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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Vastine's Open House Shindig...

I tried to think of fancy words, catchy titles to start off my first blog on my brand new blog site. But I couldn't. 


I'll get right down to it. 

I'm excited because this Wednesday, January 22, my newest novella, "Glory Lands" will be released at Dreamspinner Press. So this event is a combination celebration of the upcoming release and a grand opening party for my new blog. 

Very briefly---so we can commence to the celebratory festivities which DO include door prizes---let me tell you about "Glory Lands." Set in 1931 East Texas, it's a very simple story about religion in a small community and the impact on the citizens when one of their own is arrested for homosexual activities. The faith of the town that always felt secure in its notion of righteous living is tested when "sin" rears its head. Especially the minister, whose beloved son just happens to BE the homosexual.

The story had boiled inside me for a long time, and it all began when I had printed out a list of law enforcement history in an East Texas county for an elderly co-worker---the county where he used to live and where my mother had also been born and raised. 

The friend pointed to one of the officers listed and, almost in a whisper, said, "I KNOW that man."

He proceeded to recount to me an incident he'd witnessed when he was eight years old. Something that, at his young age, he was too young to grasp its violent impact. Something this sheriff had done in the middle of busy day in this rural community, in front of witnesses. 

It shocked me, haunted me. And I had to write it, if nothing more than to get it out of my system. I changed the year, fictionalized the name, and began "Glory Lands" with the scene, just as it was told to me. 

And then I created a community around the incident and a handful of characters, all based on real folk's personalities----family, friends from this place--- and their lives in that town. It is the story of my heart, my roots.

Enough about that. We've got more stuff to tend to here.

Here's the beautiful cover (Reese Dante, artist) for "Glory Lands", which is available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press on January 22...

 Click on Link to Pre-Order

And now....here's an excerpt, the beginning scene I told you about. And...and...following the excerpt...are details of the prizes and what I'd love for you folks to do in order to be eligible. 

WEARING A giant smile—just as clear, bright, and happy as that very October morning—Othello “Ted” Jenkins stepped from Jousan’s Mercantile and out onto the crowded sidewalk. Against his shoulder rested a brand-new Winchester rifle, its shiny black barrel pointing to the sky.

A cluster of townsfolk, my Daddy and me included, who’d been milling in front of the store window stepped up to Ted to see his purchase, and he beamed like a proud mother with a new baby while they admired it.

Elihu Bishop moved slowly through the flock of people.

Even if Bishop hadn’t sported a stiff white Stetson or toted two—not one, but two—Colt .45s on his hips, his stride, with its perfect mix of statue-straightness and catlike grace, shouted City Marshal’s Deputy.

Just the sight of Bishop—silk and ice, all six-foot-four of him—scattered folks like kids, who, although they hadn’t done anything wrong, reckoned they’d best make themselves scarce just in case.

Nobody strayed far, though; they just sort of spilled away from Ted like a bunch of leaves flittering across the road on the breath of a soft wind.

Which left Ted alone in his own little spotlight as Bishop sauntered nearer.

Daddy grabbed my wrist, his fingers awful tight. I resented like hell his taking hold of me, right there in front of everyone, as though I was a squirmy toddler.

But right then, riled as I was, I sensed it. Something dark slithered through the crowd and settled tight as a fist of ice in my own chest—fear. Oh, at the time, I was too young to really grasp why this silent, invisible angel of darkness terrified me so. Maybe nothing more than me channeling my father’s tension.

Once he reached Ted’s side. Bishop blew a quiet, admiring whistle. “What you got here, Ted?”

Poor Ted’s Adam’s apple bobbed in his long skinny neck. His dark fingers toyed nervously on the butt of the rifle. “It’s a rifle.”

Bishop shot up an eyebrow and took his good time pulling a cigarette from his lips.

Ted gulped and amended his reply. “It’s a rifle, Deputy Bishop.”

