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Five Broken Winchesters from Zelmer Pulp

914eCxe1ZXL._SL1500_Zelmer Pulp is a handful of writers from around the globe who by fate or consequence have gravitated together to produce a series of genre collections. Their first two collections C’mon and Do the Apocalypse, a send off of the zombie horror genre, and Hey, That Robot Ate My Baby, a dastardly take on sci-fi, were some of my favorite reading earlier this year. And if I have to be honest I have known the Zelmer Pulp crew individually as writers and artists for some time now. I’ve had the pleasure to publish Brian Panowich, Chris Leek, Ryan Sayles, Isaac Kirkman, and Chuck Regan through the Shotgun Honey flashzine. I knew they were talented and crazy, and so I guess like minds attract.

When I heard they were going to tackle the Western next, with their special point of view, I dropped some not so subtle hints I’d like to participate. They were kind enough to oblige, though I imagine they might be kicking themselves for that choice from time to time. The long and the long of it, I managed to contribute my short story called “The Last Shot.”

The collection is labeled weird west, but “The Last Shot” is traditional and a counterbalance to the talent you will find in Five Broken Winchesters. The following is the first part of my story.

The Last Shot

“Marshal? Do you think I’ll hang?”

Hank Markum said nothing at first, taking a sip from his coffee before considering the grave question of his prisoner. He looked across the fire, the flickering light played against the boy’s youthful appearance making him seem younger than his nineteen years. The tremble in Caleb Monroe’s voice only impressed upon the marshal that this was no grown man he was taking to the gallows.

“Son, they already strung up that boy, Oren Canter, and it doesn’t look likely that that judge up in Cheyenne is going to side any different with you,” he replied before taking another sip of his harsh brew. “You and the other killed that man, and took his horses, or perhaps the other ways around. Not that it matters much.”

“I know that man died. I know, but…” the boy began to bluster before falling into silence.

Markum saw the sheen of tears well up along the boy’s eyelids, cresting, capturing the dance of the firelight.

This was the first bit of concern the marshal had seen from the boy since taking him into custody down in Greely two day ago. Any attempt to speak of his crimes or what was to come in Cheyenne was met with silence, sometimes distraction. The boy wasn’t obliged to talk, but Markum was grateful for any conversation on the trail. Most of which leaned toward the boy’s pa, who Markum figured would have been about his own age had he not died when Caleb was eleven, leaving him orphaned, and eventually in the company of Oren Canter.

“Silence isn’t a defense, Caleb,” Markum pressed feeling the boy was ready. “It is not likely to be any help in Cheyenne, but maybe talking will ease your conscience, ease the load, before…before we get there.”

The boy swiped his hand across his eyes, “I didn’t know about Oren.”

The two boys, Caleb had told Markum, had been inseparable since he had found his way to Cheyenne after bouncing from one well-meaning home to another. Canter’s father drove the stage coach, giving the boys more freedom than ought to be had by two so rambunctious. The stories he told of the two reminded the marshal of the carelessness of friendship, and now the hollowness of the boy’s face reminded him of the loss.

“Oren didn’t deserve that, not for that old rancher. They was stubborn, the both of them—the old man for putting up the fight, and Oren for insisting we steal his useless swayback nag from the stable.” The boy balled up his fists and shook his head in frustration.

“Them tugging back and forth spooked an old gray in the next stall. It gave a kick and both got knocked sideways into the mud. Only the rancher didn’t jump back up like Oren. He just moaned, clutching his chest till he didn’t moan no more.”

“Why didn’t you get help,” Markum questioned.

“I wanted to,” Caleb demanded. “Least I might have thought about it if I weren’t scared and Oren weren’t insistent on that horse, and the other two.”

“It were just an accident. An accident,” he pleaded.

“Accident or not, whatever defense you boys had for the rancher’s death was void when you stole those horses.”

Caleb stared across the fire at the marshal, “I didn’t want to steal them.”

“But you did, and they still hang horse thieves.”

The boy’s expression crumpled, and without a word turned away from Markum to lie on the cold unforgiving earth, knowing that was all the comfort he’d enjoy in this life.

Buy Five Broken Winchesters to read the rest.

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General Uncategorized

Saddle Sores and Wagon Trails

big-badgeI can’t really pinpoint when I first considered the idea of The Big Adios–I think it was sometime around the 1st anniversary of Shotgun Honey. It is safe to say it was somewhere just under 10 months ago. The first granules were formed well before that when I wrote The Greenhorn for a writing challenge put on by Chuck Wendig. It was a simple wordlist challenge, but the words immediately charged me with a story about a US Marshal riding into a lawless town to either free the townsfolk of tyranny or die trying. It was a faux Western, and if you read it you’ll know why. One of the words on that magic list required me to take the story in quite a different direction.

But the idea for US Marshal Brady Hawkes, an Easterner from Charles Town, WV, born to privilege and lineage who shuns it all to become his own man in the Colorado Territory, the idea called to me. There was more to Hawkes and the raucous mining town of Prosperity, CO. There were many more Buck Godot’s for Hawkes to face. So as I jotted down notes, I looked for venues.

gunfightwide

There are a few periodicals, but online was a wasteland. Not one site dedicated to the Western, and only one stood with any prominence to support the genre. David Cranmer’s Beat to a Pulp. He has his own inclinations towards to the genre, but BtaP is great for all kinds of genre bites, both flash and short stories.

So the idea was, Hey, I could put together short fiction site for the Western genre just like Shotgun Honey. How hard could it be? And the idea started solidifying about 6 months ago and loosely announced 3 months ago. The days have whittled and behold, tomorrow is the day of Launch.

Where did the time go?

tba-sneakI do have to ask myself that, because as of Friday I didn’t have a clear or concise idea of how I was going to design the site, how it would be presented? Aged, rustic and western, that’s all I knew for sure. I may have had an idea of the palette? So I fired up photoshop and browsed the web for texture and design ideas. Find things I like, motivators. I needed to get some paint on this blank canvass.

Two days straight, taking a break for food substances and to watch a movie and 3 episodes of Justified. I needed some inspiration, and wouldn’t you know it all started with a badge. Amazingly for the detail of the design–to paraphrase Larry the Cable Guy–I got’r done!

So tomorrow is the big day and we start off with an exception story about Marshals Cash Laramie and Miles Gideon by Edward A. Grainger aka David Cranmer, kicking off 8 weeks of scheduled fiction, some of it firmly in the saddle and others bending the genre, every Tuesday.

It’s up to you as readers and contributors to keep us going.

I hope to see you there: http://www.thebigadios.com

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General Uncategorized

The Greenhorn Redux

Five months ago, just shy, I participated in one of writing zenfoodu Chuck Wendig’s writing challenges. A string of five words which included: “Figure”, “Dusk”, “Flirt”, “Mobile Phone”, “Wig”. Minds being the way they are, and mine meanders quite a bit, I instantly thought of writing a Western.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the Western, at least in the TV and Movie format. I even took a stab at Louis L’Amour because I had a serious man-crush on both Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott. And of course there was ol’ squint-eyed Clint and his Spaghetti Westerns, and then his astounding The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Unforgiven.

From F-Troop to the Gunfight At The O.K. Corral, I was mesmerized by the Western in all its forms.

I had never written it. Not a Western story in my repertoire, until Wendig’s challenge. And even then due to the word usage, I turned it around at the end and cheated.

Ever since though, especially with the original comments, I’ve wanted to revisit writing a Western. A true Western and not something with a fandangled twist at the end. The thought lingers.

This morning those thoughts were amplified when a good friend, Ray Dillon, who in his own right is a talented renaissance man who can write as equally well as he can draw and perform miraculous feats of digital art, sent me a link to my story, The Greenhorn, that he on a whim narrated.

I know I might be biased, but it’s a pretty good story to hear and Ray reads it well. Well except for pronouncing Godot. 😉 And his natural Kansas twang was perfect for this reading.

Go have  a listen. It’s a good 5 minutes.

Leave him a comment and then come back and let me know if I should tackle a Western story head on?

Categories
Uncategorized Writing

Terribleminds – The Greenhorn

Over at Chuck Wendig’s TERRIBLEMINDS, Chuck has been throwing down a weekly flash fiction challenge. Each week I’ve been meaning to participate. In fact I’ve got two drafts from previous challenges needing some attention. Eventually, I’m sure.

This challenge featured a prompt of 5 random words: “Figure”, “Dusk”, “Flirt”, “Mobile Phone” and “Wig”.

Link: http://ronearl.com/fiction/the-greenhorn/