Sunday, April 29, 2012

Plan A. Plan Be. Plan See. by guest Jon Jefferson

Plan A. Plan Be. Plan See.
Guest blog by Jon Jefferson – the “Jefferson” half of the crime-fiction duo Jefferson Bass. Working in collaboration with Dr. Bill Bass, the forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee, Jon writes the bestselling series of Body Farm novels. The latest—The Inquisitor’s Key—comes out May 8.

I have writer friends whose workspaces are immaculate. I have friends who write every day, including one who gets up at 5:30 a.m. and writes for two hours before heading to his day job as a lawyer. I have friends who make detailed outlines. I have friends who start at the beginning and write their way forward, in perfect linearity, to the end. That is to say, I have friends who are neater, more disciplined, better organized, and generally much smarter than I am! But a beautiful thing about being a writer is that there are a zillion different paths up the mountain. Doesn’t matter which path you take, long as you’re climbing.

Three tricks to keep climbing: Change course. Be your inner TV writer. And see what’s in your headlights.

Change course: When I was a kid, I had one of those windup toy cars that, when it ran into a wall or a chairleg or the dog’s dish, would back up an inch or so, change directions slightly, and tear off again. Not, perhaps, the most efficient way to go from Point A to Point Z, but I couldn’t help but admire the little car’s persistence and energy. In practice, what that looks like for me (messy, nonlinear writer that I am) is jumping to a different place in the story when I’m stuck, and writing a scene that comes more easily than the one that brought me to a screeching halt. I end up doing a fair amount of joinery eventually, fitting all those pieces together, but I’ll take joinery over a blank screen any day of the week.

Be your inner TV writer: Back in my twenties, I had vague aspirations to write a novel—actually, the embarrassing truth is, I had vague aspirations to “be a writer”—but nothing came of them, because (a) I didn’t have a story I was burning to tell, and (b) I was too damned intimidated by my inner critic (my straight-A English-major critic) to write stuff I knew would be far inferior to Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dickens, and a legion of other great writers. Then I spent half a dozen years making cable-television documentaries, and I got over myself. Writing for television taught me to write fast and to write “good enough.” The liberating thing about it was that nobody cared if a script was Faulknerian or Hemingwayesque; what counted was that it got done, and that it was good enough. Since then, I’ve written nine books. My inner critic still winces at some of what I write … but at least I’m writing.

See what’s in the headlights: Somewhere, taped to one of my computer screens or walls (underneath a few other strata of index cards offering words of wisdom), I have this wonderfully reassuring line from novelist E.L. Doctorow: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Another analogy, which I offer from my experience as a pilot of small airplanes in the humid summers of the South: When you’re a mile or two up, on a hazy August afternoon, it’s often impossible to see the ground more than a couple miles ahead. The world seems to coalesce, to materialize, just ahead of the plane, just in time to fly above it. Sometimes when I’m writing, the world of the novel materializes one paragraph, or even one sentence, ahead of me. What a relief, and what a privilege, to see—to catalyze—that world’s creation!

For more on Jefferson Bass, LIKE them on Facebook, find them at their blog, and follow along on Twitter.

Pre-order The Inquisitor’s Key:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Warned: One Word/60 Seconds

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter W

She pulled at her bonds, but the rope would not give. Her heart raced as she watched the door he would be back at any moment. She should have listened to her friends. The door opened, she struggled harder, until the flash of steel in the dim light stilled her with fear. Her last thought… she had been warned.


Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter V
The following was written as for The 55 Word Challenge held every Wednesday at Jezri's Nightmares. 

I wove my way through the crowd. As I walked, I watched the sidewalk age, crumble, grass and weeds sprouted between the cracks. A glance at a car let me watch paint fade and metal turn rust. No longer a sexy red corvette. People were the worst, flesh withered and rotted. My vision, my curse.



Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter U

A Ukulele is a string instrument similar to a guitar only with a higher pitch, and, happens to be one of the coolest instruments around. For most the first image when mentioning one of these  is a sunny Hawaiian beach with a man in a loud shirt and lei strumming Aloha Oe under the palms. 

Actually the ukulele is more popular than one would imagine. Great Britain has a wonderful group. The Ukulele Orchestra who preforms tunes such as Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones, Born This Way by Lady GaGa, Enter Sandman by Metalica. 

Okay enough talk let's give a listen and see how cool a Uke can be. 

Friday, April 27, 2012


Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter T is a website for getting the muse warmed up. Each day you get one word and sixty seconds in which to write what it inspires. 

The darkness crept closer with each breath. The only thing holding it back was the dim light of the torch. The black waited knowing the oil inside couldn’t last much longer. Soon it would feast on the trembling flesh.

