Hot off the keyboard: can you guess the meaning of this coded telegram that will appear (in some form) in Loyal Valley: Diversion?
MAD BULL SE PASTURE HAS GORED FRIEND IN ARMS =STOP= URGENT ASSIST W/REMINGTON =STOP= JM =FULL STOP=
Hot off the keyboard: can you guess the meaning of this coded telegram that will appear (in some form) in Loyal Valley: Diversion?
MAD BULL SE PASTURE HAS GORED FRIEND IN ARMS =STOP= URGENT ASSIST W/REMINGTON =STOP= JM =FULL STOP=
So, long time no blog, eh wot? Joys of chronic illness….
As frustrating as the latter third of 2015 was for me health-wise, however, I’m determined not to let such things hold me back (at least as far as I can do anything about them) in 2016. I plan to finish at least Loyal Valley: Diversion, release an omnibus collection of the first four volumes in that series, and commission audiobooks of everything that’s out thus far. I still plan to participate in Fort McKavett’s West Texas Heritage days (now in May) and hope to do the same at Fort Martin Scott and possibly some other living history events in the area. And there’s a potential opportunity that I’ll share more about if it gets closer to reality.
And you can help make all these things happen.
I’ve taken the plunge and signed up for Patreon, which allows you to pledge recurring monthly support–as little as $1/mo. or as much as you want to give. Various levels of support will receive a variety of rewards, like exclusive sneak previews of book content and acknowledgement here and in print. The more funds I can raise in this way, the less time I’ll have to spend scraping together a living through freelancing and the more time I can devote to writing and research.
(I don’t currently plan to quit teaching, even if I no longer need the money. Teaching is fun.)
I’ve also got myself a YouTube channel now. Not that I know what I’ll do with it yet–it might be more for Patreon stuff–but it’s there. 😀 I’d like to get back to Literature You Should Know over on Smash Cut Culture, too, assuming I have the time and energy.
So that’s what’s new with me. Alles Gute zum Neuen Jahr!
Murder, especially mass murder, will out. When civilian investigators stumble upon part of Number Seven’s schemes in the summer of 1870, Lt. Col. Clint Donovan and two of his teammates must race halfway across Texas to save their lives and find out what they know. But even that may solve only half of the problem—especially when Clint and his men meet the ladies involved.
Life on the frontier has plenty of risks of its own, however, and not just from the elements. A husband-hunting New York socialite runs away to Loyal Valley, only to discover that dime novels don’t reflect what Texas is really like. And she’s not the only one in danger when an old enemy returns to wreak more havoc of his own accord.
There’s more to war than bullets, wits, and nerve. Who will keep his head and his life, and who will lose his freedom… or his heart?
Also, for new readers, I’m offering the first two books in the series for 99¢ apiece on Smashwords for a limited time! Use coupon code ZB26E for Assassination and DR88E for Bystanders. Please note, however, that these coupons are good only at Smashwords and only through September 9!
A/N: I’m fighting some writer’s block today, so have this blog-exclusive bit of Loyal Valley fluff!
Ashley Fetches a Hat
By Elisabeth G. Wolfe
Today’s been a good day. Master’s moving very well, and I got to take him for a walk twice! And it’s been sunny and clear but not too hot—a pity Master can’t see it, but he can feel it, so walks are good. But I’m off duty now, so Master says I can go with Jake and Mike while they go out to put the horses in the barn.
Jake and Mike are busy and can’t play, but that’s okay because I’m OUTSIDE and everything is wonderful. I can attend to—ahem—business, and I can inspect the garden and make sure the raccoon hasn’t stolen any tomatoes, and I can run and romp and not spook the horses, Ashley, good girl. And I can check the perimeter and… ooh, hey, there’s a deer! Hi, deer, let’s play! Sure, run and I’ll chase you. And then… oh, wait, hi, rabbit! Do you want to play? Boy, you’re fast! Let’s run!
Don’t run away! I’m just….
There’s a human out here, a man with a horse.
And he’s on the wrong side of the hill.
I’m too far from the house. If I bark, it won’t bring help, but if I go back now, I can’t tell anyone there’s a man out here. He’s probably got a bangstick, so I can’t just chase him off. I’ll have to bring him closer.
Right. First things first: find the man.
