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Friday, July 31, 2015

Bella and the Boys- More Writing from the Past

Greetings, faithful readers!

Last Friday I promised you a western and a western you shall get.

Bella's story has changed drastically in terms of characters, but at its core it's very much the same. A man arrives at place he just bought only to find that there are already people living there. Except, instead of being called Bella and the Boys, it's called Bridger Home for Wayward Kids because it's not just boys who live with Bella. There's girls now too.

But, I adored writing this scene and I'm so happy I get to share it with people. Because, due to the changes I've made, it doesn't fit in the story anymore. So, without this series, the world would never get to read it. Which isn't a huge loss, but it makes me happy that I have a change to share it. Because, as I said, I love it.

So, here it is, the opening to Bella and the Boys:

“Bella, someone’s coming!” Poke says, hurrying around the side of the soddie. I drop the axe I’d been using to chop wood lickity-split and grab for the old rifle leaning against the side of the house. We ran out of bullets months ago, but whoever’s coming doesn’t know that.

“Who is it?” I ask.

Poke shrugs. “Dunno. Never seen him before.”

A man. Well, in general, men are easier to scare off than women. Men have the sense to be scared of a gun whereas women just get concerned as to why a girl my age is toting a weapon and then they start meddling. And, the last thing I need is someone meddling in our business. I’ve got enough trouble trying to raise the boys and keep them fed without some do-gooder poking her nose in.

“Get inside with the others,” I tell Poke. “And, tell ‘em t’ keep down. I’ll be in in a minute.”

Poke nods and runs for the house, his feet kicking up dust as he goes. I stack up my wood, so as not to make it look like I ran off in a hurry, and hurry inside, rifle in tow.

My boys are waiting inside, though they are hardly keeping down like I instructed.

“Keep away from those windows,” I snap at them as I shut the door. I’m hoping the stranger will just ride passed if he thinks our place is abandoned. If he does, it will save us a lot of trouble.

They don’t listen to me and continue to peek outside. I take a deep breath and use my stern older sister voice this time. “You get back from those windows or I’ll tan the hide off every one of ya!”

It works. They all know I mean it and so they jump back.

“Gosh, Bella,” Dusty says, “we just want t’ see who’s a’comin’.”

“Don’t say ‘gosh,’” I say, peering out to see if the stranger’s come into sight yet.

“Yeah, Bella, ya don’t have t’ be so snippy,” Neddy says.

I don’t respond to him. He’s wrong of course- being snippy’s the only way they’ll listen to me- and, I know he’s just using that word to impress me. The boys know all my favorite words now and use them whenever they want to get on my good side. Unfortunately, that’s the only time they use them.

The stranger comes into sight. He’s walking, leading his horse behind him, and heading straight for the soddie. His hat’s pushed back on his head and he walks with an easy gait, like one with not a care in the world. He’s walking pretty slowly, a nice meander that’s going to take him weeks to get here.

I don’t have that long to wait.

“Keep back,” I hiss to the boys, waving them toward the other side of the soddie. “And, keep down.” I give them a pointed look to remind them about my threat. They seem to get it.

I step outside. “That’s far enough, Mister,” I call.

The man looks up and his easy manner is quickly replaced by shock as he eyes my gun. But, still he has the audacity to reply with, “I don’t think so, little missy.”

That gets my dander up. I may only be fourteen but I have four boys to take care of and a home I’m looking after. I am most certainly not a little missy.

“I say it is,” I snap. “And so, you’d best be movin’ on. Pa don’t take kindly to strangers cuttin’ through his land.”

I’ve found it always helps to make the person think I’ve got a pa. Especially one who lets me tote a gun.

“Well, now, little missy, you just show me where your pa’s land is and I’ll be sure to stay away from it.”

I glare at him for calling me by that terrible name yet again. And, for not seeming to be daunted by the gun I’m pointing at him. “You’re on his land, mister.”

He reaches up and pushes his hat back even more. “I’ve got a piece of paper that says otherwise.”

 “What paper?” My gun lowers a little. He can’t mean what I think he means.

“The deed to this place.”

He means it. This place had been abandoned for so long before me and the boys stumbled across it, I never did I think someone would come with the deed. But, someone has.

I’m not going to give this place up without a fight though. It’s not much, but it’s all we have and no one- and I mean no one- is going to take it away from me.

“No one wants your deed ‘round here,” I say. “You just keep right on goin’.”

He takes a step toward me. “I think that’s something I’ll discuss with your pa. Where is he?”

My bluff has never been called before. I stare at him, unsure what to say, my mouth hanging open. He steps closer. “Keep back,” I say, finding my voice as he comes nearer and nearer. “Keep back or I’ll shoot!”

He’s right in front of my now, close enough to for me to look into his blue eyes. To really look into them. And, so I can’t shoot. I’ve shot at people before when they meddle too much or stay on my land too long, but never anyone who’s staring me in the face, practically breathing on me.

And, then I remember I don’t have any bullets anyway.

He yanks the gun from my grasp and that brings back the fire. I may not be able to actually shoot it anymore but it’s mine and he has to right to take it away. I reach for it, but he’s too tall and is able to hold it out of my reach.

“Give me back my gun,” I snap.

“After you take me to your pa, little missy,” he says.

Maybe it’s because he stole my gun, and maybe it’s because I’m mad enough to spit fire because he keeps calling me little missy, and maybe it’s because I just don’t know what me and the boys are going to do if he takes our home. But, whatever it is, I open my mouth and let, “I ain’t got a pa” come out, real harsh and emotionless like.

His face softens and I read pity in his eyes. Pity. I hate pity.

“I don’t need a pa,” I say. “Me and the boys, we do just fine.”

Except that you haven’t got a house anymore a little voice in the back of my head says. But, I push it aside.

“Boys? How many of you are there, living here?”

“Five, counting me,” I say.

“And, you’ve got no one looking out for you?” he asks.

I glare at him. “I do all the lookin’ out that’s needed. So, you really got yourself a deed t’ this place?”

He nods as he continues to eye me with a look of concern.

“Well, let’s see it.”

He shifts his hold on my rifle and reaches into his inside coat pocket, pulling out a piece of paper. I take it from him and look it over, my mouth going dry and my heart sinking.

“You sure do,” I say. “I- I guess me ‘n the boys’ll be movin’ on then, if you’ll just give us a little time t’ get our things packed up.”

We don’t have much to pack, but it will still take us a bit of time to get it together. Plus, I’ll need to talk to the boys to keep them from ambushing this man.

He ties his horse up at the hitching post and makes like he’s going to follow me inside. Which isn’t a good idea, not with four soon to be livid boys to cope with.

“Maybe you better hide out back,” I suggest.

“Hide?” he says, gawking at me like I’ve gone plum loco.

I nod. “Yeah, when I tell the boys they’re bound to be a bit… um… put out… so, it might be good if they don’t actually see you. It could get messy. It’ll only be for a little while. We’ll be out of here lickity-split.”

The man sighs. “Listen, little missy,” he says. I glare at him but he doesn’t seem to notice. “I can’t tell you how bad I feel about putting you out of your home. I didn’t know anyone was living here when I bought the property and-”

“Mister, we’re squatters,” I interrupt. “You don’t have to be nice to us. By all rights, we’re nothin’ but squatters.”

And there you have it! Next week will feature a short story instead of an excerpt, but I hope you'll come by for it anyway.

And, Monday will bring the first post of a new series. So, be sure to come by for that.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Somers' Outlaws- More Writing from the Past

This was one of those stories that I just find of opened up a new Word document and started writing one day.

Which is probably why it never went anywhere.

And, now it never will, because Apollo Sommers is a completely different character from a completely different story now. I liked the name, so I stole if from myself. Because this story was going nowhere. And, Sapphire Sage Sommers is officially not in that story. Apollo's sister is now named Eris. And, she's nothing like Sapph.

