Awards

Having won three awards for my High Mountain Sheriff series, while not even making it to the finals in four attempts, and currently awaiting word in four more, perhaps you can see why. I don’t have a settled opinion about awards.

As usual with writing profession questions, I ask John Nesbitt. John’s Wikipedia bio lists his awards (I think it’s a short list). I asked him this question regarding awards. You can see how his opinion really counts.

“I can’t say they have increased my sales,” he said in a conversation I am reconstructing, “but I have committed to this profession, and it is worthwhile to have the respect of my colleagues.” As usual, John does not ask more of a situation than it will give.

So, I don’t dwell on awards not given. It’s like not making the varsity. I’ll still go out for the team next year.

Here’s what’s up this year: for works published in 2022, contention for the Spur Award (Western Writers of America) and contention for the Peacemaker Award (Western Fictioneers) both for my novel, Forever Sheriff, published May 18, 2022, the third volume in the High Mountain Sheriffs trilogy (Founding Sheriff, Fugitive Sheriff, and Forever Sheriff) and contention for my short story, “Sweetwater” published October 3, 2022, in the Western Fictioneers anthology Over Western Trails.

Recognizing awards won has its place as the final note. Gratitude alone requires that I mention them. In 2014, Every Soul Is Free, (published by Pen-L Publishing) was voted Grand Prize Winner in the novel by The League of Utah Writers and awarded the Gold Quill. In 2020, the League of Utah Writers awarded Founding Sheriff (published by Five-Star Publishing) the Gold Quill, and in 2022 LUW’s Silver Quill went to Forever Sheriff (Five-Star Publishing).

I am sorry to say that Fugitive Sheriff won no awards but, ironically, it has had the greatest sales of the novels in the trilogy. Perhaps that result owes to the Covid year when Founding won; perhaps to the announced suspension of Five-Star operations three months after Forever was published. And, of course, it could have resulted from Fugitive’s theme of loyalty to family against all odds, even if polygamous. My gut tells me it had a better run of better marketing, pre-covid.

So, you win some, you lose some, and your winners don’t turn out to be your best sellers. About the only thing to do is try out for the team next year.

Life Has A Habit Of Moving On

A one-page Word.doc with the pretentious title of “Personal and Production Company Scheduling (date)” is open on my computer at all times. One of its heavy lifting burdens is to remind me of what is important as well as to give me a way to schedule my day. As a result, the third line is “Blog – every week”, and blog is bold faced for importance and every week is followed by a date for seriousness. So, my bold-faced “Blog – every week” is saying 8/5 and this is 8/26. There is a lot to account for.

Somewhere in the past couple of months, I have mentioned my plan to create a production company to turn the books into all the media forms I can sell, and my commitment to Five Star to write a book of nine short stories, three per Sheriff, to cap off, maybe continue, the High Mountain Sheriff series, and to write a new book, Rube, and finish and find a publisher for an old book, The Path Taken. I mention them all because there was so much to do that I had to create that “Personal and Production Company Scheduling” file to fight the confusion.  

Missing my 8/5 schedule for this blog did not seem like such an omission that I couldn’t easily solve it on Monday, 8/8. That is, until 8/8 rolled around and I received “A Letter to Our Five Star Authors.”

Thorndike Press has made the difficult decision to cease publication of Five Star titles, effective April 1, 2023.

Confusion rapidly boiled into discombobulation. Fortunately, I had written the short story for the Western Fictioneers’ anthology, “On Western Trails” as a separate story. It had been accepted and the anthology will come out in time for Christmas; the book of nine short stories won’t come out – at least not with the old Five Star. My two current “new” books are not Westerns and needed a publisher, so nothing really changed there. (It doesn’t feel that way.) My trilogy had been completed and the Forever Sheriff sales were suggesting legs for both the book and the trilogy. Exactly the legs that were cut out. My production company plans were in infancy, so surviving to adulthood will be more difficult than the already impossible task from the outset.

I believe in the “Happy Warrior” pursuit of life (read Wordsworth’s poem), so I look for the positive in this turn of events. As I find it, I will relate it to you. So far, the only unalloyed benefit I see is that it does give me a steady diet of topic to write about, perhaps not weekly, until this tumult is all resolved (for me and the fifty-sixty authors Thorndike dumped on the ground.)

A Good Week

Even at my advanced age, I continue to measure a good week in terms of results. Years of study and, more importantly, hundreds of hours of conversation with friends and mentors (including Anne who qualifies on both counts, though some mentors don’t qualify as friends) have taught me and convinced me that if you must judge a week as good or bad, the only measure is how you use it.

