Well, the publisher has been busy and there have been a few hold-ups here and there, but my new historical fiction novel is available. It could have been a lot worse; ‘Homesteader’ only took about 3 weeks longer than it took for ‘Partners’. Considering that Strategic is now up to 700 titles and has some new people, that timing is actually pretty good.
As with everything I’ve done (including news paper articles) I always manage to find mistakes that I and the editor have missed despite numerous attempts to avoid them. In the case of ‘Homesteader’ I found six mistakes but nothing that should require production to come to a halt.
As the title suggests it’s about trying to start your own agricultural enterprise on the cheap with the help of the government. In this case it’s the Canadian Federal Government, the time is 1866 and the area is Fort Calgary, (already being called Calgary in 1866) North West Territories (now Alberta).
Along with the choosing and registration of a homestead it also includes some information about the attitudes of the day, some crime and the end of the open range.
Here is an excerpt from the first few pages where Hank and Harry meets a man who will prove to be a problem for them …
The way the three of them charged right up to us and stopped so close didn’t add to my feeling of comfort. They were crowding us and had an arrogant manner about them. I didn’t like the look in their eyes, and I was glad I had taken the pack horse lead shank.
Even though he was a few years older than me, Harry Gilmore always followed my lead. Part of the reason was that, up until the fall before, I had been his boss for about a year. Mostly, though, it was because he was part Sioux - although few ever knew that - and several years of folks tramping on him and his people meant that he generally followed and kept his mouth shut. What that meant for me at the time was that I knew I would be handling the conversation with the fat man, and I could depend on Henry to back me up, whatever happened.
“Where do you think you’re going?” the fat man asked.
Maybe my confidence in Harry's loyalty and ability made me a little too mouthy in my response to the big man's arrogant manner. And, as I said, I was paying too much attention to the gun man and not enough to the fat man. "East," I replied.
He tried to stare me down. I smiled and he shifted his gaze to Harry, rolling his chew around in his mouth.
He forced his big horse forward a few steps so that its head was on Blackie's off side, its nose about a foot from my right knee. "Where did you come from?" he asked, bringing his gaze back to me.
"West," I replied.
He spit tobacco juice at Blackie's cheek.
Blackie was a good horse but he wouldn't put up with very much foolishness, even from me. He was also one of the fastest animals I ever rode. It seemed that stream of tobacco juice was still in the air when he turned and bit the fat man's horse on the shoulder.
Sixteen hundred pounds of horse squealed and jumped to the left, blood flowing down its leg from a three inch gash. The horse ridden by the young gunfighter, at least six hundred pounds lighter than the fat man's horse, was too close and no match for the bigger animal. Rider and horse hit the ground hard.
The mustang grunted, squealed, and jumped to its feet. The rider's left foot was caught in the stirrup as the horse lunged away from another collision.
The fat man put his hand on his pistol and turned his gaze from the donnybrook back to me. His hand froze when he found my Colt was already in my hand. I didn't point it at him, just let it hang there, muzzle down, my forearm resting on the horn. Very slowly he put his right hand back on top of his left which rested on his own saddle horn.
At the same time, the third rider shook out a loop and turned his mount toward the bucking mustang and dragging rider. Within a hundred feet he had the animal roped. It stood on the end of the lariat with legs spread wide and vibrated. The bundle attached to the stirrup didn't move.
"I'm Portis Martin," the fat man said.
I was doing my best to maintain a calm, this-is-an-everyday-thing appearance, but was in fact having a tough time with that. Not only had I been approached poorly in a generally friendly land, but one of my best friends had just been spit on.
"Henry James," I responded. "Some folks call me Hank, but you can call me Mr. James." Without taking my eyes from him, I inclined my head to indicate my saddle partner. "This here is Mr. Gilmore."
You can take a look at the cover by going to www.StrategicBookPublishing.com/Homesteader
or simply click on the link to the right.