Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Man in Black --PG-13 excerpt

The Man in Black by Gwynn Morgan or www/

Blurb: Haunted by grief and guilt over the death of her domineering father, Melissa comes to Arizona  to visit her BFF Joanne Castle. They attend a mock gunfight enactment in the old mining town of Graveyard Gulch and she is entranced by the man who plays the sheriff, somberly dressed all in black compared to the gaudy garb of most of the other actors.
          Lawton finds himself drawn to the slender, shy and fragile seeming young woman but feels he is far too old for her and also fears the old enemy who has reemerged into his life may seek revenge through her, especially if Lawton seems to favor her. Soon however this mutual enemy closes in and he recognizes he can best protect Melissa by keeping her close. That may save her life but who can save her from him?


Only the man in black seemed real. He moved among the rest, lining some up, dismissing others, collecting dropped gun belts and stacking rifles beside the barn. As he approached one man who wore the elaborate charro outfit of a traditional Mexican rancher, he stooped to pick up a pistol. The Charro seized the moment. Snatching a wicked-looking knife from his boot, he lunged.

Melissa joined the crowd in a collective gasp. The blade glinted in the sun, transcribing a bright arc toward the black-covered back. At the last possible moment, the man in black twisted deftly aside. He whirled to flip the shorter but heavier man, sending him sprawling. Jolted from the Charro’s grasp, the knife flew across the corral.

Melissa gasped again. Shock held her immobile as the blade flashed through the air, settling into the dust not two feet from her toes. Catching her trembling lip in her teeth, she dared a downward glance. It had to be only a prop, but still, she shivered.

The Charro rolled into a deep puddle made by water dripping from the horse trough and came up spitting mud. The man in black ignored him, crossed the dusty yard in a loose-limbed amble and knelt to retrieve the knife. As he rose slowly to his feet, he looked straight at Melissa.

She found herself entrapped by the strangest and fiercest eyes she’d ever seen. They were a pale silvery-gray, hard and pure as the desert sun’s light. Time stopped as she burned and froze. Her head spun and her knees threatened to buckle, but she could not look away nor escape the impaling intensity of those incredible eyes.

She saw the rest of his face in a blur: sun darkened skin drawn taut over angular bones, nose a strong wedge dividing its planes, lips narrow and finely drawn, and a maze of squint lines feathering away from the outer corners of those compelling eyes. A slightly drooping ash-brown moustache bracketed his mouth.

Finally, he touched the brim of his black hat, gave a slight nod, and turned away. Melissa let her breath out in a rush. It couldn’t have been more than seconds, but she felt as if half a day had elapsed. For an instant, a dream-like image danced in the back of her mind, this time more pleasant than fearful, only to fade away before she could grasp it.

The last part of the little drama unfolded at a distance, almost beyond Melissa’s perception. All she could see was the one man’s face. Though weathered, lived-in and too hard to be considered handsome, she had never seen a face with so much strength of character. His eyes utterly arrested her. Icy in color, they nonetheless burned, branding their way across her body and into her mind. Her skin prickled as if seared by their touch. She suddenly understood how cold could burn.

Another visit from Gwynn

Ha, I stole a march on Deirdre today and decided to talk about another one of my books! Since we have to use the same computer and actually the same fingers to type it can be tricky at times. She is much more brash and pushy than I am so I have to catch a time when she is goofing off and get my licks in!

Today I want to talk about another of my 'westerns' published by Amber Quill. The Man in Black took shape over quite a long period of time and was one of the three completed books I had when I started publishing.. I began  working on it before I retired from my civil service job with the U.S. Army at Fort Huachuca and it made the rounds of many critique partners and RWA sponsored contests while I was learning the trade of romance writing. It even got a few 'good' rejection letters with suggestions from editors but I finally realized it was not going to make the pages of a Silhouette or Harlequin paperback even though a lot of readers and a few published authors liked it very much and encouraged me.

So eventually after it grew layers and plot twists from some of the feedback I received, I decided to go the small independent press and e-book route with it. The lead characters were inspired by a real life couple that I knew who were active in some of the reenactment groups that performed in Tombstone but they diverged increasingly from that inspiration as the book developed until I am sure neither would recognize themselves at all, not even a hint! I finally changed the names but the setting is very much my old home area in the San Pedro Valley in Cochise County, Arizona. Graveyard Gulch is a mixture of Tombstone and Bisbee and the rest is just about how it really is.

It was my late husband's favorite of the books I had completed before he passed away and will always be special to me.Originally I sold it to Novel Books Inc, a small firm that folded about two years after the contract was signed. I worked with a friend, Linnea Sinclair (now a noted sci fi romance author),  on the first cover and still like it very well because it conveyed a lot of the idea behind the story. Here is that first cover. I visualized Sam Elliot as Lawton and the heroine a more sober and timid version of Sandra Bullock--at that time she was a kick butt madcap in most of her roles but the coloring was perfect for Melissa. Of course I am a sunset freak so...sunsets and happy endings became almost my tag line.

By the time NBI ceased to be, Deirdre had gotten her first couple of tales published at Amber Quill. When I sought a new home for Back to Tomorrow and also The Man in Black, I naturally turned to them and was very appreciative that they agreed to reissue two previously published works. They have ceased to do this now but at the time were helpful to orphaned authors since many of the founders had been in that situation themselves. All the AQ covers are done by the senior partner and artistic director, Trace Zabar. He did a great cover for this book too and it works very well, but I have a slight soft spot for the original. I'll feature the current cover and an excerpt in my next post.