Category Archives: The Avenging Angel

Buffalo Woman Excerpt – The Hunt

I have not posted an excerpt from any of my books in a while, especially Buffalo Woman. So, here we go.

This scene is from when Angel, Ethan’s adopted daughter from The Avenging Angel, manages to wrangle a trip buffalo hunting in January on the Great Planes with Grand Duke Alexei of Russia during his tour of America. The scene takes place after the Grand Duke and other celebrities on the trip have gotten in their hunts, and Angel finally gets her chance. Come along for a wild ride.

*****

We had not gone more than a couple of miles, and I spied about a hundred buffalo off to our right down on the plain of a wide shallow valley. Alexei had rejoined his group but also saw it and pointed to it. “Angelique, now is your chance,” he yelled.

Angel had, of course, taken notice and was looking at me with a pleading expression on her face. “Now, it’s your turn,” I said to her.

The rest of the party were having a good time laughing and drinking champagne when Angel and I broke off from the group and headed for the herd. We still had ample daylight to make a kill and get it skinned and the meat packed if we wasted no time. When he saw us galloping off after the buffalo, Alexei cheered us on and called a halt to the march to watch. He then called for binoculars to have a better view of the action out on the plain.

Angel was ahead of me some two lengths and driving her mount as hard as she could. We thundered down the gentle slope of the hill to the sound of pounding hooves and the rhythmic panting of our ponies. The herd stirred into motion at the sight of the two riders coming hard down on them. They broke into a loping gallop at first and then a hard run as we came up alongside of them. The thunderous sound of over 400 hooves pounding the earth into submission is truly awesome and sent shivers up my spine.

Angel was still ahead of me some two lengths and had already drawn the Sharps from its scabbard, having picked out an old bull along the right side and near the front of the herd as her trophy. I would rather she had selected one near the rear of the herd, but she was committed, and there was no turning back at that point. Like Alexei had experienced, her mount was not terribly interested in getting up close to the galloping buffalo, but she urged him on. She would get him within about four or five feet and bring the rifle to her shoulder while holding the reins in her teeth and managing the horse with her knees. As she was about to shoot, her pony pulled away and spoiled her shot.

I was close behind and slightly off to her side away from the buffalo. I kept looking back to be sure the tail end of the herd did not close in around us from behind. If they did and one of us should fall, he would be turned into a prairie pancake by the hooves of many massive buffalo running over him—or her.

She spurred her reluctant pony in closer once more and, with wide-eyed trepidation, he did as she demanded. And as before, just as she was about to shoot, his fear overcame her urging, and he reared and pulled away nearly throwing Angel. My heart went into my throat as Angel struggled to regain control and spur him to catch up with her buffalo.

This could not go on much longer. We were losing daylight. I saw only one solution. “Hang on! I’m coming!” I yelled as I urged my pony faster and caught up with Angel. As she forced her mount in closer, I pulled up against the other side of her and, using my horse, forced hers to move closer to the animals he was so fearful of. Protesting, he moved in tighter to the buffalo, but Angel and I were jammed against each other and riding full tilt beside a herd of panicked buffalo.

She was then within two or three feet of her selected bull, and we could both feel and smell their hot breath turned into steam as they huffed to expel and fill their lungs with another breath of life. “Take the shot!” I yelled.

Where she found the strength to do so with that heavy rifle I will never know, but managing the horse with the reins in her left hand, she threw the Sharps to her shoulder, cradled its forearm in her crook of her left elbow, and pointed the rifle at the big bull’s massive chest and pulled the trigger.

BAM!

And the huge beast pitched forward. As his forelegs buckled under him, his rear legs went skyward, and he rolled onto his right side—tumbling right into the legs of Angel’s horse. And down went her horse in a tangled mess of buffalo, horse, and Angel rolling across the prairie.

I barely remained mounted as my horse stumbled awkwardly away from the crash. I reined in my mount to a sliding stop and looked back only to see my worse fears being realized. The tail end of that stampeding buffalo herd had closed in around us from behind and was coming on fast.

