My Fifth Anniversary as a Published Writer and Original Version of Edge

Howdy folks!

Have you ever had an anniversary sneak up on you? Well, that happened today. My wife’s Facebook feed came up with a five year old post where she had announced the availability of Eye of the Moonrat on Amazon.

That’s right. It has been five years since I became a (self) published author. I don’t know why it snuck up on me. Five years feels like it should be important. If I had a major publisher there might have been a special edition with new cover or something, I don’t know.

I thought this would be a good chance to look back. Many of you probably already know the story of how Eye of the Moonrat came to be. The main characters in my books have been around since my teenage years. Edge, Gwyrtha, Fist, and Deathclaw were character names in my role playing games, video games, and frequented my imagination as I kept notebooks full of evolving ideas.

My first draft of Eye of the Moonrat (Then called The Bowl of Souls) was written from the end of 2000 all the way through 2001. Dozens of rewrites (Including splitting the book into two) and 80 rejection letters from agents and publishers later I thought my dream of being a writer was dying. By the time 2012 came around I was burnt out.

I had several friends tell me that I should upload the book to Kindle. They told me it was a new platform and that people were getting rich selling their books. More importantly, publishers were taking notice and successful ebook authors were being signed to contracts.

I rejected the idea at first. I had looked into self-publishing many times and rejected the idea. Everything available was vanity publishing and that basically meant lots of money and trying to sell physical copies yourself. Even worse, if a major publisher did decide to pick you up they would only pay you for secondary publishing rights.

Nevertheless, in May of 2012 I was in a low place and decided to look up how to upload a book to Kindle. It was surprisingly easy. There were a few formatting issues but nothing I thought I couldn’t handle. The next thing I knew it was 2 AM. I had everything ready. All I had to do was hit submit.

On a whim, I did it. I published my book, knowing that I might be making a big mistake. In reality I had made a few mistakes. The formatting wasn’t perfect for one, and I didn’t have a finished cover. All I had was a photo of some woods in the dark. Some of my early kindle readers still see that photo when they pull up my book. (You can take care of that by going to your account and manage your kindle. There should be an update version next to Eye of the Moonrat and you can download the latest version.)

But the book was up. In order to get people to give me a chance I sold it for .99. A week later my brother Justin came over to my house and designed my original cover.

Eye of the Moonrat2

I went to Facebook and started begging friends and family to give it a try. I sold 90 copies that first month and though I knew where each of those sales had come from, I was encouraged. I hired a lady I met at a fiber festival to draw the second cover and uploaded Messenger of the Dark Prophet that July. Suddenly sales started to happen that I didn’t instigate myself.

It was an exciting time. I finished writing Hunt of the Bandham and released it in September. Enough money started to come in that my wife was able to quit her day job. In the summer of 2013 as I was working on Mother of the Moonrat, I quit my day job.

So here we are. It’s may 2017. I am working on my 13th book, the last book of the second Bowl of Souls Saga. Things haven’t worked out quite like I dreamed. I haven’t become rich and some months have been really rough, but I achieved my main goal. I write for a living. For that I am thankful. Thank you, dear readers for giving this guy a chance and for making this possible.

I have a gift for you. I don’t know how good of a gift it is. But it’s yours all the same. It’s my first Bowl of Souls story. You could even call it Pre-Bowl of Souls because I hadn’t fleshed out the world yet.

A few days ago I was talking to my daughter who is a burgeoning writer herself. I pulled out a thick old folder of mine filled with odd things I had written throughout the years. Mostly school assignments, but including some of my own little projects. The first thing I saw when I opened the folder was my very first attempt at writing the story of Edge.

It was late summer 1995. I had just turned nineteen and I decided that I wanted to write that book I had been planning throughout my high school years. I only made it thirty hand written pages before I fizzled out. No one had seen it since I showed it to my wife when we were dating.

I read that early story aloud to my daughter and I realized how much I had grown since I wrote it.  It’s a bit ham-fisted. The description is lacking and the dialogue is cliche, the humor feels forced, but I like to think that the seeds of the writer I became are there. So I typed it up, word for word, only fixing glaring spelling and punctuation errors.

Some notes before you read: At the time I wrote this, I was really into comic books. I was also heavily influenced by the writings of R.A. Salvatore. My original version of Edge was a swashbuckling rogue. A mix of Han Solo and Drizzt Do’Urden. He’s a total scallywag. Fist and Gwyrtha were also very rough early versions of themselves. I’ll talk about it a bit more after you read it.

Here it is, warts and all. I had finished one chapter and was part through chapter two when I stopped. So it ends rather abruptly, just before a big fight scene that I was struggling with.



Pain! Pain seared every nerve in his body. Edge gritted his teeth and tried not to show it. The guy was good. Edge had never felt such horrible pain in his life. It was even more painful than the time he had bonded with Gwyrtha. Then he realized that the torturer hadn’t touched him that time.

Suddenly, a thunderous roar filled the room. An ogre that was shackled in the corner of the room ripped his chains out of the wall and charged the startled torturer. But before the torturer could scream for help, the ogre picked him up by the feet and slammed him into the wall.

Then the giant stood over the table that Edge was lying on and stared at him silently. Edge gritted his teeth and locked eyes with the beast. Sure that his end had come, he was determined that he would face it bravely.

“You,” a deep voice stated from a dusty corner of Edge’s mind.

Oh no! Edge thought. Then he looked with his magesight and saw the line of energy linking them.

“Great,” he moaned. “I’ve bonded with an ogre.”

Already he could feel the creature’s mind in the back of his head. Pretty soon, as the bond strengthened, he would always know what the monster was doing unless they were separated by great distances.

