eSpec Books Author Reading Series

At the microphone

In my post last month about Buboni-Virtual Con 2020, I shared a reading from my story “The Sun Worshiper” which was part of the eSpec Books Author Reading Series. This has been a cool service offered by eSpec Books, giving authors an opportunity to showcase their works during the COVID-19 pandemic when we can’t get out and about. The excerpt I shared in the earlier post was from a story in an anthology published by eSpec Books called AfterPunk. The story features steampunk stories in the afterlife. My story in the anthology tells about a Victorian mummy unwrapping party gone wrong. Reading the story was a lot of fun. Several years ago, I’d created audio book editions of my Space Pirates’ Legacy series. Unfortunately, those audiobooks are no longer available, but I dusted off the equipment for this reading. I had so much fun, I hoped for a chance to do some more reading.

As it turns out, eSpec Books hasn’t limited readings to books they’ve published. They invited me to read some of my other material as well. In this video, I read an excerpt from my novel Firebrandt’s Legacy.

In the novel, Ellison Firebrandt fights the good fight for Earth. Under a letter of marque, he raids the ships of Earth’s opponents, slowing down their progress and ability to compete with the home system. On the planet Epsilon Indi 2, he rescues a woman named Suki Mori from a drug lord, only to find she isn’t so happy about living a pirate’s life. However, when the captain finds a new engine that will make him the most successful pirate of all, Suki is the only one who can make it work. Now Firebrandt must find a way to keep his crew fed and his ship supplied while relying on a woman who barely trusts him and while every government in the galaxy hunts him to get the engine back! You can learn more about the novel at:

I also share an excerpt from Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires.

The excerpt I read is actually the very first scene I wrote for the novel, though it actually appears between parts one and two.

This novel tells the story of three vampires. Three lives. Three stories intertwined.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampire, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampire sets her free, and then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampires, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampires as the world descends into the chaos of the Dark Ages. Learn more about Dragon’s Fall at:

Hopefully this has just whetted your appetite for more readings. You can find many more reading by visiting the eSpec Books blog at: They have lots of good books as well and several of their authors have appeared in books and magazines I’ve edited. You can find my stories in Gaslight and Grimm as well as AfterPunk.

Return to Penny Dreadful

In my post looking at the vampires who appeared in the first season of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, I mentioned that I had started the second season. I’ve finished the season, which overall, I enjoyed more than the first.

Our heroes, Vanessa Ives, Ethan Chandler, Sir Malcolm Murray, Sembene, and Dr. Victor Frankenstein, are all back. This time our villains prove not to be vampires but a coven of witches. What’s more, these witches, called nightcomers in the Penny Dreadful mythos, are servants of Lucifer with superhuman powers. In this season, Brona Croft is reincarnated by Dr. Frankenstein as Lily Frankenstein, meant as the monster’s bride but possessing a mind of her own. One of my favorite characters this season was Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle played by Sir Simon Russel Beale who was introduced in season 1 but had a nice character arc in season 2.

Reeve Carney is back this season as Dorian Grey. Mostly his story takes place in the background of season 2’s main action, but it looks like they set him up to take a bigger role in the third season. We’ll have to see what happens with that story.

Although Penny Dreadful’s second season still features many characters from classic literature, they seem freed from their origins to tell their own story this season. In many ways this season felt more like a nineteenth century penny dreadful come to life. Although the series does have better writing than a real life penny dreadful like say, Varney the Vampyre, there were moments it did make baffling turns. Some of the characters’ choices seemed more designed to serve plot than make sense for what people would do when faced with these real situations. Why, for example, do the characters often go to battle the monsters at night when its known that’s when the monsters are strongest?

Despite that, there are a lot of clever plot turns and some good character moments in this season. We learn more about Sir Malcolm Murray and his relationship with his estranged wife. We also learn more about Ethan Chandler. Danny Sapani’s Sembene actually gets stuff to do. For me the standout was Billy Piper’s Lily Frankenstein. Her arc takes her from apparently lost waif betrothed to Frankenstein’s monster to woman in control of her destiny.