There he is. He’s lying on the ground, and his horse is standing next to him. There’s a big bangstick in the thing that hangs from the saddle, and I think I see little bangsticks on his belt. Tricky. But I think… yes, I think I know what to do.
Ruff down. Ears up. Tail wagging. Approach with caution. Hi, mister, want to play?
He sees me and snorts. “Go ’way, y’dumb dog.”
Who, me? (Wag, wag… look innocent, get closer….)
“Go on, mutt. Git.” He puts his hat over his face.
That’s it. Now slowly… slowly… slowly… got your hat!
“Hey, gimme that!”
Back away, tail wagging, but not too far. Come and get it, you stranger.
He swipes for it. I dodge. He gets up—yes, that’s right, come play with me, mister. He tries again; I dodge again. Come on, come on, a little further from the horse… that’s right… and—DASH! Zig, zag, spin him ’round, spook the horse! Horse goes one way, I go the other, and I don’t care which of us he follows as long as he doesn’t shoot.
But he doesn’t. He can’t. He doesn’t want anybody to know he’s out here. So he runs after me, but I’m like the deer and the rabbits—zig, zag, zoom! Over the hill, down and down, back and forth, and then—there’s the windbreak! DASH! Jake, Mike, Jake, Mike, Jake, Mike….
“Aaashley!” Jake’s calling, whistling.
“Ashley!” That’s Mike.
Jake Mike Jake Mike Jake Mike…
“I think I hear her—Ashley!”
Jake Mike JAKE MIKE HAT! HAT HAT HAT!
“Ashley, where have you—what the hell?”
“Whose hat is that?”
Can’t stop! There’s the house! Clint, Jim, HAT! Daniel, Bella, HAT!
“What the—” That’s Daniel. “Whose hat?”
“There’s someone out there!” That’s Clint, and he’s already going for a big bangstick.
But I don’t stop until I’m in front of Master and drop the hat in his lap. Then I sit like a good girl. I brought you a hat, Master!
He runs his hands over it, surprised. “Ashley, what in the world—”
Bark, bark, growl, sneeze! There’s a bad guy out there!
Clint and Daniel and Jim have all run outside. Jake and Mike are shouting something, and then there’s shooting.
“Okay!” yells the bad man. “All right, all right, I surrender!”
Then there’s a lot more yelling I don’t understand. Bella’s got a little bangstick, and she comes over to Master’s chair. “It’s me, Marty,” she tells him.
He turns his head toward her. “Bella? What’s going on out there?”
She shakes her head. “Whoever it is, it looks like Clint or someone got him in the arm. Mike’s got him in custody.”
I huff. Good riddance.
“Jim’s bandaging the man’s arm. Now Mike’s tying him up. Daniel’s going to the barn, and so is Jake… I guess they’re taking him to Mason. Oh, here come Clint and Jim.”
Clint and Jim come in and put their bangsticks back on the rack and close the door. And then they start laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Master asks.
“Fella gave up without much of a fight,” Clint says, coming over to us. “Seems he knows when the jig’s up. But he said that’s the first time he’s ever been busted by a dog!”
“Nah, just a rustler. Said he’d been scoping out the herd all day and had just decided to take a quick nap before sundown, and then he’d planned to swipe a few head after dark, take ’em to Mexico.”
“His horse is still out there somewhere,” Jim adds. “Jake’s going to look for it, while Mike and Daniel take our prisoner to Mason. He’s probably wanted for something or other.”
Bella laughs and puts her bangstick down. “Ashley fetched a rustler. Will wonders never cease?”
Master reaches down to scratch me behind the ears. “Good girl, Ashley!”
I smile and wag my tail. All in a day’s work.
© 2015 Elisabeth G. Wolfe. All rights reserved.
An unconventional enemy resorts to unconventional tactics. Determined to lure Lt. Col. Clint Donovan and his military intelligence team to their deaths, Number Seven’s operatives make a deal with an Apache warrior whose cruelty is legendary even among his own people and whose involvement stirs up the torturous ghosts of Bella Donovan’s past. A widowed horse rancher sends Clint timely warning, but even that can’t prevent the Apaches from taking a neighbor’s sons as bait for an ambush, and Clint’s informant finds herself on the wrong end of Number Seven’s wrath as a result of her actions. As Clint’s choices set the stage for a cavalryman’s finest hour and a town’s hard lesson in courage, the same question arises time and again:
Is there such a thing as an innocent bystander?
