Western Wednesdays—THE SOLDIER’S WAY

The Soldier’s Way

by Dane Coolidge

CHAPTER ONE

The tidings of war were in the air when into the plaza at Del Norte, where adventurers from all over the world had gathered, there drifted yet another derelict. He was young and straight and dressed in decent black, but the wild look was there in his eyes. Many glanced at him curiously as he sat by the old cannon, his emotional face drawn with pain, his tapering hands clutched before him, and one man turned and looked again at his hands. It was Sergeant Bogan, recruiting agent for Montaño and his Army of Liberation, but he passed on and bided his time. The hands were soft and slender, yet full of supple strength, the signs of a high-grade mechanic, but the man himself was too fine. There were other derelicts, already starved and broken, who would enlist for the price of a meal—the white-handed stranger could wait.

The sun had sunk low behind the Mexican Sierras, where the Army of Liberation lay hidden, when Bruce Whittle roused up from his thoughts. The light of his world had been put out suddenly and night was closing in upon him; there was a great pain in his breast and the memory of a kiss that was driving him to black despair. He rose up suddenly and that evening in Fronteras, across the river in Mexico, Beanie Bogan saw him playing the games and marked him for his own. The games were crooked, and, when a man lost, he was generally ready to enlist. Bogan drew in closer, glancing out from beneath bushy eyebrows like a watchful, rat-catching terrier, and at last the final card was turned. Whittle rose up slowly, his eyes on the cheating dealer, a fighting snarl on his lips, and then he clutched at the stakes.

“You can’t rob me!” he cried.

As the dealer reached for his pistol, Whittle slapped him across the face. There was a loud report, a crashing of tables, and a rush of feet for the entrance, and then, as the house was plunged into darkness, strong arms seized Whittle from behind and dragged him out a side door.

“Nix! Nix on that stuff!” panted a hoarse voice in his ear. “The rurales will get you, sure. Stand up…you ain’t hurt…and now beat it for the river or you’ll rot in a Mexican jail.”

Whittle’s knees were trembling, his strength had fled, but at the word jail he shook himself free.

“No, no!” he gasped. “I’d die! I couldn’t stand it!” And led by the resolute Bogan, he ran until they crossed to Del Norte.

“Now,” said Bogan as he led him to a card room and poured out a glass of liquor, “drink that, and tell me what’s the idee.”

“I don’t drink,” answered Whittle, and, sinking down in a chair, he buried his face in his hands. Death had been so near, and yet it had passed, and now he was weak and faint.

“Oh, I see,” observed Bogan, and pulled down his lip.

“You see what?” demanded Whittle.

Bogan evaded the question by raising his glass in the air. “Here’s to ’em,” he said enigmatically.

“To whom?”

“To the women, God bless them. If it wasn’t for them, I’d lose many a likely recruit.”

A flush of anger came over Whittle’s pale face and mounted to the roots of his hair. “You take too much for granted,” he answered shortly, but Bogan shook his head.

“Nope,” he said, “when it isn’t booze, it’s always a woman that drives a man to…that.” He jerked his head in the direction of Fronteras, and Whittle reached for his glass.

“You are mistaken,” he said, and drank down the whiskey. “Now who are you and what do you want?”

“That’s the stuff!” Bogan applauded. “Put it down and have another, and I’ll let you in on something good. You’re a mechanic, ain’t you? I knew it by the look of you…and perhaps you’re a pretty good shot? Well, how would you like now to join Montaño’s army and come out and help fix our guns?”

“What? Enlist as a soldier? In the Mexican army?”

“Ah, nah, nah!” burst out Bogan impatiently. “You don’t get the idee at all. I’m Montaño’s agent and I’m raking the town for recruits for the Foreign Legion. He’s got lots of Mexes but it’s Americans he’s after, and he pays ’em two hundred a month. Two hundred dollars gold, and everything found, and a cracking good horse to ride, and, when we take Fronteras, as we will in jig time, you’ll come in for your share of the loot. And when the war is over, if you stand by the chief, you get a nice little Mexican girl and a grant of good land to boot. Nah, listen, now. Didn’t I follow you over to that gambling house and keep you from getting killed? Well, then, where’s your gratitude?”

He sat back and thrust out his jaw belligerently, but Whittle did not reply. He was living in a daze in which some things were clear and others far away and confused, but he felt no obligation of gratitude. Left alone, his troubles would have been over. Not only that but she would be free, with only his memory to haunt her. But now—he regarded his rescuer malevolently.

“Why should I thank you for that,” he asked, “when I did it on purpose to get killed?” Read more of this post

Congrats to L. J. McDonald—Library Journal names THE BATTLE SYLPH a Top Romance of 2010!

