Saturday, December 26, 2015

What Terrifies You? SAVING MIGUEL by John Bradford Branney

SAVING MIGUEL by John Bradford Branney. Click for Books
What really frightens you?

Does the boogeyman scare the living crud out of you? Do you have nightmares about lions and tigers and bears, oh my? How about that thing that hides under your bed? You know what I am talking about, that thing that has lurked under your bed since you were a small child. Yes, it is still there. Does it still spook you? As a grown up, will you let your arm drape down over the side of the bed or are you still afraid that the thing will pull you under the bed by your arm? What about Jason or Freddie Krueger? Both of them were quite frightening in the movies. What about the scare potential for the nightly news? There is some scary stuff on the news, and that is real!

Yes, I just added the nightly news!
There are stories on the nightly news that makes Freddie Krueger look like the Singing Nun! There are things going on in the world that can make your hair stand on end and unfortunately, these things are not make believe like Jason or Freddie!

Have you ever asked yourself why certain things frighten you more than other things? What is the secret ingredient that makes you terrified? What pushes your fright button? 

Some people believe that fright comes from those things that we perceive we have no control over. When we watch Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street, the victims seldom have control over Freddie or Jason and you as a movie watcher have even less control than those actors in the movies. I remember the first time I watched Nightmare on Elm Street. I was literally yelling at the television set at the clueless victims who always seemed to be doing the most idiotic thing possible to get killed. They were so dumb when it came to avoiding Freddie Krueger that you almost wanted them to get caught! I screamed at them to stay put and lock their doors, but of course, they had to go investigate what made that noise.                                                                                                                                                                  The actors did not listen to me at all. I had no
control over them or the script or the movie. Fresh meat, how sweet! I can still hear Freddie Krueger’s hideous voice growling.  

We do have some control over that thing that lives under our bed. What can we do? First, we should not drape our arm over the side of the bed! And what control do we have over our  spooky neighbors? It seems our only control over them is for us to move or hope they move or wait and see what they do next! The spooky neighbors could be harmless or they could be like Norman Bates in Psycho.           

Yes, we agree that there are real life things in this world that are truly frightening and depending on our experience, temperament, and lifestyle, certain things will frighten each of us more than other things. Let me meander back to the frightening events we see on the nightly news. When I first came up with the concept for my novel SAVING MIGUEL in 2011, the world was on the brink of economic
disaster. Global Economic Armageddon was on everyone’s minds. I have to admit, but this non-human, non-boogeyman called Global Economic Armageddon frightened the living daylights out of me, more than Freddie Krueger or Jason or anything else I could think of. I saw the possibility that my entire life’s work and savings could go up in smoke because of the greed of others. I was frightened by this possibility and I was not alone. To watch my family’s financial means disappear in a matter of days or weeks was absolutely terrifying to me. Global Economic Armageddon was more frightening than that thing under my bed or Freddie Krueger! Global Economic Armageddon could happen and I had no control over it!     

So, to help me cope with my own personal fear, I decided to write a novel about it, a novel that was both terrifying and hopeful. In the novel, I had to create a world that would exist after global financial markets collapsed, after hundreds of millions of people no longer had livelihoods and jobs. That is a a very frightening world, if you ask me! I modeled this world after the devastation in Communist Russia after the Berlin Wall fell, a world where the basic needs of human beings no longer existed and crime to survive became a normal way of life. I took that model and expanded it to the world-at-large.

Below is a scene from SAVING MIGUEL. In this scene, the head of the military and spy organizations for the Monarchy, Chief Security Officer Stewart had to visit the city without military escort after dark. Here is what happened.   

The noise from the collision with the gate had attracted seven homeless citizens who now walked down the middle of the street towards Stewart and his vehicle. Stewart saw these dark shadows approaching him and took a gander over his shoulder, pinpointing the location of his vehicle if he had to make a run for it. Stewart deftly chambered a round in his ten-millimeter semi-automatic pistol. When the seven shadows came closer, the tall one in the middle spoke first.

