Totally Western: An Interview

I’ve been interviewed by a local newspaper. Made it to the front page and all! The interview is in Norwegian, if you are suchwise inclined you can read it here. No shocker: we mostly talked about writing and shooting.

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IndieReader Review of Embers at Dawn

Charles Baker has reviewed Embers at Dawn for IndieReader. Here’s what he’s got to say about it:

Crazy Cat, also known as Lee, also known as Lily, is one of the toughest and baddest outlaws around, and she seems to be wanted everywhere she goes. Unfortunately, at this current stop, she finds that the marshal already recognizes her from the wanted posters. But she has one thing on her side: he’s a crooked marshal, brutal and violent and extremely hated by the townsfolk. So as it is with outlaws and crooked law men, there are some serious shoot-outs. If you like your Westerns dark and morally ambiguous, J.C. Loen’s EMBERS AT DAWN is plenty of both.

The protagonist of EMBERS AT DAWN is, quite frankly, a frustrating, brilliant and brilliantly frustrating character. In the few Westerns, or similar types of stories, that actually feature female outlaws, often the point of the story is this hidden sensitive side she has, or alternately what a cold and heartless she-devil she is. Lee is neither. While she does occasionally show her vulnerabilities in the story, it’s hardly the point of the narrative, and most of what she reveals in these moments is how little vulnerability she seems to feel. But she’s still a well-rounded character, seemingly at times so self-aware and at other times oblivious. She sort of falls in love, but not in a way that betrays her character.

Like a lot of historical fiction, EMBERS AT DAWN is meant to be an immersive experience, and generally the dialect of the book is one thing that really transports, with its Western-style mixture of roughness and elegance: “’Shut up, Stub. We best get this situation sorted and done with afore they come trying to torch up this place again.’ ‘Yous been saying so since afore Christmas. All I’ve heard is a lot of talk. I ain’t seen any doings,’ Cal said.” The first-person narration, strangely enough, doesn’t always match Lee’s dialect, but it often achieves a terrible poetry that sings out quite well: “Three strangers rode into town, trailing a fourth horse that had two lifeless bodies dangling about its flanks,” though more rarely it gets caught up in its own purpleness: “The sun kept rising, glowing through the branches, setting the dead tree alight with an incandescent hue.” But overall, the writing is good, more matching the quality of the former sentence than the latter.

EMBERS AT DAWN is a fairly earthy vision of the American Old West, never shying away from violence and vulgarity, but also not quite as nihilistic as it first seems.

Crazy Cat Dry Goods and Sundries

bildeI’ve opened up a Zazzle store dedicated to merchandise inspired by my western series The 9 Lives of the Outlaw known as Crazy Cat. My goal is always to make something I would wear or use myself.

bilde-2 I’ve ordered a few items to check the quality of the print, and have been very pleased with what I’ve received. More designs are in the making, I’ll let y’all know when something new is out.
The Embers at Dawn T-shirt is available here.

Shooting Irons

These are my Uberti Cattleman revolvers. I use them for CAS.

Guns are an integral part of the western genre. They also play an important role in my western series The 9 Lives of the Outlaw known as Crazy Cat. Lee, the protagonist of the series, refers at one point to her shooting irons as her “precious pieces.”

Lee’s shooting irons are important to her for several reasons. Being a woman, she doesn’t possess the brute force of the men she’s commanding, or the villains she’s facing. Being able to wield her weapons quicker and more accurately than those she’s up against, and the men who follow her lead, is paramount to her success in claiming respect, causing fear and staying alive. She usually carries four revolvers. It makes her a dangerous adversary, who doesn’t have to cower and hide when she’s emptied one gun. Beside the practical aspect of this, I like the aesthetic of four guns on her person; it prompts an intimidating figure. There are certainly additional elements to Lee’s character that makes her stay in charge, but I’m gonna aim to stay on target here – we’re talking about shooting irons, after all.

It was important to me to show the reader that Lee is an authority on shooting irons. I did research, asked for assistance and learned to shoot, in order to transfer the knowledge and know-how I figured the protagonist of my series needed, to be representable as a know-it-all gunslinger. In short: I had to become an authority on shooting irons myself to make Lee one.

In the first draft of Embers at Dawn I had equipped Lee with two Colt Peacemakers. This was about three years ago, before I had much of a grasp on weapons. A friend of mine got me in touch with an avid CAS (Cowboy Action Shooting) practitioner, who possess a vast knowledge of firearms of the Old West. The Peacemakers were subsequently replaced with something more interesting upon his advice: A pair of Remingtons and Merwin & Hulberts. Lee’s Whitworth rifle was integrated in the story from the first draft – and remained in the story with the gun-savvy Cowboy’s blessing.

I believe that the weapons a character carries, and how she wields them, can say a great deal about her personality. The making of the piece and the condition it’s in might suggest a preference regarding practical concerns or a sense of style. It may also emphasize a character’s history, social status or indicate a certain profession.

In time, I will dedicate a post to each shooting iron from The 9 Lives of the Outlaw known as Crazy Cat series.