"What took you so long . . . ?"
There’s an old Yiddish saying that translates to: “Man plans, and God laughs.”
Boyohboy, did the Writing Gods yuck it up at my expense.
FLASHBACK: Things were going swimmingly for me in September 2017. My new book Galloway’s Gamble had just been published by Western-historical fiction specialist Five Star Publishing, and (after four decades writing lots of Star Trek and other science fiction) my very first historical novel also won a Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award—a little icing on the cake.
When my Five Star editors asked for more stories about endearingly argumentative brothers Jamey and Jake Galloway, I thought I’d won the writer’s lottery! I’d stumbled into a new storytelling niche I loved. I was embarking on my very own novel series. And I believed I’d found a happy publishing home for the rest of my writing days.
But . . . “Man plans, and God laughs.”
Right around the time Galloway’s Gamble came out, I started having back problems which would keep me from sleeping for the next four years (which ain't good for the brain). After twenty different medical practitioners (from A to Z -- Acupuncturist to ZZzzzzzsleep specialist), umpteen different drugs, and back surgery all failed to help, I’d lost four productive years and counting (although many people suffer far worse misfortune than I did).
Speaking of which, there was also that disruptive little pandemic thing.
Then a tiny miracle happened—no thanks to all those doctors, I accidentally discovered a prescription drug combo which actually enabled me to get some sleep (and hasn’t caused alarming side-effects, like growing a second head or third arm -- yet). I was able to resume making slow, steady progress on Galloway’s Gamble 2, and finally finished it—YAAAAAY!!!—only to learn that Five Star was being shut down by its parent company after 27 years of publishing award-winning fiction. Noooooo!
Faced with the reality that few other publishers (the kind that actually pay their writers, anyway) are doing this kind of book, I made the decision many fellow writers have also made—to self-publish. So that’s how I and Galloway’s Gamble 2: Lucifer & The Great Baltimore Brawl ended up at writers' collective Crazy 8 Press. Galloway’s Gamble 2 is the second book from Crazy 8’s new Western-historical imprint Silverado Press, following the trail blazed by Byrd's Luck & Other Western Stories, the new short-story collection by partner-in-crime Jeff Mariotte.
While science fiction has to be plausible, historical fiction has to be accurate. So, once I decided to write about 19th century horse racing–America’s first true national sport, about which I knew very little—I dove into research. Not only did I learn lots of mundane details needed to give this tale authenticity, I also found some brilliant gold nuggets that enriched the entire story.
When I read about millionaire horseman James Ben Ali Haggin (left), whose plan to enter a long shot stallion named Ben Ali (below) in the 1886 Kentucky Derby and collect a betting windfall was upended by a bookmakers strike; the legendary 1877 Great Sweepstakes match race at Pimlico, which drew nationwide attention; and the 19th century dominance of Black jockeys, I knew I had the recipe for a tasty Galloway's Gamble 2 stew worth cooking.
So what’s the story? After their friends are swindled out of a champion racehorse by ruthless rival Cortland Van Brunt III in a fog-shrouded San Francisco sprint, Jamey and Jake Galloway lead the gang on a snakebit, obstacle-strewn transcontinental quest: Can they reach Baltimore in time for a desperate long shot bid to win back prized stallion Phoenix in a grudge-match race at Pimlico? And that’s what took me so long.
But I’m happy to report that Galloway’s Gamble and Galloway’s Gamble 2 are both available in paperback and ebook from Amazon.com. Both are fast, fun reads, and I hope even readers who’ve never tried historical fiction will enjoy them.