“Give us your valuables!”

“I don’t have any valuables,” Stewart replied, slowly backing up towards his vehicle.

The seven citizens continued to slowly advance while Stewart glanced over his shoulder, ensuring no one was behind him.

“Give us your valuables or we will take your life.”

“Now that’s an overused cliché, isn’t it, bloke?” Stewart replied. “I must apologize, but you can’t have either. I am keeping my valuables and my bloody life.”

Stewart raised the pistol and pointed it at the tall citizen, saying, “Lad, I strongly suggest you turn and walk away, otherwise you are going to have a bloody bad night!”

The citizen responded by holding up what looked like a tire iron and waving it in Stewart’s direction.

“That’s brill, just what I would expect from a doped up bugger,” Stewart asserted, “bringing a tire iron to a gunfight.”

The citizens did not appreciate Stewart’s attempt at levity, shaking logging chains and raising wooden clubs over their heads. Stewart made a run for it, sprinting for his vehicle while the seven citizens chased after him. Stewart had not run for his life in years and his legs were not working very well, but the adrenalin surging through his body made up for it. Once Stewart reached his vehicle, he turned around,

aimed, and fired the pistol at the closest citizen. The 180-grain full metal jacket bullet ripped through the citizen’s rib cage, penetrating his heart. By the time the citizen hit the pavement, his soul was already in hell. The loud explosion of the ten-millimeter pistol stopped the other citizens dead in their tracks. Stewart fumbled around in his pockets, desperately looking for his vehicle identification sensor.

Finally he found the sensor and jumped into the vehicle, firing it up.

The six citizens rushed the vehicle while Stewart threwthe vehicle into drive and stomped on the gas pedal. The powerful V 12 engine roared like a lion as Stewart turned the steering wheel and headed straight at the citizens. The vehicle hit the second citizen dead on, running completely over his body. Stewart then swung the steering wheel hard to the right, clipping the third citizen with the passenger side of the vehicle, knocking him down. Stewart aimed the vehicle for the fourth citizen and smashed into him head on, throwing the citizen’s body onto the front hood of the vehicle. Stewart drove past the three remaining citizens and screeched on his brakes.

Stewart jumped out of the vehicle just in time to see the three citizens running down the street away from him. Stewart took careful aim with the pistol and fired at the fifth citizen. He then quickly took aim at the sixth citizen and gently squeezed the trigger. The two 180 grain full metal jacket bullets raced through the city air at over thirteen hundred feet per second. The first bullet exploded into the back of the fifth citizen, shattering his T3 thoracic vertebrae and spraying shards of bone and bullet into his organs and blood vessels. However, the vertebrae only slowed the bullet down as it continued to corkscrew its way through the citizen’s body, passing through a lung and finally coming to rest on the inside of the rib cage, narrowly missing the heart. With a severed spinal cord, the citizen dropped to the pavement like a sack of potatoes, bleeding on the street and dying soon after from severe shock.

The sixth citizen fared much better. Stewart had rushed his second shot and only hit the citizen in the back of the shoulder. The bullet grazed the bone on the citizen’s clavicle and then came out of the flesh just in front of the shoulder. The drug-crazed citizen ran, completely unaware he had even been shot.

Stewart surveyed up and down the street, knowing that he had to get out of there and fast. Soon there would be more citizens showing up. Stewart shoved the moaning citizen off the hood of his vehicle. The citizen tried to crawl away, but Stewart came up behind him, aimed his pistol at the back of his head, and gently squeezed the trigger. The pistol belched flame and fury…

This was just a routine night in the city. Take away people’s livelihoods and this is what happens. But, in my novel SAVING MIGUEL where you find terror, sometimes you find hope.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

How Far Can You Travel On Just Twenty Dollars?

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How far can you travel on 20 bucks. You won't make it far at the airport or the bus stop and $20 might buy you three quarters of a tank of gas. 

