Methinks He Doth Grin Too Much


The title of this post, Methinks He Doth Grin Too Much, is a Ranch Pen hijacking of Mr. Shakespeare’s line in Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

Anytime an author wants to feel as though he or she has been stabbed in the eye with a sharp pencil, they head over to Amazon to read the one star reviews of their books. My book The Cedar Tree has racked up three so far with one of the reviews complaining (among other things) that the main character, Gil Howard, grins too much. Which reminds me…I haven’t written a post about any of my characters for a while and Gil will do as well as anyone.

Gil is probably my favorite character. Ladies seem to like him and–surprisingly enough–so do guys. Over the years, he morphed into a composite of many of the men in my life: unapologetically male, strong, confident and competent in his field of expertise…and sadly deficient in the romance department. He is goofy and a kidder who would almost rather take a beating than get mushy, but he has an unexpected streak of tenderness and ends up with a heart for God even though he doesn’t always do the right thing. And he is an optimist who laughs and grins a lot.

Gil has been with me a long time, longer even than my kids. He started out as a dashing fellow named Rory. Here is an excerpt from a previous post, Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams:

 I was a teen-ager when I first ventured into novel writing. My first attempt was set in the 1800’s and featured a protagonist named Rory. I forget his last name. He rode a big horse–black, I believe. His love interest was Kate and his story was full of stuff like this:
   Rory raced his freshly shod, big, black, shiny, deep chested Quarter Horse horse with four white socks and a blaze face up to the burning wooden cabin and slid to a sliding stop. He jumped off the saddle and ran quickly up to the door burning hotly, vowing to stake the devil who had done this to Kate onto an anthill of ants.
“Help, Rory, you big, strong, very good looking man, you,” Kate cried feebly from inside the burning inferno somewhere.
Oh, goodness! She was fading fast!
“Kate, darlin’!” he cried out desperately. “Hold fast to our dreams, for if you die, they’re pretty much all out the window! Darlin’! Oh, and by the way, throw the kids out to me if they’re still with us…”


Eventually, Rory ended up in the garbage and I didn’t do much writing for a few years. He wouldn’t stay dead, however, and finally resurrected from the ashes of his trash can as a new and better character. Rory’s dumb love interest, Kate, eventually turned into Gil’s love interest, Katie Campbell, of The Cedar Tree.

Once in a while someone will ask what is my favorite part of writing Gil. The answer is his and Katie’s snippy exchanges, hands down. This is one of my favorites from The Cedar Tree:

   Gil eyed Lance as he crossed to the door and left. The guy was hopeless. Katie was way too much firepower for him…like a .458 magnum elephant rifle against a BB gun. She’d eat him alive and he’d just stand there and let her.
   He headed down the hall. “You need a ride in the mornin’?” he asked through her closed bedroom door.
   “No,” she snapped sarcastically. “I can walk. It’s only twelve miles.”
   “Okay. Have it your way.”
   “Okay. Have fun bottle feeding all those bummers.”
   “I could feed ’em. Any moron can feed bum lambs.”
   “While I’m feedin’ bummers, you can build the hay barn.”
   “I would, but I didn’t take building lessons from Dr. Seuss.”
   “Hey,” he said, stung. “That salvaged lumber might not look so hot, but it’s a good barn.”
   “It’s magnificent.”
   “Okay,” he said irritably, “you get on the end of a hammer tomorrow and see how it goes…”


(Eerily similar to some of the snippy exchanges at the Ranch Pen.)


Some writers sketch their characters to keep them straight in their mind’s eye, and many years ago I sketched up ol’ Rory to look like Tom Selleck. (Not old Grampa Tom Selleck like he is now, but like he was in his Magnum PI days in the last century.

