2016 Blog Tour for The Nettle Tree kicks off today at johnrosenman.blogspot.com

Strangely Different Western stories, most speculative in nature, have been written to either stretch or obliterate this most tradirional of genres. Yet, we still hope to entertain. And consistent 5 star reviews are suggesting that is exactly what we are doing.

Visit John’s blog at johnrosenman.blogspot.com and get the chance to win one of two free copies of the book. Simply make a comment and you’re in the draw!

Front Cover


The Contrary Canadian

Front Cover







Completed on: 28072016
Review Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed By Hilary Hawkes for Readers’ Favorite

The Nettle Tree is a collection of short stories compiled by Kenneth Weene and Clayton Bye. Bye has written one of the stories and the other twelve are by other excellent and talented authors. The overall theme of the book encompasses the western/cowboy genre and this is intriguingly mixed with science fiction and fantasy elements. The stories vary in length and include a shorter flash fiction tale too.

An extremely well written and engaging collection of stories, this book will delight fans of short stories with a bit of a dark edge and fantasy elements to them. The authors convey their characters’ personalities and motivations very well. I liked the combination of a variety of subjects and the way the stories seem to fit well together as a collection in terms of tone. While each author has a unique voice, these tales share an overall style and mood as they explore some unusual, baffling, and scary happenings in situations in which the characters find themselves.

As I read, I was on the lookout for my favorite story, but I have to admit each one was equally absorbing and brilliant. I liked the humor in Phil Richardson’s The Sheriff of Hog Waller; the weird mix of horror and western in Jeremy Shipp’s The Carousel; and the dark, speculative nature of Leigh M Lane’s Valley of the Shadow. Many of the stories, including Clayton Bye’s The Nettle Tree, explore unseen forces of spirit revenge, and a battle between those in this life and ghosts – suggesting nothing may be as it seems and that we may be fooling ourselves when we believe we have control over events and outcomes. An intriguing collection that combines western, sci-fi, apocalypse, zombie, and portals into other dimensions into an entertaining and gripping read. Recommended.


The Contrary Canadian


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Review by David Donaldson, 12/07/2016

The Nettle Tree is a fantastic collection of short westerns, with stories ranging from the standard sheriff and outlaw to the zombie apocalypse to computer simulation. Every story is its own adventure, and left me wanting more. I would recommend this collection to anyone, as fans of western, sci-fi, and fantasy will all find something to enjoy. As a major fan of the sci-fi genre, the combination of sci-fi settings with old fashioned western style story telling was a welcome change of pace, one I would very much like to see more of.

Front Cover

The Contrary Canadian

A review of To Have and To Hold by C.J. “Country” James

To Have and to Hold cover

Title: To Have and To Hold
Subtitle: A Continuing Montana Love Story
Author: C. J. “Country” James
Genre: Contemporary Western/Romance

From the back of the book …
IN THIS BOOK I wanted to show the similarities and differences between Jake and Franklin in their way of thinking and doing things. Old Man Jarvis, Franklin’s dad, knows how similar they are. Franklin doesn’t. Doesn’t see it. Jake doesn’t, either. He thinks he can’t ever measure up, not even to handling the ranch and the businesses, never mind holding the whole family together.

Jake’s young. Hasn’t got it quite figured out. Franklin’s an old hand…but, sometimes, he can’t figure it out, either. Despite their similarities, their personal choices and life experiences see their pathways diverge, Franklin’s hopeful and forward-looking, Jake’s murky and embittered.

I also wanted to show Dree and Catherine—Dree’s rebellion, finally, against years of abusive patriarchal domination as well as her suffering the confounding familial issues which her young, fragile psyche found too much to bear, this compared to and contrasted against Catherine’s plight because she rebelled against a matriarchal society and, in consequence, lost everything—her family, her people, her self-respect, her hopes for fulfillment and happiness, and, almost, her life.

The story is one of parallels, of Franklin’s and Jake’s, of Catherine’s and Dree’s—parallels travelling opposite directions, one towards joy and fulfillment, one towards misery.

This is a love story, a continuing Montana love story, about a family who gives a damn and tries very hard to do the right thing. It’s a story about sacrifice, about hurting and healing. It’s a story of change, of caring, and about surviving challenges that can beset us—our responses to them. Mostly, it’s a story about promises—those to be made, those to be kept, and those that are or have to be broken.

The Review
After having read and reviewed the first book in this ongoing series, I thought I knew what to expect from author C. J. “Country” James. Not! As the author explains in the above passage, Dree’s character goes through a sudden metamorphosis that sends the entire Jarvis clan into a tailspin of epic proportions. No one escapes unscathed, least of all Dree. And yet, amidst the chaos and pain, another romance blooms and reaches for the sun.

But don’t forget: this is a Montana love story. The book is also filled with details of country life, especially life on a working ranch. Details that I suspect come from experience rather than research. They have that kind of authenticity—from how to flush a boss steer from mountainous brush, to teaching someone how to ride, to fixing loose barbed wire on a fence.

I also enjoyed the brevity of the scenes. It keeps the story fresh and moves it along like a galloping horse. Or, perhaps, like an action movie with the frames flashing upon our minds, creating an ever impending sense of closure: to the love affair between Franklin and Catherine, to the life-altering rift between Jake and Dree and to the deep promises each have made—promises that you know will be tested in the next book in this intriguing and heart-felt story about family, values and love.

Short version:
“An intriguing and heart-felt story about family, values and love.”

5 stars

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2016

The Contrary Canadian

Black Light is a Sure Success

black light

Black Light
Patrick Melton,
Marcus Dunstan &
Stephen Romano
Mulholland Books
Hardcover 10/05/2011
ISBN 9780316196710
327 pages

The debut novel from writers of the Saw franchise.

Official Blurb
If you have a supernatural problem that won’t go away, you need Buck Carlsbad: private eye, exorcist, and last resort.

Buck’s got a way with spirits that no one else can match. He was normal, once. Until Something Horrible killed his parents and left him for dead.

Buck has spent years using his gift to trace his family. It’s his only hope of finding out what happened to them–and what made him the way he is.

Now the voices say that something big is coming. Buck already knows what it is–a super high-tech bullet train running express across a stretch of unforgiving desert known for the most deadly paranormal events in history. A place where Buck almost died a few years ago, and where he swore he would never return.

But as the train prepares to rumble down the tracks, Buck knows it can only be the inevitable hand of fate pulling him back to the most harrowing unfinished case of his career at four hundred miles per hour.

About The Authors
Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan have written the screenplays for Saw IV, Saw V, Saw VI, Saw 3D, and The Collector, which Dunstan also directed. Currently, they are filming The Collector 2, and writing a remake of The Outer Limits for MGM. Stephen Romano is an acclaimed author, screenwriter and illustrator (having written for Showtime’s Emmy-winning original series Masters Of Horror).

The Review
My first thought when I asked myself how to describe Black Light was “Stephen King unfettered,” then I thought of one of Robert McCammon’s lesser known works, Mystery Walk, a tale of good and evil, with the hero cast as a medium destined to meet pure evil in the desert.

The previous descriptions are good places to begin, but they don’t do Black Light justice. This is a book based on a premise I’ve never encountered before. That premise is a unique vision of the underworld: “The place where all souls that ever lived and loved and fought and died had gone to rest… ” They become residents of a plane of existence Buck Carlsbad refers to as the Black Light: a place so bright and clear that you can see everything that has ever happened to a person or to a home throughout its life(by way of an example); “it’s amazing and overwhelming and brighter than a million suns,” and it will literally boil your eyes right out of your head unless you have the proper equipment to protect you.

There are other levels: the further you go down, the darker it gets, until you reach The Big Black. “It might be where they all go, in the end. Might be heaven and hell, all rolled up into one endless stretch of nowhere.”

Buck’s job is to capture spirits who try to come back–as spirits on the down-low, as pissed off poltergeists or by way of possession. In any case, Buck must use a black hole that lives inside him. He calls it the “pull,” because when he gets close enough to a “mark,” whatever kind of spirit it is that has broken through from level 2 (the black light)to level 1 (the land of the living) is pulled into Buck, where it fights like crazy to get out, while Buck digests the thing. Then, once the spirit is under control, or put down, Buck must get rid of it. [Did I mention that Buck is obsessed with the Black Light and has found a way to use his marks to get there?] Anyway, he uses a frightening, home-made mixture that guarantees he’ll puke the spirit(s) up and into the waiting silver urn. Buck then buries the expensive urn in a graveyard on a large lot he owns. The spirits either go back to the black light or they’ll be forever trapped in the urn. Buck uses silver because a copper urn just won’t hold them.

Okay, you have the premise. You know what Buck does and how he does it–when things go right. You’ll have to pick up a copy of Black Light to find out what Buck does when things go horribly, unbelievably wrong.

Black Light is an accessible and unique straight-to-the-top thriller. Fans are sure to want more.

Copyright, Clayton Clifford Bye, 2011


The Contrary Canadian


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Series: A Country James Novel
Book #1
Title: Through Better & Worse
Subtitle: A Montana Love Story
Author: D.L. Keur writing as C.J “Country” James
Kindle Select Exclusive Release eBook ASIN: B013AUZTCK
Print: ISBN-13: 978-0692491751
Print: ISBN-10: 0692491759
420 pages
Genre: Contemporary Western Romance (Semi-Sweet)

US  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B013AUZTCK
UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B013AUZTCK
CA http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B013AUZTCK
AU http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B013AUZTCK

The first encounter between Dree Blake and Jake Jarvis couldn’t have been worse. Jake has a teenage mind inside a man’s body. Driving his fancy pickup too fast, he wants to get around the old clunker pulling a horse trailer. But there isn’t room to pass. Narrowly missing Dree’s horse trailer by a hair, he yells insults at the girl driving the rig.

Dree certainly didn’t want a confrontation with the rude cowboy. Jake sure as hell didn’t want to see her anywhere anytime soon. Both go about their business.

But the Fates are fond of creating coincidental meetings. Dree is heading to the Jarvis ranch to help teach the hands a new, more humane method of castrating bull calves. After a demo, Dree and the two men from the Montana Department of Agriculture are asked to stay around for the upcoming roundup of the calves. Just as she’s putting her mule, Cougar, into the stable, who should come driving in all la-di-da except the man who nearly drove her off the road.

Jake figures Dree is at the ranch to rat on him. He waits nervously for the blow up from his grandfather, Franklin. But nothing happens. Relieved, Jake is grateful the blocky little lady has kept her peace about the encounter.

Dree recognizes Jake all right, and figures out he’s the heir to the Jarvis Ranch. It wouldn’t be in her best interests to cause a ruckus. Besides, Dree does not like confrontation…at all. An incident from her childhood, violent beyond measure, gives her horrible anxiety attacks. The result is Dree is too quiet and too easily dismissed.

With this inauspicious beginning, Jake and Dree are forced to learn more about each other. They each find the other isn’t quite as horrible as they first thought.

As the story progresses, a lot happens, but that’d all be spoiler material. However, this is a big R Romance, so you have an idea of how it turns out. What will surprise the hell out of you is how.

Not many books are perfect, but this one’s darned close. The details of cattle ranching and division of property I know to be accurate, however it might be a bit more information than the reader would like. Get on with the kissing! Nevertheless, I very much appreciate a book that doesn’t slide by the setting and circumstances with no more than a howdy along the way. Readers who are sticklers for details will be pleased.

This is not your bare-chested, sexy cowboy romance (though Jake ain’t bad). Those are mere cotton candy representations of real ranch life and real ranch people. Author, C.J. “Country” James, knows the people she writes about far better than most. She’s taken a pen name for the Country series, of which this book is the first.

Not only does the pseudonymous James write truly and honestly about the modern west, but is also an artist and has recorded her own audio versions of the book. With a woman that talented, you can’t go wrong reading or listening to her books.

Hint: Also look for E.J. Ruek’s books “Old Hickory Lane” and “To Inherit a Murderer.” A few more books are in the works.

Find the author at: http://www.ejruek.com/ http://www.countryjames.com/

About the Reviewer: Marva Dasef has authored a number of young adult fantasies, along with a couple of books in western settings. She was given an Advance Review Copy by the author in return for an unbiased review.

The Contrary Canadian


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The following is based on a commentary from 2012 on this blog.

Stephen King

Stephen King

A few years ago I participated in a discussion about Stephen King. I could not believe the number of people who were bashing the guy. He has now written over 50 books–EVERY ONE OF THEM A BESTSELLER. Best guestimates are he brings in at least 40 million a year. And when he can write a book like 11/22/63 that can move me to melancholy for the better part of a day AND a week later still has me thinking about it, then I say the whole lot are out to lunch, jealous little people of no concern. This man is a great story teller. He HAS to be, to accomplish what he has done.

Read my review, then get the book …



1. Sandra McLeod Humphrey said:

Sounds like another great book–what an intriguing story line! You’re right, Stephen King is an extraordinary storyteller!