“Isn’t that a beaut, Ted, isn’t that just a beaut.” A sneer pretending to be an interested smile turned up the corners of Bishop’s thin lips. He squinted and tossed the cigarette onto the pavement. Tucking his chin, he stretched out a khaki-sleeved arm to now-trembling Ted. “Mind if I take a look, boy?”

An acquiescent grin tried to reach Ted’s mouth, and he nodded, the rifle wobbling in his grip when he handed the firearm to the lawman. “Sure, sir. Sure.”

“Now would you just look at this nice piece of weaponry.”

Nodding, his lips pursed, Bishop studied the Winchester. It didn’t shake in his hands as it had in Ted’s. “What’re you aiming to do with this fine thing, boy?” The deputy’s steely

blue gaze shot to Ted from under the shade of the Stetson’s brim.

“I figured to do some huntin’, sir.” Ted shifted from one scuffed-booted foot to the other, and his glance danced around the crowd.

I recognized that familiar frenzy in his brown eyes. A desperate search for a place to run. I figured I’d donned that same expression many times in the classroom when I was about to be on the receiving end of the teacher’s yardstick.

“I see.” Bishop’s severe gaze narrowed. “Hunting what, boy?”

Ted shrugged. “Squirrels and rabbits, I reckon, sir.”

While being pinned under that stony scrutiny, Ted’s body went rigid, except for his shaking hands.

“Squirrels and rabbits,” Bishop murmured.

“Yes, sir.”

There went Daddy’s fingers again, squeezing me even harder.

Through the years, even when I’d grown old enough to recognize the face of hatred and its always-hovering dark cold cloud, I still wondered how I didn’t sense what was going to happen next.

With no warning, just offering a gentle “I see,” Bishop grasped the barrel of the Winchester and, with one fast-as-lightning movement, brought the butt of the piece down on the back of Ted’s neck.

The impact split the air and echoed off the buildings like a clap of thunder.

I cringed, the sickening thud jarring my innards.

Ted crumpled to the pavement, boneless as an empty potato sack.

With a deep sigh and a slow stare around the circle of spectators, Bishop stood for a moment, the rifle in his big fist. Then, like throwing a bit of stick into the garbage, he tossed the gun onto Ted’s still frame.

The Winchester bounced off Ted and clattered to the sidewalk.

The deputy shot one last glance at the stunned audience, sauntered to the wrought-iron bench at the end of the sidewalk, and commenced lighting a cigarette.

Daddy shuddered to life. Murmuring “Jesus, sweet Jesusover and over under his breath, he started down the sidewalk, dragging me toward our truck.

Over my shoulder, I kept my gaze on Bishop while being hauled away from the scene by Daddy. I’d been mesmerized, terrifyingly so, by the image of the deputy lounging on that bench as though nothing had happened.

At one point, Bishop’s eyes met mine. He must have enjoyed the terror in my own eyes because, after a long drag on the cigarette, he exhaled and winked at me through the spiral of smoke.

Until the next morning, when I crept out of bed to eavesdrop on my parents having coffee at the breakfast table, I didn’t know Ted Jenkins had died. The blow from the Winchester had broken his neck.

And none of the onlookers, not even one person, was brave enough to show shock or outrage when Bishop’s gaze had dared them to do so. 

Now to the goodies! 

Seven door prizes will be awarded, names drawn on Saturday, January 25. 

Two grand prizes: $25.00 Amazon gift cards and a copy of "Glory Lands". 

And five additional prizes: $10.00 gift cards to your choice of Amazon or Starbucks. 

Oh, yes, you have to do something to win. No test, no quiz....

But...but...all visitors who leave a comment (and their email address) will be eligible to win a door prize; but only those who follow the blog are eligible to win a grand prize. 

Thank you for stopping in and visiting with me! Looking forward to seeing more of you!

**Note: I owe the lovely design for my new blog home to the talents of A.J. Corza.