Thursday, December 17, 2015

Holiday Schedule for the Home Stretch

So, we're in the home stretch of this thing, both for the year and for the Five Dollar Mail series. Been a crazy busy holiday season so far for us (we're catching up on a lot of lost time!). I thought I'd be ready to post tonight, but the truth is I am just not. This is the last bit of our story, and I don't want to rush it, so I'm just going to allow myself to run on a holiday schedule for the next week or so. I may having something up this weekend, but I'm not sure how that's gonna go yet, but I fully intend to have something up for next week.

I don't want to just bang something out at this point and post it hastily. This is the final bit, you know? While I am really ready to be done and move on to other projects, a large part of me isn't quite ready to let it go yet.

I got called in last week to reprise my "La Befana" thing at the kid's school I can't tell you how much I love doing this. I read Old Befana to them (the linked version of this story is so beautiful). Handed out some candy, dispensed some hugs, and talked about Italian Christmas traditions. The main thing the children seem to love the most, though, is the hat. I don't know if you can tell, but it's covered with bird and animal puppets, including a cardinal that sings and a nest full of baby birds. I always have to stoop down so they can make the bird sing and the babies wiggle.

And yes, before you ask, I dug Radagast the Brown. A lot. I actually considered adding some birdshit to my kit.

That broom you see there was made by none other than Bill Frazer, who is married to my editor Marie and who took the pic of me on the back of the book covers. I just added the Christmas bling to it.

Anyways, I'll see you before Christmas, so until then, enjoy this season of peace and be safe.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Why Paddy's Not At Work Today

So, I've had an...interesting...week.

I don't know if you're aware, but we had a bad flood out here a couple weeks ago. It didn't really affect me where I live, thank goodness. I live on a high, sandy ridge, so I was safe. The only problem we really had was later, the water pressure in the pipes was so excessive that many people had their plumbing damaged. I have some old plumbing in the upstairs, and the valve on the shower cracked. I came home from music practice one night to find water dripping through the ceiling onto my kitchen floor.

Travel in town was iffy because a lot of roads were out. So I tried to cobble together a fix using spare parts from another valve I had lying around. No good, valve too far gone. And while I'm up there tinkering around in the attic messing with the upstairs plumbing, I forgot to cement one of the pipe elbows I'd put in.

Pipes capped off
Remember when I told you the pressure was excessive? I walked up to the street, turned on the water, and heard people screaming "turn it off! turn it off" from inside my house.

So, swearing and cringing, I turn it off and go back inside. Niagara falls was happening in my kitchen. Now we're down one valve, one pipe, one drowned light fixture. I have no choice but to cap the pipes until I can get to the hardware store at this point.

The next day, a big chunk of wet drywall collapsed all over my breakfast nook.

Fast forward to this Sunday, when I went up there to try to fix all the damage I'd managed to do to my home. My attic is a cramped mess, so I decide that before I pull up the plywood up there (I don't have a proper floor up there, just plywood on the joists) so I can see what's going on, I need to clean up a bit and toss some old stuff.

And that's when I fell through the freaking ceiling.

The kid, sitting on the sofa, heard a noise and looked up just in time to see the ceiling in the living room burst open and what she thought was pink cotton candy come exploding out.

Cotton candy for everyone!
I didn't fall all the way through, because I fell onto the main joist on my way down and for a few minutes, thought I had broken my damn leg. The husband kind of crammed some of the drywall back in place, but before that, it was hanging down over his favorite chair like the Sword of Damocles. Thank God he had gotten up when he did, because five minutes later, his chair was covered in broken drywall and Pink Panther insulation.

And to add insult to injury, the kid and husband had been folding clean laundry down below, and now much of it had to be re-laundered because it got covered with fiberglass particles.

All this tribulation and horseshit because of a leaky shower valve.

And now we got the holidays coming up and my kitchen and living room have destroyed ceilings and I have one single shower left in my house that works, and even that one leaks.

I thought I'd maybe have some time to bang out a post last night and today, but then a friend was in desperate, serious need of long road trip out of town for a couple hours to clear her head. So we got in my van and drove. And I promised the husband I would work on getting the shower up and running tomorrow. So I am really sorry about all this, but I'm gonna have to take a breather this week and fix some stuff before we end up having to shower in the backyard with a garden hose.

Sometimes your week doesn't pan out the way you think it will.

On the upside, my leg ain't broke.  

Here's a funny little lego video of the Irish song, Why Paddy's Not At Work Today.  

Paddy, I feel ya.  

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Riders & Kickers Finally Released!

Finally, after much tribulations, floods, panic, gnashing of teeth, and tearing of hair, Riders & Kickers, The Five Dollar Mail Anthology, is finally released!

It contains the holiday tales and various other short stories found on the website, plus Ask Wash and some general info about the Pony Express. It also contains two new previously unpublished stories: one co-written with longtime reader Erin Sackett, which is illustrated with never-before-seen illustrations by Diego Candia, and the other, a substantial novella by my husband Jim Shelley, who has done quite a bit of collaboration with me about story arcs for FDM over the years. To be honest, The Five Dollar Mail really wouldn't exist without Jim's support and creative contributions, so I love that he wrote a story of his own for this.

It also contains a sneak preview of the cover for what will be the third and final book in the trilogy, The Road Home, which I am finishing up writing now. 

