Steven S. Drachman's Blog - Posts Tagged "watt-o-hugh"

Hello! Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm going to try to tell you more about me and about my book in this spot in the weeks to come, but for now there's a few bits of news that I'd like to share.

I've got a couple author events coming up in late October, one in Laramie, Wyoming (10/25), one in Leadville, Colorado (10/23), with more to be added. Please save the date if you can. More details can be found here.

There are various bits of business around the web. A few of them appeared in the last couple of days.

There is an interview with me on a web blog called
Earth's Book Nook, which appeared Sunday morning. It's a good blog, even when she's not writing about me, so take a look.

The Midwest Book Review had some nice things to say about The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh in a web review that appeared on Thursday.

They write: “As society leaps forward, not everyone gleefully goes with it. The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh is a western of sorts of the fading era of the cowboy. Blending in elements of fantasy and time travel, ... The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh is a humorous and fun adventure, recommended.” If you want to read the whole thing, you can find it here (although it is hard to find, buried at the bottom of the page).

There is a lot more stuff about Watt O'Hugh, including more stuff around the web, at the book's website. Please do check it out, here.

And please do get in touch with me if you have any questions or just want to say hello. I really do love to hear from readers (or even prospective readers)!
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Published on September 05, 2011 18:28 • 88 views • Tags: fantasy, historical-fantasy, science-fiction, steven-s-drachman, time-travel, watt-o-hugh, western
Watt O’Hugh III is an interesting fellow, at least to me; a 19th century orphan from New York’s desperate Five Points slum; a Wyoming gunman and dime novel hero; a Wild West showman; a Time Roamer, doomed to know the day of his own death. A superstitious, damaged Civil War veteran who believes, rightly or wrongly, that his tremendous skills with a 45 can be explained only by the ghosts who swarm around him, protecting him from harm and guiding his shots (when his cause is just). And a cowboy still desperately and impossibly in love with Lucy Billings, the New York Socialite-with-a-Past that he loved and lost a decade ago, and who’s vanished somewhere in China.

Watt O’Hugh has been on my mind for a long time.

Back in the 1990s, I was a journalist writing about movies for a number of papers, interviewing film stars (and lots of starlets, mostly from Europe for some reason, with the occasional Jackie Chan and Leonardo DiCaprio tossed into the mix), when my agent asked me to try my hand at a fantasy novel. Before long, the two of us dreamed up Watt O’Hugh. For a few months, back then, I found myself living in the 19th century. In 1874, in New York City (a place and time that, by now, I could lead you through with ease), I rode the El, strolled past the junk shops on Chatham Street and lunched at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, the one torn down in 1908; and in Leadville, Colorado, I peered nervously at State Street’s infamous gambling dens. Various personalities of the age lived at our house, from J.P. Morgan to Oscar Wilde! I spoke to Western historians; one suggested the Wyoming Territorial Prison as a place to lock up O’Hugh when his luck went south; another, Elnore L. Frye, taught me how to break out of the same prison and to swim through the icy waters of the Laramie River.

Other than the Magic – the Time roaming, the women of the dark arts, and a dragon or two – the novel I was writing was really very historically accurate.

Two-thirds of the book spilled out of me like a dream, as quickly as I could type. I skipped ahead to the last scene, a sunset-bathed portrait of tired lovers at the edge of a cliff, storm clouds churning overhead. How did they get there, and what did it mean? I didn’t know. A major publisher came calling. So did a Hollywood producer; in Burbank’s CBS commissary, I joined him for turkey tetrazini. (He has since gone on to great things.) I guess life couldn’t have been better. And the turkey tetrazini was actually pretty good.

But fortune has a way of turning. Business relationships crumbled, friendships ended, and I didn’t finish my book. I stopped writing altogether, moved into an office on Wall Street, negotiated some deals. While there was a certain art to that, over the years (decades, actually!) I couldn’t quite forget about O’Hugh and his great, tragic love for the New York socialite Lucy Billings, the vast Western landscape that threatened always to swallow him alive, and that last romantic scene, with its unanswered questions.

Well, my wife and some friends who had read my unfinished tome over the years sat me down and told me that enough was enough. Just put this thing on Kindle, and print on demand, one said, and at least I will finally get to learn how the damn thing turns out. My little daughters urged me to write them a book. One friend offered to draw the cover art. What he came up with, in my opinion, is both beautiful and haunting. A real book cover. So I took some time off from work, and Watt O’Hugh came back to visit like an old, long-lost friend and told me the rest of his story. By the time I was done, I realized ruefully, I had averaged about ten pages a year! Still, I'd finished.