I’ve been watching Penny Dreadful while working on new editions of my horror novels, Dragon’s Fall, Vampires of the Scarlet Order and The Astronomer’s Crypt. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Penny Dreadful is that it doesn’t feel too bound by linear storytelling. One episode I thought was interesting in the current season involved Vanessa recounting how she was mentored by a witch. The episode didn’t bother to pop back into the present day, it just had a simple prologue of Vanessa starting her story, then the rest of the story just happened in the series’ past.

This approach reinforced a decision I’ve made for the new edition of Vampires of the Scarlet Order. The original edition was told in very linear order. Events that happened in 1491 happened first. Events that happened in the sixteenth century happened next. That noted, the story’s main conflict actually happens in the present day. So, I’ve decided the new edition will start in the present day and the chapters set in the past will be told when it’s natural for characters in the story to tell them. You can get a sneak peak at the new first chapter at:

Of course, the buy links still point to the original novel as released in 2008, but that will change soon after the rights revert to me next month.

The Department of Curiosities

Today, I would like to welcome my friend Karen J. Carlisle to the blog. Our works have appeared together in three different steampunk anthologies: Denizens of Steam, Den of Antiquity, and DeadSteam: A Chilling Collection of Dreadpunk Tales. Karen has a new novel coming out tomorrow and she has agreed to share an excerpt from it. So, without further ado, I will turn the floor over to Karen.

Good morning everyone and thank you to David for allowing me to guest post on his blog.

So far on this blog tour, I’ve written about why The Department of Curiosities was written, introduced our heroine, Tillie Meriwether, and other characters and exposed some background on one of the many competing groups.I’ve chatted about mechanicals (gadgets), shared book trailers and a new short story and The Department’s Australian connection.

The Department of Curiosities is a tale of adventure, a heroine, a mad scientist, traitors and secrets. All for the good of the Empire.

Buckle up and get ready for the adventure…

Now there’s just one more day until my new book goes live on 22nd May. It’s also Tillie Meriwether’s birthday! (I chose Tillie’s birthday in the first draft – and had forgotten the date. Imagine my surprise when I realised it was the week of the intended release date. So why not make them the same day?)

The Department of Curiosities will be released 22nd May, 2019.

Watch the book trailers:  or on Karen’s YouTube channel:

If you want to follow the rest of The Department of Curiosities book launch blog tour, check out the links on Karen’s blog post:

You can pre-order your eBook copy of The Department of Curiosities (for special price of US$2.99) at:

or sign up for Karen’s newsletter at:

Follow Karen on:

Or support Karen on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!):

Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, was published in 2015 and her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.

Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.

She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.

Holiday Owls

Since today is Christmas Eve, I thought it would be fitting to share a short excerpt from my novel Owl Dance. In this scene, Ramon and Fatemeh find themselves on the run with little money in San Francisco. It’s a simple moment that gets to the heart of the season. Keep reading after the segment to learn about a special event later this week.

Ramon returned to the room he shared with Fatemeh late on Christmas Eve. Fatemeh noticed he wore a new pair of glasses. Like his old pair, they were round and gave his face an owlish appearance. He held his hands behind his back. Fatemeh stood and wrapped her arms around Ramon, but was surprised when he didn’t return the embrace. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.” Ramon’s voice held a sly edge.

“It looks like you were successful in finding new glasses.”

 Ramon smiled.“Yes, these are even better than the old ones.” He shrugged. “The optometrist thinks my eyes have been getting a little worse.”

“That’s too bad.” Fatemeh returned to her chair.

“However, I did have enough money left over to get you something.” He brought his arms out from behind his back. In his hand was a narrow box, about eight inches long. “Merry Christmas!” Just then he pulled the box back. “Do Bahá’ís celebrate Christmas?”