Anways, Riders & Kickers is available both as an ebook, and also as a beautiful trade paperback (not linked on Amazon as of this writing, so if you want the trade, just do a search on Amazon for it. It's there.). I hope you enjoy it!

As always, thanks for reading!


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Statewide Marco Polo Match!

Head's up, y'all. My town is pretty much underwater right now. I have no doubt we're gonna be declared a federal disaster area before it's over, if it hasn't already.

I lived through Hurricane Hugo, and I ain't never seen anything like this shit that's going on here right now. I currently live on a high ridge made of sharp sand, so my place is okay, but I can't really go anywhere and I don't know how long power and internet is going to hold.

If it holds, I'm gonna keep to my normal posting schedule. If you don't hear from me, I'm sitting in the dark holding a flashlight and hoping I don't have to pull the kayaks out, and you'll hear from me when you hear from me.

On the upside, if I don't lose internet and/or power, looks like Riders & Kickers will be released next week!

Stay dry!


Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Road Home: No regular chapter this week, Updates

Howdy all,

Gonna forgo my regular chapter this week for a couple reasons. First and foremost, I have been working on Riders & Kickers. Four proofs on this thing. I got The Green and Lynch's Boys in two goes. Riders & Kickers is half the size of those and for some reason, has taken more work to get done.

I can't decide if I am more picky or if I am simply distracted. It's been a hell of a year, most of which has gone by in dreamlike and often painful blur.

Anyways, I kicked the third proof copy back this week, so keep your fingers crossed.

The other thing is that I am having to read over the chapters that will comprise the next, and final, book. Yes, we are coming up on the end of the trail. I've got to end this somewhere, and I want to make sure everything's tied up all nice and neat before I'm done. So like the other books before it, I have to re-read it to make sure it pans out right. We have a little ways to go...a couple more miles.  The idea of finishing makes me as sad as it does happy. I've been doing this so long, I'm a little scared to stop.

Between re-reading Riders & Kickers until I want to puke, and sitting down and reading chapters 200+ as if I were just a reader, I can't write. Too much going on in my head. Fortunately, I'm almost done reading. I think I'll be back on track next week. But I don't want to rush it. Gotta do it right. I really do feel like I am  riding tired through the purple dusk with a warm, yellow light shining through the trees ahead of me. A few more fresh horses, and we'll be home.

See you next week.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gonna Be Late This Week

Howdy, all. I'm sorry, but I am running late this week. Hoping to have a post up Friday or Saturday. I had intended to work all through today on stuff, but as it turned out, my day started at around 3:30 am. We have a house rabbit, and he was unhappily and repeatedly thumping on the floor in an attempt to alert the household that we were all in mortal peril. Strange sounds were coming out of one of my kitchen cabinets,  and me and the husband ended up sitting in the dark with a flashlight, trying to figure out what was going on.

Murray here was going on. He had evidently discovered the hole in the floor where a bathroom renovation has been on hold since before Jim started chemo. And he was sitting in my kitchen eating a waffle cone.

So I set some humane traps and went back to bed. It was, after all, 3:30am, and I had gone to bed rather late.

Long story short, Murray ended up in my bedroom.  It's a little hard to relax when you know a wild animal is sitting in your closet, watching you try to sleep. Instead of finishing up my work, I spent most of the day trying to capture an opossum, calling wildlife rehab to make sure I didn't need to bring him in for dehydration, and relocating him safely to a nice place in my backyard, close to where he was probably living before invading my home.

So I honestly spent the day so horribly exhausted I actually feel drunk. I can't work like this.

Artist's Interpretation by Robin White
Anyways, my friends thought the entire opossum story sounded like a children's book. Rabbit discovers opossum in house, opossum sneaks into closet and hides befriends a hat. Robin even illustrated it after it was determined by Pam that the story was better if the opossum was actually wearing the hat instead of just sitting on it.

Anyways, Murray is back in his own environment outside and I promise I won't clean up my closet, which is now in shambles, until I have posted this week's update.

See you soon!


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Working Hard on Riders and Kickers This Week


Hi, all. I threw all my energy into typesetting the late but upcoming Riders & Kickers this week, and didn't want to stop. I had quite a bit to do on it, including a panicked call to my editor yesterday, but I'm back on track now and finally have the main manuscript ready to go and the pictures lined up and prepped.

I'm so bleary-eyed I can hardly see.

Now, I just have to tweak the typesetting and finish up the cover, and hopefully I'll have a proof in my hands by late next week. Keep your fingers crossed and think good thoughts.

I hate missing a chapter at this point, but honestly, I can't write right now. I get too wound up and hyper-focused with this stuff.

I did make some of my faux ambrotypes some time back for Wattpad, and realized that I don't think I have shown them to you. So here they are if you have not seen them.

Anyways, I am planning on posting a chapter next week, so here's hoping to get this over with quickly so I can get back on schedule.

Have a great holiday weekend and stay safe!


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hellbender by Laura Hollingsworth

Howdy, all!

I'm busy working on the layout for Riders and Kickers this week, so I'm taking the week off so I can concentrate on that. I'm hoping to get that out next month sometime, so keep your fingers crossed. But never fear, the amazing Laura Hollingsworth, the creator of The Silver Eye webcomic, has done a picture of Bender for us.