Shepard: One Word/60 Seconds

Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter S is a website for getting the muse warmed up. Each day you get one word and sixty seconds in which to write what it inspires. 

He gazed across the room and thought. Look at them all, sipping lattes, chatting about nothing important. Carefree, like sheep grazing in the field. One stray off to the side, head in her laptop working with diligence on a horror novel. Appropriate for this day, it was almost time The earthquake would come and he would be the shepherd of their souls.

Residue: One Word/60 Seconds

Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter R is a website for getting the muse warmed up. Each day you get one word and sixty seconds in which to write what it inspires. 

As she sat at the table the spot stared back at her. There was still a residue left from the soap making the splotch look like the blood she had mopped up. Her fingers were still raw and aching from scrubbing the dark stain. The residue of the life she had only a few hours ago.


Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter Q

Okay I kept trying to come up with a great Q topic but my mind just wouldn't structure a proper post. Soooo instead you get one of my favorite characters from Star Trek TNG. I give you Q.

Don't for get to stop back by Gladiator's Pen on the 29th for a special guest post from author Jon Jefferson! The Jefferson half of Jefferson Bass co-author of the Body Farm novels! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Photography and the Muse

Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter P

“A photograph is worth a thousand words.” That quote is absolutely true. That’s why photos make such wonderful writing prompts. The same image can hold thousands of stories or more. You can use photos as inspiration to find a story or for those ‘blocked’ moments.

When your story starts to slow down or you end up stumped on a scene try this. Google images that have to do with the subject or scene you’re working on. Keep your search to the images only and don't be too specific or too general.
Photo by Elise VanCise. Ferris at Night. Taken at Georgefest.
 Now go through those and pick out at least three that you feel ‘fit’ your story. Here’s the fun part. Pick one photo and open it as big as you can get. Now sit back, relax and let your muse free.

Take in all the details and shapes of each of the photos you picked out. Before you know it, your muse has been jumpstarted and ready to write.
Photo by Elise VanCise. Hello Honey, taken in my front yard .
 Looking through the lens can have the same effect as Googling an image. Objects we see in our everyday lives take on a different look when you gaze at them through your camera. Take a photo of a street lamp. Who do you see leaning against it? A grizzled private eye with his trench collar pulled up or maybe.
Photo by Elise VanCise.  Rain Bell, taken again in my front yard :) 
Take a photo of a group of people waiting at the bus stop or sitting at the tables in an outdoor café. There are all sorts of characters in those shots waiting to come to life.

The key is to let your imagination run wild and your muse will be inspired. Have you used photos as prompts or inspiration before? I would love to hear.  
Photo by Elise VanCise. Swamp King, bravely taken at Silver Springs  :)

One Word/60 Seconds: Chapped

Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter O is a website for getting the muse warmed up. Each day you get one word and sixty seconds in which to write what it inspires. This was my entry today, I thought I would share it for O. 

The blue green waters of the ocean rolled over her feet then back out again. The waves rumbled and rolled as white foam tumbled on the tops. The sky was bright not a cloud in it. Such a beautiful day to be on the beach, so much to admire. Yet, all she could think of were her lips were chapped.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Novel Quotes

Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter N

The writer who cares more about words than about story  characters, action, setting, atmosphere  is unlikely to create a vivid and continuous dream; he gets in his own way too much; in his poetic drunkenness, he can't tell the cart  and its cargo  from the horse. 
John Gardner

We read five words on the first page of a really good novel and we begin to forget that we are reading printed words on a page; we begin to see images.
John Gardner

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.
Stephen King

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero, but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
G. K. Chesterton

Get you facts first, and then you can distort 'em as much as you please. 
Mark Twain

An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an  idea at all. 
Oscar Wilde

Everything that doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. And later on you can use it in some story. 
Tapani Bagge


Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter M

I love monsters vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies, big foot, loch ness monster. Anything creepy or frightening I’m so there. Why? I blame my dad for this fascination. Yes, it’s all his fault.

Dad loved the monsters too. His favorite film was Bug (1975), about roaches that ate flesh, made fire, and flew. *shivers* I’m cool with the rest but flying roaches creep me out. Anyone who has encountered Florida’s famous palmetto bugs gets that one.

We would stay up late at night with a half gallon of ice cream and two spoons propped between us and watch Elvira Mistress of the Dark and whatever horrific flick she had for us. Yes it could considered a form of child endangerment in allowing such gore filled and fright filled scenes to play over Rocky Road. Yet it was also very influential. 

I was introduced to some literary greats through these freak fests such as Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft. It wasn’t all blood bath some were classics. I remember my heart racing the first time I watched Boris Karloff come to life in The Mummy (1932).

Thanks to these monstrous marathons, I developed a fascination of paranormal and abnormal. Those factors touch a lot of my writing the mystery, the tingling down the spine, the search into the unknown.

