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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Guest Blogger ~ Stephen Bly

Christy Award winner Stephen Bly has authored and co-authored 102 fiction and nonfiction books. He's the mayor of Winchester, Idaho (pop. 308), and the pastor of Winchester Community Church. Speaker, mentor and roving editor, Stephen has been married to Janet Chester Bly for 46 years, and together they've co-authored 18 books. In his spare time, Stephen collects and restores antique Winchesters; studies histories of the Old West; does construction on Broken Arrow Crossing, a false front western village next to his home. He also plays a par game of golf.


WESTERN LILT: DIALOGUE OF THE WESTERN NOVELIST©

Speech has rhythm. To write good dialogue, an author must listen to each character’s voice, to discern timing as well as vocabulary.

Every era and region boasts its language and dialect, which can be learned through research or experience. But tone and timing can’t be taught. It’s in your bones...or not.

In my newest novel, Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon, six old cowboys chatting can’t wait for one topic to die before blurting another. I worked to hear the tune of their chatter, the lilt of the lyrics, to produce an authentic, natural flow. And blend the philosophy within the words.

Cowboy Culture

Talk slow and think deep. It’s part of the Code. It’s the way true westerners talked.

These cowboys told their stories often and not the same each time. That’s the beauty of oral history. It’s not a static photograph of the past, but a monologue that percolates, evolves, and sometimes digresses through the memory and heart, by the one who lived it. My task: be true to the characters, yet sympathetic to my readers. Spend a morning near the old-timers booth at the local café and you’ll know what I mean.

In Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon, I used a lot of classic cowboy terms that have now disappeared. For instance, a phrase often used on a cattle drive was “man at the pot.” Someone at the coffee pot gave a shout-out to indicate he’d fill everyone’s cup.

To cowboys, ‘nobby’ signified fine, expensive clothing. They mention the store Nudies. That’s where Hollywood cowboys and country-western singers bought their fancy boots and rhinestone jackets. I bought a cowboy hat there…a plain, beaver felt XXX, size 7 7/8, dark brown Resistol with horsehair hatband…for the sake of research.

“You never know the luck of a lousy calf,” one of my favorite cowboy sayings. Healthy, sturdy calves seem to fall off cliffs or get attacked by wolves. It’s the scrawny, worthless ones that survive.

I once stood at the graveside of my rancher uncle. As I looked down at his coffin, an old-timer slid up beside me. “He was a good man, son. He lived by the Code.”

In my novel, Pop would “do to ride the river with.” That’s the highest compliment for a cowboy. Crossing wild rivers with great herds of cattle exposed dangers for man and beast. Not a time to trust your safety to some rookie just learning the ropes. “He’ll do to ride the river with” signified “I’d trust that man with my life.”

Cowboy Faith

Every writer filters their work through a worldview. Mine happens to be Christian. Sometimes that pops through. In Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon, you’ll find this quote:

“If you feel prodded, Shorty, it’s the shovel of the Lord. He’s diggin’ you up and intends on restorin’ you.”

The narrator’s granddaddy chides his pals with the Gospel. He cares too much to keep silent. He’s hoping that fifty years of friendship and five minutes spouting Jesus will open their eyes.

My suggestion: read Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon aloud, like around a campfire, to capture the cadence. Then, the characters will start to feel like family.

Maybe you weren’t born 100 years too late.


A 10-year-old boy. Six old cowboys. A '49 Plymouth with open trunk. A damsel in distress. All the fixings for adventure at the Matador Hotel in 1954 Albuquerque. Maybe you weren't born 100 years too late!


Leave a comment for Stephen to be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Cowboy for a Rainy Afternoon.
Order Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon from Amazon or http://www.blybooks.com/newhome.htm%20 or through your local library.

8 comments:

karenk said...

hi stephen...enjoyed your posting...thanks for the chance to read your fabulous novel :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

PC Problems said...

beautiful post ,, fan of stephen.. PcProblems

Nicole said...

This is flat awesome.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Bly books are among my favorites in my library. Can't wait to read more!

Cindy W. said...

Oh, I so want to win this book. There is something about the cover that pulls me in. Maybe it's the silhouette of the young cowboy. I love it. Please enter me into your giveaway.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52[at]yahoo[dot]com

Shellie said...

Research is everything (and a hat:). Thanks for the post and the great idioms. I think I might just use the '(wo)man at the pot' tomorrow morning, just to see what happens.

Heading north for a camp-out soon. You're new novel would be a great addition to the trip.

Jessie at Blog Schmog said...

Stephen, your novel looks splendid. I still think I was born too late :) but maybe we can remedy that.

I'd enjoy a chance to win. jessjokin@juno.com

Jessie

Stephen Bly said...

Appreciated all your comments and your taking time to stop by here for a post. Congrats to the winner! Should be getting first copies of Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon any day now!

On the trail in ID,
Steve
Stephen Bly
www.BlyBooks.com