Phil Dunlap, Western Author

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Okay, I admit it right here before the whole world (or the two or three of you who are reading this)! I am a BLOG SLACKER! Apparently, my head cannot live in two worlds at once. I have deadlines to meet, story lines to invent, and words to hammer out on the computer. How can I be expected to come up with a Blog every two or three days? If my history is any indication, I can't. So, what is the solution? Got me.

I could stop Blogging and concentrate on those things that are of immediate importance, or I could slog along cranking out some inane Blog every few days. Now which shall it be? Hmm. Perhaps I should rely on you two readers for guidance. Or not. Mostly because, by now, you have both yawned and turned on the TV, or just clicked off the computer completely to save electricity. I give up. My heart says to dribble out a few words–hopefully well-chosen–whenever I feel up to it. Guess I'll follow my heart. There, I've said it and I'm stickin' to it!

A couple of notes of interest before signing off: A new anthology from Western Fictioneers is about to come on board, first as an e-book, later as a paperback. This offering shall include some of the best Western writers writing today. I predict a fantastic future for this new organization, if the way it is being run is any indication. The website is: It's well worth checking out. The membership is made up of pros, authors you are all familiar with. I'll bet many of you have books on your shelves right now written by some of these fine authors.

Note #2: Check out the great award news from another Western writer you are probably already familiar with, Larry D. Sweazy. His website is: His Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger series is a worthy read.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Have you ever been mistaken for someone else? Could be embarrassing, couldn't it? Humorous, possibly, but more likely just annoying. It's probably a small thing to be bothered about, but I just got a Google Alert tell ing about my new book, "Cotton's War." Cool, huh. Yeah, but here's the rub: The profile that was attached is a cartoonist with the same name as mine. This cartoonist is a young guy living halfway across the country from me, and he draws something about farm animals. I mean, that's okay. I love cartoonists. I read the funnies every day. Me, I write Western novels. There are seven of them out there. Just check out Amazon. There I am, all seven of my books, a pic, and a short bio, and not one word about me drawing cartoons. Yikes!  So, you can see why I really think that a huge organization like Google should make it a point to get their facts straight. Is that too much to ask? It isn't good for either of us to have to share our careers with the other. Do you think?

I went to the Google Alert site and there is no way to contact anyone at Google to get this corrected. I doubt there are many people in the U.S. who don't have a name double somewhere. I guess I should feel lucky my name isn't the same as some national figure embroiled in a scandal of some type. Google should be ashamed!

Friday, May 6, 2011


There, I've said it. Anyone who actually believes they can multi-task and succeed as well as if they were doing single-tasking is a big, fat liar. Okay, here's my problem with the whole new age assumption that because our brains are being fed so much data from many sources all at once, we can adapt and do more simultaneously. Hogwash.

As I was coming in to work today, I looked over to see another driver trying to read his iPad as he drove. He swerved in front of another car when he discovered he really wanted to turn into a shopping center and he'd almost passed the entrance. He'd been too distracted to get ready for his turn. Multi-tasking gone awry? Uh-huh. Ever watch a woman putting on eyeliner or lipstick in the rear-view mirror, shouting at her kid in the back seat, and at the same time trying to negotiate  rush-hour traffic? How's that working for you?

 And it's not just other people, I admit there was a time when I thought I could accomplish several things at once, and do them all equally well. For instance, when I go out to mow the lawn and look over at some bushes that need trimming, what do I do? Yep, you guessed it. I stop mowing and get the clippers and begin taking care of that pesky bush. But, if there are weeds under the bush, I certainly need to get those pulled before the landscape police complain and I'm asked none-too-politely to leave the neighborhood. Okay, now I've spent two hours busy as a little beaver, and yet, after all that time, I've managed to pull fifteen weeds, trimmed half a bush, and mowed part of the front yard. Multi-tasker supreme? You bet. After all that effort, I've finished nothing, my back is killing me, and I've spent too much time in the noonday sun. (Isn't there a song about that? Something about mad dogs and Englishmen?) Time for a rest and a cold one.

Well, I doubt I'll stop criticizing others when I see them trying to do ten jobs at once, none of them well, but I for one am resolving to make a supreme effort to attend to just one thing at a time, and do it the best I can. Right after I finish this silly blog, I'm going to work on the manuscript that is rushing toward a deadline, and then there are those contracts that must be signed and sent out, oh, and the lawn needs mowing again...


Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I just bought a Genealogy program for my computer. I'm so excited to get started my fingers are tingling. It's an interest I've had for many, many years, and while I've been able to gather scads of information about past relatives, most of my research is a jumble of papers, photos, scribblings and the like. I desperately need order. This program promises to give me just that. However, after combing through all my existing charts and graphs, pieces of paper, and pictures of tombstones, I find it is likely that something I'd love to find will elude me. So far, nothing I've seen bolsters any hope that I'll be successful, but hope does indeed spring eternal. What is it I hope to find?

I want an outlaw! I'm a fiction writer, so this shouldn't surprise anyone? I thrive on adventure, derring-do, romance, and those colorful characters that have somehow found life more exciting living just beyond the law. How thrilling it would be to find a gunslinging, bank robbing, rough-riding outlaw somewhere in my past. I'd love it. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't most of us? I suspect the main stumbling block will the very thing so many outlaws of the old West turned to: they changed their name. That could obviously prove to be a dead end. They didn't change their names just to make themselves more worthy of being on a movie marque in the 20th Century. They did it to elude capture. And, probably so their families would never find out what happened to them. Some preeminent pang of shame considering their likely demise, I presume. Most 19th Century families were moral, upstanding, hard-working folks who would have shuddered at the thought of a son or daughter following the owlhoot trail.

But me, well, odd duck that I may be, I would still relish a good old-fashioned bad man in my past. Even a bad girl would be okay. Someone to help anchor me in the reality that is today. Also, maybe a little something to stir my fiction imagination. I would love to hear from anyone who'd like to leave a comment on my mental state, or maybe throw in one of your own past family members who've, shall we say, not always followed the straight and narrow. Maybe we could share one. An outlaw, that is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Over the weekend, fellow western writer and friend, Larry Sweazy and I were asked to speak before a gathering of patrons at a beautiful new library. Attendees wanted to hear about how, when, and where we write. Easy questions, easy answers. Normally. That is until we were quizzed as to what we thought about the future of ebooks, self-publishing and the like. Two very different topics. It was no more than two years ago that people were poo-pooing any reading material that didn't require the use of paper. In a very short time, that has changed dramatically. And while I dislike having to take a stand on controversial topics, I do have a strong opinion here.

I often hear folks lumping ebooks into a category comprised of many self-pubbed authors. That self-pubbed label usually carries with it the presumption that there has been no professional editing, and uses amateur cover art. There can sometimes be some truth to those condemnations, however, they should not encompass the entire ebook community, nor should they take on the mantle of always being the case. There have been badly edited print books around for years, yet no one condemned the entire print industry. Far from it. The printed word has always held a place of high regard among the reading public. Therein lies the problem, and my rather subjective opinion.

Here it comes! Ebooks will not sound the death nell of printed books. Paper will always be with us. It is only the way we perceive books that is changing. And that is a good thing. Ebooks, in my opinion, may very well become the savior of books, authors, and publishers, and an industry that has fallen on hard times of late. In fact, most of the major publishers recognize the potential and are bringing out new titles in print and ebook. I say hooray! I hear authors saying why embrace such technology when it practically erases the opportunity to sign books, to shake hands, and meet new friends? Hogwash. That's a false argument. New technology brings new ways of doing old things. New technology will bring new adherents (readers) to the fold. I do embrace and welcome the chance to try new things and jump into the stream of history going with the flow rather than trying to swim upstream. Bring on a wider readership and more power to those who embrace a broader view of getting into a good read. Authors write, readers read. It's the perfect partnership in whatever form it takes. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

As an aside, my newest Western, "Cotton's War" coming out in June, is being offered in both print and ebook. So, envision me on my raft, drifting lazily down the Old Mill Stream, going with the flow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I've been as much to blame as anyone, I suppose. I've fought the trend toward e-books for the same reason everybody else has: everyone loves the feel of a paper book and the smell of ink. Yeah, sure, me too. But I'm not such a dolt as to believe it is my sole responsibility to hang onto tradition in the name of saving an industry, or keeping our bookstore community alive. No, that hasn't been my rationale. Nobody has ever loved spending time browsing bookstores more than me. I could almost be considered a fanatic at picking up the latest tome, reading the back cover, flipping a few pages, maybe even starting to read the first chapter. I love the printed book. But, I can also commiserate with he who loves reading but dislikes the thought of trying to carry six hardcovers through airport customs, stuffing them under the seat in front of him, then struggling to squeeze one out for the long trip home. And I do mean struggle. Have you forgotten that clown in the next seat forward that has leaned all the way back, to the point of almost snoring in your face? Okay, paperbacks are some consolation, but what about the very light e-readers that are available? And their ability to store thousands of books? That's the argument of the techie generation.

