Yes, the title of this blog is the basic theme of nearly all my books – men others see as “bad,” and some truly start out that way. Some of my heroes did do bad things and spent time in prison – some are even wanted men throughout my story – some are actually lawmen who deal a hard, hard hand – and ALL of them have a good side and always have an underlying reason for their actions and decisions. 
      I just finished watching A PERFECT WORLD, with Kevin Costner as an escaped convict and Clint Eastwood the head Texas Ranger looking for him. I always cry at the ending of this story, which brings out the good and the decency in BOTH men, and shows how a little boy can love a “bad man.” Kevin Costner’s character reminds me very much of Jake Harkner from my Outlaw Hearts books, simply because he was an abused little boy and as a man, he can’t stand to see other little boys abused. That brings out the “bad” in him, just like having any of his family members abused brings out the “bad” in Jake. Everyone should watch A PERFECT WORLD (1993). The little boy in it just tears your heart out. What a great little actor (T J Lowther, who went on to make other movies and is, of course, now grown).
      Bad men with a good heart is my favorite plot theme, my favorite hero to write. Not all my heroes are outlaws, but nearly all are heroic in their defense of their loved ones and in their hatred of the TRULY bad element in this world, those who are mean just to be mean.

      I enjoy writing the psychology of the bad man with a good heart. I have always felt spot-on with Jake, who ended up killing his own father at fifteen because the man was attacking a young girl Jake cared about and he didn’t know how else to stop him. That started Jake on a journey down the wrong path, even though deep inside he wanted to be that “good man” he knew most men were, and even though he wanted the family he never had himself. He came from a horribly abusive father who killed his mother and little brother before his eyes – things a boy never forgets and things that haunt him the rest of his life. Jake’s past affects every single decision he makes the rest of his life, and the only person who truly understands and forgives his dark side is his wife, Miranda, the woman who never gave up on him after first meeting him. “Randy” is Jake’s counselor, the love of his life, the only thing that keeps him sane and on the right side of that fine line between good and evil.
      I am about to write a fifth “Jake” story – BLAZE OF GLORY. And – you guessed it – something happens to bring out that ‘bad” side of Jake, and it involves his young (and favorite) grandson – his namesake – young Jake, who is hurt in a range war. Those of you who are familiar with Jake Harkner know very well what this will do to Jake. His guns will come out of semi-retirement, and they will be “blazing.” Jake is getting older, but his temperament and skills haven’t aged at all. Some very sorry people will find that out.
     I thought book #4, THE LAST OUTLAW, would be the last one in this series, but I felt that nudge that I had to write one more story. I did write A CHICKADEE CHRISTMAS, a short Christmas story about the Harkner family, published in an anthology titled CHRISTMAS IN A COWBOY’S ARMS (2018 – Sourcebooks). In that story, Jake promised to take Miranda on a trip to Chicago, where two of their best friends (from Book #2 DO NOT FORSAKE ME) live. Jake and Randy have never had any kind of vacation together away from Jake’s life constantly on the run, and then his job as a U. S. Marshal in Oklahoma – nor have they been away from the J&L ranch they own in Colorado. 
       BLAZE OF GLORY will begin with that trip to Chicago, and something will happen on their way there that shows Jake Harkner isn’t a changed man at all. Then the news comes about the range war building back home in Colorado and something has happened to young Jake. Jake heads home, and all hell breaks loose!
       I know those who love the Outlaw Heart series will absolutely love BLAZE OF GLORY. And after that I will continue to write the bad man with a good heart in other stories. In June comes the second book in my Men of the Outlaw Trail series – LAWMAN IN THE HIGH LONESOME – where, this time, a GOOD man, Matt Stover, who is a sheriff from Nebraska, turns to his darker side for revenge.
      The third book – coming in October – JOURNEY TO HIGH LONESOME – is about a wanted man who fell into the darker world purely by circumstance and because of the Civil War. Like my other “bad men,” Nick Calhoun has a good heart, but life keeps dealing him bad hands. His only hope is a woman he’s known since she was too young to marry – a woman who at first refuses to go with him to outlaw country, but who ends up having no choice but to go there herself.

      Next year will bring a couple more reissues, as well as a Valentine’s Day novella, and that fifth Outlaw Hearts book, BLAZE OF GLORY. I am writing, writing, writing during this Virus nightmare, and I thank God I have a job I can do at home. And it’s something people can enjoy while being stuck at home themselves. Some of you will probably getting bored with TV, so don’t forget, you can always do some READING!


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