Some of my favorites are the House on Haunted Hill, Séance, House, Wolfen, Ghost Ship, High Spirits (not really horror but a fun ghostie romp), Poltergeist and Stir of Echoes, The Gravedancers, The legend of Hell House, The Shining, The Ring, Cujo.
You know this list could go on and on I better stop there! :D

How do some of your favorite films influence you? 

Like me!

Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter L

Everyone thinks of themselves as likeable chicks and chaps. Facebook as given us a way to express our likes with that cute little thumbs up button. We get posts and emails from friends and colleges asking us to ‘like’ their pages. Does a writer really need a fan page if they already have a personal profile?

I believe fan pages are one of the most essential tools in a marketing toolbox. Especially for writers, they give opportunity to reach more readers than are attached to your friends list. These pages are publicly listed and search friendly than a personal profile where hopefully you’ve locked down every privacy setting known to man. 

Why not just have someone ‘friend’ your regular profile? While someone may enjoy your blog, books, etc. they may not want to be your ‘friend.’  While we want to get personal with our readers there is a line of T.M.I.

For example: At a book signing an author will share information about books, events, and might share that a son or daughter graduated from high school, engagement, or an inspiring personal story. 

The same author entertaining a guest in the home would share more intimate details about themselves. Such as, “Oh Aunt Bertha called. She had that pesky corn removed today.” Or photos of Frisky the cat sleeping in the pillowcase again.

Having a ‘fan page’ or ‘business profile’ lets an author separate that information they don’t want the general public to know. Moreover, allows Freddy and Freda Fan to get the scoop on information relative to their interest.

A writer can get instant review from an excited fan who posts how much they liked a book on the page. Fan interaction is a huge benefit, Freddy will tell Freda, she will tell her friends to like the page and so forth. Spreading an author’s writing virtually world wide. Like having a virtual book signing 24 hours a day.

So yes, make a fan page for your books, blog, cat, or even Aunt Bertha’s corn. If you already have a page how has it been helpful to you?

Oh and by the way…. Please LIKE ME! 

Other pages you may LIKE

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Killing Hammond

Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter k
This is a continuing story, if you would like to read the from the beginning, the letter A : Aces and Eights  But... each letter/story stands alone as well. Enjoy:)

Killing Hammond

Ben checked the weapon again, more to force himself to calm. He needed a level head to kill Hammond, not just charge in like a private on his first battle. “Take Dawson and get. I’ll meet you when I’m through.”

Charlie looked at Ben crouched next to him. “There are four Pinkertons and that fancy dressed fella. Five to one ain’t good bettin odds.”

 “Four Pinks, I took one down in the house on my way out.” Ben sighed and turned toward his loyal friend. “Charlie, I have enough blood on my hands. I don’t want yours too.”

The younger man shook his head. “Not your choice. Besides I got to make sure you don’t get shot so we can rob a few more trains. I’ve come to like the criminal lifestyle.”

“You would.” Ben shook his head and started forward toward the enemy and his target, Hammond.

It was time for Hammond to pay for his own crime. He was a railroad tycoon, who used his money and power to get the law to move his way. Or over look transgressions he made to further his greed.

Ben moved through the tall grass behind the corral. The Pinkertons were within range, but he couldn’t take them all down before they opened fire. There was only one pistol between Ben, Charlie and Dawson.

Ben holstered the gun into his waistband and picked up a board that had fallen from the corral’s gate. He would save the bullets for the one who most deserved them. 

Ben crouched down in the tall grass and watched for a moment the three Pinks looked at the dawn as it broke the horizon. One of them turned and announced he needed the privy. Ben let the men move some distance before he burst from the dew laden grass and took a swing at one of the remaining Pinkertons before either could draw.

The first Pink turned and started to raise his arm, but he wasn’t fast enough. The blow knocked him to the ground. Ben set upon him with strike after strike until he didn’t flinch.

Charlie had done the same. Both men sat panting as the third Pinkerton came out of the privy to see his colleges bloody on the ground. He began to shout. “They’re escaping!” 

The Pinkerton Ben had beaten in his escape from the house came out on the porch. He stumbled as he reached to the empty holster at his side. “They’re armed.”

Ben verified the fact with two bullets to the Pinkerton’s chest. The privy Pink took shots as he dove for cover. Ben let Charlie deal with it, he had to find Hammond.

Ben ran through the hail of bullets toward the house. As his foot hit the second porch step he felt something hot sink into his side and shoulder. His vengeance was too close to stop. Ben took loose aim into the window and fired.

He was rewarded with a cry of pain from inside the house. Ben continued inside he had three bullets left. He spun and drooped at the sound of a pistol’s hammer clicked back. He felt the air displaced next to him as the bullet moved past. Ben returned fire twice one bullet went wide.

