For more information regarding the fantasy series, The Tales of Tanglewood, please visit the website to learn more about Colin and the other characters in the 'wood, and to download a sample of the first few chapters of each book for free.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Chapter Two, Part Three

They followed the path in silence for a while,
content to listen to the peaceful calls of songbirds and
mourning doves, and the buzzing of colorful dragonflies
circling the banks of the pond. Then, the trees suddenly
thinned on either side, revealing the open forest once
more, and Colin spied a small bridge ahead, which
crossed over a stream that branched off from the pond.

“Copper Stream,” Ailfrid said.

As they approached the bridge, Colin saw that the stream
was aptly named. The water, which babbled happily by, was
nearly golden-copper in color, brilliantly reflecting the
sunlight. Throughout the water, Colin spied several large
fish, also of a copperish hue.

“Does the stream have a story?” he asked.

“Everything in Tanglewood has a story to tell. But the
tale of Copper Stream is a tale for another time. Now, we
fish! A big fat fish, cooked over a fire!" Ailfrid grinned
from ear to ear. “How does that sound?”

Colin’s belly rumbled, and he realized he was
starving. He hadn’t eaten anything since his supper the
night before, and the thought of freshly roasted fish set
his mouth to watering. “That sounds really good.” He
nodded and grinned like a fool.

Ailfrid placed the blackberry branches on a log that
lay along the bank, and produced a tangle of fishing line
and a crude hook from his pocket. “I’ll catch us a fish
or two. You can relax on the bridge.”

Colin doubted he could relax, not when he was
famished. Still, the placid, serene waters of the pond
were a calming sight, and the sun glancing off Copper
Stream was warm and soothing at his back. He sat
himself down on the wooden bridge and quickly lost
himself in the tranquility, while a short distance away,
Ailfrid troubled himself with untangling the fishing line.

Colin closed his eyes and felt the breeze tickling the
back of his hair. He opened them again and squinted
against the rush of dazzling sunlight, which set the
whole pond to glowing. Wildflowers of all sorts grew
along the shore of the pond, tall and luxurious. A short
distance to his left, he could see the shafts of sunlight
streaming in through the thick trees of Root Path,
highlighting the floating motes of dandelion spores that
hovered peacefully in the air.

Colin smiled, feeling deep contentment. This place was
truly magical, and he was a part of it. His allowed his mind
to wander, much in the same way the dandelion spores were
spending their time on this summer afternoon.

The stream glided beneath the bridge as smoothly as
fine silk. Colin eyes followed the gentle waters as it they
passed beneath him. Glancing down at the bridge, he
spied a large black ant emerging from the space between
two planks of wood. It was steadily making its way
toward him.

Casually, Colin drew back a finger and proceeded to
flick the ant across the wood, where it disappeared into
the thin shadowy chasm between the planks.

Satisfied, Colin turned to look at Ailfrid, who
appeared to be deeply concentrated on the surface of the
pond. He had apparently managed to untangle the line
and fasten it to the end of a stick, which he dangled
over the water. He slowly reeled in his line by hand,
hoping for a hungry fish to nibble on the bait.

Suddenly, the ferrish dropped the stick and sniffed at
the air, glancing about furiously. He settled his
measuring gaze on Colin.

“Did something just happen?”

Colin shook his head. “Nope. I’ve just been sitting

Ailfrid remained silent but sat with a furrowed brow.

He did not remove his gaze. Colin was about to inquire
of Ailfrid what had him worried, when he was
distracted by a subtle whispering, very faint, but
growing steadily louder by the second. It was coming
from beneath the bridge.

Ailfrid’s silver eyes grew wide. “Colin! To your left!”
He pointed.

Colin turned his head and shrieked, scrambling to his

A thick tide of black ants was streaming up through
the slats of the bridge, so numerous they began to cover
the expanse of wood like a rapidly growing fungus. The
whisper of hundreds of thousands of tiny legs and black
carapaces brushing against each other was like the
rustling of dead, dry leaves.

The army of ants was headed directly for Colin,
forming bridges across the spaces between the planks of
wood for the main bulk of the insects to scurry across.
They were moving fast.

Colin turned to run, and beheld a similar scene on
the opposite end of the bridge. Another force of ants,
rapidly closing the distance.

