This way, please!

At the suggestion of my very savvy bride, Clarice, I’ve relocated my writing stuff to what had been my “Just Fooling Around” WordPress site. You can find me at what is now my Into The Sunset site.

Clarice said, very wisely, I thought, that https://ralphdjames.wordpress.com/ would be way easier for folks to remember than https://yippieyiyokiyay.wordpress.com. I didn’t want to do it, but the more I had to look and see how I’d spelled yippieyiyokiyay, the more I saw she had a point.

I hope you’ll hop on the train and come see how my collection of characters and I are doing!

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Out of the Storm – What’s Inside?

Here’s a quick crib of the stories in the Out of the Storm anthology, with links to the authors.

Out of the Storm

Contemporary Fiction Category

Squall Line – By Jim Hamlett – 1st Place, (General Fiction) – Flying lessons

Dorothy’s Carol – By Terrie Todd – 2nd Place, (Women’s Fiction) – A Christmas story

A Rumspringa Storm – By Steve Hooley – 3rd Place, (Amish) – Her decision time

Tempest Tossed – By Annette O’Hare – 4th Place, (Women’s Fiction) – A woman with a mentally ill brother

Speculative Fiction Category

The Grumpy Chronicles – By Susan Lyttek – 1st Place, (Fantasy) – A different look at Snow White

The Great Storm – By Karla Rose – 2nd Place, (SciFi) – Storm troopers occupy a town

Oddman – By Carla Hoch – 3rd Place, (SciFi) – A stranger in a strange land, with purple people eaters

Aperture – By Linda Kozar – 4th Place, (SciFi) – A girl and her teddy bear

Combined Genre Category

Just West of Clovis – By Ralph D. James – 1st Place, (Western) – Beans and gold fever

Husband Hunting – By Crystal L. Barnes – 2nd Place, (Western) – It’s her wedding day

Detention – By Gretchen E. K. Engel – 3rd Place, (YA /Fantasy) – Sorta Cinderella, with elves

Fire in a Storm – By Angela K. Couch – 4th Place, (Historical) – The Soviet Secret Police

Clovis is in print!

I had just settled down to work on a critique group excerpt when the doorbell rang. UPS had left a box on my snowy front porch.

Everything we’d ordered on-line from Staples came a couple days ago, so I had no idea what was inside.

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Look Ma! I’m published.

Go ahead, order a box-full for your very own. Then you can say “I had a copy of his first work. I wonder what I did with it.”

Oh, what’s that? I’m supposed to be in the picture with the books? Uh… okay, if I have to…

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Out of the Storm – Read a Sample!

Now that Out of the Storm is in print and ready for purchase, the publisher has made a sample available for a peek at each of the stories in the anthology.

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Amazon and Barnes and Noble have it now. Or, if you want, you can get a copy from me (Woo-hoo!) on April 25th at the Meet & Greet Christian Authors open house at Nevins Library in Methuen, Massachusetts. More details as they come out of the mist.

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Surviving Idaho

Okay, so this one is sort of a North Western.

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I’d always hated my dad’s Idaho mountain camp. Until 1984, the year old Weevil Hodges blew himself up. I turned nineteen that summer.

Dad came by the whole survival thing honestly enough. Grandpop built a bomb shelter in his back yard during the 50s and stocked it with Sterno, Boy-R-Dee, and Chung King cans. Gram refused to even look inside. “If God wants me, he can have me,” she declared. “I love you, but I’m not livin’ in a cave, you old coot.” God has them both now. They went home in their sleep, years ago, within a month of each other. The folks who bought their place dug up the shelter and put in a pool.

Me? I preferred to sit at home and play Atari with my best friend Wilson Grant.

Since Dad was an accountant in Cedar Rapids and the camp was in Idaho, we only went a couple times a year. So it’s no surprise that we didn’t even know Weevil was dead until that summer. We’d been there three days when a battered Dodge Power Wagon went grinding up the mountain, past our spot above Burke. It had a temporary plate duct taped to a back fender. Since Dad was busy chopping firewood, he told me to take our ATV and see what was up.

The ATV was a contraption he’d bought used the previous year. It looked like a six-wheeled bathtub and steered with a pair of levers, like a bulldozer. I thought it was cool because I remembered watching the Banana Splits drive them on TV when I was little. After about twenty yanks on the rope, I got the thing going and clattered off in a cloud of clods and smoke.

Ten minutes later, I parked behind the mystery vehicle. It was stopped, engine grumbling, ten feet from Weevil’s shack. What was he up to? Did Weevil know he was here? I climbed out of my tub and walked around to introduce myself and find out.

The windows were smeared with Idaho mud, so I knocked on the driver’s door to get his attention. When the window came clanking down, I choked on my gum.

Just West of Clovis – Teaser

Here’s a little taste of “Clovis”

I’d been in the saddle so long that my knees couldn’t remember each other. I had trail dust in places where I didn’t know I had places, and felt like I wasn’t gonna get where I was going for at least another hundred years. I’d been hunting for work for months, ever since a conversation with a sheriff in Enid, Oklahoma, resulted in this hole in my hat.

I’d only asked him if the rumor was true that the town’s name came from some chuckwagon’s sign getting turned backwards so it didn’t say “DINE” anymore. He yelled something about somebody named Tennyson, shot at me and told me to get out of his high-class city. They’re sensitive about that story, I guess. Kinda funny, considering the town used to be called Skeleton Station.

Anyway, Horace told me — that’s my brother, who’s in the army — he told me that I was sure to find work as soon as I got to some place called Rat Scratch Ranch. He said it was in New Mexico Territory, about a day’s ride from Riley’s Switch, where the railroad was being built. Word was their cook had got himself murdered for changing his recipe for beans. They were looking for a new man who’d make the old beans.

“It’s an empty spot in the middle of nowhere, not too far from the Texas border. You can’t miss it.” That’s what he said.

Hey, I needed a job.

I’d seen the last of that dirt pile about a week ago—the railroad was always just getting built no matter where I was tryin’ to go—and was beginning to think Horace was misinformed. October of nineteen four did not look promising.

Just past Fort Sumner, a little town where the fort used to be, I barely managed to survive crossing the Pecos River. It was real high after some walloping monster of a rainstorm. I was crossing a sandbar, digging river mud out of my ears and about to climb up the west bank, when I saw a muddy boot just sticking up out of the dirt, the heel pointing at the noonday sun. Since one boot isn’t any use without the other, I kept going. Until I saw it twitch. Twice.

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C’mon, February! Then you can read it all.