“Deftly written, intensely seductive, and emotionally compelling, this riveting story introduces readers to characters they want to know better and a mesmerizing, magical world that they won’t want to leave. Fortunately for fantasy fans, McDonald’s first novel is the beginning of a series and a stunning, incredibly creative debut.”    —Library Journal, (starred review)

Enter the World of the Sylphs

A special message from L. J.

For years without count, the kingdom of Eferem has made sylphs into slaves, all bound into silent obedience.  From another dimension, they are brought into this world through a magical gate and tied to human masters they must obey. The sylphs’ masters use their own life force to both feed the creatures and keep them in a world they would otherwise be banished from.  Empathic, the sylphs can feel the emotions of everyone around them while their masters also gain that ability but only towards their sylphs.  Even with this unique connection, sylphs are seen as no more than clever animals, happy and eager to obey.

The sylphs are also beings of immense power that Eferem feels must be kept under control.  They are spirit creatures formed from pure energy, empaths who are able to change their shape and who use their energy in different ways, depending upon their type.  Five of the breeds are female and easy to control.  Earth, air, water, fire, and healing sylphs are peaceful, docile beings, able to control their respective element or to heal, who grow in power as they grow in age and are passed down through generations of families to keep them tied firmly to the world

There is a sixth type of sylph though, one very different from their gentle sisters.  These are the battle sylphs, the lethally aggressive males of their species, all capable of immense levels of destruction and death.  A single battle sylph could destroy an army or devastate a city, and where the elemental sylphs are content with their role of slave, the battlers chafe at it, looking constantly for a way to escape but bound to obey as surely as their sisters.

Where earth, air, water, fire, and healing sylphs are lured through the gate by gifts, art, music, or other quiet things, the battle sylphs are tempted by murder.  To draw them through, they are presented with the offering of a virgin girl who is sacrificed at the instant of the battler’s arrival in order to bind them to her killer.  Her blood ties them together, leaving the battle sylph master the only one who can control the monster.

Unlike the other sylphs, this control is absolutely necessary and the battlers are bound to only the strongest and hardest of men, for they’re always looking for a chance to break that control. They broadcast their hatred in an aura around them that is unrelenting.  Only the strongest of men would be able to stand up to it, for to be near a battle sylph is to feel their loathing and need to kill, to know that they would slaughter even their own masters if given the slightest chance.  They are evil, people whisper, for a battle sylph left uncontained will do nothing except destroy and a battle sylph has the power to destroy anything.  They’re nothing more than killing machines, waiting only for the rare moments when their masters set them loose to murder. But they are also necessary.  A kingdom without battlers would soon fall to those in possession of them, and an unexpected peace has risen from the existence of these beings who only want to kill.

But humans don’t know as much as they think they do about battle sylphs.

Battlers are indeed capable of a tremendous amount of destruction, though few men have ever thought to wonder just what it is about the world battlers came from that makes such destructive power necessary.  Hatched into hives that could have from hundreds to many thousands of sylphs, their purpose is two-fold.  To protect the hive with a protective instinct that is so strong they hate any male not of their own hive line and war against them constantly, and to love the queen of the hive.  Strong as their fighting instincts are, their need to be the lover of the queen is even stronger.  There lies the greatest tragedy of the battle sylph, for no matter whether the hive has a hundred battlers or a thousand, it only has one queen and most of the battlers that protect her will never get the chance to touch her.

The battle sylphs don’t come through the gate because they see a girl about to be killed or a man waiting to take control of them.  They come through because they see a woman they could love as dearly as they would a queen.  A woman they wouldn’t have to compete against a thousand other battlers to get to or ever fear would cast them away for the next conquest.  A queen they could give themselves to without reservation, for it’s more than just the giving of a master and a name to a sylph that binds them to obey.  That instinct is as inherent in the battler as it is in all sylphs.  They are born to do whatever their queen asks without hesitation, and the bindings that men put on them are merely a mockery of that.  It is a perversion of what they are and everything they’d hoped to gain.

The battle sylphs bound in Eferem radiate their hatred of that truth and use it to hide the pain of their loss.  Their hive, their queen, the woman they left it all for…all stolen from them, and if they didn’t hide their agony with their hate, their masters would know and that would be even more unbearable.

The greatest wish of a battler is to belong to a woman who would recognize her power over him and not hurt him with it.  Born a shape-shifter who won’t die of old age, instead just growing bigger and more powerful, he doesn’t care what she looks like.  He doesn’t care how old she is or how lovely or how flawed.  His empathy lets him look straight into her soul and once a battle sylph gives his love and his obedience, it is for forever.  All she has to do is love him back and he would destroy the world if that was what it took to keep her safe.