Ailfrid was running along the bank of the pond, and
shouting at Colin. “The water! Jump in the water!”

But Colin was frozen still with shock and fear. His
mouth was incapable of screaming or shouting; only
frightened breathing managed to escape past his lips.

Then the tide of ants were upon him, swarming over
his feet and up his legs, wriggling their way under his
pajamas. He felt the itching of a hundred thousand legs
thoroughly covering his skin. He found his voice again
and shrieked when they began to bite.

He was dimly aware that Ailfrid was still shouting
something, but then the ants invaded his ears and tried
to get into his mouth and nose. He was forced to shut
his eyes and end his flailing about, in order to keep his
hands over his face. Completely covered by the thick
mass of ants, he sank to his knees and curled into a ball,
his whole body twitching, his flesh reeling under the
onslaught of a thousand tiny pinpricks.

Despite the shell of ants that covered him, he
somehow sensed that the air about him had suddenly
gone dry, and now his skin tingled not with the bites of
ants, but with a static charge. A series of loud pops, one
after the other, echoed across the pond, and Colin felt
several tiny shocks along the length of his body.

He thought perhaps he had been electrocuted, and
the strong scent of sulphur filled the air. He felt
Ailfrid’s arms about him, helping him to his feet. The
ferrish was also knocking off the blackened crust of
thousands upon thousands of dead ants. Still
smoldering, they fell onto the bridge in large, crackling

“Damn sprites! Got nothing better to do than pester
us with your tricks!” He helped Colin shake off more of
the dead insects. They fell upon the bridge by the
hundreds, fused together in brittle masses. Ailfrid
kicked them into the water.

“It was pixie magic that did this. They were angry
that I led you away from their hole earlier. They don’t
often get the chance to claim a deiney plaything, and I
ruined it for them.”

Colin, visibly shaken, scratched at himself furiously.
His skin was alive with bites, and it still seemed as if the
ants still surged over his flesh. He noticed his pajamas
were slightly charred.

Ailfrid saw Colin’s concern. “Sorry about that, but it
couldn’t be helped. I’ve got a bit of magic myself, and it
was the best way to get the little buggers off you. Hope
I didn’t hurt you?”

“No, I’m okay.”

“Good. I would have tried to blast them before they
got to you, but I was too far away.” Ailfrid looked
about. “Damned intolerable sprites! I’d blast them if
they’d the courage to show themselves.”

Familiar laughter sounded from the undergrowth,
and it was not at all pleasant. Colin and Ailfrid scanned
the bushes and the trees, but saw nothing. Ailfrid

“I sensed them. Or their magic, rather. It has a scent,
like honeysuckle. If you are alone and you ever smell
that, you better run, until you don’t smell it anymore.”

Colin nodded.

“Well, they’re likely gone back
down their hole now. They made their
point. Come, sit by me over there.

We’ll have that fish soon enough.”

They ambled back over to Ailfrid’s
fishing spot, but neither could mask
the concern that clouded their features.

They still felt as though they were
being watched, and they both
wondered what other tricks the sprites
would cast their way.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chapter Two, Part Two

The Root Path wound its way through the woods,
surrounded on either side by tall trees and thick
undergrowth. The path itself was narrow, composed of
thick roots that stretched across the ground, covered
here and there with bright patches of fairy carpeting.

Colin had to step carefully to avoid tripping over the
roots, but they were of little hindrance to Ailfrid, who
trotted nimbly over them as though the path were flat
and even.

Gradually, the path began to widen, allowing them to walk side by side. Colin now wore the mask slung over his back, secured by a piece of twine offered by Ailfrid,
He was more at ease with the mask now, and imagined
it was made of the very bark that encased the trunks of
the mighty trees lining the path.

“This area of the ‘wood used to be thick with trees,
so thick, only the smallest of the fey could get through,”
Ailfrid said. “Monohan the Druid came and spoke to
the trees, and asked to please make a path, so that all the
sheehogue could travel easily through these parts. A group
of trees pulled up their roots from the earth and moved
alongside Monohan. A great hole in the earth remained,
so the trees laid their roots across the hole. Monohan
stepped onto the roots and moved into the space they
had created, and the next group of trees before him also
parted, and laid their roots across the empty earth.”

