Mean Pete--Head Honcho of Mean Pete Publishing

Monday, December 31, 2012

Lou Prophet Gallops Into 2013!

http://www.amazon.com/Killing-Melvin-Badthunder-Prophet-ebook/dp/B00AV8WPSG/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1357000722&sr=1-4

Available soon at Barnes & Noble...


LOU PROPHET RIDES AGAIN IN A NEW E-BOOK EXCLUSIVE SHORT-STORY FROM MEAN PETE PRESS...

The bounty hunter Lou Prophet wakes up in bed with a soiled dove to find a penciled note deposited in the dove’s cleavage.

“We have the girl.  If you want her back in one piece, ride to Santo Domingo Station.”

Prophet rides out to the abandoned stage station to learn that his beautiful partner, Louisa Bonaventure--“The Vengeance Queen” herself--has been kidnapped and locked away in a snake-infested mine shaft.  To get her out alive, Prophet must do a job for the kidnappers:

Bring them the head of Melvin Badthunder!

Can Prophet hunt down the savage border bandit in time to save his comely partner’s life?

On the trail of Melvin Badthunder, Prophet rides to the little desert town of Muleville to find not only Badthunder but that, as always in a Mean Pete yarn, nothing is quite as it’s supposed to be...

Excerpt:

      “Lou?”
       He had to turn one ear to the heavy door to hear Louisa behind it.  “Yeah?”
       “Whatever those sonso’bitches want, don’t give it to ‘em.  I’m just fine in here.  All this peace and quiet is right welcoming after having spent the last two months looking at your ugly face and listening to your endless jawboning!”
       A hard knot welled in Prophet’s throat.  Emotion rolled through him like a heavy ocean wave.  Insulting though she was, her voice was music to his ears.
       Louisa.
       Prophet gritted his teeth and looked at the old man, who was gazing at Prophet and chuckling.  The three younger men were chuckling, as well. 
       And the next thing Prophet knew, he’d slammed his right fist against the old man’s right cheek.
       The old man screamed and hit the dirt like a two-ton bell dropped from a church tower...

A collection of Mean Pete's first six shorts are up now at Amazon, as well, and will be up shortly at Barnes & Noble.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Lou Prophet Story Coming Soon--"Killing Melvin Badthunder"


"I WANT YOU TO KILL A MAN, MR. PROPHET.”
The old man seemed to wait for a reaction.
Prophet just narrowed an eye against the razor-edged bayonets that the sun was slinging at him, and tipped his head to one side, trying to find a comfortable position.
The old man slid down off his timber.  He was holding a small, flat, hide-wrapped flask in his free hand.  “The only way to get Miss Bonaventure out of that mine shaft is with a key to the padlock.  I’ve hidden the key up in these rocky hills.  Only I know where it is, and I’m very good at keeping secrets.  Even if you managed to gun down me and my boys, you’d never find it before your pretty partner expired.”
Dabbing the handkerchief to the bloody cut Prophet had punched in his cheek, the old man grimaced with feigned regret.  “I’m guessing there’s not a whole lot of air in that shaft.  Even if there were, I think it only fair to tell you that we left her with no food or water.  Unless she can see well enough in the dark to kill one of the many rattlesnakes I’ve heard slithering around in there.”
Prophet’s guts writhed like diamondbacks in his belly.
The old man held the flask out to him.
“Take a sip of this.  Make you feel better.”
“Don’t mind if I do,” Prophet said with irony, and took a long pull from the flask.
The whiskey had such a soothing effect on his cracked skull that he went ahead and polished it off.  He tossed the empty flask high in the air.  It landed somewhere behind him with a dull thud.
The half-breed Apache called A.J. ground his jaws and took a step toward Prophet, aiming his rifle at the bounty hunter’s head.
The old man held his arm out.  “Stand down, fellas.”
He kept his gaze on Prophet.  “I want you to ride over to Muleville and kill a man named Melvin Badthunder.  Half-breed Comanche.”
“How did this hombre Badthunder get your neck in a hump?”
“He killed my son,” the old man said, his eyes hard.  “I want you to bring his dead carcass--or just his head, if that would be easier--back to me for incontrovertible proof that you’ve accomplished the task I’ve given you.  Then, and only then, after I’ve seen that devil’s walleyes staring up at me, with every ounce of his life drained out and his spirit screaming in the butane fires of hell...will I open that door to the mine, and set free your comely partner.”
Prophet probed the growing goose egg on his temple with his fingers.  “You got some bad information, friend.  You see, I’m a bounty hunter, not a regulator.”
Touche,” said the old man.  “And I’m offering you a bounty.  The living head...and very pretty body...of Louisa Bonaventure in exchange for the dead head of Melvin Badthunder.  That sounds like a pretty fair reward to me.  Doesn’t it to you, boys?” the old man asked his men.
They all shrugged and nodded.
“Doesn’t it to you, Mr. Prophet?”
Prophet told the old man to do something physically impossible to himself.  And then he gained his feet heavily and stumbled over toward where Mean and Ugly was still grazing by the burned out barn.
Behind him, the old man said, “Better hurry, Mr. Prophet.  She’s far too pretty to leave moldering in that cold, dark mine shaft without any food or water!  Far too pretty for snake bait!”
The old man and the others laughed.