But what, I wondered, is a self-published book, anyway? Is it really a "book"? Is it really “published”? An old-school publishing guy, I intended to keep my mouth shut and hope no one noticed that I had a book out there. My friends could have their closure, and my daughters could have a strange fantasy/adventure novel, written by their old man and dedicated to them, to put on their bookshelves, to re-read as old women, and to give to their grandkids. But early reaction has been gratifying, hopeful. Maybe Watt O’Hugh belongs to the world after all? Maybe he was always meant to live his marvel-filled life as a self-published dime novel hero. Maybe his audience will find him? Anyway, I hope so.

[Note: This essay originally appeared, in slightly modified form, on the Readaholic website.]
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Published on September 16, 2011 14:24 • 63 views • Tags: historical-fantasy, laramie, leadville, watt-o-hugh, western
My new novel, The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh, features a hero born in 1842. A former orphan of New York’s slums, and a Civil War veteran, Watt O’Hugh does what many young desperate men from the 19th century East did – he goes West. He works on a cattle run, fights a range war, becomes a dime novel hero then an outlaw, all the time determined to save Lucy Billings, the socialite-with-a-past whom he loved and lost in New York City before the War. I carefully researched the history and delivered a rip-roaring Western adventure.

So far so good, except that I also delivered a novel filled with what I like to call the Magic of the old West. So while one blogger calls my book “a Western with some flashy fantasy heels” an Amazon reviewer stated flatly, “Despite the cover art and the main settings, this isn't really a ‘western’ or ‘cowboy’ book … It's sci-fi and fantasy mixed up in the vein of Vonnegut.” He liked it; but to like it, he had to deny that it was a Western.

Is Watt O’Hugh a “real” Western? And, more importantly to those of us who love and revere Westerns, is the mini-trend in which I am playing a small role – mixing a Western setting with science fiction/fantasy elements (or even with magical realism, á la Gabriel García Márquez) – good or bad for the survival of the genre?

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Published on September 22, 2011 18:06 • 200 views • Tags: watt-o-hugh, western-fantasy
So I wrote a science fiction western historical fantasy, The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh , and according to the critics – those who have looked at it – it’s a good book. (Kirkus Reviews named it as one of the best of 2011, as you may have heard me mention about a thousand times, if you are a regular reader of my blog, or someone who knows me at all, or someone who was just unlucky enough to be introduced to me at Kiddush anytime in the last couple of months.) Happily, it’s the first book of a planned trilogy, and my next book seems good so far, at least to me – it’s got some surprising time travel, a gunfight in Death Valley, a visit to 枉死城, which I believe loosely translates as the Chinese “City of the Innocent Dead” (a really nasty place in the underworld that, surprisingly, has a bakery with delicious moon cakes), a rip-snorting train robbery, a magical Montana rabbi, and more from that dastardly and evil mathematician, Leopold Kronecker.

Less happily, it sometimes seems that an “Indie” author makes a choice between writing books and selling books.

Since my novel was published in July, I’ve queried numerous bloggers, followed up with those who agreed to review my book, and gave interviews to every website and newspaper that would talk to me. I have flown to every bookstore that would have me, near and far, and did what I could to publicize it. I’ve posted updates for everyone on my Facebook list, and my GoodReads list, and my Linked-In list, and anyone who checks in with my website. I pop by the local bookstores to see if they’re out of stock. With the help of my cover artist, I’ve designed my own publicity, from web ads to posters, which I’ve taped and tacked on the street and in coffee shops from Brooklyn to Maine. I’ve written guest posts for other bloggers, anyone who would have me. When my novel was chosen as one of the best of the year by Kirkus Reviews (as you may have heard me mention before), I emailed everyone who kind of likes me, and maybe everyone who has ever pretended to like me. I recently quit my job, and in my goodbye email, I reminded everyone that, if they missed me, they could always purchase my book, available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. My sales briefly rose, which was gratifying.

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Published on February 12, 2012 19:00 • 124 views • Tags: historical-fantasy, indie-books, science-fiction, watt-o-hugh, westerns
I think it's generally discouraged on GoodReads for authors to contact their readers directly and personally; so I just wanted to send out a word of thanks to everyone who has read my book, and especially to everyone who has rated or reviewed it, even if you've been critical. I've appreciated it.

I will be thinking of both the things you've liked and the things I can do better as I to try to finish Book 2, and I will do my best to meet your expectations. I have been listening to you closely, and I've appreciated your encouragement and attention.

By all means, feel free to email me - I would love to hear from you. But in the meantime, I just wanted to say thanks.
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Published on February 14, 2012 07:22 • 108 views • Tags: historical-fantasy, science-fiction-fantasy, watt-o-hugh, westerns
Indie Bookspot had some nice things to say about The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh a couple of weeks ago. I've been working on the sequel and trying not to Google myself compulsively every day, so I didn't notice it for a while, but it was gratifying to see that my book is spreading its wings and flying (across the Atlantic in this case, I believe) without my actively promoting it. You can read the review here.

