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I was twelve years old, excited, knowing Pak-a-Sak had the new comic books on display.

I’d outgrown Archie, Richie Rich, Donald Duck and Casper years earlier, and very recently and reluctantly, Superman, Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, and Batman. I was older now. Wouldn’t be cool to get caught scanning the comic book racks.

But there was one I couldn’t’ give up. One I still clung to. One I was willing to sneak out and purchase, quickly and quietly, like a thief in the night.

Kid Colt.

I loved Kid Colt like a ten-year-old loves puppies. The Kid was cool. Only needed one gun. Had a horse named Steel, and a back story that’d make you cry. Well, maybe not cry. But, you know. The Kid lived by a creed (a Donovan Creed, you ask?) The Kid was an outlaw, wrongly accused. Went from town to town, always one step ahead of the law. Everywhere he went, he’d right a wrong.

Great stuff.

It’s eight a.m. Saturday morning, my friends asleep. I enter the store, do a quick walk-through, pause briefly to see where my comic is situated on the display rack. Can’t spend too much time at the rack, you know. Check the soft drinks, then the candy. I’d be less nervous buying condoms, tampons, a Playboy, or beer. Because those things a guy can laugh about with his buddies. Not comic books. Comic books are things that make your buddies laugh at you!

I rush to the display, grab my Kid Colt, set it on the counter with a dime and two pennies. No eye contact. Put the book in a bag and I’ll be on my way. But no. Counter guy picks up my book. In a voice dripping with condescension, says, “Wow! Kid Colt! Fastest gun in the west! Fastest horse ever lived! And looky here,” he says, pointing to the cover. “He’s surrounded by a dozen men, guns blazing all around, but Kid Colt shoots them all!”

While he’s saying all this, and more, I’m shrinking, mortified, horrified. He ends it with the dreaded, “Aren’t you a little old for this stuff?” I stand there, saying nothing. He takes my coins, says, “Want a bag?” I nod, take it, and rush out the store.

I was crushed. He’d found my weakness, and made me suffer for it. My cheeks were on fire like Johnny Storm, Fantastic Four. Once home, I climbed on my bed, opened the cover of my beloved Kid Colt. Read a few words, stopped, stood, gathered all my comics, added this one to the pile, and lovingly placed them in the trash can.

I’d lost my innocence.

February, 2011.

That’s when I published, against the advice of everyone I know, a Western Adventure titled Follow the Stone. People said “Westerns are dead. If you publish a Western, you’ll lose the audience you’ve worked so hard to build.” They said, “If you must write the damn thing, at least use a pen name!”

I wrote the book. Put my real name on it because…well, because I’m proud of it. You say you don’t like Westerns? I hope to change your mind. I’m writing a series of John Locke Westerns, meaning, Westerns with a smirk. In doing so, I’m reclaiming a piece of my youth.

A few years back, my daughter’s friends thought she was too old to like certain types of toys. So my wife and I took her into toy stores and pretended we were picking out toys for younger kids. “I’m sure she’d like this one!” our daughter would say, with bright, happy eyes. Years later, we did the same for our son. When their friends came over, we’d put these “kid toys” in a box. We kept their toy secret all that time, and I wouldn’t tell you now, except that we’re friends, you and me. I think you understand why I wanted my kids to enjoy their youthful indulgences as long as possible.

Which brings me to why I’m telling you all this: I want you to download my Western for only 99 cents, a friendship rate.

You know Donovan Creed, and I’m honored you like him. There’s only one Creed, only one Callie. But the same author who brought Creed and Callie to the dance has lovingly crafted a whole new group of friends you need to meet. This ain’t your grandpa’s Western–it’s totally cool and hip and funny. You’re gonna love Emmett, Gentry, Shrug, and the rest of the gang.

I guarantee it.

Did I mention it’s the #1 Western on Amazon/Kindle? Has been, for six weeks now. But don’t read it because it’s popular. Read it because it’s fun.

Give it a try. Find your childhood smile.

