The reviews are coming in! Here are links to two that just popped in. (Hmm, we sense a trend, this is the second time the specter of Zane Grey has appeared).

From Writastic Thoughts from the Thinking Realm: Zany Grey!

“As a vampire novel, The Cowboy and the Vampire is sure to satisfy Dracula fans’ expectations. However, this book has a little something extra to offer readers. A little something that harkens back to the days when man fought against the wild in the name of civilization. Hays and McFall have succeeded in mixing the Western genre tropes with the Gothic conventions to create a zany grey romance.” Read more of this review

From The Avid Reader

“This is one of the weirdest stories I have ever read. It’s right up there with Neil Gaiman’s man-swallowing woman parts and talking tents. Instead, here we have rocket-launching, womb-sucking, Bible-bending, non-pointy-toothed vampires. And love. And cowboys. Depending on what you are looking for, that might be a good thing. If I had to liken this book to a movie, it would either be to Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, or maybe more appropriately, Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk to Dawn.” Read more of this review

cover sketches1 The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection gets an upgrade, including new covers with western gothic flair

The phrase “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is a lie. It’s a damn lie. People do it all the time. And to turn the browsing impulse into a buying impulse, authors need a trained designer on their side.

The internet and many bookstores have plenty of examples of poorly designed covers that are sometimes not just off-putting, but downright laughable. One of the biggest mistakes writers — people who make their living with words — make is thinking they have full access to the unique visual language of design arts. Sure, there are some rare exceptions, but we are not among them, and we have a dustbin full of poorly designed crimes against design-ity to back that up.

As we got closer to releasing The Cowboy and the Vampire: Rough Trails and Shallow Graves, we wanted to “rebrand” the first two books in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection and we were lucky enough to connect with talented local artist and designer Aaron Perkins. He designed some exceptional and powerful covers, and was kind enough to share a little about himself and the work that went into our new covers. Read the rest of this entry »

“This isn’t most romances. Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey would be aghast to see this new wrinkle in the Western romance…and then they’d sneak off in a corner and read it real quick.”

“I love vampires and cowboys both. These writers did a fantastic job of blending both worlds into one! A book that I will hold on to and re-read for years to come! Tucker and Lizzie fast became endeared to my heart. Looking forward to reading the second book in the series. This book is a must have for any reader and collector.”

“I never imagined the melding of a contemporary western and a paranormal romance could ever be so seamless or so much fun. The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance is one of the funniest and most engaging books I have read in a long time.”

Check ‘em out here, pardner.  And thank you! - Pumpjack


“The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance is one of the funniest and most engaging books I have read in a long time. Jam-packed with adventure, vampires, true love, and a cast of characters you will not soon forget, you find yourself turning the pages thinking, “What more could possibly happen to these two?” And then, you find out. I never imagined the melding of a contemporary western and a paranormal romance could ever be so seamless or so much fun.” Bitten by Books Review Site 

Husband and wife writing team saddle up for the May 2014 release of book three in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection; the tangled publishing history of the series mirrors industry shifts.

Portland, Ore. – When the first edition of The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance (Hays and McFall, Llewellyn) hit the shelves in 1999, there was no Twilight, no Vampire Diaries and no True Blood. Readers interested in compelling vampire fiction had to content themselves with Anne Rice standouts such as Interview with a Vampire to scratch the undead itch.

“We were fortunate that a traditional publisher took a chance on the story and two unknown authors,” said Kathleen McFall. “At the time, no one else was really thinking about paranormal fiction as a standalone genre and, of course, e-books and digital printing were distant glimmers on the horizon. All of that changed dramatically over the next ten years.”

Though the book sold well, more than 10,000 print copies, it would be a decade before the authors returned to the genre they helped create — Western Gothic. As vampire fiction burned up the charts and caught the attention of Hollywood, their first book returned from the dead with a renewed push from their publisher and a sexy new cover in 2010.

With the resurrection of their book and growing popularity for all things undead, Hays and McFall wrote book number two: The Cowboy and the Vampire: Blood and Whiskey.

“We learned from the past and dove right into the second book, but this time — given the radical changes in the publishing industry — we wrote it with an eye on retaining rights for ourselves and publishing under our own imprint,” said Clark Hays. “We’re what people now call ‘hybrid’ authors — that means we’ve worked with traditional publishers and as independent authors. It also means we run on a mixture of fuels, notably cocktails and sleep-deprivation.”

Book two was published in 2012 under their authors’ imprint, Pumpjack Press. As the role of traditional publishers continued to contract, Hays and McFall regained the rights to their first book and spent the next year “rebooting,” editing book one to the “author’s cut” and working with a Portland, Ore., artist to re-imagine the look of the series.

“We developed a stripped down, almost elemental approach to our Western Gothic genre,” said McFall. “We moved away from the expected cleavage and abs covers, distilling it down to the essence of our books — a unique and dark blend of gritty western, sexy romance and otherworldly paranormal with plenty of action and humor.”

At the same time, they began the fiery creative process for writing book three: The Cowboy and the Vampire: Rough Trails and Shallow Graves.

