Thoughts

Packing the West

Packing the West

Recently I acted in one of the Packing the West documentaries, which are a series of educational films used to introduce kids to the people of the American West.

The documentaries were produced by The Homestead Foundation, the Western Writers of America, and other sponsors, and they describe the project as an “educational enrichment program designed to inspire in students a curiosity about the history of the American West, an appreciation of literature, and the desire to understand society at the time, and how it relates to today.”

It was rewarding to work with some of the leading experts in American West history and novels of the West, a dedicated film crew, makeup and costumers who changed my appearance, and resilient actors who braved changing weather conditions.

We filmed in southeast Colorado at Bent’s Old Fort, which was a thrill for me because the National Park Service has been dear to me since I interned with them many years ago while in college. The rangers and staff at this park are not only historians but actors too.

Learn more at the Western Writers website.

Photo of Scott Thompson as William Bent by Wanda Price

Bent's Old Fort
Bent’s Old Fort
William Bent
William Bent

Free eBook for Christmas

For Christmas this year I’m offering Eight Days free on Kindle. Even if you don’t have a Kindle you can download the reader from Amazon. It should work on most devices.

I’ve been proud of this novel since I wrote it. Those who have read it have enjoyed it, and I hope you will too.

— Scott

Eight Days novel

About Eight Days

LIFE’S SHORT WHEN COMPARED TO ETERNITY,
BUT ETERNITY IS ONLY WORTH IT BECAUSE OF LIFE.

Clive Kinsella lived a good life. He had a family who loved him and he was never without a job, a place to live, or a warm meal. But Clive died unfulfilled. Despite all his gifts he could only see what he didn’t have. He never wrote for a big newspaper in a big city. He never traveled the world. In fact, he never got out of his small Southern town. And … he never faced the ghosts that haunted him.

At his own funeral Clive meets Pachu, his grandfather who had died years before, and with Pachu he begins a journey through his life where he has to finally face his greatest regrets and agonies. But, if Clive can’t overcome his regrets he’ll be forced to wander the place between Heaven and Earth. Each day Clive revisits events in life in a sort of spiritual recording, the same events that took him from being an optimistic young man to a curmudgeon.

For every day he overcomes he gets to visit a place on earth he never saw before, and the reader is taken to places like Half Dome in Yosemite and Venice, where Pachu and Clive discuss existence and the meaning of life. But if Clive can’t overcome his greatest regrets he’ll be trapped in the in-between as a ghost.

Download and read Eight Days

Getting it Right

I’m at the last stage of getting the next Ambrose Western Saga book out to you. It’s taking longer than I thought it would, but my books usually do. I’m learning to be consistent. When I was younger I would stay up for days and finish projects. Now I work on them almost every day until they’re complete, but I have to stop to take care of my kids, cook, and do those things that keep us all busy. I don’t know which creative technique is better. We do what we need to do to create, but I know for where I am in life now consistency is the trick. Not sprints. One way or the other I’ll get the next Western novel out to you, and like before I’ll do my best to keep it affordable.

Thanks for reading.

Back in the Saddle

Okay, I never strayed too far from the horse (writing), but I did fall off the saddle and was dragged about a mile behind my horse before it finally slowed down enough for me to get my boot free and climb back on the proper way. I’m a bit dusty and bruised, but I’m still here.

Now it’s time to get at least two books out this year. One has been in the works for a while, and one way or the other I’ll get it to you this year. The other is the second book in the Ambrose Western Saga. After I get those two out the door I have a new novel that has been in my head for a few years. I even have about 20,000 words, but I don’t know if I’ll use them or not. We’ll see how that goes. My writing plans never go as predicted, but I do keep writing, and I hope to keep putting out books as long as my mind is sharp.

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated.

Scott

Wayne Thompson : A Life

Wayne Thompson, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, passed away peacefully in his home on June 20, 2018.

Wayne Thompson

Wayne lived a life that never included much thought about death, but despite his knack for living day-by-day he left a proud legacy.

Wayne was born poor and short, and with hard work he overcame poverty, but never overcame being short. This is only noted because he joked about his height, and while he joked, he didn’t really seem to mind.  He looked for things to laugh about, and was among the rare few who could make any situation manageable through humor. He never laughed at you, only with you, and only then if he really liked you.

Wayne’s greatest attribute was his sense of humor, something that made his difficult life bearable. No, he made it great despite the cards he’d been dealt.

Life for him started hard and was rarely easy.  When he was three, his father died from brain cancer leaving his mother with four kids to raise on her own.  Soon after, she was diagnosed with epilepsy and, as you can guess, the family struggled to even eat. The two oldest kids were out of the house as soon as possible and Wayne’s brother, who remained, had his own struggles, so the care of their mother fell on Wayne. He didn’t get to play after school with the other kids. Instead he had to rush home to care for his dying mother. When she fell to the floor in convulsions from epileptic seizures it was his job to keep her from hurting herself.  He did everything he could, but despite his greatest efforts, she died when he was 11.