Anyway! This is still a great snippet (if I'm allowed to say that) so I thought I'd share it with you. I hope you enjoy:

Part One: Sapphire

Apollo Sommers
For crimes including robbery, murder, and the blatant obstruction of justice.
Appearance: Suspect is about twenty-three years of age, brown haired and blue eyed. Average weight and height.
Last seen in Telsa’s capital and surrounding area
Suspect is known to travel with a young woman, perhaps fifteen, with long dark hair and blue eyes. She is very tall and thin.
A substantial reward is offered to anyone who can produce Suspect or give information that would lead to his arrest.
Signed, the Lord Regent of Telsa

I stood in the alley, waiting for my brother to arrive and watching the goings on of the town. The poster tacked to the stable wall caught my eye and I scanned the words with a smile. Oh, honestly, do you really think offering a reward will catch him, Lord Regent?

I pushed a strand of long black hair behind my ear and turned my attention back to the street. Come on, Apollo, where are you?

I studied each person who passed by, knowing any of them could be the man I waited for. Was he the beggar at the corner? The peasant with the cart? The man with the bundle? The musician with the lute?

Brother, your disguises are getting too good for me.

Suddenly, I was grabbed from behind, a hand slipping around my waist, another over my mouth. My scream was muffled as I was pulled tight against my captor. Then, as suddenly as I was grabbed, I was released. I whirled around to face the man.

And found my brother standing behind me, a cocky grin on his handsome face.

I glared. “Apollo Sommers, don’t you do that again, you hear?”

Apollo just continued to grin at me. He leaned against the stable wall with an air of easiness that I envied. He always seemed so at ease, like he had the entire world under control and he knew it. “Startle you, did I?”

“Yes, Brother, you startled me,” I said. “Now, can we move on? What’s the plan?”

My brother patted my cheek, because he knew it annoyed me. “Patience, my dear Sapph, is a virtue.”

That nickname annoyed me too.

I grabbed his hand. “We can’t all be as virtuous as you, now can we? So, will you just answer the question?”

One of the castle guards passed by just then. Quick as a wink, Apollo pushed me and put his palms against the stable wall, me between his arms. The guard peered down the alley at us just as my brother said, “Come on, Darling, just one kiss.”

I giggled, playing along. “Please, John, ya know I can’t. Why, Daddy’d ‘ave my ‘ide, and yer life, if I did.”

He flashed me that charming smile of his and the guard passed by with a shake of his head. “Youth,” I heard him mutter.

Apollo released me. “Nice job, little sis.”

“I’m just glad you didn’t have to kiss me,” I said with a smile. His praise warmed me more than a roaring fire ever could.

He laughed. “Yeah, me too. Pretty as you are, that’d be a bit out of my line.”

I warmed even more. I wasn’t pretty, but it was nice to hear him say it. “So, what’s the plan?”

He rolled his eyes. “You are a very persistent woman. Don’t you think I’ll tell you the plan when you need to hear it?”

“And don’t you think I might go insane waiting for you to tell me?” I asked. “This is my husband-to-be we’re talking about here.”

Apollo shook his head. “Are you sure you really want to marry that guy?”

I nodded, wishing I didn’t have to defend my choice for the four hundredth time. “Apollo, I’m seventeen-”

“The poster says you’re only fifteen,” he interrupted. The charmer was gone, replaced by a very concerned older brother.

“I’m seventeen and you know it,” I said. “It’s time I was thinking about marriage.”

He eyed the poster. “You’ll need a new disguise now.” His brow wrinkled with thought. “How about a gypsy? You’d make a good gypsy.”

I sighed. “Apollo, don’t change the subject.”

“Fine, so, are you marrying him because you want to or because he’s the only one who asked you?” he questioned.

Wow, Apollo, that was blunt. I tried not to let it sting. But, it was the bald truth. Luke Bently was the only one who had ever shown any interest in me. Contrary to what my brother had said, I wasn’t pretty at all. I was plain. Very plain. And, I was part of Apollo Sommers’ outlaw band, which narrowed my choice considerably.

No, a beggar couldn’t be choosy and Luke was very nice. It was true I felt no love for him, but I held him in a high respect and I believed he loved me.

When I didn’t answer right away, my brother sighed. “Listen, Sapphire, I’ll rescue him no matter what, but, please promise me you won’t marry him unless you really want to. Please?”

I nodded, though I had no intention of changing my mind. I just wanted the normal, cocky Apollo back. It scared me when he got so serious like this.

He cupped my chin in his hand and tilted my face so we looked at each other, eye to eye. “That’s a promise then?”

“It’s a promise, Apollo.”

He nodded and released me. “Good, now let’s get to work getting him out of the dungeon.” He paused. “If we only had a distraction…”

“What kind of distraction?” I asked.

Apollo rolled his eyes. “The kind that distracts people. If I could just get passed the guards, I have a plan.”

I grinned. “I might have an idea.”

And there you have it! I didn't have much planned for this, but I did know that they saved the guy Sapphire was engaged to, but she doesn't marry him. She ends up marrying the magistrate's son. Who starts out as a spy, but then totally starts fighting on their side.

But, I never figured out how to fit that into the story and so it died.

Like so many of my stories :/

Next week will be another western excerpt. I hope you'll stop back for it!

And, Monday will feature the last post about some of my favorite books for writers. I hope you'll come back for that too.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Centerville Misfits- Yet Another Blast from My Writing Past

Greetings, faithful readers! This post is coming to you from a newly turned twenty-one-year old! My birthday was on Wednesday. So, what better way to celebrate than with a story that is actually what happens when you take like four or five stories that are really close to your heart and mash them together. All the characters just seemed to fit together so I thought I would try it out and see what happened when I actually put them together on paper.

This story is super unrealistic. But, I don't care because it was very special to me when I wrote it. Reading back through it now, I'm like "This doesn't really make sense..." But, I love it. Because it's special. And, that's all the matters.

So, don't expect anything to come of this story. Because I wouldn't even know where to begin to work on it again. But, I was proud of it when I wrote it and it's really not halfway bad. So, you get to read it,.

Hope you enjoy!

Chapter One
Henry Carter closed the hood of his car with a sigh. He knew there was no use looking since he couldn’t do a thing about it.

Great he thought I’m in the middle of nowhere and my car breaks down. He hadn’t passed a town for over twelve miles. Guess I had better start walking.

As he started in the direction he’d been driving he pondered what he was even doing on the back roads of Northern New York. Everyone said he was the best there was, so why was he here? Why was he driving from lecture to lecture along the little used roads of his home state as if he thought his big chance would be just around the corner? When he had lost his job nine months ago he’d thought the chance to speak to others about his passion would do him good. Thought it would be good for him to get away from all the stress. He and Sally had agreed on it together, deciding it was for the best.

But now, he was getting tired of the empty rented rooms, the lonely diner meals, and the phone calls to his family. He missed his wife and children. He wanted to hold his granddaughter in his arms and tell her just how much he loved her, not talk to her on a piece of metal and wood, with miles of wires between them. He wanted to kiss Sally and tell her being apart from her was never a good thing.

But instead, here he was, walking along a dirt road, hoping it led somewhere. After three miles or so he was beginning to give up hope when he spotted a farm house. He practically ran to it. It was a large house, two stories with a wraparound porch and a barn sitting neatly next to it. He went to the door and knocked, hoping- even praying- that they had a phone.

His knock was answered by a woman in her forties, perhaps, dressed in a plain dress with an apron tied around her middle. She smiled.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“My car broke down, a few miles back,” he explained. “The radiator’s shot. I was wondering if I could use your telephone.”