“Not normally,”said Fatemeh, “but as I’ve said, we respect the teachings of Jesus. I’m happy to celebrate his birth with you, Ramon.” She held out her hand and Ramon handed her the box. She opened it and saw a necklace. Adorning it was a hand-carved wooden bead in the shape of an owl.

“I bought the necklace. I carved the owl myself, though.”

“It’s very sweet.” Fatemeh smiled and put the necklace on. She stood and kissed Ramon, but held his hands as they parted. “How is our money doing?”

“I think I can find a job, but it’s not going to pay much,” admitted Ramon. “We could stay here about six more days and I could keep looking, or we could move on.”

“I like the idea of moving on.” Fatemeh returned to her chair. “I really didn’t like the reception we had on our first day and it’s loud here, even late at night.” She looked out the window at a saloon across the street.

“Where would you like to go?”

She pulled out a map and set it on the small table between the room’s two chairs. “What do you know about Los Angeles?”

“It’s a small town. There’s some farms and some industrial work.” Ramon shrugged.

“What does Los Angeles mean?”

“It means ‘belonging to the angels,’ The name’s short for something like town of the queen of angels.”

“Sounds lovely. Can we leave tomorrow?”

Ramon laughed.“Tomorrow’s Christmas. I doubt the trains are even running. What about the next day?”

“That sounds perfect.” Fatemeh put her hand to the new necklace. “I’m afraid I didn’t get you a present. What else do people do on Christmas?”

“We sing songs.” Ramon sat in the empty chair next to Fatemeh.

“Teach me a Christmas song worthy of the angels, Ramon.”

I hope you enjoyed this little snippet of Owl Dance. On Friday this week, Lynn Moorer of KTAL Radio in Las Cruces will interview me about the fourth book of the series, Owl Riders. If you’re in Las Cruces, you can listen from 12:30-1:00pm mountain standard time by tuning in to 101.5 FM on your radio dial. If you aren’t in Las Cruces, or just don’t listen to shows on the radio, you can stream the show at I had a great time earlier this year when I spoke to Lynn about The Brazen Shark. Be sure to mark your calendars so you can catch the show live!

End Game and New Beginnings

I’m currently working on the final chapters of my collection Firebrandt’s Legacy. This book collects space pirate stories that have appeared in numerous anthologies over the years alongside several new stories. The whole collection is an arc of related stories, so the book may be read as an episodic novel. I’ve been sharing the new and revised stories with my Patreon subscribers since September 2017.

Based on my current outline, I have about three stories to go to bring events up to the beginning of my novel The Pirates of Sufiro and to bring the collection up to the length I want. I will release the first story of the final three to my Patreon subscribers on Thursday, July 26.

My approach to Patreon has been pretty simple. I only have one tier and it only costs $1.00 per month to subscribe. Of course, patrons are welcome to pay more per month if they feel sufficiently moved by my work to support me at a higher level. My first goal is to use this money to pay the costs associated with publishing Firebrandt’s Legacy. My second goal is to print new editions of the other related books including The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth. Patreon support has already helped me publish the new edition of The Solar Sea, which is a prequel to my Space Pirates’ Legacy series that tells the story of how humans became a space faring society. I shared a free download of the ebook with all my Patreon subscribers. Patreon support also helps support this blog and helps support my travel to conventions where I give both writing and science presentations.

For the duration of Firebrandt’s Legacy, I have been posting at least one new or revised story to the site per month along with a “Behind the Scenes” look at where the story first appeared (if it had been previously published) and what influenced me to write the story. Of course, I plan to share a free download of the complete ebook to all my Patreon subscribers when it’s complete.

