She watched the dim light from the lamp glowing in his tawny hair and thought, as she often did, that he was quietly handsome, sturdy and reliable. When he’d shown up that day, she had been glad for the comfort of his company. She sighed, sad that after all that had gone on, Saint and Bender simply could not just hang up their grievances and be friends. Because sooner or later, the two of them would part ways and Bender would take Swagman and there was no telling when she’d see him again. She wondered if she ever would.
And the thought of never seeing Swagman again was nearly too much for Jersey to bear.
barn was dark, dimly lit by the lamp Bender had left. He’d be back. He
never left the lantern burning all night. He’d be back later to check
the gash in Mercury’s flank, and to reapply some soothing salve.
winter air was icy and smelled of snow. She was glad to have been
tucked warmly into her blanket. She had already decided she would stay
awake tonight. She knew tonight was the night of the Gift. And she didn’t
want to fall asleep and miss it. Especially since Swagman happened to
be visiting here in the barn on Christmas Eve, as Bender was staying
here for a few days.
raised her head, looking over the wall into Swagman’s stall and huffed
softly, her breath ruffling his forelock. He raised his head, and she
saw his vision clear, the sleep in his brown eyes withdraw. Shaking her
head, she whickered quietly. Wake up, wake up. Sleep later. Remember the Gift.
Bonnet’s pale, ghostly eyes peered over the top of the opposite wall,
his black ears flicking expectantly over his long, white face. It’s tonight? Tonight? It’s coming. I feel it. He stamped his feet impatiently.
could feel it, too. Something in the air, crackling like ice breaking
deep below the surface of a frozen pond. Something shifting. She
the big coach horse moved heavily in his stall on the other side of the
barn, his big feet scraping on the packed earth. What’s the fuss, tribe? He snuffled, sleepy in his blanket. Too noisy. Sleep.
The Gift. The Gift is tonight. War Bonnet whinnied, giving his stall a light knock with his foot. Soon, soon. Can’t you feel it? Wake now. Sleep later.
opened her mouth, trying her tongue. It felt thick, clumsy against her
teeth. She uttered a soft, broken sigh, and suddenly the mystery came
over her. She tried again, her mouth full of air and fluttering sound.
She said, thrilling with the sound of her voice, the sudden dexterity
of her tongue. “The Gift is here.” So much to say, so little time. Of
course, Jersey could communicate with the other horses, as horses do.
They talked among themselves all the time. But on this night, once a
year when it was silent and icy and the hour was balanced precisely
between yesterday and tomorrow, they could express things their quiet,
earthy language was too simple to say.
Swagman lifted his head, his voice deep and steady and deliberate. “Jersey.”
heard Yellow Sky startle awake, banging a hip against his stall. He
uttered something strange and musical in his half-sleep, the native
tongue of the Absaroka rolling like falling water from his mouth. His
eyes flew open, and he switched haltingly to the language of the white
men. “I almost forgot!” He uttered, shaking off his sleep. “It’s
nodded, tossing her head and banging on the boards of her stall. “Wake
up, tribe! The Gift is here!” She looked over at Swagman, and met his
face with her lips over the wall separating them. “I’m so glad you’re
here tonight, my friend. How long will you be here this time?”
He leaned his face against hers, closing his eyes and sighing. “Probably until the weather improves.”
“Will you be back?”
“Probably. In a couple months, most likely. Unless the company decides to put us somewhere permanently.”
felt a surge of worry. If that happened, her fears would be realized.
At the moment, Bender and Swagman traveled the string of stations
within a hundred miles or so of the Green. So she and Swagman could
visit every few months. If the farrier ended up being permanently
assigned, their chances of being together would be slim to none.
“Jersey, that was a crazy stunt you pulled last time.”
felt a flush of embarrassment...and a little jolt of pleasure at
Swagman shaking his big brown head in a kind of disapproving admiration.
