Favorite Works of Fiction- Book Review

Favorite Works of Fiction

by Adam Huddleston

For our book review month, I wanted to bring back an old blog of mine concerning my favorite works of fiction.  They aren’t necessarily detailed book reviews, but rather an insight into the types of works that I enjoy.

A couple of weeks ago I published a blog concerning my favorite non-fiction books for writers.  This week, I would like to list a few of my favorite works of fiction (in no particular order).  As you can imagine, me being a life-long reader of fantasy and horror, the list is full of selections from those genres.

Stephen King has always been a “fave” of mine.  He has a plethora of thrillers and chillers.  Some works seek to get you at the “gross-out” level.  Others are more intimate examinations of the inner-self.  My favorite novel of his belongs to the latter; “The Long Walk.”  Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, this story follows a young man as he participates in a horrific annual tradition.  The book is eerie and very well written.

Shifting to fantasy, you can’t find many works better than those of J.R.R. Tolkien.  In a world where new writers are shoveling their wares in both bookstores and electronically, this legendary author’s work stands the test of time and his “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy is, to me at least, at the top.  It is the definition of an epic fantasy with a huge cast of characters, a sprawling world, and an entire language created by the author.

The late Michael Crichton penned a ton of great science-fiction stories, many of which were adapted into motion pictures.  My favorite work of his is “Jurassic Park.”  The movie, once it gets going, travels at a break-neck pace.  Guess what?  The novel does as well.  The author even goes into great detail concerning how they manipulated the DNA to create the stories antagonists.  

The last piece I’ll mention is one by Richard Adams.  One of my earliest cinematic memories is watching “Watership Down” on a VHS player in my parent’s bedroom.  When I was older, I discovered that it was based on a novel of the same name.  The book does a great job of personifying the characters, mostly rabbits with a black-headed gull thrown in for good measure, and bringing their adventures to life.  Like Tolkien, Richard Adams gives us a healthy dose of backstory, native language, and even a form of lupine religion.  

Whatever your favorite genre might be, these novels are worth looking into.  They will give insight into proper world building, plot, dialogue, and character development.

Happy writing; and reading!

OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66 – Book Review

Outtakes 387


By Cait Collins

Recently Wordsmith Six released an anthology OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66.  The book contained five stories with different time periods and different genres. The uniting theme was Route 66 and the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas.

Maggie’s Betrayal by Natalie Bright is based on actual events during the Depression Era.  Maggie is given in marriage to a gangster as payment for gambling debts.  Shy and frightened, she tends to the household chores and is more a servant than a wife.  When she meets her husband’s nephew, Alex, she learns not all men are mean and abusive.  As their relationship grows and changes, Maggie must decide whether to stay in her loveless marriage or take a chance on love.

I couldn’t believe it when I realized our two guys both wrote romances.  Rory C. Keel wrote Waiting.  Set in World War II, the story traces a tale of love based on letters a newlywed couple wrote to each other.  Brennon and Patricia’s marriage grows stronger even though they are separated by war.  The story is enhanced by the inclusion of well researched facts regarding events in the Texas Panhandle and the war in Europe.  The ending will touch your heart.

Sudden Turns by Joe Nichols is a hoot. Joe has this wonderful voice that combines details of ranch life and the romance between a young widow and a Texas cowboy who has returned home following his military stint in World War II. Liz and Buster don’t start out on good terms, but she’s desperate to get her cattle to market.  For room and board plus a portion of the sales, she hires Buster to “capture” her cows.  A cowboy himself, Joe brings just the right amount of humor and “ranching” to the story.

Moira O’Hara, a photo journalist spent months recovering from injuries sustained during an earthquake while embedded with troops in Afghanistan.  Much of her time in the Middle East is a distant memory she chooses not to remember; including memories of her rescuer, Aiden Thornton. When they accidentally reconnect at the Rialto Square Theater in Joliet, Illinois, they begin a journey of recovery on the road to a Showdown at the U-Drop Inn by Cait Collins.

Author Nandy Ekle set the final story, Fear of Heights, a few years in the future. Shamrock, Texas has grown.  The U-Drop Inn has reopened, and a carnival is set up close to the restaurant.  Reylene is in the process of divorcing her abusive husband, Shane.  Shane is not happy with the amount of child support Reylene is requesting, so he enlists the aid of his current squeeze, Sherry. Sherry is Reylene’s best friend. Terrified of heights, Reylene reluctantly agrees to a ride on the Ferris wheel.  But she is unaware Shane and Sherry plan to scare her into giving up on the child support. Can she forgive the betrayal?

The book gave each of us a chance to test our imaginations, research skills, and take a leap of faith. OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66 is available online or through your local Barnes and Noble Booksellers.