She gave me two preliminary sketches, one of him shrugging into his coat, and one of him standing still. It was a tough choice because they were both awesome, but we ended up going with the more animated "coat" pictures. I really love the movement in Laura's artwork. She really brings the characters to life.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bet You Didn't Know That Today Is Thanksgiving, Did You?

Jim ringing the bell
Hi, all. I will have your regular chapter up by Friday at the latest. I'm just not really ready to post it. It's been a very busy week.

We're having a Thanksgiving supper at my place tonight and I've been trying to get things in order for that. I am having a hard time concentrating on writing this week.

I didn't talk about this on here because it was hard to talk about, and because I didn't want it to be that kind of blog. And because I was afraid and depressed and didn't want to bring it here. But what we are celebrating is my husband Jim's last PET scan. He is cancer-free. So we are celebrating, and I just want to focus on that today.

He wasn't cancer free for the last six months or so. He was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer, which had metastasized to his liver. .I've seen too many blogs that followed someone's fight that didn't have happy endings. Maybe it was superstition, I dunno. I don't like people to see me bleed, I guess.

He responded great to the chemo, thank God. He is cancer-free right now. The chemo kicked his ass...but while it was kicking his ass, he was kicking cancer's ass. That picture there is him ringing the bell in the chemo lab. When cancer patients finish their chemo, it's traditional to ring the bell. It's a great tradition. It gives a lot of hope to all the other patients, and gives everyone a goal to look forward to. We were so happy that it was finally Jim's turn.

So, if you're wondering what happened to the anthology, you'll be happy to know Marie has it in her hot little hands right now. The holdup was that Jim wanted to write a novella to include in the book. So while he was on chemo, he wrote a novella. It was slow going, because he had some pretty bad mind-fog, but he did it like a boss. In fact, quite a bit of the chapters you've been reading since November were written while I sat in an infusion center with him. I actually met McKenna, the author of Gunslinger's Grave, online while sitting in the chemo center with a laptop on my lap.

Anyways, that's what's been going on in our lives over here. If all goes well, the anthology should be out in a couple months at the most. And your regular chapter will be here Friday night at the very latest.

We have decided that today is Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Still Water Woman and Jesse Hanson, Riders and Kickers

Still Water Woman

I am taking a week off from writing, because I am working on editing a never-published novella that is going into Riders and Kickers. My husband Jim has written an entire novella that centers around Tommy, and I'm going doing the re-write on it before we send it to Marie, my editor. When I get into heavy edit mode, it's hard to write, so I just decided to focus solely on editing this week. The novella a fun adventure tale, and I know you will all like it as much as I do. Finally, Tommy will get some airtime.

So, instead I made a couple "tintypes" of Still Water Woman and Jesse. Love making these. I am very happy with how Still Water Woman came out. I used a picture of the Yankton Lakota musician and activist, Zitkala-Ša. I chose her as a model because she's got such beautiful strength in her face. So I gave her a haircut and the hint of a traditional plains dress, and then sandwiched it with a picture of an old tintype, and then added some texture taken from an daguerreotype.

Jess Hanson
Jesse I did the same way, although unfortunately, I don't know the model's name. Not sure I like it as well, so I might do another one at some point. I do, however, love the tarnished and discolored tin in this one. The more tore up these things are, the better I like them.

Which is ironic when you consider that back in the Bad  Old Days, when I worked in a darkroom, one of the things I did was take old photos that actually did look like this and restore them. Which was a bit of a trick, because back then, nobody had Photoshop or even digital images. Had to use what I called Stupid Darkroom Tricks, photo bleach, and a thin, black or brown ink called SpotTone. I was very, very good at it. So I kind of enjoy the irony that I am now deliberately destroying perfectly good photos by Photoshopping damage onto them.

Anyways, hope you are enjoying these as much as I am enjoying making them. The regular posting will be back on next Thursday. See you then!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Happy Birthday, Pony Express!

Today is the 155th birthday of the Pony Express, and as I'm sure most of you have seen, Google has made a Google Doodle to commemorate this day in history!

I guess it goes without saying that I am a huge fan of the Pony Express, so you know how excited I am to see this as a Doodle. They even made it into an cool little game where you guide the little Pony Express guy through an obstacle course to pick up letters and keep moving east, presumably to eventually make it to the last stop on the route, Saint Joseph, Missouri. 

Google's Map of the trail from Sacramento to Saint Joseph

I named my rider Luis. Luis didn't appreciate being pitched face first into cactus. I kind of suck at playing the game. So I never really made it to Saint Jo.

Anyways, this is a really awesome video about both the history of the Pony Express and the making of the Doodle. If you haven't seen it, you can view it here:

I at least managed to get as far as swapping horses.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sneak Peek: A Christmas Odyssey

Howdy, all. Jim, being a wonderful husband, talked me out of working all day on writing. He say's I'm too tired and worn out from the week. And I let him talk me out it because he's hot and I adore him. Instead, he talked me into taking a nap after posting the first chapter from a novella that we co-wrote (well, we discussed it and then he wrote it and I edited it). This novella will be a never-before seen, brand new Five Dollar Mail story about none other than Tommy Page, and will appear in its entirety in the upcoming The Five Dollar Mail: Riders and Kickers anthology.

