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Saturday, August 17, 2019

PROMO: Assertion Trials


A Wilder Novella
Paranormal Romance
Date Published: August 6, 2019

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I am Shala Wilder. It is time for my coming-of-age celebration. Eligible males from every wolf pack have come to compete in the brutal trials of the Assertion.

When all is over, the victor will claim me as his companion. The problem? My heart isn’t set on a competitor, but on an off-limits guard who has no interest in me.

What fate awaits me at the end of the trials? Will I fulfill my duty as obedient pack member, or will I forge my own path?




Excerpt

“Shala Wilder, get your skinny ass down here right now!”


My heart sank at the sound of Nettie’s frustrated tone. I knew she’d come looking for me when she realized I wasn’t in bed, but I didn’t think it would be so soon. I barely had time to get comfortable on my little perch, no chance to calm my frazzled nerves. My anxiety over the coming events was still too raw. I needed more time alone, but I wouldn’t get it.

“I mean it, girl. I know you’re up there. Don’t make me come get you.”

We both knew she couldn’t climb the thirty feet up to my little ledge. Still, I was in big trouble if I didn’t at least answer her.

Shifting onto my belly, I peered nervously over the edge to find her standing with her hands on her hips, her foot tapping out an impatient rhythm. That was just like her, always looking so stern and serious. She didn’t have a fun bone in her body. At least, not since I’d known her. She was a no-nonsense kind of woman. She didn’t have time for games, but no matter how harsh she could be, the woman loved us all fiercely.

“I’m just staring at the stars, Nettie,” I called down to her. “Don’t have a pup.”
Her wrinkled face pulled into a tight scowl. “I am well beyond my birthing years, girl. There’ll be no more heathen pups for me.”
I rolled my eyes. She’d missed the point. Again. Sometimes, I couldn’t help thinking she did it on purpose.
From behind Nettie, Rendall stepped into the open, her short cap of pale hair gleaming silver in the moonlight. “You should be sleeping, Shala. You’ll need the rest for your big day tomorrow.”
I flopped onto my back again, letting out a short puff of air. “I can’t sleep. I’m too nervous.”
My twentieth birthday—the beginning of my adult life—was only a few hours away and sleep refused to come to me. Anxiety and worry made it impossible. Not only had ten years passed since I last saw my parents, but the next few days held unknown things for me.
Over the course of my stay in the mountain stronghold, I endured the emergence of my wolf, struggled to get control of her, and mastered the art of shifting with ease and deftness. Still, I had my misgivings about the changes I faced in the coming days.
“Come down and I’ll make you some tea,” Rendall offered.
“I don’t want tea,” I grumbled. “I want to stare at the stars until my eyes cross and I fall asleep from sheer exhaustion.”
A small silence followed my confession before Rendall pressed. “Come now, Shala. Nettie may not come get you, but I will.”
The stiff tone in Rendall’s voice told me all I needed to know. She was usually one of the gentler elderwomen, but she was a good climber. If she came after me, I’d likely be thrown from the low cliff.
With great reluctance, I joined the two women and walked silently between them all the way back to the village. Nettie said goodnight once we reached the main hall, leaving me to follow Rendall to the kitchen.



About the Author


Melaina Rayne is author of The Jagara Series, Warriors of Lykarthia series, and Assertion Trials: a Wilder novella. She's a sucker for a down-and-dirty romance whether it's paranormal, fantasy, or contemporary. She wholeheartedly believes a great love story transcends the boundaries of genre. But, as much as she loves reading, she especially loves to write stories of beastly men, headstrong women, and the untamable passion that always draws them together.


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Friday, August 16, 2019

PROMO: Light of Honor


Book #2 in the Primeval Origins Epic Saga
Sci-fi Fantasy
Publisher: Celestial Fury Publishing

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Primeval Origins: Light of Honor (2nd Edition) - Book #2 in this epic story revealing mankind's undiscovered history and ancient origins bringing rise the legendary Four Horsemen. Join Nikki, a paleo-archeological graduate student suffering life altering happenings turning her life upside-down and sending her on the run from forces unknown as she learns of and experiences our undiscovered and hidden history. A history filled with terrible tyrannies, deadly dinosaurs, brutal beasts, ancient gods, and heroic hearts as the origins of our End Times is revealed, answering the question, "What if all of our myths and legends are true?"

