JACK O’ DIAMONDS, Cowboy Tune

#Music #Cowboysongs #amwriting #HistoricalFiction
A popular ditty with cowboys, this old tune has borrowed from both Irish and American traditions. If some of it sounds familiar, the line “Her parents don’t like me, they say I’m too poor” was borrowed by Peter, Paul & Mary for “Pretty Mary”; the lines “I’ll eats when I’m hungry” and “them that don’t like me” and the theme in general, all can be found in The Moonshiner by the Irish Rovers. For an American version of this song, you can’t do better than the Willis Brothers here.

JACK O’ DIAMONDS

Refrain:

Jack o’ diamonds, Jack o’ diamonds, I know you of old,
You’ve robbed my poor pockets of silver and gold.
Oh, whiskey, you villain, you’ve been my downfall,
You’ve kicked me, you’ve cuffed me, but I love you for all.


Oh Mollie, oh Mollie, it’s for your sake alone
That I leave my old parents, my house and my home,
That I leave my old parents, you caused me to roam,
I’m an old rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.


My foot’s in my stirrup, my bridle’s in my hand,
I’m gonna leave Mollie, the fairest in the land.
Her parents don’t like me, they say I’m too poor,
They say I’m unworthy to enter her door.


They say I drink whiskey, my money is my own,
And them that don’t like me can leave me alone.
I’ll eat when I’m hungry, I’ll drink when I’m dry,
And when I get thirsty I’ll lay down and cry.


I’ll build me a castle on yonder mountain high,
Where my true love can see me when she comes riding by.
Where my true love can see me and help me to mourn.
I’m an old rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.


I’ll get up in my saddle, my quirt in my hand.
I’ll think of you, Mollie, when in some far distant land.
I’ll think of you, Mollie, you caused me to roam,
I’m an old rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.


If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck,
I’d dive to the bottom to get one sweet sup.
But the ocean ain’t whiskey, and I ain’t a duck!
So I’ll play Jack o’ diamonds and try to change my luck.


Oh baby, oh baby, I’ve told you before,
Do make me a pallet, I’ll lie on the floor.
I’ve rambled and gambled this wide world around,
But it’s with the rebel army, dear Mollie, I’m bound.


It’s with the rebel army, dear Mollie, I roam,
I am a rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.
I have rambled and gambled all my money away,
But it’s with the rebel army, oh Mollie, I must stay.


Jack o’ diamonds, Jack o’ diamonds, I know you of old,
You’ve robbed my poor pockets of silver and gold.

#FAILURE IS NOT FATAL

#amwriting #amquerying

Just the other day, I posted this quote from Winston Churchill: Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. Normally, I’d just leave it out there and it would hopefully inspire some other folks the way it inspired me. But I’ve found that over the past few days, I can’t seem to get it out of my mind.

Maybe it’s because I’m at a point where some writers I know have given up: 100 query letters sent, no nibbles. A handful of really nice responses, praising one or more of the elements of my offerings. But no concrete interest to date.

Many people would move on.

It’s not that I thought it would be easy. In today’s anyone-can-publish environment, I knew it would be hard to find an agent or publisher the traditional way, as the bar is set so high. I knew that books set in the Old West aren’t all that popular, particularly when they don’t adhere to the expected story lines. I knew that rape and incest were topics that would be rejected immediately by some agents.

But I also know it’s a subject that needs the light of day to shine on it, and that I’ve handled it with both empathy and sensitivity. I’ve explored the effects of these horrors not only on the abused, but also on those who help others heal, who become the caregivers for the exploited, and who may feel guilt and despair because they think they should have somehow, in some way, been able to intervene and change the path of fate.

So, yes, it’s a hard subject. I often find myself drawn to hard subjects, like intractable physical pain; the plight of Native American children in missionary schools; Irish slavery in the Americas; hatred of those who are not “like us”; the failure of those we trust to defend us; being disabled in an able world; and An Gorta Mor. I have written or am writing on all of these subjects.

Knowing that LET THE CANYONS WEEP was going to be harder to place is something that gives me the ambition to keep going with the query process. The book hasn’t failed because it hasn’t found the right agent, but I will fail if I give up on it.

Or it could just be the hardhead incurable optimist in me…

DEFINING GENRE: or when is a Western not a Western?

One of the most difficult things about writing fiction is deciding on a genre, particularly when your work hits several of them tangentially.

For instance, my style is more literary than contemporary.  But the Literary genre requires more than a literary style.  It identifies character-driven stories that explore the reactions of characters to universal situations, situations often fraught with emotion.

In the broad sense, my novel LET THE CANYONS WEEP does those things, but some would not label it as Literary Fiction because there is too much resolution.

What do I mean by “too much resolution”?  Literary Fiction is focused on making the reader do some deep thinking, and usually leaves at least one open question in the reader’s mind.  My novels are character-driven and, at the end of the books, the major conflict is resolved. However, there are questions left open pertaining to the future of the characters and how deeply the issues will affect them going forward.

On the other hand, most genre fiction has a definite set of rules to follow.  A Western, for instance, is plot-driven, and will usually flow this way: hero cowboy/lawman/rancher fights the bad-guy/rich-guy/land-grabber and saves the girl/ranch/town.  A twist on that involves a woman, sometimes posing or dressed as a man, fighting obstacles to win the guy/ranch/revenge.

Now I realize this is very simplistic view of a plot and many variations are possible, but most Westerns will follow this formula.  And just as Romance readers expect a happy ending, most Westerns readers will expect the formula to be followed, at least to some degree.

So how is my novel, set in the 1880s Arizona Territory, not a Western?  To start with, the bad guy’s death is the opening catalyst for the novel, not the thrilling denouement.  The cowboy wins the girl (and the ranch) very early on.  However, the repercussions of the dead outlaw’s deeds figure prominently in the story until the very end.  And to top it all off, the hero manages to create a situation that threatens both his happiness and that of his woman.

So to sum up, a novel that’s set in the Old West but that deviates from the expected norm is, by definition, not a Western.  LET THE CANYONS WEEP is a Literary novel set in a Historical time period and most definitely not a Western.