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

Last Chance for One Day Dollar Deals + Year End Sale!

Don’t miss out on the season’s last set of ONE DAY DOLLAR DEALS. Today only, Dorchester is offering select e-book titles for just one dollar. That’s right—one dollar!     

Today’s One Day Dollar Deals are all about the thrill-ride:

End of the Year Sale: ALL Paperbacks 50% Off!

Today also marks the launch of Dorchester’s end of the year blowout sale. All paperbacks are 50% off! Give your bookshelf a makeover and add some of our beautiful trade paperbacks to the line-up. Whether you’re a fan of romance, horror, Westerns, or thrillers, you’ll find great titles at amazing prices. Hurry, this deal won’t last forever. Shop the Dorchester Publishing Web site today!

 

Thriller Thursdays: AFRICAN ICE

‘Blood diamond’ was a term long before Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2006 political thriller popularized it. Blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds, exist in large quantities in African war zones and are sold to finance guerrilla groups and warlords. This practice has inflicted horrors upon African peoples since the 1990s and continues to be a source of violence today.

Jeff Buick’s African Ice reveals the dangers of conflict diamonds in this fast-paced action adventure that moves through the steaming jungles of the Congo, the dirty streets of Cairo and the well-heeled hallways of De Beers. A beautiful geologist and a Navy SEAL are brought together to find a stash of diamonds buried somewhere in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but instead they’ll discover deception, murder, and injustice every stop along the way.

Enjoy this preview of African Ice, and remember, sometimes diamonds can be deadly.

Thrill on,

Hannah

ONE

Springtime in New York City.

The promise of summer just around the corner. Winter laid to rest for another year. For Samantha Carlson, spring meant New York at its finest. Trees sprouting green, their new leaves softening the harsh lines of the apartment and office buildings that surrounded Central Park. And the early-morning smells. Pretzels, freshly brewed coffee, and dough rising in the bakeries. And with the longer days came mild temperatures. When the mercury rose to a sensible level, Samantha dug her jogging shoes out and brought them back into active duty. Today was day one of the new year.

She entered Central Park from East Sixtieth Street and began to run—slowly at first, her long blond hair swaying in the breeze—then faster as she settled into a rhythm. She had the park mostly to herself, with only a few other intrepid souls braving the early-morning chill. She checked her watch as she ran—six minutes after five. Her breath misted as she exhaled, then disappeared behind her. She kept an even pace for the better part of twenty minutes.

She rounded the pond and cut north until she hit the Transverse. Then east toward the park boundary. She picked up the pace as Fifth Avenue came into view, and then slowed to a marginal jog as she hit the sidewalk. By the time Samantha reached her apartment building on East Sixty-third, she was breathing normally. The doorman eased the door open as she approached. She slid effortlessly through, and made for the elevators.

“Morning, Miss Carlson,” the building employee said as she passed.

She turned, still moving. “Ernie, I keep telling you, it’s Samantha.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He smiled. They had had this same conversation at least two hundred times. There was no way he would ever call her by her first name. They both knew it. She disappeared into the elevator, and he looked back to the empty street.

The elevator slid open on the eighteenth floor, and Sam exited into the deserted hallway. Her apartment was the third on the left. She unlocked the door and let herself in. She added a bit more hot water to her shower than usual, to take off the chill from her jog. Twenty minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom, housecoat on, hair wrapped in a white towel. She stared at the telephone for a moment, then checked her watch.

Six twenty-four, and her voice-mail light was flashing. Someone had called while she was in the shower. Early for a call, she thought. She punched in her code and hit the speakerphone button. A baritone voice enveloped the room.

“This is Patrick Kerrigan calling for Samantha Carlson. Please call me at my office when you get this message. The number is—”

She grabbed a notepad from the end table and jotted down the number. It was local, somewhere in Manhattan. She considered calling it immediately, to see if he was actually up and at work yet, then changed her mind. The coffee was brewed, and Samantha settled into her favorite couch with the daily Times. She skimmed the headlines, then flipped to the business section. The Dow-Jones was up, the Nasdaq was up, but the American dollar was down against the euro. She shrugged, and wondered why she bothered; economics baffled her.

