Travel into the future this New Year

While I hope no one celebrates this New Year’s Eve to the point that they do a little time traveling of their own, I do want to wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year. Blackouts aside, time travel is a mystery that we as a society dream about unraveling. So, it’s not surprising that the creative and talented authors of the romance genre have toyed with the concept, weaving adventure and intrigue, love and romance into stories built around this science fiction concept. Afer all, what’s more intriguing than a man from another time, or even another world?

While every author approaches the theory of time travel differently, from time machines to magical spells, they all seem to know how to have fun with the idea and, as always, root the story in the emotional journey of its heroes. Let yourself get carried away in these awe-inspiring, emotionally fierce love stories that transcend time. Literally.

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Click here to view Dorchester’s selection of time travel romances.

Acrostic New Year’s Bash!

We’ve got more than books, people. We’ve got skills. Acrostic skills.

To celebrate the New Year, I’ve created an acrostic TBR pile for all you book lovers out there! You can always count on Dorchester to have a book that starts with any letter in the alphabet. Except for ‘Y,’ of course. That one stumped me.

Enjoy, and a happy New Year to you all!

 


Western Wednesdays—OUTLAW LAWMAN by Paul Bagdon

Outlaw Lawman is a book that swept me up in the first chapter. The scene is set so perfectly, I felt as though I was there beside Bagdon’s enigmatic hero Pound as he rode into the unruly bordertown of Gila Bend, his true motives hidden from the reader, and perhaps even himself. The cast of characters that you meet in this excerpt only hint at the depth and complexity of the story to come.  If you want to feel the heat and the sweat, taste the dust in your mouth, hear the desolate sounds of an outlaw town, be transported to the Old West, then this is the book for you.

Happy Reading,
Allison Carroll
Dorchester Publishing

Chapter One

I heard the baseball game before I even drew close to it: men whooping and yelling, guns firing, the occasional series of curse words that reached me even over the distance. A sign on a stout fence post told me I was in—or coming into—Gila Bend.

I topped an easy rise and looked directly down at the game. A fat man was at bat. The pitcher gave him a good throw, and the fat man swung hard and arced the ball over the pitcher’s head and into the outfield. It looked like an easy single, even though the heavy man waddled rather than ran. When he reached first base, the baseman swung at him, connected with his chin, and dropped him there in the dust, unconscious. A mixture of cheers and boos sounded as the fat man’s pals dragged him off to the side.

The runner who’d been on second base took off for third as soon as the fat man connected with the ball. The third baseman covered his base—blocked it, actually—and held a thick piece of a tree branch. The runner dove at the baseman, and the two of them rolled about in the dirt, raising a cloud of dust, punching, gouging, biting, and cursing. The runner managed to wrestle the club away from the baseman and beat him unconscious with it. At the same time, the runner who’d been on third was digging for home plate, running hard, knees pumping, head down, arms flailing. It was then that a loop sailed out from the group of observers. Whoever he was, he was one hell of a roper. His loop was small—exactly the right size to drop over the runner’s head and stop him very quickly—so quickly, in fact, that the wet snap of his neck was easily audible over the rest of the racket of the game.

If the baseball game was a fuse, the fight that followed was the explosion. Two masses of bellowing, drunken men met about midfield, swinging, kicking, and in some cases, shooting.

I’d seen lots of bar fights, more than a few gunfights where the loser ended up dead, but I’d never seen anything like this before. Baseball can raise a man’s ire, and a little pushing and maybe slugging is to be expected during a game, particularly when most or all of the players were drunk.

But damn: shooting a base runner? Snapping a fellow’s neck with a lariat? Anybody who threw a loop the way that cowboy had could have widened it a foot or so and made his catch around the runner’s middle.

My horse was getting antsy under me, catching the scent of the horses staked and hobbled down by the game. A slug whispered by my head, then another. A man never forgets that sound once he’s heard it, and I’ve heard it too many times to sit around and wait to hear it again. I heeled my good bay horse into a gallop, swinging back down below the rise, and made a big half circle around the baseball game. From there it was easy enough to follow wagon tracks and hoofprints to Gila Bend.

I swung off the tracks and rode a half mile or so out onto the prairie. The money in my saddlebags was in those waterproof canvas sacks banks and large mercantiles use. I triangulated a nice little rock outcropping with a pair of desert pines, moved some rocks around, and stashed my money. Then I went on back to the trail that led to Gila Bend.