Primeval Origins: Light of Honor (Book #2 in this Epic Saga, 2nd Edition)
www.primevalorigins.com 

AWARDS and HONORS
* Fantasy Book of the Year, 2016 Reader Views Literary Awards. 
* Finalist, Fiction/Fantasy Book of the Year, 2016 CIPA EVVY Award
* Merit, Fiction/Fantasy Book of the Year, 2016 CIPA EVVY Award
* Finalist, Fantasy Book of the Year, 2016 International Book Awards 
* Finalist, E-Book Fiction Book of the Year, 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
* Finalist, Science Fiction, 2016 Best Book Award
* Epic Fantasy Book of the Year, 2017 Independent Press Awards
* Fantasy Best Books, NABE Summer 2018 Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards 
* Fantasy Book of the Year, 2018 New York City Big Book Award
* Epic Fantasy Book of the Year, 2018 New York City Big Book Award

Epic Fantasy, Science Fantasy, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Action & Adventure, Myth & Legend, Dystopian, Good and Evil, Christian Fantasy, Kindle, Nook, iBook/iTunes...and maybe more truth than is expected.

Fleeing across the sea from enemies familiar and unknown, the crew of the Wind Runner and I fight for our lives as we struggle to keep safe our strange and ancient cargo, the unconscious Rogaan and Aren. We have need the help of these warriors of old as we battle deadly Tyr super-soldiers of the New World Order, now commanded by the forces of the Crescent Moon, intent on taking our ancient cargo for themselves. I suffer horribly the wrath of the Tyr when protecting the unrisen Horsemen, hurling me to the brink of death and back into the ancient world of mankind's first civilization, reliving the past through the eyes of the then young and aspiring warrior Rogaan and the mystic Aren. As my Light, again, plunges into the maelstrom of our deep past experiencing a culture both simultaneously primitive and advanced, as our ancient ancestors struggle against self-corruptions and unseen powers born of jealous entitlements by their celestial gods and unknown intelligences. In these remembrances, I am witness to terrible injustices and impossible trials levied by the covetous tyrannies against Rogaan, Aren, and many others. In the here and now, I find rising deep questions about humanity's origins and the seemingly eternal battle between the goodness of the Light and the selfish evils of the Darkness. I, Nikki, now standing at the precipice at the end of mankind's Fourth World-Age, bare testimony of our undiscovered history, in these blue steel epics, revealing the origins of the Horsemen of Prophecy...before the sounding of the trumpets.

Visit the Primeval Origins websites at:
The websites are loaded with news and more and the Primeval Origins Encyclopedia and Lexicon (all the background matter that you just can't stuff into books).







Other Books in the Primeval Origins Epic Saga:



Primeval Origins: Paths of Anguish
Book 1 in the Primeval Origins Epic Saga
Publisher: Celestial Fury Publishing


"What if all of our myths and legends are true?"

We seek our origins independently through the sciences of paleontology, archeology, and more. We further seek our origins through the difficult to understand metaphorical languages of our religions. And, we further seek our origins in our myths and legends when we are not arrogantly dismissing them as ancient fantasies, creations of a primitive human mind. None of our independent "origins seekers" have complete a picture of our grand and troubled past, yet all have pieces of the greatest puzzle every to challenge modern man. It is here the Primeval Origins Epic Saga begins, integrating our sciences, our religions, and our myths and legends into a story of the ages, telling of our undiscovered history, mankind's struggle to survive terrible tyrannies, deadly dinosaurs, brutal beasts, and ancient gods. An epic telling seen through the eyes of the Horsemen of our coming End Times.





Primeval Origins: Rise of Serpents
Book #3 in the Primeval Origins Epic Saga
Publisher: Celestial Fury Publishing


Primeval Origins: Rise of Serpents – Book three (#3) in the epic story of mankind’s origins and the creation of the Four Horsemen. Join Nikki, a paleo-archeologist graduate student on a field expedition, discovering our hidden history, turning her life upside-down and sending her on the run from unknown deadly forces, as she learns of and experiences our undiscovered history filled with terrible tyrannies, deadly dinosaurs, brutal beasts, ancient gods, and heroic hearts as the origins of our End Times is revealed, answering the question, “What if all of our myths and legends are true?”

