Monday, November 7, 2011

Chila Woychik's Christmas Campfire Companion

Chila Woychik (pronounced "Sheila Y-check") has nearly a hundred magazine articles printed or reprinted in both print and online media. She also has a soon-to-be-released book of funky lyric essays pertaining to life, nature, and mostly, writing, called On Being A Rat. She’s currently working on a book of linked stories, and a first urban fantasy novel.

She lives in Iowa with her husband of almost 30 years, and they have one grown son. Port Yonder Press is her indie invention.

You can find her at She also has an author page on Facebook, and on Twitter she hangs out at both the Chila Woychik page and the Port Yonder Press page, but usually the former moreso than the latter.

Christmas Campfire Companion

Stories from 14 of today’s top western writers.

Join L. J. Washburn, Troy D. Smith, Frank Roderus, Tim Champlin, Larry D. Sweazy, Robert Vaughan, Douglas Hirt, Dusty Richards, Kerry Newcomb, Matthew P. Mayo, Robert Randisi, Rod Miller, James Reasoner, and Terry Burns in this heartwarming collection of Christmas stories in a western setting.

Here's an excerpt of Christmas Campfire Companion:

Blue Norther
L.J. Washburn

Folks had started to say there was nothing between the Panhandle and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence, and as Lucas Hallam rode north into the wind, he could sure believe it. He hunkered down inside the sheepskin coat and lowered his head so the brim of his hat shielded his face a little better, but it still felt like somebody was carving at his cheeks with a frozen knife.

The day had started out pleasantly, even warm for this time of year. But about noon, Hallam had seen the dark blue line on the horizon and known what was coming. He would have found a place to wait out the storm, but here in the empty vastness of West Texas, there just wasn’t any such place. Turning and running in front of the blue norther wouldn’t do any good, either. The closest town to the south was the one he had left that morning, and the bad weather would overtake him before he could reach it.

So his only chance was to keep heading north and hope he came across an isolated ranch house or tiny crossroads settlement where he could find shelter for the night.

During the afternoon the north wind swept down across the Texas plains. Hallam felt it first as a vagrant puff of cooler air against his face. “Here it comes, old hoss,” he said to his mount. Sure enough, less than ten minutes later the icy gusts arrived in full force, pounding against him like fists. The horse tried to turn away, but Hallam’s firm grip on the reins kept him moving forward.

The horse was a big, strong, rangy buckskin. It took a horse like that to carry a man as big as Lucas Hallam, who topped six feet by several inches and packed well over two hundred pounds on his powerful frame. A few years earlier, when he was just a kid, he had been tall but skinny.

Then his father had been gunned down, and Hallam had strapped on a Colt and set out to find the men responsible for the killing. The years since then had strengthened him, hardened him, taught him how to survive in a dangerous land filled with even more dangerous men. By the time his quest was finished, he had a reputation as a gunman himself. Most of the things he got blamed for, he hadn’t done, but that didn’t stop people from thinking the worst of him.

Like this very morning, when the marshal of the settlement where he’d spent the night showed up at dawn, poked the twin barrels of a shotgun in Hallam’s face, and ordered him to get out of town. Hallam had come close to shooting the fool before he realized what was going on, but he’d managed to control the impulse. He had never yet shot a lawman and didn’t intend to. His father had been a Texas Ranger before retiring to start a ranch and raise a family, so Lucas had a strong respect for lawmen.

The wind grew stronger and colder until it howled constantly. Later, probably tonight, it would bring snow or sleet with it, and by morning the prairie would be covered with ice. That wouldn’t really matter to him, Hallam thought as his teeth chattered together. By morning, he and his mount would either be inside somewhere warm and dry . . . or they’d be dead, frozen stiff.

The sky was still filled with weak gray light. Hallam spotted something ahead of him and stiffened in the saddle. Not shelter. People. Men on horseback, clustered around what was probably the only tree in these parts, a bare, twisted cottonwood about a hundred yards ahead of him. He hadn’t noticed it until now because he had his head lowered against the wind. Hallam wondered what in blazes the men were doing.

He got his answer a moment later when they shifted their horses, forming a circle around one rider who remained where he was, directly underneath one of the cottonwood’s branches.

Hallam was looking at a hanging about to happen.

Two thoughts occurred to him. Somebody had to want that poor hombre dead awful bad to go to the trouble of hanging him in weather like this. The other thought was that where there were people, there had to be a house, a house where he could get in out of the cold.

Hallam kept riding. With the wind out of the north, the men didn’t hear him coming until he was practically on top of them. Then several of them twisted around sharply in their saddles and raised the rifles they held.

Hallam held up a hand. “Hold it!” he called over the wind. “I’m not lookin’ for trouble, just a place to get in out of the storm!”

“Who’re you?” one of the men demanded. He was short and stocky, with a white beard and long, tangled white hair under the hat crammed down on his head.

“Name’s Lucas,” Hallam replied. “I don’t mean to interrupt.” He nodded toward the man with the hangrope around his neck. “You just go on with what you’re—”

He stopped short as he realized the fella they were about to hang wasn’t a man at all, but rather a boy, no more than fifteen or sixteen years old.

The bearded man must have noticed Hallam’s reaction to the realization. “You got a problem with this?” he asked harshly.

“What did the boy do?”

“I don’t see as how that’s any of your business, mister.”

Hallam glanced around at the other men. They were a hard-bitten bunch, no doubt about it, but they looked like cowpunchers, not outlaws or killers. From the way they watched the white-bearded man, waiting to see what he would do, Hallam figured he was the boss, likely the owner of the brand they rode for.

“You’re right,” Hallam said. “It’s none of my business. I’m just curious, that’s all. Seems to me like a fella that young would have a hard time gettin’ into enough trouble to deserve bein’ strung up.”

The bearded man snorted. “That just shows what you know. He’s a rustler. He stole one of my cows, and he’s gonna hang for it!”

One cow?”

“One’s rustlin’, same as a hundred.”

Legally, maybe that was true, Hallam thought. He looked at the youngster, who wasn’t wearing a coat or hat and was trembling violently from fear or the cold or both.

“Anyway, his family’s rustled plenty,” White-beard went on. “This’ll be a lesson to ’em, findin’ the boy like this on Christmas Eve.”

Hallam frowned. “Christmas Eve?”

“Yeah. Don’t you even know what day it is, saddle tramp?”

Truth to tell, Hallam hadn’t known until just now that it was December 24th. He’d been aware that it was late in the year, but he didn’t pay much attention to the calendar these days. To a drifter like him, the date didn’t really mean much.

“You can’t hang a man on Christmas Eve,” he heard himself saying. “You sure can’t hang a boy then.”

White-beard sneered at him. “There’s one of you and half a dozen of us. You really think you can stop us?”

Hallam didn’t answer the question directly. Instead he said, “The name that goes with Lucas is Hallam.”

He could tell by the way several of the cowboys stiffened in their saddles that they had heard of him. One of them spoke up, saying, “He’s a gunfighter, Mr. Bradford.”

“I don’t care!” Bradford said. “He couldn’t kill all six of us if he was John Wesley Hardin his own self!”

“You’re right,” Hallam acknowledged with a tight smile. “But I can kill you, Bradford, and at least two of your men before the rest of them put me down. You ready to die over one cow? Are they?”

Here's the book trailer for Christmas Campfire Companion:

Chila is giving away a copy of Christmas Campfire Companion. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.


CarlybirdK said...

This book sounds like a wonder addition to my Christmas library. Thank you.

Judy said...

My 92 year old Father would love this book! He was just released from the hospital yesterday after experiencing some chest pains. He likes to read. The cover of the book is beautiful. That is what he would notice first!

Thanks for the chance to win!


lgm52 said...

Sounds like a great story...Thanks for the chance to win it!

Patsy said...

Love that cover! That alone just makes me want to read it.


Roanna said...

Christmas stories. I love them. Please enter me.

Thank you!

PriviesAndPrims said...

Wow, now I have to know what happens. You left us "hanging"!

priviesandprims at yahoo dot com

Marianne said...

Thanks, Esther...i would love to win this book.


ann said...

this sounds like a great Christmas story I would enjoy reading.

amhengst at verizon dot net

Linda said...

What a great idea for a book! A cup of hot chocolate by a warm campfire and a good book! That's my kind of relaxing!


Joy Hannabass said...

Wow this book sounds amazing...I love Christmas books too! Thanks for offering this one!

Linda Kish said...

I would love to read this book.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Amanda Stephan said...

Yep, like I said, this book really draws my attention just from the cover. I know you're not supposed to judge a book that way, but I just want to reach out and read this!
Thank you for the opportunity to win!

apple blossom said...

love to be entered thanks

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Joy Hannabass said...

Would love to read this one! Thanks for the giveaway!

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