She finished her coffee and stretched. Across the room, a bank of glass overlooked Central Park. She lifted herself off the couch, moved to the windows, slid open the door, and walked out onto the balcony. The view was awesome. She found herself thinking about where she was in her life. For some reason, staring out over the park was a catalyst that triggered memories, and the balcony had become her place for quiet reflection. At thirty-two years old, she held a doctorate in geology—a piece of paper she had used to carve out a remarkable career. Her exploits in some of the most dangerous countries on the planet had earned her the reputation as the female Indiana Jones of the Geological Society. She was no stranger to the ice floes of the Canadian arctic or the steaming rain forests that bordered the Amazon River. Her trips to Africa were too many and too varied to remember. The newspapers and television stations were quick to run a story if it involved Samantha Carlson hunting down a new geological find. She was attractive, athletic, intelligent and accomplished. She was newsworthy.

Her love-hate relationship with the media had started three years ago, when she had discovered a new anticline loaded with oil in northern Texas. The skeptics insisted that the area had been exploited and a large find was impossible. She had responded by throwing the algorithm for her computer program on the table, and letting it go public. The program, she contended, was the crux of her discovery. It allowed the previously unnoticed bulge to be seen through geophysics. She recommended they punch an eight-thousand-foot hole in the ground, and they did.

The anomaly gave way to three million barrels of light Texas crude. Two million dollars to drill the well and almost two hundred million in return. The bonus they had lavished on her had paid for half the penthouse in which she now stood. She winced as she thought about where the other half had come from.

Her parents’ estate. It was almost two years to the day since their plane had crashed into the sea just after liftoff from Casablanca. They had been en route to London, to meet her and spend a week traveling through Europe. The news had devastated her. Her mother and father had been young, in their early fifties, and in excellent health. She had never entertained the thought that they wouldn’t be there, and the void their deaths left was still unfilled. Her mind relived the memorial service, and once the all-too-familiar tape played through, she let it go.

She’d tried to stop the images for the first year, but her subconscious was too strong. The sight of the two coffins, side by side, being lowered into the ground was indelibly etched into her mind. She watched as the two handfuls of dirt left her hand and splayed across the tops of the coffins as they sat beneath ground level. Empty caskets, lined with a few trinkets and pictures of her with her parents, their bodies never found. She closed her eyes and the picture stopped.

Samantha opened her eyes, feeling the wet tears, and blinked away the moisture. The park was blurry for a few moments, then it came back into focus. She turned away and reentered the apartment.

The coffee was still reasonably fresh, and she poured one more cup. She sat on the edge of the couch and looked at the number she had taken from her voice mail. She picked up the phone and dialed.

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Western Wednesdays—SHOWDOWN AT JUNIPER PASS by Kent Conwell

Kent Conwell’s enigmatic hero Jake Slade is a character that has resonated with readers from his first appearance on the page in Chimney of Gold. Slade’s journey has always been one close to the hearts of readers as he’s fought to avenge the family he lost and to keep hold of the family he’s made. Showdown at Juniper Pass brings us the next chapter in the Jake Slade saga. Dealing with loss once again, Slade struggles to honor his fallen brother while fighting for his own life and the lives of the innocent in a quiet mountain town faced with its own mortality. This two chapter excerpt sets the stage for an epic battle of wills in Showdown at Juniper Pass.

Happy Reading,
Allison Carroll
Dorchester Publishing

Chapter 1

Slade had no choice. The young half-breed tightened his cinch and swung into the saddle, bound for the Texas Panhandle. The snow had fallen all night, a light breeze pushing it into gentle drifts.

Leaving the thicket of piñon, he paused on the crest of a shale ridge for one final look down into the valley at the lump of snow impaled on the charred limb of a bristlecone pine, the body of his Apache brother, Nana. His vision blurred, and when he refocused his eyes on the pine, the body had vanished. Only a slender black limb stood out against the snow.

* * *

Slade jerked awake and stared into the darkness above. In one corner of his small adobe, embers blinked like wolf eyes in the chiminea.

Despite the chill of the winter night, sweat beaded his forehead. The same dream. Every night since his return from the high lonesome in New Mexico Territory, the same dream, but this night would be the last.

Today he would ride out of Tucson for that valley high in the Sangre de Cristos to bury his brother.

* * *

Two hours later, shortly before the sun rose over the Catalina Mountains to the east, Slade closed the freight office door behind him and filled a tin cup with six-shooter coffee. He plopped down on an empty cartridge case in front of the potbellied stove.