Hammond fell back hand pressed to his side. He aimed his weapon for Ben’s heart and pulled the trigger. There was a dry click but no shot. His eyes widened as Ben Began to move toward him. “Kill me and you’re a dead man, Mason.”

Ben let Hammond see the pain, the sorrow, the hate that he carried with him since the day he knelt by his family’s graves. “I died when you killed my wife and son. Burned them with my home, while I was fighting a foolish war.”

Hammond stuttered as he threw the empty pistol at Ben. “Those were road agents, not me.”

Ben nodded and aimed the pistol to Hammond’s head. One shot left. “They were road agents. Agents that acted on your orders to burn down a house, makes you as guilty as the one who dropped the match.”

Hammond held up his hand as if that would stop it. Ben took a breath and held it. For him the room became silent. Hammond continued to argue as Ben’s finger pulled back on the trigger but there was no sound only purpose in the moment.

The bullet hit home. Hammond’s face held the shock and surprise as his body fell backward. Ben stood over him and watched the life drain from those greed filled eyes. When it was gone, he let the pistol fall from his hand and pressed his wounded side.

When he stepped outside into the morning sun, sound came rushing back. The call of birds, the horses’ hooves as they stamped nervously in the corral and Charlie calling to him. Ben just nodded as he took in the fact it was finally over. Hammond and those involved with his family’s deaths were now in their own graves.

“Charlie, take Dawson we’ll meet at the border as planned.”

Charlie wanted to argue but now wasn’t the time. They had to get before someone came to investigate the gunfire. “Yes, sir.”

Ben rode in the opposite direction until out of site of the others. He stopped and pressed another cloth to his side the other already blood soaked. His vengeance was complete, maybe it was time for all of it to be over. He scoffed himself as he nudged the horse into movement. “Aces and eights.”

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter J
This is a continuing story, if you would like to read the from the beginning, the letter A : Aces and Eights  But... each letter/story stands alone as well. Enjoy:)

Ben growled and pulled at his bonds. He wouldn’t hang here, on some ranch in the corner of Arizona. It was a jail, a nicer furnished one but a jail the same. Ben Mason was a decorated soldier of the Union Army. A man with more honor than Hammond and his Pinkertons could muster in a finger. The fact he was now wanted for robbery and murder aside.

 The wooden chair creaked with his efforts, it wasn’t a stout chair. Ben rocked forward onto his feet and fell back to the legs of the chair. He took a breath and rocked again this time catching his balance. 

Ben stood stooped tied to the chair. “Well this is effort rewarded, now what?” He raised his head as far as he could as he looked for something to free him. Nothing useful came to sight and his time was close to run out.

Standing like this he could see through the window and the horizon as it began to show color.

With a sigh he shifted the chair on his back and pushes off the floor falling backwards hard. The old chair split apart, without the structure the ropes fell lose around his body.

Ben groaned and rubbed his scared shoulder, which took the brunt of the fall. It took a moment for him to untangle his body from the mess. A moment too long, the door creaked open and one of the Pinkertons stepped in.

“What the hell?” He opened his coat and started to draw his weapon.

Ben grabbed a broken leg of the chair and swung at the man’s gun hand. The half-drawn weapon clattered to the floor. Ben swung the wooden leg back as the Pink tried to dive for it.

The wood connected knocking the other man unconscious. Ben watched the Pink collapse on the floor as he picked up the gun. He peered out the window to see four other Pinkertons buys with preparations for his hanging.

Ben moved into the bedroom and looked out the window for any others. It was clear. “One thing you can count on is a Pink being over confident.”

He quietly jumped out of the window, crouched and made his way to the corner of the house. Ben searched any sign of his men. He eased closer along the side of the house.

Charlie and Dawson were tied up next to what was left of the barn. The bastards had tried to burn them down with it. Smoke and embers were all that remained of the building now. Ben used the smoke as cover to get to the men.

Charlie spun his head at the sound of burnt wood cracking under foot. He relaxed at the sight his friend. “Ben, they’ll be back soon. They’ve got plans…”

Ben nodded as he examined the knots; he needed to cut them free. “They’re busy craftin my noose.”

Dawson glanced out to keep watch as Ben worked. The men felt the ropes give way. Charlie grinned as he rubbed his forearms. “Let’s get the hell out of here, boss.”

Ben nodded to him. “You know where to go.”  He checked the chamber of the Pinkerton’s revolver. Six bullets, there would be no room to miss. Ben could feel Charlie and Dawson at his back as he started to move toward his goal.

He waited a long time to get Hammond in his sight. He wasn’t about to spoil the only shot he may get at the man. “Go Charlie, get Dawson out of here, I’ve unfinished business.”