After his mother passed, their home on Alpine Street, and everything they owned was auctioned off to pay for the medical bills and expenses. Eleven year old Wayne watched as everything that remained of his family was snatched up by the highest bidder. When he was in his twenties, and had a good job, he returned to that house on Alpine Street and bought it back. He only lived there with his family for a short time, but he had made something right that had once went wrong.    

Wayne in the late 1950s

As a new orphan he had an offer from a wealthy Newnan family to live with them, but his eccentric aunt talked him into living with her instead in her shotgun shack that sat high on a hill on East Broad Street.  She raised him in her mill village home where he lived in the attic and fended for himself. He learned to fight and learned to work. Soon after he started a grass cutting business and filled a sock full of cash before his oldest brother took him to California. Wayne believed he finally would have a normal life and family, but his big brother drove him back to Georgia after a few months and left him sitting on the steps of their aunt’s house. When Wayne told the story years later he joked that “Return to Sender” was playing on his brother’s car radio. Humor saved his life again.

Wayne Thompson survived puberty and his teenage years without a father. He learned how to be a good man from listening to the messages of the parents on TV like Ward Cleaver of “Leave it to Beaver” and Andy Griffith on another popular show from the 1960s.

Soon after high school he met a dark haired, blue eyed girl, Donna. She was from a broken home with an alcoholic father, and she needed someone with a sense of humor about life. It worked as well as anything either of them had known so far, and together, they clawed their way from poverty to success. Maybe not the type of success that’s written about in Forbes magazine, but the type of success that anyone who knows what real happiness is strives for.

They worked their way into steady and rewarding jobs. Wayne became one of the first employees of Federal Express, and became Newnan’s first Fedex courier. He was smart, so they moved him from a courier into management. But he liked talking to people, and left the office and returned as a courier where he could talk to people every day.

With his wife they owned several nice homes, found a church they loved, made great friends, and raised two boys who grew into men who knew how to love. He even had a good dog who loved him. They had everything. They laughed often, usually until it hurt; because if you have to hurt it should be while laughing.

Wayne’s perfect world lasted about 15 years before tragedy struck again. He had become a pilot and a real estate agent, but kept his job at Federal Express for the benefits, and because he loved that company. He would get up long before sunrise, unload packages from planes at the Atlanta airport, and then return to Newnan to sell houses, often to families who couldn’t find a realtor because the homes they could afford didn’t bring a high enough commission for most agents. It was on one of those early mornings when a tractor trailer ran a stop sign and collided with his small economy car. It was the first new car he had owned in his adult life, but he was still sensible. Airbags weren’t common then and his head slammed into the car frame and the floor shifted and crushed his legs. His dog howled and cried the night of his accident. Somehow she knew. He was in a coma for days, and then was in a deep sleep for many more.

When he finally awoke it was not what the family expected. He didn’t wake up and wonder what happen, like they do on TV. He woke up a different man. What he did keep was his sense of humor. Even before he knew his own name again he made jokes. Humor saved him … again.

It would be two years before Wayne came home again, because it took him that long to relearn how to do the simplest things that most of us take for granted. Some things he never learned to do again. He was permanently damaged, both mentally and physically. From then on he hurt every day of his life, but he never stopped smiling, and he never complained about the pain.  

There were other struggles in his life. Some people tried to take advantage of him, but in the end they lost and he forgave. He even prayed for those who had hurt him. Most people would hold a grudge forever, but he didn’t. He turned it over to God and moved on with a smile.   

He grew old fast, but enjoyed his life. He lived next to his son and grandsons during his final years on the beach in South Carolina, where he enjoyed watching his grandsons play. He liked being close to his son, Tim.

In the end Wayne returned to watching television, and died watching TV in his favorite chair. The television had taught him good lessons as a child. Those old shows comforted him again, like a talk with one’s father. Speaking of fathers, he never remembered his father in life, but now you can bet he’s talking to him in Heaven.  

Scott and Wayne Thompson – Around 1981

Review of The Confederate

The Confederate is an impressive Western that hearkens back to the early dime novels of the 1890’s by writers such as Ned Buntline and Prentiss Ingraham and the early twentieth century pulp Westerns of Zane Grey. Indeed the writing style itself is very close to Grey’s, short, simple sentences that appeal to any reading level, but like Grey’s work, this simplicity masks deceptively modern themes. While the writing may feel anachronistically simple and plain for a modern audience, Thompson skillfully weaves in a surprisingly modern viewpoint.

The story tells of ex-Confederate officer Robert Ambrose, who returns home from the Civil War disillusioned as to the War’s legitimacy and the nobility of its cause to find his fiancee engaged to another man and his former life in shambles. Turning his back on the past, Ambrose heads to the Colorado territory to forge a new life in the untamed West. Throughout his journey, Ambrose comes to question not only his own morality, but the blind assumptions that led him to take up arms against his fellow Americans.

In Ambrose, Thompson gives us a new kind of Confederate hero: not the cryptoracist veteran who bemoans the tragedy of the South’s “Lost Cause,” but a man who, while proud of the service he gave his homeland, finds himself questioning the political underpinnings that made such service necessary. Ambrose shows us a man who learns to accept others on the basis of their actions rather than the color of their skin. In fact, Thompson’s treatment of race is one of the aspects of the novel I like the most: Unlike the traditional Westerns Thompson emulates, we are not given a portrait of white culture “taming” the savages and building a civilization, nor are we given, as in many revisionist Westerns of the 1960’s and 1970’s, a representation of ethnic minorities as pure and noble savages that teach the barbaric white man to appreciate nature and rise above his prejudices. Instead, Thompson populates his town of Argentine, Colorado, with a diverse cast of characters whose morality has nothing to do with race.

Another aspect I really enjoyed was the pacing of both Ambrose’s primary plot and the subplot of Narcissa, Ambrose’s lost love, and her journey to the West in search of him. Not only does Thompson pace it so well that when the paths inevitably cross, it makes perfect sense, but each step of Narcissa’s personal journey parallels a similar step made by Ambrose in his. Finally, I enjoyed that Thompson undermines traditional Westerns by not making it necessary for Narcissa to be saved by Ambrose while he also undermines revisionist Western tropes by making it unnecessary for Narcissa to rescue Ambrose either. Both plots, while necessarily intertwined, allow their respective protagonists to solve their own dilemmas on their own, making for stronger characters overall.

In short, do not be deceived by Thompson’s simple stylistic choices. The Confederate is a far more complex story than it appears, and much more intriguing. I could not put it down. If Zane Grey wrote Larry McMurtry’s reinterpretation of Forrest Carter’s The Outlaw Josey Wales, it might well read very much like Scott Thompson’s The Confederate.

Leverett Butts, Ph.D.

Order The Confederate (Book One in the Western Ambrose Saga)

The American West

I’m taken with the American West. So much so that my next novel takes place in Colorado of the Old West in 1865. It’s the story of a Confederate soldier who leaves his home in River Falls, Georgia for Colorado. He doesn’t know what awaits him, but he’s sure it’s better than what he left behind.

Places

I’ve lived in well over thirty homes. Most of those were houses, but a few were apartments or townhomes. When I was a kid I didn’t go to the same school for more than a year in a row until tenth grade. I learned to make friends quickly, and now that’s a skill that I take with me to each new place I go. People are mostly the same. In some places, like the South, people are more outgoing and openly friendly, and in the West they are more genuine than other places I’ve been, but at the core everyone wants people to love, a few good friends, and a comfortable and safe home. A smile is the one thing that connects in every language and every culture.

I think I’m settled in the West now. I may live a few months here and there, but I’ll keep my permanent home in the West. It’s tougher here. Life doesn’t come as easily as it does in other places. Life is fragile, and that creates alertness to everything I haven’t always known. The West is beautiful, but so is the East Coast, but the beauty is noticed here I think due to the fragileness of it all. I told a friend recently that Colorado is designed to kill you … but in a fun way.

Death doesn’t scare me because I expect a journey after my time here. There’s more. There’s always more, and I believe that a good smile should work on the next journey the same as here.

 

Rocky Mountains - AuthorScottThompson.com

Literature Instead of News

I have to watch the news with my finger on the channel button. Mute used to work, but my boys have long since learned to read the scrolling text at the bottom of the screen. Now I have to change the channel. Keeping up with the news was once an act of valor. Often it provided little more than conversation starters, while also a sign that you were communicating with the well-read. Now the news is a step above the rags that line grocery store shelves, and the line between the two is blurred. They love the sex and violence that sells commercials. I turn away from it more and more.

All the truths I need are in literature. Humans don’t change, even when the world around them does. We know more, and I think we try more – some of us anyway, but greed will always exist. So will the desire to subdue another for our own gain. It’s the animal in us, given intellect, which is skewed. The story seems to be the only place that makes sense of this. It’s where we learn that there is hope.

Hope. There’s always hope. We are here to learn, not to become perfect. Some of us figure it out sooner than others. I told my kid yesterday that the saying “only the good die young” will make more sense to him the longer he lives. It appears to be true too often.

The Woods

The woods behind my house were an escape from school, chores, or the burning of the summer. It was always called “woods” despite the size, much less than an acre of overgrowth. The junk trees grew fast among only slightly slower growing pines, sap sticky, but easy to cut. I removed the pines from the earth with my bow saw and built a fort, a thing to hide deeper among the green, and less for protection against real and imagined enemies.

It didn’t take long for more overgrowth to cover my fortress, hidden from all but ticks and snakes. One snake sat in the path to my door, ready to strike it seemed, but most likely bored from a life on its belly. Was it true that God cursed the snake? Was that in the Bible, or had I heard it from a preacher, two very different truths. I took the snake and placed it in the only container I could find: the mailbox. The mailman shook and cried when he confronted me.

I used my father’s best wood to build a tree house high in a hundred year oak. The tree wider than a car. Taller than any of our town’s buildings. I decorated the inside with leftover wallpaper. I had the only tree house with yellow flowered walls. I drove by that old house a few years ago. My thirty year old tree house was still in the hundred year oak, hardwood gripping the grayed boards like it wanted to protect the memory of the little boy who climbed its limbs years before.