Cupping a steaming mug in his hands on the other side of the stove, Three-Fingers Bent rocked back in the straight back chair and grunted. “Damnation, Jake. I know you left Nana so you could get back to New Gideon to save my hide. I can’t never pay you back for that, so that’s why I don’t mind saying you got rocks for brains heading out in this kind of weather.” He cut his dark eyes to Bill Harnden, Slade’s partner in the stage and freight line. “Tell him what you told me, Bill,” Bent growled.

With a crooked grin, Slade glanced up at his old friend. “Yeah, Bill. Why don’t you tell me?”

Harnden, his bushy brows knit, studied the lean half-breed. “Hell, I understand what you’re doing. I’d do the same thing. But the fact is, we’re smack-dab in the middle of one of the worst winters in years. Second, you left a heap of bad blood behind you up there in them mountains. And third, which oughta be the most important thing to you right now, is the stage line. The new route from Fort Atkins onto El Pasois running smooth, but there’s only been half a dozen trips. Who’s going to handle it if something goes wrong?”

“Besides,” Bent put in, “them Utes is thicker’n seven cowboys on a cot up there. They’ll have your scalp before you get within ten miles of that valley.”

The wiry cowpoke ran his fingers through his close-cropped hair and, with the unperturbed aplomb of the Apache, studied his two friends with cool gray eyes. He knew they had his best interests in mind, but he also realized he could never explain to them the intensity of family loyalty within the Apache psyche. A knowing smile ticked up the sides of his lips. “I can’t argue with what you say. I know the weather’s bad, and I know there’s them up yonder who would sell their own mother for my hide. But that’s my brother up there.” He glanced at Bent. “I left him because I had no choice.”

He paused, sipped his coffee, and reached for the bag of Bull Durham. While he rolled a cigarette, he continued. “Now I got a choice. I go now because I got me a sentir perdido.” When Bent arched an eyebrow, Slade explained. “That’s Apache for a feeling of being lost. What you and me call a bad feeling. Not about me, but that Nana won’t be there. I can’t shake the sentir, but I can do something about it. As far as the stage line goes, you can run down any problems. We got good men at each of the way stations. Besides, I won’t be gone more than a month.”

Cantankerous as a ringy longhorn, Bent snorted. “If you’re so damned bound and determined to go up there, then I’m going with you.”

Bill Harnden shot a surprised look at Bent. Slade chuckled. “Forget it. Paleto’s going.”

Harnden frowned at Slade. “Your brother?”

“Yep.” He grinned sheepishly at Bent, who picked up the moniker Three‑Fingered Bent because of the loss of his thumb and forefinger in a game of chance between him and a band of White Mountain Apaches at a drunken party on the banks of the Gila River. He was a distant relative of the Bent brothers, William and George, who built the fort near the confluence of the Arkansas and Purgatory rivers in 1833, thirty-nine years earlier.

“In fact,” Slade continued, “I’m meeting him up in the Catalinas midmorning. Come nighttime, we ought to reach the Hayden spread at the edge of the Dripping Springs Mountains. By heading due east, we can avoid the heavy snows.”

Bent peered through the frosted windows at the brittle blue winter sky. “Well then, if I can’t change your mind, I reckon you’d best get a move on while the weather holds.” He flexed his left arm at the elbow two or three times. “My old bunk mate, arthritis, says we got us another cold spell coming in.”

* * *

The sun was a shimmering globe overhead when Slade gave the call of a whip-poor-will. Moments later, the coo of a dove drifted down the boulder-strewn slope of the Catalinas. His Apache brother, Paleto, rode out on a craggy slope high above.

Slade held up his right hand in front of his body, pointing the index finger at Paleto, then bringing the first two fingers to his lips, the Indian sign for “brother.”

With a faint smile in his eyes, Paleto returned the sign.

Slade reined up beside the wiry Apache who wore knee-high moccasins, leather leggings, and a fur-lined vest over a Yankee battle jacket. A bear-claw necklace hung from around his neck, his totem, his personal protector. A rolled bearskin was tied behind the cantle of his saddle. “You look well.”

His dark face impassive, Paleto nodded. “And you, brother.”

Gesturing to the north, Slade asked, “Ready?”