So, here I am returned last Friday from five and half weeks at Drakes Island (ME) with Anne and struggling to find my bearings. Any direction, any organizing principle would do in the effort to sort out way too much to do and way too little time or money to do it. I don’t even recall how I used the week. I sort of did half my level of exercise, half my level of work, half my planned tasks to clean-up and sort out for an orderly re-entry from the weeks away. I ate dinner with Anne every night, and we watched David Whyte and Sleeping Beauty (La Scala ballet, choreographed by Nureyev) and there is no better use of my time than that. Ever.

With one use of my time, I finished a short story I had committed to send to Western Fictioneers by August 1for their Christmas anthology. I worked on it in Maine, and I even wrote about it here on this blog. Slow progress and gulleys and other hazards plagued me. When I took it up at my desk here on Saturday, the trail looked as straight and clear as the one I travelled in 1849. Finished on Sunday. Submitted on Monday. Accepted on Tuesday. Contract signed on Wednesday. Now that makes a week feel good! But it’s a result.

Reflecting something I had used my time, a lot of my time, on a while ago, the Kirkus Review of Forever Sheriff arrived.  Being the judge of a review of my own book is a biased effort. Nevertheless. It is a good review. Kirkus, an industry staple and major source of reviews for Indie bookstores, has specific, written rules for attribution. Believe me, we rushed to observe them and you can see the post here.

Sometimes, when you can’t figure out how to make the best use of your time, two good results come your way. I’ll take it. It was a good week.


Sweetwater

I am sitting in Drakes Island, Maine, writing a short story I promised Western Fictioneers for the bi-annual anthology edited by Richard Prosch. It’s due August 1, and the anthology will be out in time for Christmas gifts. The 2020 anthology, Under Western Stars, carried my favorite short story. I hope this one can top it. If it comes in a close second, I will be happy.

Well, I’m not actually writing the short story, I am writing this blog, and with good reason. As I wrote about the four-year-old girl who collected buffalo chips in her apron and insisted on giving them personally to the Trail Captain, I marveled at how Ben Franklin’s discovery put to good use by some geeks in a garage could make it possible for me to sit here surrounded by good, fresh water (we have a house on a fresh water marsh near the not fresh water ocean) and yet live in 1849 on the trail between Kanesville, Iowa, and Sweetwater, Wyoming, where bullies steal water from the weak and leave them to cholera from the unsanitary water that is all they have left to drink.

I am sitting around the campfire with the other families in the company, and I watch that little girl walk in with determination and purpose. She drops her apron and the buffalo chips fall on the ground in front of the Trail Captain. Her job done, she looks up at him and says, “I think you should know there are bullies.” “Where?” asks the captain. “Right here. On the trail.”

“How do you know they are bullies?” asks the captain.

“Because they take the good water the constable gave the sick people in a barrel.”

“I’ll tell the Constable. He’ll take care of them.”

And her mother reaches into the bonfire and pulls out a lobster….oh, we’re back here in Maine again.

Maybe you’ll order the anthology when it’s ready and see what happens. I promise to tell you when it is available for pre-order.

ENDING

Three trails in one. One trail became three, and settled the West. That little girl’s daughter married the Constable’s grandson. That little girl celebrated her 100th birthday on VE Day, the end of World War II in 1945.

Publication Day

Forever Sheriff was published on May 18, 2022.

We knew it, my publisher, my readers (I hesitate to call you fans), and I. Amazon didn’t. Despite having “Publication May 18, 2022” on the book’s page for almost a year, and on that date also, it omitted to drop the pre-order and pre-order price guarantee language on May 18.

By 9:30 a.m., to use language of the latter half of Forever Sheriff, my switchboard lit up.  Ah, I admit to the sin of looking forward to the congratulatory calls.

“There’s no place to post a review.”  “It’s still on pre-order.” “When will it be published?”

To each I explained it was published and they must have accessed a wrong page. Then I went to Amazon.

OMG. True. All true. I found a way to get to a page that would accept a review, but even that small victory was still marred by pre-order calls on the book page. I wrote an anguished and hasty e-mail to my publisher.

Tiffany wrote back almost immediately. “I think your best strategy is to ask all your friends to place orders and swamp them with orders. We don’t know what they are doing.”

Creating a career of building readers for your books is a lot like selling insurance. Once you have worked through family and friends, you are given the opportunity to find out how professional you really are. So, here goes, calling all family and friends.

I was not consciously watching hour by hour, but it started to change. By Thursday morning, all the pre-order language was gone and customers/readers were informed of a ten-day backlog. Pretty good for turning a supply snafu into the appearance of a smashing sell-out. By Friday morning, the first review was up and posted with 5 stars.