He sized up the ogre. It was about ten feet tall with massive arms. In fact, this thing was covered in muscles. Even though it was malnourished from being kept in a dungeon for weeks, it would be a very formidable opponent. Its face was not bad for an ogre, it had turned many a female head back home, but to a human it was pretty repulsive.

It had a bulbous nose, big bushy eyebrows, and one tooth that shot up about two inches past its upper lip. The rest of its teeth were in decent shape. It had even flossed regularly as the tribal shaman had told it to.

Wait a minute, Edge thought. How do I know all this? The bond must be strengthening already. Oh blackness! Why couldn’t I have a normal mager’s talent? It sure would help to conjure up some food right now, but noooo. I have to have the power to bond. What am I going to bond to next? A rat?

At least this would probably be the last thing he bonded to. No one in the history of people with Edge’s talent had ever bonded more than once.

“Okay, pal. What’s your name?” he asked.

No response.

“Look, we’re going to be stuck together for a long time so let’s start this off right.”

The ogre raised an arm and pointed to itself. “Fist,” a voice said into the back of Edge’s mind.

Oh, Just wonderful, Edge thought. It can mindspeak and I can’t.

Oh well. The bond would help it know what he was saying. “Alright, Fist. We’re trapped inside King Muldroomon’s dungeon with about five hundred soldiers between us and freedom. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s very bad odds. So how do you suppose we escape?”

The only answer was the meaty smack of Fist’s fist into his palm.

“I like your style, buddy,” Edge replied with a grin. He looked around, a plan already forming in his mind.

The room was fairly large. There were no other prisoners here, at least none that were alive. Edge would have probably ended up like the rest of them if his talent hadn’t chosen that exact moment to manifest itself.

He found some weapons among the torturer’s implements; a long slender whip with several jagged pieces of steel tied to the end, several rusty scalpels, and a dagger strapped to the dead torturer’s leg. Oh how he wished he had his swords, but these would have to do for the moment.

“Okay, Fist, let’s find you someth-.” There was no need to go on. Fist had already pulled a leg off of the torturer’s bench.

Edge tried the door, but as expected, it was locked. The guards had locked the torturer into the room with them and wouldn’t return to open it unless the torturer called.

He looked to the ogre. “Well, my friend, how about getting the door for me?”

Fist rained blow after blow on the door, but to no avail.

“Blackness! Someone heard that for sure! I suppose this means that they knew you were in here, huh buddy?” Edge remarked. “It’s a good thing that I happen to be the best lock-pick in Karpatha.” Which was a complete lie, but why not try? It couldn’t hurt.

It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t help either. Whoever built that place wasn’t stupid. They had prepared for every possible kind of prisoner.

Suddenly, they could hear the sounds of guards running down the corridor, having been summoned by the sound of Fist’s pounding.

“”It seems that King Muldroomon is prepared for everything, doesn’t it? So since we can’t force the door open, we’ll just have to let them open it for us.” That remark received a deep guffaw from Fist. Well, at least he’s got a sense of humor, Edge thought wryly.

They took their places at either side of the door and waited for what seemed like an eternity. They were about ready to think of something else when the door burst inward and a half dozen guards ran into the room.

Edge and Fist leapt out of their places beside the door and ran out into the corridor, slamming the door shut behind them. No normal pair of absolute strangers would have been able to pull that off without careful planning, but when people are bonded they can sense what the other person is about to do before they do it. It also didn’t hurt that both were veteran fighters.

Fist cocked his head and looked at Edge quizzically.

“I know, I know. We should have killed them, and in another situation I would have, but we just made Muldroomon’s soldiers look like fools. That, in turn, makes him look like a fool. Don’t ask me why, but I find it more fun that way.”

Fist gave an exasperated grunt and Edge heard that voice in his mind again. “What next?”

“Let’s move.” He started down the corridor. “I was drugged when they dragged me down here so I’m not sure which way to go. How about you?”

The ogre just turned around and started back the other way. He had been drugged too, but the jailers apparently hadn’t known the correct dosage for an ogre Fist’s size.

“You knew the right way? Why didn’t you tell me?” Edge complained. He really didn’t expect an answer so he was surprised when he got one.

“You’re in charge/”

Edge snorted. “Okay, if that’s the way you want it. But please, I’m always open to suggestions. Which way now?”

“Shh!” Fist’s acute hearing had picked up heavy breathing around the next corner.

Whoever it was knew that they were there, so why didn’t it move? Could it be another prisoner escaping? Probably not, but what else could it be? Surely one of Muldroomon’s soldiers would have charged as soon as he heard them. Edge was pretty sure that who or whatever it is was scared to death.

Fist reached out with his limited mindspeech and said, “Boo!”

Suddenly, an earshattering shriek echoed through the corridor.

“Way to go, Fist,” Edge said, not at all pleased. Someone was bound to have heard that. Edge ran around the corner and clamped his hand over her mouth. “The last thing we need to help us escape now is a screaming woman!”

Fist raised one bushy eyebrow, obviously not worried.

Edge looked down the stone corridor and saw a door several meters away. He dragged the girl, who was struggling all the way, down to it and kicked it in. He then pulled the girl inside and motioned Fist to follow.

“It wasn’t locked,” Fist said.

“I know, but I wanted to kick something,” Edge relied. Then he turned to his captive and whispered evilly into her ear. “Listen carefully, girl. I’m going to let go of your mouth now an-. Stop licking my hand! It’s not going to help you!” He paused, frustrated. “Now I am going to let go and when I do, if you scream, I’m going to cut your tongue out and feed it to my friend Fist over here.”

Fist played along and gave a hungry growl while licking his lips, all the while complaining mentally. “It’s cramped in here.”

He was right. The door had led into a maintenance closet, a rather small one actually. And with Fist’s bulk they were packed very tight indeed.

