Clint Eastwood, Steve Raines
  4. Bonanza – The adventures of a rancher and his three sons. Stars: Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Dan Blocker
  5. Maverick – A gambling family travels around, looking for card games and adventure. Stars: James Garner, Jack Kelly, Roger Moore
  6. Wagon Train – The adventures of a wagon train on the way to California. Stars: Frank McGrath, Terry Wilson, Robert Horton
  7. Have Gun, Will Travel – The adventures of a gentlemanly gunman for hire. Stars: Richard Boone, Kam Tong, Hal Needham
  8. The Big Valley – The adventures of the Barkley family. Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Long, Lee Majors
  9. Cheyenne – He roams the west, looking for adventure. Stars: Clint Walker, Clyde Howdy, Chuck Hicks
  10. The High Chaparral – The adventures of the Cannon family. Stars: Leif Erickson, Cameron Mitchell, Henry Darrow

Social Media 101: Instagram and Pinterest

These two are the visual social media platforms – you post photos instead of just text. Here are some tips and tricks for writers:


  • Send your book with traveling friends and have them post photos
  • Follow bloggers who review books and fellow authors
  • Snap photos of what you’re reading
  • Snap photos of what you’re writing
  • According to Socialbakers, “the top brands on Instagram have a post engagement rate 47% higher than on Twitter.”


  • Add the “pin it” button to your browser
  • Make an “If you like ___ you’ll like my book” board (covers of similar titles)
  • Make “People and Places” board for people who look like your characters and places your characters would have visited or lived in
  • Make a board for cover art and behind the scenes images
  • Make Lives of Your Characters boards – what they’d wear, eat, visit, etc.
  • Make a quotes board: reading, writing, books, authors, whatever you like
  • Make a visual writing prompt board with provocative photos
  • Pin images and add quotes from your books
  • Make a Best bookstores or libraries board
  • Data shows that since 2011, “the number of Pinterest users going from the platform to a website has multiplied seven times, far outstripping Twitter and others.”

Social Media 101: Twitter

Here’s some more information from the Western Fictioneers Conference:

  • Type into the search function words with hash tags #amreading or #GoodReads
  • Follow other authors and organizations
  • See who other Tweeps are following or who is following them
  • Show some personality
  • Followers want content that is credible, intelligent, and valuable.
  • Don’t use up your entire 140 characters – leave room for re-tweeters
  • #ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) on recycled posts
  • More than 70% of re-tweeted content is about news, and more than 50% of re-tweeted content is either instructional or entertainment-related.
  • Using the words “Please Re-Tweet” will generate 4 times more re-tweets.
  • You’re more likely to get re-tweets on the weekend
  • Use no more than two hash tags (#) to avoid clutter.
  • 5/5/5 Rule – 5 minutes responding, 5 minutes searching, 5 minutes tweeting
  • Pay with a Tweet – readers can download a freebie if they tweet about it. Costs minimal amount per tweet.
  • Schedule tweets at different times for followers in different time zones
  • Use Followerwonk to find optimal posting time tailored to your audience
  • Create a tweet that promotes one of your books, preferably with an image attached and then pin the tweet to the top of your feed. Doing this will help other authors find your book tweet to promote. Also, when people check out your profile, the first thing they see will be your book tweet, which again will help build awareness


More from the Hillerman Conference

Tips on Writing a Book that Sells – Anne Hillerman, Hampton Sides, Paul Rhetts, Katy Hershberger

What is a “promotable” author?

Hampton: Writers want people to buy their books – the reading part is secondary.

Anne: People are fascinated with authors. They love having contact with someone who has written a book. Part of being an author is making the time to go out and talk to people.

Katy: It’s about enthusiasm. Be up for doing those tours and signings.

What else can authors do to promote themselves?

Anne: I think you really have to have a good website. People love videos, too. Facebook has been a really good marketing tool, and I try to answer my emails – you can’t really tell if those things translate into sales, but it makes me feel good.