For less than $20 my book WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR  will take you to New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming in the 17th Century for the best trip you have ever had for $20 and you don't even need to leave your house. Read on!  

The wild mustangs of Wyoming inspired John Bradford Branney to write his sixth book, WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR, a story based on the introduction of horses to the Plains Indians of Wyoming in the late 17th Century. LEAVES begins with a vivid description of a violent attack, part of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt on a sprawling Spanish family ranch, out of which spins intricate bifurcated sub-plots emanating from separate hostile Indian massacres. Two sub-plots or themes are masterfully and skillfully coiled and twined and twisted like a Southwestern Indian basket. The reader is led through the maturation of the Spanish rancher’s son in his quest to be reunited with his younger brother. A parallel journey takes the reader along with a young coming-of-age warrior-to-be searching for the captured young Indian woman he loves--a journey on which he discovers a miraculous gift that changes the future of his tribe. That discovery takes a most unpredictable twist in completing the selvage of the basket that becomes this captivating story.  

The wild red roan colt that inspired and starred in the book WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR. 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Nature of a Wild Horse Herd -- WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR

Wild horse herd along the Powder Rim in Wyoming. John Branney Photo.  

My newly released novel entitled WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR is a historical adventure based on the introduction of horses to the Plains Indians in the latter years of the 17th Century. Even though most of the characters originated in my mind through my experiences, the storyline of the novel follows historically documented accounts from Native Americans who claimed to have been there at the first encounter with horses.

I wrote WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR using separate plots for three different
The red roan colt in 2002, the inspiration for WHEN 
LEAVES CHANGE COLOR. John Branney Photo.  

characters. As the story develops the paths of these characters begin to intertwine. One of the main characters was a young Spaniard by the name of Santiago who was embarking on a journey back to the north to find his brother Luis, an Indian captive. Santiago despised the Indians for what they did to Luis and his family and he sought revenge for the Indians destroying his family and life. The second main character in the book was a young Indian hunter named Ouray. He was also on a quest, but his quest was in search of Haiwee, the girl he loved. A hostile tribe of Indians had taken Haiwee and Ouray vowed to find her and exact his revenge on the Indian people who stole her. However, Ouray in his search for Haiwee found something else instead, something so remarkable that it would transform his life and his tribe's life forever. The third character in WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR was a wild horse herd. I won't spoil the book by telling you anymore, but below is a short outtake from the book briefly describing the horse herd.               

The big sorrel mare led the herd up the steep slope of a rock-strewn ridge. The hooves of the band of horses clattered against the cobbles of broken sandstone lying along the rough-cut animal trail. The big sorrel mare was the matriarch of the herd. Being the matriarch meant that she made all of the day to- day decisions for this particular group of horses. She decided which water hole they would drink from and where they would graze throughout the day. She decided when the herd would stay put and when they would move on to better pasture. She was also the disciplinarian in the herd, at least this matriarch was. She tolerated little. She meted out justice, in her own harsh way. The big sorrel mare had two characteristics that boded well for this horse herd: she was very intelligent and she was very careful. Most of the horses in the herd feared the big sorrel mare, but since she had always kept them out of harm’s way, they followed her without hesitation.

This particular morning, the big sorrel mare was leading the herd over the high ridge to a watering hole on the other side. Call it an extraordinary sense, but she knew that there was both water and forage over the ridge. Bringing up the rear was the other leader of the herd, a tall bay stallion. He was the monarch of the herd and the breeding stallion. His role was to protect the herd and to procreate. He would remain in his position as monarch as long as he could fight off all new challengers. When the day came when he could no longer defend against a younger and stronger stallion, he would leave the herd to live his final days alone. Ultimately, he would become prey to the wolves and other predators that roamed the area.

