The detective was talking mostly to himself, because the two patrol officers — fresh-faced rookies barely out of the academy and bursting with professional pride — were staring at the carnage, their mouths hanging open like the swinging doors of an abandoned saloon.

After 20 years on the force, the detective had seen a lot, too much, but this was the worst so far. It was 10 in the morning and he needed a drink. Another drink. He scratched at the salt and pepper stubble on his cheeks and then reached under his rumpled trench coat to adjust the Colt .45 nestled in his shoulder holster. The gun had a name — Brenda — and she was always ready to dance, but this wasn’t a shooting thing. Not yet anyway. But the day was young.

Instead, he pulled out his battered notebook, flipped it open and grabbed the dusty pen jammed into his shirt pocket. He clicked it to life, dotting his tongue to start the ink flowing, and then held it like a club over the sweat-stained paper. He was probably the last cop in America who even used paper, a renegade, a rebel who couldn’t play by the rules, even if those rules made entering, storing and retrieving data so much easier.

All the whiskey and divorces and fights and nights alone came crashing down around his shoulders and he lashed out to avoid even one second of introspection. “What do you see?” he shouted at the youngest of the rookie cops, a boy in the knight blue armor of all the men who came before him, a child who picked up the badge reluctantly and only to appease his father, the cold and distant commissioner.

“I don’t know,” the boy said, shrinking back.

The detective grinned like a wolf over a lamb, revealing a row of even, white teeth — even rebels could practice good oral hygiene — and a deep-seated mean streak. “Useless. How about you toots?”

She bristled at the diminutive hurled at her from the washed-out detective, and raised her chin higher defiantly. She couldn’t know it yet, but they would be lovers before the sun came up again.

Who is dead? Read the rest of this VERY short faux-crime scene story over at OMNI MYSTERY>>

What?

Posted: July 20, 2014 in Our books, Reviews and such

A single word, a powerful question, and a very apt title for a recent review of Rough Trails and Shallow Graves, the third book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection.

“What? That is exactly what I thought when I finished reading The Cowboy and the Vampire: Rough Trails and Shallow Graves by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall. I am completely stunned by the ending of book three in the Cowboy and the Vampire series. I have been sitting here trying to collect my thoughts because I must be in a type of book shock where the ending of the book was so unexpected that I don’t know what to think.”

Read the full review over at Willenator’s World and check out all the other great thoughts about books and such at one of our new favorite book blogs. The authors will be doing an interview at WW soon. Stay tuned!

bloodytypewriterAuthors Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall were recently asked to write about writing. “Usually, this topic is hopelessly boring. But we did our best, because we were very nicely asked and let our collective ego answer instead of our brains,” Kathleen said, explaining. We at Pumpjack found the advice pretty good. This post originally appeared on Rebecca’s Writing Service blog.  

Writing is the worst thing you can do in the world. For starters, it’s thankless. And chances are you’ll never make any money at it. Plus you’ll be relentlessly critiqued and judged by countless people, some (many?) of whom feel obliged to assassinate your character in the process. And forget about having a social life, or any kind of life, really. You have to spend all of your time writing and all of your spare time marketing your writing and all your spare, spare time reading better writers than yourself. (Note: there’s no such thing as spare, spare, spare time — that’s just called “sleep,” and it’s in short supply).

If you’re still reading this, it’s too late for you — you’re afflicted. There’s no hope. But we do have a few tips and tricks to help you manage the unfortunate condition that will shape the rest of your life.  Read the rest of this entry »

Our favorite Alaskan deity – Kriss – recently posted a recipe and a review both related to The Cowboy and the Vampire. Wow! That’s all we can say….here’s a little excerpt from the review, but check out the full post at the Cabin Goddess website. It’s a great site. Yum. Creamed enchiladas and massive creativity.

“The balance of funny from Elita, the serious brooding character of Tucker and the metaphysical aspect of … well the Meta (must read it, it is where they go between morning and night when they “die” each day), the horror of what happens to Lizzie after the disaster of her wedding day is boiling away on high and causing the necessity to read till you are done. The darkest of the bunch and the best written so far I am just delighted. They are each finding their voices which peek through with a few of the different characters. I am absolutely thrilled to have grabbed this!”