The town looked like most of the little Texas towns of the time—splintered, unpainted wood buildings; hand-painted signs; and the usual array of businesses: a stable, a mercantile, five saloons, a restaurant, a furniture maker/embalmer/mortician, and what may or may not have been at one time a church. It’d been burned, but it looked as though some of the chairs inside may once have been pews.

There were two or three horses tied in front of each gin mill and a few men walking, going into the mercantile or a saloon. Every man I saw was carrying a sidearm, and some carried two.

Some of the men were wearing those big broad hats—sombreros—and I knew for an absolute fact that any cowhand, drifter, saddle-tramp gambler—any American at all—would prefer to have his head broiled over a campfire like chicken than wear one of those Mex hats.

Without being obvious about it, I looked more closely at some of the men under sombreros. I was certain that looking too long at any man in Gila Bend was a bad idea. There was no doubt the fellows were Mexicans.

I was real unclear as to where I was, Texas or Mexico. I figured that in a hellhole like Gila Bend, it didn’t much matter.

I put my horse up at the stable, had new shoes put on him all the way ’round, and paid in advance for a double scoop of crimped oats daily, plus all the good hay he wanted. That horse had done some hard and long traveling, and he more than deserved a respite, some good grub, and some time out from under the saddle.

I walked down the rutted street past the first saloon I came to. The beer and booze were singing out to me, but I kept walking. I was looking for a specific and recognizable man, and I knew I’d eventually find him.

I walked by what had once been a sheriff’s office. The front door was battered and broken and hung from its top hinge. It was riddled with bullet holes, too. I looked inside as I walked by. There was an overturned rolltop desk that was partially burned. A cut chain hung from what had obviously been a rifle cabinet. There was a Stetson on the floor near the desk with several bullet holes in it and flaking, dried blood around the holes. It’d probably been a fine hat at one time; Stetson didn’t make junk.

There’s always at least one of the bar-rags I was looking for in Texas towns; I figured Gila Bend would have a couple of them—Mexican or Texan—and perhaps three. They were hardcore drunks, who, since they were incapable of working and too stupid to steal, spent their days cadging or begging drinks. Sometimes they exchanged good information for a belt of redeye and a schooner of beer. Often the information was mindless babble or pure fabrication; once in a while it was good.

I almost passed a barber shop, but then took a couple of steps back and entered. A bath was thirty cents, which was kind of steep. The shave and the haircut came to two bits.

The barber was a surly oaf who smelled of pomade, talcum powder, and stale beer. Usually those fellows would talk your ear off about nothing, but this guy was an exception. He grunted every so often as he went about his work but said not a word. When we evened up, I added a nickel tip, which was customary.

The barber’s eyes opened wide in a parody of joyous surprise. “Hot goddamn!” he said. “Now I can buy me a few hundred acres of good land and a thousand head of prime, fat beef, an’ maybe even a runnin’ horse, an’ make yet more money!”

I took the nickel back from the counter and put it in my pocket. “Hey, Mr. …” he began angrily.

“Another word and I’ll step on your goddamn face real hard, you pile of shit,” I said. The barber snorted and glared but didn’t say anything.

I stood there a moment, trying to convince myself that doing what I had in mind made no sense at all. I couldn’t do it. There was a shelf behind the barber chair that held maybe ten or so bottles of various stuff—cologne and such. I drew and blew the living piss out of six of them. The barber had hit the floor and was curled into a ball like a dung beetle. I stood there while I reloaded and then went on my way.

There was a burned-out building next to the barber shop and the next business was a saloon with a broad, poorly lettered sign over its batwings that said BAR—DRINK.  Just outside was where the bar-rag latched on to me.

“Ahh, my good friend,” he slurred as he stepped in front of me from where he’d been standing just outside the saloon. The man was a textbook illustration of what constant drunkenness, dissolution, malnutrition, and general booze-generated stupidity could do to a fellow. The poor sonofabitch wasn’t worth the bullet it’d take to put him out of his misery.

“You looking for a drink?” I asked.

“I don’t generally imbibe spirits, but I see that you’re new in Gila Bend, and I’ll be pleased to join you—on you, of course.”