REPLY Clayton Bye said:

The idea of preventing Kennedy’s asassination was what originally caught my attention, but when the story turns out to be a treatise on time travel–WOW! I think it’s safe to say there are a few time travel stories better than this one (King mentions a favourite of mine “Time after Time,” a story centred on the idea of Jack the Ripper as a time traveller.), but only a few. I think this may be a book even those who aren’t King fans will enjoy.


2. Sandra Nachlinger said

I agree with you, Clayton. Stephen King knows how to tell a story, and those who bash his work must be envious of his talent. Great post and review.

Reply Clayton Bye said:

Thank you Sandra. It has been noted by smarter people than I that the higher up the ladder you go, the more people there seem to be who want to pull you back down. I’m sure King knows this, but it has been quite apparent in his interviews that these comments bother him a great deal. I think the worst one was the repeated habit so called “literary” pundits had of calling him a hack. That one went on until just a few years ago.


3. Wayne Helliar said:

Lot’s of people hate Wayne Greztky too, probably some of them hate Stephen King as well. But they just can’t understand, success speaks for itself.

REPLY Clayton Bye said:

You’ve got that right, cousin. It’s amazing how many people are jealous of or even harbour malice for those who are more successful than they are. We would all be better off if we could just be happy for what we have and for what we may be able to achieve–leaving other people completely out of the picture. I guess another way to put what I’m trying to say is if Stephen King makes 40 million per year, as reported, I should be happy for the man. There’s no percentage in hating the guy.

Take care, Clayton


Copyright © 2015 Clayton Clifford Bye

Clayton Bye
Chase Enterprises Publishing
1 (807) 466-7642


The Contrary Canadian



Reviewed by Elena Yates Eulo

Clayton Bye’s writing is a power unto itself, a current both deep and disturbing, and he wastes no time in plugging us into his definition of reality. And yes, he will disturb our minds and mess up our radar. After the first story of this eclectic collection, I had already left my own concept of reality and taken up residence in his strange dim world, much trafficked by villains and terrifying possibilities, and occasionally by some spirited and appealing good guys.

He begins with an unspeakable action that can only be hinted at in the beginning of this tale. Such an act creates its own world, one so dreadful and remote from humanity that even speculation of the deed is not an absolute. It is, Bye tells us, an absence of qualities, without speed or light. His words evoke a reminder that the greatest sins of humanity take place inside of unenlightened minds where not a single ray of light illuminates truth.

To read Bye is to be escorted into a shadowy, relentless world without boundaries, where a myriad of dark deeds are committed by intricate, multi-dimensional characters who live in obscure locations most of us have never visited, nor would we go there by choice, save between the pages of a well-written book. It does not hurt to have a recurring guide, in this case likable Mike Money, who takes us to the region of Big Trout Lake in Ontario, with its abiding chill that Bye sends through our bodies, minds and into our very bones while introducing us to the traditions and legends of remote reservations. It is, we will find, a place accustomed to meting out its own justice, and Mike Money well knows the futility of interference.

Yet, these remote cultures are a mere glint in the eye in considering the multiverse that live in Bye’s stories. Neither are all his speculations terrifying. Sometimes, he makes us smile or even laugh, perhaps to prepare our minds more vulnerable for his carving. It’s a delicate balancing act that lures the reader into strange fellowships, from the devil himself to visitations with computers, legendary creatures, or the biological viruses that deform humankind (perhaps to more truly match the quality of our souls?) … while warming us with Mike Money and his reservation of authentic characters.

Illusions or not, it’s enough that Bye leaves us speculating, whether of the nature of evil or the compensations of love, hope and humor. Always, he provides us with good company at our own private bonfires.

The Contrary Canadian

My new book of eclectic short stories, Behind the Red Door, is now available for ordering. http://shop.claytonbye.com or at Amazon.

Behind the Red Door
Clayton C. bye
Chase Enterprises Publishing, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-927915-08-0
!26 Pages
Short Stories/Literary

Kenneth Weene | 5 out of 5 Stars!

As an author I appreciate good writing; and to be successful. short stories as a genre require writing that moves the reader along. Clayton Bye has given us good, fast-paced writing with stories that explore the humor of the mundane, i.e. Big Trout Lake Blues and Regarding Love, the incredible world of science fiction, i.e. Retrovirus, and horror that makes the hair at the nape of your neck stand to attention, i.e., The Speed of Dark and The Last Unicorn. There are ten stories in this book, and my bet is that readers will savor every one of these delights.