Edge nodded and removed his hand from the girl’s mouth. “Now, answer all my questions and don’t even think about escaping. There’s no room to move anyhow. What’s your name and what were you doing down here?”

“I am Elize M-Muldroomon. I-I was vi-isiting my- um, a friend when I heard a-a noise,” she said, obviously shaken, but trying not to show it.

The princess? Edge grinned. This was a very pleasant development. So she was visiting a friend in the dungeons, was she? Probably some lover that her father found out about. She could be their ticket out of there. Besides, he and Fist had a score to settle with King Muldroomon. A plan was starting to form in his mind.

He turned to the ogre. “Alright, Fist. We are going to split up. You find a way out of here. Wait for me about a mile north of the castle. The bond is probably strong enough by now that I will know how to find you when I’m finished. I’ve got to have a little chat with King Muldy.”

Fist grunted, turned and left without a word.

Edge looked back at the princess who seemed very relieved that Fist was gone. “Elize if you are a good girl and lead me to your pappy I’ll see what I can do about letting your ‘friend’ escape.”

“But my father i-.”

“No buts. Just yes sirs,” he said and without letting her answer, continued, “Now go. And remember, I’ve still got a knife in your back.” To emphasize that point, he gave her a little poke. That received a yelp and he had to cover her mouth again. “Don’t be stupid, girl! Now move!”

He removed his hand once again and she led the way down the hall. Edge tried to put on a show of nonchalance as they passed several guards. Oh great. Maybe this wasn’t the smartest thing I could’ve done.

He knew that if push came to shove, he couldn’t kill the girl. He’d had to do that kind of thing once before and it was something he had always regretted. Well, he would just have to hope that it didn’t come to that. But if it did he would think of something. He always had.


*          *          *


Fist decided to take the direct route. Of course it would be hard for him to take any other. He was far too big to hide in the shadows and his footfalls made too much noise for him to be quiet. Besides, any commotion he made would draw attention away from Edge.

So he ran down the corridors. When there was a turn he trusted his instincts and went in whatever direction felt right. Whenever a guard stumbled upon him, Fist would smash him to the side and keep going.

Finally, he came to a hallway that ended in a large door. With his acute ogre senses, he could smell fresh air. Fist went to the door and tried to open it, but it was locked. He was about to ram it down when he heard running steps behind him.

Just as the hapless soldier had thought his spear would pierce the ogre’s back, Fist turned around, grabbed the end of the spear and pulled it out of the now petrified soldier’s hand. He then looked straight into the terrified soldier’s face and mindsent, “Open it!”

The soldier did so gladly hoping that the ogre wouldn’t kill him. As soon as the door was opened, Fist slammed the soldier aside and leapt out of the door. This landed him right in front of a regiment of Muldroomon’s soldiers.


*          *          *


The girl led Edge to a thick cast-iron door. He could smell quite a stench coming from inside.

“Um, excuse me, Elize, but you were supposed to bring me to your father. Not your friend. We haven’t climbed any stairs. So I assume that we are still in the dungeon. Unless, of course, this is a one level castle!”

“I tried to tell you before, but you wouldn’t listen! No, you just poked me in the back and told me to shut up!” She laughed mysteriously. “Now just look inside.”

Edge looked through the peephole in the door and laughed aloud. “This is your ‘friend’? Well, hello, King Muldy! How’s the air in there?” But Muldroomon didn’t respond. “Muldy?”

He was so perplexed that he didn’t hear the woman’s bloody death gurgle behind him. Suddenly, he felt the point of a blade digging into his back. Maybe I won’t feel so guilty killing this girl after all, he thought. But then he heard an oh-so familiar laugh and realized that it wasn’t Elize behind him after all. “Hammy, is that you?”

“I have always hated it when you call me that. Well. I’ll just have to take comfort in the fact that you will not be saying it any more. I am going to kill you this time, you know,” said Hamford Malakerot, Muldroomon’s first in command.

“Oh, I have no doubt in my mind at all. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was dead right now,” Edge replied.

So, Edge thought. Muldroomon’s in here. That means that either Hammy’s taken the kingdom over or there’s someone else involved that I don’t know about.

He cleared his throat. “But before you do kill me, Hamford, I’m curious. What’s old King Muldy doing in that cell?”

“The same thing that you’ll be doing in a couple of minutes Edge. He’s feeding the flowers.” Hamford grinned evilly and Edge could smell the man’s putrid breath waft over his shoulder. “Elize even got to take the pleasire of doing him in for me. Didn’t you, honey? Oh, I forgot. She can’t say anything either, can she?”

Then it all clicked. “So that’s why I was captured and brought here. You needed a scapegoat. You didn’t need to have me tortured though, you idiot! I would have killed him myself if you had only asked,” Edge hissed venomously. “Oh well. At least I’ll be able to say that I rid myself of two enemies today.”

“You won’t be able to say anything in a few seconds, Edge.” Hamford’s words were punctuated by a loud crunch.

Edge turned to face Fist.

“He was right. I’m speechless!” he exclaimed. “What in the seven pits took you so long? A few seconds more and I would’ve had to kill him myself!”

“You’re welcome,” Fist replied, wiping the blood-stained table leg on Hamford’s jerkin.

Edge smiled and clapped his new friend on the shoulder. Then he looked around. “Now we’re rally in a mess, though. They’ll blame us not only for the death of Hammy, but for Muldroomon and Elize as well.” He thought for a moment. “It doesn’t matter to me. I’m already a wanted criminal here. But what about you?”

“I’m with you.” Fist mindspoke. The bond was strong enough at this point that he was able to send to Edge’s mind directly the reasons why.

“You haven’t got anything to go back to either, huh? Well, glad to have you with me. Gwyrtha is on her way here now. She always knows when I need her. Let’s go out and meet her.”