“While we love the freedom of indie publishing, we didn’t have much of a life beyond our computers and notebooks for the last year or so as we worked on the re-launch and writing the new book,” said Hays. “I’d say we spent about fifty percent of our time working on the new book, fifty percent on the editing and design of the first two books and fifty percent on marketing. On an unrelated note, our math skills are terrible.”

McFall agrees that the process requires a huge commitment of time, energy and passion.

“The Hollywood notion of writers having glamorous, interesting and carefree lives isn’t very accurate these days, if it ever was,” she said. “It’s hard, painstaking work that requires unwavering commitment and long hours. But ultimately it’s rewarding when you connect with readers.”

The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection follows the exploits of Tucker, a perpetually broke cowboy in the modern west, and Lizzie, his undead lover who is coming to terms with her ancient legacy. The books feature a cast of quirky characters including long-suffering Rex, Tucker’s overly sensitive cow dog.

Reviewers and readers have called the books everything from riveting to hilarious to a love story for the ages, and have noted their sly mix of genre entertainment with serious topics, like the tragedy of mismatched love, the slow decline of the American west and the nature of good and evil.

With so many vampire titles on bookshelves and cable channels, are the authors worried the public has had its fill?

“Just when it seems readers have had enough, the undead roar back into the public consciousness with some new twist that makes them fresh and relevant again,” McFall said. “They are the perfect blank slate to transfer our fears and concerns and help us think about sexuality and immortality, and I don’t think that will ever change. Vampires always surprise you, especially vampires thrown in with cowboys.”

Hays agrees.

“Vampires will never jump the shark,” he said. “Our vampires are actually much tougher than sharks and would just dive in and feed on them, letting their drained carcasses drift up on the beach somewhere.”


About the books

The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection is a passionate love story set in the beautiful and stark Wyoming wilderness with plenty of paranormal action and humor.

About the authors

Between the two of them, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall have worked in writing jobs ranging from cowboy-poet to energy journalist to restaurant reviewer to university press officer. After they met, their writing career took center stage when they wrote the first book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection as a test for marriage. They passed. Clark and Kathleen now live in Portland, Ore. 

The first book of The Cowboy and Vampire series A Very Unusual Romance was published in 1999, long before the vampire craze. With comparisons to Anne Rice and Zane Grey, the book gained a devoted following with an initial sales of 10,000+ print units. Fast forward a decade, and the publisher (Llewellyn) brought out the book as a second edition in 2010, hoping to ride the coattails of the Twilight mega-hit.

Meanwhile, the authors finally wrote the second book in the series –Blood and Whiskey – bringing it out under their own imprint (Pumpjack Press, 2012). In 2013, they gained all the rights back for the original book, and now, with Book 3 poised for publication, the restored Cowboy and Vampire series has been redesigned with exclusive art and is coming out for the first time in 15 years as a complete collection.

March 2014 – the reboot of Book 1 and 2!

May 2014 – Book 3!


The authors are putting on the final touches and getting ready to publish book three in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection. Even better, there’s a full “re-boot”(pun intended) of the series with new covers and (finally!) an author’s original cut of  book one – the very unusual romance - restored to its creative intent after wresting the rights back from the traditional big publisher.

When will it all launch? March.

Who is designing the cover? This guy….you’ll learn more about him soon.

Is it amazing? You betcha.

A new survey of more than 9,000 published and aspiring authors has some interesting results. Here’s an excerpt from Publisher’s Weekly comparing aspiring, traditionally published, self-published (indie) and hybrid (those previously traditionally published by now selecting indie):

Overall, DBW found, authors were not happy with their sales period. As the survey notes: “Neither mode of publishing, it seems, provided authors with what they hoped in terms of sales, earnings, distribution, or martketing.”

Among some notable stats from the survey are these:

-When asked what was the most important thing they hoped to achieve in publishing their book, the majority (at 60%) said to produce a book that people will buy.

-The majority of aspiring authors in the survey made no money, annually, from their writing. The majority of self-published authors made, annually, between $1-$999. The majority of self-published authors, as well as hybrid authors, also made between $1-$999, annually, from their writing. Among hybrid authors, roughly between 5-10% made over $100,000, annually, from their writing. Among traditionally published authors, around 2% made over $100,000, annually, from their writing.

That last bit floored us. More indie authors are making a living at writing than with traditional publishers. Have a look at two takes on the survey: Publisher’s Weekly and Digital Book World. Keep in mind the full report is for purchase only and it’s titled “What Advantages Do Traditional Publishers Offer Authors?” which gives you an inkling about its purpose.

As  an author-owned start-up (or is that upstart) indie press, we obsessively follow the publishing industry news, looking for trends, tips and insights on a host of topics, ranging from book discoverability to cool new cover artists. Recently, I came across an intriguing post by Hugh Howey, author of sci-fi mega-hit Wool along with a boatload of other books about steps the Big 5 publishing houses could take to accelerate their collective evolution into a viable business model. Surprise: the steps are all lessons-learned from the vibrant and creative indie publishing movement. While I doubt the Big 5 will take the advice – their biz model would collapse – his post may foretell the shape of the nascent companies now struggling on the sidelines, still building their lists. Thank you Mr Howey for a crisply written contribution to the ongoing public discussion about the future of publishing. Here’s the link. Be sure to check out the comments. Enjoy!