I was more than a tad astonished at how well this rummy spoke. I pushed through the batwings and held one side open for the man. As he passed me, I got a closer look at him. His hair was gray—he wore no hat—and it seemed to have fallen out in lumps, leaving deathly pallid patches of scalp behind. It seemed to me that he was too gaunt to live; his wrists were like sticks, and his neck was so thin that his Adam’s apple appeared to be the size of a ripe melon. He wore a work shirt that at one time must have belonged to a shorter man—the cuffs barely passed his elbows. His coveralls—large enough to accommodate three men his size—hung from his shoulders like drapes. His feet were bare and horrible to look upon; the nails of his toes were long and a vomit-yellow hue, and the grime on his ankles and the upper length of his foot would be impossible to remove. It was part of his flesh, part of his being. The stench of his body was bad; I gagged as he walked past me. He smelled dead—long dead.

I picked up two schooners of beer, two shot glasses, and a bottle of Kentucky bourbon and carried all that on a tray to where my new colleague was sitting at a table. “My name’s Pound,” I said. “Yours?”

“I’m called Calvin,” he said, “although various bartenders and others have different names for me—bad names, names that sometimes hurt.”

I couldn’t help asking, “Then why not crawl out of the bottle and do something with yourself?”

Calvin poured a shot with a trembling hand, spilling as much booze on the table as he got into the shot glass. He drained his schooner in one long, gulping, gasping swallow. He followed the beer immediately with the shot. “’Cause I don’t want to,” he said. “Bein’ a bar-rag suits me. It ain’t the noblest of professions, but it works for me.”  He refilled his shot glass with considerable less shaking this time and dumped it down, smacking his lips as if he’d just had a bite of a crisp, tart apple. “I suspect you’re looking for information—or did you set up drinks to ask me the name of my tailor?”

I poured myself a shot. “Tell me about Gila Bend,” I said.

“It got started maybe twenty years ago when a fat vein of silver was struck. The vein didn’t play out, neither. It’s a little harder to get to these days, but she’s still there. ‘Course that strike brought lots of others: miners, gamblers, men running from the law, drifters still wearing Reb uniforms, whores, gunfighters, storekeepers, saloons, an’ so forth, just like any burg built on gold or silver does.”

“Why’d they name it Gila Bend?”

“’Cause there was a gila setting right where a miner hit the strike.”

“Let me ask you this: are we in Texas or Mexico?”

“Calvin laughed. “Texas—not that it matters much. You could throw a stone from here to Mexico.”

“What about the law here?”

Calvin grimaced and spat on the floor. “Shit,” he said, “you might have seen the sheriff’s office. He was the fourth one in less than three years. Got shot off his horse from a hundred or better yards away by a fella with a Sharps. The one before him was a little slower on the draw than a shootist who’d moved in. The one before that…well, I think he got a knife in his heart trying to break up a fracas in a saloon. I disremember what happened to the one farthest back, but you can wager he didn’t die from falling out of bed and cracking his head.”

I handed Calvin a pair of ten-cent pieces and had him fetch a couple more beers for us. When I sat down at the table again, Calvin said, “There’s a fellow by the name of Billy Powers. Billy runs Gila Bend.”

“How so?”

“It just happened, I guess. There’s paper out on him and most of his men. They rode in and decided to stay. None of them have much use for Mexico or Mexicans, so they didn’t care to cross over. There’s a bunch of Mexicans in Gila Bend, but they walk real quiet around Billy Powers.”

“What’s the paper on Powers for?” I asked.

“Murder and rape, robbery, the usual stuff. He’s a hired-gun type. He’d shoot his grandmother if the money was adequate.”

“Sounds like a swell guy.”

Calvin laughed, but it was a bad laugh, one with no mirth behind it.

“There’s paper out on maybe half the men in town, Pound. And the other half just haven’t killed or robbed enough to rate posters.”

“How’d this Powers come to take over the town?”

“Well,” Calvin said, “four—maybe five—years ago, Billy beat the piss out of a man who was feared by everyone in Gila Bend. This was a fistfight in a saloon, and it didn’t take but a minute or so.”

I nodded.