Due to time constraints, ebooks will most likely have to wait until after I get back from Fort McKavett, but you can order the paperbacks now from Amazon and CreateSpace (regular and large print). And if you’re planning to come to Fort McKavett next weekend, it might be wise for you to order now, since my stock will be limited!
A/N: This story falls between Assassination and Bystanders in the Loyal Valley series.
Lest We Forget
“You know,” Clint said at breakfast one morning in early March, “we really ought to ride out and check on the herd. Daniel, think you’re up to that?”
Daniel shrugged. “I dunno. Am I up to that, Doc?”
Jim chuckled. “I don’t see why not. If there’s a calf in trouble or anything, though, don’t tangle with it. That shoulder of yours doesn’t need any more abuse.”
“You have my word of honor. If anything comes up that Clint can’t handle alone, I’ll come back to the house and make Jake do it.”
“You would,” Jake said flatly, which made Bella laugh.
Clint shook his head, amused. “I know you need to be careful, but you’re also my foreman, and with all this construction we’ve had going on, I’ve been neglecting your education on that side of things. Roundup’s coming up next month, so….”
Daniel nodded. “I need to look like I’ve got some clue what we’re doing.”
“Which means I probably ought to take notes so I don’t forget everything before we get back.”
“Thought you had a photographic memory,” Mike teased.
“Oh, he does,” Jake shot back before Daniel could. “It’s just that he runs low on slides once in a while.”
Everybody laughed at that.
So it was settled. After breakfast, Bella packed up some provisions in case Clint and Daniel needed to be out for more than one working day, and Jim, Jake, and Mike reworked the construction schedule. As Daniel slid a book into one of his saddlebags, however, he found himself on the receiving end of a quizzical look from Clint.
“Expecting to be bored, Major?” Clint asked.
“Well, no, sir, not exactly,” Daniel replied. “I mean, I’m sure we’ll have plenty to do and talk about, won’t be much time for reading, but—I’m starting to see some wildflowers out there, and Mother collects pressed flowers, so I thought I’d try to collect some to send to her in my next letter.”
“I tried that once, before the war,” Marty chimed in. “They don’t look half as good as they do fresh.”
Clint made an odd face. “Most flowers don’t, Sassenach.”
“I know. I’m just saying.”
Daniel shrugged. “I hear you, Marty, I do. It won’t be the same as seeing them in person. But I figure she’ll still appreciate the effort.”
Marty shrugged in turn, which was somewhat amusing, given that he hadn’t seen Daniel move. “All right, fine. She’s your mother.”
Neither Clint nor Daniel was able to suppress a chuckle at that.
There did indeed turn out not to be much time for reading. Clint had a long list of topics to discuss with Daniel regarding the business side of the ranch, from the life cycle of longhorn cattle to their feeding habits to trends in the market, and every conceivable form of contingency and emergency that could arise along the way. And he addressed them mainly by suddenly throwing a question or hypothetical situation Daniel’s way and letting Daniel take a wild guess before explaining what the right answer or approach would be. Most of the questions were ones Daniel would never have thought to ask, and he quickly realized just how much he didn’t even know he didn’t know. But Clint was patient and prompted Daniel to take notes on the occasions where he didn’t start the discussion with a hypothetical, and while the sheer volume of information was overwhelming, Daniel felt much better prepared not only to keep up his cover but also to be a genuine help to Clint and Bella for the duration of the team’s assignment.
“Think I might actually enjoy this,” he confessed as they finally started back toward the house.
Clint chuckled. “Give it a year or two first. Theory’s one thing; practice is something else.”
The excursion wasn’t all business, however. Some of the wildflowers were beginning to show themselves here and there, and Clint didn’t object when Daniel asked to pause and pick a few specimens to press for Mother. In fact, Clint went so far as to explain what they all were—bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, phlox, winecups, and so on—as well as some of the legends of how the various flowers came to be. He was blessed with the gift of the gab and even slipped into an Ulster accent at times as he told his tales, much to Daniel’s amusement, and Daniel found himself taking notes on Clint’s yarns as well.
They stopped on the way back to the house to gather some less-ordinary bluebonnet varieties, including some that looked white from a distance. But as Daniel got closer, another lupine he saw on the far edge of that patch gave him a moment’s pause. “Wait, are those… pink?” He started forward to investigate.