She hadn’t meant to knock Saint out cold with her head. In fact, seeing
him lying in the dust at her feet had made her wish she could take back
her actions. But Saint and Bender had, once again, ruined her goodbyes
with Swagman by bickering. In a fit of temper, she’d thrown back her
head hard in an effort to shut him up.
her skull had connected with Saint’s jaw and he’d fallen from the
saddle like a half-empty sack of potatoes, she’d actually felt deep
worry and remorse. However, that remorse was short-lived when Mrs. Lynch
had ordered Bender... and Swagman... to stay on another day to make sure
Saint was alright.
justified it by speculating that perhaps there was lesson about bad
tempers in there. And she particularly hoped that lesson was not lost on
“I didn’t mean to hurt him, you know.” She said, somewhat defensively. “I love him very much.”
“I know.” Swagman’s eyes twinkled in amusement.
“I didn’t want to hear their harsh chatter. And...I didn’t want you to go.”
face grew serious. “I didn’t want to go, either. I wanted to stay here.
With you.” He nuzzled her ears and her forehead.
could feel the magic withdrawing as the moment of midnight slipped away
and the door to Eden began to creak shut again. Her tongue became
clumsy, and she felt the sounds coming from her lips become familiar,
simpler, once again equine. Complex thoughts became more difficult, more
faraway and dreamlike. She’d had one more thing to say. But it was the
simplest thought, the easiest word. And the language of the horses could
express it more than adequately.
rested her cheek warmly against Swagman’s, her lips uttering the
primitive sound that anyone else would hear as an equine sigh. I love you.
is a Christmas legend that say that the animals, who were the first to
see the Christ Child when he came into the world, are given the Gift of
Speech on Christmas Eve. I’ve always loved this legend, and when I had
pets, always took special care to leave them alone at midnight on
Christmas Eve so they could talk among themselves, and tell each other
Merry Christmas, tribe. Or Solstice or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Yule or whatever. I wish for all you peace and comfort, no matter how you spend your holidays.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Here are some adorable sketches by Ellie, of Lily, Rosie and Storm. Ellie has been a reader of Five Dollar Mail for years, and I so appreciate her support.
I really like the "anime" look of these. Very cute! And you all know how much I love seeing your take on the characters, so you can imagine these really made my day. Thank you, Ellie, both for your art and for your enthusiastic comments and readership!
I have a Christmas special post on the way, and I'll post it by the weekend. I had quite a bit catch up to me this week, and though I really wanted to post something for you tonight, realistically it's probably not gonna happen. I've been working overtime trying to get ready for a Christmas Pageant this weekend and between that and trying to wrap gifts and get ready for the holiday, and my daughter being out of school, I had to come to the realization I'm spread just a little too thin this week and I'm having a hard time keeping my head in the game.
On the other hand, I haven't really done set-props-costumes in a long time and I have to admit it's been a lot of fun. I turned my new sunroom...which doesn't really have any real furniture in it yet...into a scene shop. Even as I type this, the floor is covered with glitter and there are three sets of angel wings drying in front of the electric fireplace, waiting for my daughter to come in here and glue some feathers on them.
It's her first pageant. She's the angel that carries the star. I'm the old folkie with the tape measure around her neck, playing autoharp in the back.
What's cool about this thing is that it's basically a bunch of kids from the projects that showed up around Thanksgiving looking for some community activities to get involved with, led by a fourteen year old girl who's taken it upon herself to keep the kids from the neighborhood over there out of trouble. Seriously, if that doesn't sound like the premise of some sort of Lifetime Christmas special, I don't know what does. But anyway, I felt pretty privileged to be helping out on this endeavor before, but after the horror of last Friday, it's become like an obsession to me. Like some kind of prescription medication I need to keep taking to avoid curling up in a ball and staying that way. I guess we all find our ways to cope.
I wish you all could have seen them in their costumes at dress rehearsal earlier this week. Sweet.
So, hope you're all having a peaceful holiday season, and keep an eye out for an update this weekend at the very latest.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
A cool gust breathed wetly down Centre Street, carrying with it damp, crumpled sheets of newspaper and rolling empty bottles along the stagnant gutters. Wash pulled his thin coat more tightly around his shoulders and hunched over against the foul-smelling exhalation of the mist, keeping his shotgun firmly settled across his shoulders with one hand. The night was chilly, and heavy tatters of mist rolled down the mostly empty street from the sodden remnant of the Collect Pond at the far end. Wash glanced around uneasily, searching for movement down the mostly empty roadway that passed by the prison.
Sod you, Conner, where the devil are you?
