Quartz: Part 10 – Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 1 Here.

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Zeke seldom traveled with others and Woolsey’s and Brokaw’s incessant talking was annoying. If it had been interesting or informative, it would have been different but the two just traded tales of saloons and fights and loose women. Dirty jokes figured heavily into their repartee. From their talk, it seemed they didn’t travel together all the time. And neither man seemed to be married. Neither of them ever mentioned a wife or children. What kind of life was that?

They stopped at midday to rest the horses and eat a bite. Neither man had thought to bring a lunch, so Zeke shared his ham biscuits. He was surprised they’d remembered to fill their canteens.

Just before sundown, Zeke stopped at his usual camping spot, off of the trail, just for safety. The two men were about to sit and make themselves comfortable when Zeke realized what they were doing. He suggested they take care of their horses, then for Brokaw to gather wood for a fire. They made a bit of fun at him for being bossy but did as they were told. Zeke made sure the horses were hobbled properly. He did not want to have to go looking for horses in the morning.

When he finished, he was pleasantly surprised to see that the pair had managed to light a fire. They were pulling cans from their saddle bags.

Zeke pulled his small cast iron skillet from his bag and a couple slices of bacon. He got those frying then pulled a coffee pot out and dropped in a few spoonsful of coffee. One of the reasons he camped here was a small spring nearby. He filled the pot and his canteen and put the pot on the fire. The bacon done, he added a little flour to the grease, stirring it all around and then piling it into a biscuit shape. He let that cook and pulled out his cup and spread his bedroll on the ground.

The two others had opened their cans and set them beside the fire. They watched Zeke with interest. “How’d you learn to do that,” Brokaw asked as Zeke formed his pan biscuit.

“My ma showed me before I left home. The bacon fat already has salt in it.” He shrugged. “Not as good as baked, but it fills the stomach.”

“Smart.” Woolsey checked his can. He stirred it up from the bottom, losing a little bit of the canned beans over the side. “Dang.”

They ate, mostly the two mining company men talking about fancy restaurants they’d been to in Denver and Tucson. Zeke grunted in spots to let them know he was still awake. After he ate he cleaned his pan, added water, then beans. He used the cast iron lid to cover it and put it beside his bedroll.

“What’s that for?” Woolsey asked.

“Breakfast.”

“Smart.” Brokaw nudged Woolsey with a grin. “The boy’s smart.”

Zeke sighed silently and after banking the fire, lay down to sleep. It was going to be a long trip.

The next two days went the same as the first. By the time they made Zeke’s permanent camp, he was thoroughly sick of his two companions. A quick check made it clear to him that nothing had been disturbed. He gave the two men his tent. Anything to separate him from them for even a short while. Zeke showed them the creek and mentioned that he had panned some gold there. But it was up in the hills that the mine was.

For the first time the men looked competent. They waded out into the stream and probed around a little, muttering to themselves and each other. They peered up at the hills and still talking, gestured possible water flows and rock formations. Zeke washed up, and went back to camp, collecting fire wood as he went. By the time it was dark and the two men had returned, the fire was going, the horses had been cared for and Zeke was making his dinner.

They walked around the camp, admiring the layout and his arrastra. They asked informed questions about how he’d searched out the gold, and nodded with understanding as he talked about the potato and mercury trick. While they ate, they told him about other miners and how they’d done their work. Finally, Zeke thought, something useful from these two. Maybe the Apache don’t have to kill them. The evening passed quickly, and Zeke bid the two good night as they retired to the tent.

Words: 755

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Quartz: Part 9 – Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 1 Here.

The next morning he said goodbye to Mary and after stashing a napkin-wrapped bundle of biscuits with butter and ham in his saddle bag, he left for town. It was a good day, starting off cool with the sky a clear blue. Birds sang as he passed, and a coyote hurried across the road ahead of him. He mentally reviewed the contents of his saddle-bags. Mrs. Estrada had been generous, and he had beans and flour and bacon enough for the nine days he planned to be gone. He had some cornmeal as well to make cornbread if there was time. His canteens were full, and he had feed for Butters too. This was just supposed to be a quick trip. He hoped it would go according to plan and that Mr. Woolsey and Mr. Brokaw were experienced outdoorsmen. If they were tenderfeet, it was going to be a long trip.

Markum was on the hotel porch in one of the rocking chairs, when Zeke arrived. He tied Butters to a rail and went up the steps. “Mr. Markum. Mornin’.”

“Good morning, Zeke. Woolsey and Brokaw were just finishing breakfast. They’ll be out shortly.”

Zeke nodded and took the chair next to Markum. “They have supplies for nine days?”

“I believe so. I saw them in the general store yesterday, buying supplies. I put in a good word with them at the livery, to get good horses.” The man eyed Zeke. “You have everything you need?”

“I do. It’s out and back, so I didn’t bring a lot.”

Markum nodded. “The men who ambushed you are being sent down to Globe for trial.”

“Good.” Zeke was relieved. “I wondered how that was going to be handled.”

“The sheriff found some wanted posters. He telegraphed the sheriff down there. Turns out they are wanted for several claim-jumping and assault charges. Colton told me you have some reward money coming.”

Zeke rubbed his face and nodded. It wasn’t that the money wasn’t welcome. Between the three gunmen and however much these brush-poppers were going to bring in, he had several years-worth of income in the bank. Nothing to scoff at. But the stares and the speculation were more than he wanted to deal with. Even as he thought that, men passing by were looking at him. He couldn’t wait to get out on the trail. “Appreciate the news.” He turned to look at the front doors of the hotel. They were open to the morning air. Where were those men?