Author Clark Hays considers his own cowboy upbringing after reading GOAT MOUNTAIN. Clark brings a similar autobiographical  truth to the characters and landscape of the modern American west in The Cowboy and Vampire Collection.

Photo Jun 01, 3 09 45 PM

Gory Days: Clark target shooting on the ranch.

Goat Mountain by David Vann is a dark, brutal, crackling story about a boy, his father (and his friend) and his grandfather who go deer hunting in the mountains of California in the late 70s. Kathleen read it, liked it, and then recommended I give it a try because she thought I would appreciate the similarities with my own childhood. As I’ve described to her, probably to the point of mind-numbing boredom, I grew up on a ranch in Montana in the late 70s. I read it in one sitting on a flight to DC (the very best circumstances to have a great book in your hands) and, more than finding a few similarities, the story at times felt like a cut and paste of my life.

The set up is that the boy, excited to make his first kill, is given the opportunity to look at a poacher through the scope of his fathers’ hunting rifle. Bad things happen and it all quickly spirals out of control into madness and violence.

Here’s the crazy part: I have a vivid memory of deer hunting as a boy on some private property up in the mountains – this was probably in Junior High — when I saw a friend across the canyon confront a poacher who wasn’t supposed to be there. Since they were both armed, I stretched out in the sagebrush and watched the poacher through the scope of my rifle just in case things went bad. They didn’t, luckily, but that memory came crashing to the fore when I started this book. Read more about cowboy life>>

From Kirkus Reviews: This series is intended for audiences who like blood and bullets along with their romance, and the prose here is sharp and to the point, much like the majority of the characters. Although the plot this time around is fairly straightforward, its events result in dire consequences for the star-crossed lovers. With pulse-pounding action, ongoing intrigue over the fate of vampire-kind, and the tumultuous struggles of Tucker and Lizzie’s love story, Hays and McFall once again deliver a thoroughly entertaining novel for readers to sink their teeth into. Read the full review>>

From Fresh Fiction: The authors have managed to blend traditional cowboy clichés with a truly gothic, yet modern, vampire atmosphere. The have added unusual twists to the vampire mythology, such as the references to a vampire Bible. The authors are extremely gifted writers; the dialogue is brilliant: all the characters have their own speech patterns, accents, their very own voice; they all sound as unique as they are. Read the full review>>

CV-book-3iHusband and wife writing team defy the odds — stay married and release the third book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection.

May 5, 2014 (Portland, Ore.) – Writing is a traditionally a solo sport, like long-distance running or competitive eating, but authors Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall have turned it into a two-person, creative bare-knuckle literary cage match by successfully writing together for more than a decade. They are releasing their third book together, The Cowboy and the Vampire: Rough Trails and Shallow Graves (ISBN: 978-0-9838200-4-8, Pumpjack Press) and the process, not surprisingly, has been fraught with emotional danger.

“Stick two creative, opinionated and chronically insecure writers on the same project for an extended period, and there’s bound to be fireworks,” said McFall. “Add a romantic relationship to the mix and sometimes it borders on the thermonuclear. But all of that angst and passion is channeled right into our books, and adds depth and grit to the challenges our two lovers — Tucker and Lizzie — face.”

“Writing together is ridiculous and insane, and we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Hays said. “But we really pushed the boundaries of common sense this time. Writing the third book just wasn’t enough for us, so we decided to re-release both book one — after a significant edit to trim it down to the author’s cut — and book two with new covers designed by an Oregon artist. It made for some long days, and longer nights … and not in the good way.”

On at least some of those nights, the pillow talk involved not only the plot twists of cowboys and vampires, but also astral projection and near death experiences. In Rough Trails and Shallow Graves, the authors doubled down on the metaphysical elements called out by national reviewers as a unique aspect of their genre fiction.

“In a way, it’s a shame more time isn’t spent exploring the existence of this meta world where consciousnesses wait out the daylight hours and immortality has all sorts of ramifications for human spirituality,” noted Kirkus Reviews about book two of the series. Read the rest of this entry »

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