It wouldn’t be the first time Connor had failed to show up when he was supposed to. Drinking at the Red Door, sure, the wanker. A puddle of slimy water, milky in the sickly glow from the street lamp, gave the deserted roadway an oily sheen and Wash carefully stepped around it. If I run into the trouble on me own tonight, Connor Baoth Monahan, you howling, sodding eedjit, you’d best pray they kill me dead. Because I’ll be taking it out of your sorry hide if they don’t, so I will. This ain’t a night to be arsing around, the Bowery Boys are out for blood. Wash was angry, so angry he was shaking. He was angry because there was work to be done and his brother was nowhere to be found. He was angry because he’d just been in a terrible brawl with that same brother. He was angry because he now found himself alone in a bad place with the blue stripes on his trousers marking him as a Roach Guard. Mostly, thought, he was angry at what Connor had said about Dorcas.
And Conner was angry at him, angrier than he’s ever been. Angrier than even Wash had ever seen his brother. Wash had long suspected that Connor had figured out what was going on, had known that Wash had been stealing away every chance he could to spend time with Dorcas, the fiddler from Pete William’s place. The fact that Wash had been spending time in a negro dance hall had been enough to anger Connor to the point of obsession. And now this...Jaysus. Now that he knows I love her, that she’s not just some colored girl I’m getting me oats with. That I mean to marry her, if she’ll have the likes of me...
He hadn’t known how long Connor had been standing there, had no idea what he’d seen and heard. But he knew Connor had seen him kiss Dorcas, seen him hold her in his arms as she had snuggled her face against his chest and laughed softly as she called him Jargie Fecking Washington in the shadows behind the Old Brewery. Connor’s face had been a twisted mask of hate and accusing betrayal and his shouted words echoing up the alley. Wash had laid hands on him, shaking him, reminding him that they had work that night, that they had a whiskey shipment to defend, and they couldn’t do it if they were all banjaxed up. Put it aside, boyo, he’d said, we’ve got work to do. We’re going to get killed if we don’t pull it together tonight. We’ll settle this later. Connor had taken one last clumsy swing at him and had stalked off, spitting oaths and brutal threats as he went.
It occurred to Wash that Connor, in his drunkenness and his rage and his resentment, might be angry enough to leave him to the Bowery Boys. He stopped in the street, sighing and pressing his fingers to his eyes. Bollocks. How am I going to fix this?
Echoing faintly down the street, down the increasingly soggy road that was quickly turning into jumbled and broken stone and then to stinking, rotting mud, he heard a sighing howl of anguish hanging in the thick miasma curling up past the dark hulk of the prison. Some poor sod lamenting his fate in the Tombs. They lose their minds in there, so they do, locked away in the dark and damp with the prison itself slowly sinking into the swamp like some awful fecking ghost ship. He shivered, and hurried on his way. You’d best be there when I get there, you tosser. We’ll finish this shite later, but till then, you’ll be doing your job, so you will.
He passed the prison, and stopped, listening. There it is again. The moaning cry of a lone voice somewhere in the darkness of the stinking, swampy morass before him. Icy spiders feathered their way up his spine. Jaysus...is that...? “Connor?” Forgetting his rage, he quickened his pace, breaking into a jog and swinging the shotgun off his shoulder and into his hands. “Connor! Lad!”
He glanced around wildly in the dark, guttering streetlamps throwing long, eerie shadows to writhe at his feet. The street had turned to slimy, greasy mud, slowing his feet and seeping into the cracked soles of his boots. He heard it again, throbbing in deep, primal pain, and his breath caught in his throat. Ah, Jaysus, that’s a woman. Panic began to crawl out of the deep, locked box inside him, and his heart began to pound as he broke into a dead run. He’s gone after her. “Dorcas!”
He saw her ahead, kneeling in the muddy water in the pool of light cast by the last streetlamp. She was hunched over, ignoring his approach and his frantic calls, rocking back and forth with wild, guttural weeping as she bent over the sodden bundle she twisted in her hands.
He stopped, his boots sliding, his gaze darting desperately across the shadows flicking across the swampy ground. She had her back to him, her hair unbound and rolling like a billowing black cloud across her shaking shoulders, her chemise torn and stained with mud and filthy water. He gasped, his strength draining from him in a rush.