Now that I’m about to finish Firebrandt’s Legacy, I’m thinking about the best way to share my progress revising The Pirates of Sufiro for a new edition. I expect that I’ll be heavily revising this novel for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that this was my very first novel and I’ve learned a lot since I first published it. I’ve also received a lot of feedback on the novel over the years and plan to take those comments into account. Sharing “reedited chapters” may not sound like much value to anyone who has already read the book and people may wonder why they should subscribe instead of just buying a cheap used copy of the book.

My current plan is that when I start The Pirates of Sufiro, instead of doing the “Behind the Scenes” segments, I’ll share the chapter as it appeared in the most recent edition, perhaps along with some notes about the inspirations and the origins of the ideas. I’ll wait a couple of weeks, then present the revised chapter, so people can see what I’m doing with this edit. In both cases, I’m delighted for people to comment on what I’m doing as the project progresses.

To prepare for this transition, I’ve recorded a brief intro video and posted it to my Patreon site. Also, I have made two of the Firebrandt’s Legacy stories/chapters available for anyone to read whether or not they’re a patron. They’re the first chapter, “For a Job Well Done”, and Chapter Twelve, “Calamari Rodeo.” I encourage you to drop over to the site, watch the intro video and read the two free stories. If you like these characters, please sign on as a patron. My Patreon site is:

One last thing before signing off. Speaking of used copies of The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth, Hadrosaur Productions is running an auction at eBay for the last complete set of the LBF/Hadrosaur editions of the Old Star Saga in their stock. Drop by and place a bid at eBay!

Owl Riders Cover Reveal

This week, I have a special treat for all you patient readers. I’m proud to reveal the cover of Clockwork Legion Book Four, Owl Riders. I think Laura Givens did an outstanding job. Hope you like it as well. What’s the book about? Scroll past the cover to learn more.

When Fatemeh Karimi married Ramon Morales, she neglected to share one small detail. She was already betrothed to a merchant named Hamid Farzan. She had no interest in Hamid or an arranged marriage. She wanted to live life on her own terms. Eight years after marrying Ramon, she assumed Hamid had long forgotten about her, as she had him.

Settled in New Orleans, Ramon works as an attorney, Fatemeh owns a pharmacy, and they’re proud parents of a precocious daughter. Out west, Apaches armed with powerful battle wagons have captured Fort Bowie and threaten Tucson. Businessmen with an interest in a peaceful solution ask Ramon to come west and settle the conflict. Meanwhile Hamid arrives in New Orleans and he has not forgotten Fatemeh or her vows to him.

Now, the famed Owl Riders must assemble once again to reunite Ramon and Fatemeh so they can tame the Wild West.

The book is currently scheduled for release this spring.

While you’re waiting for the book’s release, you can read a preview of the first chapter at: Enjoy!

777 Challenge

Steve Moore, author of Royal America, and fellow Denizen of the Scribbler’s Den on The Steampunk Empire challenged me to play the 777 game. In this game, we go to page seven of a work in progress, scroll down seven lines and post the next seven sentences.


Since Steve is a fellow steampunk writer, I chose The Brazen Shark which has recently been handed off to the tender mercies of my editor:

    She took a sip, then dug into the hearty breakfast.

    Ramon gathered up the second plate and cup, but felt uncomfortable and lazy as he returned to the chair. Ramon had been many things including a sheriff and a ranch hand. He enjoyed working, but Captain Cisneros insisted Ramon and Fatemeh were guests and must enjoy their time together. Despite his lethargy, Ramon’s stomach rumbled. He gulped down breakfast and sopped up the leftover egg yolks and chile with a tortilla.

    “Slow down,” said Fatemeh.

As it turns out, I have two works in progress. My horror novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt is also in the hands of its editor. Here are seven lines to tease you about that novel as well!

    They progressed slowly and steadily about two miles until they came to a bridge over a place called Nana’s ravine. The car ahead hit a patch of ice and spun out of control. Mike’s mouth dropped open as the car slammed into the guardrail just beyond the bridge and toppled over the side.