Colin slowed, gawking at the trees that lined the path
with awe and appreciation.

Ailfrid continued. “Wherever Monohan stepped, the
trees before him parted and created a path for him, until
the way through the thick part of the ‘wood was clear,
and all the fey could now travel through it.”

Colin smiled at the trees, and marveled at all the
wonders Ailfrid was showing him. They walked along
the path till just past noon, and then the tree line along
the left side of Root Path thinned slightly, allowing
Colin to glimpse a glistening pond whose waters lapped
the shore just a few feet away from the mighty trunks.

“We’re nearing the bridge. Wait here, I need to get
something.” With the agility of a squirrel, Ailfrid
scurried up into the trees to his right.

“Wait! Where are you going?”

The ferrish grabbed hold of a branch, and pulled
himself over it with ease. Kneeling upon his sturdy
perch, he called down to Colin. “I’ve got to get a clutch
of blackberries for Doc Muffingrow. They grow near
here. I’ll just be a few moments. Just stay on the path
and you’ll be fine.”

Ailfrid climbed further up into the tree and slipped
through a space in the tangled mess of leaves and
branches, disappearing into the foliage. A moment later,
Colin heard a rustling on the other side of the trees, and
realized it was Ailfrid, landed safely upon the earth and
pushing through the undergrowth.

Colin looked around at the barriers formed by the
trees, and shook his head. Stay on the path? How could
he get off the path?

He picked his way slowly among the roots,
muttering to himself. At least the trees to his left had
the decency to thin wider, affording him a breathtaking
view of the small pond, alive with a large population of
ducks and dragonflies, and the occasional white swan.

The twisting roots of Root Path stretched outward like
a mass of snakes into the water, drinking deep of the
nutrients of the rich soil, while schools of tiny fish
darted playfully through the underwater maze.

Colin was so taken with the serenity of the pond that
he nearly stepped directly into a hole that lay in the
center of the path. He looked down and saw it at the
last possible moment, and nearly lost his balance when
he sought to divert his foot away from the hole.

The burrow was dark, measuring just a few inches
larger than his foot, and ringed thickly by the roots of
the ancient trees. It was at once frightening yet
beckoning, stroking Colin’s unyielding desire to explore
all things forbidden. Such traits are common in many
young boys, and often ultimately lead to trouble.
A light wind whispered through the trees, carrying
with it the sweet scent of honeysuckle, and the faint
tinkling of bells.

As if a trance had taken hold of Colin, he slowly inched
forward, closer to the hole, and kneeled before it. A shaft of
sunlight managed to reach through the trees and penetrate
the darkness in the hole, reflecting brightly off something
that lay within.

Peering even closer, Colin saw it was a small white
circular object, reminiscent of a shiny pearl. Then he
noticed similar objects laying beside the first, appearing
to be painted with veins of various colors.

He realized they were marbles.

Colin started to reach his hand into the hole.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a voice warned.

Colin quickly drew his hand back and leapt to his feet,
startled by the voice. Ailfrid emerged from the branches of
the trees above him, and hopped down to the roots with
the grace of a feline. “The gift of a sprite comes with a
sharp bite.”

“Sprites?” Colin backed away from the hole, eyeing it
warily. He could suddenly sense the presence of something
else within the burrow, something not so innocent as

“Indeed. That is a sprite hole. Pixies and sprites are
close cousins and nearly identical, and all of them are
bad. The ‘wood is full of them, especially Thorn Grove.
You’ll want to avoid them, and you definitely don’t
want to put your hand in there. One bite from those
mischief makers and you’ll find yourself in a heap of

A high-pitched snickering sounded from all about
them, and from within the hole.

Colin looked about, worriedly. “Ailfrid?”

“Don’t worry. They can’t do anything to you now.

You didn’t take their gift. So they can’t take you in

“Take me where?”

Ailfrid looked down at the hole. “Below.”

Colin shuddered.

“Never mind all that. C’mon, look.” Ailfrid waved
about a small clutch of branches, covered with ripened
blackberries. “Bairtlemead makes a delicious blackberry
tea, better than any tea from those druids in faraway

Colin frowned. “I’ve never had tea before.”

Ailfrid frowned back. “How old are you?”

“Ten,” Colin replied. “Almost eleven. Wait, how old
are you?”