“The very next day, Billy was in a saloon where he fancied a whore. He wrestled her clothes off—everything she was wearing—in front of a packed saloon, mind you. Then he slapped her on the ass and carried her upstairs. In a minute she was screaming in pain. Somebody ran for the sheriff, and one of his men warned Billy. They met on the street in front of the saloon. Billy put three slugs in the sheriff’s chest before the lawman’s pistol ever cleared leather.”

I rolled a smoke and pushed my sack of tobacco and my papers across the table to Calvin. He rolled a cigarette that looked every bit as good as one of those fancy-ass store-boughts. He looked longingly at the sheath of papers and the sack of tobacco in front of him as I struck a lucifer and lit both our smokes.

“Keep ’em,” I said. “I got plenty more.”

His full smile showed how very few teeth he had, and the ones left were more brown than yellow, slanted like very old headstones in an ancient cemetery. His gums were a godawful greenish-pink that made my gorge rise hot and stinging in the back of my throat. I had to look away.

I took a long suck of beer. “Why doesn’t the law come in and tear this whole goddamned place down?” I asked.

“’Cause it ain’t worth the time nor the soldiers who’d be killed—and there’d be a whole lot of them.”

I needed to think for a time, and then I said, “You’re either diddling me or running some sort of a scam. I don’t like either choice.”

“I don’t know what you’re…”

“Talking about,” I finished Calvin’s sentence. “It’s this: your language. Your use of words swings from that of a drunken cowhand to that of a college professor and back, often in the same sentence. What’s going on here?”

Calvin poured us each another shot of whiskey. “I was once an instructor in a school in Massachusetts,” he said. “It was a good job, but I drank my way out of it. Then I came West and taught at a school in a town called Hempton’s Stop, and boozed my way out of that one, too. Somehow I ended up here after a couple of years.” He looked at me quizzically. “What was it that indicated to you that I—”

Read more of this post

New Authors of 2011!

Can you believe it’s almost 2012?! Before you toss that 2011 calendar take a look back at Dorchester’s debut authors of 2011. Check out these great newcomers to the Dorchester family!

S. Craig Zahler had an amazing year in 2011, and we’re looking forward to more from him in 2012! Between his successful screenwriting career and Western debut of A Congregation of Jackals, Zahler is creating much buzz, including becoming a 2011 Spur Best Western Award finalist! Here’s what people are saying about A Congregation of Jackals:

“A noir western of uncommon power…what happens…is more horrific than anything we might have imagined…All of (the) characters…confound us with their complexity.” —Booklist

“Genre fare will always be a premium in Hollywood, but original, literate voices that embrace dark material are anything but common. Enter Craig Zahler…”  —Variety

Laura Navarre is another Dorchester newbie this year! Like others new to the Dorchester family, Navarre has an interesting background. She holds degrees in National Security and International Relations! You definitely see the effects of Navarre’s background in her novel, as mysteries lurk around every corner in the dark, romantic plot; there are tastes of espionage sprinkled throughout. Her second novel, The Devil’s Temptress, met rave reviews, as many historical romance readers embraced her vividly described Crusades setting, dark and mysterious characters, and steamy relationships! Here’s what fans are saying about The Devil’s Temptress:

The Devil’s Temptress is a well-written novel that explores the lasting effect of the Crusades on the soldiers that served the King during that time. The dark, sexy romance is both satisfying and enjoyable and every chapter is filled with secrets and subterfuge. I will certainly add this author to my auto-buy list.” —Night Owl Reviews

A fresh face in the thriller genre is Chuck Hustmyre. What’s a Harley Davidson-riding, retired ATF special agent to do in the off season? Write a fast-paced crime thriller, of  course! If you like cop drama, then you’ll love Hustmyre’s books! His back-to-back 2011 releases are both set in The Big Easy and tell the tale of detectives caught on the wrong side of the law. Pick up Hustmyre’s House of the Rising Sun and A Killer Like Me today!

“Hustmyre is as gritty and in-your-face as can be, making readers feel like they’re poring over a real-life crime scene.” —The Best Reviews

A Killer Like Me is a thriller from page one, to the very end. Hustmyre keeps you gripping the edge of your seat, just hoping that Murphy tracks down this crazy [#] killer and doesn’t [let] himself go down the path of destruction…” —The Kari AnnAlysis

All the best in 2012!

ReCOVERy Room: THE GOLDEN CAT by Max Brand

Click for original cover copy.