Don't forget to stop by on April 29th for special guests  Jefferson Bass! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter I 
This is a continuing story, if you would like to read the from the beginning, the letter A : Aces and Eights  But... each letter/story stands alone as well. Enjoy:)


The soft snap and pop of hay woke Ben from the first good rest he was able to get in weeks. As the rest of his senses woke, he heard the horses shift restless in their stalls. There was a scent in the thickened air.

His eyes opened wide, not air, smoke. It was smoke and the scent was hay on fire. Ben jumped to his feet kicking the feet of his men. “Up, up. The barn’s on fire.”

Ben and the men scrambled as the smoke stung their eyes. The flames were starting to spread downward from the loft. Ben opened the stalls and pulled the animals outside.

He lead a large quarter horse out by the bridle, the air had started to thicken. It was harder to breathe but Ben turned back to make sure everyone and every creature were safe.

Ben met Charlie coming out with their horses. He shouted to him over the roar of the flames. “Is that all?”

Charlie nodded as he coughed and slapped the gray mare on the hindquarters to send her from the blaze. “Dawson is comin with the last one.”

He started to turn and join Ben when a figure stepped out of the shadows by the barn. “Ben, look out.”

Ben heard the warning and reached for the gun at his hip but it was too late. There was pain suddenly at the base of his skull. The flames started to sway and grow dark as he heard Charlie’s muffled voice call his name again. Then his face was in the dirt before darkness swallowed him.

Sound came back to him first. Voices seeping into the dark to bring him back to consciousness.  

Ben tried to sit up and reach to rub the back of his head. His arms wouldn’t lift, they were tied as were his legs. That brought back memory of the barn, the fire, being knocked out. He snapped fully awake and searched the room with his eyes.

A well-dressed man sat in a chair with one leg tucked beneath him. Two others flanked him, Ben caught the sight of a badge as one turned and looked his way. Pinkertons.  Ben growled as he jerked at the ropes in an attempt to break free.

The man in the expensive suit reminded Ben of a snake as he uncoiled from the chair to walk over. “Mr. Mason, glad you’re finally able to join us. I had the thought Mr. Crandle had cracked your thick skull.”

Ben glared they knew who he was. “You have me at a disadvantage, who the hell are you?”

Fancy suit sipped his port and offered his hand. With a sarcastic laugh, he drew it back. “My apologies, you are a bit too tied up for proper introductions. I’ve become acquainted with you, Mr. Mason. Or do you prefer Lieutenant Mason.”

He set the glass on the fireplace mantle and crossed his arms as he leaned a shoulder against it. “Oh yes, I investigated who the man that is so bent on attacking my trains.”

The rope cut into Ben’s wrists as he twisted them in his struggle to be free. “Hammond.”

Hammond grinned and gave him a mocked courteous nod. “Very good, you are every bit as bright as they said you are. You’re general is very disappointed in the road you’ve taken. I’m not surprised. My father was a major general in the British Army. I have seen men that war changed into blood thirsty beasts.”

The look he gave Ben was cold. “Hammond Rail is the only line you have stricken. Why would you target my family? Because you have become a warmonger, you need to sate your hunger for violence?”

Ben’s rage consumed him, his voice low as his eyes narrowed on the fool in his fancy suit. “I do hunger for blood. Your blood. You murdered my wife and son, countless others so you can strut in your expensive suit.”

Ben tried to lunge forward at Hammond. Being bound he only rocked forward on the chair’s legs and his feet.

Hammond scoffed. “I have done no murder. Not that could be proven in a court of law anyway. These men are sworn to uphold the law. At least of those who can afford their fees.”

Ben struggled against the ropes as Hammond picked up his coat and walked to the door. The wealthy railroad tycoon grinned, he had Ben Mason right were he wanted him. “It was good that we were introduced this evening, you are going to hang in the dawn’s early light, Mr. Mason. I think I should give you some time alone to make your restitutions with God. I look forward to watching you swing.”

The moment the door closed behind Hammond and his dogs Ben started to look around. He was in the rancher’s house. Ben knew they needed a safe place to sleep for a bit. They paid a rancher to stay in his barn for the night. Question was did he betray the outlaws or were they spotted somehow on the road?

Ben’s money was on betrayal, the rancher got his payback with a burnt barn. Either way the object of Ben’s vengeance was just on the other side of that door. He began to work on a way to escape so he could rip out Hammond’s heart. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hammond Rail Company

Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter H
This is a continuing story, if you would like to read the from the beginning, the letter A : Aces and Eights  But... each letter/story stands alone as well. Enjoy:)

 Special Thanks to my Sis, Rose Wade of Outlaw's pRose for being an honest editor and thwapping me when I slip into old habits :D 

Hammond Rail Company
The last freight car rolled passed them. Ben held the men back for another moment, he let go of a deep breath and gave the signal.