Clint grabbed his arm. “Don’t pick those,” he said, suddenly grave. “Don’t ever pick those.”
Daniel blinked. “Why not?”
Clint didn’t answer right away. Instead, he took off his hat and held it over his heart as he walked over, knelt next to the plant, and stared at it for a long moment.
Clint’s voice was quiet and rough when he finally spoke. “The story goes that there used to not be any pinkbonnets anywhere. But there was a place on the San Antonio River, out… uh, southeast of town, downriver, where there were a bunch of whitebonnets every year. In… in ’36….” His voice trailed off.
Daniel took a step or two closer but waited for Clint to continue.
“The plants had… had sprouted already by the beginning of March, y’know, were growing, but they h-hadn’t bloomed yet when… when the Alamo fell. And there was s-… so much….”
Even as an intelligence officer, Daniel had seen his share of rivers running red during the war. That was one of those topics that were too terrible to talk about, let alone describe, but anyone who’d been in a similar spot didn’t need to be told what it was like. So he put a hand on Clint’s shoulder and squeezed to show he understood.
Clint drew a ragged breath and forced himself to go on, heedless of the tear that escaped down his cheek. “When the flowers… finally bloomed that year… they weren’t white anymore. Wouldn’t ever be again.”
Daniel couldn’t think of anything to say or do beyond removing his own hat. After a long moment, however, he ventured, “Maybe God wanted it that way. Lest we forget.”
Clint nodded slowly. Another long moment passed before he whispered, “They burned Harrisburg to the ground the next month. We lost everything.”
“Is that when you moved to Independence?”
“Yeah. Da had saved some of his best fabrics, and the money box, but there wasn’t near enough to start a new shop all over again. So he… he took out a homestead, bartered some suits for the goods we needed, saved the cash to invest in a herd. Don’t know how the hell we made it work, but we did.”
“Grace of God.”
“Yeah. And the men who died to keep us free.”
Now it was Daniel’s turn to nod slowly and let a long pause pass. “Those don’t transplant well, do they?”
Clint shook his head. “No. Mum tried once—n-not with these. With bluebonnets. You want ’em in pots, you have to grow ’em from seed.”
“Okay. Then I guess the best way to preserve these is… is to leave ’em right where they are.”
Clint finally managed to smile a little. “Reckon so.”
He took a deep breath then and stood, brushed the grass off his knees, and put his hat back on. Daniel followed suit and followed Clint back to the horses and the job at hand. And when they both felt like talking again, they kept the conversation light. When they got back to the house, however, and found Mike and Jake outside working on a bookcase Marty had designed with a hidden compartment for storing classified documents, Daniel let Clint go inside first while he stopped to check their progress.
Once Clint was out of earshot, Jake lowered his voice. “What is it? What’s happened?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Daniel replied. “I just wanted to give you both a heads-up about a plant we found out there….”
Story and photo copyright © 2014 Elisabeth G. Wolfe. All rights reserved.
*skids to a halt and plonks down breathless at computer* “So little to do, so much time… strike that, reverse it.”
I’m really looking forward to April. Maybe by then I’ll have time to actually breathe when I’m not being sidelined with health stuff. o_o
Thanks to everyone who’s read Look Behind You so far! I have only a couple more ducks to get into line before publication, so I do expect to make my planned release date of March 2. Watch this space for more details!
Also, if you’re in the Highland Lakes (Texas) area this week, I’ll be presenting “It All Began with an Airplane: The Lesser-Known History behind Loyal Valley” at Lakeshore Library in Buchanan Dam on Tuesday at 2:30. Copies of Loyal Valley: Assassination will be available for purchase afterward.
And finally, to prove I’m not a total slacker, have a hot-off-the-keyboard excerpt from Loyal Valley: Bystanders:
“Well, if they got this part worked out [asked Bella], why not add some kind of clockwork loading mechanism?”
[Marty replied,] “Blessed if I know. Maybe it wouldn’t fit in the tree; maybe they figured more moving parts meant more that could go wrong. Or maybe this was the only way the gunfighters would go for it.”
“Perhaps this fellow will be able to tell us,” said Mr. Meusebach, coming onto the porch just then with Mike. The two of them were half-carrying the man Mike had shot [in the shoulder], who had regained consciousness and was swearing his head off. Ashley stood in the doorway and growled threateningly.