The shoot-’em-up, action-packed, gunslinger Westerns full of danger and intrigue, unforgettable heroes and villains, and a true taste of the Old West are what have made Max Brand a household name synonymous with the American frontier. Brand was a master storyteller and entertainer. Who better, then, to get you through another Monday? Dive into today’s ReCOVERy Room featuring The Golden Cat by Max Brand. Just print the PDF below, pull out the old thesaurus, and see what twists and turns you and your friends can bring to an old classic.

For a fun twist, I recommend picking a theme from which to base your word choices on—something completely unrelated to Westerns, like the circus or pro sports. Trust me, the zanier you get, the funnier it will be!

Cheers,
Allison Carroll
Dorchester Publishing 

* * *

The Golden Cat ReCOVERy Room PDF

A Cowbot for Christmas, a Short Story

While promoting Bobbi Smith’s latest holiday romance, A Cowboy for Christmas, I accidentally typed ‘cowbot’ instead of ‘cowboy’ in an e-mail. After cackling over this typo for a few seconds, I got to wondering about cowbots. Would they be cowboy robots? Would their metal rust on long cattle drives? Would they have muscular chest plates? Hey, the Tin Man was hot, or he would be if you left him out in the sun too long. Cowbots could be hunks of the future, I thought. So for your benefit (and mine), I’ve written a short story about one! Read on for my imagining of a cowbot and his lady love.

“A Cowbot for Christmas,” a short story inspired by Bobbi Smith’s A Cowboy for Christmas

Sagebrush, Texas, 2625

It was the final night of the 35th Annual Holiday Cowbot Rodeo, and Penny was wearing her best dress. She anxiously made her way to her seat in the exclusive, women-only Rose Section of the arena. The biggest rodeo in the circuit, the events spanned over three nights, and tonight’s event was the biggest of all: the Bot Bull Riding competition.

Penny still wasn’t used to the spectacle of man’s perfectly engineered Cowbots faced against God’s creatures. Although rare, every once in a while there was a rogue bull who would manage to throw a bot. Those were the moments she craved, because in that defeat, the Cowbots almost seemed human. Almost.

For as long as she could remember, this had been the biggest televised event in Texas. The Texans were proud of their Cowbots; they represented modernity while also preserving traditions. When artificial intelligence was outsourced by China in 2500, bots began slowly infiltrating the industries that needed them most, including, not surprisingly, the entertainment industry. Cowboys became fewer and fewer as rodeo deaths became more common, so eventually Cowbots replaced them, both on the rodeo circuit and ranches.

Every woman Penny knew would be at the rodeo dressed to the nines. It wasn’t their fault that the Cowbots were so perfect. Synthetic skin as flawless as a newly-made speedster, perfectly cut muscles, piercing eyes of any imaginable color, and of course, perfection in any pursuit they applied themselves to. Anatomically, they were really no different from your above-average man, except for that occasional moment when the sun would hit their skin and glint brightly like light on steel.

A respectable woman would never think of being seen with one; it was common knowledge that bots—especially Cowbots—had a certain reputation. It was still against state and federal laws to marry one, but that didn’t stop some women from socializing with them. Most of her friends were here to drool. She was here for him.

Penny knew a fair amount of the women seated near her from her work on the local charity board. Their incessant chattering was luckily drowned by the crowd’s cheers as the Cowbots entered the stadium. “Ooooh, do you see that one? Look at that…” “He can’t be a bot. He looks so human!” “I wish Michael had that one’s build. I would never deny him anything if he looked like that!”

And on and on it went while the Cowbots scheduled to compete were introduced, to the delight of the crowd. Her friend Megan leaned in and whispered, “Penny, isn’t that your bot?”

Her eyes scanned the arena searching bot after bot in the lineup, and then…yes, there he was! That same cool demeanor. That unbearably handsome face. The deep, almond shaped, violet eyes. And as she drank him in, she perceived that same sense of humanness. Dan Roland. He’d been competing for years and was practically a celebrity in the circuit. But strangely, he didn’t partake in most of the perks that the other celeb Cowbots enjoyed. Penny had never seen him tied to any scandals in the mags, she’d heard rumors that he had donated his share of the prize money to an anonymous orphanage, and he had notoriously opted out of the rose ceremony both times he had won in the past. She’d first seen him compete when she was ten, and even then, she remembered thinking that he was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. She had never obsessed over the Cowbots like the other girls did, but she knew he was different, and she couldn’t help but wonder about him.

