Saturday, November 17, 2012

Six-Guns and Slay Bells, Story 4

Christmas for Evangeline

Christmas and eggnog and bourbon all seem to go together. At least it seemed that way to Jim Murray. A year ago, he had his own bank held up. Robbed. And he got a third of the take.

Problem was, one of the tellers was a hard ass and always carried a hideout derringer. He shot Mort, one of Murray’s hired robbers, right in the eye. Killed him dead. The bloodstain never completely washed out. And it bothered Murray. The more he drank, the more it bothered him. But what really bothered him was Evangeline, Mort’s wife. She was dead, too. Hanged herself.

Pooch was in on the robbery, but his wife was Murray’s sister.

Murray drinks, drinks a lot. He thinks of Mort. And Evangeline. He plans the perfect crime, but will it work. Can he pull it off while the carolers sing “Oh little town of Bethlehem . . . . . . . .”? Can he?

Courtney Joyner writes screen plays by the dozen, and his short stories appear in numerous anthologies. In addition, you'll never find a better book on Western movies and their actors than his, called The Westerners

C. COURTNEY JOYNER has written the screenplays for  more 25 movies, including THE OFFSPRING starring Vincent Price, and the new telefilm, RETURN OF CAPT. NEMO. His fiction has been anthologized in A FISTFUL OF LEGENDS, LAW OF THE GUN and the new BEAT TO A PULP, ROUND TWO. Courtney lives in Los Angeles with his fiancé and a ton of movie posters.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Six-guns and Slay Bells, Story 8

It was still summer when Eddie Thompson got lynched. Strung up because of a story a young girl told about how a cowboy assaulted her, ripped her dress, and handled her in an unseemly way. Strung up without benefit of a hearing. Strung up by the town’s five-man council.

Little did they know that watchers from afar saw every move. People in a galaxy far far away. A young being, in fact, who felt the situation needed to be resolved.

They took on human form and went to the Kansas town in question . . . just in time for the Christmas holiday, which they thought would work to their advantage.

Jerry Guin weaves a tight story that ends on Christmas. I don’t dare tell you any more for ruining the plot for you. So why don’t you come to Delano along with Gat and Vir to watch over their son Galex and see how he resolves the problems caused by Eddie Thompson’s lynch party?

JERRY GUIN is the author of the western novel "Drover's Vendetta." He has written a number of magazine articles and several anthologized short stories about the old west. Jerry and wife Ginny live in the extreme Northern California community of Salyer.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Something new from fellow Arizona writer Marsha Ward

Spinster's Folly

Marie Owen yearns for a loving husband, but Colorado Territory is long on rough characters and short on fitting suitors, so a future of spinsterhood seems more likely than wedded bliss. Her best friend says cowboy Bill Henry is a likely candidate, but Marie knows her class-conscious father would not allow such a pairing. When she challenges her father to find her a suitable husband before she becomes a spinster, he arranges a match with a neighbor's son. Then Marie discovers Tom Morgan would be an unloving, abusive mate and his mother holds a grudge against the Owen family. Marie's mounting despair at the prospect of being trapped in such a dismal marriage drives her into the arms of a sweet-talking predator, landing her in unimaginable dangers.
This fourth book in the Owen Family Saga is infused with potent heart and intense grit.

Marsha Ward is an award-winning writer and editor who has published over 900 pieces of work, including three previous novels in the Owen Family Saga, numerous newspaper articles, and sections in books on the  craft of writing. She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and American Night Writers Association. Born a while ago in the sleepy little town of Phoenix, Arizona, Marsha grew up with chickens, citrus trees, and lots of room to roam. She began telling stories at a very early age, regaling neighborhood chums with her tales as they snacked on her homemade sugar cookies and drank cold milk. Visiting her cousins on their ranch and listening to her father's stories of homesteading in Old Mexico and in the Tucson area reinforced  Marsha's love of 19th Century Western history.
After many years in the big city, Marsha now makes her home in a tiny hamlet under Central Arizona's magnificent Mogollon Rim. When she is not writing, she loves to spoil her grandchildren, travel, give talks, meet  readers, and sign books.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Six-Guns and Slay Bells, Story 7

We only know him as Cobb. He’s a big man, and a Texas Ranger. And he’s a man who’s out in the snow on Christmas Eve and looking for a shelter. A gully, if it comes to that.

A wagon passes. Dark and bulky, crawling along, pulled by teams of horses . . . no, mules. Maybe it would lead to shelter. A place with a pot-bellied stove. And hot coffee.

Cobb closes with the wagon, and the driver fires a warning shot over his head, then trains the rifle on his middle. Still, he lets the ranger ride in, with his hands in the air.

An old duffer drove the wagon. Knitted red cap and checked flannel coat. He held an ancient Henry. The foot he held against the brake was enclosed ion a high-top black boot. The wagon held a full load. The man says his name is Pop Edmunds. Says he’s going to Antelope Springs, the only bit of civilization around. Edmunds finally agrees to let Cobb follow along.

Then the outlaws come after them. And Edmunds fesses up to having a wagon full of toys, “fur the kids, they should get presents, one and all. It’s Christmas, after all.”

Cobb finds out it’s no simple thing, delivering a load of toys to a bunch of tots. He hangs in there and makes his way to Antelope Springs. But what happens after that is what makes this a creepy Christmas story.

