Stephen & Janet Bly – A Labor of Love – Part 1 of 3

Shannon here: When Western Romance author, Stephen Bly went to be with the Lord, he left an unfinished novel. His wife and sons decided to finish it for him. Here’s the story, plus winner’s choice of three of Stephen’s novels: It’s Your Misfortune & None of My Own or Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot or The Lost Manuscript of Martin Taylor Harrison. If each post gets 10 comments or more, three different winners will each get a book. Comment on any post dated Jan 22 – 27. Deadline: Feb 8th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Janet:

Janet & sons 1Stuart Brannon's Final Shot by Stephen Bly

CALLED TOGETHER, FORCED APART by Janet Chester Bly – Copyright©2012:

I started the writing craze. Then I got my husband Stephen Bly involved. We combined as a writing team for over thirty years. Then his fiction got so prolific that it consumed us both, to keep up with the process before and promotion afterward. 

In early January 2011 Steve resolved to do three jobs by summer: prune the pines in our yard; re-roof the house; complete his contracted 106th novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot.

A few weeks later he played eighteen holes of golf. The next day, he could hardly stand for more than a few minutes, breathing hard. His almost five-year battle with prostate cancer finally took its toll. The next four months he spent more days in the hospital than out and he passed away June 9th.

Determined to finish his list of projects, I hired a tree trimmer. I found a roofer. Meanwhile, our three sons said to me, “Let’s get that book done.”

Can a committee of four create fiction? We had the passion and a four-month deadline to find out. So began a different kind of love story.

Steve left us 7,000 words, a synopsis and some character names. I had never written adult fiction alone, although I had authored children’s books and co-authored adult cozy mysteries with Steve. But I was determined that somehow we’d do this final task for him, as much his way as possible, with a story to make him proud. I tore into our writing books for some quick tips and printed out excerpts for the sons: Russell, Michael and Aaron.

I sensed the wisdom and God’s own purpose for including them. For one thing, to incorporate Steve’s input throughout. Some of that I knew by coming alongside him all those years. But our sons possessed a part of his personality and thought process genes. They also knew about golf swings and poker hands. All three were movie buffs. They had a passion for analyzing characters and storylines. They had to be involved.

So I joined another partnership.

The Guidelines

Any suggestion could be made, but I had the power of last edit and control of the ‘send’ button.         

The Challenges

I had to find my rhythm in Steve’s story. And how to write from a man’s point of view. Westerns were Steve’s genre. He knew the geography, history, facts about guns and horses, the language and the lifestyle. We had to play catch up on all fronts. This story had to read like a Stuart Brannon character and a Stephen Bly novel.

My goal had been to pour out at least 5,000 words per day, like Steve did with ease. I couldn’t do it. I had to downsize to about 2,000. That frustrated me and caused panic that we’d never get it done in time. Then I realized I self-edited as I wrote, which took more effort. When several of the boys crafted scenes of their own, the total count jumped and I knew we’d make our goal.

Our women readers would wonder if Brannon, a long-time widower, would find romance. This plagued us for some weeks until the true lovers emerged.

The last scenes Steve dictated to me in a quarantined hospital room. I wore a sweaty yellow synthetic gown and acrylic gloves, while typing as fast as I could.

When read aloud, the sons commented, “Doesn’t flow with the rest of the story.”

In order to include these vignettes, we devised dream sequences for Brannon. 

Keaton Tanglewood, a young Indian says, “The old chiefs dream many dreams.”

Brannon ponders, “Am I like an old chief? Are we getting so close to the next world that this one and the other start to blur together?”

That tied it in.

The Frustrations

With the time crunch, there wasn’t space to give the manuscript a rest, to put it aside so we could come back to it fresh one last time. Instead, we turned it in after frantic days of rewrites.

The Surprises

I didn’t get overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task or the inevitable comparisons on the quality by my peer group. I stayed steady because I knew without a doubt this must get done. Looking back, I’m astounded that we accomplished this daunting task. To God be the glory.

The Satisfaction

The most enjoyable aspect was working with my sons. We labored on behalf of someone we dearly loved and missed. In the midst of the occasional stab of tears, we grieved together. The fiction crafting process itself proved therapeutic.

The intimate look into Steve’s favorite character, this journey along the frontier of this man’s soul was like peering into Steve’s.

This stanza is adapted from one of my husband’s poems.

          The preacher was wrong years ago when he said,

          ‘It’ll last ‘til death do you part.’

