Monday, April 30, 2012

SAMPLE MY WARES II BY JIM WOODS (See Part 1, March 11, 2012; and Part 2, April 2, 2012)

As noted previously, my current short fiction collection contributed two treatments similar to my earlier Sample My Wares featuring the collection, Gunshot Echoes, and the stand-alone story from the collection, “Mexican Holiday,” (March 11). Two extracted independent novellas were made available in PDF prior to release of Cabbages and Kings. A blurb on the last page of those low priced separate stories alerted the reader to the upcoming master volume, available in print version and electronic formats. An excerpt from “She Serpent” as it appears in the collection was presented here April 2, 2012. The following is the second stand alone story, “The Diamond Exchange,” extracted from the collection, Cabbages and Kings.

In “The Diamond Exchange,” an international courier is paid well to discreetly convey the interests of his clients who operate on the shady side, even the dark side, of the law.

EXCERPT, from “The Diamond Exchange,” from Cabbages and Kings:

“Hello…hello…anyone here? Rincon? Are you in here?”

“Please step inside, Mister Barteau, and please close the door.”

“Where are you? It's awfully dark. May we have some light?”

“I'll turn on the light in just a moment. I just wanted to warn you that I am wearing a mask. If you had come-in in the light and saw me hooded, you may have panicked.”

“A mask? Hooded? What the devil is going on?”

“I assume that we are going to discuss your delivery problem. That's what is going on. I'll turn on the lights now if you're ready.”

“Yes, I am quite ready, but I warn you, I have a pistol.”

“I'd be very surprised if you didn't, but don't be concerned. Yours is the only gun in the room. Please remove it from your pocket and make it ready if it will make you feel more at ease.”

At the instant of a barely audible click, the hotel room was lighted so brightly that the slender, gray haired, moustached man in the black beret and khaki trench coat was momentarily blinded more than he had been in the darkness.

“Careful with that gun. I'm here at the desk, near the window.”

The Frenchman, realizing that he was indeed waving the small pistol wildly, focused in on the seated figure--manicured hands clasped and resting on the desktop, a plain gold wedding band on his left hand, adorned in a white laboratory coat…and a black-and-red-striped ski mask that hid his face completely except for eyes and mouth.

Barteau studied the man behind the desk, and could tell little about him except that his eyes were brown, and he may have been almost two meters tall; too difficult to estimate his height accurately unless he stood. He was big but not overweight; ninety to ninety-five kilos, two hundred pounds, or more? Yes, about that, the Frenchman decided. The long white coat covered anything that could make identification possible once the masked man left the room without it. Beneath the disguise, the mysterious American--yes, Barteau was certain of that by his voice, that the masked stranger was American--could be wearing anything from a three-piece suit to jeans and tee shirt. With the nails clean and well trimmed, the suit is more likely, he considered.

“Is the mask necessary?”

“Mister Barteau, you answered my advert for a confidential courier. You have flown across the Atlantic just to check me out. That tells me that whatever you want transported somewhere around the world is important to you. If it's that important to you, it follows that it could be important to someone else…one of your enemies perhaps, or a business rival…even the authorities.”

“Yes, what you say is indeed true, however, I would like to know with whom I'm dealing.”

“I am your courier, or rather I propose to be, and you’ll see my face at the proper time. If, however, we do not conclude an arrangement, there is no reason for you to recognize me on the street.”


As with any commercial promotion, results are long term. Final figures are not in, and with delayed sales reporting and royalty distribution, Champagne Books and I will have to wait it out. Publishers and authors accept that the publishing business moves slowly. An early favorable indicator though was reader acceptance of “The Diamond Exchange.” One ebook distributor ranked the novella in its Top Ten sales titles for two months and at the Number One ranking for two consecutive weeks, this out of more than 1600 titles in the genre from all the publishers’ works represented by the distributor.


