Sneak Preview: The Pooka’s Day

The release of Fell Beasts and Fair is now two weeks away! I’m about 2/3 of the way through the anthology, and every story has been a winner. You can pre-order your (electronic) copy today—see my previous post for details.

To whet your appetite, here’s a snippet from my contribution, “The Pooka’s Day.”


Danny stopped cold as the end of the woman’s walking stick poked him in the chest.

“We don’t want any trouble,” she whispered. “You can just move along.”

He should have heard them coming—five of them all told, but he hadn’t been paying attention. Too much on his mind. He just charged across the cow path on his way back to the creek, and there they were.

As it was, he barely had time to throw on a decent husk. He was pretty sure they didn’t notice, though, when his ears and nose shortened to more human proportions and the glow faded from his amber eyes.

Whoever these people were, their leader meant business. One of the others sucked in a labored breath. Two more, children, whimpered in the dark.

“M-miss Claudia?” a different woman whispered, “Lige… he ain’t looking so good.” This woman was helping the only man in the group to stand. Danny sniffed the air. Amid the soil and grass and growing things was the unmistakable iron scent of blood. He spied a ripped and bloody trouser leg.

The first woman’s eyes blazed. She and her friends were dressed in dingy, patched clothes barely fit for a brownie. That and their dark skin was all he could make out.

He raised his hands. “Whatever you say, ma’am.” He wasn’t in a mood for any mischief. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. He still had three more farms to case before daybreak. But he didn’t have time for anybody else’s mischief. Not tonight. Not with him liable to show up at any minute.

“And not one word, you hear?” The rumble in her voice demanded Danny’s full cooperation.

He was about to say something when he caught the sound of dogs barking.

“Lord have mercy!” the other woman gasped. The younger child, no more than four years old, started to cry, but his big sister slapped a hand across his mouth.

The first woman spun and raised her stick horizontal to the ground.

“Head for the woods,” she ordered. “Go!”

Four shadows stumbled past.

“Those are my woods!” Danny’s throat went dry. Something settled in the pit of his stomach. He was fairly sure he shut the door…

“You want to make something of it, mister?”

“You don’t understand. You ain’t got no business poking around over there. It could be… dangerous.”

“It’s about to be dangerous right here, now that those slave catchers have caught up with us.”

Slave catchers! It suddenly made sense. He’d stumbled upon a group of runaways. Seems he’d overheard something about a new law the deathlings had passed. Folks at the Crawford farm were talking about it. Even in a free state like Indiana, runaway slaves could be rounded up and sent back down south.

There was no way they were going without a fight.

Two hound dogs burst into view. The woman, Claudia, held out her walking stick with her right hand and angled her body away from them. She let a worn leather satchel slip off her shoulder to the ground. Danny dropped to a crouch.

“If you know what’s good for you, mister, you’ll stay nice and still till I say differently.”



The dogs bounded forward.

The woman uttered a word. The nearest dog flew backward with a yelp.

Magic! Danny stood mystified as the woman trained her walking stick on the second dog. She blasted it just as she had the first one.

“You’re a witch?”

“Later,” she said. She held her walking stick upright. “They’re coming.”

Claudia was right; Danny heard the sound of approaching footsteps.

She began to chant a singsong tune.

“You find ‘em, boys?” a man said. He lumbered into view on the edge of the corn field—big and swaggering, with a shotgun in one hand and a lantern in the other. “Chief? Banjo? Here, boys!”

Something told Danny Chief and Banjo were taking the rest of the night off.

Two more shadows joined the first. The woman kept chanting. Her voice was barely audible beneath the cold autumn breeze.

The three men trudged forward a few more steps, but slowly. The closer they came, the slower they got.

The first man toppled to his knees by the time he came even with the first of the unconscious dogs. The second brought his shotgun to his shoulder… but wobbled backward with the effort. A minute later, all three lay on the grass, mumbling and snoring.

“That was some mighty slick conjuring,” Danny said.

“Not now,” the woman hissed. She had spun around to see where her friends had gone. She gave an exasperated sigh. “They were right there!” she said.

“Uh oh!” Danny said. The others were nowhere to be seen—and Danny had a sinking feeling he knew where they had gone.


Fell Beasts and Fair

Fell Beasts and Fair is an anthology of noblebright fantasy short stories now available for pre-order. I’m honored to have been chosen as a contributor. My story, “The Pooka’s Day,” describes how Danny and Claudia first met. You don’t need to know anything about Into the Wonder to follow the plot, however.

You can check out the official announcement on the Spring Song Press website. Here’s the blurb:

In this exciting collection of noblebright fantasy, fresh new fantasy voices and award-winning authors explore grief and hope, sacrifice and heroism. Rediscover the best aspect of classic fantasy – the noblebright ideals that made heroes heroic, even when the world grew dark around them.

Thieves, dragons, nightmares, fairy warriors, pookas, enchanted bear-men, and other magical creatures will delight you in these unique tales of possibility, courage, and hope.

This anthology features stories from:

Leslie J. Anderson, C.A. Barrett, Terri Bruce, Aaron DaMommio, M.C. Dwyer, Anthony Eichenlaub, Francesca Forrest, Chloe Garner, W.R. Gingell, Lora Gray, Kelly A. Harmon, Tom Howard, Rollin Jewett, Tom Jolly, Samuel Marzioli, Amanda Nargi, Aimee Ogden, Beth Powers, Darrell J. Pursiful, Charles D. Shell, April Steenburgh, Alena Sullivan, and Troy Tang.

Edited by Robert McCowen and C. J. Brightley.

I’ve been reading my advance review copy, and so far every story has been a winner. You probably know that isn’t always the case with an anthology! Thanks to C. J. Brightley (gotta love that name!) for seeing fit to include my little contribution.
And finally, here are the links to get the ebook in your preferred format:
The paperback can’t be preordered on the regular retailers, but it should go live a few days after the ebook becomes available on March 20.

Some Ships Were Never Meant to Sail, But…

So my biggest fans remain my daughter and her friends. I’m actually cool with that; writing is a hobby for me, not a retirement plan. I’m pleased to have been able to bond with Rebecca through my writing projects, and I’m pleased that my books have given her a way to bond with some of her classmates. With the first copies of Oathbreaker heading our way, interest in my novels is on an uptick in Macon, Georgia.

Recently (okay, yesterday) a new friend was first initiated into the Wonder through a gift of book 1, Children of Pride. Somewhere in an early chapter, she made the same reading leap that another friend had made a year or so before in “shipping” the protagonist, Taylor, with her soon-to-be mentor, Danny. This is fascinating to me:

  • Danny is explicitly described (while impersonating a teenager) as socially awkward, not too bright, and not very good looking.
  • In that scene, Taylor explicitly hopes Danny isn’t developing a crush on her.
  • A chapter or two later, it is revealed that Danny is actually over 200 years old and not at all interested in Taylor.

Apparently even that last part isn’t enough to dissuade them from hoping for this ship to sail. (One girl said, “That’s not as bad as Edward and Bella.” Rebecca said, “Don’t you dare compare my father’s novels to that book!”)

I choose to believe the utterly unforeseen Taylor-Danny ship says something positive about the quality of friends my daughter has chosen to associate with. They are the kind of people who look beyond outward appearances. They are the kind of people who aren’t ready to write anybody off too soon.

And I’m actually cool with that, too.

Oathbeaker Now Available on Kindle!

Here’s how it starts:

* * *

Taylor scowled at Bledrus Dingle. For his part, the spriggan didn’t seem to notice. He looked at her from across the table and shoveled another bite of turkey into his misshapen mouth.

The Route 80 Diner in Manchester, Kentucky was a quaint little place. The décor might have been described as Early Modern Basketball: photos of local high school teams going back thirty years or more adorned the walls, along with donated jerseys and some autographed pictures of people Taylor would probably recognize if she cared anything at all about sports.

The place was mostly empty. Besides Taylor and her repulsive dinner date, the only other people in the tiny restaurant were a couple of county sheriff’s deputies and a homeless guy the manager had taken pity on. It was Thanksgiving, and most people were enjoying the holiday at home with their loved ones.

Taylor was sharing the holiday with her personal jailer, who had glamoured himself to look like an angel-faced ten- year-old. But Taylor had no trouble discerning his true, hideous appearance behind the illusion.

“You’re enjoying this,” she said.

Dingle’s face revealed nothing. “I’m just doing my job.” Taylor scowled at him and poked at her mashed potatoes.

The waitress approached them and asked if they’d like dessert. Her nametag said “Wanita.”

“None for me,” Taylor said.

“Do you have pecan pie?” the spriggan said. Even his voice sounded like a kid’s. Most spriggans didn’t have that much skill. “Is that okay, Mom?” Wanita asked Taylor. Taylor wasn’t any good at the kind of husks Dingle could project to mask his faery nature, but over the last thirty-six hours, she’d had plenty of practice honing her power of suggestion. Nobody in the diner questioned that she could be somebody’s mom. As far as they were concerned, she was just an extremely young-looking thirty-something woman.

“Fine,” Taylor said.

“You ought to have some, too,” Dingle said. Sweet treats enhanced faery magic. William Matthews thought it might have something to do with boosting the level of serotonin in the brain.

“I’m good.”

“Please, Mom?” Dingle said. Beneath his husk, he furrowed his brows: a subtle threat?

Taylor sighed. “Do you have pumpkin?” If she were home, she’d be digging into a slice of her mom’s pumpkin pie about now.

“One pumpkin pie and one pecan, coming right up,” Wanita said.

As soon as she left the table, Dingle said, “You’ve got to keep up your reserves. Mrs. Hellebore wants to see what you can do.”

“Yes, she’s made that quite obvious,” Taylor snapped.

“Like I said, I’m just doing my job.”

“Uh huh,” Taylor said. “I go through these stupid tests, showing you how good I am at glamours. You watch me and report to Mara on my progress. And along the way, you make sure I don’t do anything tricky.” She wondered, though, if anyone was watching Dingle.

* * *

Now go see how it ends. I know you want to.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Into the Wonder is nearly complete. I need to finish off the CreateSpace process and see the physical proof (issues with the cover last time), and then Oathbreaker will go live in both paperback and Kindle editions!

If you’ve enjoyed my content on this website, may I ask a favor of you? Would you be willing to (1) purchase one of the earlier novels (start at book one, Children of Pride, or move on to the first book you haven’t read)—ebook or paperback, it doesn’t matter to me—(2) read it, and (3) leave a review at

I’d certainly appreciate your support. (And I wouldn’t stop you from sharing the links with your Twitter and Facebook friends…)


Cover Reveal: Oathbreaker

The covers of the Into the Wonder novels have “grown up” with the story, from something more “kid-friendly” (one person described them “old-school Nancy Drew”) to something a bit more serious and “mature.” This was approximately 87.3% by accident.

At any rate, here is the cover of Oathbreaker, which will become available later this month at

With Oathbreaker, the story of Taylor Smart comes to a fitting end. It has been a fun ride. I’ve learned a lot and may have accidentally taken on a new hobby that I find highly enjoyable.

What’s next? I’ve got a few ideas kicking around in my head, so don’t be surprised if something new pops up either in this space or somewhere else.