          It’s an Idaho sunrise, my latté’s all gone,

                         and I still got that guy in my heart.


Janet Chester Bly has authored 31 nonfiction and fiction books, 19 she co-authored with her late husband Christy Award winning author Stephen Bly. Her titles include The Hidden West Series, The Carson City Chronicles, Hope Lives Here, Awakening Your Sense of Wonder  and The Heart of a Runaway. She resides at 4200 ft. elev. on the Idaho Nez Perce Indian Reservation. Her 3 married sons–Russell, Michael and Aaron–live down the mountain in Lewiston, ID with their families.

Russell Bly is married to Lois, father of Zachary and Miranda (married to Chris Ross), and grandfather of Alayah (2) and Jason (5 months). He is manager of Deranleau’s department store in Moscow, Idaho.

Michael Bly is married to Michelle and is Director of Business Operations for Inland Cellular in Lewiston, Idaho.

Aaron Bly is married to Rina, father of Keaton (5) and Deckard (2). He’s Manufacturing Supervisor for Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Lewiston, Idaho.

About the book – Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot:
It Took a Personal Request from President Teddy Roosevelt to put Stuart Brannon Back in Action
In 1905, at 58 years old, legendary lawman Stuart Brannon – now a rancher and widower – had no intention of leaving his beloved Arizona Territory to attend the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon, nor to participate in the celebrity golf tournament for the Willamette Orphan Farm. Even an emotional appeal for a longtime friend didn’t persuade him. His life no longer consisted of bloodthirsty men to track down… people trying to kill him… lawless gangs preying on the innocent.
Then the telegram came: Stuart, I need you in Portland. Tim Wiseman is missing. I think there’s a cover-up going on. Tell folks you’re going to the Exposition. Nose around. Find out how a U.S. Marshal can disappear and no one knows why. I’ll contact you there. T.R.No way could Stuart Brannon refuse a personal request from the President of the United States.
Filled with humor and heart, adventure and romance, “Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot” is the story of a man who embodied the Code of the West. “Bly does a lot of things right for lovers of the traditional western…(he) clearly knows the country he writes about … Luke Short and Frank Gruber come to mind.” — Library Journal
Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot available in hardback, paperback or eBook edition here:

To find out more info about authors Stephen Bly and Janet Chester Bly, check out website:

Or On A Western Trail blog:

Videos on ‘Getting The Writing Call’ & ‘How We Got Our Ideas’:

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Come back Jan 24 for Janet’s interview!

11 Responses to “Stephen & Janet Bly – A Labor of Love – Part 1 of 3”

  • Thank you for sharing this beautiful legacy! I know STUART BRANNON’S FINAL SHOT is a wonderful book and it is certainly one I look forward to reading.

  • shelia hall says:

    sweet story! Know he would be so proud of all of you for what you did! Love to win a book for my dad!

  • shelia hall says:

    Love to win the Final shot book!

  • What a wonderful LOVE tribute to your husband from his family! My daddy is almost 88 and when he’s not out driving a combine or planting, he is reading a western. He won’t read my westerns, says their too ‘girly,’ BUT I do believe he would read these, after me of course!

  • Janet Estridge says:

    We have books written by the Bly’s in the church library. I would love to add this one to our collection. Thanks for the opportunity to do so.

  • Melanie Backus says:

    I am so thrilled that I have come to know Janet Bly and the beautiful work that she completed with the help of her sons and her dear Stephen. Love is forever whether in life or death. Janet lives this. I look forward to reading this book. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you all so much for your kind comments. Let a friend know so we can meet the minimum number for a book giveaway. I’m as anxious to give one as you are to receive. 🙂

  • Watching Janet, Russell, Mike and Aaron work on this project was such a heart tugger…knowing how much they missed Steve and wanting to not let his last story go unfinished…..while many of us prayed in the background, God lead them to do what He has given them the gift to do. Knowing Janet’s gifts for writing along with Steve’s, there was no way that the boys would not be able to add their own spin on this to be a fabulous story…and it is!

  • Ramona Lowder says:

    Loved the way you (Janet) and your sons came together to finish FINAL SHOT! I can only imagine how hard it was at times. This is the only series of your husband’s books I have not read. Yet! Thank you!

  • Reading this special love story made me tear up, Janet. How wonderful that your family has been blessed with such love for one another.

  • Priscilla says:

    You have an amazing story. I love the books I’ve read and it is amazing that you completed this one together!

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