“I forgot to tell you,” Fist sent. What was left of the regiment of soldiers were on their way with reinforcements. Fist’s story was punctuated by the sounds of many running men echoing down the corridor.

Edge bent and retrieved his swordbelt from around Hamford’s waist. The scoundrel always had coveted his swords.

“You know,” Edge sighed. “For some reason, continuing to make good-old-dead- King Muldy look bad has lost its appeal to me. Besides, I could really use a good workout right now.”

That having been said, they prepared for battle.




They fought for an hour, cutting a bloody trail through the seemingly endless supply of guards. Edge desperately fought exhaustion, yet he still did not grow careless. Skillfully, he sliced his way through the enemy with a precision only seen in sword masters.

For a while he fought blindly, using only sound and smell to pinpoint the enemies’ location for he did not have the time to put down one of his swords to wipe the blood and sweat from his eyes. Fist sensed his problem and let out a roar so fierce that the guards halted momentarily. This was plenty long for Edge to clear his vision.

“Thanks, pal!” Edge grunted between deadly swings of his swords. “But next time don’t yell so close to my ear!”

So far, luckily for the two heroes, they had been fighting in the tight corridors of the castle, which made it relatively easy for them to defend. They were holding their own until they came upon a point where the corridor branched off in four directions. At this point they had been running out of guards to kill, but reinforcements came. From two directions.

From the north corridor came big trouble; Muldroomon’s court wizard, Dacron. He was a violet mager and always wore the color purple. Violet magers used a blend of fire, water, and wind in their magic. The nonmagers called them steam wizards.

Dacron was one of the most powerful magers in the kingdom and the most influential. In fact, he was probably next in line to the throne, now that Hamford and Elize were dead.

Luckily for them, from the south corridor came Edge’s reinforcement; Gwyrtha. She had followed Edge’s presence nonstop since she had laid her egg.

She was a unique rogue mare in that part reptile, part horse. She had scales covering most of her legs, head, and belly, but the rest of her was covered in hair. Her head and front legs were definitely reptilian while her hindquarters and back were equine. She was also unique for a part reptile in that she was warm-blooded.

Rogue horses live in cycles. For one month of the year they are fertile. During that month they leave their normal life and seek a mate. When the month is over they return as if nothing had happened.

Gwyrtha had left Edge to find a mate in the spring and after a long search she had found a rogue stallion that was part bird. Their child would be an interesting creature indeed if it survived.

Rogue colts rarely survived their first year because of the strange mutations that they were born with. Rogue horses are a rainbow mix of breeds. Their creator had experimented on many varieties. They ranged from bird to fish and from intelligent to unthinking. The only thing that they had in common was their equine side. In the thousands of years since their creation so many different variations had been born that it was almost impossible to document them all.

Gwyrtha’s particular attributes made her extremely fast and incredibly dangerous. The six-inch claws on her feet made excellent weapons and the two-inch teeth in her mouth were also very formidable. Her front legs were slightly shorter than her rear so at great speeds she would run solely on her hindquarters.

She wore a saddle of sorts. It was more like a leather blanket strapped to her back. Edge used no bridle, but simply held onto her mane as she ran. There was no need for him to direct her because she could tell through the bond which way that he wanted her to go.

Gwyrtha was of medium intelligence and although she couldn’t speak she had a vicious way of making her intentions known. Edge was just glad that she used the bond instead.



So there it is. You can see some of the undeveloped ideas. For some reason I thought that calling magic users “magers” made me somehow different. I’m also not quite sure why I made Fist unable to speak and gave him mindspeech and enhanced senses. Certain things about this early version of Gwyrtha don’t work at all for me now. The idea of her running on her back legs like a T-Rex or something seemed cool at the time, but now if feels awkward. Running on four legs is much faster.

Also, I have got to say that I’m glad I dropped the whole egg-laying thing and killing off Hamford and Elize right away. They became much richer characters.

My daughter read this and said, “Wow, Edge is mean.” I didn’t think of him as mean. This was the 90’s. He was comic book level snarky. As this was the beginning of the story, I intended to show his softer side later on. This was my action beginning.

At any rate, I hope you enjoyed this. This is a peek into my 19-year-old imagination. By the time 2000 came around I understood more about storytelling and what made a character interesting. I wasn’t as interested in starting out my story with a fully fledged elite warrior rogue. I decided to get to know Edge before he was Edge. Thus Justan was born.

Looking back it is easy to see all the pain that got me here. But I am grateful for the trials. Without them, I wouldn’t be the writer I am and definitely my characters wouldn’t be the people they are.

Once again, thank you for reading and as always, please spread the word. My books have reached a nice sized audience I think, but I am still a relative unknown. Those publishers never came calling. Without your help I wouldn’t be able to keep this going.

Trevor H. Cooley

May 20, 2017

Posted in Completely 100% True, Family, The Bowl of Souls, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Behemoth Mini Preview #2 and Local Interview

Howdy folks!

A few news items. I had an interview in the local paper this past Sunday. It was to promote a speech and Q&A I am giving in Tullahoma next week. Here is a link to the article for those of you interested in what I had to say:

They included a full body photo of me. I would have been happy with a head shot.

Also, Renu and I are working on the cover to Behemoth. I am hoping to share that in the next couple weeks.

In the meantime, here is the Behemoth Mini Preview #2

Mini-previews are short clips of scenes from the book, kind of like the glimpses of scenes you see in movie trailers. Each one will only be a few paragraphs long, but will give you a taste of what is to come. I try to pick these scenes in such a way that they do not spoil major plot points, however: Warning, possible spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t read Troll King or Priestess of War.

“I think this is a terrible idea,” Beehn was saying as Fist arrived. The air wizard looked as healthy as Fist had ever seen him. The sparkling golden robes Beehn wore were quite baggy on his recently diminished frame.