Here’s the link. Click it now, before the world gets you sidetracked: Follow the Stone

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Lauren says:
It says so much about you that you would shield your kids and allow them to enjoy their innocence as long as possible. I wish more parents (mine included) were like that! And I will definitely follow the link. ;)
Steve says:
Well said, John - like Lauren I love that you did your best to keep your children...children, for as long as possible. It's so quick nowadays; my kids are 10 & 13, and are so much more aware and mature than I ever was at that age. I remember baseball cards in the spokes, shooting hoops down the street, barely realizing the girl next door was smiling at me. Now? My 13 year old is a card-carrying member of Mensa and is working on writing a novella on universe-jumping, my 10 year old is the star defenseman on his soccer team and starting pitcher on the travel baseball team, and I'm an old guy. Awesome to hear stories of going back to your roots - the story must have been an absolute blast to write. Count me in! -Steve Umstead
Margot Kinberg
John - What a well-told story about how important it is to keep our sense of childhood wonder. The world is tough enough without deliberately taking away the things that get children's imaginations going. I think we'd probably all benefit by reclaiming that part of us.
Ok, I will give it a try!! To support no more lost youth!! My son is 11 and loves his comics and superhero toys. I can already see him buckling under the pressure from his friends and that makes me sad. You're only young once and should be able to enjoy it!! I don't want his innocence to be lost :o)
Kendall Swan
Kendall Swan says:
Awww - okay. You got me. I'll buy it. I love watching my 15 yr old stepson get into Pokemon all over again to "show" my 4 yr old. And I remember when my childhood best friend and I would play with barbies but wouldn't talk about it in front of people at school. And then one day, she didn't even want to play with them at all. I was crushed! I wasn't ready for it to be the end. And our secret was still safe. I honestly didn't understand why she wouldn't want to play with them anymore. That was a sad day. Good story. Kendall Swan
Robb Skidmore
Donovan, great blog post. I think we all have experienced something similar, whether it be with a comic book, a treasured movie or an album. Wish you great good luck with your new western book (ask Cormac McCarthy if westerns still have an audience) Just put out an ebook myself this week. Check it out, friend (@robbskidmore).
Jessica Subject
I just about cried when you threw your comics in the trash can. So sad, yet I see adults and kids alike trying to do the same thing to my daughter. Glad you went back to your first love. I'm sure they will be wonderful as they will come from your heart.
Roger says:
I wonder why westerns don't sell well. I love them - especially the way you write them! Any chance of getting a sequal to Follow the Stone?
Stuart Ross McCallum
G'day John, Thank you for sharing the back story to how and why your latest bestseller, Follow the Stone eventuated. It has been many years, since I read a good western. That is soon about to change, on my way to Amazon now. Congratulations, mate.
Gary Ponzo
Gary Ponzo says:
I'm sold John. Count me in.
Dorothy Dreyer
Great post, John. So deep, thanks for sharing.
Raymond says:
Wow! I remember the very day I did this exact same thing. I was 12 and comics just weren't "cool" anymore. 15 or 20 years before the internet and Ebay - several first editions that could have generated some nice income - or simply the joy of letting my own kids read the collection. I remember giving up "trick or treating" around the same timeframe - I was just too "old" and mature to be dressing up and going door to door. I miss that innocence and appreciate your attempts for your own children to keep them innocent a little longer. In today's world of Facebook and internet, cable TV and 6 year olds having their own cell phones - it is an increasingly harder task to accomplish. Thanks for a blast from the past with this post!!
Maryruth Barksdale
Maryruth Barksdale says:
I am a firm believer in everyone keeping a bit of our youth no matter our current age. So many things in life can bring problems, but thinking back to our carefree days of our youth makes our hearts lighter. Loved reading your thoughts John. You are one in a million!
HL Arledge
HL Arledge says:
Well said, John. I've got your book, and I also loved Kid Colt (They were a quarter in my day!), but I guess I never outgrew Batman.
Winslow Eliot
yes - you are one in a million. ;-))
Claudia Jackson
I loved this blog! What a wonderful father you must be. I'm old enough to own an AARP card, yet I still act like a 5 year old exploring the tide pools and sandbars at low tide. The kid inside of us needs to be let out now and then. And I raise my hand and "second" what Winslow said: "yes - you are one in a million."
Meredith Bates
Meredith Bates says:
I wish I could go back in time and help you pull those comics out of the trash! You're one of those people who uses the past to help those in the present. Very kind. You "get it" about a lot of things and remind us of what is really important.
Roger says:
John, I am so glad you have decided to work on your next western. I believe Emmitt Love will be almost as well known as Donovan Creed once he gets a few books under his belt. I sure hope so.
Kermi says:
