RopingSaddleACS4x6Happy 2014! January is here and I’ve already had a busy seven days experimenting with my yearly goals and working out the kinks out of the annual business plan. Over the past few days I’ve added about 2200 new words to various stories in my personal collection. While none of these stories are quite finished, I wanted to make sure that you all had something interesting to read today.

I’ve pulled an excerpt from this week’s writing project tentatively entitled “The Soul Wrangler”. This short story takes place in a futuristic Texas where things are not quite what they seem. Fair warning, this is one of my darker tales. Once it’s finished, it will be included in Musings to help add complexity to the overall collection. I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

Dust rode through the quiet dirt roads toward the rusty steeple of the church just southwest of his position. No parishioners were worshiping this Sunday evening and Duff took that as a very bad sign.

The newcomer rounded a corner onto Main Street and spied another person coming down the lane from the opposite end. Astride a well-conditioned brute and dressed in commercial-spun clothing, the other seemed out of place against his shabby surroundings. Duff pulled the wide brim of his faded brown hat lower on his head as the stranger approached, semi-silhouetted against the setting sun.

“You’re one o’ them Soul Wranglers, ain’t ya?” the dandy called.

Dust shifted in his saddle, but gave no reply.

“You on the hunt?”

Dust nodded slowly as he took in the other’s long trench coat and wiry frame—a perfect combination for hiding guns or a TNT vest.

“Not to worry, neighbor. I mean ya no harm. Soul Wranglers are scarce ’round these parts, but I figured one’d come soon as word leaked out about our preacher eatin’ a bullet from the wrong end of his gun.”

Dust frowned. “Suicide?”

“That’s what the medical examiner said. Anyway I’ve been taking care of the congregation on Sunday mornings until a new preacher arrives. Name’s Bill, by the way. Bill Chambers.” The stranger held out his grimy hand—an action that revealed two holstered pistols and a badge.

Dust slowly smiled and reached across the space between the two steeds to shake the sheriff’s outstretched hand with his own. “Dustin Hitchens. Everybody calls me Dust. You got a trough somewhere for my mount here?” He patted the sweaty neck of his riding beast. The dun colored cyber-brute whinnied and stamped the street with an impatient hoof, sending curls of dust into the air.

“Come on over to my place. We’ll get yer horse and you watered well.”

“Much obliged, Sheriff Chambers.” Dust touched the brim of his hat with a calloused finger before following the other rider down River’s Main Street.

“How long ya been traveling?” Bill asked as he steered his mare toward the left and down a side street.

“About a month,” Dust answered, absently rubbing the graying scruff of his chin. He badly needed a bath and a shave. “Made my way down from Old Sante Fe; had to cut a bit East and then swing back West when my quarry flew the coup.”

“Performed hex exorcisms along that way, did ya?” Bill casually glanced behind him—a little too casually. Dust’s eyes narrowed, but Bill seemed not to notice. “I’ve heard tell about some strange voodoo magic practiced by the locals up near Amarillo. I figure they get themselves in trouble with the good Lord weekly and with demons daily.”

Dust watched the back of Bill’s head and squinted speculatively. His reception in various settlements was always mixed depending on the education levels of those he encountered. Most of the common folk took it for granted that he was some strange mix of priest, marshal, and mercenary. More learned persons knew better and gave him a wide berth accordingly. Bill’s curious friendliness, therefore, puzzled and unnerved him. Duff made a mental note to be wary of this man who knew too much to be so friendly.

As I mentioned earlier, I hope to include “The Soul Wrangle” in the Musings short story collection once it’s finished. Also, I have good news! A date has been set for the book’s publication. I can’t make that information public just yet, but I can tell you that Musings will be released within the next six months, so be watching for it!

Until our next meeting, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

🙂 Alycia

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia C. Cooke and/or Alycia Christine Sears with love, fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!