The four of them burst out of their hiding place and rode hard along side the train. Ben counted cars as they moved further up to their target. His perfectly aimed shots shattered the latch

As he motioned to Charlie to join him the door slid open. A Pinkerton officer raised his shotgun and aimed directly at Ben.

With a curse, Ben dropped back as he lowered his body closer to the horse. Buckshot sprayed out from the shot, some catching in his shoulder and thigh.

The Pink stepped back into the car to reload the rifle.

Ben took the opportune moment and spurred his mount. When he reached the door, Ben jumped from the saddle into the car.

Ben grabbed the barrel of the rifle and jerked it from the man’s hands. The Pink snarled and swung a fist at him. Ben took the blow to the chin and tossed the shotgun out the open door.

The Pinkerton connected another punch to Ben’s face. Ben shook off the blow and returned a few of his own.

The men fought until the Pink grabbed Ben’s gun. They struggled over the pistol until Ben was able to get it turned into the other man’s chest and pulled the trigger.

The two shots echoed in the semi-enclosed space. Ben’s ears rang as the Pinkerton stumbled back to collapse on the floor. A second Pink started to charge from his hiding place in the back corner of the car. Ben raised his weapon and fired, with out hesitation.

As the man clutched at his throat, Ben opened the revolver cartridge and reloaded. His senses took in the environment as his fingers slid lead home.

It was quiet except for the clack as they moved over the tracks. Ben began to search and spotted their target sat now unguarded in the back of the car. Ben’s lip curled in a grin as he walked to the heavy lockbox.

Dawson rode up to the freight car’s door. “Boss?”

Ben called back as he stomped the lock with the heel of his boot until it snapped. “Stay there.”

He knelt and swung open the lid to find his reward. Sixty thousand dollars headed for the Hammond Rail Company office in Chicago. Now it was his.

It wasn’t enough to pay the debt Hammond owed him. This was the third train they had taken, all Hammond Rail. Soon Arnold Hammond will begin to feel the pain of his shrinking wallet. It isn’t close to the pain Ben felt as he knelt by the graves of his wife and son. His family murdered so the rail company could take their land for a few miles of track. 

With a growl, he tossed the last of the money into a sack. Ben stood as he tied the sack and walked back to the doors. He traded Dawson the money for a stick of dynamite.

With a final glance around Ben lit the fuse. As he tossed the stick aside, he jumped to his horse and fell back with the others to wait.

When the car exploded, Dawson and the other men whooped and congratulated each other. Ben sat quiet as he took satisfaction in the sight. It didn’t ease his anger and grief, Ben wasn’t sure there was ever going to be peace for him again. There would be none for Hammond or the Pinkertons that took so much from him.

Hammond Rail Company just met hell in the form Ben Mason. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter G
This is a continuing story, if you would like to read the from the beginning, the letter A : Aces and Eights  But... each letter/story stands alone as well. Enjoy:)  

The small but growing town of Dixon was just ahead. Ben grinned as he slowed his horse to a walk. Just a few more miles and he would be home. First, he had to stop at Macintyre General Store.
He stopped on the boardwalk and brushed off some of the road dust. He heard a voice filled with surprise. “Benjamin Mason. As I live and breathe.”

Ben looked up into the face of Frank Macintyre. He walked into the shop and held out his hand. “Frank, it is good to see you.  Do you still carry ready-made dresses? Or maybe just a new bonnet.”

“Ben…. “ Frank didn’t know what to say, how to say. It was obvious Ben hadn’t gotten the letter. 

Ben continued as he looked around the shop. “The ladies in Washington had these fancy woven bonnets, I could see Ellen in one with her hair all tucked back…” He paused and grinned. “Sorry, I’m goin on and on, I’m glad to finally be home.”

Frank nodded slightly, his own expression not so joyous. “Ben, did you get Pastor Grove’s letter?”

Something was wrong, why would Pastor Grove have sent him a letter? “No, I’m afraid the army mail system wasn’t very reliable at times. It’s been eight months since I’ve heard from Ellen.” Ben looked at the shopkeep. “Frank, what is in the letter from Pastor Grove?

Frank rubbed his double chin as he tried to find the right words. “Ben…. Ellen is in town. “

Before another word could be said, Frank called back to his wife. “Luella, I’ll be back in a little while.”

She walked out and put a hand over her heart when she looked at Ben. “Take your time, dear. Mr. Mason…. I’m so sorry.” 

Ben’s gaze went between the two, he was deeply concerned, and what would she be sorry for? Before he could reply, Macintyre lead him out of the shop and down the thoroughfare. “Much has changed since you went to fight. The first year or so things were calm. Ellen was quite proud of you, so was your uncle. Old Pete would brag a storm about his nephew the lieutenant.”

He glanced at Ben. “The railroad folk started comin through, buying up every property they could get their hands on. The ones that didn’t succumb to the bags of money they were offerin, well were pushed off.”

Ben stopped walking and looked at him. “Pushed off? Pushed off how, didn’t any one stop them?”

Frank nodded but he could tell Ben was already taking this hard. “Yes, several fought them. Formed coalitions and wrote to the congressional offices and solicitors. Every thing legal. The railroad folk didn’t play by the same rules. They turned this town inside out to get their way.

“They burned barns, houses, poisoned livestock, harassed wives and children when they new their husbands and fathers weren’t there to stop it.” He nodded when he saw the question and horror etched on Ben’s face. “Yes, Ellen was among them. She fought them back as hard as she could. Pete stood with her.”
He motioned with his head toward the direction of the train depot. “The last rails went down six months ago. Two moths after it happened.”

Ben’s breath was short with anxiety, where was his family? “When what happened, Frank?”

Frank walked with him a few yards more to the cemetery. There were several graves not more than a few months old. Ben’s eyes fixed on one name. His hands shook as he knelt down and wiped the dust from the wooden cross to see it clearly. Here lies Ellen Mason. Wife and Mother 1864. Next to her a smaller cross.

Ben’s hands gripped the mounded grave dirt as a cry of grief tore from his chest.  For five long years, he fought to come back to them and now, there is nothing left to fight for. He sat for hours knelt between them until his grief had rung out and something else took its place.

Something dark and thirsty, vengeance. There was something to fight for, he would make sure those that did this would know as painful an end. Benjamin Mason would bring hell to the rails. 


Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter F
This is a continuing story, if you would like to read the from the beginning, the letter A : Aces and Eights  But... each letter/story stands alone as well. Enjoy:)  


Ben stood with his men as they listened to the final address given to the men departing service. It had been a long four years since he had seen his family. He tried to stand proud in his uniform; in his heart, he was tired of blood and battle.

This would be the final time he would dress in this uniform, march with his men, or salute the flag. It was time to put away all of these reminders of war and raise cattle and plant corn.

He shifted his feet, like an anxious private on his first day in camp until the General gave his final word.

With a sigh of great relief, he shifted to attention and gave one last salute. The General released them from their service and Ben turned toward the stables. His horse was already packed and ready to go. As he walked, he let his mind wander through the last five years of his life.

When he had enlisted, he felt sure of the cause and his country. With each march, each battle confidence in standing on the right side became muddied. He didn’t care any more who won or lost, only that he was going home.  

He stood next to his horse and took off the blue coat, removed the saber from his side. It felt as though a weight had been lifted from him. He plucked his new hat on his head and thumbed the rim bending it a bit more over his eyes before he mounted.

Ben took a final look as he rode out the gates. He had peaceful future ahead of him he hoped. He pulled the portrait from his pocket and grinned softly. It had been months since he had gotten a letter from his wife.

He pushed back that inner voice telling him to worry and caressed the worn edge of the frame with his thumb as he slipped it back into his pocket. “I’m coming home, Ellen. Finally coming home.” 

Monday, April 9, 2012


Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter E
This is a continuing story, if you would like to read the from the beginning, the letter A : Aces and Eights  But... each letter/story stands alone as well. Enjoy:) 

Be sure to mark your calendar for April 29th! Jefferson Bass, author's of the Body Farm series will be right here on Gladiator's Pen to promote their new book The Inquisitor's Key.  


The Union prisoners were gathered to the center of the Confederate camp. Ben growled as a soldier prodded him with the bayonet. “Mind getting that stick out of my back Johnny?”

The Confederate scoffed. “Just keep movin Yank.”

Ben searched the crowd of fifty other captives for his men. He spotted Charlie and Douglas to his left, Jackson to his right. He managed to make eye contact with each. After three weeks, this might be their best chance at escape.

The Confederate captain finally made his appearance. Ben wasn’t interested in his long winded speech about the Southern man’s rights as a nation. Ben didn’t care any more he had enough blood on his hands for several life times. He wanted to go home, raise cattle and his son.

The speech went on and while some of the other rebels shouted and cheered. Ben’s attention was called back to the egotistic captain when he heard a familiar voice cursing the southerners.

Tighe, one of the older men in their company, flanked by two large soldiers. One of them gave him a hard shove with the butt of his rifle up the steps of the gallows as the captain spoke. “This man, will serve as an example to you rabble. As further warning against outbursts. Corporal, string him up.”

Ben looked at each of his men. Charlie was wound ready to spring as he glanced back to Ben to get an order. Ben carefully motioned with his hand to hold.