Fran Lewis
Just Reviews

Before you open the door and find out what is behind it understand that your world as you see it now will never be the same. The people that you meet, their stories that you will hear and the endings that they meet will not only startle you, surprise you but help you to understand that their world is really not that much different than yours in some respects. Behind the Red Door is a compilation of original stories each with its own theme, message and story yet each linked in some way. The sadness, the tragedies, the deceits, lies and deceptions are there but each main character often justifies his/her actions and the end result is not always what you expect.

A young boy has to cope with a mother who uses her children for food. How does this child survive? In the Speed of Dark, story one, Richard Bartholomew lives in a world that would frighten any child. What is the Speed of Dark and how does he and his brother find their way into the light? As their mother informs them that someone has to go and there is no choice or decision in the matter and her wishes are clear, Richard ponders his fate and that of everyone else. Will he survive? What can he do when it’s his day? What surprise just might change it all?

The next story focuses on a lone police office in a real place called Big Trout Lake, which is followed by Stiletto. Defining the word in graphic detail and helping readers understand the power of this weapon author Clayton Bye takes us further inside the red door inside the mind of a killer who has no qualms about going after his prey. Justice: An eye for an eye! But, will he prevail?

The story that I really got into the most was Retrovirus. How far would a man go in order to be accepted and find love? Men in black cloaks, late afternoon, jet-black stallions and an entire herd. A stranger “more than half believed that he would find a stand of swords in the alders behind him.” What transpires next is right out of an Alfred Hitchcock Movie or an episode of the Twilight Zone as Jim sitting in front of his computer witnesses something that would forever change his life. What would you do if you saw a creature come out of your computer? A snake with a face! Green fluid that felt like oil to the touch and materialized in human form in front of Jim. Wanting to form some type of bond with this person/creature he fails to see through her façade and falls prey to more than just her appearance and words. Her name is Gilada and although she might have acted like a friend to Jim she was anything but. When relationships form, deeds are done and the end result is Jim’s health and physical appearance become so deteriorated that his own doctor cannot recognize what is wrong. How do you react when your whole body turns into blister and sores? What would you do if you were told you had a computer virus? Things come to a full head and Gilada explains his plight but a chameleon can change forms and in this case Jim sees and hears what she wants him to. What is his final fate? What is her primary goal? What happens will make the fires of hell seem luke warm as Jim mistakes deception and lies for love and the men sitting around the fire waiting for the storm to brew listen as the “wind screeched like a dying woman.”

The next is another Big Trout Lake Blues story focusing on Mike Money followed by Regarding Love. Would you forgive your spouse if he was having an affair with another man? Find out the rationale behind that in this unique story.

The next story is really eerie and once again the author takes us beyond the realm of reality into the world of good vs. evil as we meet someone, let’s not give him a name or title whose goal it is to gather souls. Finding himself in need of one and meeting a man named Brad the events unfold, their worlds collide and the end result is quite startling. When he refuses to stay in one of his own worlds, with the “legions of the dead, The Lord goes out of his way to punish me.” Of course he finds that unfair. Getting injured and waking up in a hospital bed is no problem as he can heal himself. Hearing his justification for his actions and learning that sometimes the tables are turned quite remarkable. What does happen when one soul refuses to adhere to his rules? What will happen the next time he searches for a soul? Would you commit a mortal sin? That would be a serious matter and the person committing it “must have reflected however, briefly, on the gravity of the situation before acting.” Will that stop him? Watch as events unfold with Bryan Cole and learn who has the final say: Him or God.

The Maniac and The Return of the Dwarves round out the collection, which ends with The Last Unicorn. A young girl about the age of this man finds her way into his life and explains she’s a unicorn. What would you do? Find out when one young man assimilates into a world that most would shy away or run from, becomes a shape shifter, and thinks he has found love but in reality what he finds is anything but.

Horror, humor, fear, paranormal, ethereal and much more are just part of what you will find when you enter the worlds created by author Clayton Bye. But, make sure that you leave a crack in the door and don’t close it fully behind you as Behind the Red Door you will find worlds that you might want to escape or maybe you too will become part of one. Beware: This is an original collection that draws the reader in from the start and you just might not be able to escape.