His knees went weak with fear and horror. “Dorcas...?”
The bundle she held unfurled in her hands, and he saw a shirt, unbleached and pale, garish splotches and rivers of red staining nearly half of it. She worried the fabric, wringing it as the water and blood ran over her squeezing fingers and she threw back her head and howled, her voice an otherworldly, keening cry of anguish and loss.
He felt his heart squeeze in his chest, felt his pulse in his ears. The woman’s eyes were red, as if filled with blood. Tha’s not...Dorcas... He stumbled backwards, mud sucking at his boots and his skin tightening in gooseflesh. Oh...oh, sweet thunderin’ Jaysus..that...that’s not even a woman...
Lying crumpled in the mud beside her was a pair of familiar trousers, heavy bloodstains nearly obscuring the painted blue stripe down the right leg. His vision narrowed, and he focused on the knee of the garment, where a clumsily-stitched patch puckered the fabric. He sucked in a startled breath, his eyes darting to his own knee, and the sloppy patch he’d sewn there yesterday. For a long, agonizing moment, he forgot to breathe.
Far down the other end of Centre Street, he could hear the faint, soft sound of guns and angry, violent shouting. I’m going to die tonight. Sure, I knew that's always been a possibility, so I did. He sighed. A probability, more like. You've no right to be surprised, me boyo. The faint whiff of smoke and ash floated to him on the fog, and he turned from the keening apparition in the muck and filth, walking grimly back towards the sound of brewing mayhem and chaos as the bean sidhe washed the blood from his clothes and wept for his passing.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Howdy howdy! M.K.McClintock, author of Gallagher's Hope and Gallagher's Pride has very graciously featured The Five Dollar Mail in an interview she is hosting on her site. I will talk a bit about some of the things that went into the creation of the world of FDM, some of the characters, plans for the series, plans for the upcoming book, romance fiction and indie publishing...and a little about what keeps me going (and by that I mean you all).
M.K. writes Romance and she writes Westerns, so give her a visit!
EDIT: MK's website has moved and been re-done, so the interview is no longer there. So I'm going to go ahead and post it here, since doing so will no longer take traffic from her site. Thanks again to MK for having hosted it over at her place as long as she did!
M.K. writes Romance and she writes Westerns, so give her a visit!
EDIT: MK's website has moved and been re-done, so the interview is no longer there. So I'm going to go ahead and post it here, since doing so will no longer take traffic from her site. Thanks again to MK for having hosted it over at her place as long as she did!
- Tell us a little about yourself.
Hm. You’d think someone who writes as much as I do, and TALKS as much as I do, would not at first draw a complete blank when faced with this question. Let’s see here…my more polite friends describe me as “eccentric”. I’m passionate about the things I love, and those things include Westerns (particularly unusual ones), nature, graphic design, historical re-creation, and folk music (well, many different types of music, but I am actually a folk singer, so I guess that fits best.). I have a romance-hero husband I’m desperately in crazy love with, and a sweet six year old daughter who is so unlike me it makes me laugh and shake my head. I moved to South Carolina from New Jersey when I was six and I’ve been here ever since.
- Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?
I’ve always written. I didn’t plan it, and it didn’t just happen. I can’t remember not having the urge to do it. I never intended for Five Dollar Mail to turn into a book series. It was just my outlet, and THAT just sort of happened.
- Is writing a full-time career for you? If not, how else do you spend your work day?
I was a professional graphic designer until I was laid off. I decided to stay home and be a mom, a writer, and a freelance graphic designer. In that order.
Questions about the Book and Characters: (please answer at least four)
- If you had to sum up The Five Dollar Mail in 30 or less words, what would you say?
A shy young woman answers a “housekeeper wanted” ad and finds herself hired as the bewildered den mother to an unruly stagecoach and pony express crew.
- What inspired the idea behind your book?
I’m a little embarrassed to admit this. But when I was in college, my sister and I loved to watch the soaps. And I’m such a huge Western fangirl all I could think the whole time was “It would so rock if somebody made a western genre soap.” Seriously. Think about it…lot of westerns out there seem to be aimed at men…but who really digs a guy in a hat and boots? Yeah. Women dig a guy in a hat and boots. Seems like such a no brainer. “Write the book you want to read,” Carol Shields says. So I did.