Seeking refuge from the relentless hunt, we evade the gathering forces of mankind and their guiding masters…the Serpents of Old…the Watchers of humanity. Knowledge and advancements fashioned for humanity’s betterment now turned foul by lord and servant alike, subjugating all to the ever-present examination of the surveilling State. Mankind’s self-subjugation rendering themselves as slaves to the unseen few, who only allow freedoms to peoples paying homage to their institutions of cunning tyrannies. Subtle guidance by the ancient scales now coil tightly about their corrupted human tools to deliver to them the World in arrogant defiance of Creation. It is in this confrontation, I vision the origins of the Old Serpents…in our first civilization, seeing their Lights twisted and fouled by selfish wants and the corruptible doings of their divinities. Their ancient bane…the Horsemen, I see rise, then as now, who through deeds self-driven and compelled leave in their wake punishing destructions as they seek to halt corruptions both mortal and afar. I sense I play a part in the approaching Apocalypse, through my aid to these Horsemen of Prophecy and something more. As I stand at the precipice to the end of the Fourth World-Age of humanity looking out at the coming tempest, I, Nikki, now do as our ancients did in tablets of clay and stone, chronicling humanity’s undiscovered past in these steel bound epics to share with you before the sounding of the trumpets.





About the Author

Multiple Award-Winning Author of the Primeval Origins Epic Saga


- Primeval Origins: Paths of Anguish (#1)

- Primeval Origins: Light of Honor (#2)

- Primeval Origins: Rise of Serpents (#3)

- Primeval Origins: TBD (#4)


B.A. Vonsik graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and served as an USAF Special Operations aviator. Currently, B.A. Vonsik works in the training and simulation industry by day while at night and all other times detailing the world of Primeval Origins with new discoveries and research in ancient mythologies, creation myths, religions, sciences and technologies. Starting with a curiosity about why many of our mythologic pantheons seemed very similar, B.A. created the Primeval Origins story based on more than 25 years of research integrating our mythologies, ancient alien theory, history, the sciences, and with the stories of the Bible, Qur'an, and Hindu religions. B.A. Vonsik lives with his extraordinary wife in Florida.


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Thursday, August 15, 2019

PROMO: Nothing Else But You


New Adult Romance, Contemporary Romance
Published: July 30, 2019
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group

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TRUE HEARTS

What appealed most about The Letter Club was the anonymity and complete absence of social media BS. Giovanni Di Caro lives with enough scrutiny and family drama, he didn't need anymore, but he wanted someone he could talk to. Sure, his quad-mates in college are great, but there's a part of him he wanted to share without worrying about being judged. What he didn't expect was to fall for a woman whose letters became his anchor. Smart, funny, intuitive and sweet, somehow she understood him better than anyone else in his life. The problem? He doesn't know her name or where she lives. But he will, because over the past few months she had become his girl, and now he's ready to claim what's his.





EXCERPT FROM NOTHING ELSE BUT YOU


Mirabelle figured that dwelling on the school shooting and G’s aimlessness as a result thereof was a downer. She wanted to make him laugh and see the lighter side of life. God knew she spent countless hours working on that herself.

So, after typing out the letter and printing it in the computer lab – she did not have a computer at home and she would never use the one at work for personal stuff – she returned to the computer and went through the Sagawick Valley High School’s yearbooks for G’s sophomore year.

Unusual, and a bit daunting, there were eleven boys with G as their first name. And who knew if G was really a G. She wasn’t really Mirabelle, but she had become Mirabelle nine months ago when she’d fled home. It took a good chunk of her savings to buy a new driver’s license and social security card. Denny, the guy who sent her to the forger, was as stand-up as a mid-level street dealer could be, but in this case, he did her a solid. No, she didn’t do drugs, but she had lived in the same rat-hole boarding house in Portland as he did, and she cooked on her little camp stove, even though she wasn’t supposed to cook in her room. One night when she was making a stew, Denny had smelled the food, came a knocking, and begged a meal. Their sit-down dinners were a two to three time a week occurrence. Denny was a real quid pro quo kind of guy, so he did her a solid and sent her to a good forger who knew how to get her a valid social security number.