“You just want me there to lift heavy things for you,” Charz accused.

Beehn huffed. “I may be new to this bonded family, but Alfred has shared his memories of your past with me. I know how you used to be and the flavor of your thoughts right now tells me that your time with these ogres has brought out more of your violent nature. How long before you revert back to your former ways?”

The rock giant’s eyes widened in alarm at that question and he blinked, giving the idea some worried thought. After a moment he grunted and looked at Alfred pleadingly. “It’s not like that.”

The tall and slender gnome warrior gazed back at him thoughtfully. Alfred had traveled up into the mountains with the Academy Army and had been on the front lines during the battle. His wounds had been healed, but evidence of the fight remained. The sleeve of his chainmail shirt had been badly torn and hung from his long arm in tatters as he placed a hand on the giant’s shoulder.

“I know it’s not,” Alfred said. “And I understand why you want to stay here. I would prefer to have you back at the Mage School with me, but I understand.”

“You understand?” said Beehn, surprised at his bonding wizard’s reply. “But you’ve been just as concerned as I have.”

“That was before I saw him up here with the ogres. I see now that this is different. The Charz that had to be imprisoned was wild; a danger to everyone. Among these ogres, he is an accepted part of a community. A brutish community to be sure, but he is comfortable here. At the Mage School, he is always on edge.”

Charz grunted irritably. “I don’t know about all that. The Mage School isn’t all that bad. Ogres are just more fun to be around than stuffy wizards. Besides, it’s not like I want to stay up here permanent. I’m just not ready to go back yet. That’s all.”

He just likes the women’s caves, Squirrel suggested.

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Shameless Review Request and First BEHEMOTH Mini Preview

Howdy Folks!

I had a great time at JordanCon. Met some great authors and a lot of readers unfamiliar with my work. Hopefully some of them give the series a try. At the very least, it was fun mingling with other fans of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Good people all.


(And yes, I am wearing my MST3K revival backer shirt. I’m quite proud of that thing!)

Time for that shameless review request mentioned in the title. My last two books are quite under-reviewed on Amazon. This limits visibility and affects how Amazon decides when to recommend the books to other readers. So I’m asking for your help. If you have read Priestess of War or Noose Jumpers, (Heck, even Troll King) and haven’t left a review, would you please do so? This would be a great help to me and my ability to keep doing this for a living.

I always feel awkward asking for reviews, but they are a necessity in today’s Kindle world. Thank you so much for helping.

Now for something more fun. Below is the first mini-preview for Behemoth. Mini-previews are short clips of scenes from the book, kind of like the glimpses of scenes you see in movie trailers. Each one will only be a few paragraphs long, but will give you a taste of what is to come. I try to pick these scenes in such a way that they do not spoil major plot points, however: Warning, possible spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t read Troll King or Priestess of War.

This scene is from the prologue.

Xedrion put his hand on Xeldryn’s shoulder and though the Protector hadn’t chosen to favor his mother this day, Xeldryn knew that his father was proud of him. Xeldryn was the Protector’s first born son and thus was the first of his children to reach this vaunted day. He had the same fierce green eyes as his father and, according to the other adults, had the same sort of authoritative demeanor.

There was movement in the forest ahead. A dark-skinned elf approached, loping casually towards them on the top of the paths made in the Jharro roots. Xeldryn’s heart began beating rapidly as the elf drew closer. This was Yntri Yni, the ancient and revered weapon master of the Roo-Tan people.

“This is it, Xeldryn,” said Herlda. She smiled down at him. “You will go and find your tree now. Are you nervous?”

He shook his head. “I am ready.”

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Pre-Jordancon Update

Howdy folks!

I’m getting in the car to leave for Jordancon in Atlanta where I’ll be signing and selling books and cards. (April 21-23 at the Marriott Perimeter Center). I thought I would write up a short post and let you know what’s going on.

Renu Sharma has begun work on the cover for Behemoth. We’ve worked out the concept and I am excited to see what she comes up with!

As for when you can buy the book, I don’t have a firm day set but I plan for a late May release. This will be the sixth and final book of the Jharro Grove Saga. This will not be the last book of the Bowl of Souls however. I have two other Sagas planned for the future. I’ll tell you more about that once Behemoth is finished.

The Noose Jumpers Short film had two great showings at festivals in Utah and in Chattanooga TN. I have plans to write the sequel to Noose Jumpers, but I’m not sure yet where I’m going to fit that in my schedule so stay tuned.

Thank you all and I hope to see you at Jordancon!



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Jharro Grove Finale Title Reveal!

Well folks, this has been some time coming. Usually, I have the titles to the books in my sagas planned out long before I start writing them. This one has been a bit different because the title ideas didn’t quite fit.

Originally, I had thought to call it, “The Gnome Warlord.” But as much as I like that title,  Aloysius (Though having a large role) isn’t the main antagonist or protagonist in this book. I had thought about calling it “The Troll Mother” but that idea was vetoed by my wife, who understandably thought it could be confusing to readers since we already had a book called “The Troll King”.

It’s funny, but there have been a few times when I have announced a book title long ahead of time and then regretted it. The original title of Messenger of the Dark Prophet was, “The Edge of Might and Magic” (Because of the Prophet’s words to Justan in the Mage School Gardens). I had to change it because it could be confused with the Might and Magic series of games. I also kind of wish I had switched the titles of books four and five in the first saga. I liked the way Mother of the Moonrat made for a nice bookend with Eye of the Moonrat, but War of Stardeon was a much better name for that last book of the saga.

In the same way, I think that I could have called book four in the Jharro Grove, “The Gnome Warlord” and called this final book, “The Troll King” and it would have fit quite well. Oh well, that is all in the past now.