Jim's work has been published in various horror magazines, and he is now a force in the digital comic scene with his own project, 
Flashback Universe. He will be working with me on the next project after Five Dollar Mail, so I thought it would be a fun introduction to have him write a piece for the anthology.



Chapter One: The Girl That Liked Dime Novels

Tommy  by Angela Taratuta
Standing out on the Green River town stagecoach depot in the early morning chill of a December morning, Tommy Page found himself nervously waiting for three things. The icy winter air had, once again, formed a sparkling fog on the lenses of his spectacles, and as he wiped them clear, he mentally tallied his expectations as if ticking chores off a list.

First, there was Christmas. While he no longer looked forward to it with the excitement he had when he was a child, the idea of enjoying the holiday with his friends at the station had renewed his interest in the season. He was especially looking forward to some of the delicious dinner treats Fiona and Lily had hinted at.

Second, there was the latest installment of Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter, in the Beadle’s dime novel series. While the stories could tend to get a little outlandish at times, Tommy found himself addicted to the series. That the newest edition was supposed to arrive today on the stage coach is how Tommy happened to find himself out on the stoop in the brisk weather. He wanted to meet the driver and be sure to get a copy before they went into town. He’d been on a run to Three Crossings when the previous edition had arrived on the stage, and he’d ended up missing out. He ended up having to pay double the price to Jed Ward, a boy in town, who charged him an outlandish 20 cents just to read his copy after he was done with it. What he’d gotten was a dog eared, torn version with water stains and one of the illustrations missing. In hopes of preventing that from happening again, he had traded his regularly scheduled run today with Jessie...or maybe it was Luis.  Jessie and Luis had a habit of trading their runs between themselves so often that it  caused confusion in the station. Lynch had asked them politely to refrain from such shenanigans by grunting “I reckon you boys need to stop this horseshit!” the last time they’d done it. Unfortunately, they still were apt to trade on the sly from time to time, seeing how the exact meaning of “this horseshit” was open to interpretation.

And while he was eager for Christmas and anxious to read the new dime novel, neither of these two impending events were the source of his nervousness. No, what had his palms sweating and his heart beating fast was the third thing he was waiting for: a chance to speak to the young girl who was walking his way at this very moment.

He had been watching this girl ever since she appeared down at the end of the wooden sidewalk that ran along the main street through town. At first she was just a blurry image on the horizon through his dust-smudged spectacles, but has she was drawing nearer, Tommy was able to ascertain that she was indeed a person...a girl...a pretty girl...headed his way. He found himself going from curious interest to genuine excitement at the idea that she might be coming over to speak to him.

Now, normally, Tommy would have assumed any visiting girl at the mail depot was some wayward admirer of Luis or, more likely, Jesse. But what gave Tommy hope this morning was the exact nature of her arrival.

Tommy had heard from Mr. Thomason, the owner of the mercantile, that there was a girl his age who also bought the dime novels. This idea fascinated Tommy in a way he couldn’t quite explain or escape. Could there actually be a girl in town who shared his love of stirring adventure and heart-stopping action? He had to meet her. Imagine the rousing conversation they could have as they recounted their favorite stories and characters! And the fact that Mr. Thomason had mentioned that she was cute had only fanned the flames of his fascination.

And as Tommy watched this young girl walk up, he had to concede that her appearance did indeed fit the definition of “cute”. Actually, as Tommy stole furtive looks in her direction (all while attempting to coolly ignore her, as Saint once instructed him), Tommy realized that cute was a weak description for such a girl. With her long brown hair, piercing dark eyes, regal cheekbones, and aquiline nose, she possessed a bewitching presence that defied the cramped confines of a word like “cute.” What would the correct word be? he thought, his heart racing.

Coltish, Tommy thought, but then nixed it as sounding too young.

Gorgeous. Hm...better... He shook his head. Somehow, that suggested an older woman.

Winsome? He had seen that word applied to cute girls in his dime novels, but he thought it had something to do with smiling.

Fetching was a bit better, but it remind him more of dogs than anything else.

As she approached, his mind swirled in a morass of synonyms and sounds as it searched for the appropriate adjective, the perfect word, that bit of lyrical truth that would correctly define her forever...

“Hello. Nice morning isn’t it?” she said, her face lighting up with a welcoming smile as she stepped onto the stoop.

With a start, Tommy turned towards her and was suddenly overcome by the answer to his unspoken question. “Stunning!” he blurted out in awkward exclamation.

The young girl cocked a dark eyebrow and tilted her head, the polite smile on her face disappearing. In Tommy’s mind, he could imagine Saint going on and on about first impressions and having a good opening line. He could tell he hadn’t said the right thing, but he couldn’t think now what the right thing actually was. Watching her standing there wasn’t helping. She seemed to be re-tabulating some mental calculation and Tommy was afraid he wouldn’t like the answer. At long last, a smile broke across her face, and she said, “While that seems like a rather bold word to describe this cold morning, I applaud your passionate appreciation.”

Tommy wasn’t entirely sure he followed all that, but it sounded like a positive response, so he followed up with the most evocative rejoinder he could muster. “Hello! I’m name is Tommy Page.”

The girl tipped her head a bit as if making a small bow and said, “Pleased to meet you Tommy Page. I’m Theresa Perrin, but everyone calls me Terry.”