Which was how she was able to move to and settle in Fiddler’s Rest, population 2,036, the county seat of a sparsely populated area, a little east of the middle of the great state of Oregon. After having spent hours hunched over a computer in one of Portland’s public libraries, she’d found Fiddler’s Rest, saw they had a community college, and that there were enough stores in the area that she knew she’d find work. It was cheap to live there, far from almost everything and everybody, yet only miles from a main highway that cut across the state. Perfect camouflage and an easy escape route.

Taking it on faith that G was a G, she went through the yearbook assiduously. Eleven G guys, five of which were on sports teams. Mirabelle bet that G had become proficient enough to play a sport for an Ivy League school because he’d done it for years. Of the five sport Gs, George, football, Geoffery, tennis – natch with that spelling – Grant, basketball, Glen, baseball and Giovanni, lacrosse, Mirabelle had guessed that Glen was her G.

But she wasn’t certain.

Glenn Ryback was good-looking in a jock sort of way, but he didn’t exude Ivy League. He seemed more state school and chill. He didn’t have the intensity a student needed to crack the Ivy League safe. Geoffery Whitcomb was so white bread and Ivy League his photo screamed Skull and Bones, but he didn’t look like he had a sensitive bone in his body. Her G – yeah, she knew he wasn’t hers, but still – was a guy with a deep well of a soul or a supreme liar. Who was she to judge? She’d reinvented herself and fabricated a new identity. But… She hadn’t lied to him about anything except the initial of her first name. She was golden.

Grant Ascomb had the looks and the Ivy League aura, but while basketball could get physical, it wasn’t brutal, which is how her G described his sport. Which left George Brody, the linebacker, and Giovanni Di Caro, the lacrosse player. George wasn’t much to look at, but he fit the bill in the sports department. She couldn’t tell if he was Ivy League material. Maybe, but around the eyes he didn’t seem to have the smarts. There was nothing scientific about her deductions. Christ, these were yearbook photos that were nearly five years old. But, it was all she had.

Giovanni Di Caro was too gorgeous to be serious enough to even apply for college, never mind gain entrance to an Ivy League school. The lower classes’ photos were in black and white. Only the seniors’ photos were in color, and yet, Mirabelle knew Giovanni had bright blue eyes and jet-black hair. A dangerous combination in the you’re-too-handsome-to-be-real column, which was why she was sure he wasn’t her G. Anyone who looked that good and could drop panties for a living didn’t knuckle down and study like a demon. Sure, she was making broad generalizations, but she’d found, for the most part, they held water.

She looked at the time in the top corner of the computer screen, cursed, then erased her search history and powered off the computer. She was going to be late for her writing class. They were diagramming sentences, which sounded horrid, but she loved that shit.


About the Author


Elle Wright has been writing stories since she was a child, which led her to a career in journalism. She enjoys reporting life as much as making up a world she can control. She lives on the east coast of the United States where most of her large, noisy family resides. When she isn't in front of her computer, she loves to travel, garden, hang out with her dogs, and take in the brisk sea air that she's told is supposed to help calm her. She's been testing that theory for a while now.



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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

PROMO: Now You See Her


Coming of Age Romance, Coming of Age Fiction
Publisher: Black Rose Writing

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Sequel to Fire in the Bones, Mark Harris’s Now You See Her—about nothing less than living with our dreams and the iconoclasm of reality—is an unmitigated joy to read. Once again he enchants readers with a poignant and charming coming-of-age yarn about the power of the stories we tell ourselves.

Hungry for permanent love and a hope that doesn’t disappoint, the precocious protagonist searches for signs while navigating early 1970s America, culling insights from sermons and songs, from comic books to classical movies. With a fertile mind and incredible imagination, he scans the cultural landscape for role models of masculinity and virtue: from Columbo to John Dean, from Wolfman Jack to Bob Newhart, reminding readers in the process of an earlier time Harris is so adept at resurrecting. Negotiating the deep mysteries of young love and the opposite sex, Luke’s riveting pilgrimage and fascinating psychological journey ultimately tells the tale of the beauty of reciprocity and the power of unconditional love. Growing up, like waking up, reminds us of the infinite value of what’s real and the courage it takes to risk vulnerability to experience it to the full.