“Oh, dear,” she said. “We haven’t got a telephone. But, if you come inside, you can ask Jenny and maybe she can fix it and I’ll get you some lemonade.”

She walked away before he could be polite and refuse so he followed her. She led him to the kitchen.

“Do have a seat,” she said, pointing.

A young man was sitting at the table and a strange girl was leaning over the stove. Well, the girl herself wasn’t strange, it was her clothes. She was about thirteen and dressed as a peasant; long, homespun dress, dirty apron, worn shawl around her shoulders, and a cap on her head, some of her brown hair falling from it. He knew it was rude to stare, however, so he concentrated on the glass of lemonade the woman served him.

He was just bringing it to his lips when another girl came running into the room. She was dressed like the other girl but Henry didn’t think she had bothered to put her hair- a shimmering auburn- in her cap at all; it hung loose around her shoulders.

“Oh, please,” she said in, what he considered, a strange accent, “don’t let ‘em get me.” She dashed through a door to the left, which, from the peek he got before the door closed, led to a closet of sorts.

Henry heard the heavy footsteps of booted feet before the young man, maybe sixteen-years-old, dressed in a blue, soldier-type uniform, entered the kitchen the same way the girl had. He wore heavy boot and a sword at his side. Henry could feel his commanding air as he entered the room. Things are getting weirder and weirder.

“Where is she?” the young man demanded.

“Who, sir?” the first girl asked, eyes wide with confusion. She too used the strange accent. “I haven’t seen anyone, sir.”

“I know she came in here and I intend to find her, even if I have to tear this place apart.”

He moved to the pantry, a partially enclosed room off the kitchen, and stuck his head inside. As soon as he did, the girl ran from the closet back the way she and the young man had both entered. She was stopped at the door by another young man dresses as a soldier, he was probably fifteen. He grabbed the girl, who struggled and tried to get away.

“I thought you said you hadn’t seen her,” the second soldier said.

The girl continued to struggle. “Lemme go. I didn’t do anything.”

The first soldier crossed from the pantry over to the girl. “Lord Claybourne just wants to talk with you. There’s no need to run away.”

The girl struggled against the second soldier’s grasp. “I won’t talk to him. I won’t.”

“You’ll do as you’re told,” the soldier said, tightening his grasp.

Henry was thoroughly confused by all that was happening. He assumed it was a common occurrence though because the woman just watched them thoughtfully. She was obviously interested in what was going on but not confused or startled. He wondered if he had stumbled upon a madhouse.

A door off the kitchen, leading outside, Henry guessed, opened and a young man, around the same age as the others and dressed in homespun shirt and pants, entered.

“What is going on?” he demanded. “Unhand my daughter.”

“Keep out of this, player,” the first soldier said. “This is none of your concern.”

“I believe it is,” the young man said. “You barge into my home, terrorize my family, grab my daughter by force, and you say it’s none of my concern?”

“If you have a problem with Lord Claybourne’s orders,” the first soldier replied, “then you are free to take your family and leave here any time.”

“I will,” the young man said, stepping toward the girl. “Give me my daughter and we shall be gone by the morrow.”

The second solider gripped the girl even tighter. Henry thought if he didn’t loosen up soon he was going to bruise her. “He said you were free to take your family, player.”

“Aye, and so give me my daughter.”

The first soldier snorted. “We’re not fools, player. We all know this girl is no relation to you.”

There was silence in the room for a moment. Suddenly, yet another young man, dressed also in homespun, came through the outside door.

“You are right that she’s not his blood daughter,” he said. “But she is indeed his daughter by law. Unhand my wife.”

Henry was shocked. He’d already been having a hard time believing that the girl was the young man’s daughter, but this man’s wife? He knew people married young sometimes- especially in these backwoods towns- but these two couldn’t be more than fourteen. He watched with interest to see what would unfold.

The first soldier snorted again. “Your wife?” he scoffed. “I have a hard time believing that.”

“It’s true,” the girl spoke up.

“Keep out of this,” the second soldier said, giving her a shake.

“Do that to my wife again and I’ll break every bone in your body,” the young man said. He stepped toward the two.

“Keep back,” the first soldier said, drawing his sword.

Everyone seemed to have forgotten about the first girl, the one who had been standing by the stove. No one but Henry seemed to notice her as she picked up the frying pan and moved toward the one with the sword. She raised it over her head and-

“Look out!” Henry exclaimed, surprising even himself. But it was too late. The girl brought the pan down and the soldier crumpled to the floor. No one seemed to notice, though. Everyone turned to Henry.

Chapter Two
“Who are you?” the second soldier asked, letting go of the girl. The first soldier got up, not looking like he’d been hit at all and five other children came in from the other room. They were about the same age as the others, except one girl who was a little younger.

“I’m Henry Carter,” he replied, bewildered. “My car broke down and I wanted to use the telephone but she told me you didn’t have one and I could talk to Jenny. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. I don’t even know what I interrupted.”

“Oh, my,” the woman said with a laugh, “I forgot about you. You must think we’re crazy. The children are writing a play and this helps them think everything through.”

“A play?” Henry asked. Plays were something he knew about but this had seemed so much more intense. He guessed it was because it was in an actual kitchen and not on stage.

The young man who’s been sitting at the table laughed as he stood up. “That’s right. Meet the Centerville Misfits, Centerville’s own acting team,” he said with a flourishing bow. “I’m Luke Carson, writer, director, and stage manager. Like Mrs. Wilcox said, we haven’t got a phone.”

“Then what do you do when your car breaks down?” Henry asked.

“Jenny fixes it,” Luke said as if it were the most obvious thing to do.

“I really don’t mind looking at it for you,” the girl said.

“I could give you two a ride,” Luke offered.

The girl called Jenny went to change out of her costume and then she, Henry, and Luke climbed into the young man’s car and set off down the road. While they rode, Henry asked them about them about the Centerville Misfits.

“There’s twelve of us,” Luke said, “but I don’t act. Not in major parts anyway.”

“Are you all siblings?” Henry asked.

“Heavens, no,” Jenny laughed. “It’s bad enough having just Luke for a brother.”

“So, you two are siblings?”

Jenny laughed again. “No, there’s two Lukes. My brother Luke plays Lord Claybourne. You haven’t meant him yet. And then, Jane and Justin are my cousins. Jane was the young woman who beaned Brock- well, I mean, she didn’t really hit him, it was just acting- with the frying pan and Just is the soldier who was holding me so tightly.” She rubbed her arm. “I’m going to have to tell him to go easy next time.”

“Brock Jennings is the general,” Luke continued, “or, as Jenny just put it, the one who got beaned. Mr. and Mrs. Jennings are my adoptive parents. The young man who claimed to be Jenny’s husband is Brody Jennings and their ‘father’ is Bryce Jennings. They have one other brother, Dallas, and a sister, Gracie. They weren’t in the scene you saw. Then there’s my sister, Jessie, and another of our neighbors, Marty, who’s only eleven.”

Henry nodded, not sure he got any of it.

Jenny laughed. “I know, it’s kind of confusing, what with all the alliteration. We’ve got two Lukes, Brock, Brody, and Bryce, Jessie, Jane, Jenny, Justin, and Josh, Gracie, and Marty. And there you have it, the Centerville Misfits.”

The way she said it made it sound so easy but… “Who’s Josh?” Henry asked.

There was an awkward silence. Then Jenny laughed again, this time nervously. “Oh, right, I keep forgetting, Josh isn’t a Misfit anymore. There’s his car, there, Luke.”

Luke pulled over to the side of the road and the three climbed out. Jenny walked around the car, checking all the tires while Luke leaned nonchalantly against the vehicle’s side.

“I think it’s the radiator,” Henry told her.

She nodded as she rolled up her sleeves and lifted the hood.

“Does she make a habit of this?” Henry questioned Luke.