His name sounded amazing rolling off her tongue. It took him a few seconds before he replied. At least, he hoped it was just seconds, as time seemed to be dissolving all around him. “Are you...what are you doing here?” he asked, instantly regretting the accusatory phrasing of the question. Yes, he did want to know why she was here, but he didn’t mean to sound so blunt.

Arching her brow in confusion, she looked at the post office beside them.

“Is this where the stagecoach unloads?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Ah. That’s what I was hoping. Mr. Thomason at the mercantile told me that if I wanted to get my hands on the new Beadle’s book, I would be best to try and pick it up here.”’re the girl who...It’s you that buys the dime novels!” Tommy exploded.  “I thought it might be you!”
With a wild gush, Tommy started to recount his favorite moments from the ongoing Malaeska serial novel. While he wasn’t sure what to say to girls, he definitely knew his dime novels. He could tell her every detail about every dime novel he had ever read.

And to any onlooker, it would have looked as if he was doing just that very thing.

Indeed, he was so overcome by this chance to share his love for the genre, he failed to notice that his audience seemed to be getting bored.

Terry took a deep breath, as if to bolster herself from the battering waves of his enthusiasm, raising her hands before her as if to press back the tide. “Hold on,” she said, chuckling nervously. “I don’t read them. I get them for my brother,”

He words were an icy bucket of water dousing him. If he had been a waterfall of words before, he was now a dry well. For a few uneasy seconds he didn’t know what to say. Time stretched like winter molasses, hanging between them in awkward, excruciating silence.

He opened his mouth, and closed it, pulling his glasses behind his ears. “Oh.” Flailing in an ocean of random advice he had picked up from the older riders, he found a lifesaver from Wash: ‘It’s easy to talk if you know what you’re talking about, so it is. And the only way to know is to ask.

Tommy retrieved his courage, dusted it off, and tried again.  “How is it that you happen to be picking up the dime novel for your brother?”

Terry leaned her back against the depot’s shingled front wall and relaxed a bit. “Oh, it’s a long story, Mr. Page, I shouldn’t bore you with all that.”

His awkward tension relented a bit. “You could...I mean, I’d love it if you bored me.” He cringed, wincing. What is wrong with you, you blathering idiot?

She laughed,and gave him a forgiving smile. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Her brother was named Charlie, and he was eight years old. However, despite his young age, he was quite a good reader, as Terry had been teaching him to read him since he was five years old.

The reason Tommy had never seen Terry in Mrs. Plunkett’s classroom is because she had completed school back East prior to her family's arrival in Sweetwater.

Her family lived on the opposite side of the Green River, where her parents had a small farm.

Their father was away back East tending to their recently deceased grandfather’s estate. Mr. Perrin had hoped to be back by Christmas, but business complications had made his return impossible.

During the conversation, Tommy told Terry a bit about himself, focusing on his job as a Pony Express rider, the places he had gone, and the people he worked with. Occasionally, he would mimic some of the other riders, which helped illustrate their personality. Even though Terry didn’t know any of them, she found the impersonations entertaining. As the morning passed, they were so caught up in their exchange that neither of them realized that the stage coach was running late.

“So, Miss McMillian,” Tommy continued with the story of how Lily came to work at the station, his face twisted in his best Erastus Lynch impersonation. "Does a lot of cussin’ bother you?”

Terry laughed out loud at the punch line, and Tommy felt quite pleased with himself...until Lynch stepped out onto the stoop with a dour look on his face. Albeit, this was sort of his natural expression, but this morning there was an intensity on his furrowed brow that told Tommy something was wrong. Did Lynch hear that?

Lynch looked at Tommy, wearing a far scarier version of the pinched scowl Tommy had been wearing moments before. His pale, intense gaze traveled from Tommy’s face to Terry, and he nodded knowingly to himself. He raised an eyebrow and settled his eyes back on Tommy. “You been here all morning?”

“Yes, sir. I...uh...since b...breakfast.”

“No sign of the coach?”

“No, sir.”

Lynch turned his attention towards the horizon.  “Hmph.”
He gave the skyline a frustrated glare as if to provoke it into revealing the overdue stage coach. Then he turned towards the station. “Let me know as soon as you see it,” he muttered over his shoulder as he went back inside. “I reckon you’ll still be standing here.”

“Yes, sir.” Tommy said, deflating. He was relieved that Lynch wasn’t upset at him, but a new concern was growing now. Where’s the stage coach?

“Was that?...” Terry started to ask.
“Yeah.” Tommy interrupted her question with a hushed, faraway reply. “Old Man Lynch.”

Like Lynch, Tommy scanned the horizon. His mind was busy conjuring up grim reasons the stage might be late. He didn’t want to think something could have happened to Saint and Wash. Normally, I wouldn’t worry too much...but bad weather can blow in without warning this time of year. Nor did he want to explain the morbid possibilities. In an attempt to prevent his concern from spreading to Terry, he made a game attempt to restart their previous conversation.

“So, I guess...I it hard raising chickens?”

She played along, answering the question and asking him more about the station. To anyone listening, there would have been little difference in the tone and tenor of their dialogue. However, to Tommy, it seemed their words were colder than before and sentences hung in the air longer than they should.

What’s delaying the coach?


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tommy Would Dig It

Because Tommy likes bugs.

I'm running behind this week. I'm going to try very hard to have this week's post up tomorrow. That's my goal. It may be Saturday, but I'm going to the best I can to get it done by Friday night. I've pretty much had my week hit by a huge, flaming meteor in the form of...drumroll...