“Three hundred and seven,” Ailfrid replied proudly.

“Ten, huh? I forgot, deiney years are different. Well, I
don’t care how old you are, you’re in Tanglewood, and
in the ‘wood, we have the finest wines made from the
plumpest of grapes. We have the sweetest mead made
from the most golden honey. And we have the best
blackberry tea made from the blackest of blackberries,
not to mention the tastiest of muffins made by Doc
Muffingrow himself!”

Ailfrid grew excited. ”You’ll see, you and me are
going to have a flask of blackberry tea, and you’ll never
want to drink anything else again.”

And with that, Ailfrid turned and continued down
Root Path, and Colin smiled and followed, wondering
what the wonderful sounding tea might taste like.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chapter Two, Part One

When Colin woke, he expected to find himself
tangled within his blankets, but it was a
bundle of leaves that he clutched in his
hands. And instead of the familiar sounds of breakfast
being made and the smell of sizzling bacon, he woke to
the haunting call of a mourning dove, and the scent of
pine and oak and other earthly aromas.

He sat up with a start, and found himself not in his
bedroom, but somewhere in the woods, surrounded by
trees and bushes and a wide-open sky, rather than four
walls and a ceiling.

His first thought was that he had been sleepwalking,
but then he spied the smoldering remnants of the
bonfire and the wooden mask beside him, and
remembered his dream.

He realized that this time, it had not been a dream at

He had shown no fear in the night, but that emotion
suddenly tumbled forward. Now that this was real, he
was not entirely certain he wanted to be here. Not if the
creatures he had seen in the night truly did live in theforest. And he thought of his parents, who would be
extremely worried if they found him missing. He
couldn’t imagine what sort of punishment they might
hand him when he returned home.

Rising to his feet, he surmised that finding the way
home would be another large problem. But he was eager
to leave the woods, for he felt eyes upon him. The
creatures he had glimpsed last night in what he had
believed to be a dream could be anywhere, and while
they had shown open friendliness then, he was not so
certain that courtesy would be further extended today.

He started off in a random direction, and nearly
shrieked when a boy stepped from a large grouping of
bushes. “You’re awake!” the boy said, clapping his
hands and hurrying toward Colin, who abruptly took a
step back. “Don’t be afraid,” the boy said, continuing
closer. “I gave you that mask, remember?”

Colin looked down at his hand, surprised to find
himself holding onto the mask. “I don’t want it,” he
said, handing it out to the boy. He shivered when he
spotted the small sprouts of horns atop the boy’s head,
peeking through tufts of sandy hair.

“Don’t be silly, it’s a gift. Keep it. You’ll need it at
nightfall, to see in the dark.”

Colin certainly had no intention of spending another
night out here. And the mention of eyesight drew
Colin’s attention to the eyes of the boy standing before
him, and just like in his dream (which wasn’t a dream,
he had to keep reminding himself of that), they were
pure silver, with no pupils. They stared at Colin in a
way that made him feel especially uneasy.

“What?” the boy asked. “I
though we had fun last night.
Didn’t we?”

Colin had to admit to
himself that it was fun. The
memory of the dance thrilled
him, and he felt some of his
fear slipping away. And the
boy wasn’t all that frightful.
Except for the horns and eyes,
he looked very much like an
ordinary child.

He was dressed in a loose-fitting shirt of a very light
material, and green breeches that seemed woven of heavy
cloth. His feet were barefoot and dirty. He had an old
tattered satchel slung over his shoulder.

Colin was slightly ashamed to still be wearing his
pajamas. “We have a gathering like that every new moon.
You were lucky to come when you did. Otherwise you might
have been wandering about Tanglewood, and who knows
where you would have wound up?”

Colin looked around. “I’m not really sure how I got
here in the first place. I thought I was dreaming.”

“You found us because you passed through the
Gateway. It is a secret pathway, and the kynney deiney
can’t find it. Only the fey can show you the way.”
The boy smiled.

“What are the fey?” Colin asked.

“I am of the fey, as are all my sheehogue brothers and
sisters in Tanglewood. Fairykind has many forms, but
we are all creatures of the fey.”
“I see. I think.”

“The magic of the fey keeps Tanglewood safe.
Otherwise we’d likely have all sorts of kynney deiney
tramping through here, and that wouldn’t be good at

“Oh, I guess not. But you didn’t show me the way in.
I found it myself.”