- Will you share with us a short preview of The Five Dollar Mail?
Luis leaned against the whitewashed boards of the back of the schoolhouse, drawing in a deep pull of smoke and letting it out through his nose, the way he'd seen Saint do.
It burned a bit, and wasn't the most pleasurable thing in the world, but Luis knew it looked tough. At least it does when Saint does it. But then again...he took another drag on his quirly, reflecting. Saint can make eating a cookie look tough.
It was a nice day. Luis was glad for the change of scenery, for the warm sun against his skin. He knew that the only reason the Old Man had let them out of their chores was because they'd told him they'd be spending the day inside a schoolhouse. Although they'd been welcomed warmly, being inside said schoolhouse had been nerve wracking for Luis, and he was glad to be out. He'd been in school before, long ago, and had found it excruciating. Sitting in there today had made him unbearably nervous, had brought him back to a place in his past he didn't want to be. I don't know how Tommy ever talked me into this, he told himself, knowing the statement was a lie even as he thought it. He knew damn well how Tommy had talked him into it. He'd mentioned girls.
- What three words would best describe Lily?
- What is your favorite scene in The Five Dollar Mail?
Well, I do love me some kissing scenes…I don’t want to put any spoilers in here, so I’ll leave it at that. Also, the trial was a lot of fun to write. I like courtroom drama, so that gave me a chance to indulge in a little of that for a few chapters. Thinking back, though, I’m probably fondest of the prequels. And while it’s hard for me to pick a favorite, I think I may like Red Haired Boy, which was stagecoach guard Wash’s back story, the best.
- Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
The story has its bones in United States history, as it takes place in a Stagecoach/Pony Express home station in western Wyoming in 1860. While the characters are all completely fictional, their world is not. Many of them have backgrounds and situations that were inspired by real historical events. The Pyramid Lake massacre and the timeline surrounding it are very much actual events that took place. My characters must even abide by the contract employees of the company had to sign that read:
“I do hereby swear, before the great and living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors & Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language. I will drink no intoxicating liquors; that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect, I will conduct myself honestly, faithful to my duties, and so direct my acts as to win the confidence of my employers. So help me God.”
Yeah. My boys fall a little short on that one. But Mr. Lynch knew that when he hired them.
- Do you share any personality traits with (name of main character)?
I have dug pretty deep for all of them, actually. I’d say Saint probably ended up with more than his fair share of my flaws and nasty habits. He and I share ethnicity and we both originally came from New Jersey. Lily wears my spectacles and like me, has learned to push through her awkwardness. Tommy shares my propensity to come home with bugs and mushrooms in his pockets. Rosie is me at her age, painfully shy and self-conscious. Storm has constant, sometimes warring dialog running through his head. Jesse often acts before thinking. Luis finds school as excruciating as I did. And since it’s Confession Time over here… Honey and villain Rob Yarl have what is probably closest to my own accent.
Questions about your writing process/research
- What kind of research was involved for The Five Dollar Mail?
I’m an American History buff, so I’d already had quite a bit of research (even though I was unaware at the time that that was what I was doing). I read a lot of books about the American West, the history of the Pony Express, medical technology of the time, Native American culture, weaponry, transportation and coach companies, etc, before I even started thinking about writing this story. And I live in the Southeast, and the only places I’ve been out west is Las Vegas and Texas. That hardly counts as useful, seeing as how the story’s set in Wyoming, so I had to do a lot of research on the geography and flora and fauna of the setting.
My cast of characters is very diverse, so then I had to study speech patterns, slang and vernacular from different cultures. Saint’s pretty easy for me, as are Honey and (I’m sorry to say) Rob Yarl. Those are the speech patterns of my own life. I don’t write accents, but I do write speech patterns. Fortunately for me, I’ve spent time with various people from all over, so I had at least a passing familiarity with some of the idiosyncrasies of different ways of speaking.
- Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?
No, not so much if I know what I’m writing beforehand. And I usually do. Once I know what I want to say, I can write pretty much anywhere, as long as people are more or less leaving me be. I need a little brain space to get started, but once I do, I’m okay with distractions. I have written more than a few chapters sitting in the lobby of an auto garage, waiting for my van to get repaired. I’ve written in the down time between visitors while running a booth at the local fair. I’ve written sitting in a camp chair in a crowded playground with kids bumping me and flicking water on me.