Yeah. Because nothing quite says "you're a primate" like spending an entire day picking freaking insects out your hair and your kid's hair. I guess if you have a kid in school, it's bound to happen eventually. I have never had lice in my entire life, and considering where I grew up, that's kind of saying something.

I guess I should have figured something was up in the schools when the local drug store here has an ominous sign out front advertising a sale on lice treatments. As a writer, I have to really appreciate the cosmic foreshadowing of that. Very nice.

So, anyways, as awful as all this is, it's actually not as awful as I had always thought it was. It's not like they pervade every aspect of your life. They aren't that hard to get rid of. Still, you have a crapload of laundry you have to do. So between what's probably close to five feet of hair between us to delouse, and a pile of laundry the size of the Matterhorn, I've been so busy and mentally overloaded, I can't finish the chapter. My brain's seized up. However, I find that an excellent cure for writer's block is to post something saying something along the lines of  "I'm sorry, I just haven't been able to get it together this week."

So, I'm sorry. I just haven't been able to get it together this week.

Ah. That feels better.

See you this weekend.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Young Riders: The True Fictional Account Chapter 2

Josh Brolin as Jimmy Hickok
Hi, all! Here is a link to Chapter 2 of The True Fictional Account, a Young Riders fanfic by Crisandra and Kristan Billups.

I'm going to be featuring other writers early in the week, so guest posts are going to become a semi-regular thing. I'm finding other writers writing some fun stuff out there, and when I see something I think you all might enjoy, I'm going to share it here.

The regular Five Dollar Mail post will continue on Thursdays, as usual .

So watch this space, and have a great week!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Young Riders: The True Fictional Account, Chapter 1

I have a little early-in-the-week treat for you this week. This is a fanfic of the TV show, The Young Riders, that aired from 1989-1992, by Kristan and Crisandra Billups. It was written some years ago, when they were in their early teens.

I (predictably) loved this show, and clearly, it had some influence over my own work. When I discovered these authors on Wattpad, I had to ask if I might feature their story here, as I thought you all might enjoy it, too. So with permission, here is the first chapter of their story, The Young Riders: The True Fictional Account. You can read the rest of the story here, on Wattpad. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Disclaimer thingy: Based on a show owned by MGM. No copyright infringement intended, no money is involved, just some fans having a little fun. No need to get all excited and send lawyers after us.

Kid and Jimmy
The hot sun beamed down on the Arizona desert. At noon, the sun was at its hottest, and not a cloud in the sky to offer shade. Two Pony Express Riders, Kid and Jimmy, loped along slowly on their way back from town. Kid looked up and nudged Jimmy who was nodding off, who woke with a snort and had his gun pointed at Kid's face in an instant. Once he saw he was in no immediate danger he put his gun away. ''What?''

Kid pointed to a scrap of trees along the hillside where a small cloud of smoke had gathered. ''Campfire? Out here?''

Jimmy nodded to Kid and they reined their horses to the left, at a faster pace.

''Might be a traveler just camping for the evening.'' Kid said.

''Might be an outlaw lookin to blow off your head too.'' Jimmy said.

Kid shrugged and they checked their guns to make sure they were loaded and ready.

Jimmy slowed his horse to a stop and Kid did likewise. They dismounted and tied their horses to trees. Quietly they crept forward into a small forest, leaves cracked underfoot, branches slapped their faces.

Finally close enough they knelt behind a boulder and peered over.

''Camp's empty.'' Kid whispered. ''But it hasn't been for long.''

An unsaddled horse was tied to a long rope, grazing on grass and brush. It was a powerfully built mustang, blue roan with a black mane and tail. Strong hindquarters and nimble legs, it looked like it could run for miles. Rippling muscles beneath a dusty hide, it was a majestic animal. There was a fire built not far from a bedroll. A cup on the ground.

Suddenly a low growl behind them made them spin around, but before Jimmy could pull his gun, there was already one trained on them both.

Kid felt uncomfortable having the cold metal of a 30-30 staring him in the face, but the eyes of the owner was more unsettling. Cold and hard, they were an incredible shade of green. Black hat low on the head, bandana over his face, it was hard to tell anything about this person. Except that he rode a lot. Black riding boots with dulled silver spurs, blue jeans and a shirt, he looked like anyone you’d see on the street.

''Don't move!'' The person commanded, ''You forgot to watch your back.'' He added.

The dog was a wolf. His blue eyes, his blue eyes?, flashed as he stood his ground beside his master.

''Watch em.'' He commanded the wolf, as he moved forward and slid their guns out of their holsters. Moving them towards camp, he questioned them.

''What are you doin' here?'' he asked.

Kid stumbled. ''We was riding home, thought we'd see who was camping here.’’

The man laughed. ''You expect me to believe that? Yeah right.'' He tied them up, sitting down, opposite of each other. Slinging the rifle over his shoulder, he slid off their boots.

''Hey!'' Jimmy protested. ''You can't take our boots!''

The man stopped. ''Your right.'' Spinning around he threw them into the stream, they landed with a slight splash. Dowsing the fire, he gathered up his things and swung up on the mustang.

''You're just gonna leave us like this?'' Jimmy griped.