 












Wednesday, December 26, 2012

No-Account Girl Gets a Slightly Different Look

Mean Pete has changed the cover for his short-story "The No-Account Girl" slightly, so it more reflects the grittiness of the story.  And he'd taken the pic of that horse skull a couple weeks ago and he'd be damned if he wasn't gonna use it!

The story is up and running at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

http://www.amazon.com/The-No-Account-Girl-ebook/dp/B00APTWH20/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1356551292&sr=1-1

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-no-account-girl-peter-brandvold/1113993048?ean=2940016096841

Monday, December 24, 2012

Addendum to "Mean Pete's Gang on Christmas Eve Day--A Summing Up"

[Dec. 25--Due to inebriation and general sloth and absent-mindedness, I forgot to mention a couple of things, so I've added some short paragraphs at the end of my summing up.--Mean Pete, his own fool and nasty self]

This is the view from above Mean Pete's floozy- and cur-infested lair this Christmas Eve morning at the end of a busy year.

See out there toward the Mummy Range?

That's where all of Mean Pete's characters are holed up together for Christmas, in a big timber cabin, preparing elk roasts and plum pudding, and jawboning about their recent adventures.  Probably complaining a little about all the nasty stuff that Mean Pete has put them through this year--Colter Farrow running into the "No-Account Girl" and nearly getting his wick trimmed by bounty hunters, for one...

Yakima Henry helping a beautiful woman with a dark secret and a husband with a gnarly past and a pack of human coyotes on his trail (Dead Man's Trail).  

Wilbur Calhoun having to contend with a young lawman who says he's Wilbur's long-lost son.  The young lawman discovers old Wilbur's hideout up in the San Juan Mountains and thinks he's going to arrest old Wilbur for killing the lawman's ma half a lifetime ago ("Old Gun Wolf").  Wilbur might be old as the hills, but he has other ideas for the whipper-snapper lawman...  Ha!

And then there's poor old Spurr Morgan who even with his weak ticker was sent after a pack of wild savages called The Vultures in The Last Lawman.

Lou Prophet and his beautiful blond sidekick Louisa Bonaventure were on the run from Apaches and two different gangs and ended up in a remote desert ghost town with a curse on it.  Louisa not only ended up in the hands of some lusty bank robbers but Lou Prophet found himself tossed into a deep pit with the moldering bodies of three murdered deputy U.S. marshals!

(I bet Miss Louisa would really give Mean Pete an earful about that little misadventure that Mean Pete put them both through in The Devil's Laughter!  Mean Pete was really snickering when he was hammering that one out.  Don't tell Louisa!)    

Then there was the Rio Concho Kid in "Bullet for a Virgin" and Yakima Henry (again) in the horror-western yarn that came out around Halloween, "The Canyon."

Boy, I can just hear those main and secondary characters comparing notes and wagging their heads over all their misadventures this year, while Lou Prophet and Yakima Henry arm wrestle and Louisa swills her sarsparilla and old Wilbur Calhoun adds a liberal jigger of who-hit-john to his six-shooter coffee.  Ben Stillman, Doc Evans, Jody Harmon and Leon McMannigle (The Ben Stillman novels) are probably playing cards under a smoky lamp while Stillman's wife, Fay, and Crystal Harmon peel potatoes and carrots to go along with a big roast.  Crystal says, "I just hope that awful Mean Pete eases up on us a little this year.  If he doesn't, I for one am rebelling--are you with me Fay?!  I say we put a little extra starch in his shorts!!"

All in all, 2012 has been a rousing good time for Mean Pete but probably not so fun for his characters.  But Mean Pete hopes his readers have enjoyed the (mis)adventures as much as he enjoyed writing them.

Stay tuned.  There are many, many more adventures to come in 2013, and in the mean time, Mean Pete will be trying to stay one step ahead of Miss Bonaventure.  That nasty little gal would love to get her hands around Mean Pete's wicked old neck, and if she ever did, there'd be hell to pave and no hot pitch!

See you on over the divide in 2013, pards.  Gidyup from that nasty old Mean himself!

[As has been pointed out, I forgot to mention my two best-selling short-stories--"Poison Mean" and "The Lonely Widow."  Not only did I put the nasty outlaw Chet Villanova through some mean and nasty misery with a pretty blond and a passel of rattlesnakes, and involve Gideon Hawk, the Rogue Lawman, with another 'No-Account girl' and some stolen stagecoach loot, but I forgot to even mention their trials and tribulations.  Colter and Gid, forgive old Mean Pete, will you.  Keep in mind that while you're out shootin' an' cavortin' with fallen wimmen an' such, Mean Pete's been swilling beer and cheap wine and eating way too much this holiday season.  

However, don't expect me to go any easier on you in 2013!

Speaking of Colter Farrow, he'll have a whole new novel out about him in April--Bad Justice.  I intend to write another Gideon Hawk book over the summer and if Berkley or no one else wants it, Mean Pete will publish it himself!]


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The No-Account Girl Rides!


ANOTHER WILD, SEXY, VIOLENT WESTERN STORY FROM MEAN PETE PRESS!

Colter Farrow has been through a lot in his short life.  He's killed a lot of men in self-defense.  Now the red-haired young gunfighter with the Mark of Satan on his cheek is on the dodge, trying to outrun the bounty hunters and get himself to Mexico.


But then he runs into a beautiful young woman with the unlikely name of Kyle Bruner.  Kyle is transporting her dead outlaw brother for burial.


The trouble is Kyle's brother is wanted dead or alive.  Bounty hunters are after him, too.


Colter falls under the girl's haunting spell.


He'd better not fall too hard, because sometimes love can be just as deadly as bullets!


"Thank you, Colter," Kyle said.  "You might be hell with a six-gun, but you're right sweet."


http://www.amazon.com/The-No-Account-Girl-ebook/dp/B00APTWH20/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1355838612&sr=1-3

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Coming Soon From Mean Pete Press!

This will be up for Christmas.  Mean Pete's going to publish "No-Account Girl" as a single story for .99 and as one story--a long one--in a collection of all the stories Mean Pete has written, snarling all the way, this year.  Should be six stories packed with dust, blood, and gunsmoke all total.

Gidyup!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Redemption of Cade Beauchard by Kit Prate

I've written about Kit Prate before, but I'd like to write about her again because she deserves to be written about until she gets at least half the recognition her wonderful writing warrants.

Here's my Amazon review of her latest short-story, pictured above:

This is not a good story, it's a great one.  It rivals Kit Prate's best works--JASON KILENNY'S GUN and LONG RIDE TO LIMBO.  Kit Prate is sort of a cross between the classic western movie directors Sam Peckinpah and Henry Hathaway--visceral and elegant.  I don't know what other writer to compare her to, because she really doesn't write like anyone else.  That's to say I really don't know of any other western writer, living or dead, who is anywhere near as good.  Kit's a totally unique voice.  She's pitched her tent in her own camp on her own hill.  It's a crying shame that she isn't better known than she is, because she deserves to not only be a widely read writer but one who is sufficiently compensated for her truly great contributions to the American Western.  Please read this short story.  It's worth every penny and many more of the 99 it's being sold for.  And then search out all the rest of Kit Prate's stuff.  There's not a lot out there, because Kit's lived a tough life, with damn little time for writing when she wasn't making enough to live and feed her family on writing alone, but you won't be disappointed in any damn one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lou Prophet Ain't Poison Mean!

I've been so busy writing that I forgot to write that this reprint of the first Lou Prophet book is up and running at Amazon and elsewhere--from Piccadilly Press.  It's 2.99 and worth every penny!
www.amazon.com

Now, for an entirely different character....  My short-story, "Poison Mean," is selling like hotcakes over at Amazon.  It's already topped one hundred copies for the month and is averaging between twenty and thirty a day.  This one's about the bad-ass outlaw Chet Villanova, who runs into a mighty obstacle in the form of a pretty prospector's daughter.  (I mean, the girl's pretty, not the prospector.)  It's only a buck but it's worth much more!

Go on over and check it out:  http://www.amazon.com


Saturday, November 24, 2012

You Can't Keep a Bad Man Down!

Mean Pete was feelin' a might on the logy side after the Thanksgiving festivities, what with all the champagne and beer and bourbon and cheap cigars he consumed while chasing around Hollywood starlets and Victoria's Secret models who helicoptered in to run half-nekkid throughout the compound, causing ole Thor to howl and thump his ragged tail, and for ole Miss Stella to go to bed.

Mean Pete considered walking over to his neighbors to request that they shoot him the next morning, and put him out of his misery.  But then, by gad, he stiffened his spine, took a deep breath, poured a hot cup o' mud, rolled up his shirtsleeves, and got to work on another yarn.

You can't keep a bad man down!

Above is the cover for the next short-story.  It's about half done but Mean Pete has a whole book to edit, another one to write, a copyedited manuscript to proof, cheap women to chase, and good beer to drink.  But rest assured the mean an' nasty ole coyote will have another short yarn up soon.

By the way, the horse skull in the pic was furnished by Old Shep, Mean Pete's old Montana border collie stray, who hauled it into the yard--with a couple tons of other bones and sundry grisly "souvenirs" best left unspecified--in Montana about twenty years ago now.  Old Shep is gone but not forgotten.  In fact, the old boy is still earning his keep!

Gidyup.

Mean Pete

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hot Lead, Outlaws, Diamondbacks, and a Beautiful Girl

Yes, that was Thanksgiving at Mean Pete's headquarters in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains!

Oh, by the way, "Poison Mean" is up and running at Amazon and Barnes and Noble...for only .99 cents.  Keep in mind, Mean Pete is not libel for psychiatric bills!

But even if you get committed, this is still roughly 25 pages of the most reading fun you're likely to have this holiday season...

Gidyup and pass the rattlesnake stew!

Mean Pete His Own Mean An' Nasty Self

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Poison Mean" Teaser

Here's a short teaser from the nasty little story I intend to have up and running...er, biting...on Black Friday.


...the broadly grinning Ed Pine held the snake up above the table for inspection, the rattle flicking against the scarred wooden surface. 
     “There you go--now, see!  That wasn’t so bad, now was--oh, jackals in Heaven, look out, Marshal!
     The violently writhing creature leaped out of the old man’s hand.  It bounced off the table and hit the floor in front of Villanova, convulsing desperately and seemingly looking for something to sink its teeth into despite its no longer boasting its head!
     Being no friend of snakes dead or alive, Villanova leaped onto a near chair, screaming, “Christalmighty--corral that devil, you old coot!
     Pine stepped back, bellowing laughter and pointing jeeringly at Villanova while Eva rolled her eyes in disgust at her father’s funning ways, and hurried over to Villanova’s side of the table.  “He’s just foolin’ with you, Marshal.”  She planted one of her boots on the snake’s still wildly writhing body and wrapped a hand around it, about four inches back from its ragged, bloody front end. 
     Eva held the beast up in front of Villanova, stitching her sandy brows together as she said sweetly, “It can’t hurt you, Marshal.  See here--its head is gone.  This ole viper’s dead as a boot though the nerves in the tail ain’t got the message yet.”
     The girl reached up to close her hand over the cocked pistol that Villanova hadn’t realized was in his own right hand.  He looked down at Eva’s small, pink hand and his cocked Smith & Wesson.
     The old man had stopped laughing.  Pine stood on the other side of the table, head canted to one side as he studied Villanova critically, his vaguely wary, suspicious eyes flicking from his daughter’s hand on the cocked gun to Villanova’s flushed face, and back again.
     A pine knot popped in the stone hearth.
     From inside the gunnysack on the table came another low rattle.  There were another three or four snakes in there, writhing around, no doubt looking for a way out.
     The girl pushed down on the gun.  Villanova had a mind to shoot the old coot, but that might ruin his chances with the man’s daughter.  The outlaw lowered the weapon, depressed the hammer, and gave an embarrassed chuckle. 
     “Shit!” he said, jumping down off the chair.  “You sure had me goin’, old-timer!”
     He reached for his cup and threw the whole drink back to steady his nerves.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Poison Mean

No, Poison Mean is not the title of Mean Pete's autobiography.  But it could be!  This "Poison Mean" is a nasty little venomous story that will be up and running soon for Kindle and Nook.  Reader beware--it ain't fer the faint of heart!

The outlaw Chet Villanova has gunned down his entire gang including his girl, the beautiful Delores.  All the loot is his.  He's headed to Mexico with thirteen thousand dollars in his saddlebags--a very rich man indeed.  

What...or who...could possibly stand in his way?

Gidyup!

Mean Pete

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lou Prophet Goes British!

Mean Pete's offices have been overtaken by the British!  Yes, the English are here and they're raiding Mean Pete's beer stash and smoking all his Swisher Sweets!  My dogs are tilting their heads and raising their ears at the funny accents!  Mean Pete himself can't understand a word they're sayin'--somethin' about how to get a couple suitcases of PBR on a winged iron vulture and back across the Atlantic to Piccadilly Street...or something like that.

With all their own highly-touted IPA and Scottish Ale an' such, you'd think they wouldn't be so fascinated by Mean Pete's (admittedly, rather impressive) stash of American-made Pabst Blue Ribbon and Olympia beer that he buys for under 20 bucks a 36-can suitcase...

Go figure.

Well, okay, actually none of the above is true.  Just more of Mean Pete's poetic license, aka balder dash.  The British are not here in person, but Mean Pete, being the international mogul that he is, a Victoria's Secret model on each arm and one hooked around his left knee, has swung a deal with them English over there--namely, with Dave Whitehead's and Mike Stotter's Piccadilly Publishing outfit--to reprint in ebook format Mean Pete's first six Lou Prophet novels, featuring ole Lou himself and his mean and ugly hammerheaded horse appropriately named Mean & Ugly.

I've long admired Piccadilly's lineup of gnarly western novels from the British past.  Truth be known, the Brits have been writing some of the gnarliest western fiction since the 70's, among them the great Terry Harknett's (aka George G. Gilman) wonderfully nasty and crafty EDGE series.  Another is the equally nasty and crafty though undeservedly less popular CROW series by James W. Marvin, (aka the great Laurence James, founder of the DEATHLANDS series for Harlequin, another of Mean Pete's favorites).  Dave Whitehead himself publishes harrowing oaters under his pen name, Ben Bridges, and Mike Stotter publishes in several different genres and under several different names, as well.

Piccadilly Publishing has a great past, present , and future lineup (view it here: http://www.piccadillypublishing.org/links.html) and Mean Pete is proud as British punch to be part of it.  The current plan is to reprint the first six of the Prophet books and for Pete to possibly begin writing originals exclusively for Piccadilly sometime in the near future.  Up above is the cover of the first book in the series, done by the master Cody Wells himself.  http://stormwolf2.webs.com/ebookpublishigservices.htm.  If that smart-looking cover is any indication how the rest of the series will look, it's going to be one handsome looking virtual shelf of ebooks indeed.

The first one will up and running digitally next month, and you'll be able to find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and probably several other digital outlets.  Rest assured, I'll be sending up fireworks when Lou Prophet goes live.

It's time to get Lou Prophet back astride Mean and Ugly and galloping after owlhoots regularly!

The Old West needs them both.  Hell, the world needs them both!

Now it's time to make a trek down to my dingy offices and see if them English left me any beer.  Why does it smell like fish 'n' chips in here...?

Gidyup!

Mean Pete His Own Mean Self

Monday, November 5, 2012

Licking the Frosting Bowl

Some days are better than others.  But back when I was a tyke, no days were better than the ones when Mom baked a cake or a pan of brownies and kicked my butt outside with a bib and the frosting bowl.

Gidyup!

Mean Pete

(By the way, the Frank Leslie tome shown to the right, DEAD MAN'S TRAIL, will be officially released tomorrow...)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sneak Preview: THE CANYON

AN ALL-NEW, EBOOK EXCLUSIVE WESTERN-HORROR SHORT-STORY FEATURING THE DRIFTING HALF-BREED, YAKIMA HENRY...

By Frank Leslie, author of the Yakima Henry and Colter Farrow novels...

Some fool sheriff tried to jail Yakima Henry for a crime the half-breed did not commit, and got a bullet for his trouble.  Now Yakima has some trouble of his own--three bounty hunters tracking him across the Jornada del Muerta, on a wild ride to the border. 
    
Yakima just has to get through Skull Canyon and across the Rio Grande.  Then he’ll be free in Mexico.

But a beautiful Mexican woman named Magdalena, who runs the Gate of the Canyon Saloon, warns him to steer clear of the canyon.  Yakima accepts an invitation to Magdalena’s warm bed.  He should have heeded her warning about Skull Canyon, too. 

Because now he’s not only got three bounty hunters to contend with but some specter with a little-girl scream, stilettos for teeth, and breath that smells like death...



THE CANYON

1.
     An autumn wind blew chill and dry out of Mexico, moaning like the ghosts of the long-dead conquistadores, as Yakima Henry reined his sweat-lathered black stallion off the side of the trail and into bright-yellow leaves raining from giant cottonwoods and spindly sycamores. 
     The big half-breed leaped swiftly down from his saddle and reached into a saddlebag pouch for his spyglass.
     “You stay, Wolf,” Yakima said, running a hand down the black’s sleek neck.  “I’m gonna have a quick look-see at our back trail.  If we’re far enough ahead o’ them coyotes, we’ll camp soon.  Me--I’m so hungry, my belly’s been gettin’ way to friendly with my backbone.”
     The stallion snorted, blew, twitched his ears.
     “That the way it is for you, too, hoss?  Well, don’t worry--we’ll strap on a feed sack soon.”  Yakima patted the white, Florida-shaped blaze on the horse’s snout as he looked at the jutting stone pinnacles and monoliths lining the deep canyon around him.
     He picked out one, and started to climb as the bright leaves continued to rain.  He’d donned his desert moccasins, and pulling with his muscular arms and pushing with his powerful legs, the bearclaw necklace dangling from his thick neck, he easily, swiftly climbed to the top of the jutting finger of rock. 
     At the top, he hunkered low, swept his long, coal-black hair back from his face, and raised the glass to his right, jade-green eye.  He twisted the canister, adjusting the focus.  It took him nearly a minute, but as he stared east along his backtrail, he picked up a faint ribbon of dust lifting between two distant buttes.
     Yakima lowered the spyglass, reduced it, and continued to stare east along the rocky canyon and toward the desert flat beyond--the ninety-mile stretch of hot, dry, featureless stretch of Jornada del Muerto he’d traversed on his way to the border, a small passel of American bounty hunters stubbornly shadowing his every move along the El Camino Real.
     He turned to stare up trail, toward the misty, blue-green reaches of Old Mexico.  Not far now.  Another day’s ride and he’d ford the Rio Grande at Robedo Crossing, south of Apacheria.  Another day’s ride beyond, and he’d be in Mexico.  The hunters wouldn’t follow him across the border.
     Once in Mexico, Yakima would find a pretty, brown-eyed senorita and shack up for the winter along the Yuma River, or maybe on the shores of the Sea of Cortez.  He’d take a break from trouble for a while.  He could do with a soft breast for a pillow at night.
     Guilt prodded him.  He turned his gaze to the northwest, as though he could see Bailey Peak in the Arizona Territory from this distance of several hundred miles, and the grave he’d dug there years ago.  But whenever he thought of her he felt as though he’d buried her only yesterday.
     Faith...
     The big half-breed in worn denims with patched knees, and a skin-tight, sweat-soaked buckskin shirt, shook the reflection aside.  Too easy to get caught up in what might have been if the gods hadn’t frowned.  Time now only to ride, find water and a place to bed down for the night, head for the Rio Grande again at first wash of dawn.
     He dropped down the side of the stony pinnacle, leaped the last few feet to the ground, swung toward his horse, and stopped.  He lurched back with a start, his right hand automatically reaching for the horn-gripped .44 holstered low on his right thigh. 
     Then he caught himself.
     “Shit,” Yakima said softly.
     He stared down at the dead man he somehow hadn’t seen before.  A skeleton with only a few ragged swatches of clothes hanging off his sun-bleached bones.  Both skeletal hands were wrapped around the Castellani saber that had shattered his breastbone and pierced his heart, which was no more than a few fingers of dust lying against the ribs curving around his back.
     Skeleton and saber were all that remained of some long-forgotten battle waged here just east of the Rio Grande.  The dead man had probably been a bandit, possibly an Apache, who’d attacked a Mexican trade caravan headed north to Santa Fe, and got a saber through the heart for his efforts. 
     Yakima wrapped his hand around the sword’s gilt handle.  A fine piece.  Crusted with the dirt and grit of the ages, but fine, just the same.  It had likely been forgotten in the heat of battle.
     The half-breed released the handle.  Bad luck to steal from the dead.  Besides, he didn’t want the extra burden.  He and Wolf were still a long way from the senoritas.
     Yakima returned the spyglass to his saddlebags, grabbed the reins, and swung into the leather.  He turned Wolf back west along the trail, heeled the stallion into a trot.  The sun was angling down quickly behind the darkening San Mateos.  He needed to find a place to camp soon.  With its thorny thickets, its maze of sierras, barrancas, and sudden, rocky arroyos, this was no country for night travel.
     He and the horse clomped another narrow trace for another forty-five minutes and then, when the trail had risen gradually out of the canyon and into a high, broad, expansive basin ringed with distant, knife-edged, purple peaks hunkered low against the horizon, he once again drew Wolf to a stop. 
     Before him lay a town.

Catch the rest soon at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!