In my 40's I was struck in the back by a truck, leaving my permanently disabled. Why do I tell this? I never felt my age, especially with my teenage nephews & toddler niece. I had always, and still do, believe that age is just a number & I would never allow anyone to dictate my life. I never was one that 'followed" never stayed up with the fashion or fads, I always marched to my own beat ..... lol. Never had alot of friends since I wouldn't "follow" them, but I was me & loved it. The week prior to the truck .... lol, I had been wrestling with my teenage nephews, boy had they gotten stronger then me ..... lol. As well I was enjoying (on a regular basis) the gardens I dug, the pond I installed. Still very active enjoying the things I loved so much. As well I also enjoyed (& still do) my frog collection, roses, etc. I worked on car engines while other females gasped about getting dirty, I just laughed at them. Since I enjoyed being me & being different. Kids love to come to my house since to this very day I still have "toys" all around. Not there's but mine, wind-up toys, gum ball machines, musical toys, dancing toys, did I mention coloring books & crayons ..... lol. I still have my board games as well. We should all remember that kids learn from adults, if they see that we still enjoy childhood things then it shows them that they're never too old to "play". In my late 30's I was still taking my nephews to the carnival, one time we went it was late not alot of people so the man let us "play" in the funhouse as long as we wanted. My nephews just loved that idea and they had me chasing them thru that fun house at least a dozen times ..... lol. One of the best days of my life. Stay young at heart, enjoy everything while you can, since you never know what life will hand you tomorrow. John, keep up the great work you're on a fabulous path, if I was you, I'd find those comic books you liked so much and get them, enjoy them. I still enjoy getting new things to add to my collection.
Kensi Baker
Kensi Baker says:
I just finished my last Donovan Creed novel I've read them all now and just started 'Follow The Stone' and know it will be GREAT as all his books are. I'm a. Big fan of anything he has written or ever will! A fan for life, Kensi
Roger says:
What is the holdup? I have checked and checked for Vegas Moon. Why does Kindle hold it back like that, John?
Troy D. Smith
I'll still read me some Kid Colt- if anything, it's my family that's embarrassed. And I'll still write me some Westerns, too, even if not many folks are buying (and even if it's the mystery basket that I put my eggs in.) And reading this blog has convinced me to try out Emmett Love AND Donovan Creed.
Lawrence Coooper
Lawrence Coooper says:
Sorry to hear about your "loss." I've been reading comics for over 40 years now and may never lose that innocence (I'm big into Batman). A'though I did like Kid Colt, the Two Gun Kid and the RAwhide Kid were more to my liking (and don't forget Jonah Hex -- the comic book, not the 1-star rated movie). I'll let you know how I like Creed and your Western. I'm just starting them.
Tony says:
John, I read Follow the Stone. As I said in the email, it was a great story. I love westerns. Love to watch them, love to read them. I appreciate the use of characters from your other stories. I have read all your books on my Kindle. Tony
Ron says:
I laughed at the part where you kept your kids' toys a secret; it reminded me of an incident that occurred while I was I the Army. As an aircraft electrician, I was stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, GA the last year of my service. We had a commanding officer (CO) that was a major and a no nonsense kind of guy. He was the epitome of what you think a West Point graduate should be. The major had me and another GI (a helicopter pilot) unloading a couple of large mercury vapor lights out of the back of his station wagon for installation in the hangar. When both lights were out, there was a toy robot laying in the middle of the cargo area. The major grabbed the toy, stood it at attention in the corner of the cargo area and said, "Um-hm, One of the kids' toys", to which I replied, " I understand Sir, I can't wait until my kid gets here so I'll have some neat toys to play with". The major didn't respond, but I suspect that he didn't see the humor in my remark. When we got back to the shop the pilot laughed until he cried. I explained that my wife was pregnant with our first child and you know you always buy your children all the toys you wanted as a kid and never received.
Stella says:
It's been years since I've had so much fun reading an author! Everyone of your books have an entertainment factor times 10. Thank you for sharing your talent with us.
Marjean says:
Westerns...I don't read Westerns...but because I like John Locke's, Donovan Creed and John said give it a try, I did. And guess what I will read John's, Westerns because of his characters and fine writing. I enjoyed Follow the Stone and am looking forward to Don't Poke the Bear (love that title). He hasn't turned me into a Western fan but definitely a John Locke Western fan and that is good.
Jack O'Brien
Jack O'Brien says:
Shooting the piano so it can't be played. because your girfriend asked you to not have music any more in your bar, 'cause then the bear wouldn't have to dance! How can you not appreciate someone who comes up with THAT?? And how about the girlfriend telling him to stay a little longer so the guys downstairs will think he got a little even though she wasn't in the mood at that time??? I have all nine of your books on my Kindle, John, and I buy them just as fast as you put 'em out there just because you wrote them and I do so enjoy your writing. I have already read some of them two or three times and each time I find something I missed the first couple of times around!! So keep banging away at your computer and I'll keep paying the ninety nine cents and you can pocket the thirty five! Deal! Jack O'Brien I'm 83 years old and a big fan!
