The Cowboy’s Baby excerpt continued, Chapter 16

With an approving smile, he saw that the Bishops had set up their tent with no problems. They were busy dragging their sleeping bags and pillows inside and barely acknowledged him as he sauntered by checking on things. The three boys also had their tent up. He didn’t have to worry about Alan and Jeremy, he had no thought about them at all, they knew what to do. But the minister was having the same trouble as Ellison and Marcia. He strode over to help, irritated that a grown man couldn’t do any better, and was stopped by Leona. “I’ll do it,” she said, grinning just like Cassie would have. She almost took his breath away. 

“I just don’t understand how you’ve got my wife’s face,” he blurted. 

“Hold off a minute, Ralph,” she called. “I can fix it. Let me talk with Frank first.” The minister stopped huffing and went off to find a bench to sit on. Frank stepped forward to help Leona with the tent. “Wife?” she asked, smiling warmly. 

“You mean Ralph didn’t blab?” 

“He doesn’t seem the blabbing type,” she said, helping with the tent. They got it set up and stood looking at one another. “I assure you, we’re not related in any way,” she said. “Cassie and me. Just a fluke of nature.” She studied him. “Should I cut my hair, maybe?” she asked. “Or dye it brown. Or maybe start wearing long dresses. Would it stop bothering you then?” 

“Bother isn’t really the right word,” he said, stopping when he heard her quiet, knowing laugh. Leona was certainly a better woman than he had thought. 

“By the way,” she said, giving him a serious look. “Congratulations on the wedding. I don’t have to tell you not to break her heart, do I?” 

“I’ve spent the past five to ten years protecting the woman,” he replied. “I’m not going to suddenly go off track and let her get her heart broken.” He paused. “But I can’t believe she suddenly decided to marry me.” Then he shrugged. “No matter. It’s a done deal. The why of it doesn’t matter all that much. 

“And thank you,” he said. “We got married yesterday. The ceremony was real nice.” 

He looked at the tent they had just assembled. “You’re not sharing this tent with the minister are you?” he asked, not knowing if he was appalled or secretly pleased that she might have fixated on the preacher. 

“My tent’s over there, near Leon and Peter and the little kid. I’m here to get reacquainted with my son,” she explained, “not to try to seduce the local preacher man. I was just helping him with his tent.” 

Leona turned her head. She heard someone stomping toward them in the dark. “I think that’s Cassie coming this way,” she said. 

“Damned right it is,” Cassie exclaimed. “Frank! I’ve got to drive that impossible woman back to the house before she pops a gullet.” She took several deep breaths when she got to them. Looking Leona up and down, Cassie made a little hiccupping noise and held out her hand. She grinned broadly. 

“Girl, you do look like me,” she said. “No wonder I couldn’t pry Leon away from this place with a crowbar. Of course, you look like me fifteen years back, and on a very good day. I’m glad you’re here.” 

She changed the subject after Leona shook her hand. “Since I have to drive back anyhow,” she said, “do you need to go with us?” she asked. 

“Not unless Leon does,” Leona said. 

“I’m asking around. Don’t want to be driving around in the truck all night long. Frank, I’ll be back in a bit. Don’t worry.” 

To Be Continued… 

The Cowboy’s Baby copyright 2010. Photos by Roxanne Rix 

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK: Liege-Killer by Christopher Hinz. I loved this book when I read it the first time in 1987. I still love this book re-reading it now.  Available as a Kindle ebook.

Scare The Dickens Out of Us ghost story writing contest

We have just about finished the promotion phase of the Scare The Dickens Out of Us ghost story writing contest for 2011. Officially the contest starts July 1. It ends October 1. We have sent emails to every writers’ group we could find (both in the U.S. and a couple out of it), to every writing contest site we could find, and to universities and colleges across the U.S. We have even contacted a few individual authors. Full rules are available at

If you are reading this, then pass it on through Twitter, Facebook, and word of mouth. While primarily a fundraiser for the Dr. Eugene Clark Library, Scare The Dickens Out of Us is also a pretty damned good short story contest. We reward good writing with $1000.00/$500.00/$250.00 prizes (plus a trophy and ribbon prizes). For the junior contest there is a $250.00 first place prize plus trophy. Runners up get really neat ribbon prizes. Best of all, every entrant has written a new ghost story and we get to read them all.

Unfortunately, we don’t publish any of them. But then that means you can turn right around after the contest and submit them to many short story markets. Check for a good idea how many markets there are.

We want ghost stories up to 5000 words in length. In English, thank you. We accept entries from anywhere in the world and from any level writer. So far both years an unpublished writer has won first place.

WHAT I’VE READ THIS WEEK—Roadwork by Stephen King, Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen, and Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson.

Photos by Gretchen Rix

Grammar and the writer

The Well-Tempered Sentence, The Transitive Vampire (both by Karen Elizabeth Gordon), and The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White are all easy to read, easy to understand grammar books. Ms. Gordon’s books are even fun to read. It looks like all three of these are still in print.

If you’re going to be a writer you need to know proper grammar. That doesn’t mean you always have to use proper grammar, just that you need to know what you’re doing. While I was reading a Stephen King book this Spring I discovered I had consistently made a certain error in my first published novel “The Cowboy’s Baby” (shame on me).It involves the use of the question mark. I had always put the question mark at the end of the sentence except when it was part of dialog. For instance: Why did the dog bark? was the first question that came to mind. (I would have put the question mark at the end. That is wrong.)

I’ve been having equal difficulty with punctuation and parentheses. I think the examples above are correct. I just re-read the grammar book instructions and I’m still not absolutely sure about parentheses. The easy solution: don’t use parentheses.

Take the time to brush up on your grammar as you’re writing, especially in the editing process. When in doubt, look it up. Then you won’t get all those letters from readers pointing out your punctuation errors.

WHAT I’VE READ THIS WEEK—A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin.

Photographs by Roxanne Rix.

The Cowboy’s Baby excerpt continued, Chapter 16

Marian clamped down her automatic response and stayed out of it, to her husband’s surprise. The grandmother altered her tone the next time she spoke. “Why don’t you go visit with your friends before we all have to go to bed,” she suggested nicely, pushing little Leon in the direction of Peter and Leon who were sitting on a car hood. It was Ellison’s car and he had just noticed them. He frowned.  

“I need to get someone to drive me back to the house,” Leon’s grandmother continued. “I need to go to the bathroom.”  

Lots of luck with that, Marian thought. Then she wondered if the goats had eaten the only toilet paper Cassie had brought. She snickered.  

“What’s so funny?’  

It was the little boy.  

“Nothing son,” Mr. Bishop interceded. “Let’s see what Leon and Peter are up to. It’s about time to set up the tents. I could use your help.” He led little Leon away, leaving Marian and little Leon’s grandmother alone for some more bonding time.  

“Tell those two to get off my car,” Ellison called after them.  

Little Leon nodded, as if anything he said would get the teenagers to behave. He decided to go after them himself, but by the time he’d gotten near they had jumped off. He picked up a tent and dragged it back to the clearing. The older boys followed his example, leaving Mr. Bishop to struggle with dragging his own tent back by himself.  

Cassie came back with the news that the miniature bull had been cornered and forced into the pen, but that the horses and goats would be free to wander at will.  

“They aren’t dangerous,” she said. “We’ll hobble the horses. I don’t think the goats will go far.”  

Frank made a strangled sound, abruptly turning it into a cough when Cassie shot him a look. Alan and Jeremy kept their mouths shut and had a similar strangled look to that of their boss. To keep from laughing they walked away to retrieve the rest of the tents before it got completely dark.  

“When is someone going to take me to a bathroom?” little Leon’s grandmother asked. “Or do I have to walk all the way back,” she said when no one responded.  

“This one’s all yours,” Frank told Cassie. “I’ll start on the tents,” he said as an excuse.  

Cassie walked up to the older woman with a smile on her face, but she was quavering on the inside. “This is a camping trip, ma’am,” she said. “We’ll set up a few spots for people to relieve themselves in the pasture and behind the pen, but we’re not taking anyone back to my house just to use the bathroom.”  

Marcia pulled Ellison away. “Let’s set up your tent,” she said. “Then please help me set mine up. Not too close,” she added.  

“What’s too close?” he asked, sorry he had pitched a fit about them sharing a tent. He could certainly keep his hands off the woman, for this night anyhow, there were so many other people around, but it would have been nice to talk with her into the night, to see her fall asleep. To keep her safe.  

“I’ll know it when I see it,” she said. “Before too long the light will be gone. So get a move on.”  

“Yes, ma’am.”  

While Cassie argued back and forth with little Leon’s grandmother about the necessity of a clean bathroom for little old ladies and very young boys, Marcia and Ellison struggled with the tent. They got it set up, and it collapsed. They got it set up, the zipper got stuck and they could not get inside. They got the zipper undone, and the tent collapsed. Frank finally came over, and in a huff shook the nylon contraption open with a flip and said, “There! Don’t fiddle with it any more. Now, where’s the other one?”  

Ellison crawled into his tent to escape the derision. The ground was lumpy, but no word of complaint would cross his lips tonight. Marcia had followed Frank. Ten feet away Frank flipped the second tent out, set the opening to face Ellison’s tent, gave the young woman a stern stare and said, “Keep your hands off it and it will be all right.”  

“But I wanted it further away,” she said, ashamed to sound like a timid mouse in a fairy story, but that was how she felt at the moment.  

Frank glowered. “You’ll stay where I put you,” he said. “And if you have to leave the tent during the night, be damned careful and use the flashlight. If I were you I’d take someone with me, too. It’s a whole lot easier to recover from embarrassment than from a butt full of cactus thorns, or worse.” Glad I never mentioned the tarantulas, he thought.  

He could hear Cassie yelling again. Cassie’s not going to win this one, he decided. She ought to just give it up. We’re going to be up all night one way or the other anyhow, might as well drive the whole bunch there and back to use the bathroom as worry about them in the field. Can’t tell her anything, though. Let her figure it out for herself.  

To be continued…  

Copyright 2010 by Gretchen Rix. Photos by Roxanne Rix

Reviews Redux continued

Two more books that deserve more attention.

GHOST SEAS by Steven Utley

Unforgettable and disturbing stories here. Be warned. They’ll make you think. Ghost Seas is a short story collection of literary science fiction, fantasy, horror, alternate history (and even a Western) by Steven Utley. If you like reading you’re going to love this collection.

There are two First Contact science fiction stories the likes of which you’ve never read: Upstart, funny as all get out (depending on your interpretation, I suppose) and Race Relations, a very odd and affecting story,  just the way I like them. Then there’s the title story Ghost Seas where a newly married couple learns something unexpected about each other with tragic consequences. In Haiti, Utley gives us the  horribly topical tale where the future United States of America’s recent triumph in putting the first man on Mars is juxtaposed against the never-ending misery of Haiti in the middle of a cholera epidemic the whole world is ignoring. And this is just a sample of what’s waiting in Ghost Seas. Howard Waldrop’s written a most entertaining introduction. (If you don’t know Steven Utley now, you will afterwards.) Michael Bishop’s written the foreword. These stories were originally published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Pulphouse, Shayol, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and others.

Check his site for information on where to buy Ghost Seas. ( )


RUN by Blake Crouch

Riveting, powerful, ruthless and frightening describe what is best about the novel RUN by Blake Crouch, a thriller (or science fiction novel, depending on your interpretation). What is worst about it is more than counterbalanced by the best, thank goodness, but there are lapses here. No matter.

RUN is a throwback to the 1950’s sci fi classics we used to find in the public library (John Christopher’s No Blade of Grass being one), and I still love them. I loved RUN. Due to a phenomenon in the sky (Don’t we know by now not to look!) half the population of  the United States wakes up the next morning fully prepared to torture and murder the ones who didn’t “see the lights”; this for no reason, and even if they are family. Right then most of the “normals” are hunted down and exterminated. The lucky ones who escape, run. This is the story.

Hard to set aside once it gets going, RUN will leave you wanting to read more Blake Crouch.

Available as an e-book for kindle readers and apps at

All photos by Roxanne Rix.