    As Mike reached the bridge, he felt the wheels of his own car start to skid. He geared the engine down low and eased his foot onto the brakes. The car fishtailed across the bridge, but he maintained control. Once on the other side, he pulled up to the broken guardrail.

These challenges typically ask you to tag more people, but I like to leave these open-ended. Especially in this case I know a lot people who have already been tagged. If you’d like to play, just drop a link to your blog in comments and I’ll update the post with up to the first seven who respond.

Update: Challenge accepted! I tag:

  1. Maxwell Grantley
  2. Karen J. Carlisle
  3. Noelle Hardy, The Empress

Owl Dance Excerpt 7: Dreaming of Airships

In this final excerpt from Owl Dance, General Gorloff goes to one of the great Russian scientists, Dmitri Mendeleev. If you’ve taken a chemistry class, you likely remember Mendeleev as the creator of the Periodic Table. However, he was also interested in airships. What if he had the resources to actually build one?

General Alexander Gorloff strode down a corridor at St. Petersburg University and knocked on a door.

“Come in,” called a distracted voice on the other side.

The general opened the door and was astonished to see a desk surrounded by books, some open, others closed—all in some kind of disarray. The desk itself was covered by papers. On the wall was a black chalkboard covered in incomprehensible scribbles that—as far as the general could tell—were some combination of hieroglyphs and a foreign language. None of this astonished the general as much as the man who sat behind the desk. His head was covered with a wild mop of gray-streaked, black hair. A bushy beard hid most of the man’s face.

The general introduced himself. “You are Mendeleev?”

“Yes, yes,” said the scientist, impatiently without rising from his chair. “What can I do for you, General?”

The general turned and closed the door. “I wish to discuss a matter of some secrecy that is important to our Czar.”

At this, Mendeleev turned his attention fully to Gorloff. “Go on.”

“In my duties as military attaché to the United States of America, it has come to my attention that the young country poses a threat to the Russian Empire.”

Mendeleev scowled. “This does not surprise me. It is a country of cowboys and loose cannons who have no respect for intellectual pursuits. The country has been around for a century and I cannot name one decent university or important literary work that has come from there.”

“I have heard some critics speak highly of a novel called Moby-Dick,” ventured the general.

The scientist waved his hand as though subjected to a bad smell. “A long-winded book about a madman hunting a whale? It has no value. Poe showed some promise, but he was obviously influenced by the French.”

“Obviously,” muttered the general in agreement. He sat down and decided to steer the conversation back to the topic at hand. “While in America, I also learned that there are vast reserves of gold and oil in Alaska,” continued Gorloff.

Mendeleev’s disdainful frown turned into a smug grin–although the general had some difficulty telling that through the thick beard. “I knew it was a mistake for the Czar to sell Alaska.”

“America poses a threat to Russia and the stability of the whole world,” declared the general. “I ask you, as a patriot, will you come to the aid of our country?”

“I am loyal to the Czar, General Gorloff. He has a good heart. He showed that when he freed the serfs. Ask what you will.” Mendeleev folded his arms across his chest, his eyes intent.

“We need a way to move quickly to the United States without being stopped by their navy,” explained the general. “We also need a way to deploy troops and heavy artillery across large sections of western North America.”

Mendeleev nodded and thought for several minutes. His head fell forward and for a moment, the general thought the scientist had fallen asleep. Just as he was leaning forward to tap Mendeleev on the shoulder, the scientist leapt to his feet and erased a section of the chalkboard. He drew a large ovoid shape. Next, he added boxes with something like ship propellers attached. Underneath, he drew a bigger box. “Imagine if you will, a ship of the air,” said Mendeleev, pointing at his drawing. “We build a steel frame. Inside will be great bags that we fill with a gas that’s lighter than air—say hydrogen.” He pointed to the boxes and propellers. “It will be light enough that small steam engines can be deployed to move it through the air. Underneath, like a balloon’s gondola, is a pilothouse. Within the steel frame structure, we can place troops, artillery, whatever you like.”