“Of what?” Luke asked. “Oh, you mean fixing cars? Yeah, that’s what Jenny does; she fixes everything.”

As they talked, a young man, about seventeen, came walking toward them. Luke waved when he saw them and the young man waved back.

“Hey, Josh,” Luke said.

“Hey, Luke,” Josh said as he ran a finger slowly down Jenny’s back. Jenny jumped, hitting her head on the lifted hood.

“Ow!” she exclaimed. “What was that for?”

 “Well, well, well,” Josh said, “if it isn’t Jennifer Wilcox, the grease monkey.”

Jenny turned around, still holding her head. She smiled. “And if it isn’t Joshua Harris, the famous thespian. Do you always go around injuring pretty girls?”

Josh smiled a boyish smile. “Who said you were pretty?” He laughed at Jenny’s shocked expression. “Come on, Jen, you know I’m just teasing. Who’s your friend?”

Henry offered the young man his hand. “I’m Henry Carter.”

“The actor?” Josh asked as they shook hands.

Henry smiled. “Guilty as charged.”

“You’re an actor?” Jenny asked, shocked. “Gee whiz.”

Henry smiled at her use of slang. “That’s why I was so interested when you said you were writing a play.”

“You’re writing a play?” Josh asked, suddenly losing all his friendliness.

“Of course,” Jenny said, “We write one every year. And when you’re ready to stop being stubborn we’ve got a dandy of a part for you.”

“I’m not the one being stubborn, Jennifer,” Josh said coldly. “And I don’t want any part you can offer me.”

Henry gathered this was the Josh who wasn’t a player anymore. And, he gathered his not being a play was causing quite some tension.

Jenny, forgetting momentarily that she and Josh weren’t alone, crossed her arm and said, “What exactly is it you want?”

“An apology would be nice,” Josh said, his voice rising.

Jenny snorted. “An apology?” she scoffed, her voice getting louder as well. “An apology for what? For killing your grandmother?”

Josh glared at her. “For stealing my part.”

“It wasn’t his fault,” Jenny practically screamed. “You know perfectly well we all thought you wouldn’t be able to do it.”

“But you didn’t wait to see,” Josh screamed back. “I know it wasn’t Luke’s idea to replace me. Bryce wanted my part so he convinced him to do it.”

Jenny snorted again. “That’s what you want to think so you can hold a grudge. You know perfectly well he would never do something like that.”

Josh turned away. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “I’ll be seeing you.” He started walking.

“When you change your mind,” Jenny called after him, “come by and get your script.” She turned to Henry. “You’re right, it’s the radiator. I can’t fix it here so we’ll have to haul it back to the house. It’ll probably take me a few days but you can stay with us until then.”

“I couldn’t do that,” Henry objected. “You don’t even know me. And, what would your parents think of you bringing a strange man home?”

Jenny shrugged. “Suit yourself,” she said forlornly. “I don’t feel like arguing. Luke, you guys can go on. I’ll walk.”

“Are you sure?” Luke asked. Jenny nodded. “All right, then I’ll see you back at the house.” Jenny started down the road.

Henry and Luke climbed into Luke’s car in silence. Luke started the car and turned it around. “Sorry about that,” Luke said. “The Centerville Misfits and Josh have a sort of a misunderstanding.”

“So I gathered,” Henry said.

They passed Jenny but she didn’t so much as look at them.

“It’s really my fault,” Luke confessed. Henry wanted to tell the boy he didn’t have to explain but he just started talking without giving him a chance to say anything. “Every year we write and perform a play. I’m kind of the director so I do the casting. Last year I gave Josh a pretty good part but, just two weeks before the performance, something happened with his family- his grandmother died- and they had to go out of town. A lot of things happened that week. It was all really crazy, but in the end, we did the play three days early and I gave Josh’s part to Bryce. And, then he came home, two days before we had originally planned the performance for. He knew the part and if we did it like we’d said first, he’d have been able to do it. He was convinced that it was all a scheme cooked up by Bryce because he wanted his part. Even after I tried to explain the truth to him he said I was just defending him. Even Jenny tired to explain it but he wouldn’t listen. It kills her to see him like this. She still thinks he’ll come to his senses one of these days. She even suggested we write him a part just in case. Of course, if he doesn’t, I have to play his part.”

“Don’t you like acting?” Henry asked, glad for the slight change in subject. He wasn’t sure what to say about the feud.

Luke shrugged. “I don’t mind it but I’d much rather direct or write a play than act in it. It’s just my personality.”

“And the rest of the Misfits, do they all like to act?”

Again Luke shrugged. “I think Josh and Jenny are the only ones who love acting. The rest of us just think it’s fun to put on the shows. We all like using our other talents too. Gracie, for instance, likes to design the costumes. Jane and Dallas design the sets. While I’m the writer, Luke is great at writing music and, for someone so young, Marty is great at writing lyrics when we need them. Jessie always does the choreography and Brody and Bryce make any props we need. Justin’s our publicity man and he handles all our ticket sales. And Brock does sound and lighting.”

“Wow,” Henry said, “you ran a pretty tight ship. How long have you been doing this?”

Luke thought for a minute. “I guess three years now. We started just after the Jennings adopted Jessie and I.” They passed Josh then and Luke sighed. “I don’t know what to do.”

Henry thought hard before answering. He hardly knew these children and the last thing he wanted to do was give them bad advice. “Have you talked it over with your parents?” he asked. Then he remembered Luke was adopted. “I mean your adoptive parents.”

Luke smiled. “They’re my parents, Mr. Carter. I only tell people I’m adopted so they don’t get confused because I have a different last name. Yes, I’ve talked with them about it and they just say I need to give it time and remember to pray for Josh and Jenny.”

“That’s good advice,” Henry agreed. He didn’t have much experience in the praying field but he did think giving it time would help. They drove the rest of the way in silence. As they pulled in front of the house and stopped the woman- who Henry had learned earlier was Mrs. Harper, Jane and Justin’s mom and Jenny and the other Luke’s aunt- came out to the porch to greet them.

“Where’s Jenny?” she asked, surprised.

Luke sighed. “She decided to walk. We saw Josh and they had an argument.”

Sorrow clouded Mrs. Harper’s face. “Those two. What’s the verdict on the car?”

“I don’t know,” Luke said. “Jenny says it needs a new thingamajig. Said she’d fix it but it’d probably take a couple days. I’ll haul it over later if that’s okay.”

“Looks like you’re stranded, Mr. Carter,” the woman said. “There isn’t a hotel around here so you can stay with us until the part comes in. Unless you have somewhere you need to be, in which case we can get you to a train or something and you can come back later for the car or have it towed.”

Henry thought for a minute. “I’m giving a lecture at Youngstown College on Friday,” he said. “So I’d appreciate a ride but, I’ll pay you for it.”

“Well,” Mrs. Carter said, “you don’t have to be to Youngstown for three days so, if you like, you can stay the night and my husband can give you a ride over there tomorrow. He has to go there anyway for something. So, there’s no need to pay us.”

“I really hate to impose on you,” Henry said. “And, I insist on paying.”

“It’s no imposition,” Mrs. Harper assured him. “And, you can argue with my husband about the payment. I’m sure he’ll refuse it though.” One of the things Henry liked about these people is that when they said something they really meant it. He was sure they really wouldn’t mind having him stay. But still…

“I don’t know,” he said. “You don’t even know me.”

The woman smiled. “‘Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.’”

“What was that?” Henry asked. It sounded familiar and he wondered if maybe it was from a play he had once been in.

The woman repeated herself then added, “That’s Hebrews 13:2.”

Henry knew then where he must have heard it. When he was a child his mother had always insisted they go to church. He must have heard it there. “I can assure you, Mrs. Harper, I’m not an angel.”