The man called the wolf to him. ''Better than being dead.'' The man tipped his hat, then was gone. Minutes later Jimmy's horse and Katie thundered by, scattered by the rider.

Jimmy wriggled, but the ropes were tight. ''You just had to be the detective, didn't ya Kid?''

''Shut up and help with the ropes!'' Kid snapped.

~ ~ ~

Morgan rode away from them on Blue. The mustang was glad to be on the move again and Lewis totted beside them, stopping every now and then to smell the wind.

''That was close.'' She told the mustang, who snorted and shook his thick mane.

''Oh I know they were telling the truth! But you can't trust people.''

Lewis barked. They trotted on.

Half an hour later, maybe 45 minutes, she caught sight of the pony express station, it would be her new job, at least until they had to go on the run again.

As Morgan rode in, three people gathered in front of the house. She halted her horse and slid down, removing her gloves, she asked, ''Which one of ya is the station manager?''

An older man stepped up. ''That‘d be me.'' Shaking hands, he said. ''Teaspoon Hunter. And you are?''

Morgan glanced sideways and hesitated. ''Morgan.'' she finally said.

A young man shook her hand, blonde straw colored hair stuck out from beneath his hat and he wore dusty buckskins, his smile splashed across his face from one ear to the next. ''Cody.'' He stated. ''What brings you here?''

Morgan’s horse neighed and the others in the paddock answered. ''I'm the new pony express rider you sent for.''

Teaspoon scratched his head. ''Ah, don't mean to be rude, but didn't the letter say there'd be, ah, two riders?''

''Oh yeah, the other's a day behind me, something held her up.''

''Well you put up your horse and come on in for supper.'' Emma, the cook, invited and motioned with her hands. Leading her horse to the barn, Morgan tied him up and drew him a bucket of water.

While Blue drank, she brushed his coat. With each stroke came a cloud of dust, but soon his coat shown like a silver dollar.

Morgan put him up in the stall, and was closing the door when a stranger walked in. They caught sight of each other at the same time. Quickly she slid a knife out of her boot and hid it in her hand.

''Who are you?'' Buck inquired, a knife hidden in his hand.

''Names Morgan. New rider.'' Buck nodded.

''Name's Buck. You are Indian.''

Morgan nodded. ''So are you.''

After a minute, Buck said ''Kiowa.''

''Cherokee.'' She answered. ''Our tribes are enemies.''

Buck shifted closer to the wall. ''Is that going to be a problem?'' Buck tensed.

Her piercing eyes seemed to look right through him. ''No.''

Quickly, they both sheathed their knives, unknown to the other that they had even been out.

They walked together to the house, Lewis, who had found a comfortable spot in the shade, raised his head and growled.

Buck stepped back. ''Your wolf?'' he asked.

Morgan snapped her fingers and Lewis turned from growling menacing dog with flashing teeth to friendly cow dog. Wagging his tail, he greeted Buck as an old friend.

They went in to see everyone else was already seated at the table with bread, meat, and potatoes on plates in front of them.

''Please remove your hat and weapons.'' Teaspoon said.  

Morgan questioned him with her gaze.

''It's so's you don't shoot one another over Emma's good food.'' Teaspoon added.

Morgan stepped over to the hat rack and hung her 30-30 on one of the hooks. Everyone staring, she pulled off her hat. Dark blond hair tumbled down to just acouple inches below her neck. Morgan heard Cody choke and cough. ''You’re a girl!'' He said, spraying mashed potatoes all over the table and the people sitting at it.

Buck, who was wiping Cody's spit off his face, lightened the tension a bit by saying ''Say it, don't spray it Cody.''

''But he's a girl!'' Cody argued.

''We can all see that now Cody, so why don't ya eat?'' Teaspoon said, nodding towards an empty seat for Morgan to sit in.

Several seconds passed with no one moving before Emma commanded everyone to eat, and everyone slowly started eating.

So Morgan sat down to the table.

''There's an empty bed in the bunkhouse for ya to use.'' Teaspoon said.

''Thanks, but I'll sleep in the barn.'' Morgan said, scooping up a bite of potatoes.

Teaspoon set his cup down. ''Now that you’re a rider for the pony express, you'll sleep like a rider for the pony express.''

Morgan nodded her head, but everyone could see she wasn't willing to obey by that.

''Wonder when Kid and Jimmy's comin' back?'' Cody wondered out loud, mouth full of pie.

At that moment, several things happened. The door flew open, revealing two very tired, very annoyed guys. Morgan spun around, at the same time spotting them, she jumped up, chair falling to the ground.

''You!'' Morgan, Jimmy, and Kid yelled at the same time. Jimmy went for his gun, but realized his holsters were empty.  

Morgan jumped up on the table and sprang at them both, knocking them on the ground. On her feet in a flash she flew to the hat rack, grabbing her gun and hat, she ran out the door. Morgan ran to the barn while chucking a shell up into the chamber. She did not know how they'd found her, she had certainly left a confusing trail. Lewis was beside her now, she had Blue out of the stall.

Grabbing her bedroll, she swung up on Blue the same instance he burst into a gallop. They swept past the bunkhouse and the main house, were everyone stood. No one had a gun on her, that was good.

She cursed herself for not dealing with those two before. Blue's long strides made the ground between the house and them grow fast. They headed to the river were she knew they could leave without making a trail.