Tighe stood swearing at his captures and issuing curses unto their decedents as the rope was tightened around his neck. The Captain lowered his arm and the hatch beneath the Federal dropped open.

Ben gasped, as he watched the big man struggle, the rope had not snapped his neck. His instinct took over as he spun grabbing the bayonet from the Confederate next to him and driving it into his neck.

He could hear shouts of those around him s fighting broke out. Prisoners against their jailers. Ben picked up the fallen rebel’s musket and turned. Tighe still struggled, but he didn’t have long.

Ben saw Charlie and Douglas almost to the gallows and raised the rifle. He had only one chance and no time to aim true. His finger squeezed the trigger and hoped.

The bullet struck the rope and Tighe fell to the ground, fingers clawed at the rope to get more than a gasp of air. Charlie and Douglas reached him first. Ben grabbed a pistol from another fallen soldier as he made his way through the fighting to them.

They had limited ammo and were in the thick of enemy territory. Ben looked back at his men who followed him into the woods. They were sure he could help them escape. He had to hope they were right. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012 for the letter D
This is a continuing story, if you would like to read the from the beginning, the letter A : Aces and Eights  But... each letter/story stands alone as well. Enjoy:) 


Dawn had begun to break, Ben watched the new recruits move through rifle drills. They would do this for the next twelve to fourteen hours of their life. He flexed the fingers of his right hand.

They were stiff and still numb from the bullet to the shoulder he’d taken in their last battle. The sawbones said the damage was probably permanent. Ben wouldn’t accept that.

He sat back on his cot and picked up his pistol. Good he could grip it, forcing his finger to curl into the trigger was difficult but once there Ben felt he could maintain it. He made sure the barrel was empty of amunition and squeezed.

The gun shifted out of his hand and into the dirt. Ben growled in frustration as he tried again. “You’re my body, obey my commands.”

He tried again, and again, it improved but the unforgiving muscles wouldn’t let him keep hold for more than two shots. Exhaling deeply he tossed the pistol onto the cot next to him and listened to the greenies go through their drills.

Ben turned and watched them for a moment. Determination filled him, he would not be shipped home half a man. Ben dressed full uniform, musket in hand then walked over to the commander of the new platoon. “Major Haute, may I join your men in drills, sir?”

The major gave him a questioned expression but could not find a reason to refuse. “Very good Lieutenant, position at the end of the front line.”

Ben nodded to a nervous new recruit, who gazed his rank as Ben took the spot next to him. “Eyes front, son.”

The recruit snapped back to attention, Ben had to grin as he remembered his own awe at officers among them. The Major raised his saber and began to call out. “Prepare to load. Load.”

Ben lowered the butt of his rifle to the ground and the barrel gripped in his left hand

“Handle cartridge.” The Major eyed Ben and his stiff movement as he concentrated to make his arm bend and pull the packet from his pouch.

“Tear cartridge.”  It took painful effort for Ben to lift his arm high enough to bite down on the paper and tear open the powder. Worse yet he had to hold it there until all the greenies had figured out the step.

Finally the next order came. “Charge cartridge.” It was a relief to drop his arm enough to pour the powder into the gun barrel until the bullet set in place at the mouth under his thumb. He could feel the last weeks of inactivity through his shoulder and down his arm. His fingertips had started to tingle. That was a welcome feeling compared to the numbness he had started to become accustomed.

“Draw rammer.” Ben took a deep breath and pulled the rammer from its slot along the top of the musket’s barrel. He had to lift his arm high to pull it free. He didn’t grimace or curse as much as he wanted to as bone clicked and ground with his movement as he positioned the rammer over the musket ball, and shoved it down with the next order to ram it.

He noticed a few of the greenies eyes glancing down to see his example. Ben did his damnedest to give them a good one and hide his weakness. He stood tall and kept up with their speed. Able to load up to four shots a minute.

Ben worked with them for the day. With each drill, his movement became more fluid. Even the sensation in his fingers and hand had begun to return. He sweated in his thick wool uniform under the sun and felt better than he had the morning he took Johnny Reb’s best shot.

When the Major relented to the young men’s groans of ache and tedium, he released them for supper. Ben grinned as he heard the younger men talking about him and the rumors of his own platoons exploits.

His puffed ego soon deflated as he stepped into his tent to find a telegram from his uncle. They and other ranches were bullied by the railroad for their land. Uncle had not given in to their demands and stood fast that he would not.

This worried Ben, he knew from his experience with the railroads here, they held great power. At the last was good news at least. His uncle mentioned that Ellen and Joseph were well and sent their love.  

Ben set the telegram on the desk and started to pull off his coat when the numbers in the corner caught his eye. A telegram with difficult news barring the operator code 11-88. Aces and eights, his omen taunted again that something was on it’s way.