October 23, 2016

Cowboy, Actor, Marine and Multi-Genre Author, Ken Farmer Says: OF COURSE IT’S TEXAS



 I was born in the east Texas oil boom town of Kilgore. It just happened to be where we lived when it was time for me to make my appearance in this world. My dad worked in the ‘oil patch’ for Shell oil and I guess we lived in most every boom town of the day…mostly in Texas. However, I did attend twenty-one grade and middle schools in seven states growing up. That’s an education in and to itself.
By the time I hit high school, we had moved to Gainesville, Texas…for the third time. Guess you could say that was my ‘home town’. Dad didn’t want to move us since I was playing football and would lose a year of eligibility, so he took a reduction in job classification from Driller to Pumper—at a substantial cut in pay although I didn’t know that at the time.
As soon as I graduated, dad went back to Drilling and pushing tools (a Field Supervisor) and he and mom moved to the oil play at Liberal, Kansas. I went off to school at Oklahoma University to play football under Coach Bud Wilkinson. My best friend from high school called me the following summer while I was working seismograph for Shell Oil out of McAlister, Oklahoma and said, “Hey, Kenny, I just joined the Marine Corps…Come go with me.” Well, what the hell. 
When I got out of the Corps, my high school football coach, the venerable Buddy Ryan (later of NFL fame) called me to come to Lake of the Pines near Marshall, Texas and be Water Front Director for an exclusive boys camp named for the wonderful Hollywood actor…Camp Dale Robertson. Buddy was Camp Director.
Toward the end of the summer, I started thinking maybe I’d better be for getting back to college somewhere. Coach Ryan was friends with Bill “Red” Conkright, head coach at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and he got me a tryout for the football team. Coach Conkright offered me a full scholarship for my final three years of eligibility. Who knew?
No, I didn’t major in writing. I got my Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Drama and also one in Business in 1964. Guess I’ve always been somewhat of a ham.
After working for IBM and in the insurance business for a while, a cousin of mine, who was a petroleum engineer, called and said, “Hey, Kenny, let’s start a drilling company and punch holes in Texas.” Well, what the hell. We formed Texas Western, Inc. and started drilling oil and gas wells over a goodly portion of west Texas—I became a genuine Texas wildcatter.
I had always been a cowboy at heart and decided that instead of living in Dallas, I’d make my home base at a ranch. I sold my interest in Texas Western, bought some land outside of Athens, in east Texas, and started raising registered Beefmaster cattle and Quarter Horses. Who knew.
I was dating a model with the Kim Dawson agency in Dallas in the early ‘70s and would go into the agency on occasion with her. The agent, Kim, kept trying to get me to sign up with her, saying I had a great look, LOL, but I looked around at the guy models that she had and said, “I don’t think so…Don’t believe I fit into your program.”         
      
Well, sometime later, I was in there with my girl friend and Kim came up to me and asked, “You ride horses, don’t you?” I laughed and replied, “Been thrown off of one or two, yes, ma’am.” She said, “I don’t have anyone in the agency that can ride.”—You see, there’s a big difference between someone who can ride and a ‘rider’…I’m a rider.—I looked around at the pictures of her guys she had on the wall and said, “I can believe that.”
She asked, “Would you go and represent my agency on a Dairy Queen audition?” Now, I hadn’t told her I had a degree in Drama and didn’t then. I finally said, “I don’t have any pictures.” She said, “Doesn’t matter, they’ll take a Polaroid.” (Tells you how long ago that was.) So, I go in my usual outfit, jeans, boots, denim shirt and cowboy hat and the director is casting—it was even before the days of the casting director. He looked up when I came in and says, “Oooh, love your costume.” I got in his face and said, “Costume, my ass.” Now, I don’t know if he fell in love or got intimidated, but I got the part and introduced the Dairy Queen Belt Buster hamburger.
Later, after we had shot the commercial, I got to thinking, “They’re gonna pay me that kind of money to sit on a horse and eat a hamburger…Well, what the hell.” That was forty-five years, some fifteen or so feature films—including Silverado, Uncommon Valor, Newton Boys, Rocketman, Last of the Warriors, and Friday Night Lights—fifty plus TV episodes (including six Dallas and six Walker, Texas Ranger) or MOWs and I quit counting TV commercials at 260, including eight years as spokesman for Wolf Brand Chili…and only God knows how many Industrials and VO (voice over) jobs I’ve done.
Well, somewhere back around ‘84, like most actors, I started writing screenplays. There was always that thought in the back of your mind, “Hell, I can write better than some of the crap I’ve had to read for.” That was probably thirty or forty screen or teleplays ago. Good practice…especially in writing dialogue.    
Around ’90, I decided I’d had enough of Hollywood and moved back to Gainesville, Texas—for the fourth time. Bought a small ranch and figured if I had a movie or TV show to do, I was only about an hour from DFW airport.
In, 2009, a local friend, Buck Stienke, asked to read some of my screenplays. So, I gave him some and he took a shine to Rockabilly Baby...a fictional account of the birth of rock and roll in the ‘50s…With Buck producing and me directing, we shot it in Gainesville, with some students from my acting class I had been teaching. It won a few awards. 
In 2011, an old buddy from the Marine Corp, John Eastman, called and said, “Kenny, I wrote a novel.” “Hell, good for you John.” He asked, “Can you make a screenplay out of it?” I said, “Sure, send it down.” He sent a seven hundred page novel to me. “Damn, John, why didn’t you just send War and Peace…” Well, anyway, Buck and I adapted it to a 123 page screenplay in about three months, that is still making the rounds at Disney.  
 
Buck and I looked at each other after that and simultaneously said, “Shoot, we can write a novel.” Thirteen weeks later we finished our first, Black Eagle Force: Eye of the Storm. It was released in Feb. of 2012—that was fifteen novels ago. Seven military/action novels in the Black Eagle Force series; Two in the Aurora SyFy series and six in The Nation historical western fiction series, featuring the first black Deputy US Marshal, west of the Mississippi, Bass Reeves (Winners of two national Laramie awards). Two of the westerns, I wrote alone…HELL HOLE and the just released LADY LAW and my WIP in the same series is, BLUE WATER WOMAN.
Just after we had released the second western, Haunted Falls (winner of the Laramie Best Action Western, 2013) a fan asked why I hadn’t written about Delaware Bend up on the Red River between the Indian Nations and Texas. I said, “Didn’t know anything about it.” Well the reason was that it was mostly under Lake Texoma today. But, back in the 1800s, Delaware Bend (and Dexter, Texas), in Cooke County, was one of the three most notorious places in North America, along with Leadville, Colorado and Tombstone, Arizona—in addition to being the the winter camp for the likes of the notorious guerrillas, William Clarke Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson and later, the James Gang.
Wow, what a treasure-trove of history to weave a story around—and ACROSS the RED was born. Following that was BASS and the LADY, where I introduced Deputy US Marshal Fiona Mae Miller, the only female deputy marshal to serve in the Indian Nations under Judge Isaac Parker—the Hanging Judge. Gainesville became the home base for Deputy US Marshals Fiona Miller and Brushy Bill Roberts—Brushy Bill is said by many to actually be Billy the Kid after he faked his death by his close friend, Pat Garrett in 1881. Brushy Bill died in 1950 in Hico, Texas.
Texas has offered me an unlimited source of material for my historical fiction westerns. My current WIP, I mentioned earlier, is BLUE WATER WOMAN an Indian Shamaness for the Caddos of the mound building Atakapan Tejas Indian tribes back in the 1500s. Fiona Mae and her partner, Deputy US Marshal Brushy Bill Roberts go on a suspense filled encounter peppered with old west Indian mysticism, therianthropy, also know as shapeshifting and outlaws on the scout in BLUE WATER WOMAN.
In a country and lifestyle normally reserved for men, Fiona Mae Miller is a special breed of woman. She’s lightening fast, an expert shot…with either hand…can ride anything with hair on it and doesn’t tolerate injustice or rudeness anywhere...or from anyone.
Ken Farmer didn’t write his first full novel until he was sixty-nine years of age. He often wonders what the hell took him so long. At age seventy-five…he’s currently working on novel number sixteen—In addition to E and Print, eight of the novels, so far, are available in Audio…narrated by Ken. 
            
Ken spent thirty years raising cattle and quarter horses in Texas and forty-five years as a professional actor (after a stint in the Marine Corps). Those years gave him a background for storytelling…or as he has been known to say, “I’ve always been a bit of a bull---t artist, so writing novels kind of came naturally once it occurred to me I could put my stories down on paper.”
In addition to his love for writing fiction, he likes to teach acting, voice-over and writing workshops. His favorite expression is: “Just tell the damn story.”
All commenters will be submitted for a random drawing for five (5) Mobi files of LADY LAW.
Ken's VO Demo:

(Info provided by author)

9 comments:

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

What an interesting life story!
Good luck and God's blessings
PamT

Celia Yeary said...

Are you my long lost brother?
I was born in 1940 in N. Texas, and right at the end of the war in 1944, Daddy brought home two surprises--a 1940 Ford--born the same year as I--and a job with an oil company. We became "homeless" for the next six years, moving all over the South Plains and into New Mexico. Sometimes, we moved three times in one year--mostly the 5 of us in a motel room, or one rented room in someone's house,a boarding house, and once in a boxcar converted to small apartments . Bowie, Brownfield, Seminole, Andrews, Levelland, and others--some of these twice. Daddy was a carpenter for the oil company--and he and a crew went before the oil rig and built doghouses, platforms, fences, etc. When finished we moved on.
At age 10 we landed in Levelland and Mother refused to budge. She had three young daughters and demanded a nice house for us. He did..and stayed on the road for another 25 years.

I love your story about getting the acting job and the woman loving your "costume." Made me laugh. And by the way, you do make a nice looking cowboy.
I write western historical romance--everything set in Texas.
Best of luck with your books! It's a lot of fun.

Carly Carson said...

Wow, that seemed like about six lifetimes. Congrats on all your achievements, and thanks for the service as a Marine!

Mary Deal said...

This was a nice surprise to see you show up here, Ken.

To all the readers, I have read every book in The Nations series and wait with bated breath for the next one. To me, these are true historicals, fictionalized for the sake of the tale, but about as true to life as anyone can make them. The stories are at once serious yet hilariously funny. I do not know how one writer can come up with so many one-liners and retorts and all in the lingo of the past, and each story has fresh new material to make a reader howl. I can't say enough good about these books, except I love them and this author!

Now, don't put my into the drawing since I've read all in this series. And I'll get around to reading the other books too. I'm next attracted to the SyFy with the aliens. Yes!

Kay Phoenix said...

"Just tell the damn story." Seriously, I can't think of better advice. Ken sounds like a guy to have coffee with, and probably come up with a book character from.

Thanks for the post!

Molly Daniels said...

Talk about always being in the right place at the right time! You have definitely led a blessed life, Ken:) Thanks for sharing this!

Susan Whitfield said...

That good-looking Ken Farmer (hubba hubba) has had quite the life, hasn't he? I enjoyed the article and learned more about him. I had a major crush on Dale Robertson back in the day. LOL. Congratulations on your books, Ken, and keep up the good work!

Linda Thorne said...

My parents were both from Texas. I have cousins and Aunts and Uncles all over the state. Texas always seemed to me like as much sky as land. Interesting place. Enjoyed your post.

Renaissance Women said...

History, writing and the movie business, great combination. While Texas is a great place to visit, and I do, I love the mountains of Colorado and the mentioned town of Leadville. I wish you continued success in all your endeavors. Keep those stories coming. Doris