“That’s what they all say,” she replied with a cheerful smile.

And there you have it! Most of the rest of my excerpts are going to be little short ones. But, I'm really excited about the stories to come. I hope you'll continue to stick with me for them.

And, more books for writers on Monday, so be sure to stop back for that.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Poetry of Writing Mechanics- Roy Peter Clark

Until a few years ago, the idea of having a favorite non-fiction author was funny to me. Like, non-fiction was cool and all, but I never really appreciated it as a true form a creativity until I was introduced to Roy Peter Clark.

Mr. Clark has written several books on writing. I own most of them. Because they’re amazing.

In order of publication, they are:
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
The Glamour of Grammar: The Magic and Mystery of Practical English
Help! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces
How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times

Each book is broken down into short, manageable sections. His writing is easy to understand, engaging, and very informative. The first book of his I read I loved so much I read 2/3 of it in a couple of hours and my head was spinning because of all the information I was trying to pack into my brain.

There’s something new to learn on every page. It’s all such good, informative writing that any writer, in any stage of their writing journey can pick up and gleam some great tips and tricks. That’s part of why his writing is so magical- it can be given to any writer and it applies. The first time novelist can pick it up and learn so much. But then, the person who has been writing for years can also gain so much from it.

And, the other reason his books are so magical is because of the way they’re written. The words he uses. The phrases. It’s like poetry. Like what Shakespeare might sound like if he wrote prose about how to write. I’m not kidding. Each page is filled with sentences that just send chills down my spine and remind me why I love words so much.

My favorite book is his The Glamour of Grammar: The Magic and Mystery of Practical English. I’m not a huge grammar fan. It’s necessary to have and so everyone should learn it, but for me, it’s always been a way to a means. You need to learn to use words properly so that you can use them. But, in the end, the goal is to use them.

This book, however, made me fall in love with the mechanics. It made me love every aspect of writing. Grammar isn’t just a way to a means, it’s a whole art form in itself. It’s like what science is to engineering. It’s important and it’s magical and thrilling and while there are rules and facts and things set in stone, it’s also fluid, open to interpretation, a mystery.

Roy Peter Clark will make you fall in love with writing. With words. With the English language. And, if you already are in love with those, he will rekindle the fire, make you fall in love all over again. His books are the only I have ever read that made me so proud to be a writer. They filled with me passion and life and I just swelled with excitement and inspiration when I read them.

If you’ve never read them I would highly recommend you check them out. Because they are amazing. And, they really aren’t that expensive.

So, you have no excuse. If you are a writer or simply a lover of words, you need to read these. Because they will change your life.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Train Ride- The First Western I Ever Wrote

I almost didn't include this one.

Not because I don't like it, or because I was scared to share or anything stupid like that. I just plain forgot about it.

But then I was reminded of it and it turns out I was missing a story to get me through the summer, so I thought I'd toss it into the mix.

It's the longest one yet, but, as the title says, it's the first western I ever wrote. And, so, I thought it needed to be included. For better or for worse, here it is:

At four-thirty Friday morning the train pulled into the Denton station. It was a short stop; just long enough to take on water, passengers, and a very important shipment. Most of the train’s passengers were still asleep; other than the guards, train employees, and those of the Denton Mining Company, only five people saw the gold being loaded.

Marshal Luke Gordon and his prisoner, Jude Henson, were traveling from Denton to Connellsville, where Jude was to stand trial for bank robbery and murder. The lawman knew, with the gold shipment and prisoner on board, there was bound to be trouble.

Sydney McDowell saw the loading as she boarded the train. She hoped- but doubted- it would be a peaceful trip.

Fancy Younger hurried up the train steps as quickly as she could, barely glancing at the twelve armed guards. She had decided it was time to leave town; it was so much better than being run out.

Trent Dailey was in no hurry. In fact, he stopped to watch the loading before boarding himself.

Then the train pulled out of the station at four- forty-five, exactly on schedule.
Sydney McDowell took a deep breath before approaching the lawman. He was slouched in his seat with his hat in his eyes. His prisoner was staring out the window. Neither man noticed her approach. She coughed delicately.

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” she asked, indicating the seat across from them.

The lawman sat up, pushed his hat back, and smiled at her. “It is now.”

Sydney batted her eye lashes as she sat down. “Thank you.” She acted as though she were just seeing the shackles Jude Henson wore for the first time. “Oh,” she breathed, her eyes widening, “is it quite safe to sit here?”

“It’s safe,” Marshal Gordon assured her. “He’s shackled.”

“Are you sure he can’t come loose?”

“I’m sure, Miss…?”

“McDowell, Sydney McDowell. And you are…?”

“U. S. Marshal Luke Gordon.”

Sydney’s eyes widened and she gasped. “A marshal? I shall feel quite safe knowing you’re on board. I fear we may be robbed. Why, with all that gold on board someone’s sure to try, don’t you think?”

“More than likely but the robbers will only be after the gold so you should be safe.”

“I hope so,” Sydney said. “How far are you going, Marshal Gordon?”

“To Connellsville, Henson here has to stand trial.”

“Henson? You don’t mean he’s Jude Henson?”

“Why, yes, he is.”

Sydney’s eyes grew wider. “Why, he’s a member of the Hall Younger gang.”

“That’s right but you needn’t worry, I haven’t lost a prisoner yet.”

“That’s good because between him and the gold there’s bound to be some excitement. You can look out for me if there’s any trouble.”

“No offense, ma’am, but if there’s trouble, I’ll be looking out for my prisoner.”

Sydney batted her eyelashes. “Then I’ll just have to stay close to your prisoner, won’t I?”
Fancy Younger wished the man next to her would stop talking. From the moment he sat down she hadn’t had a bit of quiet and no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t block him out.

“Please, Mr…”

“Baxter’s the name, ma’am, Horatio T. Baxter.”

“Mr. Baxter, if you don’t mind, I need to think…”

“Oh, you go right ahead and think, ma’am, go right ahead. Don’t let my talking bother you. It really doesn’t matter if anyone’s listening, I can talk to myself just as well as to someone else. Why, one time…”

Fancy groaned. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take of this.

“Excuse me, sir,” a man said, interrupting Mr. Baxter’s monologue midsentence, “do you mind if I sit next to my sister?”

Fancy’s head shot up. She didn’t have a brother and she knew what kind of man claimed to be a girl’s brother. Her protest died on her lips, however, at the sight of him.

He was a tall cowboy, with sandy blonde hair and bright hazel eyes. He wasn’t rough looking nor was he a dandy. He seemed to fall somewhere in between the two kinds of men; a nice medium.

“Of course, my boy,” Horatio T. Baxter answered the cowboy. “You may sit where ever you like. You paid for your ticket. Do you need help finding her?” he added when the cowboy didn’t move on.

“No, sir,” the man replied, “you’re sitting next to her. What I was trying to ask is, may I have your seat?”

“Oh, of course,” Horatio T. Baxter laughed as he rose from his seat. “Of course you may. I’ll just find someone else to sit next to. Nice meeting you, ma’am.” And with a tip of his hat to Fancy he went in search of another victim. The cowboy took the seat next to Fancy.

“Sorry, if I seemed forward, ma’am,” he said. “It just seemed as though you could use rescuing.”

Fancy eyed him warily. She had fallen prey to the easy charm of many a man before and she had no intention of making that mistake again. “I’ll withhold my thanks until you tell me what you want.”

The cowboy laughed. “Can’t say as I blame you for mistrusting me, ma’am, but I honestly have no hidden motive for sitting next to you. I just wanted to help you. You looked about ready to lose your sanity and from the way that fella’s tongue wagged I can’t say as I blame you. ”

“He was getting on my nerves,” Fancy admitted. “I was seriously considering knocking him out.” She and the cowboy laughed.