Hampton: I was told to interview myself. Try to anticipate the sorts of questions you’ll be asked during an interview. It’s a cheat sheet. Also, come up with some sort of individual book tour based on your audience. Take control and go where your readers are.

Paul: I think authors need to have a long-term view. It’s a long-term relationship with your readers and your publishers. It’s not a matter of money. One of the things authors can do for themselves is to build a list of potential readers as soon as they start writing. Keep adding to it as you go along. Facebook is a great way to keep your name and book in front of the audience.

Katy: publishers are looking for authors who think of this as a career.

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Katie Hershberger, Hampton Sides, Paul Rhetts, Anne Hillerman

Is success really 50% writing and 50% promotion?

Paul: speaking as a publisher, it’s more 5% writing and 95% promotion!

Hampton: Promotion is really important, but you have to do it smartly and in your own individual style. I think of myself as the biggest champion of my story.

Anne: After my first book tour, I thought I’d relax and get started on the next book. Then, there’s an email from a book club or a library … you’re always promoting. Promotion is kind of fun. And people give you ideas … not always the ones you want…

Hampton: Don’t promote your book before it’s written! Writing is like a pressure cooker – a lot of writers talk their book out. If you let out the steam gradually, it never builds up the pressure needed to write the book.

Paul. The “Field of Dreams” Theory of Writing does not work! Promotion is everything you do beyond the keyboard. You can write the best book ever, but if nobody sees it, does it really exist?

What do you wish you’d known about publishing before you got into it?

Hampton: When I was in my twenties, I had a lot of affectations … Southern writers drink a certain type of bourbon, smoke a certain type of pipe, etc. I went through a five year period of trying on clothes. You’ve got to be original and find your own voice. Don’t be over-impressed by any tradition you think you’re part of.

Anne: I was surprised by how many more people paid attention to me once I started writing fiction instead of nonfiction. I was amazed at the tsunami of build-up interest that Dad’s work had generated. I think it kind of freaked me out.

Paul: I wrote my first book in 1972. I thought my job was done the minute the manuscript was turned into a book. Boy, did I not understand anything – distribution, returns, bookstores, shelf life, turnover – the whole thing! I wish I’d known more about the trade side, the business side of writing.

What final piece of advice would you give?

Anne: I would say, basically, that people out there are your friends. Everyone wants you to succeed. I had never done much public speaking before, and that’s one thing you’re going to need if you’re going to promote your book. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Hampton: It’s communication coming full circle – it’s more like me getting feedback and completing the loop, incorporating that into the larger picture of my whole career. I get to know my audience … they’re seventy-plus-year-old women looking for masculine-sounding books to give their husbands for Christmas or birthdays!

Paul: There are three ways of having success in writing – you can buy success, you can get lucky, or (and this is really the only one that counts) you can create a compelling product. Be the best storyteller you can be. Hone your craft. And practice, practice, practice your pitch! Learn how to tell your story in a capsule – a fumbled pitch is one of the death knells.

Katy: Things you can do before you have an agent or publisher – connect with other writers, libraries, etc. Have a website and an online presence.

Paul: Being able to tell an agent or publisher “I’ve got a plan” … you’ve got me hooked!

Hillerman Convention: Day 2

Here are some of the highlights of today’s convention:

Claim It, Rename It, or Throw It Out – Steve Brewer

“Your manuscript is not ready – go look at it some more. You owe it to your agent, your editor and your future self.”

“We’re all in love with our books while we’re writing them.”

“Come in late and get out early – all we really want is the drama in the middle.”

“Everything you write teaches you something.”

“If you’ve written the best book you can write, roll the dice. Try to get an agent and sell it in New York.”

“It’s a typical newbie mistake to think of writing a trilogy or a series – just write one freaking book!”

“Write what you want to write, what you’d like to read.”

“Are you eager to start the next book? You’re probably a writer.”

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C.A.R.V.E. Your Platform to Snag Agents, Publishers and Readers – Bill O’Hanlon

You have three audiences: the agent, the publisher and the reader.