Wild horse herd along the painted clays in the
Washakie Basin of Wyoming. John Branney Photo.
Once the herd crested the windblown ridge, the horses followed the sorrel mare down a winding animal trail toward the water. The horses’ hoof prints intermingled on the powdery trail with tracks from deer, elk, coyote, and even wolves. Over the years, animals had carved out a deep path in the rocky soil, leading to and from this watering hole. When the horses neared their destination, they smelled the water and picked up their pace, loping along behind the sorrel mare with manes waving and tails swirling behind.

Why do horses live in herds? Horses live in herds because they are social animals and because the herd provides each member protection from predators. For each wild horse herd, there is a social pecking order and each horse has a role. The stallion in the herd serves the purpose of procreating and protecting the herd against predators, but it is the matriarch, the dominant mare, that officially leads the herd. The matriarch picks where the herd will get water and where the herd will graze. The matriarch leads the herd and makes all of the day-to-day decisions. She is the disciplinarian of the herd and usually has a way of dealing with anti-social behavior within the members of the herd. Her punishment can include driving the offender out of the herd and she decides when the offender can come back into the herd. Since the horse herd is in constant danger from predators, banishment from the herd can be fatal for the offender without the protection from the rest of the herd.

Read WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR for the rest of the story.

Monday, September 14, 2015

An Adventure with Grasshoppers - Read WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR!!

WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR (Click Here for Information on the Book) 
I based my new novel, WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR, in the late 17th Century and on the pre-horse lives of the Plains Indians. Just as some people seem to fare better than others in today's society, back in the 17th Century some Plains Indian tribes fared better than other Plains Indian tribes. While some tribes feasted on bison, elk, and deer, a few tribes had to survive on less appealing cuisine. One such tribe is described below in a short passage from WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR. The short outtake is about a young Indian boy-man named Ouray from the Snake tribe. I will let you determine on your own what is happening…      

Native American Grasshopper Trap
(Courtesy of

The people stood silently under the broiling sun, waiting for the signal. For a long time, that signal never came. People became impatient and started looking around, wondering what was happening. Then they heard the yipping call of a coyote, the signal for them to advance.

Everyone in the circle began screaming and walking forward, heading straight for the deep hole in the ground. Then, as if all of the people were a single animal, they began yipping and barking like the coyote. The people pounded the grass and ground with broken tree branches and sticks, creating a tremendous racket as they advanced towards the hole in the ground.

Winged insects catapulted themselves from the tall grass by the hundreds, snapping their wings and flying in every direction. Ouray slowly advanced alongside the others, pounding his juniper tree branch against the grass while wailing his best coyote imitation, loud and monotone. Insects flew up into his face and grabbed ahold of his bare skin with their stick legs. Ouray reached up and grabbed the insects with his hands, throwing them toward the trap in front of him. People kept moving forward, beating the ground with sticks and branches, howling loudly. The clacks and buzzes of hundreds of flying insects joined in the
Yummy grasshopper.
Love those drumsticks.

Grasshoppers by the thousands took flight from their grassy existence, flying ahead of pounding tree branches and screaming coyote calls. Ouray and the other people advanced towards the trap while hundreds of grasshoppers escaped by flying past them. As the tribe approached the trap, the distance between people decreased, reducing the grasshoppers’ avenues of escape.

Most of us probably cringe when we think about eating grasshoppers. I know I do. But for this particular tribe called the Snakes, they had no other choice than to eat these flying insects or dig for grubs to eat in the ground. You see, the Snakes were one of those less fortunate Plains Indian tribes. The Snake tribe was in a desperate day-by-day fight for survival. Most of them felt blessed to have the occasional grasshopper to eat. Much of modern society shuns eating grasshoppers and other insects, but are they really so bad? Have you ever looked closely at a shrimp or an oyster? Hmm, grasshoppers aren’t so ugly after all.  
Read WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR to find out what happens at the grasshopper hunt. What ultimately happens is not what you might expect. CLICK for BOOKS!!!!
Looks tasty to me...Not!