“I’m Trent Dailey, by the way.”

“Fancy Younger.”

“You going far?”

“Is that any of your business?”

Trent laughed. “No, Miss Younger, it isn’t. I assume it is Miss Younger and not Mrs.”

“It’s ‘miss’,” Fancy said. “Not that that is any of your business either.”

“I’m sorry if you think I’m being nosy. Just so you know I’m not asking any questions I wouldn’t answer myself.”

“All right,” Fancy said. “Where are you headed?”

“Connellsville. A fella promised me a job there.”

“Doing what?”

“That’s not one of the questions I asked you,” Trent said shortly.

Fancy took that as his way of saying it was none of her business. “Are you married?”

“No, I almost was but then the lady changed her mind.”

“I’m sorry.”

Trent shrugged. “It was years ago. Now, do I get to know where you’re going?”

Fancy smiled. “Sure, I’m going to Connellsville to stay with my aunt Louisa.” It wasn’t true but she was used to lying. In truth, she had no clue what she was going to do. Her only plan was to get away from Denton just as fast as the train would take her.
The girl in the seat across from Luke Gordon was flirting and that was just fine with him; she was a lot better company than his prisoner, who had fallen asleep. She kept batting her long eyelashes at him, her long eyelashes that framed her beautiful blue eyes. A fellow could get lost in those eyes.

“Is it true Hall Younger is in the territory?” she asked in her soft, sweet voice.

“That’s what they say,” Luke answered, “but, to tell you the truth, I think it’s nothing more than a rumor.”

“They just ran his daughter out of Kingsley. She was the school teacher there until they found out who she was.”

Luke sat up straighter. “His daughter? Really? I hadn’t heard that. Do you know where she went?”

“She’s on this train,” Sydney said. “She got on at Denton. Why are you so interested?”

“A lawman is always interested in the relatives of wanted criminals.”

“Oh,” Sydney said. “In that case, I’ll see who I can dig up.”

“You’re already interesting enough for me,” Luke said, sliding out of his seat and moving to sit next to her. He slipped his arm around her waist.

She batted her eyelashes. “Aren’t you being a little forward, Marshal?”

“You started it,” he murmured. She smiled at him, batting her eyelashes again. She groped blindly in her reticule. Her fingers brushed against the cold steel of her gun and she was just about to close her fingers around it when there was a thump in the back of the car.

The marshal was on his feet in an instant, gun in hand.

“Sorry,” a young man apologized to the now silent and watching passengers. “I dropped my bag.”

Everyone was quick to return to what they had been doing before but the lawman was now alert and fingering his gun. Sydney knew she had missed her chance.

“Marshal, isn’t your deputy Aaron Kirby?” she asked. She might have missed her chance to move but she could at least gain some more information. She wanted to know if he’d ever heard of her.

“That’s right. Do you know him?”

“Know him?” Sydney laughed. “Why, Marshal, we go way back. My parents practically raised him.”

Luke fidgeted in his seat. “Is that so?” he asked nervously. Sydney smiled; she was getting just the reaction she wanted.

“That’s right. When I heard your name I thought it was familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. Then I remembered Aaron talking about you. Hasn’t he ever mentioned me before?”

“No… I mean… I don’t think so. What did he tell you about me?”

“He told me all about how you saved his life.”

“I did? I mean… well… it was nothing.”

Sydney smiled. “He said you were modest but I didn’t think you’d be this modest though.”

Luke laughed nervously. “Like I said, it was nothing.”

“Will you excuse me?” Sydney asked suddenly as she rose from her seat.

“Of course,” Luke said and Sydney noted a hint of relief in his voice.
Sydney helped herself to some water from the cooler in the back of the car. She didn’t so much as glance at the man in the seat right in front of it.

“I saw you with him,” Trent said quietly without looking at her. “You let him put his arm around you. Wasn’t that overdoing it just a little?”

“There wasn’t much I could do,” Sydney told him, keeping her eyes on the water cooler.

“I didn’t see you objecting.”

“I was trying to distract him while I got my gun,” Sydney explained.

“What did you want to use a gun for? All I want is his name.”

“He’s Marshal Luke Gordon.”

It was all Trent could do to not look at her. “That’s impossible.”

“I’m not lying,”

“This changes everything. Are you sure that’s what he said, Syd?”

“I’m sure,” Sydney said, “and that’s not all…”
“Who was that girl you were talking to?” Fancy asked when Trent sat back down next to her.

“What girl?” Trent asked easily.

“The girl at the water cooler.”

“Oh, her? I wasn’t talking to her at all. Why, I’ve never even seen her before.”

“Then why did you move to that seat right before she went to get a drink?” Fancy asked pointedly.

“It was purely a coincidence. You see, I was going to get a drink myself when I felt a dizzy spell coming on-”

“A dizzy spell?” Skepticism dripped from her voice.

“Yes, I get them from time to time. So, anyway, I felt this spell coming on so I sat down until it passed. Then the girl walked up to get a drink and I had to wait until she was done to get one myself. It’s as simple as that.”

Fancy didn’t look convinced. “I still say you were talking to her.”

“Does that make you jealous?”

Fancy snorted. “And why would I be jealous?”

“I don’t know,” Trent said. “You seem very interested and I am rather good-looking.”

Fancy snorted again. “You’re rather humble as well.”

“I know,” Trent said causing Fancy laughed. “I love your laugh,” he told her. “It’s so sweet.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you think… I mean…well, I was wondering if maybe you’d let me come calling on you sometime.”

Fancy’s smile faded. “I don’t think you had better. Aunt Louisa wouldn’t like it.”

“And what would her niece like?”

“I’ll probably be teaching school and schoolteachers aren’t supposed to have gentleman callers.”

“Miss Younger, if you don’t want me to call on you I wish you would just say so.”

“It’s not that,” Fancy said. “It’s just that I’m trouble, Mr. Dailey and I bring trouble to those around me.”

“Maybe I like trouble.”

“Mr. Dailey, do you know who I am?"

Trent’s heart began to race. “No,” he said though, in truth, he did.

“Fancy Younger, Hall Younger’s daughter.

Trent was speechless. He had been fishing for a confession but now that he’d gotten one he wasn’t sure how to respond.

“Of course,” Fancy continued, “I haven’t seen him since I was twelve but that never makes a difference to people. The moment they find out who my pa is they run me out of town.”

“You could change your name,” Trent suggested.

“That would make it harder for them to find out who I was but not stop them completely. Folks can be mighty persistent.”

“And you’re sure you haven’t seen him since you were twelve?”

“As sure as I’m sitting here. The last time I saw him I was lying on the steps of the Longville Bank with a bullet wound in my arm. I had been the lookout and I got myself shot. Pa decided I’d just slow them down too much and since I didn’t know I couldn’t tell them where the hideout was.”

“You mean he just left you?” Trent wasn’t sure if she was telling the truth. He wanted to believe her but he had met many convincing liars in his time.

“That’s right.”

“What happened?

“While the town was in an uproar about the bank being robbed I managed to stumble, unnoticed, to the doctor’s office.”

“With a bullet wound?” Trent asked skeptically. “You were only twelve.”

“I didn’t say it was easy.”

“And why the doctor’s office? Shouldn’t you have been trying to get out of town?”

“I suppose,” Fancy said, “but I wasn’t thinking straight. All I could think about was getting the bullet out of me so I went to the one person I knew could do that.”

“And what happened?”

“The doctor took one look at me and said ‘how does a pretty little thing like you get shot?’ And, like I told you, I wasn’t thinking straight, so I told him.”

“What did he do?”