“That’s your bot, right Penny? You’ve been talking about him since last year’s rodeo. Are you going to give him your rose?”

“Oh shush, Megan. First of all, he’s not my bot. You know as well as I do what people would say if I was with a bot. And second of all, I haven’t talked about him that much….have I?”

Megan shot her a glance that said you know as well as I do how much you’ve talked about him.

“Well fine,” Penny said, “Maybe I will give him my rose. But first he has to win…and then he has to actually accept a rose for once.”

The odds didn’t seem in her favor, but Megan beamed at her and went on with her chattering. The Cowbots left the stadium as the opening introductions concluded. One by one, they took their chances against the bulls. The rules were much like they were back in the olden days: a Cowbot had to stay on his bull for eight seconds. All contestants were judged by a panel, and the highest score won.

At least twenty thousand audience members were in the stadium this year. Penny sighed. With crowds this large, there was no way he would notice her, even if he wanted to…

She watched as the first Cowbots competed. They were all so infallible; it didn’t seem like they could fail. After the first hour Penny was beginning to feel her legs numb beneath her. A few of her friends had left their seats to grab snacks, and as she stood up to join them, she heard the announcer say “And now we have Dan Roland, bravely returning after last year’s defeat. Dan was created in the Northern Texas Bot Branch in 2600, rare model 11.411….”

Penny sat herself down, her eyes locked on Dan. He was preparing to mount his bull. It was the biggest bull she’d ever seen, and the angriest, too. Dan seemed calm, though. He seemed ready. Oh, how she hoped he would win. He was up on his bull, and before they pulled the gates back, his eyes shot up and met hers for a split second. She couldn’t look away. She was wholly consumed by the distant violet of his eyes, and a memory of their last glance washed over her.

It was during last year’s holiday rodeo, and he had fallen. As he pulled himself up from the floor of the stadium, the first person’s eyes he had met were hers. In that defeat she saw humanity reflected back at her, and an indescribable beauty. Maybe it was coincidence that their eyes linked, maybe not, but she knew she had felt something, knew that he had felt something—something that no bot should feel.

The gate crashed open and she was brought back to the present. The beast launched out of the holding cell, bucking and tossing for the life of him. Dan, using his strength and skill to stay astride the wild bull, barely seemed phased, the look of complete confidence never leaving his face. Penny’s fists were clenching the material of her dress. She thought her heart would never stop beating so madly in her chest.

And then the buzzer rang. After his eight seconds were up, Dan stayed on the bull for two seconds more, and achieved the most graceful dismount she had ever seen. The crowd gasped then erupted in cheers. From the middle of the stadium, Dan turned and looked straight at her, through to the soul of her, communicating something she could not understand, and smiled slightly in promise.

The remaining Cowbots took their turns, but no score came close to Dan’s and he was the clear winner an hour later. As the traditional award ceremony began, Penny nervously fidgeted with the rose in her hand. Every year, the eligible ladies fortunate enough to watch from the Rose Section would throw their roses into the arena as the winning Cowbot was presented with his trophy. The Rose Section seats were not easy to come by—hundreds of seats were set aside in the front rows for the young ladies attending the rodeo. A charity raffle was held every year, and as this was Penny’s first year on the charity’s board, she was guaranteed a seat. If the winning Cowbot so chose, he could claim one rose, and one lady, to join him in his victory lap. This was the only time public interaction between a Cowbot and a lady was appropriate, and every girl dreamed of being chosen, just once, by a creature of such perfection.

She examined the rose she had created with him in mind. A dense iron stem grew into delicate copper petals infused with subtle tones of violet. She promised herself that if her rose was left on the dusty stadium floor with the rest, she would forget this ridiculous notion that a Cowbot could actually notice her. That she could actually be with one. That love between a human and a bot could ever even exist.

As Dan rode into the arena after accepting his trophy the roses began soaring through the air. Penny let out a deep sigh and sent her rose to meet the rest in their hopeful flights.