I reckon that means the voices in my head are pretty loud, eh?
- What has been your greatest pleasure in writing this book?
I can answer that question without even thinking about it: the people I’ve met. I’ve met so many amazing people, been gifted with such wonderful friendships. Along with telling the story, I’ve shared some personal things with my readers, and the support and kindness I’ve been shown along the way has more than once moved me to tears. I started out writing for myself, but now I write for them. My greatest pleasure in writing is in the pleasure of my readers. It sounds flip and corny writing it out like that, but it’s absolutely true. It’s what keeps me going.
My readers are amazing. Completely unbidden, they’ve contributed fan fiction and fan art. It’s just an indescribable feeling seeing my world through someone else’s eyes like that.
In fact, once I figured out my readers liked to write, too, I held a writing contest. the winner, Jenna Reid, will be featured in the first two books, and possibly the third. She wrote two pieces of fanfiction. One of them was the first place winner and the other piece she wrote just because she wanted to do something incredibly kind for me after a hard week. And I have a short stand alone story another extremely talented reader, Erin Sackett, and I came up some time ago. Not sure where that’s going to go yet, but it’s going to go somewhere. Really, my readers are amazing people. It bears repeating.
Questions for multi-genre and series authors:
- Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Yes. The online format is roughly a thousand words a chapter, updated once per week. The first book will be the first hundred chapters (more or less, depending on where we ultimately break it) and the second book will be the second hundred. I’m already planning on book three for a nice, neat little trilogy. The books will contain the artwork from the site by artists Liezl Buenaventura and Diego Candia, and some never-before-seen artwork from Three of Swords artist Melissa C. Zayas. And another book cover is currently in the works from Diego as we speak. The artwork is a huge part of FDM, so that is definitely something that will be carried over from the site and expanded upon.
- What type of heroine do you like best?
I like a heroine I can relate to. I do not care much for these flawless, beautiful, naïve women waiting to get swept off her feet by the hero. There are millions of women out there and only a tiny minority of them look like someone off the cover of a romance book. I like to read about real girls, real women. Real women can be awkward and have mousy hair and glasses. They can be self-conscious or have bad tempers or have crushes. They can throw a kiss or throw a punch. They can don armor and ride in and save the day.
- What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?
It’s a time and place that is terribly romantic and exciting. The land is fierce, wild, deadly, and beautiful. It seems to me that people who existed then had the edges of their lives sharpened by their environment -inspirational natural vistas which often became the backdrops for cruel, random violence. It must have felt like living on the ragged edge of the world. To me, it’s a stark metaphor for the ephemeral beauty of life itself.
And, you know, manly stubbly guys running around wearing vests and cowboy boots. There’s something to be said for that as well. ;-)
This seems like a good place to talk about the Romance aspect of The Five Dollar Mail. I think the Romance genre has been unfairly ghettoized by the media, often repressed in public, and generally targeted by a certain amount of literary snobbery. I mean, I’d be hard pressed to find a show on tv or a movie out there that lacks any romantic angle in it. We all love us some romance, don’t we? And I don’t mean just women, either. And yet, for all our hardwired hunger for romance, an entire genre gets marginalized as fluff.
And yet with that said, I don’t call The Five Dollar Mail a “Romance” book because I have disregarded the traditional Romance formula so much that frankly, if someone is out there looking for a straight, predictable romance story in the classic style, FDM ain’t it. FDM may not appeal to Romance purists. Romance FANS, on the other hand, the sorts of people who are currently tuning in every week, are clearly on board for this style of “Western Historical Romantic Adventure.” And that’s who I’m trying to appeal to.
- Why did you choose to be an Indie writer and would you choose to self-publish again?
While I am not going to sit here and say I’d refuse if some big publishing house came up and offered me a whole lot of money for my work, I am actually interested in Indie publishing for its own sake. Frankly, there is nothing about the process of traditional publishing that appeals to me. On the other hand, there is quite a bit about Indie publishing I find enticing. I like the idea of having control over my work, of having control over my own marketing. I didn’t start writing because I wanted to write something some else might like to sell. I have a strong desire to tell my stories and be creative the way I want. I was writing long before anyone was reading my work.