“He looked kind of shocked. Then he removed the bullet, bandaged it, and took me to the sheriff’s. He asked me a lot of questions but, like I said before, I didn’t know much. Pa never told me any of his plans and I was usually blindfolded going to and from the hideout so I didn’t know where it was. The doctor and the sheriff agreed that since I had been forced against my will to help in the holdup, and since I was so young, there was no need for them to lock me up. So the doctor took me home and he and his wife adopted me.”

“Even though you were Hall Younger’s daughter?”

“I think he and the sheriff thought if I was lying I’d eventually try to contact Pa and they figured this way they could keep an eye on me. So I lived with Dr. Harmon and his wife until they died in a buggy crash three years ago. Since then I’ve just been drifting, trying to find somewhere that will accept me in spite of my past.” Fancy stood up suddenly. “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this,” she said, her voice choked up. She tried to slip past Trent, into the aisle. Trent grabbed her wrist.

“Miss Younger, please, if you’re telling the truth, I want to help you.”

“‘If I’m telling the truth’? Then you don’t believe me.”

Trent chose his words carefully. “Let’s just say I’ll believe you unless I’m given reason not to.”
Sydney had a message for the young redhead sitting with her partner. “Excuse me,” she said, careful not to look at Trent. “The man sitting in the first seat wants to talk with you.”

Fancy’s heart began to race. Who would want to talk to her? And why? “Did he say who he was and why he wanted to talk to me?”

Sydney shrugged. “His name’s Luke Gordon,” she said, purposefully leaving off the marshal part. If she knew the man she’d know he was a marshal and if she didn’t know him she probably wouldn't want to talk to a marshal. “He didn’t say what he wanted.” That was true and Sydney was just dying to find the answer.

“I don’t know a Luke Gordon,” Fancy said.

“Well, he wants to talk to you.”

Fancy looked to Trent for help. “What do you think I should do?”

Trent shrugged. “It couldn’t hurt to hear what the man has to say.”

“All right.” Fancy rose from her seat. “I’ll be right back.”

“You’d better go with her,” Sydney said quietly. “This could be interesting.”

Trent nodded and followed Fancy down the aisle. He slipped unnoticed into the seat behind her.

“What are you doing here?” Fancy demanded sharply. Trent’s heart jumped, thinking she was talking to him, but then the marshal responded.

“Is that anyway to greet your father, Fancy, honey?”

“You stopped being my father the day you dragged me along on that holdup. I wanted nothing to do with you then and I want nothing to do with you now.”

“That’s just too bad, Fancy, honey, because I’m look for new gang members. The lawmen keep shooting up my men.”

“I’m not interested,” Fancy stated firmly, “and, furthermore, if you don’t leave me alone I’ll find a real lawman and turn you in.”

Hall Younger laughed. “You can’t prove anything. It’s been thirteen years and you were just a little girl last time we saw each other.”

“I’ll find a way to prove who you are.”

Hall Younger shook his head. “I don’t think so, Fancy, honey, not if you value your life.”

“Are you threatening me?”

“Call it what you want,” her father said. “If you so much as breathe a word of this to anyone you won’t be able to get far enough away from me. I’ll track you down and kill you.”

“I won’t say a word,” Fancy said, her voice shaking, “if you promise to just leave me alone.”

“I make the deals, Fancy, honey, not you.”

“Don’t call me that!” She stood and started to step into the aisle. Hall Younger grabbed her wrist. When Trent had grabbed her like that early that morning it had warmed her, made her feel safe. Now, being grabbed the same way by her father, it didn’t feel good at all. His grip was like iron, encasing her wrist until she felt as if it would snap. Her pulse was beating rapidly and her heart racing.

“Let me go,” she said, trying to keep the fear out of her voice, “or I’ll call the conductor.”

“And tell him what?” Hall asked. “That I’m a wanted outlaw? He won’t believe you, not with me wearing a badge. All I have to do is tell him who you are and he’ll be on my side.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Just for you to understand I’m serious. If you breathe a word of this I will kill you.”

“I understand,” Fancy said quietly.

“Good,” Hall said. He released her wrist. “You can go back to your seat now.”

Trent jumped up and hurried back to his seat. If Fancy hadn’t had her head down she would have seen him. But she did have her head down so she didn’t know Trent had been eavesdropping. When she returned to her seat she was pale and crying.

“What did he want?” Trent asked.

“Nothing,” Fancy said, wiping tears from her eyes.

“Please, Miss, Younger, I want to help you.”

“It was nothing. Mr. Gordon’s a marshal and he heard I was Hall Younger’s daughter. He just had a few questions.”

She seemed genuinely upset and if she hadn’t known Trent was listening to their conversation then that wasn’t an act she was putting on. He decided to take a chance and assume she was telling the truth. One way or another he’d get to the bottom of this.

“I eavesdropped, Miss Younger.”

“W-what do you mean?” If possible she seemed to go paler.

“I mean when you went to talk to that man I followed you.”

“You had no right to do that,” Fancy said. “You can’t tell anyone what he said. If you really listened then you heard what he said. He’ll kill me if I tell.”

“Not if he gets arrested.”

Fancy laughed humorlessly. “Do you know how many times he’s escaped from the law before this? And it’s like he said, we can’t prove it. He’s the one with the badge.”

Trent so wanted to trust her but knew he couldn’t be entirely honest yet. He had to see if it really was all an act. “Miss Younger-”

He never finished his sentence. As soon as he started speaking the door burst open and three masked men entered the car.
Sydney had retaken her place across from the “marshal” as soon as Fancy had left. She wanted desperately to know what the man had said but hadn’t had a chance to talk with Trent. Right now he was talking with the girl. He seemed to like her and Sydney hoped, for his sake, it was just an act.

The door to the car flew open just then and three armed men entered the car. They were masked so even though she was close enough to get a good look at them Sydney didn’t think she’d be able to identify them.

“All right!” one of them said. “Nobody move!” He waved his gun in the air for emphasis. “Everyone put your hands in the air and don’t try anything. We’ve got you covered and we don’t care how many of you we have to shoot. My partners here are going to come around and collect your valuables and if they so much as think you’re holding something back they’ll shoot.” He turned to the villain incognito and his prisoner. “You there, put up your hands.”

“Make me,” Jude Henson said.

“I said, reach!”

“He can’t,” the “marshal” supplied. “He’s shackled.”

“Get the key,” the outlaw said, pointing his gun directly at the man’s heart. Sydney saw her chance. Two of the outlaws were collecting the loot and the other was occupied with the “lawman”. She had her gun out in a flash, aiming it at the outlaw.

“Drop your gun.”

“Change of plan, boys,” Hall Younger said. He pulled out his gun and pointed it at Sydney. “You should have minded your own business.”

“Oh, no,” Sydney said, pointing her gun right at Hall Younger’s heart. “This is my gold shipment and you’re not getting it. You can shoot me if you like but I’ll take you down with me. Do you hear that?” she said, glancing at the other outlaws but not moving her gun an inch. “If any of you shoots I’ll shoot your boss.”

Hall Younger’s eyes were wide with alarm. “You be careful with that thing.”

“You be careful,” she said, “or you may find yourself dead.”

“All right,” Hall said, “we’ll give you a ten percent cut.”

Sydney laughed. “There’s five of us. That’d be a twenty percent cut.”

“All right, whatever you say, just lower your gun.”

“I’m not that stupid. As soon as I drop this thing either you or one of your boys’ll plug me.”

“You’re very smart,” Hall said, “but we can’t just stand here or the train will reach the station and we’ll all be busted. You’d better come up with something quick.”

“Turn around, Younger,” Trent said. While the outlaws were distracted with the others he had pulled his gun. “Now if one of you shoots it’ll be two of you going down.”

Sydney smiled. She knew Trent would come through for her. “There you have it,” she told the outlaw. “Now are we getting that shipment or not?”

“No,” Fancy said. She grabbed Trent’s arm, forcing him to point the gun toward the floor. A shot fired but it lodged itself into the floor and no one was hurt.