It's a pretty new site, but it has a lot of stuff every day on the publishing industry and information, articles and reviews of interest to Indie writers and readers, and I would recommend it even if they hadn't said nice things about me, so please do take a look here.
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Published on April 22, 2012 16:29 • 74 views • Tags: indie-books, indie-publishing, watt-o-hugh, western-science-fiction
The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh has been named a Finalist in the Action/Adventure category of the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

The press release hasn't come out yet, but when it does I will post it here, to spread word of the winners.

Thanks to the folks at Next Generation for their support of independent publishing generally, and for recognizing my novel.
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Published on May 12, 2012 21:46 • 105 views • Tags: fantasy-science-fiction, historical-fantasy, independent-publishing, watt-o-hugh, western-science-fiction
Well, anyone following the box office -- and really why should anyone follow the box office? -- has noticed by now that Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter went belly up, like John Carter before it, like Cowboys vs. Aliens before it, like Wild Wild West before it. And on the small screen, Firefly failed a decade after Brisco County Jr. failed.

How do I feel, having seen the evidence that moviegoers and TV watchers hate hate hate Western science fiction and space Westerns? (A clinical explanation of the difference between those two genres will have to await another day.) The very genre in which my novel, The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh, happens to fall. Well, I feel ... vindicated?

I got a couple of queries from genuine Hollywood moguls when my book first started getting a little press, and while I would have been happy with the money (to the extent that I'm ever happy with anything), I felt pretty sure that I wasn't what they were looking for. There is absolutely a place for weird stuff like this in today's popular culture, but weird stuff doesn't generally land at #1 on the box office charts.

Some of us continue, still, today, to cling to Westerns, to watch old Sergio Leone movies and even reruns of Maverick, and to insist that said Westerns are great -- as we also contend with respect to John Carter, Brisco County and Firefly -- and we are, you know, absolutely right. But we won't convince most of you. As I've written before, the only thing that most Americans know today about Westerns is that they don't like them, but aren't sure exactly why.

So this is where the Indie book industry comes in. Indie books are not for writers who cannot get published because they are bad, nor for writers who cannot get published because they don't know the right people. It's for good writers who take a step out of the mainstream, and who might inspire wild devotion among those who notice, but not the sort of universal wild devotion that will make them #1 at the box office.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

Now would be the time for me to quote myself quoting critic and novelist Charles de Lint writing about Indie author Sara Kuhns’s novel, A Sigh for Life’s Completion, but, aware of Jonah Lehrer's problems with self-plagiarism, I'll just supply a link instead. Needless to say, he sees a place for Indie authors in today's publishing world and justifies it better than I ever could.

What do you think?
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Published on June 24, 2012 18:04 • 309 views • Tags: abraham-lincoln-vampire-hunter, brisco-county, indie-publishing, science-fiction-western, watt-o-hugh
January 27, 2013.

Twenty years back, I was a lawyer working at one of those huge firms where middle-aged men (like me) worked when they were twenty years younger than they are today. During one grueling week, I worked all night long, and then the next day, and then the next night, until the dawn came and I found myself in the emergency room. In my case, I discovered (the fairly obvious fact) that drinking coffee like water to stay awake for days at a time is not good for me.

The emergency room doctors sent me to bed to recuperate. Before my wife left for work on my first morning of my convalescence, she slipped a VHS tape into our VCR.

“This is a show my sister taped for us,” she said.

It was back in the era before TiVo and TiVo-esque devices, when people videotaped TV shows and forced them on their friends and family, an annoying phenomenon, but in this case a blessing.

The show was The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., a Fox series about a 19th century Harvard-trained lawyer turned old West bounty hunter, played by Bruce Campbell back when, like me, he was young and handsome (or, in my case, young and more-handsome-than-I-am-now). Within the first few minutes, a banker/robber baron criticized Brisco’s change of career as a “shameful waste” of an education, and Brisco replied, without missing a beat, “Better than a shameful waste of an entire lifetime.”

At that particular moment in my life, this meant a lot to me; and I was hooked.

Brisco County fell into the “Western Science Fiction” category, and it was not the first, but it was the first time that I really cared.

Brisco was on the trail of the outlaw gang that killed his father (that great Western hero Marshall Brisco County Sr.), and along the way he came into contact with the adorable Dixie Cousins, a gangster moll and sometime-dancehall singer who first stole, then won, his heart; a glowing orb from the future; a small-town Western sheriff who bore an uncanny resemblance to Elvis Presley (years before the real King would be born); a gang of kung fu Chinese mobsters; and a mysterious boardinghouse eerily reminiscent of the Bates Motel.