In Eferem, no one understands this, for even if a battle sylph was allowed to speak to his master, what master could be trusted to understand?  They’re just clever animals, hating everyone and everything equally and trying to break free.  Everyone knows that, for that’s the way it’s always been, and no battle sylph has ever managed to escape.

Until now.

~L. J. McDonald

Western Wednesdays—THE BODACIOUS KID

Every week on Western Wednesday, the Dorchester Blog will feature excerpts from some of the most exciting authors writing in the Western genre today. Westerns are a unique breed of story that capture the beauty and the grit of life forged on a frontier that no longer exists save for novels such as these. To quote a favorite poet of mine, Miss Rachel Hergett: I will never outgrow my attraction to old men. They lived what I missed.

And so it is that in the inaugural post we bring you the prologue of Stan Lynde’s THE BODACIOUS KID. Creator of the syndicated Rick O’Shay comic strip, Stan has a way of bringing the Old West to life in his colorful and quirky characters. He grew up on the grassplains of Montana and is a cowboy in his own right. Of course, being a Montanan myself, I suppose I’m a bit partial.

Happy Reading,

Allison Carroll,

Editorial and Web Coordinator

The Bodacious Kid by Stan Lynde

Prologue

When I rode out of Dry Creek, Montana Territory, that August forenoon in ’82, all in the world I wanted was to hire on with some cow outfit as a rider of their tough string. I was headed for the county seat of Shenanigan, where the big cowmen do their banking, and the weather that day was hot as the very hinges of Hell.

I had growed up around Dry Creek, and I liked the town. I can’t tell you why I liked it, I suppose it was the people, but anyway I did. Dry Creek took its name from a muddy, sometime stream that flowed west out of the foothills of the Brimstone Mountains and drug itself on past the city limits for a mile or so before it petered out entirely. Leastways that’s what it did most years, but that particular summer the creek had already been dry since the twenty-third of June. Barring a flash flood, it wouldn’t flow again until spring.

There was nary a cloud in all that brassy sky, and the sun burned hot upon my back and shoulders as I drew rein atop a sandrock ridge. The big gelding I rode was neither sweated nor winded, while I was both. Seldom if ever had I forked a saddle horse with a gait as punishing to the rider, but the animal had heart, and during our brief acquaintance I had found him to be steady, willing, and double-tough.

I had taken to the ridge in the hope of catching a cooling breeze, but found no movement to the air at all, cooling or otherwise. Down below, a whirlwind scampered out across the valley floor, growing bigger as it spun. In the distance a band of antelope shimmered white, black, and orange in the heat waves, and high overhead a red-tailed hawk drifted upward like burnt paper from a stovepipe. I envied him; I druther have been drifting on air myself than setting astride of the rough-gaited roan.

A half-hearted, random scatter of scrub cedar trees dug their claws into the sandy soil along the ridge, and even though the shade was scant I figured it was better than no shade at all. I stepped down off the roan, took my canteen and the cold hotcakes I’d brought from breakfast, and made for the nearest cedar. After I kicked some loose rock in under the tree to spook out any rattlers that might be dozing there, I hunkered down cross-legged in the dirt.

It didn’t take long for me to wolf down the cakes. I was still enough of a kid in those days to be hungry most of the time; I doubt a man could have filled me up with a scoop shovel. The hawk was still gliding upward, and I took to watching him again. Somehow, seeing him brought to mind the many times I had set on a ridge and watched a circling hawk with my Pa, and I felt my throat grow tight as the gut- lonesome sadness fell upon me again.

I had stood there at the Dry Creek cemetery with my hat in my hands and grief in my heart while the preacher droned on about Pa and what a fine feller he had been.

A hot, gusty wind rattled sand and grit against Pa’s coffin, and I tried to imagine him laying inside with his hands folded across his chest, or up yonder in Heaven a-playing harp, but I could not. The only way I could picture him was the way I’d seen him most, a-horseback, and setting his old Texas saddle—the same rig that was now cinched upon the withers of the roan.

Soon as I could manage it I pulled my mind away from the hurt of remembrance and got to my feet. I dusted offthe seat of my breeches and wiped my eyes on my shirtsleeve. Then I set foot in the stirrup, sunk spur, and took the roan again. Had I knowed at the time where else that road would lead me, I might well have rode the other way.

* * *

The Bodacious Kid by Stan Lynde is available in mass market paperback and e-book.