Jim Woods has published some four hundred articles in nationally distributed print magazines, contributed to various fact and fiction anthologies, and is the author of sixteen print and e-books with treatments ranging from writing tutorial to fictional political assassination. He is a world traveler, so far having logged his presence in eighty countries. He also is a former Editor, Managing Editor and Editorial Director with Petersen Publishing Company of Beverly Hills; and Senior Field Editor with Publishers Development Corporation, San Diego. He’s a former big-game hunter and has written extensively on African safari, both the hunting and camera varieties. He lives and writes in Tucson, Arizona. Find him on line at:

Monday, April 23, 2012


“I write books that I like to read.” – J.K. Rowling

The impulse to write fiction can be overwhelming; yet many fiction writers face the same dilemma: “What kind of story should I write?” Unlike most non-fiction writers who base their books on facts and tangible figures, fiction writers have no preconceived blueprint for their book. They must create their own blueprint, but before they can conceive a storyboard, they must face the challenge of deciding what elements to put into their story.

Since the success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga series, many fiction writers have jumped on the bandwagon to write paranormal stories. Of course, there are those fiction writers who have no interest in the paranormal world let alone write a story involving paranormal activity. I have to admit that when I think of paranormal stories, my imagination drifts back to the Ghostbusters movies. In particular Ghostbusters II when Bill Murray’s character, Dr. Peter Venkman hosts a TV cable show that puts the spotlight on people who share their paranormal experiences with its TV audience. In one scene, a female panelist shares a story about being abducted by an alien at a Holiday Inn and taken on board a spaceship. Of course in the movie, it becomes obvious that the panelist had been inebriated and imagined being invited by an alien to go on board a spaceship.

Alien beings from faraway lands possessing supernatural abilities are characteristic of the paranormal world. In movies like Ghostbusters II, it borders on the absurd and fantastical; and yet, today’s young adults seem to be soaking up stories about vampires to the mass level of grade schoolers collecting silly bands to show off to their friends. Ironically very few of these young adults have ever read Bram Stokes’ Dracula, the forerunner of the vampire cult and paranormal/goth fiction, which is the grist for the Twilight Saga.

I’m more inclined to prescribe to J.K. Howling’s philosophy to write stories that I like to read. It was the philosophy of Bram Stokes, Mary Shelley, and Jonathan Swift. This, of course, goes against what most publishers may ask of their authors which is to write stories that follow the trends currently set by the marketplace. Writing for audiences that are presently buying books is the objective and gives publishers a sense of security to generate sales; and yet, most fans of paranormal fiction have never picked up Dracula. It’s like being a fan of democracy without knowing anything about the US Constitution.

Fiction writers have one of the toughest jobs in the world having to decide what kind of book to write. Their choice determines whether their stories will resonate with audiences or not. The trends currently set by the marketplace act as a barometer informing fiction writers what kind of stories attract mass marketability, but as publishers give authors room to write outside of the current market trends, it’s possible to find the next Bram Stokes, Mary Shelley or Jonathan Swift. It’s not the audience who holds the key to writing fiction, but the author who must decide what kind of story to write.


Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in eastern Long Island, I always enjoyed writing making several contributions to her high school literary magazine, The Lion’s Pen. Influenced by writers of epic novels including Colleen McCullough and James Clavell, I gravitated to creative writing. After graduating from New York University with a BA in Liberal Arts, I tried her hand at conventional jobs but always returned to creative writing. Since 1998, I has been a freelance writer and have contributed thousands of articles to various e-zines including:,,, Jazz Times, Hybrid Magazine, Books and Authors, and My latest romance novel The King Maker has been published by Champagne Books and can be found on the publisher’s website [].

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Over the years, I’ve smiled at some of the misconceptions written about the women of important medieval families, the Church, as well as how life in a convent is portrayed.

At the time, most women of titled families were considered only good for two things. They could marry someone who would increase their father’s position, holdings (property), influence or – they could pray. That was it.

Some of the clergy at the time insisted that St. Augustine in his correspondence to St. Jerome, declared a boy received a soul at the moment of conception and a girl didn’t get one until six weeks after conception. Disrespect for women didn’t stop there. She couldn’t attend a religious service after the birth of a child until she’d been ‘churched’ and if she died in child birth, she didn’t get a church burial. Women were considered inferior by many clergy and just a step above animals.

If a woman didn’t want to marry, or was widowed and didn’t or couldn’t remarry for whatever reason, she got to pray. Of course, if she couldn’t stay in her home, she was sent to a special place. These houses for these women, ‘convents’ were separate from the monasteries and in most cases they were governed by a man, usually a priest. It wasn’t until later that women governed themselves. Leaving the convent and caring for the sick, the poor, the infirm didn’t begin until the late 1600's.

Now, when a ‘virgin’ went to the convent, she was encouraged to take solemn vows, “take the veil”. She was called a nun and she couldn’t leave the convent, couldn’t talk to anyone but the other nuns nor could she see any family or friends. Her life consisted of fasting and praying, although she might be required to help with some menial tasks needed for survival, like food preparation. When widows came, they also accepted that kind of life. Late in the 1200's, a woman (usually a widow, or a woman whose husband decided to go to a monastery) would take ‘simple vows’, hence ‘sisters’. Their vows weren’t as binding and allowed a woman to associate with young girls who came to the convent to be educated. The education was not much more than learning to read the bible and their prayer books and in some cases, simple arithmetic. Eventually they were allowed to leave to minister to people who lived around the convent.

The contribution of property or money to admit a woman to a convent and keep her there, didn’t come along until later.

Oh, it’s fun to stretch the truth in fiction, to glamorize the life of one of these women. However, medieval women in convents weren’t considered brilliant managers, many had only rudimentary skills in reading, writing. They wouldn’t have been able to govern a large estate until much later in history, whether they had the skills or not. No, most of the women of the time didn’t have much of a life, whether they were sent to a convent or married. There are of course a very few exceptions, but they were few and far between.

I like to write about the women of that time period, and yes, I like to portray these women as more than they were but I sure wouldn’t want to go back in time and live then.


Allison Knight
Heart-warming Romance with A Sensual Touch
'A Matter of Passion' A short story from Champagne Books

Monday, April 16, 2012


This Monday's Taste of Champagne is Warrior King by Arlene Knowell. Warrior King was released in 2011 by Carnal Passions, the erotic romance imprint of the Champagne Book Group. Warrior King was my first historical erotic romance read. As a member of an author loop that is dominated by erotic romance writers, I knew what to expect - sort of. In erotic romance, the story contains the traditional elements of a romance (as distinguished from erotica) with graphically-described, frequent sexual encounters between or among consenting adults with a happily-ever-after or a happily-ever-after-for-now conclusion. Publishers' submissions guidelines, including Carnal Passions, identify activities that are absolutely forbidden which I will not describe here.

Knowell uses an intriguing tag to introduce the reader to Warrior King - Not believing in time travel doesn't mean it isn't possible. Modern-day archaeologist Elizabeth Wishbon realized too late that handling newly-discovered artifacts hidden in a medieval castle can have unintended consequences - like being thrown into the brutality of the 14th century. But then she met Domrick Brideman, a gorgeous - if stinky - archer in the castle. He spirited her out of the castle to his primitive home where they found in each other love and fulfillment that they had never experienced with anyone else. Warrior King contains multiple sexual encounters described in explicit detail. It's also a powerful love story of a couple from different worlds and times who struggle with life-changing decisions about their future as the flakes in the hourglass fall. Knowell who has four books published with Carnal Passions writes compelling characters with real-life conflicts in a paranormal world.
Until next month when we check out some Scots in kilts, Rita Bay

Buy Book Link:

Rita Bay
"Into the Lyon's Den" Champagne Books, August, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Tagline: Windmaster - Revenge set Ellspeth and the archmage, Dal, on the path to her destiny, but prophecy controlled the journey.

Blurb: Windmaster is a romance-filled, action-packed fantasy described by readers as a fascinating story that will keep you up all night turning the pages. Revenge set Ellspeth, captain of Sea Falcon, on the path to her destiny, but prophecy controlled the journey. Despite his insolent attitude, she is attracted to the dark-haired dockworker she hires to help unload the vessel's cargo. When the supposed dockhand reveals he is Lord Dal, the last member of the Council of Wizards, and her passenger, Ellspeth breaks a cardinal rule--fraternizing with the paying customers. Bringing him back from near-death releases Ellspeth's latent powers and threatens her captaincy. For to have magic she must give up the sea.

Dal has his own reasons for Ellspeth to embrace her powers. In accordance with an ancient prophecy, Dal allows Ellspeth to be handfasted to him without her knowledge or consent. However, the prophecy doesn't state whether she will return his love. A likelihood threatened as the deception is unveiled and Dal is captured and stripped of his powers by fanatical clerics bent on ridding the world of magic and those who wield it.

Trapped within the Oracle's Temple and marked for sacrifice, Ellspeth must choose between her own survival, saving the future of magic... or love.


I haven’t thought of that story for years, Ellspeth mused. Why should it come to mind now? As if in answer, her eyes were drawn to Dal whose gaze had fixed on the two stars.

The answer still eluded her the next morning as she stood watch. She spun the ship’s wheel a quarter turn, then looked over to where the wizard was practicing defensive moves with a pair of swords. The sun sparkled on the metal with each slow, rhythmic motion. Ellspeth made another slight adjustment to move the compass needle to the desired course. No matter how much she tried to focus on the ship, her attention kept being drawn to the exercising man—and to the way his muscles rippled beneath his tanned skin.

This is useless. I should know better. No personal involvement. “Jon,” she called. The cabin boy appeared from his usual spot below the quarterdeck where he had been petting the ship cat. “Please fetch my flute and writing gear.” Her murmured instructions sent the boy below. Moments later he re-appeared, a silver flute in one hand and a leather guitar case slung over a slender shoulder. Ellspeth’s whistle summoned another crewman, red freckles peeking out from beneath the brim of a well-worn cap.

“You wanted me, Captain?”

“I’m taking a break, Reld. You have the helm.”

A broad grin appeared amidst the freckles as he snapped Ellspeth a sharp salute.

She returned the honor then smiled remembering her first time at the helm. The emotion turned into a tune. Jon placed the metal flute in her hand. In a single lithe movement he set down his bundles and settled himself on the deck. A long reach and he snagged a small wooden traveling desk from beneath the map chest. Seeing Jon ready with parchment and ink from inside the desk, Ellspeth lifted the flute to her lips.

Soon silvery notes floated across the deck. The song seemed a reflection of the water’s movement against the ship’s hull. As if summoned by the flute’s call, a dozen shipfish appeared. Water sheeted off their bodies as they leaped and dove in time to the jaunty air. The music now firmly in her hands and mind, Ellspeth set down the instrument. Nodding to the cabin boy, she leaned back and closed her eyes, prepared to listen with a critical ear to her new composition.

Jon carefully anchored the parchment against the breeze, picked up a four-stringed guitar and arranged his fingers on the ivory frets. His blond head nodded in time to an inner clock. On the fourth beat, a strum and Ellspeth’s haunting melody rose over the waves, the guitar rendering it a few octaves lower than Ellspeth’s flute.

“That’s an interesting piece you’re playing,” Dal commented. “I don’t remember ever hearing it before. And I’m sure I would. The tune stays with you.” The cabin boy’s fingers halted in mid-stroke at the wizard’s voice. Ellspeth started at the sudden silence.

“Please don’t stop on my account,” the wizard said. “Continue.”

Surprise flickered across the cabin boy’s face to be replaced by a smile that seemed to show a thousand teeth. “It’s not mine.” His head inclined toward Ellspeth in a respectful bow. “It’s the captain’s. I just put the notes to parchment for her.”

“My apologies, Captain, that in my exercises I missed you composing.” Dal’s courtly bow emphasized his words.

“None needed, Lord Dal.” Ellspeth laughed. “It is a rare gift to be able to shut out the entire world and focus on one thing. The tuning is nothing. I just play the flute to pass time. Apprenticing for my bracelets and being away so much at sea prevented me from serious musical study.” She glanced down at the now sheathed weapon hanging at his side. “I wish I could handle a long sword as readily as you. My instruction focused on the short sword.”

“Short weapons do work better for ship’s crew. However, if you wish, tomorrow we can practice together. My price—to hear the rest of your tune.”

~ * ~

Heavy sheets of rain obscured the horizon. Crashing waves broke on the Falcon’s bow and flowed over the deck. Ellspeth’s summons brought the three passengers to the wheel. “This isn’t normal weather for the Aberden Sea,” Ellspeth shouted. Her voice barely rose above the roaring water. “The wind is chasing around in circles, widdershins. It’s not natural.”

“No, it’s magic,” Dal shouted back. “Voan and Jesmen are healers. Their powers can’t help.”

“Then, m’lord, m’lady, thank you for your attendance. Your quarters ll be the safest place for you right now.” Ellspeth’s eyebrow arched in question as Dal made no attempt to leave.

“With your permission, Captain, I’d like to stay. I promise to keep out of the crew’s way. Unlike the others, I’m used to fighting.” Too focused on saving her ship to wonder at the relief she felt at the wizard’s offer, Ellspeth merely nodded approval. She moved aside to make room for him at the rail, their shoulders almost touching.

A long silence started to grow. Wind-driven rain grabbed at their clothes and plastered wet hair to their heads. Ellspeth started as Dal laid a hand on her shoulder. His long arm pointed just off the Falcon’s starboard rail. “Look over there!”

Ellspeth’s gaze followed the wizard’s gesture. Before her eyes, one of the thick walls of rain twisted into a circle. The revolving column sucked water skyward, throwing it high into the air. Faster and faster it rotated. In seconds its color changed from the light gray of a cloud-filled morn to the black thunder-filled summer storm. A second column formed alongside the first—then a third—then a fourth. Desperately Ellspeth searched for a path away from the danger. “Can you do anything?” she yelled at Dal. “If one of those spouts hits the ship, it’ll swamp us.

Ellspeth’s gaze followed the wizard’s gesture. Before her eyes, one of the thick walls of rain twisted into a circle. The revolving column sucked water skyward, throwing it high into the air. Faster and faster it rotated. In seconds its color changed from the light gray of a cloud-filled morn to the black thunder-filled summer storm. A second column formed alongside the first—then a third—then a fourth. Desperately Ellspeth searched for a path away from the danger. “Can you do anything?” she yelled at Dal. “If one of those spouts hits the ship, it’ll swamp us.”

Helen Henderson
Stories that take you to the stars, the Old West, or worlds of imagination

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


In a future post, I’ll discuss methods for promoting your novel, which will include “obtaining independent reviews.” I thought I might offer a glimpse of what getting that first review can be like. Why now? Because I just got my first review on TAINTED HERO, and it seemed appropriate to share the experience.

There are numerous websites set up to review new novels. The process of getting that review can be involved, but it’s important to your success. The good news is that it can have a high return on your investment in time. The down side, it can be an emotional roller coast. Case in point, my first review.

About a month ago, I forwarded numerous advanced read ahead copies to various review sites. Then I waited, and I waited. As would be expected, there was lots of anticipation, lots of uncertainty. Would they like it? Was it really as good as everyone told me, or were they just being nice? What if they didn’t like it? What if they hated it? My Lord, this was my first fiction novel. Maybe it wasn’t as good as I though. Maybe the publisher would get out the whip to crack off thirty lashes. Then it came, late in the night, my first review. “Holy cow. 5 out of 5 stars”, “Reviewers Best Pick." Image a 280-pound dude doing the "shake your booty" dance around the room (Now that’s really a scary image, isn’t it).

Then thirty seconds later, apprehension set in. "How am I ever going to do that again. I can't possibly expect 5 of 5 on each book." I felt little needles race down my back. Then I realized I was being a potato head. “Of course you can't always hit homeruns, live the moment, and just enjoy the writing process. Don’t worry, be happy. If you never get one again, at least you got this one.”

That worked for a few seconds, until my wife chimed in and said, "I knew they'd love it, and I expect the same on the next one." Instantly, the needles started running circles on the few hairs I have left. I wanted to reach across and slap her on the butt. "Hey, cut me a little slack, Babe. Don't you think that's a bit unrealistic?" With a straight visage, she replied, "Nope. You can do it." The needles on my back morphed into daggers firing from my eyes. I wanted to say something, something really clever, maybe a little nasty. Instead I just shook my head, whispered to myself, "Women," and walked upstairs for a glass of wine.

Big Mike

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


BLURB: Evan Jones thinks his troubles are over in 1886. He’s married his love, the Mexican healer Reyna, and started horse ranching outside of Tombstone in the Arizona Territory. But tragedy strikes when least expected to nearly tear their union apart. Evan and Reyna soon face more than one phoenix rising from forgotten ashes of his past that threaten dire—and possibly deadly—consequences.


The vision abruptly overpowered her. Down she plunged into frigid water--feet, legs, chest, arms, and her head rapidly submerged. Agonizing muscle spasms constricted her ribs and forced the air from her lungs. Her heart galloped, frantic for escape. Bitter muck and mangled vegetation assaulted her nostrils and filled her mouth as she fought for breath—

Reyna Montoya Svenson Jones gasped and returned to herself. She stood at her kitchen window, shivering, her hands gripping the edge of the sink, every tendon a taut bowstring as she interpreted what she’d just experienced.

¡Dios mio! Evan is drowning!

Thunder crashed and a thousand brilliant shards of crystal lightning shattered the midday dark. Diamond chips of rain whirled in an erratic wind and exploded against the window pane. She ran to get her oilskin duster. Within minutes, she saddled and urged her reluctant buckskin into the gale. Fear manifested itself as anger.

Damn stubborn Welsh man!

Her husband had insisted on searching for the lost red colt alone, though the summer thunderstorms--los chubascos--had punished the Arizona Territory for the past three days. Tombstone was already flooded, the stagecoach to Bisbee hopelessly mired in the middle of Allen Street. But today’s storm was the worst, by far. Why hadn’t he let her ride along or told her where he planned to look? Two years of marriage and still he hesitated to share his worries.

As willful as his Red Dragon totem--El Dragón Rojo. He thinks to protect me. I’ll tell him again that is nonsense, if I find him alive. Madre, ayudame a buscarlo. Help me find him--and give me strength not to kill him when I do.

Water sheeted a suffocating curtain against her face. Suddenly, a black form loomed ahead within the grey veil. A saddled horse galloped toward her. The sorrel gelding Evan had ridden this morning thudded past, scared and heading for the barn. She pushed her mare forward into the maelstrom.

Raindrop knives assaulted her from every direction. A quarter-mile, then another of nothing. Reyna reached the southeast arroyo, now running bank to bank. Chunks of cactus, tree limbs, and scrub bushes rumbled past at frightening speed. She watched, her fear rising as fast as the floodwaters, but she fought it down as she’d been taught as a child living with the Apache.

I must find Evan and get him home. Then I will have time to indulge the luxury of hysterics.

She shook her head of the notion. She would never readily surrender self-control.

Reyna scanned the ground with a practiced eye. As she’d suspected, every track out of the gully had been obliterated in the deluge. She nudged the buckskin to move on.

Far beyond the bend, another dark shape slowly materialized. The errant colt stood, mud-caked, legs splayed and head down, sides heaving. A filthy rope tangled with branches and weeds girthed its belly.

A body hung ensnared in the lasso by one arm, face down.


She leapt from the saddle, trying to swallow fear and panic, and hurried to disentangle his arm and turn him onto his back. His hat, a leather work glove, chaps, and both boots were gone. Rain beaded his scratched and bloodied cheeks. She wiped mud from his mouth and felt for a pulse. Nothing.

“No! Damn you, no!” Reyna slammed her fist against his chest again and again, her efforts fueled by anger, adrenaline, and frustration. “Don’t you die on me, Evan Jones! Not now!”

With a shudder he gagged, coughed, rolled sideways and vomited brown muck until he dry-retched. He collapsed, unconscious but breathing.

Reyna leaned over and cupped his face in her hands, her forehead touching his. Hot tears dripped as the thunderstorm eased around them. “Stupid man! Hombre tonto, you drive me mad. Pero te quiero. Now how to get you home?”

She ran her hands over his body as the rain slowed and stopped. His right shoulder bulged, definitely out of the socket. One--no, two breaks in the left leg--she’d have to splint that to move him. But there were no trees, only scrub sage and creosote bushes of spindly, stunted sticks. She hurried to pull the serape and rope from her saddle where the mare stood nuzzling the trembling colt.

She set the blanket next to her husband. Placing her right foot onto his upper chest, she grasped his right arm and shoved his shoulder into place. He cried out and lay still.

Rolling the serape lengthwise into a long, firm snake, she placed the center beneath his foot and arranged equal lengths on either side of his leg. Threading rope under, over, under, over, she wove a taut support similar to an Apache cradleboard. She knotted the makeshift brace tight at mid-thigh.

“Ayudame, amiga,” she clucked to the mare and tapped the horse’s knees to get it to kneel.

Crouching at Evan’s head, Reyna slid her hands beneath his shoulder blades. She worked her forearms around his ribcage, lifting while she crept forward to take his weight against her torso. At last she got her arms around his belly and lifted him to sit. She only had to scoot him a foot or so closer to the horse. “Dios mio, corazón, estas muy pesado. No more pie for you.” She took a deep breath and hefted him across the saddle on his stomach, his head and long arms dangling down the other side. The mare grunted and staggered to stand, but remained in place.

Reyna went to the red colt and carefully disengaged the lariat, noting where the hide had abraded raw. “Maybe now you stay con su mama, ¿si?” She scratched its ears, listening as it huffed against her, satisfied she heard no gurgling noises of water in the lungs. “He can’t keep chasing you like this, it’ll kill him. Then who will bring you sucre, eh?”

Returning to the mare, she mounted up behind the saddle. She couldn’t leave him flopped over the saddle this way, not with that shoulder. Plus blood would already be rushing to his head, possibly worsening any undetected injury. She’d need to travel far more slowly than she had through the storm, take much longer to get home. No, she couldn’t leave him hanging upside down for an hour or more. She had no choice but to get him into a sitting position and prop his body against her.

“I can do this,” she muttered aloud. “Just have to decide how to go about it.”

“Stay,” she commanded her horse and worked her feet forward to stand in the stirrups. Bracing her stomach muscles, she grabbed Evan’s shirt and the waistband of his dungarees, and rolled him awkwardly toward her until he was nearly supine, the upper ridge of his left hip against the saddle’s cantle. She shifted her grip and then, with every ounce of her strength and muscles screaming in protest, she hefted his torso and pushed his pelvis backward until he sat sidesaddle. The splinted leg protruded like a bent branch.

The mare shifted weight with the gyrations, but true to its training, held in place.

“¡Hijuela!” Reyna pulled her feet free and sat back, winded. “Not…another…bite…of pie...for you…ever again.”

Evan moaned and leaned heavily against her. His head lolled over her shoulder.

Taking a moment to catch her breath, she removed her duster one arm at a time. She draped it around her husband and tied the sleeves in front to secure his arms.

She reached around him for the reins and tapped her heels against the mare’s sides. “Vámanos.”

Obediently, the buckskin moved forward. The red colt followed like a chastised puppy.

She knew finding him alive was but the start. She wanted to hurry, but a faster gait than the mare’s smooth walk would aggravate the broken leg. Unsure if he’d been hit in the head by debris or if there was another reason he remained unconscious, she didn’t want to risk worsening that situation, either. As an accomplished curandera, a healer of no small skill, she knew she could set his bones and tend his cuts once they got back to the ranch. But how much water had he inhaled? Pneumonia was a devious and deadly opponent she hoped not to battle.

Time. Everything requires time Evan might not have.

The more she thought about his lack of communication that morning, the more anger simmered in her chest. If he’d told her what he’d planned, if he’d let her come with him, he might not have been caught in the flood and injured at all.

Hombre tonto,” she muttered as the horses squelched along. “Your stubbornness will be the end of me.”

Jude Johnson is the author of Dragon & Hawk, Book One of the Dragon & Hawk trilogy. Book Two, Out of Forgotten Ashes, is scheduled for release April 2, 2012, with Book Three, Dragon’s Legacy slated for July 2012.

Monday, April 2, 2012

SAMPLE MY WARES II BY JIM WOODS (See Part 1, March 11, 2012)

My fiction collection, Cabbages and Kings, contributed two promotional treatments similar to my earlier “Sample My Wares,” with the stories, “She Serpent” and “The Diamond Exchange.” A basic difference from the previous stand alone “Mexican Holiday” (March 11) is the two extracted independent novellas were made available in PDF prior to release of the complete book. A blurb on the last page of those low priced separate stories alerted the reader to the upcoming master volume, available in print version and electronic formats. “She Serpent” is excerpted here, to be followed at a later date in this space by “The Diamond Exchange.”


The “She Serpent” captains the luxury yacht that will take you for a pricey
deep-sea cruise, but with little expectation that you’ll enjoy the ride.

EXCERPT, from “She Serpent,” from Cabbages and Kings:

“Lieutenant Jordan, take a look at this ad in the ‘Personals’ column. Doesn’t it sound just slightly suspicious?”

BOAT-SIDE BURIAL services at sea.
Private and confidential.
for arrangements and fees.

“Well, it does sound a bit strange, but a lot of people choose to spread the ashes of their deceased loved ones at sea, just as many more like to scatter them in a river, on a mountain, or at Yosemite, or Valley Forge, or some other scenic or historic spot. It’s fairly common even though prohibited by most state laws. You’d have to catch someone in the act off disposing ashes of human or animal remains to make a charge stick. Once ashes are in the ocean or the river or blowing in the wind, there’s no evidence.”

“But,” argued Detective Edward Harper, “this says ‘burial,’ not ashes scattering. Suppose the remains are not ashes, a corpse for instance, from a homicide?”

“Harper, if you don’t have enough to do with the active cases assigned to you, I’ll find you some work. An ad in the newspaper is not a crime. In fact, this ad in the paper indicates an assumed absence of crime. Bank robbers and burglars and murderers don’t take out ads. If a crime was involved here, would the SeaSpirits people be publicly advertising?”

“But you’ve said yourself that disposing of remains like this is against state laws. There’s a good probability here that this service, whatever as it is, is a means of disposing of missing persons.”

“I’ll grant you that, but it also could be just what it appears to be, a service, partially illegal though it may possibly be, of providing access beyond the legal maritime limits for people who want burial at sea for their loved one’s ashes, or even their body, if you insist it had to be a whole body. After all, bodies resulting from deaths on board ships frequently are buried at sea, even deaths that occur on cruise liners. It doesn’t have to be a military ship or wartime for a burial at sea. And if the company is just providing transportation, the most you could charge them with is conspiracy to break a law that everyone looks the other way on anyhow. Have you cleared all your case files? If not, get back to them and don’t look for more work. We’re overloaded as it is.”


Jim Woods has published some four hundred articles in nationally distributed print magazines, contributed to various fact and fiction anthologies, and is the author of sixteen print and e-books with treatments ranging from writing tutorial to fictional political assassination. He is a world traveler, so far having logged his presence in eighty countries. He also is a former Editor, Managing Editor and Editorial Director with Petersen Publishing Company of Beverly Hills; and Senior Field Editor with Publishers Development Corporation, San Diego. He’s a former big-game hunter and has written extensively on African safari, both the hunting and camera varieties. He lives and writes in Tucson, Arizona. Find him on line at: