Western Fictioneers Peacemaker's Award Winner for Best Western Novel!
I recall the moment I sat down and decided to seriously write with publication in mind. I had just lost my lifetime best friend, my mentor, a woman who was everything I ever wanted to be. Her sudden loss rocked me to my core, and I still cannot write without pain searing through my chest. But, she always believed in me – and, not knowing what else to do, I began writing Nickel’s Luck.
“The first time young Ryder drowned, it became the beginning of something new—an idea he perceived as infinite immunity to the perils of daily life.”
Some books are a journey of epic proportion. Nickel’s Luck is that book – for the reader, most definitely, but for me the author as well. You see, I never meant to write it. For over a decade I have been researching, writing and sketching out characters and books for a stand-alone series I call “The Moral Series.”
Ryder, the main character, started out as ‘ranch-hand number three’ in another novel. Trouble was, as the story progressed, ‘ranch-hand number three’ became incorrigible. I could not control this fictitious character. He had a mind of his own, and refused to take a back seat to anybody. He rode roughshod over all the pages, and after a meltdown and a few pounds of chocolate-coated curse words, I finally sat him down and we had a talk. (Bear with me, I’m a writer – talking to fictional characters in my head is part of the job description). I told him if he would allow me to write other “Moral” books later, I would write his story just as he tells it, first. It took several years of research, writing and rewriting, with the loss of my dearest friend hanging over my shoulder. I submerged myself in a world not just of cowboys and horses, (although they are definitely there) but of sailors, very real superstitions and the shocking history of Indianola: A Texas town once more well-known than it’s famed neighboring city, Galveston.
Every detail was researched, from the weather down to the Haller Bakery and when the ice cream fountain was built. I discovered sailors were terrified of bananas and often refused to sail with a cargo load of the yellow fruit, for fear of death. I HAD to know why! (Do you? Keep reading). I was a writer obsessed. I dug until I found an original newspaper from September, 1875 talking about Indianola’s cry for help. With that, I was able to flesh out the tiniest details of Ryder’s tale. As I finally closed in on the finish line, we began gathering more items from the book, including the famed trunk my husband painted to replicate the one dragged halfway across the state. We conducted photo shoots and I commissioned a movie poster for Nickel’s Luck.
By the time I finally wrote “The End,” I discovered my journey with Nickel’s Luck was merely beginning. My grandfather, the man who introduced me to westerns, reading and my passion for a good story, was ailing. I had a new goal: publish Nickel’s Luck for my grandfather to read. With little time to hire an editor, and even less money to do so, I fell apart.
Though he had little enough of his own, my father came to my financial aid, hiring the editor and mentor I so desperately wanted. With my husband’s unfailing support and my new editor, Shayla Raquel by my side, Nickel’s Luck was finished . . . and published! I was realizing my first dream come true . . . only, a few weeks too late to gift it to my grandfather.
A few dear friends who own Hamilton Dry Goods, a local 19th Century Dry Goods store, hosted an epic book signing in celebration, complete with live fiddle music and a real cowboy chuck wagon cookout. We all dressed the part; 19th century attire, and I was floating on air, signing books and greeting all the wonderful people who came to support and celebrate.
And now? Nickel’s Luck is a Western Fictioneer’s Peacemaker’s Award winner. I believe big things will happen for this epic book, and for the related novels to follow.
As for Ryder? He became more than a character. He’s my friend and confidant, someone I lean on during the dark days, hoping a little of his luck will rub off on me. The story still has the ability to carry me away, but it’s not my story. It’s his. And it belongs to the hundreds of Indianolans whose lives were altered or ceased altogether, during a few ill-fated days in September, 1875.
And the story belongs to you too, dear reader, with my heartfelt thanks and gratitude. May you always carry a nickel’s worth of luck.
S. L. Matthews, Author of Nickel's Luck: Peacemaker's Award Winner.
Oh – and those sailors fearing bananas? They were not unfounded fears. Sailors would indeed drop dead from the “Devil’s fruit.” What they did not realize? It was not the fruit itself, but the hitchhikers hiding in the bunches. Venomous spiders would crawl out on deck and bite the sailors. I’d call that bad luck, indeed.