The general stared at the drawing wide-eyed. “Will such a thing really work?”

“I have been working on the problem of such a craft for the past few years.” As Mendeleev spoke, he continued sketching on the board, showing the airship from underneath. “The only thing that has kept me from building it is funding. If the Czar is serious about having such a war machine, I believe I can design it and we can build a small fleet.”

“This year?” Gorloff shook his head in wonder.

“If enough resources are dedicated to the problem.” Mendeleev stepped aside. The silhouette of an owl adorned his new sketch.

“Why do you adorn your airship with an owl?”

“My ancestors are Kalmyk, General Gorloff. A story has been passed down through the generations that an owl saved Ghengis Khan’s life. To us, owls have long been talismans of great power. These ships will be like great owls, expanding the Russian empire. We will guide the Americans to a more civilized age.”

Gorloff nodded satisfied. “Begin work designing these ships. Send word to the palace and let us know what materials and personnel you need. We will make sure they are sent.” The general reached out and shook Mendeleev’s hand. “It was a delight meeting you, Professor Mendeleev.”

“The pleasure was mine.”

Back out in the hall, the general heard Legion in the back of his mind. What a fascinating individual.

“You did well.” Gorloff’s voice was barely above a whisper. He didn’t want to attract attention as he walked down the hall. “It seems Professor Mendeleev responded quite well to the visions you showed him.”

We showed Professor Mendeleev no visions.

“What?!” The general shouted, then looked around quickly to make sure that no one had heard him. “What do you mean you showed him no visions?”

We didn’t need to. Those were Mendeleev’s own ideas.

First off, a big thank you for reading the excerpts today and helping to make this launch of Owl Dance a real success. I hope you have enjoyed the excerpts. You can find out more information about the novel, or buy a copy, at the following:

Owl Dance Excerpt 6: Kid Antrim

In this excerpt, Fatemeh Karimi rides to Silver City, New Mexico along with a reporter named Luther Duncan. Ramon has been jailed unjustly in Socorro and Fatemeh and Duncan are trying to solicit the help of a deputy sheriff named Dan Tucker. While there, they meet a teenage troublemaker.

“Who’s your prisoner?” Duncan looked toward the cell.

“Calls himself Kid Antrim.” Tucker chuckled to himself. “He’s been making a real pain in the ass of himself over at Fort Grant in Arizona.” He blushed and tipped his hat at Fatemeh. “Pardon my language, ma’am. They say he keeps stealing their supplies out from under them. His mother lives here in Silver City and I finally caught him this morning.”

“You wouldn’t o’ caught me if it wasn’t for this ankle,” grumbled the kid.

Fatemeh stood and stepped over to the cell. “What happened to your ankle?”

“Sprained it, hopping onto a horse.” The kid looked as his feet, apparently embarrassed at the notion of being clumsy.

“A horse that he stole.” The deputy sheriff scratched the back of his head. “I’m taking him back to Arizona tomorrow so he can stand trial at the fort. Even if I wanted to, I’m not sure there’s anything I could do to help Búho Morales. What you need is a good attorney and a judge sympathetic to your case, not a deputy sheriff like me—no matter how much I admire his reputation.”

“Whacha really need is someone to break him outta jail,” said the kid.

Fatemeh ignored the comment and returned to her seat at Tucker’s desk.

“Is there anyone you know that could help us?” Duncan leaned forward.

Tucker dropped his feet back to the floor. “Not around here. You might try Albert Fountain in Mesilla. I hear he’s pretty good with difficult cases.”

Fatemeh looked at Duncan with narrowed eyes. He gave an apologetic shrug. She redirected her gaze to the deputy sheriff. “I’m sorry we’ve bothered you, Mr. Tucker.”

“No bother at all, ma’am.” Tucker smiled faintly. “May I ask what the bishop was going to lynch you for?”