Paleto shook his head. “Your father wishes to visit with you.”

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The Perfect Holiday Anthologies!

Phew! You survived Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday! But, the holidays are approaching fast. Perhaps you still have some last minute shopping to complete…or maybe you need to prop your weary feet up on the nearest end table and take a break. No worries, I’ve got the reading cure no matter what the ailment!

The holidays are stressful enough; don’t let your fun holiday gatherings get you down in the dumps if you’re riding solo this holiday season. Are you single, but still dream of finding “The One?” Well, look no further. And for those of y’all who are coupled up, but you’ve hit a speed bump or have “lost that loving feeling,” I’ve got you! Here are two heartwarming anthologies from four fantastic African American female authors!

If you answer yes to any of the following, then you’ll love Holiday Brides:

  1. Dreading another holiday party?
  2. Single and ready to mingle?
  3. Tired of repeating your life story at dinner parties?
  4. Sick of hearing Grandma Jane ask when you’re going to get married?
  5. Still believe your soul mate is out there?

Don’t fret! Farrah Rochon, Stefanie Worth, and Jewel Amethyst put a holiday spin on many women’s dilemma: will I ever find “Mr. Right?” Holiday Brides “is most certainly geared to the romantic at heart.” —RT Book Reviews.

Farrah Rochon’s “No Ordinary Gift” has a little Pretty in Pink feel, as it features Kemah, a single female who falls in love with Tyson, the guy from the other side of town. You’ll be rooting for this couple to conquer their differences the whole way through. Stefanie Worth’s novella “Heavensent.com” shows how wonderfully fate and online dating mesh together. Worth’s protagonist, Brenna, never paid attention to her attractive co-worker, Evan, but one day she decides to throw caution to the wind and join an online dating site. Once Brenna logs on, she’s hooked! Who would’ve thought that the man on the other side of the computer was her hot co-worker, Evan! If you’re like me, and think snow is a dirty four letter word, then you’ll enjoy Jewel Amethyst’s tropical vacay novella “From SKB with Love.” Here, Venetta, a single female vacationing on the tropical island of St. Kitts, falls in love with an islander. Who would’ve imagined she’d be a Christmas bride!

I promised those of y’all with a plus one some reading too, and now I deliver! Are you a fan of Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married movies? Yes? Then come on down to the Holiday Inn! Let’s face it, it’s tough keeping the spark in a relationship. For those of you attempting to rekindle that special something with a loved one this holiday season, find inspiration in this anthology. Phyllis Bourne, Farrah Rochon, and Stefanie Worth team up in The Holiday Inn, highlighting the struggles of three couples on the rocks and trying to save their relationship.

There’s wide acclaim for this anthology, and I have to agree with the critics! “The Holiday Inn is excellent. Each story was refreshing, funny, romantic, and realistic. Each couple was faced with dilemmas that are constantly being asked. I found myself rooting for each couple as they struggled emotionally to hold on to each other. This is the perfect holiday story for anyone who loves and believes in happily ever after.” —Priscilla C. Johnson, The APOOO Book Club

Farrah Rochon’s “A Change of Heart” novella features a couple at their wit’s end. They’ve traveled to the Holiday Inn to throw in the towel on their relationship. Well, mother nature has a different idea! A snowstorm derails the couple’s plan to end their marriage. With some snuggling by the hearth and some qt (quality time) in a cozy setting, this marriage isn’t going anywhere! Stefanie Worth combines the contemporary with the classic in her novella “Can You Believe.” Worth borrows elements from A Christmas Carol in this story of newlyweds given the foresight of what their future together could be. Add one part distraught newlyweds, and one part Holiday Inn and you get a romantic tale of a passionate new beginning! Phyllis Bourne Williams is my kind of author! Her novella “By New Year’s Day” details my favorite part of the holidays: kisses! Whether it be under mistletoe or the Holy Grail of kisses—the New Year’s Eve kiss—I’m a sucker for a pucker! “By New Year’s Day” shows a loving husband doing whatever it takes to renew the passion in his marriage. His thought: plant a big, fat, wet one on his wife as the clock strikes midnight!

There’s something about the holidays that makes you feel all warm inside, right? Stoke the fires and pick up these anthologies for you, or for your favorite romance reader! I guarantee it’ll be a great read!