Thursday, December 1, 2011

MWW Day 7 - Earl Staggs

Today’s interview will be a little different than the last several. This one will wrap up lucky number seven in the Mystery We Write Blog Tour. Don't forget about the chance to win one of the award winning books featuring yours truly. Just leave a comment on any of my steller interviews and you will be entered to win. Now, lets get to the interview. W.S. didn’t get to pick the interview for today. It was all me, Mitch Malone. As a kid I roamed the woods with my friends playing cowboys and Indians in rural Michigan.  I have fond memories of those days. Today’s author is Earl Staggs, a real live Texan and cowboy enthusiast. Welcome, Earl. Earl you live in Texas now. When did you move to the land of round ups and cattle rustling?

Earl: Hi, Mitch.  I don’t mind telling you I’m a bit intimidated being interviewed by a tough, no-nonsense guy like you but I’ll give it my best shot.  Fire away.

You grew up in Ohio, in the same town as Roy Rogers. You even met him once. What was that like? Did that inspire your move to Texas?
Earl: Growing up in Portsmouth, Ohio, I was thrilled and proud that Roy had also grown up there.   Saturdays, we’d spend all day at the movie theater watching our cowboy heroes outwit, outride, and outshoot the bad guys. We had Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Rocky Lane, Lash LaRue and more. But when Roy came on the screen, it was special. He rode faster and shot straighter than all of them. He was King of the Cowboys and we idolized him. After all, he was one of us, almost like kinfolk.

When the opportunity came along to meet him in person many years later, I may have appeared to be a mature adult, but not really.  I was eight years old again and standing beside the hero of my youth who wore the white hat, rode the great golden stallion, and made the West safe for all of us.

When my wife and I moved to Texas, I thought it was because our daughter and our grandsons lived here. That may have been the main reason, but somewhere deep inside, there may have been some influence from that eight-year-old cowboy fan who wanted to live where Roy used to ride.

About a year after Roy passed away, I wrote a story called “White Hats and Happy Trails” about meeting him.  Anyone interested can saddle up, mosey over to my website at and read it. There’s even a picture of my wife and me with Roy to prove it’s all true.

You are an expert in writing as I am being a Pulitzer-nominated reporter for a newspaper. What advice can you give to those just starting out in writing?

Earl: Very slick, Mitch, the way you slipped your own plug in there. I thought this interview was about me. Oh, well.

Beginning writers never have a shortage of advice offered to them, and it’s all good.  The line I like to toss out is this: “Always make sure the next thing you write is better than the last thing you wrote.” We should never stop learning and striving to be improve our skills. Being a good writer is not good enough. There are too many good writers ahead of you. To get to the front of the line, you always have to push yourself to be better.

In newspapers, the space is shrinking and we have to tell great stories in the fewest words. As an award winning short story writer how do you manage to get it all to fit?

Earl: I’ve been asked how long should a story be, and my answer is, “As long as it has to be to tell it well.”  Sometimes, though, an editor or publisher will state a maximum word length, and that’s when it gets tough. In addition to learning how to write, we also have to learn how to edit, tighten, and shorten. While it can be painful to cut or shorten something we’ve sweated over, it’s part of the job.

I write a column called “Write Tight” for the online magazine Apollo’s Lyre. In each issue, I offer tips and examples of ways to reduce word count without losing important elements of the story. Many times, tightening actually improves a story. That old “less is more” thing.

How many cowboy hats do you own and do you wear one all the time?

Earl: I own several and wear one most of the time, especially in the summer.  You learn to do that in Texas where the brutal sun doesn’t just beat down on you. It tramples you like a stampede of longhorns.

Great visual there Earl. Where can we get our hands on your latest prose and what is next for you?

Earl: Since we’re talking about cowboys and the old West, I have a story available at called “Where Billy Died.” A modern day bounty hunter travels to Texas in search of an outlaw and finds himself entangled in a legend about a famous outlaw from the past.

You and your audience are also invited to visit my website at and visit with my special guest for today.  While you're there, you can read Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER, which earned thirteen Five Star reviews. You’ll also find information there about my recently published collection, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, containing sixteen of my best.
Also while you’re there, don't forget to sign up for the drawing on December 9. The first name drawn from those who leave a comment will receive a print copy of MEMORY OF A MURDER.  The second name drawn will have a choice of an ebook or print copy of SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS.

Thanks, Earl, for talking about all things cowboy today.

Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned thirteen Five Star reviews online at Amazon and B&N. His column “Write Tight” appears in the online magazine Apollo’s Lyre. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery. He hosts workshops for the Muse Online Writers Conference and the Catholic Writers Conference Online and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups.  Email:  Website:


  1. You caught on to Mitch's little games quickly, Earl, but everyone knows you're one of the brightest bulbs on the string. Good job.

  2. Enjoyed your chat, Mitch and Earl. Earl, I grew up in Texas, and Roy Rogers was my number-one hero when I was about eight. Here's wishing you and your fine books many happy trails ahead!

  3. As always, Earl, a great post. You managed to best Mitch, I do believe. Love learning more about you and your writing.


  4. Earl: I'm so happy to have you on my blog. I just love all your Texan charm even if it isn't as a homegrown boy. Thanks for agreeing to let Mitch grill you.

  5. I like stories with western settings

  6. Earl, liking hearing more about you and your writing. Interesting enough, there was a Roy Rogers Museum not far from me in Victorville, Ca. (It's now gone.) And a character in my latest is very fond of his felt cattleman-styled cowboy Stetson.

    Such wise advice, “Always make sure the next thing you write is better than the last thing you wrote.” that I so much agree with.

    Very enjoyable interview. You and Mitch handled each other well.


  7. Sandy: Thanks for stopping by. You are entered to win a Mitch Malone Mystery but it isn't a Western. Earl has those. Check out his website at for his shorts, er short stories.

  8. Loved your post, Earl, as well as your writing. I, too, was a Roy Rogers, Trigger and Bullet fan, and I think it's a shame they closed his musuem. My brothers and I stood in line for a ticket every Saturday afternoon to watch Roy chase and subdue the bad guys. There hasn't been anyone since who could sing and ride as well and look so great in the saddle. :)

  9. Wow, Earl, Roy Rogers met his first wife here in Roswell! And no, it wasn't somewhere in Texas. Mind you, his first wife died and then he married Dale Evans, but still...

    Love your post, Earl!

  10. This is so much fun! I had a Roy Rogers lunch box as a child and watched every television show of Roy and Dale. If asked, I can even sing "Happy Trails"...although you really wouldn't want to do that. (I can't carry a tune in a bag.)

    Thank you for taking me down memory lane, Earl!

  11. Alice, the way I heard it, Roy's first wife was abducted by the aliens who continue to visit Roswell.

  12. Anne, if you watched the TV show, you should remember their son, Dusty. He was with his dad when we met him, and I have a picture of my wife with Dusty. He grew up to be a big, handsome guy.