Phil Dunlap, Western Author

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.