Friday, September 4, 2015

An Adventure About Horses -- WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR

The Victors, a painting by Howard Terpning 
When I wrote When Leaves Change Color, I had to imagine and then dramatize what it would have been like for the Plains Indians to first lay eyes on horses. To do this, I put myself in their shoes, I mean their moccasins. If I saw a horse for the very first time without any previous knowledge of horses, what would I think? You will have to read When Leaves Change Color to find out how I dramatized this same situation for the Indians in the book. In the meantime, here is a little history of horses in North America.

The Spaniards arrived on the southern plains of North America in the early 1500s and brought modern horses with them. It was around 1531 when Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca roamed the plains of Texas and northern Mexico on horseback and it was around 1541 when another horse-riding explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, reached the great bend of the Arkansas River in central Kansas. Over the next century, the seed stock from these first Spanish horses grew and expanded geographically.

So, how did the Plains Indians get horses? The first few horses and mules may have been obtained from the Spaniards around 1600 by settlement Indians near Santa Fe, New Mexico who then traded horses to the various tribes in the area, including Ute, Apache, Kiowa, and Comanche. Horses gradually spread northward onto the high plains of Wyoming and Montana.

Click Here to orderWhen Leaves Change Color

Most documented folklore from Plains Indians does not specify where and when they first obtained horses. Interviews by other authors with tribe members in the early 1900s does not  help either. Many of the tribe members stated that horses had always been a part of their tribes and culture! Fortunately, for history's sake, there are a few documented accounts by Plains Indians that help to unravel the where and when of their first horse acquisition.

According to Shimkin (reference available upon request), the first horses reached the Wind River and Big Horn Basins of Wyoming sometime between the years 1700 and 1740. It appears that the Shoshone Indians first obtained horses from their southern allies and relatives, the Utes and Comanche, and by the 1720s the Shoshone had become full-fledged, horse-mounted warriors. The Shoshones then traded some of their horses to the Crow and other northern plains Indian tribes and that's how horses spread (Secoy: reference available upon request).     

Horse of a Different Color, a painting by Howard Terpning

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wild Horses of Wyoming and WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR

The Red Roan Colt along the Powder Rim in Wyoming.
This horse was the inspiration for my new historical fiction novel
The wild horses of Wyoming inspired me to write my latest novel, WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR. I cannot be sure why I originally connected with these wild mustangs. I am an animal person, but it was not like I was a horseman or horse expert or anything like that. Sure, I had a quarter horse growing up and I did the 4H horse thing for two or three years, but once I discovered horsepower under the hood of cars and got my drivers' license, my interest for the four legged kind of horse severely waned. 

My interest in wild horses and horses in general has risen dramatically in the last twenty years. Below is one of my first encounters with wild horses in the desert in southwestern Wyoming. I will never forget that day. 
The Gray Stallion in a desert basin in Wyoming.   

As I slowly drove along the meandering road that overlooked the desert basin, I spotted several dark specks in the distance that contrasted with beige-colored desert. I stopped the vehicle and took aim with my high-powered zoom lens on my camera. Through the lens, the indistinguishable specks became the profiles of several multi-colored wild horses. I was too far away to get a good photograph, so I parked the vehicle, grabbed my backpack, and slid down the steep, shaly embankment that lead into the desert basin. I wanted to see just how close I could get to these animals.

Once I reached the sandy floor of the desert basin, I pushed my way through the chest-high sagebrush and greasewood. This was definitely deer tick heaven! As I slowly moved forward through the brush, ahead, I kept one eye on the ground, searching for sleeping rattlesnakes. Thirty minutes and a mile or so later, I reached a sandy ridge where I had originally spotted the horse herd. The horses had moved on. I raised my camera to my eye and scanned the desert in front of me. I was surprised when I found a gray stallion staring at me through the viewfinder, straight ahead. I snapped a photograph of the stallion and then another. As if he had heard the near inaudible camera shudder fire, the gray stallion turned and galloped away.    