The boy stared, his expression painted with
confusion and mild shock as he thought of something.
“You’re right, I didn’t show you the way. And you’re
certain you followed nothing else, not even a butterfly
or a bird?”

“Nothing,” Colin nodded. “I was walking in the
woods, and I found a path of glowing rocks that led to
a bunch of trees that formed an archway. I passed under
– what?” Colin paused when he saw the boy’s mouth
pop open.

“You saw the rocks?” the ferrish boy asked,

“Yes, and something written on the trees.”

“You should not have been able to.”

“Well, I did,” Colin replied, started to get frustrated.

“But, but–you shouldn’t have. Unless…” The boy
trailed off, appearing lost in thought. Then he simply
stated, “Come with me.”

“Where are we going?” Colin dared to ask.

“To see Bairtlemead Muffingrow.”

“Who is that?”

“A friend. A druid. Most of the younger sheehogue call
him Doc Muffingrow.”

“What’s a druid?”

“You might say a druid is a friend to the forest. But
more importantly, Bairtlemead is wise, one of the wisest
humans any of the fey have ever known. He came to
Tanglewood long ago, and has been here ever since. He
has no use for the world of kynney deiney. By the way,
how are you called?”

“My name? Colin.”

“Colin,” the boy repeated. “I’m Ailfrid. Say, Colin is
a good name.”

“Why, what does it mean?”

“Never mind that now. We’ve got a lot of distance
to cover. We have to follow the Root Path almost all
the way to Fallen Tree, then at the bridge, we follow the
Copper Stream. Muffingrow lives along the bank.

When we get to Muffingrow’s, we’ll see what he has to
say. It could all just be nothing.”

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chapter One, Part Two

Colin, his reflexes dulled by the trance he had
succumbed to, blinked and turned his head. He beheld a
small boy not unlike himself, save that two small knobs,
the beginning of horns, rested atop his head, and his
eyes were of purest silver, absent of pupils.

The boy smiled, angel-like, and held something out.
Colin slowly reached for it, and saw that it was mask.
Seemingly made of tree bark, it was painted a light
shade of green, had two eye slits rimmed with brown,
and two small horns imitating those of the boy.

“Come dance with us,” the boy whispered.

Colin donned the mask, felt it adhering to his skin as
though it belonged there, and shivered with forbidden
delight. Following the boy into the clearing, the ring of
unnatural forest-folk parted, allowing him entry.

He followed the boy into the circle, skipping and
dancing, waving his arms frantically along with the
beating of the drum. He soon found himself surrounded
by other strange and wondrous children, some with
tails, some with scales, some with claws, and some with
wicked grins filled with sharp teeth, but Colin was not

He knew he was welcome here, for the mask made
him one of them. Laughing and shouting with glee, he
frolicked and danced away the night. He joined hands
with some – the boy who had given him the mask on
his left, and a dark-haired girl with pointed ears on his
right. Together, they spun about, leaping and running
and circling about the fire, until Colin finally collapsed
from exhaustion and exhilaration.

His tired bones and weary head succumbed to sleep
as he settled down into a soft bed of leaves and grass.
The intoxicating smell of the earth was like a sweet

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chapter One, Part One

When the darkness fell from the sky to bathe the earth in its dark, cool touch, Colin dreamt of the many things that roamed the woods behind his house. In his dreams, Colin would watch from his bedroom window overlooking the yard, his darting eyes scanning the small shrubs and bushes, and finally the trees and thick undergrowth that was home to wondrous and magical things. Creatures only glimpsed in fairy tales and folklore, dismissed by adults as creative imagination.

But Colin knew they were real. He would sit patiently at his window, and soon, the shadows would begin to pulse with life, feeding on the moonlight that was their catalyst. Slowly, they took on form. Humanoid, animal, and unidentifiable shapes evolved from the deepest patches of the inky expanse, sprouting horns and claws and hooves and shining eyes that peered through the night, seeing things clearly as if it were bright day.

Colin couldn’t hear them from his room, but he could imagine their growls and their laughs, their little shrieks and their sighs of contentment. He knew they reveled in their short time in the woods, short because soon the sun would come up to send them scurrying back to whatever hiding places they sought shelter in during the day.