They traveled fast for hours. A normal horse would not have been able to to keep up, but Blue was hardened to running hard and fast. When she was pretty sure no one was following, Lewis had not growled, then she decided to find somewhere to sleep for the night. Morgan found a clearing, and made a quick camp. No fire, no cooked food.

Morgan and Lewis ate dried beef, while Blue ate some grass and grain. She leaned up against the tree so no knife or bullet could kill her from behind. She slept.

Lewis woofed, softly and Morgan awoke. Looking at him, she knew he had caught the scent of someone that was close by, maybe a mile or two. They were on her trail. But why wasn't Lewis growing instead of wagging his tail? Whistling softly, Blue came right awake.

Swinging aboard, she turned him back towards the way they'd come. Gun in hand, they walked softly. She would deal with this once and for all.

~ ~ ~

Buck sat on the ground. He was cold. His horse was tired. He had forgotten that trailing someone who did not want to be caught was hard work. After Kid and Jimmy had told them what happened, it had all been clear why Morgan had high tailed out of there. Maybe she was wanted? Or being hunted? Or just careful?

Kid seemed to be all right that she was a new rider. Jimmy on the other hand, was not, and was mad that someone had got the drop on him.

Buck didn't really believe it himself, but Jimmy's missing guns where proof enough. Buck laughed aloud, he could still hear Kid's and Jimmy's boots squishing with water as they walked.

Buck heard a crack behind him, he listened… nothing.

Just to be sure, he unsheathed his knife and stood up.

From out of nowhere, Morgan came at him and had him pinned to the ground in seconds. His knife now in her hand, was pressing firmly against his throat, her eyes were cold and hard, light from the fire made them dance. "Why are you following me?" Morgan barked.

"Trying to save you from losing your job!" Buck growled back.

That unsettled her for a moment, long enough for Buck to throw her off.

Morgan rolled and landed upright in the ready stance, ready to fight him.

"Who were those two?" She asked.

Buck rubbed his neck "Your co-workers."

Morgan’s eyes widened a bit. "Pony express riders?"

Buck nodded.

"How do I know your not lying?" Morgan asked him.

"You don't."

They stared at each other this way for quite some time, finally as if she had decided something, she stood. Handing him back his knife, which he sheathed, she called her dog. Lewis went over to her, then to Buck.

"He doesn't take to most people.” Morgan said.

Buck ran his hand over Lewis's back.

"Neither do you.” That brought a smile to their faces. "Can we get some sleep now?” Buck asked.

Morgan nodded.

Buck wondered what had happened to her to make her so distrustful of people. He slept on one side of the fire, her on the other. Buck was about to doze off when he saw a flash of metal, looking up he saw, stuck in the dirt beside Morgan was a snake, now with a knife in its brain.

"Night." Morgan said.  

And they slept.

~ ~ ~

Buck woke just as the sun come over the horizon, and rolled over and watched her sleep, noticing the snake from last night was gone. Probably a possum or something had gotten it.

Buck stared at Morgan sleeping, until with a jolt he realized she was awake.

"How long you been staring at me?” Morgan asked, pulling on her boots.

All Buck could muster, was a couple "Uh's.”

Swinging up on Blue, she nudged him to a trot, Buck soon followed.

"Where did ya get such a horse?" Buck finally asked, breaking the silence.

Morgan told him the story of a wee little colt at an auction she had bought, and raised to a horse. This was of course, was not true. The story was true enough, but that was her last horse, Dusty.

That story seemed a little more believable than how she had really got Blue. No one would believe he was a wild stallion. No one would believe she was a horse tamer. For now, she rode for the pony express.

~ ~ ~

Two days later Morgan settled into a schedule, she rode for the Pony Express Monday evenings, Wednesday mornings and Sunday mid-day. Everyday they all did chores of mucking out stalls, and doing odd chores. Today was a Tuesday so she had no ride.

Jimmy wasn't so mad at Morgan since she had given him back his revolvers, and Kid was just relieved that she had found their horses.

Everything seemed to be going well, though Morgan knew, with her luck, that good things never last long.

Morgan walked out towards the barn and saw Kid and Jimmy saddling their horses.

Kid, upon seeing her said, “Hey Morgan, do you want to go to town with us?”

Morgan thought for a moment before nodding.

Awhile later, Cody, Jimmy and Morgan rode into town, excitement buzzed in the air, everyone was talking.

They all weaved their horses through the crowd of people to were talking in the middle of the street.

"Looks like somethin' happened." Cody said.

"Yeah, It sure looks that way." Jimmy asked a man who was standing somewhere near Jimmy‘s horse.  "What happened?"

"You don't know?” The man slapped his knee. "Some kid just about got ran over by a stagecoach! And a GIRL." This word he fairly screamed, "She just rode up there and saved him.” The man nodded. ''Fine piece of ridin' she did to, never saw nothin' like it.''

Morgan was grinning. ''Where is she?''

The man pointed towards the saloon.

Morgan nodded her thanks and rode towards the saloon, Kid and Jimmy riding along with her.

''You know her?'' Jimmy asked as he dismounted.

''Yep.'' She ground tied Blue. ''And your gonna get to know her real well.'' At the unspoken questions in their eyes, she walked up the stairs. ''Boyz, let's go meet the newest pony express rider, who just happens to be a trick roper and rider, Kris.''

They went in.