Well, that hasn't been for me; I've been solidly in favor of sticking to the tried and true. The bound paper book with pages I turn manually, then turning back to see where I missed that last clue or a name that I must have forgotten. So easy, so user-friendly, so me. Where's this going, you ask? Well, I'll tell you, but some of you will stand and cheer while others will undoubtedly curse me under their breath. Here's my confession; remember, you had to pry it out of me. I, uh, have fallen prey to, uh, the weaker part of me. I've gone to the dark side, that of e-reading. Why did I turn traitor? Simple. And it's the easiest thing for an American to understand. After shopping at a Borders that is closing in my city, I stumbled upon an irresistible situation: a brand new, unopened Kobo. The last one in the store. It's a nifty e-reader with e-ink (no glares) and a nice capacity for huge book storage, takes epub downloads and is so easy to use. I bought it. Why, you ask?

I'm an American, and it was only $49.00. Wow!

Monday, March 21, 2011

How important IS accuracy?

As a kid, it never bothered me when some Civil War cavalryman fell off his horse in a river, then got up, drew his dripping 1851 Colt and started blasting away at the enemy. A little wet gunpowder didn't matter. It didn't bother me when gunslingers fanned their revolvers and hit everything they meant to hit. Shooting a gun out of a man's hand at a hundred yards? No problem. But, I was a kid and the thrill of the chase, the shooting, the ultimate defeat of the bad guys, well, that's what I went to the movies for. Those low-slung holsters were cool, hugely inaccurate, but very cool. And did cowboys really carry guitars around so they could break into song at every turn?

But when I grew up and knew I wanted to write about the old west, I was faced with the need to learn about what the frontier was really like. No low-slung holsters? No standing in the street fifty feet apart, watching the other fellow's eyes for that tell-tale twitch before the draw? Where's the romance in a holster riding high, or drawing before the actual confrontation and taking aim to assure a better chance of killing your opponent? The more I researched, the more I realized all those old cowboy movies were nothing more than entertainment. However, learning the truth of the old west brought even more excitement. When writing about a specific area, and then finding out that at the same period an Indian attack was taking place, or that Billy the Kid had killed a man only a mile away, opened my eyes to not only the need for research, but also the opportunities it brought with it. When you can add actual events, supported by history, well, the whole story just gets better. And the reader can put him/her self right alongside your characters. And be comforted that you're getting it right.

Yet, as inaccurate as they were, I still loved those old westerns. Still do, in fact.  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why we do what we do.

"Why do you write stories? Why don't you get a real job?" someone asked, as I stood behind a table filled with my books, hoping to snag a kindred soul. "What a waste."

"Are you kidding? Give up working my tail off, sitting 10-12 hours a day at a computer coming up with one 'What-if' after another, struggling to get each sentence down just the way I want it, re-writing, and re-re-writing? Seriously? Dreaming is what I do best," I called after him, somewhat miffed that such a question might even be uttered.

Thankfully, he wandered away before something nasty happened. I did notice he was later grumbling at his wife who left the bookstore with a stack of new reads, her unhappy husband in tow. I had to wonder what it was that got him hooked. If anything. Don't we all need something to set our souls ablaze? Besides football, NASCAR, and beer, that is? My soul needs History and the excitement of revisiting life on the frontier. To my mind, the 1800s exemplified the most fascinating period in our country's history.

In case you're interested, I'll tell you what got me hooked on writing Westerns. I have a long list of reasons, but basically it boils down to : Wild Bill Elliott, Lash LaRue, Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gunsmoke, The Virginian, etc, etc–the multitude of great western actors, writers, movies and books that populated my youth right up to this very moment.

So, my intention with this blog is to come up with things that might pique a reader's interest or spark one's imagination–reader or writer, alike.

I'll try my best to keep posting about those things and people I find interesting, and maybe even strike a chord with another whose love of the old west is similar to mine. I'd love to hear from anyone with a comment, piece of advice, or critique of anything I might say. I'll not delve into politics or religion, but otherwise, if it has to do with Historical reading and writing, I'm up for it. Bring it on.

But, for both our sakes, always try to aim straight.