The ORCHARDIST – Amanda Coplin

The ORCHARDIST – Amanda Coplin

Review by Rory C. Keel

William Talmage grows up as a gentle recluse caring for the family orchard after the death of his mother. Haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his sister, his heart of compassion is kindled when he befriends two feral girls stealing from his orchard. Talmage sets out to aid both girls who are pregnant and hungry and to redeem them from the opium controlled brothel owner named Michaelson.

The book is well written and picturesque with the details of the Pacific North West in the late 1800’s. This book is worth a read and a re-read!

Cowboys and Cattle Drives

Cowboys and Cattle Drives

Natalie Bright


For western history fans, I stumbled on two excellent books that capture the spirit and hard work of cowboys who pushed herds of Longhorns north to market.

One is FREE and you can read it online now, A TEXAS COWBOY or, Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Pony by Charles A. Siringo. Here’s the link: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3830

This vivid, action-packed memoir begins in Dodge City, where a young Siringo grew up as the son of immigrants, an Italian father and an Irish mother. Early Texas was a dangerous and adventurous place, and Siringo lives on his own trying his hand at various jobs, always managing to send money back to his mother. His stories of the trail are amazing accounts of stampedes, weather, and hard luck. He eventually settled down to become a store merchant when he published this autobiography at the age of thirty in 1885.

The other cowboy book that has emerged somewhat as the most realistic, is WE POINTED THEM NORTH: RECOLLECTIONS OF A COWPUNCHER by E.C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott, written with Helena Huntington Smith. Published in 1939, Abbott was 78 years old and with Smith’s help, he wanted to “set the record straight” about the cattle trailing days. Arriving with his family from Norfolk, England to Nebraska, Abbott’s father was the second son of a wealthy British family, hoping to find better opportunities in America. The first thing he did was to travel to Texas and buy cattle, leaving a ten-year-old Abbott to join the outfit that brought their newly purchased herd north. Abbott’s father returned to the Nebraska frontier by train. Abbott was a friend of the western artist Charles Russell, and his life is believed to have been the inspiration for LONESOME DOVE. This is a raw, honest, bare-bones look at early Texas.

The thing that both of these accounts have in common is the practice of allowing young men to fend for  themselves in the Texas Frontier. Everyone had to work for money and food, and learn to survive. A good horse, a saddle and the clothes on their back was all they needed. Can you imagine leaving town at trails end to find more work with no money or food in your pocket? There is no whining or complaining in either of these memoirs. They faced the situation head on and did they best they could. These people were amazingly tough and resourceful.

I am deep into research about Texas history and the great Texas Longhorn migration. My next nonfiction book KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN’, will be out in 2020. It will feature the history of the chuck wagon and authentic recipes from the cattle drive era.




Lynnette Jalufka


This novel has one of the best opening chapters I have ever read. I immediately fell in love with Tahn as he scales a wall “like a reptile” to kidnap a noble woman, whose husband he previously murdered. Why? To save her life from his cruel master and the mercenary band he belongs to.

And then there are the orphan children he tries to prevent from becoming like himself, an assassin.

It’s an exciting and unpredictable story that takes place in a medieval-like setting. Tahn is a complex character as he wrestles with his horrific past and the hope Lady Netta says can be found in God.

From the back cover: “The bravery of an unlikely hero, the love of an honorable lady, and the innocence of each wayward child resonate throughout this gripping tale of courage, faith, forgiveness, and unconditional love.”

The Other Steve


The Other Steve

By Nandy Ekle

I am a confirmed Constant Reader of Stephen King. I’ve read nearly everything he’s written. Even if the story is not fantastic, the world are. So I will alway be, in the words of one of his greatest villains, his “number one fan.”

But I’ve discovered the story-telling skill of another Steve. Today’s book review is of The Pleasure of My Company, by Steve Martin.

This is a truly charming story. No ghosts, no vampires, no werewolves. No bleeds, no one fights, and the only violent death that takes place happens before the stop begins, making the main character a murder suspect for five minutes.

No, this wonderful little book is a refreshing sweetness, like eating strawberry shortcake after having a piece of rare steak. The steak is good, but you gotta have something sweet to wash it down.

In Mr. Martin’s story, we have a main character who is the narrator. This man is incredibly brilliant, but also has a severe mental health disability. But the charm of this is that he knows this about himself. And knowing this about himself, he deals with it with humor. Good ole’ Steve Martin kind of humor. 

In dealing with his disability and the daydreams and adventures he has, he learns some things about the people around him, and the people he left behind. Then he learns the cause of his mental health disabilities.

Like I said, and charming and sweet story. It will make you laugh out loud, and it will make you cry with sympathy, then cheer with victory.

Read The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin. You’ll be glad you did.

Of Gods and Men

Outtakes  386

Of Gods and Men

By Cait Collins


Several years ago, I stumbled on to a new author. At least she was new to me.  I quickly became hooked.  She wrote about ancient Greeks, cursed races, Gods, Goddesses, harbingers, demons, dark hunters, mortals, and immortals.  Characters would shift forms, or turn from humans to animals.