Dan rode his horse to the area of the arena now littered with roses, and Penny realized he was actually going to choose a rose this year. She really did wonder if her madly beating heart could cause her harm. He had never accepted a rose before…was this really happening? She watched as he passed by the beautiful gold roses, the shining silver petals, and then he was directly in front of her tarnished, beautiful dusty violet rose. He dismounted, knelt down, and gently plucked it from the ground. Time stopped. He looked slowly up at her and held the rose up for all the world to see. There he was with his beautiful, charming smile, arm outstretched, waiting for her to take it. She couldn’t believe it. She stopped breathing. She was only brought back to the present by Megan’s insistent prodding.

She slowly rose from her seat, her friend’s eyes, and everyone else’s, following her every move. She was remotely aware of her face plastered on all the jumbo trons around the stadium. She slowly walked down the steps until she came to the edge of the arena. An attendant opened the gate for her, and she was suddenly face to face with the Cowbot that had consumed her dreams.

She looked up into his eyes, a smile in her own, and accepted the hand he offered her.

“Howdy, miss,” he said softly, “I’m Dan Roland, and I believe I’ve been meaning to introduce myself to you for some time now.”

-The End-

I hope you enjoyed this cowbot short! For more on A Cowboy for Christmas, enjoy our exclusive ReCOVERy Room and a country song inspired by A Cowboy for Christmas!

A Cowboy for Christmas Country Song

Bobbi Smith has been writing romance novels since 1982. In that time, she’s written over forty books that have captured the hearts of romance readers everywhere. She’s a big deal. Such a big deal, in fact, that she’s even inspired a country song!

Award-winning country singer Royal Wade Kimes wrote this song for Bobbi Smith’s A Cowboy for Christmas, titled ‘Penny, I love you.’ So go on; tap your toes, hum the tune, and maybe even get a little crazy with a two-step. If you can’t feel the music, you ain’t country!

If you like the sound of the song and the look of the book, A Cowboy for Christmas is 50% off in paperback through the end of the year.

Happy Holidays!

Western Wednesdays—THE WAY OF THE WEST + Giveaway

Tomorrow marks the winter solstice, at least for those of us residing in the northern hemisphere. Hope everyone in the southern hemisphere is enjoying their sunny December solstice. In honor of the shortest day of the year, I’m previewing a novella by Elmer Kelton, part of the new anthology collection The Way of the West, that also includes shorts from Max Brand and Cotton Smith.

In Elmer Kelton’s Long Ride, Hard Ride, a retreating Confederate troop has seized a Union cache of munitions—only to find themselves surrounded by Apaches. But these soldiers are the unlikeliest of heroes, as you’re about to find out.

A broiling feud between two ranchers over water rights turns to blood in Cotton Smith’s Morning War. And The Desert Pilot by Max Brand is a thrilling tale of a quiet man who has to learn to stick up for himself in a lawless town.

The Way of the West contains three prime examples of Western adventure by the best writers of yesterday and today. Check out the preview below and be sure to leave a comment in the thread—you could win a copy of the paperback! Let us know what some of your favorite anthologies are. Have you discovered a new writer that was paired with one of your favorites?

Happy Reading,
Allison Carroll
Dorchester Publishing

I
“The Wagons of Munitions”

There could be no doubt about the sudden volley of gunfire that echoed from the ragged mountain pass to the south. For more than an hour the sixteen soldiers in gray had watched the mirror flashes on the high points. They had seen the  blue-clad Yankee cavalry patrol trot into the defile.

The rattle of gunfire tapered off. For a terrible ten minutes there was silence, a quiet as awesome as had been the screaming sound of death at Valverde on the Río Grande, or Apache Cañon in the Glorietas.

Lt. Miles Overstreet, Confederate States of America, unfolded his spyglass with trembling hands and trained it on the pass. He stood tall, a lean, angular man in dusty gray, with futility weighing heavy on his shoulders. His hand-sewn uniform was frayed and stained from a thousand miles and more of riding and fighting and sleeping on the ground. A thousand miles since San Antonio. A thousand miles of sweat and thirst and blood.

The Indians came then,  fifty-odd of them, riding northward in single file. The clatter of their ponies’ bare hoofs on the rocks came clear as a bell on the sharp morning air. Exultant yelps ripped from red throats like the cries of demons in a child’s nightmare. Behind them the red men led a dozen riderless  horses, not wild mustang Indian ponies, but  well- bred mounts of the U.S. cavalry.

