Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A little fantasy from a Western novelist

Many readers know I live in Japan, even though I write Westerns under the pen name of Chuck Tyrell, I also write under my own name, Charles T. Whipple.

Not long after I came to Japan, lo those many years ago, I heard of a medieval king called Taira no Masakado. He lived in the 10th century and was a descendent of the emperors. At one point, he rebelled against the rule of the Fujiwara and declared himself the rightful ruler of the nation. In the end, he was captured and beheaded, and his head was displayed on the Gokumon Gate in Heian Kyo (present-day Kyoto). Legend has it that his eyes never closed and one day his head flew away on a column of fire, soared through the sky to land on a mound of clam shells along Tokyo Bay.

There is an obelisk to Masakado in Tokyo, very close to the Imperial palace moat. His restless spirit is blamed for much. People sicken, they bring small cups of sake to appease Masakado's spirit. Company loses money, the president brings flowers to Masakado's obelisk.

The magical power of this ancient king long mesmerized me. So I have undertaken a rewriting of history . . . from the Masacado Scrolls.

The world in which I placed Masacado (his youth name is Koziro) is much like ancient Japan. Amaterasu, the sun goddess, rules all things light and right. Lord Yami rules all things dark, and there is a constant struggle between the two for domination of the land.

All the ancient races and creatures exist in Masacado's world. Some assist his quest, others work for Lord Yami.

A cadre of people with special talents gather around Masacado to aid in his quest for the sacred talismans that will allow him to wrest the eight kingdoms of Kantoh from the clutches of the dastardly Toh. Ryo, Masacado's older sister, is The Seeker. Her special gift of reikan will help in the search. Kaku, the Kage warrior, is her Shielder, called by ancient sadame bonds. Noritsugu is The Bearer, who is responsible to carry Masacado's bride to his home of Awa Omote.

The first four novellas of the Masacado Scrolls are now bound into a single volume. Naturally, it is called Volume One.

Give me your questions and comments, and from those people I will choose three (3) to receive an ebook of The Masacado Scrolls, Volume One. FREE, of course.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Six-guns and Slay Bells, Story 14

The Hungry Trail

You never quite get a name, but there’s a man talking. Telling a story of Valeda. But the way he tells it makes you wonder. You have to think of all the people who took the trail west. All the sacrifices they made. All they did and didn’t get for their efforts.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if all those who died along the trail were really just food for its twisted entrails? If all the oxen and horses and mules that perished in the barren waste just made the trail more difficult to cross? If there was a purpose? A way? An idea? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

And ghosts. Can they deal with the trail, or is the trail dealing with them? Using them, perhaps. Making them play with . . . well, with . . . you know. Don’t you?

It might be good to keep in mind that the trail is especially voracious around Christmas time. For some reason. Yes. For a reason.

MARTHAYN PELEGRIMAS, also known as Christine Matthews, has been writing professionally for more than twenty years. Her western short stories have appeared in the anthologies TIN STAR (Berkley, 2000), BOOT HILL (Forge, 2001), GUNS OF THE WEST (2001), DESPERADOS (2001), THE FUNERAL OF TANNER MOODY (2004) and TEXAS RANGERS (2004). Her historical novel, ON THE STRENGTH OF WINGS, was published in July of 2001.

A book of stories for all seasons, Six-guns and Slay Bells is billed as a Christmas collection, but don't you believe it. Its stories will enhance and entertain on any night you wish to read them. But keep the guard dog close, just in case the creeps come calling.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Six-guns and Slay Bells, Story 13

The Toys

You all have heard of the Johnson County war, right? Tom Horn was famous for the things he did up there, things the Wyoming Stock Growers Association knew of and cottoned to. You know, right?

But have you heard of Harlan Stoddard? Gunman. Assassin. Bushwacker. The man who killed at least two small-time ranchers from hiding and without warning. The man who took the trouble to shoot the head off a doll that one of the men was carrying home for his little daughter.

If he just hadn’t shot up that doll.

But how’d he know the doll had it in for him. How’d he know the tin soldiers drum would rattle out his death march. How could he know? I mean, toys. Trinkets. Things that kids like to make believe with.

The day came when Harlan Stoddard rued his cold-blooded destruction of toys. Yes he did. But how? What revenge could porcelain dolls exact on a full-grown man? How much fear can a little toy drum beat into a man’s skull.

Wouldn’t you like to know?

JAMES J. GRIFFIN is a lifelong horseman, western enthusiast, and amateur historian of the Texas Rangers. He is the author of a series of Texas Ranger novels, and his extensive collection of Texas Ranger artifacts is now part of the permanent collections of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco. To learn more about Jim, visit his website at

Yes, I know Christmas has come and gone. But these stories are too good to be crowded into a corner and hogtied by a seasonal title. They're creepy enough to save you a lot of air conditioning money come summer.