“His brother-in-law, Randolph Dalton, accused me of running off his miners. I was a better curandera than the ones in his parish…” She began counting off items on her fingers.

Tucker held up his hand and smiled. “I get the idea. If you’ll excuse my language again, you were a pain in his ass.”

Fatemeh grinned at that. “I think that about sums it up.” She looked toward the cell. “I wonder if you would allow me to treat the young man’s sprained ankle?”

Tucker shrugged. “It would sure make getting him to Arizona a lot easier if he could walk on his own two feet.”

Fatemeh nodded, then stood and left the sheriff’s office. She tried to think if there was anything else she could say to persuade Dan Tucker to help them out. It was clear he admired Ramon’s good reputation as a lawman. However, he was right. They needed a lawyer to get Ramon out of jail, not a deputy sheriff. She approached her horse and patted it on the nose, then went to her saddlebag and retrieved a bottle and some bandages. A few minutes later, she returned to the sheriff’s office.

She took the chair from in front of Dan Tucker’s desk, placed it in front of the jail cell and sat down. “I have something to help your sprain,” she said.

“Much obliged, but these things heal themselves with time.” Kid Antrim looked at the bottle suspiciously.

“This will help. I promise.”

Kid Antrim limped over to the bars. Gingerly, he pulled off his boot, then stuck his foot through. Fatemeh uncorked the bottle and the kid quickly pulled his foot back. “What in the name of Hell is that?” he cried, wrinkling his nose.

“Horse liniment. It’s the best thing I know for sprains.”

“I ain’t no horse.”

“Stick your foot back through the bars.”

He complied and she massaged his ankle with the liniment. Then, she wrapped his ankle snugly with the bandages.

“Hey, that feels better already.”

“Sure you don’t want to help me get him over to Arizona?” asked Tucker. “He listens to you better than he listens to me.”

“I would consider it, if you could help me with my problem.” Fatemeh put the cork back in the bottle of horse liniment.

The deputy sheriff scratched the back of his head, as though giving it serious thought. “The problem is I just don’t see any way I can help you, short of breaking Morales out of jail. If I really thought he’d been wronged, I might even help you do that, but from what you tell me, he admitted he was guilty of running away from his duties. It sounds like he may be facing a bad situation in Socorro, but how do I know what you’re telling me is true?”

“You don’t.”

“If you can think of any way to help, send word to me at the Mesilla News,” offered Duncan.

“I’ll do that.” Tucker stood from the desk and showed the visitors to the door.

That evening, Fatemeh and Duncan ate dinner at the hotel. Afterwards, they planned to get some sleep and ride back to Mesilla the next day.

“So tell me, Mr. Duncan, why exactly did we ride all the way out here, when we could have just spoken to this Albert Fountain back in Mesilla?”

Duncan sighed. “Albert Fountain is a very high powered attorney. I thought his services would be more than you could afford.”

Fatemeh looked down at her plate and stirred the food around with her fork. “I suppose you’re right.” She looked back up into Duncan’s eyes. “So what exactly are we going to do?”

Just then, the hotel door flew open and the scrawny fifteen-year-old kid from the sheriff’s office appeared. He slammed the door behind him and looked around. Seeing Fatemeh and Duncan he made for the table.

“What are you doing here?” Duncan’s eyes were wide.

“My ankle felt better, so I broke out of jail.” The kid smiled. “I didn’t feel like waiting around to go back to Arizona, so I thought I’d come here and see if I could help you all.”

Owl Dance is now live at

Owl Dance Excerpt 5: A Glimpse of the Future

In excerpt 3, we met the alien Legion. In this scene, Legion encounters the Russian attaché to the United States and shows him a vision of the future.

Alexander Gorloff thought he heard voices. His eyes fluttered open and he felt the rumbling of the train. He looked around, searching the darkness, but didn’t see anyone. Finally, his eyes drifted shut. A short time later, the general had the most remarkable dream.