C = channels. How many places can you get the word out?

  • social media connections
  • blog views, readers and subscribers
  • podcast listeners and subscribers
  • email list open and click-through rates
  • media appearances and interviews
  • public speaking
  • partners
  • where your book’s audience hangs out or pays attention

A = accomplishments.

  • previous publications and sales
  • previous media experience
  • previous public speaking experience
  • academic degrees or positions
  • awards
  • life accomplishments
  • partners

R = relationships.

  • within the publishing industry
  • other authors, agents or editors
  • well-known people for blurbs
  • people with large followings for getting the word out
  • co-authors
  • media people and podcasters

V = visibility.

  • regular activities to get your book or yourself seen or heard about
  • website visitors
  • social media followers and connections
  • media appearances
  • reviews and bestseller lists

E = evidence. Keep everything to prove your claims.

  • take screenshots of Amazon ratings or email lists or followers
  • collect records of appearances
  • scans or photocopies of reviews
  • keep programs from your speaking engagements
  • keep previous publications, magazine covers, etc.
  • no lying or exaggerating!


Hillerman Convention: Day 1

Thursday is the Pre-Converence Conference. Today we learned The Anatomy of Engaging Stories (Bill O’Hanlon)



Elements of an Engaging Story:

  • Characters – must engage the reader; the reader must identify with the character in some way. Create a mental image of the character with names, appearance, gestures, dialogue, and what other characters say or think.
  • Specific sensory details about people, places or actions – use the five senses!
  • Action (Plot: beginnings, middles and ends) – the character must be frustrated or threatened or face conflict somehow, must feel called to act or thwarted in his action.
  • Scene setting – props and sets; think more Little Theater than Hollywood – go for minimal props and setting (place/time/social)
  • Dialogue – bring the reader into the moment
  • Vague enough to allow for imagination (let the reader “hallucinate” much of the description)
  • Repetition of sounds/theme/elements
  • Revisiting the beginning at the end (story arc)

Elmore Leonard used the term “hoppetedoodle” (HOP-tee-doo-dle) to mean too much descriptive detail in a story.

We also had a great lecture about “The Language of Liars,” which is going to be quite useful to me with Chance! Then, it was Tony Hillerman’s 90th birthday party (with cake!), and a chance to see the new educational portal UNM is working on, to take Tony’s legacy to schools and educate young writers.

Western Fictioneers Convention 2015

Here are some shots from the convention. We all had a great time, and it was a real pleasure to meet all of my online writing buddies!

Our bookstore

Our bookstore

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Badge and Laptop

Badge and Laptop

Backdrop #1

Backdrop #1

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Table decor for Friday night

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Table decor for Friday night, part 2

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Dinner and a show!

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Our intrepid leader

Backdrop #2

Backdrop #2

Table decorations for Saturday

Table decorations for Saturday

Western Fictioneers Convention: What I Learned

Here are some of the gems of wisdom from the convention.



From the Living Legends panel:


“Write every single day. It doesn’t matter how you feel or what’s happening. You’ve got to do it all the time.

~Bob Randisi

“I get up in the morning and take the dog out for a necessary poop. Around lunchtime, I take him for a recreational poop. In the evening, I take him for a courtesy poop. In between poops, I’m writing.”

~Dick Vaughan

“I don’t have a dog…”

~Dusty Richards

“It’s a great and wonderful gift. I do a lot of my work with my eyes closed, before I get out of bed.”

~Frank Roderus

“I know I’ve been writing when I get to a break and can’t remember what music I was listening to.”

~Dusty Richards

“I don’t think there’s a lot of what we do that can be learned … it just comes naturally. I’ve listened to dialogue all my life so it’s easy for me.”

~Bob Randisi

“I was supposed to be a professional football player…”

~Dick Vaughan

“I get brain dead on one book after a chapter or two … switch to a new book with new characters and it’s fresh again.”

~Frank Roderus

“I’m a real estate agent for books.”

Agent Cherry Weiner