“They’ll be out soon.”

Zeke looked at him with eyebrows raised.

Markum laughed. “I can see you looking for them.”

Zeke nodded. “Just want to get going before the day gets hot.”

“Of course.”

So they waited, talking about the assay business, mining in general, and some of the town gossip. It was an hour and a half before Woolsey and Brokaw came out the front doors. “Ready?” Woolsey said.

He was more jovial than he had a right to be as far as Zeke was concerned. They at least had their saddlebags in hand. “Ready.” He stood up and shook Markum’s hand. “Appreciate you coming out, Mr. Markum.”

“Glad to be here, Mr. Stanford.” He tipped his hat to the mining company men. “Safe trip, gentlemen.”

“We plan on it,” Brokaw said.

“I’ll walk with you to the livery,” Zeke told them. He left the porch and untied Butters as Markum shook their hands. Finally, they left the porch and headed to the livery. Zeke, leading Butters, walked with them. “You have to do this often? Travel out to some mine or other, I mean.”

“Often enough,” Woolsey replied. “All over the west. Where ever the company sends us to look.”

Zeke thought that sounded uncomfortable at best. He was mining now, but when he was married and settled down, he wanted to sleep at home in his own bed.

“How about you, son. You been mining long?”

Zeke shrugged. “A little over a year, now. Left my Pa’s ranch and came west.”

Brokaw nodded. “Sowing a little wild oats?”

Zeke didn’t like the way the man sneered. “Just looking for a strike. Then for a good place to ranch.”

The conversation ended when they reached the livery. The man had the horses ready to go. Zeke was glad. He was ready to get on the trail. Once they had their saddlebags in place and were mounted, Zeke got on Butters and led the men out of town and across the chaparral. It was good to get back out on the trail.

Words: 758

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New Year, Mom, Releases, New Promo: Monday Blog Post

Mom and her Flowers

Newest News:

The new year is here and for me, it comes with some sadness. As I mentioned last week, my mom was in bad condition. She passed away, just about 7am, on New Year’s Eve. Since then I’ve been up to my chin in all of the things that have to be done when someone in your family dies. Way too many things, I think, for people who are grieving. No matter. Later this week I’ll fly back to New York and say farewell to my mother with my sister and brothers, friends and other family.

Other new year news. Both of my stories, Gold Dreams and Slave Elf are being edited. Slave Elf is already back to me. (Bless you, Katarina, for working over the holidays!) I’ll have it out in February for all of you fantasy fans. It’s going to be highly edited from the raw story you read on my blog so if you’d like to see the changes, be alert for my published announcement!

The other book is my western, Gold Dreams. That is still with my editor, EJ. **Waves at EJ** It’s a novelette and is also based on my short stories released on the blog. Again, changes from the raw stories you read there. I want to have that done in about 2 weeks. So stay tuned.

Giveaways:

The Christmas Giveaway is over and soon the Valentine’s day giveaway will be up, then I’ll notify my winners.

Women Write Club 2019

In the meantime, I’m in a promotion with 19 other women writers on Book Funnel. You can check out the books here. There are romances, mysteries, shifter stories and even a non-fiction. Don’t miss out. These are all free for a short time.

Where Will I Be?

I’m at the Black Canyon Heritage park on January 26th. Stop on by and check out both my books and the other author’s books. Should be a lot of fun!

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

The Gulliver Station ebook box set released July 30th, 2018. It is finally up on all of my other retailers in ebook format. You can buy it at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords today. You can also see all my books on http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

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Quartz: Part 8 – Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 1 Here.

Zeke went back down to the kitchen where Pia was moving around preparing breakfast. He was just too wound up to sleep. He sat at the kitchen table. “Where did Mrs. Estrada go?”

“She went back to bed.” The woman put a cup in front of Zeke and poured him some coffee. “She told me what happened. You’re fine? Miss Mary?”

“We are. Talbot too.”

“Good thing he was there.”

As much as it choked him to say so, he had to agree. “He warned me, earlier. But who knew they’d try something right in town.”

His stomach rolled. What if something had happened to Mary? It was too much to think about.

Cesar came in and Pia gave him some cornbread from last night and a slice of cold ham, while Zeke sat at the table. Pia was speaking to him in Spanish, telling him about the ambush, Zeke thought as they kept glancing in his direction. Good. That way he wouldn’t have to tell it again. He finished the coffee and went out the back door. The sun was just beginning to brighten the horizon. He sat on the back steps and watched as the sun came up, the birds waking and singing their morning songs as the sky became rosy then blue.

Cesar had gone back to the barn and Zeke could hear him moving around, the horses stamping as he gave them hay and water, the rooster crowed and the hens came out of hiding. Pia went out with a basket and gathered eggs. Zeke felt like a bum, letting the couple do all of the work but he just couldn’t seem to move. He was going to kill those men if he could have. All for the gold. If it weren’t for Mary, he would let everyone have the gold. It was nothing but trouble.

“Morning.”

Zeke looked up. It was full day and Talbot was approaching the steps. “Beautiful day.”

“Yep.”

“You doing all right?”

Zeke was tired of people asking him that. “Fine.”

Talbot’s eyebrow rose. “Fine.” He went inside. Pia followed. “I get you some coffee, Mr. Talbot.”

“Thank you, Pia,” Talbot said.

Zeke felt completely tired of Red Talbot and wondered why the man was hanging around Payson. There couldn’t be that much money gambling here in town, could there?

Pia called him in for breakfast and he went to the dining room. Talbot was seated there, along with Mrs. Estrada. He looked at Mary’s usual chair.

“I’ll take her something later,” Mrs. Estrada said. “We’ll just have a quiet breakfast, the three of us.”

Zeke nodded. That was fine with him.

The rest of the day was quiet. Talbot went to bed. Mary got up at noon and had a light lunch with him and a walk down by the stream. They talked about what kind of life she was looking forward to. He talked about the kind of ranch he’d like to have. Mary asked him about the mine and he told her about building the arrastra and using potatoes to get gold nuggets.

When the bell rang, they came in to dinner. Talbot didn’t bother him nearly so much this evening as before. Mary played, after dinner, and he went to bed content.

The days passed and finally, Markum sent word that the mining company was in town. Zeke put his best clothes on and rode Butters into town. He tied up at the Assay office and noticed all the eyes on the street looking at him, people whispering to each other. He was uncomfortable. The sooner he could sell the mine the happier he’d be.

Markum stood up when Zeke came through the door. “Mr. Stanford. Welcome.” He came around the desk. “I’d like you to meet Mr. Woolsey, and Mr. Brokaw, from the Black Canyon mining company.”

The two men stood up and Zeke shook hands. “Pleasure to meet you, gentlemen.”

Markum had brought enough chairs for everyone. “Let’s get to business then. Mr. Woolsey, would you like to begin?”

“Certainly. We are always on the look-out, Mr. Stanford, for claims like yours.” He motioned to Mr. Brokaw. “Here’s our standard contract, with the details filled out concerning your claim. If you’d like to take a moment to read that.”

The two mining company men waited while Zeke read the contract. It was full of legal words and Zeke had trouble with it but the gist of it met his requirements. He asked them about some of the words, and satisfied, answered. “It seems straightforward, gentlemen. What next?”

“Well,” Woolsey began. “We’d like to see the claim.”

That made sense to Zeke. Who’d want to buy something sight unseen? “Fair enough. When would you like to go?”

“I understand it’s about a four-day ride. How about tomorrow. That gives us time to gather supplies.”

“I’ll be ready. Are you stayin’ at the hotel?”

“We are,” Woolsey replied.

“I’ll stop there to pick you up at seven.” They all shook hands and the mining company men left.

Markum clapped Zeke on the back. “It looks like this is going to work, son.”

Zeke nodded. “It does. Will I see you in the morning?”

“I’ll be at the hotel to see you off.” He walked Zeke to the door. “Say hello to Miss Young for me. She’s recovered from Saturday?”

“Yes.” Zeke thought he might not be recovered. He’d been having nightmares every night. “I’ll tell her you asked after her.”

With that, he went out, got on Butters, and headed back to the house. But instead of going straight back, he took a ride. It was nice country around here, and he needed time to himself to clear his mind.

Words: 953

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Quartz: Part 7 – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Part 1: Here.

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“Stop right there.”

Zeke did as he was told while Mary was kicking her attacker with the heels of her boots. A third man appeared, and slapped Mary into silence. Zeke could feel his heart pounding. Those men were going to pay.

“Now,” the one with the pistol said. “You’re going to tell us where that claim is.”

In the poor light, Zeke peered at his attacker. “You were in the Oxbow window tonight.”

“Maybe.” The waved the gun. “If you don’t want nothin’ to happen to the little lady, you’ll tell us where the claim is.”

“It’s on file. Wouldn’t do you any good. You’d just be arrested for claim-jumpin’.”

“You let us worry about that.”

Zeke made a move toward the man. A shot rang out, kicking up the dirt in front of his feet.

“We have a friend, out of sight. Don’t try anything.” He waved at the two men with Mary, now standing on her feet. We’ll just take the young lady with us. In the morning you’ll sign over the claim.”

“Don’t do it, Zeke,” Mary called out.

The third man slapped her again.

Zeke thought about how he was going to cut that man’s arm off at the elbow. He clenched his fists. Through his teeth he growled. “And who shall I make the paper out to?”

“I’ll be there in the morning. That’s all you need to know for now.” The man waved to his partners and they started to back away, taking Mary with them.

Zeke didn’t know what to do. The two with Mary had guns on their hips. One was in front of him with pistol drawn and there was another, somewhere in the darkness, ready to shoot. “Don’t take Mary.”

The men laughed. “You do what you’re told,” the man with the pistol said. “She’ll be fine in the morning.”

A shot rang out and a man’s voice screamed. While the man with the pistol looked, Zeke charged him. They wrestled for control of the gun. Zeke was terrified that in the struggle, Mary would get shot. He could hear her screaming and the two men grunting with pain. Good for her passed through his mind but he was busy. The geezer that he was fighting was wiry and fast. Stronger, too, than he appeared. This was not going to be easy.

Sounds of fists hitting flesh and men crying out in pain came through to Zeke but he couldn’t take the time to look. Finally, he got the gun and in the struggle, shot the geezer in the leg. He cried out in pain, calling curses on Zeke.

Zeke whipped around. Where was Mary? He saw her kicking one man as he lay on the ground and two men fighting. In the dark he couldn’t tell who was who. One man punched the other in the face and the man went down. The puncher, rested, head down and hands on his knees.

“I have a gun,” Zeke called out.

“It’s Talbot,” the resting man said.

Mary stopped kicking the downed man and ran to Zeke.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

Breathless, she said, “Yes. You?”

“Fine. I’m fine. Talbot?”

“I’m good.” He stood up, walked over to his hat in the dirt, picked it up and slapped it against his leg. “Quite the end to the evening.”

“How’d you know to come help?”

“I saw the four of them leave.” He shrugged. “They didn’t look like they were up to any good so I followed.”

“It’s a good thing,” Mary said. “Thank you.”

Talbot tipped his hat. “At your service, Miss Mary.”

Just about then, the Sheriff came around the corner. “What’s going on here?”

“Sheriff. It’s me, Zeke Stanford, with Mary Young and Red Talbot. These men ambushed Miss Young and myself.”

The sheriff approached, pistol drawn, and looked at the men on the ground. He pushed his hat back. “Three men?”

“Four,” Talbot offered. “The other one is just up the hill in the backyard of that house. I shot him.”

The sheriff gave Talbot a look. “Well. Let’s tie these three up and go look.”

It was nearly dawn before Zeke and Mary got back to Mrs. Estrada’s. They gave the horses a quick rub down and water, then shut up the barn. In the house, Mrs. Estrada was in the kitchen. “What happened?” She hurried over to Mary. “It’s nearly day break.”

Mary nodded. “It’s been a story, Mrs. Estrada. We were ambushed.”

“What!”

Zeke told her the whole story. Pia came in as he finished. “I’ll get coffee,” she said.

Mary shook her head. “I just want to go to bed.”

“Of course. You do that,” Mrs. Estrada said.

Zeke escorted Mary upstairs and stopped at her door. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

She nodded and smiled up at him. “I’m fine. Just tired. I’ll see you in a little while.”

“Good night,” Zeke said.

“Good morning,” she chuckled. “Thank you.”

“Anything, Mary. Anything for you.”

835 words

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Quartz, Part 6: Flash Fiction Friday Post

That evening, Mary and Zeke rode Diva and Butters into town while Mrs. Estrada took the carriage with Cesar and Pia. They tied the horses up behind the Assay office and walked, Mary on Zeke’s arm, around the building and onto Main Street. “I’m glad we tied them up there,” Mary said as they surveyed the scene. “It’s so noisy here.”

It was true. The band, a fiddler, a man on a guitar, and the piano from the bar were all out on the Oxbow’s porch. The group was warming up. It sounded like cats fighting to Zeke but he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket so what did he know. People were lined up on both sides of the street. A big circle, really, leaving plenty of room in the middle for dancing. Kids ran everywhere, screaming as they played sheriff and bandits. The crowd was mostly families, sitting beside their wagons, having supper, chatting with friends they hadn’t seen in a while. The women, especially, counted these Saturday night dances as the highlight of their week. They could commiserate with the other ladies, get supplies, and on Sunday morning, attend church, before heading home to their ranches. Not to say the men didn’t enjoy the comradery as well. Life on a ranch was hard and lonely, even with a wife and family. And it didn’t hurt that there was beer.

Mr. Markum spotted Zeke and Mary and came over. “Zeke. Good to see you.” The men shook hands.

“Mr. Markum. This is Mary Young, come just a couple of days ago from Santa Rosa.”

Markum took her hand and shook it. “Miss Young. So good to meet you. Zeke has had nothing but praises for you.”

“Thank you. Mr. Markum. I want to thank you for saving Zeke. He wrote me all about the gunmen in the street. It was very brave of you.”

“It was nothing, Miss Young. Your Zeke is a good man. Glad to help him out. Come meet the Missus.” The three walked over to where three ladies were seated in a group, near the front of the assay office. “Excuse me, ladies. I’d like to introduce Zeke Stanford and Miss Mary Young. My wife, Cassie.”

Cassie stood up. “Mr. Markum has told me all about you two. Welcome to Payson.” She gave Mary a kiss on the cheek. “I’m so happy to finally meet you, Mr. Stanford.”

Zeke tipped his hat. “Mrs. Markum. Ladies.”

“Now,” Cassie took Mary by the arm. “We must introduce you to everyone. Come with me.”

With that, the other ladies stood up and they all proceeded to walk around the circle, Cassie stopping at each group and introducing Mary. Markum grinned at Zeke. “Well. That’s going to take some time. She’ll have her back before the dancing starts.”

“I guess I get a beer, then.” Zeke tipped his hat to Markum and headed into the Oxbow. It was quieter in here than out on the street but that didn’t mean nothing was going on. Several men stood at the bar. Ranchers, mostly, doing what Zeke was doing, grabbing a beer while their women-folk visited. Many of the tables were full. Two held card games. Talbot gave Zeke a small nod as they noticed each other but he didn’t disrupt his game for Zeke.

All well and good as far as Zeke was concerned. If he could avoid Red Talbot while the man stayed in Payson that was good enough for him. He got a beer and went out on the Oxbow porch to drink it. Leaning against the railing post, he saw that Mary and Mrs. Markum were about a third of the way around the circle. He sipped his beer and looked around. There must be a hundred or more people here, he thought. On a normal day, while the town seemed busy, there weren’t that many on the street.

He was half way done with his drink when Talbot came up beside him. He pointed his chin at Mary. “She seems to be doing well.”

“Yes. Meeting the other women.”

“Thought you should know. The table of men at the saloon window have been asking about you.”

Zeke drew a deep breath then casually turned to look at the saloon. Two windows had been placed side-by-side in the saloon’s front wall. There, four men at a table stared out at him. He turned back to the street. “What do they want?”

“Your name.” Talbot adjusted the hat on his head, slicking back his hair before putting it back on. “They know you have a mine and have been to the assay office.” He gave Zeke an appraising look. “I’m rooming in the same house with you, I didn’t even know you were mining.”

“I don’t tell everyone my business.” Zeke was annoyed. Way too many people seemed to know all about him and his business.

“Always a good policy. But word is out. Take care, is all.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“So I heard. There are four men in the jail because of you. Three more a few weeks ago. The sheriff should hire you as a deputy.”

“Just protecting myself.”

“I’m sure.” Talbot drew a breath. “Just watch those four. They don’t mean any good.”

Zeke grunted, and Talbot went back inside. Zeke drained his glass and took it back in. By the time he came out, Mary was just about back to Markum’s spot in the circle. He went to claim Mary back. By the time pleasantries were exchanged, the music started. Zeke lead Mary out to the center of the street.

They danced until they were laughing and breathless. Markum came over and asked Mary for a dance. Zeke did the same with Mrs. Markum. Then back to each other, they danced again. The next dance, Zeke felt a tap on his shoulder.

“May I cut in?” Talbot tipped his hat to Mary.

“Of course,” she said.

Zeke was not happy when she dimpled. With reluctance, he relinquished her hand. Talbot led her off back into the circle of dancers as Zeke stepped to the sidelines. He didn’t care for the way Talbot danced so easily. He especially didn’t like how Mary seemed to be enjoying it.

He crossed his arms and fumed until the dance was over. He hurried over to reclaim Mary.

“Thank you so much, Miss Mary.” Talbot bowed, hat sweeping across him.

“A pleasure, Mr. Talbot.” She curtsied.

“A new song is starting Mary.” Zeke took her hand and led her away. But he could see Talbot laughing as they left. Let him laugh, Zeke thought. I’m the one with Mary.

They got small beers at the band’s break and danced and danced as long as the band played. When the band broke up, most of the people, the ranch families especially, were already gone. Mrs. Estrada, with Pia and Cesar, had left at midnight.

Zeke and Mary said good night to the Markums and headed for the horses. Mary was stroking Diva’s head while Zeke checked them over. He was about to untie Butters when a man grabbed Mary from behind. She fought her attacker as Zeke started for the man when another man stuck a pistol in his face.

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Delayed Post, Christmas Prep, Editing:Monday Blog Post

Newest News:

You may have heard about this from other bloggers you follow. I was caught up in the WordPress (my blog host) upgrade. They upgraded to 3.0, then a few dayslater, 3.1, and when I tried to schedule last Monday’s post, I couldn’t get the post to schedule, or even publish. I waited, hoping that all of the other bloggers calling into their web host support companies would generate the upgrades fixing all the bugs, to create another upgrade. It did.  Create another update. And I tried again. But nope. No go for scheduling the now way past due blog post. So, I called Go Daddy, my provider and the nice tech figured out what the issue was and fixed it. So you got the post on Saturday, only six days late. Sigh. Hopefully today’s post pops up in your feed at the regular time.

Christmas is ready at my house! Candy is made. I cheated. I only made chocolate truffles. Cookies are made. I made sugar cookies this year as my mom has difficulty with nuts. And boxes were sent to my daughter, her ex-husband, and my brother. Little packages are ready to hand to my mail delivery person, my newspaper carrier and the trash man. Presents are under the tree. Now I’m free to enjoy the rest of the month. I hope your preparations are moving along.

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I mentioned in what is now Saturday’s post that my story, Gold Dreams, is at the editor. He emailed me to say he was working on it. And I reformatted Slave Elf so that another editor can do a theme/content edit on it. So, two stories in editing at the same time. A first for me. I have a front cover for Slave Elf. I’ll expand that to a full cover over the next two weeks. Gold Dreams is at the cover designers. She needs to know the page length before she can develop all of the covers. I’m so looking forward to her design. She did the cover for my award-winning story, Tested, so I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic.

Giveaways:

There’s still time to get in on the Christmas Giveaway! We have $120 in PayPal cash as the Grand Prize and from the individual authors, 81 books and 81 prizes. Hoo! Get in on it quickly! You can go here to check it out. https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/giveaways-and-prizes/

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books arecoming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

The Gulliver Station ebook box set released July 30th, 2018. It is finally up on all of my other retailers in ebook format. You can buy it at AmazonAppleBarnes and Noble, Kobo,and Smashwords today.You can also see all my books on http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

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Mesa Book Festival, Candy Making, Next Appearance: Monday Blog Post


Newest News:

Saturday I shared a table with author MarshaWard at the Mesa Book Festival. The weather was pretty good though got cold after the sun went down. We met so many people who just love books and even sold a few ourselves. If you were able to stop by and say hello, thank you. I loved talking to you. If you didn’t get to come down, I’m sorry. The day was gorgeous and there was a lot to do in downtown Mesa on the 7th. Hope to see you at my next event.

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Part of my Christmas prep is to make candy. I like to make peppermint patties ,almond butter cups, and everyone’s favorite, chocolate truffles. What’s your favorite Christmas candy? Anyway, I haven’t started any of the candy making yet, so I’ll have to get on that. What’s next on your Christmas to do list?

For the last few weeks, I’ve been posting further adventures of my western, GoldDreams. I finished the story and sent it off to my editor. I’ll post some more episodes, just know that they’re raw and sometimes, with my editor, I make somesignificant changes before actual release. I hope to have this done in time to sell the books at the Black Canyon Heritage Park Winter Fest on January 26th. Black Canyon is north of Phoenix off of I17. Check it out, and if you’re in the area, stop by. I’ll have several of my other books there as well.

In other writing news, I did a first pass edit on Slave Elf. I haven’t put out a fantasy book since Lost Rainbows so I’m pretty happy with getting the edit step started. Now to get it into an editor’s hands for a 2019 release.

There’s a new interview from me up on Ellwyn Autumn’s site and you can read it here. I hope you enjoy it. Follow Ellwyn’s site for lots more interviews with authors you may come to love! She can also be found on Lemondrop Literary. Another great place to find new to you authors and stories. Enjoy!

Giveaways:

There’s still time to get in on the Christmas Giveaway! We have $120 in PayPal cash as the Grand Prize and from the individual authors, 81 books and 81 prizes. Hoo! Get in on it quickly! You can go here to check it out. https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/giveaways-and-prizes/

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for mynewsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books arecoming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in thenewsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

The Gulliver Station ebook box set released July 30th, 2018. It is finally up on all of my other retailers in ebook format. You can buy it at AmazonAppleBarnesand Noble, Kobo,and Smashwords today.You can also see all my books on https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short,honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s criticalto help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

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Quartz – Part 5: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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Quartz – Part 5

It didn’t help at all that while Mary was greeting Mr. Alvarez, sitting across from her, Talbot gave Zeke a smirking grin. Zeke pulled out the chair beside Alvarez so hard that Mrs. Estrada gave him a look. With a bob of his head, he sat, mustering as much politeness as he could.

Dinner proceeded without much comment from him while both Talbot and Alvarez did their best to charm Mary. When dinner ended, finally, Zeke stormed off, out the front door and down to the creek. After storming up and down the creek bank, throwing rocks and sticks into the water, he finally calmed down enough to go back.

There he found everyone in the parlor listening to Mary playing Mrs. Estrada’s piano. As he entered, Mary finished the piece and everyone clapped. “That was beautiful, Mary,” Mrs. Estrada told her. “After I had this shipped here, I never did learn to play. There was no time and frankly, no teachers.”

Everyone laughed, Mrs. Estrada included.

Mary looked at Zeke. “I think I’m tired, Cassie. If you don’t mind. It’s been a very long day.”

Mrs. Estrada stood up. “Of course, dear. Forgive me for keeping you.”

Red Talbot stood as well, taking Mary’s hand and kissing it. “I bid you good evening, then, Miss.”

Zeke saw Mary blush, but she didn’t remove her hand from Red’s. He stepped in. “I’ll walk you up, Mary.”

Behind her back, Red grinned. Zeke took Mary firmly by the arm and led her away, thinking only about how if he ever got that bushwhacker alone, he’d take care of him. Mary held onto Zeke’s arm with both hands. “Mr. Talbot is quite the character, isn’t he?” she said as they reached the upstairs hall.

“Oh. Yes.” Zeke had other words to use but he let that go. “I’m sorry you’ve over-exerted yourself. The stage ride must have been brutal.”

She shrugged. “It was tiring. But that’s not why I said good night.” She turned to Zeke as they stood outside her door. “I could see you were upset. That’s all.”

He took a breath. That made him feel like a heel. “I’m sorry, Mary. The man gets under my skin.”

She smiled at him. “I could see that. Don’t let it. I didn’t come all this way to see Mr. Talbot. I came to see you.”

Now he really felt bad. “I apologize. It won’t happen again.”

Mary kissed him on the cheek and opened her door. “Good night, Zeke. Sleep well.” With that she was inside, and the door closed.

Zeke put his hand up to his cheek over the kiss. He could still feel her warm lips there. In his room, he took off his boots and lay down on the bed. Her scent lingered on his shirt and all he could think about was having her in his arms.

The next morning, he was in the barn, taking care of his horses and Jenny, when Talbot rode in. Cesar was out at the pig pen so he stepped forward. “Talbot.”

Talbot tipped his hat. “Stanford.” He dismounted. “You’re up early.”

“You too.”

Talbot laughed. “You’re right, my young friend.” He led his stallion into the barn.

Zeke followed. He wouldn’t put it past this rake to steal anything lighter than the anvil. Talbot took his horse to the far end left box stall and unsaddled his horse. Zeke pretended to check on Butter’s feed box.

“Hey, toss me down some hay, would you?” Talbot called out from the stall.

Zeke could hear the sounds of Talbot unsaddling his horse. He shrugged to himself. “Sure.”

Up in the loft, he forked down three bunches of hay, and climbed back down. “Nice horse.” He could give Talbot that much credit. The horse was magnificent.

“Thank you. Storm is a bit much to handle. He has a mind of his own, but we get along.” The horse took that opportunity to reach around and try to bite Talbot. Talbot pushed his head away and gave the horse’s neck a long stroke. The horse looked at Zeke, as though to say he was in charge.

“I can see.”

“I had a good night last night. You should come to the Oxbow for a hand or two.”

Zeke, never one for throwing his money away, thought that was unlikely to happen. “Maybe.”

Talbot came out of the stall and found the oats, giving Storm a scoop, then put the hay in the rack. He opened the stall door to the outside corral, then came out. He brushed his hands off after closing the stall door. “I suspect breakfast is about ready?”

Zeke nodded. “I suspect so.”

Both men walked to the outside pump and washed their hands, then up the steps to the back porch and into the kitchen.

Pia was pulling biscuits from the oven. Zeke’s stomach growled at the aroma.

“Almost ready. Go. Mrs. Estrada is in the parlor.”

Zeke led the way. In the parlor, the salesman was seated in one of the armchairs. Mrs. Estrada was in her rocker and Mary was on the settee. Zeke’s breath caught in his throat at how lovely she looked, her blonde hair shining in the sunlight streaming through the window. She smiled at him as he entered.

“Good morning, Zeke.” Mrs. Estrada nodded to him. “Oh. I see Mr. Talbot is with us this morning.”

Talbot removed his hat. “Mrs. Estrada, you look most fetching in blue this fine day.” He bowed to her while giving Mary a wink.

Zeke scowled as Mary held her hand up to her mouth. It wasn’t like her to simper. He didn’t understand what was going on with her.

“Miss Younger.” Talbot stepped over to her. “Good morning.” He bowed, took her hand and kissed it.

Zeke rolled his eyes. “Mr. Alvarez.”

“Good morning, Mr. Stanford. A fine day for travelling.”

“It is.”

Talbot turned and nodded to the salesman. “Morning, sir.”

The salesman nodded back. “Good morning.”

Pia announced that it was breakfast and they all went into the dining room.

Later, Zeke mopped the last of the gravy with his biscuit, thinking he’d escaped from breakfast with a minimum amount of aggravation from Mr. Red Talbot. He was wondering about how to spend the day with Mary when Talbot spoke again.

“There’s the usual Saturday night dance at the Oxbow tonight, I thought you all should know.”

Alvarez shook his head. “I’m on my way to Flagstaff right after breakfast, good sir. But thank you for letting me know.”

Zeke glanced at Mary and slumped. She was sitting forward, eyes sparkling.

“A dance?”

Zeke checked Mrs. Estrada.

“Oh yes. I haven’t been in a long time but I remember going. Many of the ranch families come into town to do their weekly resupply and stay for the dance. Then sleep in their wagons, go to church on Sunday morning then head back to their ranches.” She nodded, smiling.

Zeke thought she was thinking about a happy memory. The older woman wasn’t doing anything to dissuade Mary from this dance. He looked back to Mary, who was eagerly looking at him. From the corner of his eye he could see Talbot sit back in his chair, arms folded across his chest, smirking. He’d like to slap that smirk right off of his face.

“Doesn’t that sound like fun, Zeke! I could meet some of the ladies.”

That did it for him. If they were going to stay here, she did need to meet some of the other women. Stay here? Where did that come from? “Um. Yes. Sounds like fun. Especially since Mrs. Estrada says it’s a family dance.”

Mary bounced up and down with glee. “Thank you, Zeke! Thank you, Mrs. Estrada. You’ll have to help me pick out a dress.”

Then, she turned to Red. “Thank you for telling us about the dance, Mr. Talbot.”

The gambler touched his fingertips to his forehead, doing a little bow in Mary’s direction. “Anything for you, Miss Younger.”

Mrs. Estrada pushed back from the table. “It’s decided then. Goodness.” She smiled at everyone around the table. “I don’t think I’ve been this excited about going to the dance in a long time.”

Zeke escorted Mary to her room where she was going to lay out all of her dresses to make a decision. Talbot came up as Zeke was closing Mary’s door. He nodded to the man as he passed him at his door, then went back out to the barn. He brought Diva out to curry her. Cesar brought out Storm and tied him to the fence post across the yard from Zeke.

“I hear you’re going to the dance. I take Pia. She loves to dance.” The ranch hand waggled his eyebrows at Zeke.

Zeke nodded. “I guess the ladies do like to dance. Mary’s picking out a dress.”

“You don’ want to go?”

“No. That’s not it.” He had to remember not to brush too hard, he thought as Diva shied away from his rough hand. “It’s just that Talbot brought it up. I know the man wasn’t bringing it up out of the kindness of his heart.”

“Miss Mary is very pretty.”

“Yep. She is. And innocent. Red Talbot is a no-good bushwhacker. Not the kind of person Mary should set her cap for.” Again, Diva whimpered and moved away from Zeke’s brush. He had to pat the horse and calm her down. “Sorry, Diva. Sorry, girl.” He took a deep breath. “Well. I’ve got to take her to the dance. But I don’t have to like that Talbot will be sniffing around my girl.”

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Quartz: Part 4 – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Quartz – Part 4

“I just got your letter yesterday.” Zeke held Mary’s hand, aware of the women passing by, smiling at the couple. He looked into her blue eyes. They sparkled with unshed tears of happiness. “And your ma and pa? They were all right with this?”

Mary sniffled back her tears and shook her head. “No. Ma was dead set against it but Pa,” she made a face that was puzzled. “He didn’t like it but he helped me get the stage ticket.”

Zeke nodded. Mr. Younger didn’t like him much but they did have a mutual respect. “Your Pa has always been fair to me.” He smiled at her. “Where’s your trunk?”

“Oh!” She wiped her eyes with an embroidered hanky and turned around. As they watched, the stage helper was handing down her trunk to the driver. Zeke stepped forward. “I’ll take that.”

The driver nodded and put the trunk down. When Zeke went to pick it up, he nearly dropped it. The driver grinned and turned back to the stage. “Mary. Did you bring everything you own?”

“Yes. Oh. Is that bad?”

“No. Nope.” He took a breath and hefted the trunk, carrying it to the hotel registration desk. “Miss Younger would like this sent to Mrs. Estrada’s boarding house.”

The clerk looked over the desk at the trunk. “Put it back here.” He pointed at the path around the desk. “I’ll have someone bring it out this afternoon.”

Zeke put the trunk where indicated and dug a dollar out of his pocket and handed it to the clerk. “Thank you.”

He escorted Mary back outside and to the horses. “This is Diva. Your horse for now. We can get another if you want. And this is my horse, Butters.”

Mary stepped up to Diva and gave the horse’s nose a gentle rub. “Hello, Diva. We’re going to be great friends, aren’t we?”

After she made the horse’s acquaintance, Zeke handed her the reins and helped her mount. “Mrs. Estrada’s house isn’t far.” He mounted Butters. “We can walk so you can see the sights.”

They had a leisurely ride—Zeke pointing out the various businesses along the street. Outside of town Mary exclaimed, “It’s greener than I expected. Not like Santa Rosa.”

“I think more rain falls here. And the ponderosas help make it feel more green.”

The ride to Mrs. Estrada’s was over much too soon as far as Zeke was concerned. They dismounted in front of the barn.

Cesar hurried out, wiping his hands on a rag. “Mr. Zeke! Miss Mary! Welcome.” He held Diva’s head as Mary dismounted, then took the reins. “Mr. Zeke has told us all about you. We’re happy to see you.”

Mary grinned at Zeke as he got off of Butters. “Thank you, Cesar. He’s told me all about you and Pia and Mrs. Estrada, as well.” She held out her hand to Cesar. He shook with her.

Cesar beamed. “Pia is waiting for you in the house. I’ll take care of the horses, Mr. Zeke.”

“Thank you, Cesar. Miss Mary’s trunk will be arriving this afternoon from the hotel. I’ve already paid them for delivering it.”

Cesar bobbed his head. “I’ll bring it in when it arrives, Mr. Zeke. Miss Mary.”

In the house, Mrs. Estrada’s and Pia’s welcome was even more enthusiastic. “Welcome, young lady.” Mrs. Estrada gave Mary a hug. “We’re so happy to see you.”

“I’m happy to be here. You have a lovely home.” Mary smiled. “Zeke has written me so much, I feel that I already know all of you.”

“I’m glad.” Mrs. Estrada turned to Pia. “Get a tea service ready Pia. Take it up to Miss Mary’s room.” She turned back to Mary. “You must be tired. Let me show you your room.” They went through the house and upstairs, Mrs. Estrada pointing out handiwork her deceased husband had done and the occasional picture on the wall. Mary’s room was at the end of the hall, the same side as Zeke’s. “This is it,” Mrs. Estrada said as she opened the door.

Zeke saw a room very similar to his but with pink, rose-patterned wallpaper but the same crisp, white paint on the door and window frames. The bedframe, bed side table and dresser were in oak, and unlike his room, there was an oak dressing table and mirror on the same wall as the closet door.

“I love it!” Mary exclaimed. “I’m going to be so comfortable here. Thank you, Mrs. Estrada!”

“You can call me Cassie. Mrs. Estrada sounds so formal. I just know we’re going to be friends.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that.” Mary stepped to the window where an armchair and small table were arranged to take in the view. “It’s just as beautiful as Zeke described.”

“I appreciate that.” Mrs. Estrada stepped to the door. “I’ll let you freshen up. Pia will have the tea up here shortly.”

Zeke stood, hat in hand, grinning.

“Zeke?” Mrs. Estrada held the door.

“Oh! Yes.” He hurried to the door looking sheepish. “I’ll see you downstairs, Mary.”

“I won’t be long.”

Mrs. Estrada closed the door and walked with Zeke downstairs. “Would you like some buttermilk, Zeke? I’ll have Pia bring some out on the porch.”

“That would be very nice, Mrs. Estrada.”

“Very well. Go on out. Relax. Everything is covered.”

He nodded and went out, picking one of the rocking chairs. As he sat and looked at the view, he couldn’t believe his luck. Mary was here! There was so much to think about now. He hardly knew where to start.

After an afternoon of showing Mary around the farm and the creek, they arrived back at the house in time for supper. They were standing in the living room, chatting with a new arrival, a Mr. Alvarez, seller of notions, when Mary heard a voice clearing behind her.

“A new arrival, I’ve heard.”

Mary turned around.

He held out his hand. “I’m Red Talbot.”

Mary shook his hand. “Mary Younger, Mr. Talbot.” She smiled up at him. “Red doesn’t seem like a usual name.”

Beside her, Zeke did not like the way the gambler was looking at Mary. More disturbing, was the way Mary was looking at him.

“A nickname, Miss Younger. My mother named me John. But that’s such a common name, don’t you think?”

“An honorable name.”

Red shrugged. “I thought I’d dine here, this evening, Mrs. Estrada. If that’s not too much trouble.”

Zeke didn’t like the way the man was oozing at his landlady. He could see she didn’t think much of it either. “Not at all, Mr. Talbot. I’ll have Pia set another place.” She moved off to the kitchen and through the door.

“Mr. Alvarez,” the notion seller held his hand out to Red. “Making my rounds from Globe, here, up to Flagstaff and then back around through Winslow and Holbrook before heading home.”

“Nice to meet you.” He gave the salesman a brief look and turned back to Mary. “Any you, Miss Younger? How do you come to this fine place?”

Zeke watched as Mary blushed. “I came to see Zeke.” She reached out and tucked her arm into Zeke’s.

That made him feel better until he saw the dude’s eyebrows rise.

“Is that so! I had no idea.”

The look Red gave Zeke made him want to punch the gambler. He could feel the anger rising. His whole body tensed. Mary dropped his arm and looked at him, alarmed.

That is when Mrs. Estrada came back in. “Dinner is served.” She went into the dining room.

In Zeke’s anger, he wasn’t thinking. Red stepped forward, offering his arm. “May I escort you, Miss Younger?”

Mary looked between the two men in confusion but with the man’s arm out and him looking at her with expectancy, she just took it and followed.

Zeke stood there watching, hands clasping and unclasping in fists. After a few deep breaths, he followed Mr. Alvarez into the dining room Where he found Talbot seated next to Mary.Share this:
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