He found himself in a vast white space, surrounded by a swarm of some strange species of insect. They neither landed on him nor bit him, but he heard soft whispering voices as though they were speaking to one another. He plucked one out of the air and looked at it. It was soft and malleable, but he could not squish it like an insect. It flew away from him and joined its comrades.

“We are called Legion,” came a velvety voice speaking Russian.

“Where are you?”

“All around you.”

“You’re the insects?” Gorloff raised his eyebrows.

“We are a swarm, but we are not insects. We have come to learn about your world.”

“My … world? Where are you from?”

“We are from a distant island of stars.” The scene around him changed. At first, Gorloff thought the room had become black and the swarm was now white, but then he realized he was looking at the night sky. However, when he looked at his feet, he realized he was not standing on a surface. Instead, he was floating, carried by the swarm, which swathed him like a blanket. The swarm carried him through the sea of night to a great whirlpool of stars. “This is where we came from.”

Legion then carried the general back through the sea of stars. Finally, Gorloff saw a blue-green ball that floated in the void. In the distance he saw the sun, but it looked strange floating in a sea of black, instead of hanging in a blue sky. The blue-green ball unfolded and Gorloff realized he was standing in the white room again, looking at a remarkably detailed map of the world. Light whispers continued in the background—so many voices, but so soft, it was almost a white noise. The general was aware of questions being asked and suggestions being made very gently, as though Legion didn’t want to break something delicate.

Gorloff found himself studying the Russian Empire and the United States. As he did so, Legion helped him to understand things about their relationship that he had never known before. The memory of Alaska’s sale to the United States came to the forefront of his mind. He remembered the land as a potential target should Great Britain renew its hostility toward Russia. As a strategist, the Russian general had agreed that the sale of the land to the United States was necessary. However, Legion showed him there was great wealth in Alaska that he had not known about. Not only were there great gold deposits, but there was oil, which was vitally important to machinery. Alaska’s sale to the United States had been accomplished less than a decade before, but after Legion’s revelations Gorloff began to wonder if it was a mistake.

The military attaché shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. “This is a crazy dream.” His tone was harsh. “America is our friend.”

The swarm appeared at Gorloff’s side. Its whispers were more audible to him now. “Analyzing political and economic structures of countries called the United States of America and the Russian Empire. Recent war in the United States will have lasting effects on the population, including increased economic stress in certain sectors. There is a 90% likelihood that such stress will result in an uprising by the labor class to improve their well-being. This movement will likely spread around the world…”

The voices continued. Although Gorloff did not understand all the words, he found that if he did not listen closely, he followed the meaning surprisingly well. He began to have a vision within his dream. He saw workers rising up in Russia and toppling his beloved Czar. In spite of that, Russia grew even more powerful. America also increased its might. Eventually, a time came when the two countries were directly in conflict. He saw a future where Russia and the United States of America developed horrible weapons—weapons that could murder every man, woman, and child in the world. Finally, Gorloff had a vision of a charred and blackened Earth, floating dead in space.

“This is terrible.” Gorloff put his hands to his head. “I cannot let this happen.”

Legion’s soft murmurings changed and the general saw a new vision. This time the Civil War ended differently and America was permanently cleaved in two. In the world that resulted, neither the Union nor the Confederacy would ever become a dominant world power. The labor class of the United States would not rise up in the same way and there was a chance the Czar could keep his power, especially if he made conditions better for Russia’s laborers.

General Alexander Gorloff saw a future where Russia was the strongest country in the world.

“The only problem,” said Legion, who sensed the general’s thoughts, “is that machines will become increasingly important. Although Russia has resources, they may not be sufficient to power the machines necessary to obtain dominance.”

Gorloff’s attention went back to Alaska. He thought about the American Civil War and how it almost divided the country. Looking at the map in front of him, a plan began to form.

“Can you help me?”

Will Legion help Gorloff? Find out in Owl Dance. More information about the book along with an interview of me at: