Edited by Kenneth Weene & Clayton Bye

As co-editor of The Nettle Tree, it is my pleasure to introduce you to some of the fine authors who contributed to this unique collection of speculative fiction set in the West. I’ve asked them to share a bit of their motivation and personal connection to the piece they wrote and a short bio with a link where you can learn more about him.

My own piece “Welcome Stranger” is in a quirky way one of my most autobiographical pieces. I moved from the eastern U.S. to Arizona to restart my life and more importantly to do something I had always wanted, to write. I found in the West not only the possibility of a restart but also the realization that I had brought myself along in the process. I wanted to share that strange, but universal truth: Wherever we go and whatever we do to change, still we bring ourselves along. – Kenneth Weene

From my fellow editor, Clayton Bye whose short story is the eponymous story, “The Nettle Tree”:

I have an old love for westerns. It’s just about as strong as my liking for the space operas of the 50’s and the 60’s. I still have a complete collection of Louis L’Amour westerns that I inherited from one of my uncles. The collection of science fiction stayed with another uncle, but not until those books were dog-eared from repeated reading by yours truly. So it’s not a real stretch for me to consider writing a speculative western story. But then, why stop there? Why not add a witch? A soul-sucking witch. And maybe a cyborg horse. Too much? Well, why not give it a read. The story is called The Nettle Tree.

Short Bio: Clayton Bye is a writer’s writer (yes, he writes, but he also reviews, edits, proofreads, copywrites, ghostwrites and publishes). He can be reached at ccbye@shaw.ca or visit his store at http://shop.claytonbye.com

From Leigh M. Lane, author of “Valley of the Shadow”:

Much of what I write ends up either creepy or provocative, so naturally my spin on the weird western took form as a supernatural battle between cowboys and Indians. I’d hoped to go more traditional—maybe add in a little steampunk to scratch that subgenre off my writing bucket list—but the muse won out in her insistence that I find a different trope to twist and coax into a story wholly western yet distinctly me. The Trickster appears in many American Indian tribal myths and has taken many forms; the form it takes in “Valley of the Shadow” is meant in no way to reference any specific nation’s rich history or folklore. It’s just my original take, weird-western style.

Thank you again, Clayton Bye and Kenneth Weene, for inviting me to be a part of this remarkable collection.

Short bio: In addition to writing dark speculative fiction for over twenty-five years, Leigh M. Lane has sung in classic rock and blues bands, earned a black belt in karate, and dabbled in fine arts. She lives in Sin City with her husband, an editor and educator, and the recently departed spirit of one very spoiled cat. Her website is http://www.cerebralwriter.com

From Sal Buttaci, author of “Old Cowboys Never Die”:

I have always been a fan of Cowboy Cinema since the late 1940s when Papa and I would go see westerns at the nearby Lindy Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Add to that delight all those Lone Ranger radio shows on Sunday, the comic books featuring favorite cowboys like Hopalong Cassidy, and the paperback westerns of A.B. Guthrie, Jr., Louis L’Amour, Max Brand, and Luke Short. Just imagine my joy when my Godfather Uncle Dominic gave me a two-gun holster set for Christmas which I wore at my hips like Billy the Kid.

I don’t believe I have ever grown too far away from my love of the Old West. A good friend of mine named Conrad Jenkins, whose grandfather belonged to the Catawba Indian Nation from South Carolina, once told me of the three Hopi Prophesies which, as a writer, I filed away in my head for a future story.

Then the opportunity came knocking when I was invited to write a short story with an otherworldly cowboy theme for an anthology that would eventually be titled The Nettle Tree. Remembering Conrad’s account, my fascination with cowboys as well as outer-space alien invaders, I let them all mentally roll like tumbleweed as I worked out a plot for my story “Old Cowboys Never Die.”

I am honored to be included in The Nettle Tree which I highly recommend to readers in search of entertaining fiction that will keep you on the edge of your saddle till the final page.

Short Bio: Sal Buttaci has had his writings published in The New York Sunday News, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Cats Magazine, USA Today, The New York Times, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Cup of Comfort, and many other publications. He is the author of two short-short story collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press, and available at Amazon.com.

His book A Family of Sicilians… is available at http://www.lulu.com/shop/salvatore-buttaci/a-family-of-sicilians-stories-and-poems/paperback/product-11022798.html

From James L. Secor, author of “A Hero Comes to Town”:

A Hero Comes To Town” is the 14th episode in the Hellecchino series of social satires I set in the 1880s in the Brazos River Basin just south of the Texas Ranger Station. Hellecchino is a trickster hero. I developed him because I was sick of our derivative superheroes being just as violent and badass as the villains. . .and we take ourselves too seriously. “Hellecchino” means “little devil” and was the peasant name for the character of Arlecchino before commedia dell’arte became popular. In building his character I delved into the trickster heroes of many countries and cultures. Comparative lit is such fun! In building the character of Samson O’Merdé I used that part of the OT story we like to forget: his gross, anti-social character–he smelled, burped, farted, snorted lugies and his lion skin he never tanned or processed. And then I made him kind of slow-witted. A big strong man like him doesn’t need a big stick, thus the 10″ club (a suggestion from a friend/ly writer). O’Merdé is a double entendre, of course; the places he can be found are real, though Total Wreck, AZ is a ghost town.

Short Bio: There is an element of the absurd in this story, harking back to my adult beginnings in social activist theatre where absurdity ran free and easy, in the theatre and in the street. In one way or another, I’ve remained an activist but my writing is not always colored so readily with the absurd. I think sometimes I am absurd. I have lived in Japan, China, Scotland, England and, for short periods of time, Russia and Malaysia; and now I live in the foreign country of Kansas where the ideologue of a governor has ruined the state and actually has given up his dream of running for President of the US to become Chancellor of Kansas State University, which he will run into the ground as he has the state. It just never ends, does it, the absurdity? Want a bit more of my writing?

I hope you’ll check out their stories and the rest of the great speculative fiction in The Nettle Tree.

From John B. Rosenman, author of “The State of the Art” we learn:

There was a time around twelve, thirteen or so when I read westerns almost exclusively. I loved them and even began a western novel called The Twisted Years which I never finished. Ah, the terrible loss to readers! I remember the first sentence of my masterpiece in which I presented my tortured hero: “Jeff Stancher didn’t pay any attention to the Abilene stage as it bumped and rattled into town.”

Later, I moved on to speculative fiction and especially science fiction, where I’ve been ever since. So when Clayton Bye and Kenneth Weene invited me to submit a story to The Nettle Tree (thanks so much for thinking of me), I was not surprised that the western story concept that leaped into my head took a science-fiction-y bent. Also, the setting is Abilene, the same location as my long lost novel.

Short Bio: I’m a retired English professor who has published three hundred stories in The Speed of Dark, Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and elsewhere.  Plus thirty books, including SF novels such as Speaker of the Shakk and Beyond Those Distant Stars, winner of AllBooks Review Editor’s Choice Award (Mundania Press), and Alien Dreams, A Senseless Act of Beauty, and (YA) The Merry-Go-Round Man (Crossroad Press). MuseItUp Publishing has published six SF novels, including my Inspector of the Cross series. Musa Publishing gave my sci-fi time travel story “Killers” their 2013 Editor’s Top Pick award. Some of my books are available as audio books from Audible.com.

Two of my major themes are the endless, mind-stretching wonders of the universe and the limitless possibilities of transformation—sexual, cosmic, and otherwise. I’m the former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and the previous editor of Horror Magazine.