So, let’s say “Publication Day” was “Days” and now it is here completing the trilogy of the three Sheriffs Simms. Founding Sheriff, delayed by COVID-19, marched into the emptiness of our times, and a high mountain desert, to bring justice and a system of justice where none had existed before. Fugitive Sheriff avenged his father and remained true to vows he had taken twenty years before. He had the best publication day. A fitting reward. Forever Sheriff proved true to his calling and his heritage, paying no attention to the publication day anxieties. He simply told me to take care of it.

Having a trilogy out is exciting, but that’s a future blog. Read them all. Tell me what you think.

Where Have I Been?

A good author, Sue Monk Kidd, once wrote that a serious artist knows to spend an amount of time devoted to having her (in my case, his) works read or heard equal to the time in creating the work.

Well, I am a serious writer, and this blog is, for the moment, my primary tool to find and encourage people to read and enjoy my books. So, where have I been for several months?

I have been Chairing the production of my 55th reunion at Harvard Business School.  I took it on under the rubric that it will help sell books. Blame Sue Monk Kidd. That possible self-deception has yet to play out, but it has created a big, creative, exciting, intellectual and personal party for eighty-year-olds.

In a special appearance embedded in our schedule, Professor David Moss, of “Democracy: A Case Study,” has agreed to share his expertise in Is American Democracy in Trouble? For the bulk of the program classmates will lead afternoon discussions about global financial systems, climate warming, migration, wisdom, how to be happy, and writing and publishing.

It is the latter two that may have justified my abandoning this blog for so long.

Leaving out other Harvard events, here are the June 6-8 Class events:Harvard Business School Class of '67 55th Reunion logo

Monday, June 6
6:30: Class Drinks and Section Dinners at the Faculty Club and The Harvard Club of Boston

Tuesday, June 7
2:00 – 2:40:  Welcome. Review of 1965-1967: The Years That Started Not All Of It But A lot Of It. Presentation of Class Survey: What We Learned About Ourselves. A Poem
2:45 – 3:25: Can Capitalism be Sustained?
3:25 – 4:05: Thriving in the Time of Global Warming
4:05 – 4:45:  Bringing Wisdom to Government and Society
6:30 – 10:30: Class Dinner at the Boston Public Library – 1960’s Music, Food and Chat

Wednesday, June 8
1:00 – 1:45: Is American Democracy in Trouble?
2:00 – 2:40: Happiness and Well-Being at Any Age
2:45 – 3:30: Refugees – Their Problem becomes our Problem
2:45 – 3:30: In the Pit: Classmates Discuss their Work, Published and Planned
3:30 – 4:30: Who Ever Told You That You Could Write? You Did!
3:30 – 5:00: Social time

In the Pit comes from my three semesters at the Gotham Writers Workshop. Everyone twice distributed 2500-word segments of their novel to the class. The next week they stood in the pit in front of the class listening to the criticism. No comment, disagreement, or interruption until all classmates had finished. Then. Ten minutes. These men (I tried for a woman out of the thirteen in our class) will be tested. The line-up: self-published 28 works; 24 plays and 5 novels; a book of advice to children starting their career; a book of poetry, a book by a professor of entrepreneurship, The Idea Isn’t Enough, a collection of privately published photos, and me with a minute on each of my five published novels.

Whoever told you you could write? opens a session devoted to publishing, traditional and indie; writing, and the writing process. The phrase summarizes the 350-word critique letter I received from the evaluation editor upon my effort to find a publisher for Fugitive Sheriff.  All classmates will share learn-the-hard-way stories and all attendees will be invited to question. Note, social time runs parallel to this session. It might be difficult to sneak drinks into a Harvard classroom, but for sure, they will be needed.

In shepherding this reunion and putting together these sessions, I perceived that we have many authors who have published and writers who plan to write and want to publish. I asked Harvard to give us a website. That was a no go. So, I created an HBS ’67 Authors, Writers group on Facebook. It’s up and will survive the reunion to give classmates a permanent location for conversation as well as posting news of recent publications or fresh aspirations.

So, that’s where I have been. Will it sell books? Who knows, but you will as soon as I do. Forever Sheriff was published last week. A great review was posted right away and I look forward to seeing yours.

To 2022 and You

Portrait of High Mountain Sheriff series author Edward Massey wearing felt cowboy hat, leather jacket and blue shirtWe all said good riddance to 2020, and 2021 lived up to the hopes we placed in it. A long year made up of starts and stops, generally improving from a fearful start to a not-another-variant end that is currently looking as pervasive and dangerous to our health as long-term inflation.  Once called pathologically optimistic, I am confident we will bring these threats under control, left to act as prudent, responsible individuals without excessive oversight from our betters.