After several years watching the wild horses and praying for their safety and well-being, I decided to write a book about the ancestors of the wild horses, the first horses that came back into North America and the first encounters of horses with Native Americans. The name of that book is, well, you guessed it, WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR. Give it a shot and discover the rest of the story.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Horses, Vaqueros, and Indians in WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR

Click for John Bradford Branney Author Page
A wild mustang from Wyoming inspired John Bradford Branney’s new book called When Leaves Change Color. John Branney first laid eyes on the red roan colt in 2002 on a windswept plain in southern Wyoming. Mr. Branney wrote the caption below in his personal diary on that day in May 2002 after seeing the wild mustang:
 His dark eyes radiated a mixture of curiosity and caution. Unblinking,
he stared at me while nervous feet conveyed his readiness to bolt at the
flick of my eyelash. His powerful presence reflected his intelligence, nobility,and vulnerability. I envied and admired him, but also feared for his future. This young stallion possessed a sense of freedom that humans once had. The red roan colt must remain free!
 Many people have the common misconception that Native American Indians have always had horses throughout their long and illustrious reign over North America, but this is not the case. Horses first appeared in North America close to fifty-eight million years ago, but went extinct in North America around eleven thousand years ago, just about the same time the first Americans were gaining a foothold. In fact, there is no documented archaeological evidence that early Native Americans had any direct contact with these early versions of horses in North America. Native American Indians did not have horses until the Europeans brought them to North America. Once Native American Indians obtained horses from the Europeans, it only took a matter of decades for them to establish themselves as some of the greatest horse riders in human history.

The red roan colt in 2002.
When Leaves Change Color is an adventure based on the introduction of horses to the Plains Indians. Some readers will call When Leaves Change Color a book about a horse while other readers will call it a western in the tradition of Zane Grey or Larry McMurtry. This book is about both and more. When Leaves Change Color takes place in the latter part of the 17th Century on the high plains of western America and is about a horse and two young men with much in common. All three are coming of age and all must learn to live in a hostile and unpredictable world.    

Santiago Ortega was born into a wealthy family living on a sprawling ranch near Santa Fe in the new Spanish province of New Mexico. When the Pueblo Indians revolt against oppressive Spanish rule in 1680, the lives and dreams of Santiago and his family are shattered. Years after the revolt, Santiago embarks on a dangerous crusade to find his younger brother and exact revenge against the Indians who stole his childhood away from him.

Ouray lives in extreme poverty with his Indian tribe in a desert on the high plains of Wyoming. Ouray’s life worsens when a hostile Indian tribe destroys his family and captures Haiwee, the young woman he loves. Ouray begins the impossible search to find Haiwee, but he finds something so unusual and wonderful that is life will never be the same. Fate pulls Santiago and Ouray onto an unexpected collision course.

John Bradford Branney was born and raised in Wyoming and attended the University of Wyoming where he received a B.S. degree in geology. After graduating, John entered the oil and gas industry as an engineer. During his career, he also obtained a MBA degree from the University of Colorado. In 2011, he retired from the oil and gas industry and immediately pursued a second career as an author. Mr. Branney’s passion and expertise in high plains archaeology led to the writing of several books and over twenty-five magazine articles. When Leaves Change Color is Mr. Branney’s sixth book.

Anaphora Literary Press has published over 120 creative and non-fiction books. Among these is the Pennsylvania Literary Journal, a tri-annual journal, available through EBSCO and ProQuest, which has published interviews with best-selling authors, such as Geraldine Brooks, Larry Niven, Cinda Williams Chima and Carrie Ryan, as well as the winners of the Sundance Film Festival. Anaphora authors have done readings at major venues. Several titles have been assigned to college classes and reviewed in major publications. Anaphora is a member of IBPA and CLMP.

The link to the 2015 Anaphora Catalog,, with descriptions of Anaphora’s titles. This information is also available in the html catalog on the Anaphora website at

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