In the commotion Sydney turned her attention from the outlaws and they seized their chance. Hall Younger rammed into her knocking the gun from her hand and forcing her to the ground. The train whistle blew.

The passengers on the train also seized their chance. They grabbed for their guns.

“Let’s get out of here,” one of the outlaws said.

“Not without my gold,” Hall stated.

“It’s no use,” the outlaw told him, almost out the door. “We’re coming to the station. We have to go.”

Hall Younger and his men moved toward the door, guns firing. As the door closed behind them Sydney couldn’t help smiling, in spite of the fact that a wanted outlaw had just gotten away. The gold was safe; she’d done a good day’s work.
Chad Reilly, sheriff of Connellsville, and three of the sheriff’s deputies met the train at the Connellsville station. They took Sydney, Trent, and Jude Henson- who the outlaws had left shackled in their rush to get off the train- to the sheriff’s office. Fancy went along to testify and she refused to meet Trent’s eye.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered to her on the way there.

Fancy snorted. “Don’t talk to me.”

As soon as they got to the office the sheriff turned to Trent. “What’s going on?”

Trent gave a small laugh. “There was a little trouble on the train and these good people think we’re robbers.”

Sheriff Reilly laughed. “You? Train robbers? That’s good. What happened?”

“Well,” Trent began slowly, “Hall Younger was on the train-”

“Hall Younger!” the lawman exclaimed. “Are you sure? Did you catch him?”

“No, we didn’t. You see, he was purporting to be Marshal Gordon and everyone assumed that’s who he was, except for us, of course.” He used his thumb to point to himself and Sydney.

“When Hall tried to hold up the train we pretended to be other train robbers to stall them. These people think we were serious so they brought us here. Unfortunately, Hall and his gang got away.”

“And who is this man?” Sheriff Reilly asked.

“This is Jude Henson,” Sydney explained. It was her adventure too and she wasn’t going to let Trent do all the telling. “Marshal Gordon was supposed to be bringing him here for trial. When we saw Hall with the prisoner, and not Luke, we knew something had to be wrong. Hall somehow got a hold of Jude and the marshal’s badge as well.” Tears welled in the girl’s eyes. “He must have killed Luke.”

“Couldn’t have,” Sheriff Reilly said, “he sent me a wire this morning, warning me there might be trouble. That’s why my boys and I met the train.”

A smile grew across Sydney’s face. ”If he sent you a wire this morning then he must be alive!”

“That’s right,” the sheriff said.

“I’m confused,” Fancy said. “You mean you’re not going to lock these two up?”

The lawman laughed. “Lock up David and Erin? That’s a good one.”

“What does he mean, ‘David and Erin’? You said your name was Trent Dailey.”

“I lied.”

“I should have known,” Fancy said. “You lied about everything else.”

Trent knew he had to address things one at a time so he said, “I’m really Deputy Marshal David Conroy.” He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his badge. “Marshal Gordon wanted Sydney- I mean Erin- and I on the train to help him in case there was trouble. We were all supposed to board separately so people wouldn’t know Syd- I mean Erin- and I were deputies.”

“But then Marshal Gordon wasn’t on the train and Hall Younger was claiming to be him,” Sydney- really Deputy Marshal Erin Kirby put in. “So we knew there had to be trouble.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t honest with you,” David told Fancy. “I needed to know you weren’t on your father’s side.”

Fancy’s eyes grew wide. “If you’re really deputies and you weren’t robbing the train then I messed up your capture. You would have arrested Pa if I hadn’t stopped you.” Tears flooded to her eyes. “It’s all my fault.”

David put a comforting arm around her shoulders. “Under the circumstances I can’t really say I blame you. I’m actually very proud. You thought you were stopping a train robbery.”

“Who’s she?” Sheriff Reilly asked.

“This, Sheriff, is Miss Fancy Younger,” David said.

“Hall Younger’s daughter?” one of the deputies asked.

“Yes.” David felt Fancy’s muscles stiffen as she spoke. “And I don’t know where he is if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“We can’t be sure,” another deputy said.

“We’ll have to hold you for questioning,” Sheriff Reilly told her.

“No you won’t,” David said. “I can vouch for her, she’s innocent and she doesn’t need you questioning her.”

“If you say so, David,” Sheriff Reilly said.

“I say so.”

“All right, but we can keep this one, can’t we?” The lawman motioned to Jude Henson.

“That’s the plan, Sheriff,” Erin said. “We need you to hold him here until the trial.”

The sheriff smiled. “Lock him up, boys.”

“With pleasure,” one of the deputies said.

While everyone was distracted with the locking-up of the outlaw David pulled Fancy aside. “Miss Younger,” he said, “I know I lied to you but I knew who you were and I had to make sure you weren’t on your father’s side. You don’t have to worry about his threats anymore. I’ll take care of you.”

“And why would you do that?” Fancy asked with tears in her eyes. It had been a long time since someone had wanted to help her.

“Because it’s my job to protect honest citizens from outlaws like Hall Younger.”

Still moist eyed, Fancy smiled. David had called her an honest citizen; it was the best compliment she had ever been paid.
David, Erin, and Fancy returned to Denton the next morning. They went straight to the marshal’s office and moment she saw the real Luke Gordon Erin ran and threw her arms around him.

“Oh, Luke, I thought they’d killed you,” she cried.

“No, Erin,” Marshal Gordon laughed, “I’m very much alive. That outlaw just knocked me over the head. When I came to Jude Henson and my badge were gone. The train had already left so I wired Sheriff Reilly to watch out for trouble.”

“There was trouble all right,” Fancy said.

“And who are you, little lady?”

David smiled and put his arm around her shoulder. “This, Marshal, is Miss Fancy Younger.”

“Hall Younger’s daughter?”

“Yes, Marshal,” Fancy admitted, “but I’m not an outlaw like he is.”

“Then why keep his name?” Marshal Gordon asked.

David nudged her with his elbow. “See, I’m not the only one who thinks like that.”

Fancy just smiled. “I thought it wouldn’t make any difference, that people would still find out who I was, but David convinced me otherwise.”

“That’s right,” David said, “I even picked out her new name.”

“You did?” Erin asked.

“I did. Fancy here had agreed to become Mrs. David Conroy.”

Erin gasped. “When did this happen?”

Fancy’s smile grew wider. “This morning on the train. David proposed and I said yes.”

“Isn’t this a little sudden?” Marshal Gordon asked.

David winked at his bride-to-be. “I thought if I married her I’d be able to keep an eye on her. You know, in case she turns out to be an outlaw.”

“Well, I’ll be,” Marshal Gordon said with a shake of his head. “My best deputy getting hitched.”

“Excuse me?”

Marshal Gordon coughed. “Well, naturally, I meant my best deputy besides you, Erin.”

“Thank you.”

“Now, seriously, what happened yesterday? Did Hall Younger try to take the gold?”

“He tried,” David said. Taking turns, he and Erin told the whole story.

“So then he got away,” Erin finished, “but without the gold.”

“Nice work,” the marshal said. He turned to Fancy. “And, in light of all I’ve just been told about you, I give my consent for you to marry my deputy.”

Fancy blushed. “Thank you, Marshal.”

David swung Fancy up into his arms. “This calls for a celebration. Luke’s safe, the gold got to Connellsville, Erin, here, didn’t get us all killed, and I’m getting married.”

“We’re getting married,” Fancy corrected.

“And Hall Younger’s still out there,” Erin said.

“Don’t worry about him,” David said. “We’ll catch him one of these days.”

“How do you know?”

“I can feel it Fancy, honey. I can feel it.”

And there you have it! My very first western. I hope you enjoyed it!!

More about self-publishing on Monday and then another excerpt next Friday. Hope you'll be back!