My purpose in this post is not argument, but to wish that all of you will take the action you need to take to live a full life in 2022 while protecting yourself, as much as is within your power, from the ravages of our known threats, inflation and omicron or whatever new variant we face by year’s end. Keep your list of to-dos long and do them. The puropose of this post is to ask you/invite you to share with us your plans for 2022. Post them here with the contact form or send them directly to me on my e-mail, edward@edwardmasseybooks.com.

2d Chronicles, 15:7, inspired the theme of this post: Be ye strong therefore and let not your hands be slack for your work will be rewarded. The Massey version: Have faith. And do the work. So, please, share with us your plans for 2022, large or small.

Here are mine. To write four hours every day and exercise some. To have an extraordinary 85th (my sister)/80th (me) birthday with her family in Santa Fe. To create, plan, and experience a massive book launch for Forever Sheriff (May 18), the third novel in the High Mountain Sheriffs series. To focus and succeed at brand building. To have faith and do the work in my newly appointed role as Chair of our 55th Reunion at Harvard Business School (already remarkable  responsiveness from classmates willing to pull the oars to a stunning victory.) To write a book of short stories for Five Star. To live our summer lives with the Western Writers of America convention in Great Falls and five weeks at Drakes Island, Maine. To celebrate my remarkable wife’s birthday and then on to the holidays. There are some other little buds peeking through the snow. Maybe at year’s end, this blog will mention a few grand experiences I didn’t see coming.

So, to 22 and you. Post away. Like this one, send a photo.

Another beautiful morning at Pineview Farm

Dawn light touches a wooden wheel and gate at the snow-dusted valley of Pineview FarmHappy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and let’s all look forward to a wonderful 2022.

When I set out to write this little message for the holidays, my intent was to spread holiday cheer, without pushing book sales. That still is my intent, but this morning my cousin posted “Another beautiful morning at Pineview Farm.”

I am not meaning to make a book pitch, but this magnificent photo prompts me to tell you that Cousin Kay gave me permission to use her life’s tragedy in 1995 on Pineview Farm and set it back to 1865 as the central story in Founding Sheriff. My message today was to be one of joy and gratitude, and this photo makes it ever so much more tangible to have gratitude for a cousin like Kay in our lives and appreciate the joy of living on a farm, in a place, on the earth of so much austere beauty. The holidays are many things to many people but one thing they should be to all is a moment to experience and reflect on austere beauty.

Back to where I started: Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and let us all celebrate gratitude and joy as we look to a wonderful 2022.

–Edward

Just Released: Cover Art for Forever Sheriff

Forever Sheriff by Edward Massey Having a book published takes a lot of time first filled with intense research and writing and rewriting. After submission to the publisher, a second lot of time is filled with uncertainty and anxiety (even when your published has already published two of your books). To great surprise, an e-mail arrives from the editor with lots of work outlined to do. Deadline pressure builds up because the last thing you want is to delay the publication date. Finished, a final third lot of time goes to waiting for the days, weeks, and months to unfold to publication. Once more—and last week—a great surprise lifts your spirits and gives you what this is all about. Thrills. Last week, the cover treatment for the ARC (advance reader’s copies, for proofreading and reviews) arrived for approval. Wow! It’s real. The day after sending approval comes the news the ARCS will be in hand in two weeks. They really do have it in production. It’s time to start promoting the book. Like magic, that beautiful cover arrives the next day for promotional purposes. And they got it exactly right. Deputy Mark Simms has his swearing-in interrupted by rustlers. While he is riding out to the rustler’s ranch, old veteran Deputy Woodside gives him his first lesson in how to be the third Sheriff Simms of Summit County.

Order Forever Sheriff here.

Gold Quill Awards

Over the past decade, I’m proud to have received Gold Quill Awards for my novels Founding Sheriff and Every Soul Is Freeby the League of Utah Writers. You can find those awards listed below:

2020

My award for Founding Sheriff, titled the best novel of the year on August 15:

2019

In 2014, the League of Utah Writers awarded Every Soul Is Free the Gold Quill award (see below). Tempting the Gods, Sheriff Simms’s father, Sheriff Simms, has entered the 2019 competition. The award will be made at the League of Utah Writers Quill Conference in August, 2019. We’re hoping and we hope you are, too.

2014

On Saturday, September 13, 2014, during the Gold Quill Awards Dinner, I had prepared myself for a shutout, when: