Help Make Reefer Free on Amazon

Fans of Fistful of Reefer (the cult classic novel, not the herb), to arms! The need has arisen to take action.

You might have known that Amazon/Kindle has an extensive listing of free novels. What you might not have known (of course you didn’t. Only a nerd would have any reason to) is that gaining admittance to this list is reserved for Amazon’s whim. An author cannot simply choose to list their book on Amazon/Kindle for free. Amazon must choose it to be thus (by the waving of its kill-bot arm!).

Thus I am asking you to help me gain the attention of Amazon’s roving mechanical eye in making Fistful of Reefer absolutely FREE! Two questions may arise for you at this point. I will address them each in turn:

1.) Why, on God’s green earth, would you want to do this!

2.) How can I help!

First. Amazon’s list of free books is substantially shorter than its list of paid ones. Thus it is much easier to rank in the top 100 of free books. Ranking in the top 100 will gain me hundreds (if not thousands) of extra “sales.” Despite these “sales” lacking actual financial profit for me, they will gain me considerable traction with readers thus driving up sales of my next novel (The Austin Job) as it is released around Christmas.

screen shot of amazonSecond. Take this link to where I have Fistful of Reefer listed for free on iBooks: Go to my Amazon book page for Fistful: Click on the blue lettering “tell us about a lower price” (as seen in picture). Paste the smashwords link onto this short form, enter “0.0” as the price and submit the form. All done!

Word on the street is that if Amazon receives enough of these alerts of a free listing elsewhere that they will lower the price on Amazon to match. Here is to hoping! Thanks for your continued support![divider]

The second Reeferpunk novel, The Austin Job, is coming along nicely and will be available around Christmas. More information coming shortly. Enjoy the show!

Reeferpunk 2.0

In celebration of the reemergence of ticked-off Americans via the Occupy Wall Street movement I’ve decided to totally revamp (Actually my decision had nothing to do with OWS, but I wanted to sound like I’m on top of current events. Besides, the characters of Reeferpunk where sticking it to the man back when the man was still be-speckled with pimples.)

First off, I apologize for the lack of transmissions lately. But I promise my next novel, The Austin Job, is coming along nicely and will hopefully be available in electronic and paper format by Christmas!

Yes, you heard me. By 2012, Reeferpunk will join the tree-gobbing ranks of other best-selling paperbacks such as, Jimmy, Crack my Corns*, and Get Confident, Stupid!* (*Titles may not actually exist).

It has come to my attention that not all readers own madfangled reading devices, and that said devices cause spontaneous brain gnomes (or some sort of similarly dreaded condition). O.K. fine. Paperbacks for some! And brain gnomes for others! I’ll keep the faithful abreast of further developments as paper release draws near.

That being said, I will continue to enhance my electronic profile by beefing up the old website sometime this winter. Until then I will only be posting sporadically as I attempt to finish up the next couple of books. In the meantime you can send me feedback in regards to any trouble you’ve had with the site or suggestions for the new Reeferpunk merchandizing brand name empire.

You can also stop by for all my regular posts.

Viva this!

What’s an Indie?

Discontents NovelThe first thing I envision when I hear the word “Indie” is Harrison Ford in a burning bar coming to the rescue of that chick. (you know, the “Indie!” chick). But these days the word Indie is flopped around like so many portly bellies at a drunken, backyard Slip and Slide party.

So what pray tell exactly is an “Indie?” (See examples here and here. This is where I’m going with all this. Save yourself the grief. Skip the blog post and check out this great sale of Indie books.) Most simply it is an independent artist. An independent artist is actually a leech on society, dependent on everyone and their parakeet to throw him or her crusts from their peanut butter and jelly. But in this case the independent part means the artist has shucked off the chafing restraints of the medium’s traditional gatekeepers. [Read more...]

The Trending of Micro-Niche Novels

The Indie ebook novelist lives in a world of tags, LCD’s, SEO, design, tweets, content marketing, pajamas, likes, coffee shops, fans, (sometimes dirty diapers) and usually hard liquor. Along with all these wonderful things I’ve also learned to release my dreams of New York Times best seller, and instead embrace the new goal of Amazon/Kindle ebooks/Science Fiction/Adventure top-100-list best seller.

Welcome to the rise of the micro-niche novel. As a reader of fiction I’m ecstatic about this revolution, which essentially guarantees me a supply of quality fiction specifically written to my tastes. As a writer I’ve been untethered from the wants and demands of the big six publishers and the agents who feed their fix.

With the redonculous power Amazon/Kindle exerts over the ebook industry, they have become the new benchmark of success. [Read more...]

Fistful of Reefer: ch.2

“Damn, McCutchen. There’s more blood than whiskey in there.” Sheriff Big Benny Lickter entered through the front door of what had originally been the one-room jail but now served as his office just off Del Rio’s town square. He dropped his hat on his desk. “You really know how to wake a sleepy border town.”


“Have you ever tried the Mustang wine in that place?”


“The Mustang wine? What’s that got to do with anything?”


“Nothing. It’s horrible, that’s all.” McCutchen drummed his fingers on the sheriff’s desk, eyeing the sheriff’s newest outfit. This one looked like something made for silent film rather than real work—vest and tie made from a shiny material, suspenders a necessity to hold the sheriff’s bulk in place. “You satisfied with my report yet?”


Lickter sat down with a huff. “What, that? Yeah, yeah.” He smoothed his hair and sopped the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief. McCutchen nodded politely to mask his disgust. Well over six feet tall and fat, Lickter couldn’t tolerate heat. Hardly forgivable in a place that saw 90 degrees much of the year. The sheriff continued, “Did anybody tell you it looks like you got shot in the chest?”


While transporting his prisoner to jail and reporting the incident to ranger headquarters via telegraph, McCutchen had totally forgotten about the wound. Unbuttoning the top two buttons of his shirt and tearing the bloodied undershirt, he laughed out loud.


“You rangers get shot so much it’s funny now?”


“Only if the bullet packs a punch as weak as that nigger Jack Johnson after twenty rounds with Jess Willard.”


“I’m afraid, Ranger McCutchen, that I don’t follow boxing much.”


Still smiling, McCutchen sat back in his chair. “You got an old rag you don’t need, and some tape and gauze?”


Lickter tossed him his handkerchief.


McCutchen admired it. “Fancy.” But Lickter waved him off dismissively. The ranger gently tugged the bullet out of his chest while applying pressure with the kerchief. “Apparently, the barroom table took all the fight out of it.”


“Well that was down right kindly.” Lickter sat up straight in his chair, smoothing his vest and necktie. McCutchen thought the effort pathetic when what the man needed was to smooth the sloppy rolls of flesh he tried to conceal with his dandified dress. “So what of this feller you got stinking up my jail cell? I’ll be damned if there ain’t more Mexicans underfoot these days than cockroaches.”


Las cucarachas,” McCutchen mused as he held the kerchief over the wound. He thought the label was insulting to the bug, an adaptive specimen living in the harshest of conditions. “Well, if it’s alright with you, I’d like to question that greaser about something I heard the lot of ‘em talking over just before the scuffle.”


“Makes no difference to me, but I hope you understand Mexican. That one’s been in a little trouble before. Don’t speak much English as I recall.”


“I’m sure we’ll understand each other just fine.” McCutchen got up and headed toward the back where the more modern jail with multiple cells had been added to the original building. Tiring of the sweaty sheriff, he itched to find some answers.


“You mind me asking what got you so fired up in the first place?”


McCutchen stopped as he reached the first door of iron bars and whistled for the deputy to open it. “Don’t worry yourself none. If I find something, I’ll let you know.”


“Oh, hey. The gauze and stuff is right there in the cabinet. Better grab some before you bleed on my clean jailhouse floors.” Lickter wiped the smile off his face. “And I’m sorry about your man. What was it, Baldinger?”


McCutchin grabbed a roll of gauze and some tape. “Ballinger. Yeah, that was a hell of a thing.” The door buzzed, and McCutchen opened it with a click. He looked back at Lickter, who was smiling childishly. He had an obsession with all things modern, from clothing to weapons and apparently electric locks on prison doors.


“Nothing but the best for Del Rio.” It sounded like a campaign slogan.


McCutchen put the pieces together; Lickter was a politician working as a lawman. He nodded. “And thanks.”


“Think nothing of it, friend. I hope you get some answers.”


“Do you know who I am?” McCutchen pulled a chair in front of the cell holding the Mexican and took a seat.


Un rinche.” The man spat out the answer.


McCutchen responded calmly. “These bars won’t save you from my judgment any more than your prayers will from God’s. Do you understand me?” He tapped his holster and leaned forward, “¿comprende?” He rolled the “r” like a native speaker.


The man in the cell narrowed his eyes and grunted, “Si.”


“Now let’s start with your name, tu nombre.”


“Vicente Zambrano.” The response was immediate and minimal.


McCutchen nodded. Good. “You spoke earlier of marihuana.” He paused to gauge Vicente’s response, the Mexican clearly confused. This was not the line of questioning he had expected. Slowly, he nodded, so McCutchen continued. “I’ll make this easy on you. All I want to know is who and where. Quién y donde.”


At first Vicente’s eyes widened with fear and then narrowed to slits again. He breathed heavily before speaking through his teeth, “Solamente mi primo sabía exactamente.” He struggled to speak in English, “But someone has killed him.”


McCutchen got his meaning clear enough. He had shot and killed Vicente’s cousin earlier. “Understood. Tell me what you know.”


Vicente looked nervous for the first time. McCutchen worried he was having second thoughts about cooperating, but after a few moments, Vicente continued, “País del diablo. Devil country.”


Vicente wrung his sweaty hands while McCutchen waited without budging for him to continue. He translated the best he could.


“It is said that the hills north of el patron’s ranch are haunted by a powerful demon. The Church, the Catholic Church, bought the land in order to bind the demon within its boundaries. They say the demon wanders the hills looking for enough blood, human blood when he can find it, but goat blood works too, in order to gain the strength to break the blessed spell of the Church and roam free again.”


Vicente shifted on his bench while McCutchen tried to gauge him. He wasn’t sure he’d translated everything correctly. Was this pathetic Mexican really telling him a tale of blood drinking demons and the Catholic Church? What the hell could this possibly have to do with marihuana? He was about to get upset when Vicente, apparently aware of the ranger’s incredulity, continued more urgently.


“We found goats. One of ours and one from the Catholic Hills. We found them down at the springs between our properties. They had been killed, drained of all their blood, every last drop. I swear. We found only two small holes and bite marks on the neck.” He lowered his voice again. “They call the demon El Chupacabra. My friend, he found goats of el patron’s by the springs, gone mad just from seeing the creature.”


McCutchen stood, asking for permission to enter the cell to be more persuasive. “Look son, so help me—”


Vicente raised his voice and rushed to the point. “My cousin did not believe it. He called it stupid superstition. Some of el patron’s goats wandered again into the Catholic Hills, but he went after them.  When he found them he said they had gone mad, but it was from eating cáñamo, marihuana. He was telling us…” Vicente looked at the floor. “That was what he was telling us in the cantina.”


McCutchen was stunned. He’d expected to hear a story of a smuggler meeting them at the river, bringing marihuana across the border. Not this. Before he could absorb it, his thoughts were interrupted by a familiar lady’s voice carrying from the front office. He slid the chair back to its former place. “You’re telling me that this marihuana was growing here in Texas? Your cousin found a field of marihuana growing in Texas?”


Vicente nodded, “Si.” Part of McCutchen still wanted to beat the man, unwilling to accept what he was being told. But even if he beat the worthless greaser to death he’d still have to see the proof with his own eyes.


“Okay. One more thing. Where exactly are these springs where you found the goats?”


The iron bars clicked shut behind him, and McCutchen strode into the sheriff’s office with a polite smile on his face. “Why Miss Lickter, it’s a pleasant surprise to see you today.”


The slight Daisy Lickter wore a thin white dress that hung on delicate straps, exposing her shoulders, before resuming sleeves that ended with frills around her wrists. The dress lifted her ample bosom with a high waistline that flowed to a hem just above her knees, a style he’d never seen before. She curtsied, “Ranger McCutchen, the pleasure is all mine, I’m sure.”


McCutchen swallowed, taking the young lady’s hand loosely while producing a mild bow of his own. Easy on the eyes, the sheriff’s daughter had grown up nicely. While not much for the trivialities of civility, McCutchen did maintain good working relationships. Sheriff Lickter, despite being a soft politician lamely disguising his Jewish heritage by switching the “h” in his name to a “k”, was sheriff of an important border town. And as far as McCutchen knew, he wasn’t corrupt.


“Why Mr. McCutchen, have you been shot?”


McCutchen realized he’d failed to tidy his shirt after staunching the bleeding earlier. He relaxed and allowed himself a chuckle, “Hardly.”


“Now I don’t claim to be an expert in such matters, Ranger McCutchen, but how does one go about getting himself hardly shot?”


He tensed again as Daisy moved more quickly than most of the men he’d laid low, placing her hand over the bandage on his chest. He tried to relax himself by taking deep breaths, but the air was laced with her intoxicating perfume, like sage brush ground with cinnamon. He shifted his neck, popping it to relieve some of the tension. “Well Miss Lickter, I suppose that’s a reasonable question, but one I’m afraid I don’t have a simple answer for.”


She ran her fingers gently around the edges of the bandage. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to be more than hardly bandaged despite being hardly shot.” She batted her eyes while her hot breath tickled him. She lightly pressed her bosom into his rigid stomach and simultaneous ripped the bandage from his chest. He flinched from the suddenness more than the pain.


Benny floundered to control his daughter. “Honey. The dressing was sufficient. Are we going to have dinner? I’m sure Ranger McCutchen would consider joining us.”


“Oh Father, hold your horses. No doubt you won’t waste away.” She flittered back and forth between the cabinet of medical supplies and the shocked ranger. Deftly she dressed the wound with swift yet graceful movements, taking every opportunity to make subtle physical contact. McCutchen struggled not to notice her proud breasts and plunging neckline, or the way her delicate umber skin whispered beneath the falling loops of dirty blonde hair that refused to stay completely restrained in its loose knot. The girl, while cunning, tried too hard to assert herself as a woman.