I loved it.

Sherrilyn Kenyon opened new worlds for me.  I could immerse myself into the stories of Acheron’s Dark Hunters.  I almost cried as I read Acheron and Styxx’s stories of abuse, loneliness, love and hate. Brothers whose lives were so entwined that the death of one would end the life of the other.

Ms. Kenyon creates majesty from the halls of Olympus to the depths of hell. Avalon glows, but cold and dead landscapes are nearby.  Her heroes are men and women with purpose and integrity. But her antagonists are brutal and cold. Despite their deity, the nobles are often cruel and manipulating.  Above all, every line has power.

I could not put her biographies of Acheron and Styxx down.  I read until I fell asleep with the books open in my lap.  Finally, I have started reading Stygian.  For some time the book has been begging me to read it, but time and deadlines have prevented that from happening.  After reading the first chapter, I’m hooked.  It’s another page turner.  Question is, is this the end of the tale or the start of a new chapter?  I can’t wait to find out.



Natalie Bright

The Texas High Plains Writers brings you a new collection of short stories, memoirs, essays, and poetry from our talented members. One of the oldest writer’s groups in the country, we are celebrating our 100th anniversary next year in 2020. It’s amazing to me that a group of women who wanted to support each other in their writing under the name of Panhandle Pen Women, started an organization that has met continuously for 100 years. Our members today represent every genre from inspirational to horror, play writes, music, and everything in between.

Based in Amarillo, an anthology for this group is nothing new, but I am so glad the current Board of Directors made the decision to revive the writing contest and publish members’ works. In this new anthology, thirty-two authors — from New York Time’s bestselling to newly published — spin tales of laughter, love, and loss. A lawman on the western frontier, a go-kart race for the ages, a keening banshee in picturesque Ireland . . .These stories will make you smile, get your adrenaline pumping, and bring a tear to your eye.

Here’s the link on Amazon to buy. Click here.


For more information about THPW, visit their website here. http://texashighplainswriters.com/

Thank you for supporting our upcoming 100th year celebration through your purchase of this new book and thanks for reading Wordsmith Six!



Lynnette Jalufka


Where has this book been all my life? I am very thankful to the friend who recommended it to me. It’s the type I love to read, full of action, adventure, and mystery. There’s even a little romance. It’s hard to put down.

Jacques creates a medieval world full of colorful animal characters. Matthias is a small novice mouse at the peaceful Redwall Abbey. But he desires to be brave like the Abbey’s co-founder, Martin the Warrior. When Redwall comes under attack by the rat, Cluny the Scourge, and his army, Matthias goes on a quest to find Martin’s legendary sword which he believes can save the Abbey.

This book has one of the best opening chapters I’ve read. I also like how Jacques describes the battle scenes. He gives enough detail without being gory.

I now have read several books in the series. Each one has kept me up well past the time I should have been asleep. This one remains my favorite.

Another Story, Another King


Another Story, Another King

By Nandy Ekle

I am truly a voracious reader. Not the fastest on earth, but definitely in the top when it comes to reading any and everything. And I remember nearly everything I’ve ever read. As a kid in school, of course I read the assigned readings (or at least scanned them). I ordered as many books as Mom would pay for from the scholastic reading order forms. I read biographies and ghost stories, fact books and mysteries, Little House on the Prairie, Encyclopedia Brown, Zilpha Keatley Snyder stories, and A Wrinkle in Time. In high school I read Harlequin romances and Braum Stoker’s Dracula… everything I could get my hands on.

So deciding which book to review for this blog is a heavy task. I’ve thought of all things Poe, a book I truly love by Diane Setterfield titled The Thirteenth Tale, all the Stephanie Plum books, all things Harry Potter (another absolutely brilliant story). And I’ve thought about the fantasy phase I went through which included Mary Stewart’s Merlin Series, and The Forever King by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy, and Stardust by the extremely brilliant Neil Gaiman.

But I have to confess that I keep coming back around to Stephen King. And since I’ve already rambled on about The Shining (I’ll never stop rambling about The Shining), I’m going to talk about my second favorite of his books, The Eyes of the Dragon.

Now, while I don’t believe this book is on the same level as The Shining, it is, as I’ve stated, my second favorite King book of all time. 

Reason number one: the story of why he wrote it. His explanation is that his daughter asked if horror was the only thing he knew how to write. Couldn’t he write something nice for a change? So he came up with The Eyes of the Dragon, an original fairy tale, which he dedicated to his daughter, Naomi. 

Reason number two: his style of writing in this book is so totally different from all other books he’s ever written. When reading it, the narrator is actually telling the story to the reader, interjecting his own emotions at certain points. He does this very effectively, enhancing the story to the nth degree and adds to the atmosphere of the story amazingly. When you read the book, the writing style is actually reminiscent of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Reason number three: Well, without saying, the way the story circles back around is pure genius. 

Read The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. You’ll be so glad you did.