Maybe the short answer is that I’m a control freak. That’s certainly a possibility.
So as for that big publisher offering me a check? I’m not saying I wouldn’t take it. But I’m not saying I would, either.
- What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
The poem Berryman by W.S. Merwin. The whole thing. I actually cried when I read the last two stanzas for the first time.
- What are you reading now? Why did you choose that book?
I’m reading The Elfish Gene by Mark Barrowcliffe. I chose that book because I am a ginormous nerd.
- Which authors and books have most influenced your writing style?
Though I don’t know how similar I’d consider my own writing to any of my influences, there are authors I pay very close attention to. In no particular order, Steven King, Larry McMurtry (the Lonesome Dove books in general, and Buffalo Girls in particular), Joe R. Lansdale, (particularly the so called “Hap and Leonard” series and his work on the comic Jonah Hex).
- When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I think I started one when I was about twelve. I used to carry around a ratty yellow notebook I wrote in. It was a pretty big work, considering I was twelve and writing it in pencil on college ruled paper. I have a crate of stories, mostly terrible, that I’ve written since, and one huge toe-stubber of a novel I wrote with a friend back when rocks were soft. To give you an idea of how long ago that was…it was printed in dot matrix.
- Do you believe in writer’s block? Has it ever happened to you?
Yes, and yes. But I usually can get rid of it by writing something else. And if that fails, publically announcing “I’m not writing this week” usually banishes it completely.
- Have you ever literally deleted or thrown away a book you’ve written?
No, and I probably should. Because there’s some terrible, and I do mean terrible stuff floating around with my name on it.
Quick Answer Questions:
- Favorite place?
A particular unnamed rapid in the Green River (the one in North Carolina, not the one in Wyoming) in the late afternoon, when the sun turns the water into white feathers.
- Best Christmas present?
Big blue Wonder Woman coffee mug from my six year old daughter.
- Favorite author?
Mary Oliver. Does that count?
- Favorite smell?
- Favorite series?
Earth Two. It’s old. What? Don’t think of it as Science Fiction, think of it as Wagon Train.
- Favorite movie?
Last of the Mohicans
- Favorite dish?
Leftover eggplant parmesan sandwich on cheap, white bread. Room temperature, slightly squashed.
- Favorite color?
- Favorite quote?
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"-Mary Oliver
- Your best trait?
Sometimes I’m like Saint.
- Your worst trait?
Sometimes I’m like Saint.
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I have a great love of all things western stemming all the way back to my father watching Wild, Wild West when I was a toddler. My first remembered drive-in movie as a small child was Support Your Local Sheriff, which my parents and I went out to see (actually, they watched it, and I played in the back seat, but I do remember seeing it.) I am now a graphic artist, a naturalist, and a folk musician. And I like to write. And I still love westerns!
Five dollars to mail a letter seems like a lot of money to shy farmgirl Lily MicMillian. And when she's hired by Old Man Lynch as a cook for his stagecoach and Pony Express station, she finds out why it's so expensive. Dropped into a whirlwind of rowdy men and boys, fast horses, and frightening conflict, she inherits more than a busy kitchen and a pile of dirty laundry. She inherits an unlikely band of brothers, a motley collection of rounders, miscreants, and troublemakers, all of whom are in sore need of someone to keep them in line.
Chapter 1: Welcome to Green River
Nobody knew what she looked like, but they all had opinions. And Saint had been hearing them, over and over, for the better part of the evening. Blathering on like idiots about the newly hired housekeeper. He ignored them as best he could, turned up the lantern wick, and tried to read his threadbare hardback of Little Dorritt. No use. The chattering voices flying around the warm dimness of the bunkhouse buffeted his concentration like a dust devil kicking up in his face.
Saint sighed and shook his head, half in amusement and half in exasperation. He genuinely liked the men and boys he shared the bunkhouse with, but he had to admit to himself a little peace and quiet would have been nice on occasion. Still, sharing quarters with a pack of youthful, noisy mates was not anything new to him- coming from a large family, he had quite a few siblings back east. And just like home, he was the second oldest of the pack.