Tom Selleck Magnum PI
Gil got a sketch a long time ago, too. I don’t claim to be any good at sketching, but here’s Gil as I imagined him–grinning.Gil
If any of y’all imagine him differently, whip out a sketch and send it to me at It doesn’t matter if it’s any good. He might look like this:Gilwithwhiskers
Or, even like this…it’s all good:

Well, that’s all for today, but to everybody who has told me how much they like Gil, thank you very much. I like him and his stupid grin (as his love interest, Katie, calls it,) too.

Until next time, thanks for reading and God bless all y’all while you enjoy David Wesley’s new one, 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord).


*This artist doesn’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just love his music

The Thing About Book Reviews


SIRI Take This Down And Nag Me About It Will You?

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions because I’m too absentminded to keep them even with my professional nag, SIRI, beeping my iPhone about something non-stop. However, one thing I’ve decided to do is keep track of all the books I read this year–print, ebooks, and audiobooks.

While the grandsons, Kevman and Einstein, visited us over the Christmas break, we read the audiobook called The Case of the Hooking Bull a Hank The Cowdog book by a real Texas rancher and very funny writer, John Erickson. We all enjoyed that story very much. And last month, Gramps and I read an audiobook by Cormac McCarthy called The Road. That was an amazing book. Not a happy book, but the writing and the story (to me) were incredible.

Yer Book Wuz Real Dum and Yer Dum To

Which brings me to book reviews on Amazon. Some people gave The Road a 1 star review. I would’ve given The Road a 10 star review if possible. Why did some think that book was just about a boring, aimless wandering in a grey land while I took it as a riveting story of a father’s selfless love for his son when life as he knew it was over…when it didn’t even matter anymore if he had a name?

I would’ve given the narrator of the audio version 10 stars, too. He was awesome. But even with audio books we get into reviews sort of like those below that I made up off the top of my head. (But if you look there will be some similar types, for real.)

smrtee57 says: I gave this book 1 star, but I would have given it less if possible. They gave that chump Cormac McCarthy a Pulitzer for twaddle like that? Seriously? He doesn’t even use punctuation. It was a setup. And the narrator stunk big time. If I ever have to listen to him again, somebody just shoot me now. For a real thrill, read my post-apocalyptic novel, Dead Zombies, narrated by a real funeral director…

Followed directly by:

okbambi123 says: 10 stars! Because…omg!!! does it even matter what this book was about with a narrator like that I could listen to him every day and half the night for the rest of my life is he married? omg!! tell me hes not married i’ll shoot myself if hes married…

So, I guess the thing about reviews is they are subjective and beauty is definitely in the eyes of the beholder.

Which brings me to my book The Cedar Tree, which rated its first 1 star review over the holiday break. I would rather it hadn’t, of course, but it reminded me of a quote I read the other day by famous children’s author Roald Dahl who wrote books like Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The Twits.

 I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book ~ Roald Dahl

Here’s Hoping The Old Brain Box Holds Together Through the Entire Series

For those whose inquiring minds want to know, I’ve finished writing the second book in the Love Is Not Enough Series. My writing friend, mentor, and professional editor, Terri Valentine, waved her magic wand over it and now the manuscript is with some of my readers who check for fatal flaws and additional typos and so-forth. After I get everybody’s feedback, I’ll go through it again and clean up the last mistakes we found. After that comes a book cover, which is a big deal, but hopefully I’ll turn the book loose sometime in the spring-ish…summer-ish part of the year. I’m also researching and working on the third in the series, but it is still a long ways out. More on that as we go, I trust.

So, what are y’all reading?

I’d really be interested to know what books all of you are reading and what you think of them, so tell me in the comments. I’ll start with a sample comment:

At present I am reading a book called Tall Woman, and I give it 5 stars because it’s a fascinating glimpse of Navajo culture in the past and doesn’t put me to sleep in my recliner. The book itself has a picture of an elderly Navajo lady (Tall Woman) at her loom and is quite a heavy work, useful for squashing the stray spider or beetle.


God bless all y’all until next time and enjoy The Afters tearing up their acoustic guitars on Every Good Thing.


*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like their music.