Dorchester Publishing Names New CEO With an Eye to the Future

NEW YORK, New York (November 16, 2010) – Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc., founded in 1971, and what was until this year the oldest independent mass-market publisher in the U.S., has changed leadership in its mission to revitalize Dorchester and blaze a path as an exciting independent digital and trade publisher of genre fiction.

Taking over the role of Dorchester’s CEO will be Mr. Robert Anthony, current CFO & COO of Backe Digital Brand Marketing, who brings with him more than 25 years of experience in financial and operations management. Prior to his time at Backe Marketing, Anthony was the president of The Blue Sky Financial Group, which provides business consulting services on operational strategies and business development. As a CPA he has worked in public accounting, gaining exposure to a wide variety of business models, and he was the controller for one of the largest investment management organizations in the United States, Federated Investors, where he held an integral role in the planning, restructuring, development and growth of that company.

“My first goal with Dorchester is to reorganize and improve the accounting and internal financial reporting structure. This will include a complete review of the royalty system and other vitally important internal procedures, all of which are intended to focus on shoring up revenue sources and paying off creditors. We will create an atmosphere of transparency and efficiency that was heretofore lacking,” announced Anthony after taking charge on Friday. He is importing new staff to handle the tasks, though Dorchester’s remaining core will go unchanged.

Dorchester is known for having built such stars as Christine Feehan, Katie MacAlister, Connie Mason, Lynsay Sands, and numerous others, and its authors have been bestsellers of The New York Times, USA Today, Barnes & Noble, and many more. Earlier this year, Dorchester changed its focus from mass-market paperbacks to e-books and trade paperbacks. While the trade line was planned for some time, the mid-August shift to e-books was predicated by financial difficulties stemming from the contracting mass-market industry and came with a significant reduction in Dorchester’s staff, which caused some missteps in the implementation of the new company strategy. Mixed messages to media outlets and unpredicted procedural changes also contributed, undermining author confidence and leading to rumors of imminent bankruptcy.

“We are going to reinvigorate this company,” declared Anthony.  “I’ve quickly learned that the employees at Dorchester are a talented and professional group. We’re going to do whatever it takes.”

Some steps have already been taken: After a deal with Offset Paperback Manufacturers, previously unavailable mass-market copies of Dorchester’s author backlist are once again available to some vendors and through the company Web site—www.dorchesterpub.com—and after a short hiatus in new-book production, the company intends to release its Winter e-book list on November 23, 2010, just in time for the holiday season. An arrangement has been reached so that Ingram will be distributing Audio Realms audio versions of popular Dorchester books as well as the trade releases, and the company’s Web site will be revamped and launched right before the end of the year. Writers groups such as SFWA, RWA and MWA are being contacted to help spread news of the changes.

Contrary to mistaken previous reports, Dorchester intends to produce all titles in both e-book and trade paperback form, using both Ingram’s regular trade printing ability or advanced inventory technology as orders dictate. The trade paperbacks will begin appearing in January 2011 and be distributed through Ingram Publishing Services, who will sell Dorchester’s product into standard retail outlets such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, Waldenbooks, BooksAMillion, Powell’s, Wal-Mart, Target and K-Mart, among others. A recent changeover from LibreDigital to Core Source, Ingram’s digital warehousing and e-book sales arm, will also facilitate forward growth and the expedited availability of popular authors’ backlists in e-book form.

Welcome to the Dorchester Community Blog!

Dear Readers,

Welcome to Dorchester Publishing’s Community Blog!

2011 is all about new beginnings here at Dorchester. We’ve instituted our e-book and trade model and launched our new and improved e-commerce Web site that is capable of selling e-books and print. Bestselling authors along with bright new voices are filling the pipeline with the quality genre fiction you’ve come to expect from the Dorchester house. Exciting new titles as well as the latest installments in your favorite series are hitting bookshelves and e-readers everywhere. All in all, the team is poised to make Dorchester’s 40th year one like you’ve never seen before!

In addition to all these firsts, we’re adding one more to our list—the Dorchester Community Blog. This blog will foster an environment for both readers and authors alike to interact, exchange ideas, and discover new and exciting fiction. Aspiring writers will get an inside look at the biz—everything from perfecting your elevator pitch to tips on marketing yourself in the digital age. With updates from all departments, exclusive author interviews, contests and giveaways, sneak peeks at upcoming titles, and some serial fiction, there’s something for everyone!

So go ahead and add the Dorchester Community Blog to your bookmarks (you know you want to!) and join in on the discussion—we welcome all questions/comments/suggestions.

We wish you all a warm and cozy holiday season. If you need a good book to make your holidays that much cozier, you’re definitely in the right place!

Best,

The Team at Dorchester Publishing

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