Some people might call this a bag of anachronisms. Sometimes it was. In one episode, a bomb exploded in Brisco’s hotel room, and he quipped, “I thought this was a non-smoking room.” It was a stupid joke, and something that would have been meaningless to a man in 1893. But in most cases, I think there was something smarter at work, a sort of overarching theme to the show that asserted that a hint of the 20th century was blowing around in the wind of 1893, a seed amusingly planted in the soil of the old West.

Because it was great and because I loved it, of course, it was canceled at the end of a year, at which point Jonathan Matson, my agent – a patient pillar-of-the-industry who had stuck with me throughout my journey from journalist to lawyer – suggested, grasping at straws, that I propose a novelized continuation of the Brisco series to the program’s executive producer, Carlton Cuse.

I pitched the idea first to Bruce Campbell, who pledged his support. Then a short letter to a CAA agent received a surprisingly quick response and won me a lunch of turkey tetrazini with Cuse in the commissary at CBS, where he was developing Nash Bridges for Don Johnson.

For Brisco’s further adventures, I invented a turn of the century war that would split the continent in two. To join our Harvard bounty hunter and his faithful companion, Lord Bowler, I invented another sidekick, a third wheel named Watt O’Hugh, a crusty old gunslinger whose aim is always deadly accurate, but who disclaims any particular skill. I believe in ghosts, he says: ghosts who steady his trigger finger and steer errant bullets away from his heart.

Cuse seemed to give me a tentative green light; but a few weeks later, he split with his agent, and our project died. Matson suggested that I keep Watt O’Hugh alive along with the war I’d invented, tell his backstory and wind the whole thing up at the turn of the twentieth century, as originally planned. I began writing the first book of the trilogy, set in 1873, but I didn’t finish it till 2011, the better part of two decades later, and long after Matson and I had last spoken.

Lazy and impatient, I published it myself as The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh, and most readers and critics seemed to like it, and I figured I should finish the trilogy.

I’m nearly done with Book 2, and approaching Book 3, the climactic chapter of my saga, in which the 20th Century dawns, and the Sidonian War roars across North America like a tornado.

At this point, Watt O’Hugh is meant to fight alongside Brisco County, loyal soldiers, both.

What is to be done?

The simple fact is that I have lived with the Watt O’Hugh story for so long now that it has taken on a life of its own.

To wit: over a year ago, when I gave a reading at the Wyoming Territorial Penitentiary – once a prison, and now a museum – I asked to see cell number 17, which had once held Watt O’Hugh and his cell-mate, the other-worldly Billy Golden.

And there it was. Watt O’Hugh grew even more real for me.

Yes, I know that Watt is fictitious; intellectually, I know he never stayed in that cell. But in his world, he did. And in his world, he met Brisco County Jr. around 1902 or so. And the two fought together in the great Sidonian War, the young bounty hunter, Brisco, and O’Hugh, the weathered old Civil War vet. Hoping for the best, when Book 1 was published, I wrote on my blog that “if I can sell enough copies of my book, I’m going to see if Warner Bros. will allow an appearance by Brisco in Book 3, which is going to be set around the turn of the 20th century.” Well, I had a good run for a while, sales-wise, but Warner Bros. has not come calling (yet).

I cannot change the story. But legally I cannot tell you the whole story.

The ironic thing is that Watt O’Hugh has come across so many great figures of the 19th century in his strange and varied career — from banker J.P. Morgan, playwright Oscar Wilde and outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez to the evil mathematician Leopold Kronecker and the famous and unbelievably beautiful Swedish soprano Christine Nilsson – and it is all detailed at length in the pages of the first two books. Nothing prevents me from telling it all to you, because no one owns the dead. But Warner Bros. owns Brisco County Jr.

So the only thing that I cannot tell you about is the adventure that gave rise to them all, the battles Watt O’Hugh fought at the side of Brisco County Jr., as the new century blossomed.
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Published on February 02, 2013 17:31 • 114 views • Tags: brisco-county, watt-o-hugh, western, western-science-fiction
April 28, 2013.

Almost exactly twenty years ago, while writing a feature article about the film version of This Boy's Life, I interviewed a young actor in his first film, whose improbable name was "Leonardo DiCaprio."

The interview was cut from the article at the time, but with DiCaprio's latest film arriving on 3D screens in ten days, and with DiCaprio recently having announced his indefinite retirement from film acting, I thought now might be a good time for a fresh look at his previously unpublished (possibly) first major interview ever.

You can read it here.
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Published on April 28, 2013 12:33 • 391 views • Tags: leonardo-dicaprio, steven-s-drachman, this-boy-s-life, watt-o-hugh