Other books by Mark R. Harris



Fire in the Bones
Publisher: DigiTerra Publishing

Spanning the years 1964-1972, Fire in the Bones follows Luke, an American boy plagued by panic and loneliness growing up in a nominally religious middle class family. He looks for security and companionship wherever he can, first through daydreams, including a relationship with an imaginary friend named Bob, and then on to sixties pop culture, via TV icon Batman and pop music sensations the Beatles. As Luke comes to pattern his identity after the Beatles and others, he creates a fantasy world for himself that keeps the panic and loneliness at bay. But when Lonnie walks into his life, he enters a new reality where a flesh-and-blood female offers him tangible security-but at a price Luke may not be willing to pay.





About the Author



Mark R. Harris was born in Kentucky, moved to New Jersey as a small boy, and met his wife in Pennsylvania.  He holds a Ph.D. in English and currently teaches English in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he lives with his wife Beth and three children. His articles on literature have appeared in Studies in Short Fiction; poems have appeared in Nantahala Review and Euphony; and his first novel, Fire in the Bones, was published in 2015.


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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Blog Tour: Gavin Goode



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Contemporary/Literary
Date Published: 6.27.19
Publisher: Black Rose Writing

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“I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but I think I died today.” So begins the complex and mysterious journey of Gavin Goode and his family. What happened to Gavin and why? What secrets will emerge along the way? Frankie, his wife and a dress store owner, feels guilty, but why? His son, Ryan, who owns an ice cream parlor, and daughter-in-law, Jenna, who is a bank manager, are expecting their first baby. How will this trauma affect them? And what of Rosemary, Frankie’s best friend? Or Ben Hillman and eleven-year-old, Christopher? How are they implicated in the events that unfold around Gavin’s misfortune? This is a story of despair and hope, dreams and reality, uncertainty and faith, humor, secrecy, forgiveness and beginnings.

Excerpt


Gavin awakens to an unexpected development.

“I don’t know why and I don’t know how, but I think I died today.” Gavin is a perceptive guy. He looks at this problem from every angle. Where is his body, for instance? Why doesn’t he see anything or feel anything? Hear? Smell? Where has the world gone? He doesn’t have a clue what happened. He doesn’t remember anything. Surely there would have been a warning sign, something that cried out, “Mayday, mayday! Brace yourself!” But there was nothing… He traces his final hours as best he can… He thinks back a little further, searching for clues. Last Tuesday he saw Dr. Nguyen for his annual. Blood test, prostate exam (not a fan), ticker check, everything was normal. “You are in good shape for your age, Mr. Goode,” said the doctor. “What does that mean?” thought Gavin. “Someone my age? I’m fifty-two, which isn’t young, I’ll grant you that, but it’s not old, not these days. Maybe in my old man’s time, but not today. Fifty has to be ‘the new’…something younger…”

He’d been afraid of death for as long as he could remember. Every lump or bump was cancer. And every odd looking crap was also cancer. He always assumed the Big C was sneaking around his insides, like ISIS metastasizing, calling up reinforcements, slinking around in his cracks and crevices, waiting for the right time to attack. It happens. Let’s say you feel great but you’re due for your flu shot, so you go to the doctor’s and just as you are leaving, you say, “By the way, doc, before I go, could you take a look at this thing on my leg?” And your doctor’s eyes narrow as she studies the tiny black bruise. She excuses herself and returns with a senior colleague who takes his glasses off the top of his head so he can get a better look, only to remove them again and shake his head. Your doctor shakes her head, too, and says, “Should have come in months ago.” You know the rest…

Gavin has issues. It all started with his grandfather, his Papa, who lived with them when he was a boy. He was close to Papa, who played catch with him, explored the woods near their house with him, read books with him, made bird houses with him, did just about everything with the young Gavin. As Gavin grew up and Papa got older, things changed. They didn’t hang together as much. Papa stayed home watching TV most of the time. 

One day Gavin comes home from school and Papa is sitting in his recliner, Days of Our Lives blaring on the TV. Gavin calls to him, “Hey Papa, how’s it going?” When he doesn’t answer, Gavin figures he can’t hear, so he cranks it up, “PAPA, HOW’S IT GOING?” Nothing. So he walks over to Papa’s chair and taps him on the shoulder, at which point, Papa slumps over to one side. Totally scares the shit out of young Gavin. He thinks of doing CPR, but he can’t bring himself to get that involved with his grandfather’s mouth. The creepiness factor is too high. Anyway, as far as Gavin can tell Papa is long gone. 

So he calls his mother who totally freaks at the news. She drops the phone and dashes home as fast as she can. But no matter what she does, it still takes at least twenty minutes for her to get there. Twenty minutes alone with dead Papa. What to do, right? Watch the show with him? Talk to him? Close his mouth? Prop him up and comb his hair so he looks more like himself when Gavin’s mother gets home? In the end, Gavin can’t touch his grandfather. 

It had been a long day at school. Gavin missed lunch because of a meeting with his school counselor and he’s starving. So he goes to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich. He thinks of going back into the living room, but it seems disrespectful to eat in front of Papa, considering the condition he’s in, so Gavin stays in the kitchen. 

That’s where he is when his mother gets home. Let’s just say she isn’t pleased and she doesn’t understand Gavin’s reasoning. “He’s your last grandparent! At least sit with him! God knows he sat with you often enough!” Gavin wants to say, “Hey, I’m, like, I came home and there’s Papa sitting in front of the TV, all dead, and no one’s around and it totally scared the crap out of me. At least I stayed in the house. I didn’t run out into the street screaming like a crazy person, which is what I wanted to do. Shouldn’t I get points for that? It may not have been ‘A’ work on my part, but it wasn’t an ‘F’ either; it was at least a ‘C’ or ‘C-’.” But in a moment of rare wisdom he doesn’t say anything. He realizes that basically she is right, though he still feels that eating a peanut butter and sweet pickle sandwich in front of his dead grandfather would not have been in good taste.


About the Author

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David B. Seaburn’s first novel, Darkness is as Light, was published in 2005. He followed with Pumpkin Hill (2007), Charlie No Face (2011), a Finalist for the National Indie Excellence Award in General Fiction, Chimney Bluffs (2012), More More Time (2015), and Parrot Talk (2017), which placed second in the TAZ Awards for Fiction (2017) and was short listed for the Somerset Award (2018). Seaburn’s upcoming novel, Gavin Goode, will be released in June 2019.

Seaburn is a retired marriage and family therapist, psychologist and Presbyterian minister who lives in Spencerport, NY with his wife, Bonnie. They have two daughters who are married and three wonderful grandchildren. After serving a rural parish for six years, Seaburn entered the mental health field. He was an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center for nearly twenty years. There he was Director of the Family Therapy Training Program (Psychiatry) and Coordinator of the Psychosocial Medicine Rotation (Family Medicine). He also taught, practiced and conducted research. He published over sixty academic articles and two books. In 2005, Seaburn left the Medical Center to become Director of the Family Support Center in the Spencerport Central School District, a free counseling center for students and their families. Seaburn is currently a writing instructor at Writers and Books in Rochester, NY.

Visit his website at www.davidbseaburn.com.

Read his Psychology Today magazine blog at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/going-out-not-knowing.



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PROMO: Defenders of the Texas Frontier


Historical Fiction
Date Published: April 2019
Publisher: iUniverse

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It was 1837 when John Coffey (Jack) Hays, only nineteen years old, arrived in Texas. He was too late to join the fight for Texas Independence but joined the ranging company of Deaf Smith and started his long history of defending Texans from raids by Comanche bands and Mexican bandits. By the time, he was twenty-three he was a captain of the Texas Rangers, known throughout Texas as a fearless fighter and a leader whose men would follow him anywhere, under any circumstances. Amongst his lieutenants were Samuel H. Walker, Ben McCulloch and William (Bigfoot) Wallace each of whom became leaders of Texas Ranger companies, and forged their own legends in Texas history.

Hays, more than any other man, symbolized the Texas Rangers during the era of the Texas Republic. During the Mexican War, Colonel Hays’ Rangers scouted, defended U.S. supply and communication lines from attacks by Mexican guerrillas, and fought with regular units of the U.S. Army. They earned a significant reputation for bravery and success.

Hays’ Rangers were almost always outnumbered in their battles with Comanche and Mexicans, but more than held their own because they had early access to the revolver. Hays made certain every one of the men under his command was a skilled marksman with the revolver and their other weapons. This novel tells the story of Hays’ life, loves, and the sense of honor and responsibility that motivated him to embrace hardship and danger.



 


Excerpt

Chapter 1

My name is John Caperton. I have known and been a friend of Jack Hays since we were young boys teaching ourselves how to hunt and fish and live rough in the forests of Tennessee. I am six months younger than Jack. I followed him, and now I leave a record of his story.

            We arrived in Nacogdoches thirsty and decided to have a beer. Jack stood at the end of the ten-foot bar sipping at the mug of beer he held in his left hand. I was leaning against the far wall, no more than six or seven feet away. Jack was then nineteen, but he appeared to be maybe fourteen or fifteen years old. He’s still slight and is an inch or two shorter than most of the men in any room. His complexion is fair, his nose slightly aquiline. His mouth is firm with thin lips. His chin is square. His beard struggled to be noticed. He didn’t move his head, but his deep-set hazel eyes moved continuously, taking in everyone and everything in the room.

All the men in the room, with the exception of the bartender, were dressed roughly. Their wool pants were baggy and dirty with constant use, their shirts dirty and frayed at their collars and cuffs. The men’s coats were a variety of styles, including some uniform coats from 1812. Almost all the men wore wide leather belts with one or two pistols jammed in between belt and coat. Some held rifles. Most had large knives in sheaths hanging from their belts. All wore battered hats of indeterminate style and age.

Jack was also wearing wool pants, but his were less baggy. The collar of his homespun shirt was stained but not frayed, and his coat was a heavy wool with a tight weave. His hat was beaver felt, the crown crushed flat, the brim drooping. He had two pistols jammed in his wide belt, the heavy grips facing each other. His bowie knife resided in a sheath close to his right hand. A Tennessee long rifle was slung by a leather strap over his left shoulder.

The continuous murmur of men in quiet conversation pervaded the cramped room. Occasionally, the sound of chairs and boots scraping on the wide-plank pinewood floor penetrated the hum. The floor planks, apparently nailed down while green, were twisted. Men often stumbled while making their way to the bar, not always the result of having imbibed too much alcohol. Every time a newcomer entered the room, there was a shout of greeting. Adding to the ambiance was the sharp sound of playing cards slapped with enthusiasm onto the three rickety tables crowding the space. All the sounds were punctuated by the noise of shot glasses and beer mugs set down on the bar and tables. Chunks of thick, sticky Nacogdoches mud dried in the warm closeness of the room and fell in clumps from the boots of the men who were in the bar longest. This was all accompanied by the stench of stale beer, rough whiskey, cigar smoke, and the stink, rising like steam, from the filthy clothing of unwashed males.

Jack watched as some men left and others arrived, crowding past one another through the narrow doorway. The single room of the rough board cabin that served as the bar filled as more men crowded in.

“Shut the damn door!” someone yelled.

It was late April 1836. Wind and rain pounded the town of Nacogdoches in the new Republic of Texas.

The door crashed open again, and a very large man pushed through. This time nobody shouted a greeting. He shoved men aside to claim a place at the bar.

“Whiskey, damn it, George,” he shouted at the harried bartender, who, after glancing to identify the speaker, stopped pouring beer into the three mugs he held in one hand. He set the mugs down and poured a shot of whiskey, sliding it through the spilled beer lubricating the bar top.

The big man took up the glass, turned to survey the room, and then drank the cheap whiskey in a gulp. He returned the shot glass to the bar without turning.

“Hit me again, and keep them coming, George. Don’t just stand there with your thumb up your ass.”

I leaned in toward the man standing next to me and whispered, “Who is that guy?”

“The local bully,” he whispered back. “Before long, he’ll taunt somebody and wave one of those fists in his victim’s face.”

 I noticed all the men in the bar did their best to avoid looking at him, except for Jack, who didn’t take his eyes from the huge fellow.

The man standing next to me whispered again. “I noticed you came in with that young man at the bar. If he’s your friend, you best tell him not to do anything to provoke. After a couple shots of that rotgut, Big Al will try to pick a fight with someone, and if that youngster doesn’t stop staring at him, he’ll be the one.”

Jack kept his place at the bar and continued to gaze at the bully.

The big man quickly consumed three more shots of whiskey and then suddenly shoved the man standing next to him. “Back off, shithead. Don’t crowd me, or I’ll beat the crap out of you.”

The man backed away, gulped what was left of the beer in his hand, put the mug down on a table, and ran from the bar.

The bully smiled, pleased with the reaction he forced. Then he noticed Jack looking at him. “What you smilin’ about, twerp?” he shouted, pushing past three men to stand very close to Jack.