Cassie says:
Let me tell ya....I HATE Westerns, but I immediatly fell in-love with Emmett, Shrug, Gentry, and of course Rose. I just got done reading Don't Poke the Bear and loved it just as much! Keep up the good work. You are definately one of my favorite authors!
Mary says:
I'm working my way through your Donovan Creed novels (which I LOVE, by the way) and will start on your Westerns soon! :)
epobirs says:
Personally, you couldn't pay me to read a western. Not true, you could pay me and I'd proofread or whatever other task needed doing. Whatever the customer needs done. But I wouldn't pull a western off the shelf and read it for my own pleasure. That said, who in their right mind would be so offended by an author dipping into a genre they don't like, to the point they'd drop all interest in that author? That is nuts. Seriously, seek professional help, entry in the DSM with your picture, Stephen King wrote a book about you, nuts. I'm trying to imagine how few authors I'd have left if everything they produced had to be of a genre to my interest. It would leave many of the prolific authors, whose works are more likely to be diverse. For example, I've read nearly all of Lois McMaster Bujold's Science Fiction. She also does a fair amount of fantasy I haven't bothered with after sampling some. I may be in the majority and the fantasy does far less revenue for her than the SF. Perhaps the opposite. But I'm pretty sure that both would suffer if she were denied the right to pursue her muse of the moment in either genre. An author might need to do something you, perhaps even everybody, hates in order to move on. This could be pretty dire in the old days but in the e-book era, why should anyone care? The worst that can happen is it lowers the author's sales averages. His publisher cannot threaten to refuse his next novel when he is his own publisher. So if your favorite writer turns in a direction you don't like, get over it. You cannpt force creativity and expect good results. It is a rare candy store that stocks only the flavors you like.
epobirs says:
Oops, that line should have been, "it would leave OUT"
Kevin Udy
Kevin Udy says:
Hi John, that guy who tried to shame you was a grade a a**half.... it taking two to make a complete whole…. {:oj WHY would ANYONE want to do that to a kid??? As several have said here… childhood, and it’s fresh and unspoilt enthusiasms, are way too short as it is. I know of a father who told his young son that the Tooth Fairy and Santa doesn’t exist………. There are times in life when words truly fail me, they really do. I’m a wannabe writer who’s reading your kindle book on how to get published, and I can sure see your logic. Very inspiring. {:o) I’ve just lost my job after 38 years, here in the UK, and am going to have a more determined effort at writing something that will sell. So far all I’ve done really is become a Nanowrimo ‘winner’ in November 2009, when I wrote 50,507 words in fourteen days. Then I rested up. Y’know, ….just for a couple of days,…… and never got started again. Had another go at the Nanowrimo last November, but due to the ‘damage’ of the stress at work, I gave up after only 6,000 odd words. Your book has inspired me no end, old son, and as someone who loved reading westerns in his teens, devouring several books a week from the local library, I’ve downloaded both your westerns this very evening. I applaud you for flying in the face of convention and established wisdom,….. for waaay too long, publishers and agents have ruled the roost and what’s more, treated writers shamefully. Ok…. I’m in danger of rambling, so I’m off. Kevin. {:o)
Julissa says:
There is a critical shortage of ifnomrative articles like this.
Parrish Myers
Mr. Locke, I had a similar experience as the one you describe. Each week, my father would take my grandmother to the grocery store. Next door to the grocery store was a drug store which had a spinner rack full of comics. Each week I would go in that drug store and buy 3 comic books with my allowance money. All went well for about two years, until I walked in one day and placed my comics on the counter. The clerk apparently recognized me. In a somewhat condescending voice he said, "Comic did I know?" I was mortified! I was about 12 years old, and already felt a little shy about buying comic books "at my age." His comment sealed the deal. That was the last day I bought comic books, although I did keep all of mine. Now my son is five years old. One of these days I'll give those comic books to him and we'll read them together. I'm also in the process of developing a superhero "chapter book" for him when he gets old enough to read. In doing this, I'm recapturing a very enjoyable part of my childhood that I feel was taken from me - one story at a time.
Nina Killham
Nina Killham says:
Love that story about your kids. When my son was turning 8 I went to the store to buy him a present and all that seemed to be available were toys with guns and attitude. Then I saw a huge stuffed animal in the shape of a black horse. I bought that and he was delighted. And for those who say westerns don't sell, I say, Louis L'amour. And now, of course, you, John.
Kelly McKinney
Kelly McKinney says:
John I have read Follow the Stone and Don't Poke the Bear and I'm ready for more Emmett and Gentry please... To pass the time I'm really really getting into Donovan Creed so I hope you aren't done with him because in the past month I've read the first 5 books. Keep up the good work :)