Still in possession of the Sharps, Angel rolled free and struggled to her feet. Looking back, she saw what I had just seen. With a terrified expression on her face, she spun around and looked frantically for me. “POPPA!”

*****

You’ll have to get the book to find out what happens next.

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UPDATE: The Avenging Angel Is Live!

B3 AA Cover Master1The Avenging Angel, Book Three of the Catahoula Chronicles Series is live. Meanwhile, here is a short excerpt from the book.

Set up: Ethan has been seeking revenge for three murders and has been harassing those responsible who also happen to be members of a recently formed secret organization, the Ku Klux Klan. What he is doing is dangerous, and he ends up getting shot. Wounded, he can’t go home because Rachel is unaware of his nightly activities, so he goes to the only other person he can trust.

*****

I heard a scream behind me and turned to look. One of my pursuers had hit a low hanging branch and was unhorsed. His companion stopped to help him but decided to take one last shot at me first.

The ball hit me in my left thigh just below the hip, but I could not stop to examine the extent of my wound and kept pressing hard until I came out on a road and turned south. Fearing some were pursuing, I pressed on until I was sure I was not being followed. I reined in Pepper and looked behind me and saw no one, nor did I hear any sounds of hooves. Assuming I had lost my pursuers, I turned Pepper to get more moonlight on my leg and found an entry wound but no exit. The ball was still inside—and had to come out. I couldn’t go back to Catahoula for help. I would be discovered. There was only one other place to go, so I tied a bandana around my wound to stem the flow of blood, pulled off my mask and hood and stuffed them in my haversack, and headed for Big Cypress.

The house was in complete darkness when I arrived at Big Cypress sometime around three in the morning. I knew Laura used the front bedroom on the right side and eased out of the saddle to gather a few pebbles from the drive. Not wishing to awaken the servants or her father, I tossed a pebble against her window. Nothing happened. I realized I still had old Zeke’s hat on and tossed it under the bushes beside the house. I was just about to toss another pebble at the window when I saw a face peering down at me—Laura.

“Ethan? What are you doing here?”

“I need help, Laura. I’ve been shot.”

“My goodness! I’ll be right down.”

“But don’t wake anyone, please.”

A few moments later, she appeared in her dressing gown at the front door and let me in. “You needn’t worry. Father is asleep in his bedroom. How bad is it?”

“Just bad enough I can’t go home like this.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Get the ball out and dress it.”

She helped me into the butler’s pantry in the back and lit a lamp. “Drop your trousers, then hop up on the table and let me have a look.”

I slipped my belt and loosed my fly to let my trousers down to my knees and painfully climbed onto the table.

“I’ll save you the embarrassment of making you remove your unmentionables.” With that she grabbed them by the bullet hole and ripped the leg open. “Hmmm, childhood, Virginia three years ago and now this? Seems like you are dropping your trousers for me a lot more than maybe you should, and yet we never…”

“That’s enough, Laura.”

“Just a little levity for the situation,” she replied as she wiped away the blood. “Nice clean hole. No fabric from the trousers or your drawers seems to be in the hole, so maybe you can avoid infection.”

She retrieved a bottle of brandy from the shelf and liberally doused a cloth with it. “This’ll burn a little, and you may want to take a few shots before I start probing for the ball.”

“You’ve done this before?”

“Kind of late to be asking that question, seeing as I have you on my operating table, so to speak. But to answer your question, yes I have—at least I watched the surgeons remove more than a few balls in that hospital in Richmond I found you in back in ‘63.”

I took a long pull of the brandy. “That seems like an eternity ago.”

“Yes it does,” she replied as she felt around the outside of the wound with her fingers. “You may be in luck and get to avoid my oh-so-delicate probing with my finger. The ball is right under the skin about two inches from the hole.”

I looked where she was pointing and did see a slight protrusion under the skin. “How’re you going to get it out?”

She pulled open a drawer in the server and retrieved a sharp knife and a stone. As she went to lapping the knife on the stone, she said, “Cut it out. I suggest you have another pull on that bottle.”

*****

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The Awakening

Book 2 1Excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years

In that September of 1862, the giddy victories of the year before had given way to the soul-numbing realities of a brutal and bloody war. Beginning with the Valley Campaign in the early spring and continuing all summer through to Sharpsburg, what had seemed glorious the year before became for all a dreaded experience that promised only more pain, suffering, and death. Those who believed this war would be over quickly came face-to-face with the sobering realization that it would likely go on for a long while and cost many more lives.

Thomas Paine once said of another war, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” When a man’s soul is tested by the worst of what life can throw at him, especially when he looks death in the face, he becomes contemplative of his mortality. Unnoticed by all but a very few, a change was taking place; an “awakening” was slowly spreading over the army. It would begin in the Army of Northern Virginia and eventually spread to all of the armies of the Confederacy. It would profoundly impact the lives of the many soldiers touched by it, and it would eventually be felt elsewhere in the nation long after the war ended.

*****

In An Eternity of Four Years an entire chapter is dedicated to an event that took place in the Army of Northern Virginia during the war. Chapter 16 is titled “The Awakening” and focuses on two points. The first is the spiritual awakening that took place during the war and the beginning of Ethan’s spiritual recovery from his lapses in judgment and bouts of self-pity over losing Rachel.

As the above excerpt from Chapter 16 of An Eternity of Four Years suggests, the “sobering realization” of what the war was about (seeing the elephant), and when men “look death in the face,” they do indeed become “contemplative” of their mortality. Such a man then becomes much more open to the calling of God.

Both sides of the conflict experienced this awakening but in different ways. The North had many Catholics in its ranks and the intensity of the awakening was not as strong as in the southern armies, which had far more evangelical Protestant members. It is estimated that over 100,000 men came to Christ during this period in the South, while some 100,000 to 200,000 did so in the much larger northern army. That represents about 10% of all who served. Most of those new Christians who survived the war went home taking their new faith with them to become active members of local churches and evangelists for Christ. Thus what they experienced during the war was felt long after it by those they touched with the Gospel message.

I have already discussed how Major General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson was a great man of faith. So were many other southern leaders, including General Robert E. Lee. While Lincoln’s government did encourage spiritual matters in the military, even providing for chaplains in each regiment, the southern government was not as supportive until later in the war. People like Lee, Jackson, and Leonidus Polk, the “fighting bishop,” strongly encouraged the regiments to see to the spiritual needs of the soldiers.

Local churches back home were encouraged to send “spiritual men” to act as chaplains in the various regiments. Because of the awakening, there was a serious need for Bibles and New Testaments for the soldiers to read. The South didn’t have the resources to meet these printing needs, and the blockaded ports seriously limited their ability to import religious material from Europe. Local churches and Bible societies attempted to fill the gap and print religious tracts, especially those giving the Gospel. Even some northern Bible societies sent tracts south.

Chaplains and men referred to as “colporters”* would pass out what Bibles and tracts they could get, but they never had enough to meet the need. When the colporter showed up in camp, they would be swamped by the men clamoring for tracts. A simple tract on the Gospel would be cherished by the man who had it as if it were the most expensive Bible with gilded pages, reading it over and over until he memorized it.

B3 AA Cover Master1In The Avenging Angel, I introduced a new character who helps Ethan in his efforts against the Klan. He is known only as “Brother Samuel.” He was in the army with Ethan and seriously wounded at First Manassas. After that Brother Samuel became a colporter with the various regiments from Louisiana. He not only supplies Ethan with information he needs in his role as The Avenging Angel, but he also acts as Ethan’s spiritual conscience, sometimes gently chastising him for what he is doing—taking revenge on the murderers of his friends.

God often uses terrible human events to further the Gospel message and call people to Christ. The American Civil War was one such time when He spoke to men through their suffering. If only we would listen more.

*Also rendered colporteur from the French for a peddler of books, usually religious material such as Bibles and religious tracts.

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The Hog Hunt

Here is another scene from The Avenging Angel, Book Three of the series. In Book One, The Last Day of Forever, there is another hog hunting scene. This one takes place ten years after that one. They have just arrived on the scene where the Catahoula dogs have a hog cornered. Little Zeke has not been seen since The Last Day of Forever. Theo is a new character in The Avenging Angel.

*****

Catahoula Map

We dismounted, and I retrieved two short ropes from my saddlebags. “You flip and I sit? Or I flip and you sit?” I asked Little Zeke.

He looked down at that hog, which was one about medium size, less than two hundred pounds.

Before he could answer, Theo did. “I’ll flip, you two old men take it easy and sit.”

We both looked at the grinning Theo like he might have had two heads.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“That puny little piglet ain’t no match for me. I’ll flip.”

Zeke frowned. “You ever done this before?”

“Plenty. We gonna jawbone about it or shall we get to it before he hurts one of the dogs?”

I looked at Little Zeke with my face wrinkled in a frown. He shrugged and said, “The boy says he can do it. Let him have at it, I say.”

“Very well, Theo. The pleasure is yours.”

Theo bowed deeply. “Thank you. You have the ropes ready?”

I held them up. “At your service, sir.”

“Then let’s get after it.”

“You coming?” I asked my father.

Pernell threw a leg over the pommel of his saddle and leaned forward. “This looks like it could get interesting, and I’m too old to outrun a hog, besides it could get a bit crowded down there with all of us. I’ll watch from up here.”

I tipped my hat. “Have it your way, but you’ll miss all the fun.”

“I doubt that,” he muttered under his breath.

We made our way down the side of the low ridge to the bottom. The hog was more interested in the dogs, and we tried to approach him from his rear to keep him from taking any interest in us. That didn’t last long. With Theo leading, Zeke and I following close behind, we were within about fifteen feet of the hog, when he suddenly turned on the two dogs on his left side and spotted us. He kind of lost all interest in the dogs then and came after us with the dogs in hot pursuit.

It was time to find a tree.

Zeke went one way. I went another, and the hog stayed on Theo. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone run so fast as that boy did that morning. Theo rounded a tree and reversed course on the hog. It took the pig but a second to figure out what had happened and reverse course, himself. Theo lit out, but the hog was gaining.

The boy headed for a tree with a branch hanging about six feet off the ground, and the hog was but three or four feet behind him—and catching up. I figured Theo would grab that branch and swing up into the safety of the tree, but he did something I have never seen before. He did grab the branch, but, hanging by his hands, he swung up and over the branch as the hog passed under and slid to a stop, confused and looking for Theo.

Completing his orbit of the branch, the boy landed right behind the hog, and pretty as you please, he reached down and grabbed him by his hocks, lifted his rear end off the ground, and flipped him on his side.

I looked at Zeke, and he looked at me. Neither of us could believe what we had just seen.

Theo still holding the squealing hog by his hocks and keeping him down on its side. “You two old men just going to stand there, or are you goin’ to come an’ help me?”

“Comin’, boss,” I replied as we rushed over and sat down on the pig’s side, pinning it. I handed Theo the ropes, and he hogtied it.

Zeke and I stood, and Theo stepped back, and with his hands on his hips he looked at the subdued hog with a smile of triumph on his face. “And that, gentlemen, is how you flip a pig.”

Zeke looked at me and shook his head. “In all the times we chased hogs together, I ain’t never seen you do a trick like that.”

I put my arm around Theo’s shoulders and grinned at Zeke. “I taught him everything he knows.”

His brow wrinkled, Theo looked up at me. “Even in your prime, you couldn’t have done that.”

I playfully slapped him behind his head. “Hush, boy, or you’ll be sleeping with the pig tonight.”

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Meet Theo — Excerpt from The Avenging Angel

B3 AA Cover Master1Book 3 of the Catahoula Chronicles Series is moving right along. Still planning on a summer publish date. The Avenging Angel takes place in 1866, a year after the war and during one of the most troubling periods in American history, Reconstruction.

Some old characters you haven’t seen in a while will be returning, but there will also be some new characters introduced in The Avenging Angel. In this excerpt you will meet one, Theogene Henri Leboeuf. Theo will have a profound impact on the lives of Rachel and Ethan.

*****

 Scene setup: Ethan is having a confrontational discussion with his neighbor, Melvin Norgood, and one of his sons, Owen, when they are interrupted by a third son, Billy.

“I caught him, Paw! I caught the little thief!” Billy yelled as he stopped at the bottom of the front steps. The kid he had by the arm was filthy dirty, his long hair was matted and tangled, and his clothing was mostly rags. Issuing forth from his mouth was a constant stream of curses that would make a sailor blush, mostly directed at Billy, but the old man got his share.

Norgood and Owen descended the steps, and I followed.

“Got ya this time!” yelled Norgood, who by then had lost interest in me. “I’ll teach you a lesson you’ll long remember. Billy, beat him good and make sure he never comes back here.”

I looked at Norgood. “You serious?”

“Hell yes! That kid has been a pain in my rear all summer now.” He turned back to Billy. “Beat him, I said! Beat him good and proper!”

“Wait! What did the boy do?”

Norgood turned and glared at me. “He’s a thief and ruffian. He steals from my kitchen, steals my chickens, and breaks my windows. And I’m sick of him.” He turned back to Billy. “What are you waiting for? Whip him, I told ya!”

Still holding the squirming boy with one hand, Billy unbuckled his belt with the other. And the boy wailed all the louder.

“Oh, no you don’t,” I said as I marched over and grabbed the boy and pulled him away from Billy. “You will not strike this child!”

He looked at me. “You gonna stop me?” And with that, to make his point with me, he backhanded the kid and sent him sprawling on the ground. As Billy turned back to me, I was ready and planted my fist in his face and sent him sprawling on the ground beside the boy.

The boy jumped to his feet and wiped a spot of blood from his split lip. Then he hauled back and kicked Billy in the shin.

Melvin went to draw his pistol.

“Not a good idea, Norgood,” I said as I drew my own Colt and pointed it at his head. “You aren’t fast enough to live through this.”

“And neither are you, Ethan,” said Owen with his Colt pointed at me.

I looked around at the three Norgoods. Billy was still struggling to stand, but the two other Norgoods had cocked pistols pointing in my direction. “Looks like we have a standoff, boys,” I said with a smile

“Looks like it,” said Norgood, “and I’m going to end this—for now. Ethan, I think you had better leave. And take that boy with you, and make sure he never shows up on my property again. If he does, I’ll kill him.”

Still holding my Colt on Norgood, I said to the kid, “Over by my horse, boy, and move it!”

“Yes, sir,” he replied before he stuck his tongue out at Norgood.

I pointed the pistol skyward and let the hammer down to half cock as I backed away toward Pepper and the boy. Norwood lowered his own and gestured to Owen to do the same.

Pistol holstered, I swung up into the saddle and, once situated, leaned over and extended my hand to the boy. He got the message and grabbed my arm, and I pulled him up behind me.

“You settled?”

“Yes, sir,” he replied as he put his arms around my waist to hold on.

“Good day to you, Norgood,” I said with a tip of my hat. He did not smile and made no gesture towards me.

I touched Pepper’s flanks with my heels, and we headed down Norgood’s drive for the road.

“What’s your name, boy?”

He seemed to hesitate before answering. “Theogene Henri Leboeuf, but you can just call me Theo.”

“Any relation to Corporal Antoine Leboeuf with the 1st Louisiana Brigade? From up around Jena?”

“He was my paw, and our farm was near Jena. You knew him?”

“I did. Wounded at Sharpsburg. Lost a leg and an arm as I recall.”

“That, he did. He come home that winter only half a man to find  my mother dead of pneumonia by just a week. That was a bad winter—a very bad time.”

“What happened after that?”

“He died ‘bout a year later. Kinda hard to manage a mule with only one leg and one arm. I tried to help, but it weren’t enough. The farm work finished off what the war started.”

*****

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The Avenging Angel

I have been asked if I plan to write a third book in the Catahoula Series. I do and am working on it now.

It begins in July of 1866, a year after An Eternity of Four Years ends, and carries the reader into that period after the War Between the States called “Reconstruction.” In many respects, Reconstruction was as bad as the war was for the South. Racial tensions ran extremely high and often exploded into violence as the former “rulers” (the planters) attempted to regain some semblance of control over the shattered southern economy and their former servants (the freedmen). The antebellum system of authority was broken by the war and emancipation. In its place, a new system emerged that more resembled chaos. As one would expect, the planters didn’t take well to the change.

Some northern interests wanted the South severely punished for what they had done and saw Reconstruction as a chance to extract that punishment. Southern culture and traditions were turned upside down, and southerners struggled to deal with the changes while attempting to make a living (avoid starving), pay taxes on unproductive property, and rebuild the South.

Out of the chaos came organizations like the Klan and later The White League and the Knights of the White Camellia along with all the violence, mostly against African Americans, that was part of that.

The working title for Book 3 is The Avenging Angel (which is subject to change). It tells the story of Rachel and Ethan attempting to build their lives together in the middle of all this. Along with the familiar characters Ethan, Rachel, Analee, and Pernell, you will meet a few new ones, and see a couple of old ones come back into the story you have not seen since Book 1. Ever wonder what happened to Brandy and Zeke after they ran away?

It is a work in progress that I have only outlined and written a few chapters. A lot of research needs to be done, and story details remain to be worked out, written, and edited before it will be published. I hate date setting, because I am always wrong, but I hope to have it published by the summer of 2016. I will do the best I can, but don’t hold me to that.

Meanwhile, here is the opening scene from chapter 1 of The Avenging Angel to wet your whistle.

*****

From Rachel‘s Diary

28 July 1866

I knew, by the stern expression on my husband’s face, that he was nearing the limits of his patience. Listening to Mr. Waldo T. Pettigrew expound upon how he had been sent by Washington to repair the broken South and lead it from its wayward rebellious ways back into the Union fold. In his tone, you could hear the man’s utter contempt for people like us, southerners, whom he considered to be beneath his station, and that was not sitting well with Ethan.

Four years of war tends to change a man, and I knew it had affected my husband in ways I was yet to fully understand, but I was sure his tolerance level for carpetbaggers, like this one come to bring us the way, the truth, and the light of his enlightened existence, was much diminished.

“Can you swim?” Ethan asked him in a dry, matter-of-fact manner.

Upon hearing that, I frowned as I looked over the rail of the riverboat at the swirling, muddy waters of the Mississippi passing below. I knew exactly what he had in mind to do. “Ethan, please don’t.”

As this pompous ass pontificated on his considerable swimming ability, being as he was from the Atlantic Coast, Ethan noted my pleading expression punctuated by my arched eyebrow expressing my displeasure, a trick I learned from his mother. Thus admonished, he tipped his hat to Mr. Pettigrew and excused himself from his company.

I lingered for a moment when Pettigrew inquired of me, “Why did he suddenly leave? Did I say something that offended him?”

I smiled. “I believe he found your attitude toward the South offensive, as did I. And I would advise you to temper your speech during your stay in Louisiana—unless you fancy wearing tar and feathers.”

Mr. Pettigrew’s shocked expression indicated he clearly understood my meaning. “But—why did he ask if I could swim?”

“Because, you, sir, were about two seconds away from him grabbing you by the scruff of your skinny neck and the seat of your finely tailored trousers and tossing you overboard. You are not treading water right now, only because I asked him not to do it.”

His expression went blank as he took a deep breath and sighed before replying barely above a hoarse, stuttering whisper, “I–I lied. I can’t swim.”

I shrugged. “Then I just saved your life.”

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