I left my place at the wall to move closer.

The bully was a full head taller and at least ninety pounds heavier than Jack. His broad shoulders tapered into a thick neck. Although I was three feet away, I could smell his rotted teeth. Jack did not back away from the stench. The bully clenched his fists.

“Wipe that smile off your face, shithead, or would you rather I wipe it off for you?” The bully raised his right fist and waved it in front of Jack’s face. “I said to wipe off that smile, or I’ll wipe it off for you.”

Jack continued to smile while gently placing his mug on the bar. The bully pulled back his fist. The pistol on Jack’s left side was in his right hand. The fist started forward, a cap exploded, and the coat over the big man’s heart burst into flames. He fell straight back, stiff as a felled tree. He was dead when the back of his head hit the floor, pushing his hat over his still snarling face.

Jack pushed his pistol back through his belt and then swept his eyes around the room. “Anybody think that man was not about to hit me?” he asked.

One man pushed his chair back from the table where he sat. The feet of the chair screeched and then caught on a twisted board. The man stood, pushing the chair over backward.

“That son of a bitch beat me near to death three weeks ago, and others in this room have suffered at those fists. Thanks, young man. We are well rid of that scum.”

Several other men in the room voiced their agreement.

“Is there a lawman in this town?” asked Jack. “I suppose I’m in deep shit for killing this man, but I wasn’t going to allow him to hit me.”

“It was self-defense. We all saw it,” said the man as he extricated his feet from the turned-over chair on the floor.

The door slammed open, hitting the wall on the hinge side. A gray-haired man with a four-day-old beard, his potbelly hanging over his gun belt, entered with a pistol in his hand and a badge pinned to his coat.

“I heard a shot. What the hell has Big Al Cranston done now?”

Jack motioned at the body on the floor with his chin. “Is that Cranston?”

One of the men in the room spoke up. “It was completely justified, Sheriff. Couldn’t expect the young man to wait until that asshole hit him. I want to buy our hero a drink.”

I finally found my voice. “I can verify that man on the floor was about to hit him, sir.”

Several men shouted at the bartender to pour Jack a drink.

Jack waved a hand in the air. “Thanks, gents. I’ve had all the alcohol I need. Maybe another time. We’re just passing through.” He grabbed my right arm above the elbow. “Believe we’ll be on our way, unless there is something else, Sheriff.”

“I’ll need you and your friend to come to my office and sign a statement, young man. You too, Sam, and anyone else who agrees Big Al was asking for it. I’ll have to file a report with the judge whenever he comes around again. What’s your name, youngster?”

“John Coffee Hays, sir,” Jack answered.

“Any relation to Harmond Hays of Tennessee?”

“Yes, sir. He’s my daddy.”

“How’s he doing?”

“He and my ma both died of the cholera about four years ago.”

“Sorry to hear that. I served with him in 1812 under General Jackson. Didn’t one of your uncles marry Andrew Jackson’s sister?”

“Yes, sir. She’s my great-aunt Cage, my ma’s side.”

“Well, boys, the tree this lad sprouted from is one tough giant of the US of A. Let me shake your hand, John Coffee Hays. Nobody in this town is likely to weep over the loss of Big Al. Some of you boys haul his carcass out of here. Leave him on the porch of my office until I can order a coffin, but wrap him up in a tarp first. No sense in spreading his blood all over town. George, looks like you’ll have a mess to clean up.”

The bartender replied. “He rarely paid for what he consumed, so no great loss. A bucket of water sloshed on the floor will get most of it. The rest will just mix with the dirt.”

As we followed the sheriff to his office, Jack whispered, “So that’s how it feels to kill a man. Glad I didn’t take the time to think about what I was doing. Just a reflex. Still, I’m glad I’m not in trouble. Wonder if Big Al has family who will mourn him?”

*****


About the Author

Dr. David R. Gross has co-edited three multi-authored textbooks and more than one hundred scientific articles. The first, second, and third editions of his single author text, Animal Models in Cardiovascular Research, can be found in most medical libraries. Since retirement, he has published Man Hunt, a historical novel, Animals Don’t Blush, a memoir, Travels with Charlize, a memoir, Succeeding as a Student, a how-to book, and most recently, A Mexican Adventure, a memoir, the sequel to Animals Don’t Blush.


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