Nothing like his unassuming Elizabeth. The thought of her choked him, like a fist-sized tumor in his gut trying to work its way out. The burn scar on his ring finger flush with pain, he pushed her memory back into the pitch of his soul where it had lived for the last fifteen years. Tensely, he waited for Daisy to finish.


“There. Now Ranger McCutchen can join us for dinner in comfort knowing that his wounds have been properly dressed.” She curtsied again. “It’s the least I could do in exchange for your company.” She caught McCutchen briefly with her eyes before lowering them.


“Marvelous.” Big Benny huffed. “Would you like to join us, McCutchen? If I remember correctly, you favor a good steak? Bravo’s has the best, and there’s a decent chance nobody’ll shoot at us.”


Dangerous, that one. McCutchen noted how effortlessly she switched from brazen to demure. He checked himself, smiled and accepted the invitation. It’d been awhile since he’d tasted a good steak.


Bravo’s did indeed serve a quality steak, without need of adulteration with sauce. The blood, the heat, the salt rub applied just before the flames charred the surface to lock in its flavor—this one thing done right redeemed a week’s worth of wrong. Daisy’s advances seemed clumsy in comparison to the grace McCutchen found in his ribeye. As he rested his fork, the flavors still lingering, a couple of local goat ranchers begged Sheriff Lickter’s pardon.


“Sorry to interrupt your dinner, Sheriff. But something’s gotta be done.”


“Calm down, Marvin. Now what’s gone and got you so riled up? The missus ain’t started shooting at you from the porch again, has she?” Big Benny tried to relax the situation with a laugh.


“No sir, Sheriff. Ain’t nothing of the sort.”


“Tell him.” The second rancher elbowed Marvin.


McCutchen took up his glass of wine, this time a 1915 Lenoir from Val Verde with legs that coated the side of the glass with a burgundy color so deep it reminded him of coagulated blood. He dipped his nose into the glass and inhaled the hints of earth and fruit, cleansing the stink of Ballinger’s dirt and the lure of Daisy’s oversexed, teenage fantasies. Finally he tipped the wine into his mouth and swished it around.


“You see, it’s this demon El Chupacabra that the Mexicans is talking about.”


Big Benny dabbed his mouth with his napkin. “El chupawhata?”


The second rancher piped in, “I lost half a dozen goats just the day before yesterday.”


Big Benny waved them off, “Now hold on there. This is the first I’m hearing of it.”


McCutchen swallowed his wine in a gulp and put down his glass. A hint of pepper lingered on his palate, the perfect match to the steak he had just finished. “El Chupacabra. That boy Vicente in your jail was telling me about it. He says there’s a demon loose in the hills that feeds on the blood of goats. And men, I suppose.” Marvin’s eyes grew wider.


Big Benny put down his napkin and turned to face McCutchen. “Which hills?”


“Just north of the Upper San Felipe Springs.”


Big Benny scowled, “San Felipe? Hell, those springs water half the mohair in Val Verde County, even with the new irrigation canals. What sorta trouble are you two trying to cause with this stupid story about El Chupacolada?”


“Pardon me, Sheriff.” McCutchen interrupted, turning to the ranchers. The absurdity of their fear only enhanced his enjoyment of the meal. “What’s this about your goats gone missing?”


“That thing, whatever it is, it got ‘em. Some of my best, too.”


McCutchen glanced at Lickter, who gave him permission to continue. “And you’ve seen this El Chupacabra?”


“Well no. I ain’t seen the thing.” Both ranchers squirmed.


“But you found the dead goats? Drained of their blood?”


“Not exactly.”


McCutchen raised a brow. “Not exactly?” He ran his tongue over his teeth and took another swig from his glass.


“Well no. That’s just it. That thing done drug ‘em off, up into the Catholic Hills.” The ranchers reasserted their claim to the sheriff. “And something’s gotta be done about it. Old Gonzales says the beast done drained one of his and left the carcass right there at the springs, sucked bone dry with two little holes on the neck.” The rancher pointed to the side of his neck.


Marvin added, “Yes sir, we got enough to worry about with bandidos coming across the Rio Grande without having to worry about some deranged demon-beast in the north scaring our goats off from the only good source of water. And they say the beast has got a couple of Indian witch-doctors protecting it.”


The ranchers started arguing among themselves. “Hell, there ain’t no Indian witch-doctors.”


“Is so.”


“And you seen ‘em?”


“Well, I hadn’t—”


“The only man I ever seen working any goats in them hills be this little Mexican feller.”


“Goofy guy.” Marvin tried to save face by contributing something.


 “They say the Catholic Church worked a magic on him that makes him immune. He’s supposed to be a guard or something. We find him, I bet we get some answers.”


Abruptly McCutchen’s pleasure from the conversation ceased. “This Mexican, he wear a big, floppy sombrero?”


Both ranchers answered at once. “The biggest. That’s the one.”

Fistful of Reefer: ch.1

Cantinas on either side of the border fascinated Chancho—such important frivolousness. He cupped his shot of tequila, a Reposado rested in American oak, in the palm of his hand while listening to a collision of conversations. Not particularly fond of enclosed spaces, he shut his eyes.


Slurred English came from the direction of the bar only to be drowned out by Tejano-flavored Spanish. The tang of mohair and sweat, exaggerated by the closed confines, rose in Chancho’s nostrils prompting him to drain his glass. Anise gently burning his nostrils and caramel resting on his tongue, he thanked God for giving Mexico the agave.


He opened his eyes and wiped his mouth, the conversation at hand grabbing his attention. “What did you just say?”


Vicente, a goat herder from a neighboring ranch, held his hands up defensively and shook his head. “I’m not accusing you, I swear.”


“Sorry,” Chancho tried again, “can you repeat—” 


Another man sitting at the table cut him off. “It’s just a superstition. Catholics.”


Vicente hissed, “Dead goats are not a superstition. They had tiny holes on their necks,” he pointed to his own neck, “right here.” He turned back to Chancho. “But I’m not saying that you—”


“No. No. For the love of God, stop yammering and go back. Did you say, Chupacabra?”


Vicente looked puzzled. “Yes.” He nodded. “That is what they call the demon.”


El Chupacabra, the monster that feeds on goats and lives in the Catholic Hills? My Catholic Hills?” Confused, Chancho rubbed the back of his neck underneath where his floppy sombrero rested. An uneasiness settled over everyone at the table.


Vicente shrugged. “I was wondering if you’d seen it.”


“Seen it?” Slowly Chancho turned his head from side to side as he adjusted the leather strap that had risen uncomfortably around his throat. A prickling sensation caused him to glance over his shoulder toward the bar, a quick movement fleeing from the corner of his eye. Two dusty gringos sat on stools. One of them clearly the source of the loud, slurred English.


“What Vicente is trying to ask is whether you are the demon’s caretaker or his captor.”


“Huh?” Chancho whipped his head back around. “What? Like in the story? The immortal guardian of an infinitesimal evil chomping at the chance to devour all good in the world?” He forced a laugh, but no one else was laughing.


“I suppose I’ll have to make acquaintance with a couple of Indian witch doctors next?” He wagged his finger. “No my friends, I suspect you’ve been dipping your ladle in the wrong pot, confusing the outhouse for the inn.” He wondered what parts of the conversation he’d missed. Why hadn’t he been paying attention? “No, if there was a demon living in my hills I would know about it.” He looked each man in the eyes. “It’s just a story.”


“Damn right.” A man whom Chancho recognized as Vicente’s cousin, Raul, joined the conversation for the first time. “What there is, my friends, is a whole field of marihuana. The Catholic Hills are not full of demons, they’re full of marihuana.” Raul spoke loudly, and the way he kept saying the word “full” hinted strongly he felt there was enough to go around.


The narrow cantina seemed to close in on Chancho as he cursed himself for choosing the diversion in the first place. The tequila, however delicious, had not been worth a fight—which at this point Chancho doubted he could avoid. He rubbed his missing notch of earlobe while smiling enthusiastically. Despite the three sets of eyes directly in front of him, he felt most keenly aware of eyes boring holes into the back of his neck. “Look, my friends—” 


Raul continued. “The goats didn’t die from demon curse or fright, they died from colic—from too much marihuana.”


Chancho held a wavering smile. He did not know these men well, but didn’t wish to create ill will with neighboring ranches. His whole intent in crossing the border into Texas two years earlier in 1916 had been to start fresh. He felt hot and cramped.  What had been a din of mingled voices and creaking floorboards moments before now seemed like an isolating silence, as if everyone listened for his next words.


To stall for time he turned his head from side to side, rubbing the grit on the back of this neck and scanning the room. This time he caught the eyes of a Mexican giving him the ugly from two tables away. Somehow the man seemed familiar. And he was certain the gringo at the bar was listening.


Raul spoke loudly, “The only question is whether or not Chancho will compensate for El Patron’s goats by offering his friends some of the marihuana that killed ‘em.” Raul drummed the table with his fingers. The noise drew Chancho’s attention immediately. He recognized it as a ploy to distract him from the movements of Raul’s other hand, which had shifted south of the table, possibly to scratch himself, but most likely toward a gun belt.


Chancho took a deep breath. “My friends, El Chupacabra is only a story told around the fire. I don’t know anything about any dead goats, and if I—” With sudden force, a meaty hand clapped down on Chancho’s shoulder from behind. He spun to face a grizzled, brown face smeared awkwardly with a half snarl, half smile. The jolt forced his mind to make the connection, “Primitivo.”


“Del Rio, my old friend. At first I thought you hadn’t recognized me.”


Chancho stood to shake the hand of one of Pancho Villa’s lieutenants, a devil-driven man whom Chancho had ridden under for almost two years. His pock-marked face wrinkled in all the wrong places, uncomfortable with the concept of smiling. “How could I forget the bravest man to ever ride beside our beloved Francisco?”


“Ha!” Primitivo barked a single laugh while wrapping his arm around Chancho’s shoulder. He addressed the rest of the table. “Please pardon our friend, Chancho. We have some overdue business to tend to. I promise I’ll bring him right back.”


Chancho played along, slapping the lieutenant on the back and smiling as the two men returned to Primitivo’s table. Chancho glanced back to see Vicente shoving his cousin, the two of them arguing under their breath, before he focused his attention on the larger problem—namely Primitivo. While Chancho was glad to have a reprieve from Raul’s extortion, he knew whatever business the lieutenant referred to would be uglier, and much more dangerous.


For two years Chancho had ceased to be a revolutionary, doing nothing but herding goats and growing marihuana. He hadn’t even touched a gun since Columbus. But there was no greater representative of the dark underbelly of the Mexican revolution than Primitivo Vega. Despite Chancho’s best efforts, he now sat directly across the table from him.


“I hoped I would find you well, Del Rio Villarreal.”


It disturbed Chancho that Primitivo knew his given name. He’d never used it among the Villistas. He’d hardly used it outside of the orphanage where he’d grown up. Clearly the old lieutenant was playing at something, but Chancho had no idea what. The gnarled revolutionary looked him up and down.


“Personally I knew you didn’t do it. But the others, they were suspicious. After all,” he shrugged, “it didn’t look good. The way you disappeared at Columbus, right after Ah Puch was killed.”


Chancho’s eyes grew large before they shrank to slits. “Are you accusing me of killing—” 


“Not me.” Primitivo leaned back in his chair. “Villa and the others, your friends.” He shook his head. “They’re dead now, by the way. Not Villa, but the others. You and Villa are the only ones who know about the gold. Well, and me of course. I figured it out.” He smiled thinly.


The gesture enraged Chancho. “Meirda.” He slapped the table. “Gold? Have the boys been using your head for piñata practice again? What gold?”


Primitivo’s face fell slack before embodying the devil himself. He slammed his hand down on the table inches from Chancho’s. “Dammit. I know you have it.” He snarled, leaning in close to Chancho’s face until they both hovered over the center of the table. Slowly he pulled his hand back and flicked his eyes downward.


Chancho glanced at where Primitivo’s hand had been before shifting his gaze to absorb the full significance of what stared up at him from the rough wood surface of the table—a special mint, twenty peso gold piece embossed with the image of the eagle clutching the snake. With Villa’s permission, he and Ah Puch had orchestrated the heist of the entire mint.


The take had been so colossal, that even Primitivo had been kept out of it. Grateful, Villa had allotted Ah Puch and Chancho small shares, each a substantial fortune. It had been Chancho who insisted the coins remain hidden until the revolution’s end. So the two friends had stashed their coins together… at the orphanage where he’d grown up. “No.” His mind raced.


“I found this coin in an orphanage, you know.” Chancho’s eyes grew large, his worst nightmare unfolding before him. “An orphanage that’s running low on supplies by the way. It seems the Constitutionalist Army has burned all their fields and raided their stores as punishment for sheltering Villistas. But you wouldn’t know about that.”


“If you touch—” 


Primitivo spit as he spoke the words, “Even our beloved Francisco can’t protect them all, and apparently, neither can you. Now give me the gold.”


Chancho pinched the bridge of his nose for a long moment, buying time to think. Primitivo had only the one coin, and probably worked alone. Still, Chancho doubted the lieutenant had lied about the condition of the orphanage. He’d probably burned the fields himself.


To save the orphanage, he’d have to shake Primitivo and come up with enough cash to hold the Sisters over until the end of the revolution. Only then could the rare gold coins be used safely. Finally, he looked the revolutionary lieutenant in the eyes, shaking his head. “You were never the shiniest peso, so I’ll make this simple. I didn’t take the gold, and I would never kill—” 


“Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t.” Primitivo attempted another smile, his voice all honey and gravel. “Shiny or no, I can be reasonable. You can keep your share. Hand over Ah Puch’s gold and I’ll take it to Villa as a token of good will—as an apology for deserting him at Columbus. Who knows, maybe some of the orphans won’t starve.” He riveted Chancho with a deadpan expression, “or meet a more violent end.”


“You piece of petrified dung, I don’t have it.” Chancho maintained a stoic exterior while his insides sank like a horse in a bog. It was certainly his fault if the orphanage was in dire straights. He’d only thought of a safe place to stash the gold.


“Clearly you haven’t spent it on frivolities.” Primitivo spit against the wall, wiping a string of drool from his mustache with the back of his hand. “You look as ratty as ever.” Before Chancho could explain further, the lieutenant continued. “I’m sure your friends are missing you.” He looked over Chancho’s shoulder. “Take care of your business with them. Then take me to the gold, or I’ll bury you after I’ve forced you to bury the charred corpses of your precious Sisters and all their little vermin.”


Chancho stood, pushing his chair back and speaking loudly, “Sorry to hear about the syphilis, but I guess I should get back to my friends.” He reached over the table to shake the lieutenant’s hand. Each man attempted to break the bones of the other. Finally he dismissed himself and walked casually back to where Vicente and Raul still appeared to be arguing.


On arriving, Chancho slumped into his chair. Immediately Vicente pulled a smoking tin from his breast pocket and flipped it open, offering Chancho a marihuana cigarette. “Raul is a hothead. Ignore him. Here.”


Chancho took the cigarette while Vicente struck a match on the edge of the table and lit the tip. Chancho puffed once and stopped before the paper lit fully, removing the cigarette from his mouth to marvel at it. “How much did you pay for this?”


Vicente laughed. “Too much. Marihuana has gotten expensive north of the border. Why?”


Chancho handed the cigarette back to him grinning like a cheshire cat. “Saint Mary, Mother of God, you’ve given me a plan to save the Sisters at Mt. Sabinas.” He slapped Vicente on the shoulder. “Oh, by the way, my friend over there is the bastard whelp of a jackal, and he’ll kill you if he gets the chance.” Without even glancing toward the lieutenant’s table, Chancho donned his sombrero and bolted for the back door.


The wine lacked panache, made from mustang grapes despite the fifty-year-old lenoir vines rooted two miles from the stool where he sat. Shame, the rest of the establishment was respectable. McCutchen listened past the drunken blather of Special Ranger Ballinger for the conversations going on around him, mostly in Spanish. Increasingly, he felt their celebration of a job well done boded poorly with the locals. That was the life of a ranger in the borderlands.


He sighed, taking another swig of wine. The berries hadn’t even ripened—too vegetal, acidic. Then they got sloppy with the sugar, too much, too early in the fermentation, creating a bright red swill. He put down his glass and drummed his fingers on the bar. They were Texas-side in a town called Del Rio. But after eight straight years of Mexican revolution and a constant rabble of refugees spilling over the border, over a third of the saloon’s patrons were Mexicans.


Carranza’s presidency continued as illegitimately as Huerta’s, and shiftless Mexicans seemed to accept incompetent governance as an excuse for violent and criminal behavior. With gunrunning, goat rustling and general banditry driving reprisal killings to an all-time high, the general mood was such that Anglos hated Mexicans, Mexicans hated Anglos, and just to make things worse, a handful of old Tejanos resented both. McCutchen loathed laziness, helplessness and corruption, which most of the people surrounding him had in spades.


A clump of four Mexicans hovering over shots of mescal and tequila caught McCutchen’s attention. Over the next minute he heard mention of the dried leaves and buds of the Mexican cáñamo plant more than once. Locals knew it only as loco weed, but this broad label often included several noxious species that caused temporary madness in grazing livestock. Mexicans differentiated between the worthless weeds and the product they called marihuana. Unregulated and unnoticed, officially the U.S. had no stance on the narcotic, but McCutchen knew better.


He took another sip of wine before noticing that one of the Mexicans had gone. Before he could locate the missing man, Ballinger elbowed him nearly causing him to spill what was left of his fermented piss and grape juice onto his denim jacket. “Dammit, Ballinger. Wrap it up before you make more trouble than you resolve.”


“Loosen up, McCrutch.” Ballinger laughed at his own pun.


While sipping his wine and contemplating cracking Ballinger across the chops, a loud slap on the table behind McCutchen focused his attention. Through the corner of his eye he located his fourth Mexican, a wet-behind-the-ears sort embroiled in an argument with an ugly hombre who looked like he’d been born during a stampede.


He sighed, fully aware that a half-dozen illegal schemes were being hatched at this very moment in this one bar alone. At least experience had taught him that a certain Darwinian wisdom usually won the day as the criminal sort weeded themselves out by their own stupidity.


Reluctant to waste wine, even wine that smelled of wet hay, McCutchen drained his glass in a gulp. He dreaded the coming of prohibition state-wide. Ridiculous. Knowing marihuana to be the real threat, he had little time for draft dodgers and bootleggers, the spineless and pathetic. Yet, soon ranger resources would be called on in greater numbers to crack down on pancho-clad bootleggers moving moonshine via donkey under the cover of night. That too was the life of a ranger in the borderlands.


Speaking of pancho-clad bootleggers, the Mexican voices to his left grew louder. He turned to see one of them holding a familiar cigarette and knew it was time to move. Ballinger, belly up to the bar, was about to order his fifth shot of tequila when McCutchen decided the celebration was over. It was time to get back to work. But before he could enact his plan the fourth Mexican bolted out the back. He cursed his poor timing while taking Ballinger by the scruff, “That’s enough.”


“Like hell. I’ve just started,” Ballinger tried to resist. The steady din of noise surrounding them receded.


McCutchen backed him toward the table of Mexicans while barking in his face, “You’re already drunk as a Mexican whore.” Tension in the saloon crackled to the breaking point as he pushed the drunken Ballinger.


“Son of a—” Ballinger tripped over his own feet and stumbled. Trying to catch himself, he flipped the table where the Mexicans were seated. The rest went down pretty much as McCutchen had planned. At first, anyway.


Ballinger fell clean over, pinning the smallest Mexican beneath him. The two sitting on the far side jumped to their feet, reaching for their irons. One of them was fast, but McCutchen had killed plenty of fast before. By the time the Mexican flashed his metal, McCutchen had drawn both of his Colt .45s and dropped the hammers.


The roar ripped through the narrow saloon as the first man fell. The second dipped his shoulder and dodged to his right, extending his life for an instant. What happened next was pure bad luck.


The second Mexican committed too heavily to his lunge and lost his feet. As he fell, he finally loosed his pistola. McCutchen leveled both of his .45s and let him have it in the chest. By reflex, the dying Mexican squeezed off one slug that unfortunately channeled right through the top of Ballinger’s skull and out at the base of his neck. Falling limp, he draped over the third man who temporarily stopped squirming.


McCutchen noticed something metallic flash in the corner of his eye. This too was the life of a borderlands ranger. The shot came hot and premature, splintering the wood of the bar behind him. He lunged for the shelter of the overturned table and landed softly on the body he’d recently dispatched there. Another slug struck the edge of the table on his way down, too fast for a single shooter.


Two shooters remained, and the man pinned under Ballinger would free himself sooner rather than later. Three irons to his two would be poor odds without the tactical element of surprise, and he wanted the last man alive. The fresh burn of gunpowder tickled his nostrils. Now or never.


He inched back from the table so that it wouldn’t block his motion. With both arms outstretched and his Colt Flat Tops pointed in the directions of the loudest scuffling, he rose up on his knees. Thunder and lightning battered the bar as lead pounded the table in front of him. He steadied both hands, dropped the hammers and loosed heavenly elements of his own while binding two more Mexicans in the grip of death.


Nothing moved in the saloon but gently wafting smoke. McCutchen stood, his right hand trained on the Mexican who’d freed himself from under Ballinger’s dead body, his left hand roaming the narrow room from side to side. Breathing fast, a trickle of sweat ran down the cavity of his chest causing a stinging sensation.


He felt a pinch. Letting one eye flicker down to take a look, he saw a red stain spreading there. He relaxed, taking a deep breath. It burned, but not badly. He slowed his pulse, calmed his breathing. Humming gently, he relaxed his shoulders and cracked his neck. Finally, he looked the remaining Mexican in the eyes, “You’ve got the blood of a ranger on you, greaser.”


Walking around the table while holstering one of his .45s, he knelt where the man lie on the floor with his hands raised above his head. McCutchen sneered. Ballinger’s normal cologne of sweat and alcohol had been enriched with human defecation. He was riffraff, sure. But a ranger, nonetheless. McCutchen gripped his remaining Colt around the cylinder and clapped it against the side of the Mexican’s head.

What the Wattpad? Making Money from “Free”

wattpadFor the love. First they tell me “tree hugging isn’t a paid profession,” and now writing isn’t either? I pick all the wrong careers. Nothing beats sitting in front of a liquid crystal display jamming my fingertips repetitively into alphameric and numeric buttons all day long to create a splay of digital information from here to timbuk-twitter. Working in my pajamas. Rejecting routine hygienics. Washing up only for weddings. An occasional tree hug. It’s the perfect life.

Franzia to FishEye

But the trick is to make enough scratch to not live from one box of wine to the next, and today’s market is a mixed bag. On the one hand, higher ebook royalties bring the sweet life into focus. If a writer can purge enough enjoyable content from brainpan to Amazon/Kindle in $2.99 chunks then said writer can upgrade from Franzia to FishEye, even with a relatively small following (say 15,000 fans).

On the other hand, [Read more...]