Overstreet’s leathery skin stretched even tighter over his jutting cheekbones. Despite the  knife-sharp chill left from the night air, a trickle of sweat worked its way down through the streaked dust and the rough stubble of whiskers. He lowered the glass and looked at the remnant of his command. Fifteen men, flat on their bellies in skirmish line.

“Load up,” he said. “We’re next.”

For this was New Mexico Territory in April of 1862, torn by civil war, with white man against white man, and red men against them all. Less than a year ago, fiery Col. John R. Baylor had led his 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles up from captured Fort Bliss to take New Mexico for the newly formed Confederacy. Then had come Gen. Henry Hopkins Sibley and his huge brigade. These men were ill- clothed,  ill- fed, poorly armed, but through eight months of struggle and privation they had ridden to one victory after  another—Fort Fillmore, San Augustine Springs, Valverde, Albuquerque. At last, they had raised the Confederate flag over Santa Fé itself and envisioned a daring sweep across to California, to the gold fields, to the open sea.

Then came disaster in one flaming day at Glorieta Pass. Grim men in tattered gray turned their faces southward toward Texas, the sweet taste of victory now bitter ashes in their mouths. Men like Miles Overstreet, who had known the dream and now stood awaiting the futile end of it, had been wasted under a savage onslaught that no one had even considered.

He listened to the click of captured Yankee single-shot carbines as his men prepared for a battle that could end but one way. He saw one soldier flattened out in fear, without a weapon.

“Vasquez,” Overstreet called to a  dark-skinned trooper from the brushy cow country below San Antonio, “give Hatchet back his gun. His little mutiny is over.”

His men! The thought brought an ironic twist to his cracked lips. The sorriest soldiers in Sibley’s Brigade, and Major Scanling had saddled him with them. A thousand times he had cursed the day he stole a victory right under the pointed nose of the  glory-hunting major. Scanling’s lips had smiled as he read the communication. But his eyes never masked the anger that simmered in him. Scanling transferred Overstreet then. Gave him these men, prisoners all, to relieve their guards for action.

“We need a good officer like you to handle them,” he had said, his yellow eyes gleaming. “Take them. Delay the federals long enough for the main body of troops to get away. Hold every pass as long as you can, then drop back and hold another. We’re buying time with you . . . with you and these miserable scum who call themselves soldiers. Go on, Overstreet. Go on and be a hero.”

He had hated the major then, and his hatred swelled a little more every time he’d been forced to use his own gun to keep half the men from running away. Now, this looked like the end of it.

Beside Overstreet, young Sammy McGuffin  rose on his knees and lowered his head in prayer.

“Better flatten out there and spend your time getting ready for those Indians, son,” the lieutenant said curtly.

The boy looked up in surprise. “You don’t believe in prayer, sir?”

“I believe in a man taking care of himself.”

The Indians stopped three hundred yards short of the Confederates’ position. They shouted defiance and waved muskets and Yankee guns and showed the fresh scalps that dangled beneath the firearms. Then they wheeled their ponies and galloped away into the morning sun, shouting their victory to the mountains.

Overstreet stood watching  open-mouthed, hardly believing, hardly daring to believe.

Sammy McGuffin’s  high-pitched voice spoke out, almost breaking. “They’re leaving. They’re letting us live. But why?”

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Pardon the Interruption—Christmas movie montage!

Ah, the classic films of Christmases past! Whatever you may celebrate this winter season, the joys of family, friends, and all those films on repeat remain universal. From all of us here at Dorchester, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season! :)

Signing off—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern

ReCOVERy Room: A COWBOY FOR CHRISTMAS

Click to see the original cover copy.

It’s the last Monday before Christmas. Are your synapses slowing down and your feet swelling up from all that holiday shopping? If so, roll like Santa and plop yourself into a big, comfy chair while indulging in this week’s ReCOVERy Room. I guarantee it will be more satisfying than a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies! Better yet, print it out and fill-in-the-blanks with the whole family to alleviate any lingering holiday tension. You can thank me later.

Holiday bonus: post your favorite part of your A Cowboy for Christmas ReCOVERy Room in the comment thread and be entered to win $30 worth of romance novels! (ex. “It’s not just the weather leaving JUANITA feeling a bit RAUNCHY upon her return to HOGWARTS”)

Happy Holidays!

A Cowboy for Christmas ReCOVERy Room PDF

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