The title for the Sixth book in the Jharro Grove Saga and Book Eleven in the Bowl of Souls Series overall is BEHEMOTH.

I like it. It is short, sweet, and very much describes the foe our heroes face in this last installment of the Jharro Grove Saga. The next thing I need to do (besides finish the book)  is get with Renu Sharma to start working on the cover.

I will also start posting mini previews on Facebook in the next week. Mini previews are short excerpts from the book, usually only a few paragraphs. Think of them like the short glimpses you get of scenes in a movie trailer. They won’t give away any plot points, but simply be teases to ramp up excitement for the release.

It’s gonna be a busy couple months!

If you want to learn more or have questions for me directly, please join the Bowl of Souls Discord server. It started up a few days ago and I have had a lot of fun interacting with readers. If you are curious you can check out my last post to learn more. Otherwise, just click on the invitation link below:

In other news I attended a fun author signing at a local Middle School on Friday. Here is a picture taken just before the event started.

middle school event 2017

Don’t forget that I will be at Jordancon in Atlanta April 21-23. Please come see me there! I’d be happy to chat with you and sign anything within reason.



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Join the Bowl of Souls Discord Server.

Howdy Folks!

I have some fun news and a short update for you.

We now have a Bowl of Souls Discord server!

What is a Discord server? I had that same question. I have heard of it before from a few fandoms I have, but never looked too deep into it. Luckily, I have a daughter who is up to date on all the newest apps and when she told me she wanted to make a Discord for Bowl of Souls she was really enthusiastic.

Discord is a chatting app where you can get together with like-minded fans and talk about the things you like. The only way to join a particular server is if you’re invited, so this keeps out the creepers and weirdos. My daughter is moderating the server and I will be popping in from time-to-time to interact with fans.

To join the Bowl of Souls Discord server and talk about the characters and series with other fans, simply click on the invitation link below:


This should be a fun new way to talk to each other and keep up to date on the latest fan theories and such.

In other news, I will be announcing the title to Book Eleven in the Bowl of Souls this weekend. I am hard at work writing on it and hope to be finished before the end of April (Fingers Crossed).

Also, just a reminder, I will be signing and selling books at the Coffee County Middle School tonight 3/17/17 from 5-7 P.M. if any of you are in the area and can make it.

Coffee County Middle School

3063 Woodbury Highway, Manchester, TN 37355

Thank you!


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Book Signing in Manchester, TN

Howdy, Folks!

I will be signing and selling books at the Coffee County Middle School in Manchester TN this Friday, March 17th. It will be from 5-7:00 PM and I will be there with twenty other local authors.

Here is the address if you would like to attend. I hope I get to meet some of you.

Coffee County Middle School, 3320 Woodbury Hwy, Manchester, TN 37355

My next appearance will be at JordanCon April 21-27. Jordancon is an amazing event for fans of the Wheel of Time and fantasy novels in general. Here is the link to the convention site.

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Priestess of War Audiobook Available Now!!

It’s here, folks!


Narrated beautifully by Andrew Tell, the audiobook is 14 Hrs 10 Min long and includes a preview of the Noose Jumpers audiobook.

The Priestess of War is the 10th book of the Bowl of Souls Series and book 5 of the Jharro Grove saga. It is the penultimate book of the Jharro Grove saga and focuses heavily on Fist and the Black Lake.

Here is the back cover blurb:

Born of war and kept young only by the darkest of magic, the Dark Prophet’s most powerful priestess has returned to the Trafalgan Mountains to take control of the Black Lake’s mindless evil.

Now, with a growing army of the infested and dead under her power, she turns her gaze on Dremaldria.

Fist’s chances of helping his former tribe destroy the Black Lake are bleak at best. The combined help of the Academy and the Mage School may not be enough to help him defeat the Priestess of War.

I’m so excited to share this with you. Get your copy today and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Trevor H. Cooley


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Priestess of War Audiobook is Finished!

Andrew Tell has finished his narration of Priestess of War! I have listened to it and it is great. The book has been uploaded to Audible and Itunes and now we just have to wait for their approval process.


When will it be available to purchase? It usually takes 5-10 business days for processing. That being said, we have been lucky with the last two books and they have been available within a week!

So keep checking Audible and let me know the minute you see it. I’ll post again when I have an active link.




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Mid February Update: Audiobook News and Jordancon

Howdy folks!

In today’s update post I’ll let you know what the current news is as well as give you a taste of what’s to come.

  1. First up, the Noose Jumpers Short Film has been accepted to the Chattanooga Film Festival! It takes place April 6-9 in Chattanooga TN. My brother, Jared Cooley, who directed the film will be there and I might go as well. I’ll let you know for sure as we get closer.

Festival Site:

More about the short film:

Chatfilm fest

2. I will be have a booth at Jordancon in Atlanta, GA April 21-23. Jordancon is named after late author Robert Jordan, who wrote the Wheel of Time and was one of my favorite fantasy writers. He was a huge influence on me. The convention is focused on fantasy and sci-fi writing and will be attended by many writers in the genre.

This will be my first time there and I am really excited. I will have books with me and will sign anything reasonable. Come and see me!

Here is a link to the website for the convention so that you can get more information. I hope that some of you can come.

3. The Priestess of War audiobook is really close to completion!



Andrew Tell finished narration on the last chapter yesterday. We are now working on the editing process. That should take a few days but we are very close, folks. I’ll post again once we have uploaded the book to Audible. Once that has been done, Audible usually posts it within 5-10 business days. I can’t wait to hear your opinions on this book!

4. Coming soon:

The Jharro Grove: Book Six title reveal should come within the next couple weeks. I have narrowed the title down to a small handful of choices. This will be the last book of the Jharro Grove Saga.