JAMES REASONER, a lifelong Texan, has been a professional writer for more than thirty years. In that time, he has authored several hundred novels and short stories in numerous genres. Best known for his Westerns, historical novels, and war novels, he is also the author of two mystery novels that have achieved cult classic status, Texas Wind and Dust Devils. Writing under his own name and various pseudonyms, his novels have garnered praise from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as appearing on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. He lives in a small town in Texas with his wife, award-winning fellow author Livia J. Washburn.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Six-Guns and Slay Bells, Story 6

Jingle bells takes on a completely new meaning with Douglas Hirt’s creepy Christmas story.

There was an old woman who lived under the hill near our old elementary school. She used to tell a story about when Geronimo came with five horses to trade for her when she lived in Forestdale. Well, Calvin Durham’s kinda like Aunt Sarah Mills.

Cal came into town because he heard the Wheatland Baptists were putting on a Christmas Eve potluck. Cal lived by himself out to Hondo Gulch, but once in a while he came into town. He’d rode a mile or two and he’d met a man or two during his long life. Bat Masterson knew him to say hello. Him and Wild Bill had raised a glass or two in Deadwood. Cochise’d let him sleep in his wickiup back when Tom Jeffords’d been making peace with the Chiricahua chief. Problem was, Cal sometimes let slip that he knew Bat or Jim Bridger, or Wild Bill, or someone, and every time he did, the stories come back to haunt him. Tonight, though, he keeps hearing the sound of sleigh bells.

He had his plate loaded up with potluck ham and potatoes and provender when people started hazing him again. He tells them he’s headed back to Hondo Gulch. And he is. But youngsters just won’t let him be.

Out on the street, Cal busts one of the youngsters with the barrel of his Winchester, and another with the butt. The sheriff shows up and takes Cal’s side of things. But for some reason, the sleigh bells keep sounding. And he really misses Annie, the wife who left him in death almost four decades ago.

The three youngsters come after Cal, bent on killing him, sure no one will miss him. They want to rub out the shame of an old man beating them. Cal sees them, hears them, knows what they want, and the sleigh bells ring.

DOUGLAS HIRT was born in Illinois, but heeding Horace Greeley's admonition to "Go west, young man", he headed to New Mexico at eighteen. He drew heavily from this "desert
life" when writing his first novel, DEVIL'S WIND. In 1991 Doug's novel, A PASSAGE OF SEASONS, won the Colorado Authors' League Top Hand Award. His 1998 book, BRANDISH, and 1999 DEADWOOD, were finalists for the SPUR award given by the Western Writers of America. A short story writer, and the author of twenty-nine novels and one book of non fiction, Doug now makes his home in Colorado Springs with his wife Kathy and their two children, Rebecca and Derick. When not writing or traveling to research his novels, Doug enjoys collecting and restoring old English sports cars. You can find more about Douglas Hirt at

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Six-Guns and Slay Bells, story 5

By Matthew Mayo

Maple Jack’s gotta be a New Englander, just gotta be. But the man knows cows, and partner him up with Roamer and you never can tell what’ll happen.

If you know anything about line shacks, you know they can be lonely. Often, like Howey Simpson was, a line rider’s alone. But with Maple Jack and Roamer, the brand hired the two of them to help cattle on the far reaches of the ranch make it through the winter.

Maple Jack was reticent, but big ol’ Roamer was persuasive. They ended up on the line in one of the worse winters for years.

The ranch was in the lowlands of Wyoming, a place where a man can see clear into tomorrow if he can find a piece of high ground. At any rate, the winter was hard, and folks around predicted, and the two cowboys spend days keeping cows from getting buried in snowbanks and drinking hooch to keep warm at night.

The men go riding out into a snowstorm on Christmas Eve day, and as might be expected, the snow gets them turned completely around. When the flakes are falling thick and fast, not only can you not tell where you’re headed, but after a few minutes, you can’t tell where you’ve been. Your tracks are completely filled up with new snow. They rode tied together with a lariat so one wouldn’t drift away from the other. Maple Jack rode his tough old mule, and Roamer was aboard a mighty half-Percheron. The big animals could buck the drifts all right, but that didn’t help the riders keep their directions straight.

Then they find shelter. A lean-to for their mounts and a . . . a . . . house of sorts . . . for the riders.

From this point on, Christmas Eve becomes something special, something creepy, something Maple Jack and Roamer are not sure they’ll escape.

MATTHEW P. MAYO is a Spur Award- and Peacemaker Award-nominated writer whose short stories appear in a variety of anthologies (his collected “Maple Jack” tales is forthcoming from Gritty Press). Matthew’s novels include the Westerns Winters’ War; Wrong Town (Roamer, Book 1); Hot Lead, Cold Heart; Dead Man’s Ranch; and Tucker’s Reckoning. His critically acclaimed non-fiction books include Cowboys, Mountain Men & Grizzly Bears; Bootleggers, Lobstermen & Lumberjacks; Sourdoughs, Claim Jumpers & Dry Gulchers; and Haunted Old West. Matthew can frequently be found roving the highways and byways of the West with his wife, photographer Jennifer Smith-Mayo. Visit him on the Web at .