“She even has a pretty name. Lily. I bet....I bet she’s blonde.” Tommy offered in his flighty, breathy way of speaking. The young, brown-haired Pony Express rider lay staring dreamily into the dim shadows above his bunk, no doubt seeing some statuesque Nordic goddess hovering in the rough-hewn rafters. The lamplight twinkled on his silver spectacles as he rolled over and lifted his head. “Jesse’s blond, and...well, you know...she’s he’s sister. I bet she has hair like his. Only clean.”
“Nah.” Wash snorted his tone dismissive as he sat on the edge of the bunk beneath Tommy’s, rubbing grease into the seams of his worn work boots. As the oldest man in the bunkhouse, he often played along with mock authority. “Nah, lads, she ain’t blonde. She’s got black hair, so she does, dark like secrets and magic. And bonny brown eyes.” He held up his hands, one with the greasy rag in it and the other wearing the boot and outlined the dream girl’s form in the air with exaggerated curves. “Aye, and a curvy lass, too, so she is.”
Tommy smiled happily. “Well, I don’t really care how...well, I just hope she can cook…”
Lights the Storm Peltier rolled over in his bunk and stared across at Tommy, his black eyes popping open in an exasperated snap. His long fall of blue-black hair draped across his face like a shroud, and he apparently didn’t see fit to brush it aside. “That’s the first intelligent thing either of you’ve said all night.” He mumbled through it’s sheltering darkness. “Will you two shut up already?”
“Ha.” Tommy’s hazel eyes gleamed with merriment at his bunkmate. “Listen to you. You aren’t...eh...fooling anybody, you know. You’re just as curious as the rest of us. Admit it.”
Lights the Storm’s direct gaze and sharp cheekbones gave him an air of seriousness that the younger riders respected…usually. Tonight, however, his eyes were dulled with exhaustion and annoyance and the boys were too wound up to notice.
“Go on. You’ll feel a lot better.” Tommy persisted.
“Go to sleep.” Lights the Storm shushed him, closing his eyes. “We have work tomorrow.” He blew out his candle and fell silent, clearly hoping the rest of the riders would follow suit.
He’s not the only one... Saint took a firm grip on his book and tried to focus.
“So. Saint.” Tommy continued, ignoring Peltier and focusing his attention where it was nearly as unwelcome.
Saint sighed, dragged into the conversation against his will. Tommy is a lot like a cat, he thought silently. Always wanting to sit in the lap of the least willing person available. He reluctantly peered over the top of his book and fixed the young express rider with what he hoped was a dark, foreboding glare.
The boy continued, obliviously, “What do you think she’s like?”
Well, so much for that tactic. The rangy stagecoach driver blinked his eyes before tucking them firmly back into his book.
“C’mon, Saint. Aren’t you Eye-talians supposed to be experts on women and such?”
“Hell, Tommy, I don’t know. I hear she’s got six nipples. Alright? And teeth under her skirts. How ‘bout that?”
Lights the Storm snorted in disgust, his voice muffled. “Oh, that’s a hell of a thing to say.”
Wash put down his boot and picked up the other one. “Miss Lily McMillain might as well have teeth under her skirts, eh, lad?” He laughed. “The lot of you should’ve heard the threats and oaths Jesse warned Saint with before he went on his mail run. ‘Don’t mess with my sister. I’ll kill ya if ya mess with my sister.’ It was almost funny, it was.”
“He sounded like Old Man Lynch warning us off Fiona.” Saint smirked, remembering his boss’s tirade. “First day on the job, we have to hear the boss going on and on with ‘ My niece is the housekeeper here and I’ll kill the first one of you sumbitches that messes with her. Blah blah blah. Geez, you’d think we were in the House of the Vestal Virgins or something.”
“It would be great if she was about...uh, however old Fiona is...” Tommy mused, ignoring him. “Or... even younger! What if she was my age?”
“I am up before dawn tomorrow.” Storm snapped, swinging his legs down out of his bunk and dragging a pair of pants after him. “I am just going to ask Luis, alright?” He hauled his trousers up and pulled one suspender up “He was here when she showed up. He needs to turn in anyway, and maybe then you’ll all shut up and let me sleep.”
He shuffled out the door, disentangling his hair from the lone suspender over his shoulder and muttering swear words in French as he went.