Mike grabbed one of the porch chairs, shoved the prisoner into it, and cuffed him lightly on the ear. “Don’t talk like that in front of a lady.”
The prisoner looked at Bella and sneered. “That ain’t no lady, that’s a—”
Mike backhanded him hard enough to draw blood.
Bella found herself drawing up to her full height. “If you get blood on my porch, Captain….”
Mike shot her an amused glance. “Understood, ma’am.”
Marty coughed, apparently to keep from laughing. Then he turned his head toward Ashley. “That’s enough, girl.”
Ashley sat down in the doorway and stopped growling audibly, but her ruff was still raised and her ears back.
“Who sent you out here?” Mike demanded of the prisoner.
The prisoner snorted. “I ain’t talkin’ to no—”
Ashley cut him off with a flurry of furious barks until Marty called her down again. Then Mr. Meusebach stepped around in front of the prisoner, and as Mike stepped aside to give him room, Bella was astonished at the change that came over their dear friend and neighbor. Gone was the affable gentleman farmer; in his place stood the nobleman who’d so impressed the Comanches that they’d nicknamed him after a god.
“Let me make one thing perfectly clear,” said Baron von Meusebach in a steady, dangerous voice. “You have three choices. You will talk to us; you will talk to the sheriff; or you will talk to the State Police.”
For the first time, the prisoner looked slightly nervous. “I don’t gotta talk to nobody. I got rights.”
“Oh, yes, you have rights. But we have evidence—enough evidence that the sheriff will most assuredly charge you with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. I would think that you are wanted for other crimes, also, perhaps even actual murder.”
The prisoner looked more nervous.
Mr. Meusebach raised an eyebrow. “Ach, so, you are a murderer, and you know that you will hang for that. There is, however, the possibility….” He paused—deliberately, Bella suspected.
And the prisoner took the bait. “Of what? P-possibility of what?”
“Well, I cannot speak for Gov. Davis, but there may be a chance of clemency if you will tell us all you know.”
The prisoner started shaking, though Bella wasn’t sure if it was from fear or blood loss. “Don’t I get a lawyer or nothin’?”
Mr. Meusebach shrugged. “It may take several days, perhaps even weeks, for one to be found who is willing to travel this far from Austin.”
“Weeks?! But I ain’t got—” The prisoner caught himself.
“You don’t have weeks,” Mike rumbled. “Because your gang expects to finish off Mrs. Hancock and Mr. Donovan in a matter of days, and if they come back from Lost Creek to find you’ve been captured before you could kill us….”
The prisoner was definitely afraid now. “You don’t know nothin’.”
Or do they? Stay tuned….
(Post title inspired by the catchphrase for the Horrible Histories movie, BILL, which just started filming last week!)
… with a news update: I am now officially planning to have Loyal Valley: Bystanders out no later than March 21 because I will indeed be launching it at West Texas Heritage Days at Fort McKavett! I’m scheduled to speak during lunch on the 22nd (Saturday), but I’ll be available to sign all weekend, in addition to my calligraphy demonstration.
Also, if anyone’s planning to come to my signing at Lakeshore Library in Buchanan Dam on Feb. 18, I will be presenting my talk “It All Began with an Airplane: The Lesser-Known History behind Loyal Valley” and will have copies available for purchase afterward.
Well, I didn’t quite make my goal of posting every day of the twelve days of Christmas. But that’s okay–I got close and wrote some things I hadn’t planned, and I pray some of it blessed people.
What it did teach me, though, is that I’m not cut out to be a blogger who posts every day. Even when I’ve got a clear idea of what I want to post, which I didn’t always for this series, blogging takes up energy that I need to expend on writing other things. And again, that’s okay. I didn’t set out to become a big-name blogger. It just means this isn’t going to be that sort of blog, and I’ll figure out the sort of blog it is going to be as we go along.
Starting Monday, I’ll be trying something completely different by posting the first book in my second series, Look Behind You, here before I release the ebook and paperback versions on March 2. I’ll be posting one chapter each on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the rest of this month. I also plan to post a PayPal button where you can preorder autographed hard copies as well as autographed copies of Loyal Valley: Assassination–and I hope you will, because I’ll be working on Loyal Valley: Bystanders at the same time with a goal of releasing it later in March, and any income I can get from writing means less time I need to spend making money from other projects.
And if you can’t buy anything right now… just pray for me.