He knew this because with the first inklings of pink light creeping over the horizon, they would melt back into the earth, take on the substance of trees and bushes, or scatter themselves into fragments formed of leaves and twigs blowing about in the wind, their voices fading and disguised as insects chirping and the rustling of branches. In actuality, this was his dream fading away to mere fragments, as the sun peeked through his windows and the noise of his parents in the kitchen roused him from his sleep.

Once, after awakening, he ran to his window and gasped when he thought he saw someone standing on the edge of the woods, peering up at him. He was unable to make out a distinct shape, but it was small, maybe a child like himself, and he imagined small, glowing eyes. He had run downstairs then, and into the yard, ignoring the shouts of his mother who told him to get properly dressed and put something on his feet. There had been nothing and no one else in the yard. He scanned the trees, but whatever he had seen was gone. He trudged back inside.


A few years passed. Colin never saw the form of the strange boy in the woods again, but he still dreamt of the forest creatures, the elves and fairies and satyrs. The dreams no longer came to him every night – sometimes only once a month. But when they did come, he always woke refreshed, with vigorous energy and a sense of longing.

It was a cool summer night when the dream came again, only this time, he was no longer content to sit at his window and watch from afar. This time, he found himself outside, standing at the edge of the woods. It was dark, with only the faintest of moonlight gracing the earth.

He took a step forward, then two more, and the woods engulfed him, brushing against his bare skin, tickling and caressing, sometimes scratching but never too deeply, and his feet soon adjusted to walking on the bare earth. The pebbles and twigs did not bother him, and he liked the tickle of the grass and leaves, the soft mud between his toes.

He walked a long time, and the woods grew murky and black. It was extremely difficult to navigate through the undergrowth, and Colin thought perhaps he might turn around and try to find his way home, when he spied something glowing softly, lain upon the ground. As he moved forward to investigate, he saw that it was a rock, and a short distance away was another one. A trail, in fact, of gently glowing rocks, leading deeper into the woods. He followed them to where they led – a small cluster of white trees that seemed to form an archway. And even odder yet more exciting than the rocks were the many strange symbols inscribed upon the trees, also glowing faintly, a comforting milky-white. He examined them closely, but they were like nothing he had seen before, though he imagined it was writing of some sort.

Colin traced his fingertips over the strange runes, and a twinge of excitement rippled through his body. Eager to continue the adventure, he stepped through the trees.
Upon emerging from the archway, he heard the noises. He was unable to make out distinctive voices, but there were many of them, and it sounded like hearty, joyous singing.

Creeping as silently as he could, he approached the chorus of voices, moving deeper into the undergrowth, pressing aside outreaching tree limbs that sought to block his path and protect the denizens of the forest.

Deeper into the woods he traveled, his way lit by a mass of fireflies signaling their mates. Trying desperately to be silent, twigs cracked and leaves crunched under his weight. Perhaps the creatures of the forest would teach him to move silently as they did.

His house far away now, little more than a memory, he began to feel as if he had been birthed here, living his young life among the trees and the earth, cradled within the leafy arms of the forest. How he longed to make this dream real, to banish his true life to some nether-region, replace it with one free of school and homework and all the complications grown-ups seemed to accumulate as they grew older. None of that would be found here, he knew.

The voices grew louder now, but were still unintelligible. Yet the woods were brighter now as well. Colin spied the telltale glow of a fire, glimpsed through a break in the trees, some distance away but growing closer as he traveled deeper into the heart of this magical nighttime world.

He moved slower, more carefully, picking his way through the bushes and around the trees, doing his best to avoid roots and thorns, until he advanced upon the clearing, but did not yet dare to enter.

The firelight lit the clearing in a soft orange glow, flickering shadows dancing across the trees to match those of the strange creatures who frolicked about the fire, waving their arms and swinging their heads with wild abandon. They looked to be caught in the throes of lunacy, yet their movement varied in accordance with a small drum, beaten by a small form that sat before the fire.

Colin watched in awe, unable to make out the true forms of those in the clearing, as they moved too quickly and were obscured by the wavering light. He found himself mesmerized by the dance and the drum, and did not realize that something stood directly beside him until it gently tapped him upon the shoulder with a child’s hand.