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Monday, December 3, 2012

Gunfight: Union Yellow-Legs vs. KKK Night Riders!


Amazon has reduced the cost of my post-Civil War e-novella, Radical Times, to 99 cents. What better time to promote it, sez I. I've made sure it's available for the same price at Barnes & Noble for the Nook, at Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Apple, Diesel and everywhere else.

It's tempting to categorize Radical Times as a western, and it does feature horses, six-guns and shootouts, but it takes place east of the Mississippi. Pick Garver is a soldier who survives the horrors of the War Between the States, but might not survive the smoldering hatred during Reconstruction. A native Arkansan, Pick was raised on his slave-owning uncle's plantation, but ran away North to fight with the Union Army. His "treason" is not appreciated by the white population of his hometown, but a desire to see two women overcame his better judgment. One was his dying mother; the other is the woman he loves but probably can never be with.

Wanna take a peek?

The invaders wore hoods made from flour sacks, pillowcases and various other material. Most were cloaked with sheets or blankets, though one of them wore a Confederate Army jacket. Pistols still smoking in their white hands, they fanned out to cover the crowd.
“Make way!” shouted a muffled voice.
The crowd parted, leaving an open path up the aisle to the front.
“What’s goin’ on?” one man asked the masked intruders. A pistol fired and he went down.
“Any more stupid questions?” asked the masked figure who had shot him.
“The time for you niggers to gloat is over,” declared another muffled voice. “By order of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. You niggers up there in front, come here.”
Huddy, Josiah and Lutrell exchanged fearful looks, then stepped down and walked toward the masked men.
“That means you, too, Shealy!”
Randy Shealy blanched, but stepped down and overtook the others.
When the group of leaders had reached the back of the church, Shealy approached one of the masked men. “Just what is the meaning of this?” he asked, in a quavering voice. “Who are you and what right do you have—“
The masked man slammed his pistol into the side of Shealy’s face. The preacher went down. “You’re a disgrace to the white race,” the masked man said. He kicked the prone, unconscious body. Then, seemingly enjoying the sensation of his boot sinking into Shealy’s stomach, kicked him again and again.
Pick went from shocked, to scared, to furious as the scene unfolded. His single-action Colt had five cylinders loaded, the hammer resting on an empty chamber, but none of his compatriots seemed to be armed at all. Slaves were forbidden to bear arms, so few freed men even owned weapons yet, much less were in the habit of traveling with one.
“Rush them!” Pick cried, unholstering his gun. “There’s only a few of them; we’ve got them outnumbered.”
They could have overpowered the murderous visitors with minimal casualties, but the crowd was sluggish to act.
“Who said that?” demanded one of the intruders.
Another fired toward the sound of Pick’s voice, hitting someone in between them.
Pick, unable to get a clear shot through the crowd, ran to the aisle. With a hooded target now in unobstructed sight, Pick took aim and fired. The man was slammed to the floor.
Men scrambled to get farther out of the line of fire. The hooded intruders poured hasty shots in Pick’s direction. Pick dropped to his belly and fired again, winging one masked man in the arm. A hundred voices shouted all at once.
The masked men grabbed the leaders—two of them carried Randy Shealy—and backed toward the door. As the last one backed out with his captive, pistol still waving at the occupants of the church, Simon Lutrell tore free and dove to the ground. The masked man cursed and fired into the room, then the door was slammed shut.
Amidst all the yelling and cursing, there were noises outside now: thudding, scuffing, scraping, even hammering. Then there was a crash. A flaming bale of cotton came crashing through one of the only two windows, landing on one of the church pews and blossoming into a powerful blaze.
Panicked men charged for the door, trampling friends and neighbors in the process. But the door was solidly barricaded, and smoke seeped in around it. Pick tried to assess the situation without getting trampled himself.
Pick decided the windows were the best way to escape, but they were rather high…and now they were being boarded up from outside with preassembled planking. Smoke thickened rapidly in the building from all sides. The whole structure had been set afire from outside.
He tried to quiet the mob, but at the top of his lungs could not be heard above the din. He moved toward the window nearest him. Others nearer the windows had the same thought and got there first. Men jumped up and hung from the window ledges by one hand, but had little leverage to force the boards out with the other hand. If they would only cooperate with each other, one man could stand on the shoulders of two and push against the barricade. But nobody was being cooperative.
 The church grew hotter and smokier. Pick yelled and mimed directions to no avail. They were all going to suffocate and burn here because nobody would work together and focus on a practical plan.

This scene was lifted from the middle of the story.

This is from an Amazon review:

A group of Union soldiers returning home after Appomattox has one last battle to fight and the author does a wonderful job in this tightly written novella of drawing characters and moving plot forward.

This novella has everything - a nice exposition that doesn't get bogged down, wonderful character development, a bit of romance, a touch of sex followed by intense, well-thought out action before returning to a poignant touching ending that distilled the consequences of American history into the lives of two lovers.

That's right, Two-Fisted Bloggees: Yours truly tried his hand at a romantic subplot--just to give you a warm, squishy feeling before the final bloodbath.

Dang. From the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" list, it's obvious most of the sales have come from romance fans. Where are the lovers of blood and guts action? Does this mean I should shift my efforts from action-adventure to mushy bodice-rippers? Oh, the irony!

 Here's another Amazon review...I assume from one of those romance readers:

Informative, exciting, romance. All good. But I didn't like the ending so I'm hoping there will be a book 2?????

 Next time don't be so long-winded, lady! (Just kidding--I really appreciate reviews of any length.)

Well, pilgrim, it so happens the idea of a sequel has occurred to me, so I'll make a deal: if sales shoot through the roof and I get a respectable number of reviews and likes (let's say, um...40), I'll do it.

Whaddya mean, ya don't like the ending?!?!?

Actually, I think I know. But I won't divulge because it would be a spoiler. So nyah-nyah.

Meanwhile, I'm off to buy a bodice so I can practice ripping it.

(P.S: Radical Times is also included in my adventure anthology Virtual Pulp, which is available in paperback as well as e-book formats. What a friggin' bargain!)


  1. Sounds like an interesting premise! I'm planning a novel set during Reconstruction. The bitterness lasted a long time.

  2. Yeah--it lingered well into the 20th Century. And the very subject is a catalyst of racial tension for blacks and whites to this day. Nobody is taught the actual history of what went down, in school.


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