Once I get a few more chapters written I will start posting some Jharro Grove: Book Six mini previews on my Facebook Page. Once I have several up I will compile them and post them here. These are short previews, usually just a few paragraphs and they are teasers. Just small tastes of the book that is to come. Think of them as small clips from scenes someone like those that make up a movie trailer. I did this for Priestess of War back in November and December. Spoilers will be very minor.



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Priestess of War Audiobook and Giveaway News

I have an update for y’all. Andrew Tell has started narration on Priestess of War! He has already finished the first two and a half hours and hopes to be finished by mid month. Once he’s done, we’ll submit the book to Audible and Itunes. I’ll let you know when we are there.


In celebration of that newly coming book, I am extending my free audiobook promotion. It works like this. To bring more interest into the audiobooks of the series, I am offering a one time free code for any of the Bowl of Souls books 1-7, including Hilt’s Pride, and Noose Jumpers!

The rules are like this:

  1. Only one free book per person.
  2. It has to be books 1-7 of the Bowl of Souls.
  3. I am also including Hilt’s Pride and Noose Jumpers.
  4. To get your copy email me at

That’s it. In your email, tell me which book you want and I’ll reply with the code and instructions on how to use it.

Thanks everyone! I am excited to get Priestess of War into your ear holes.

Trevor H. Cooley

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My Interview With AXE COP Creator Ethan Nicolle! And free stuff!

Howdy folks! Exciting stuff happening! I recently did a creator interview with Axe Cop creator Ethan Nicolle and if you know much about my sense of humor and the kind of things I like, you know this was a big thrill for me. I had a long time love of comic books while in my teens and comic stories greatly influenced the way I write today.

Ethan Nicolle, Creator of Axe Cop and Bearmageddon, amazing artist and dreamer of dreams.

I have been a fan of Ethan Nicolle since 2011 when I first heard about Axe Cop, a character Ethan created with his five-year-old little brother. Ethan was already a fantastic comic book artist, having been nominated for an Eisner Award for his comic: Chumble Spuzz. When he spent a few days playing make believe with his five-year-old brother Malachai, he had the idea to make a comic of their imaginary adventures. He posted the resulting pages online and it blew up, spawning a long-running web comic, three Dark Horse comic series, and a Fox animated show.

Episode 1

He has since also worked on a separate comic series titled, Bearmageddon, which is another hilarious satirical series that I like to think of as a zombie apocalypse story, but with bears instead of zombies. Ethan has also gotten into writing, spending several years writing episodes of Veggie Tales for Dreamworks.

Recently, we started a bit of a conversation on Twitter and became Facebook friends. Ethan is readying himself to make the plunge into novel writing and wanted to pick my brain about self publishing and strategize his approach. That conversation turned into a sort of co-interview, where we asked each other questions about our work and how we go about things like overarching story and character development. Ethan posted this interview on his site today, which you can view here:

Free Stuff!

As part of this interview, Ethan has kindly offered my readers a free digital copy of Bearmageddon Volume one. It is awesome and well worth your time. To get your copy, simply go to the link here: and enter the code SQUIRRELFIST.

The version of Bearmageddon he is offering my readers is the full, high resolution version with bonus material. There is a free version you can get when you subscribe to his email, but this is the version that usually costs 3.99

Now there are 30 copies available and it is first come, first served, so get in quickly!

More about Ethan:

Ethan Nicolle first broke into comics when he created Chumble Spuzz for SLG Publishing in 2007 which was nominated for an Eisner Award for humor in 2009. He went on to create a web comic called Axe Cop with his little brother that became a viral sensation and went on to become an animated series on FOX and FXX. He has had multiple pitches optioned at Cartoon Network and spent three years as staff writer and story editor on VeggieTales in the House at Dreamworks Animation. He also did the book illustrations for Nick Offerman’s books Gumption and Good Clean Fun.

Read his comics and more at the links below:, and

Bearmageddon News is a really fun bear-oriented satirical site. Give it a look.





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Priestess of War is Available in Paperback

Howdy folks!

You read the headline. The Priestess of War paperback is now here. Click to enlarge and see more of Renu’s beautiful artwork.


Here is the link to the book on Createspace:

The Amazon link is here:

It’s been over a week since the release of Priestess of War on Kindle and I’m happy with the response from those of you who have had the time to read it. Here’s one review I enjoyed from Jubal Early.

Trevor H Cooley is the reason I have Amazon Unlimited. Discovering a talented author that does not have the backing of a large publishing house has become a bit of a hobby for me. Trevor was my first. You can really tell that he has grown as an author over the course of his 10 novels (11 if you count Noosejumper’s which is a different series).

I don’t want to give plot points away, but for a book series that started with your standard “young bumbling protagonist discovers that he is super awesome” trope, it has developed into a story with mostly three dimensional characters that you genuinely care about. Trevor’s strength is in the relationships he builds. Considering that most of his characters have at least one other person that they are bound to that can read their thoughts, Trevor does a great job distinguishing between inner monologues, inner dialogues, and actual dialogue, which occasionally overlap.

I loved this book. While not my favorite book in the series, it is without question the most well written and continues the story very well. I hope you give this author a chance. He is delivering an excellent experience.


Thanks, Jubal! If you haven’t got your copy yet, please do.

Despite the excitement and response from readers so far, the books overall sales numbers have been slower than expected. For some reason Amazon hasn’t yet sent out messages to my past readership to let them know that the new book is out. If people don’t know, it’s really quiet and we need to get this book to climb the charts so that new readers will hear about the series. So, if you have finished the book, please leave a review of your own. That will help get Amazon’s attention.

Thank you all so much for your support. Without you, there wouldn’t be a Bowl of Souls series.


Trevor H. Cooley

P.S. For those of you waiting eagerly for the audiobook, it will be just a little bit longer. Andrew Tell has a couple of projects to finish for other authors before he can get started. I will keep you posted. If you haven’t read any of the audiobooks or are somewhere in the middle, let me know and I can get you one free copy. I’m still running that promotion (books 1-8) and for now I’m also including Noose Jumpers as an option.

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Ho! Ho! Ho! Today is the day for Priestess of War

That’s right folks, it should be here any time today. I’ll put up links as soon as I got ’em.

Here it is!!

Here are some stats:

Today!! Here are some stats.
25 chapters
120k words
1 Squirrel
2 Raptoids
A whole mess of Ogres

Maggots by the gallon

An Army of dead things.

One roast leg of Mammoth

A swearing contest


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Priestess of War release on Christmas Eve!

Keep this image in your mind:
There is a room surrounded in smoke and crackling electricity. A fire is blazing in the hearth. At a table in the center of the room are Justan and Willum playing cards against Theodore and Artemus. The air is full of Yuletide cheer . . . and thinly veiled insults.
Merry Christmas all!

That’s right, just four days away! It’s my gift to you!

If you want to get me something, please buy it! I’ll have full details on the release date.

Finishing up the ending and doing edit work as we speak! Exciting times!

In the meantime, if you can’t wait and want to give me an early present, Noose Jumpers is already available!


For you audiobook readers it will take a little longer. As soon as the book is ready, I’ll be sending a copy directly to Andrew Tell so that he can start recording. Depending on his schedule, we could see narration finished at some point in the next month. Stay tuned!


Trevor H. Cooley

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Priestess of War Mini Previews Compilation

Howdy folks!

For those of you that haven’t been following my Facebook page, I have been posting short mini previews of the book over the last month. There are six of them so far and I will be posting a few more up to the Christmas release date.

Think of these mini previews as the kinds of flashes of a scene you get when watching a film trailer. Each one is just a few paragraphs long, enough to tease a few scenes and character interactions.

Any spoilers are minor. I don’t give away any major plot points, though if you haven’t read up to The Troll King, you may find some of the character’s interactions confusing.

Here we go.

Mini Preview #1

— Deathclaw darted forward, keeping his body low to avoid a sweeping attack. His senses were heightened, his mind in complete focus, slowing the world down around him as he found a narrow opening for his blade. He thrust Star out in a fierce stab.
“Whoop!” cried Cletus, jumping backwards and sucking in his narrow gut to avoid being skewered. “Almost!”–

Mini Preview #2

— A rumble reached his ears and the warmth of the sun was diminished by a cool breeze thick with the smell of rain. A storm was coming. Fist groaned. It was happening again. He tried to ignore it.
“Let the dream stay nice,” he pleaded.
A sudden weight settled on his lower body, pushing him deeper into the cloud. A thin hand smacked his face and an insistent female voice said, “Hey! What are you groaning about, Big Guy?”
Fist cracked an eye open and saw Maryanne’s amused eyes looking down at him. She was leaning over him, the tips of her hair dangling down to tickle the sides of his face. The sun behind the gnome’s head lit her auburn hair, turning it the color of fire. Fist smiled up at her, his cheeks flushing as he realized she was straddling his hips.
“What?” she asked, sitting up. Her skin-tight leather armor creaked as she folded her arms. “Don’t just lay there grinning stupidly. We’ve got things to do.”
“No we don’t,” he said and reached up one arm to grasp the back of her neck. He pulled her back towards him. Her eyes narrowed in playful protest but she allowed him to bring her in for a deep kiss.
It lasted only a few moments before she pulled out of his embrace and sat up again. “I mean it, Fist,” she said and pointed off to the right. “That storm’s coming on quick and it ain’t made of clouds.”–

Mini Preview #3

–“Naughty Jack, pullin’ Momma’s hair,” Lenui said reproachfully.
Bettie bent down and Lenui reached up to help extract his son’s pudgy fingers from his momma’s curls. It wasn’t exactly easy. His little fists were clenched hard and his fingers were sticky. He also seemed to think this game of tug of war was funny. He giggled as his daddy pried and when Lenui finally pulled the baby’s hand free, he pulled several hairs out with it.
“Sorry ‘bout that, Darlin’,” Lenui said.
“Darlin’?” she asked suspiciously. “You butterin’ me up or somethin’?”
“I can say that. Yer my dag-gum wife, ain’t you?” he said, then changed the subject, planting a big smooch on the boy’s face. “Our Jack here’s got strong hands, just like his daddy. Don’t you, bo- ack!”
One of those strong hands had just grasped a fistful of Lenui’s mustache. It wasn’t in a nice spot, either, but just at the base of the nose where it was most sensitive. Half ‘stache hair and half nose hair. Jack laughed at his daddy’s pained expression.
“That’s right. You get him,” Bettie said approvingly, then attempted to assist Lenui. —

Mini Preview #4

–Sarine sped up, her needles clicking again. “Wait just a moment, Dear. I still haven’t mentioned the reason I wanted to speak with you in the first place.”
“No?” Darlan said. “Then what did you wish to speak to me about?”
“To be blunt, Dear, I was wondering why you haven’t been named yet,” Sarine replied.
Darlan’s foot caught on a step and she nearly stumbled forward. After a brief pause, she continued on as if nothing had happened. “That is a strange question. The Bowl names whom it will.”
“Don’t be disingenuous, Dear,” Sarine chastised, her needles clicking away. “The Bowl can’t name those who don’t approach it. I’ve seen the way you avoid going up to the Hall of Majesty. You don’t attend when students you know are being raised. From what I hear, you had Fist raised to apprentice without even taking him to the Bowl.”–

Mini Preview #5

–“Squirrel problems?” asked Maryanne with a yawn. She frowned sleepily and reached into her bedroll to pull out a handful of tiny seeds. “Blast it! Got seeds down my smallclothes.”
“At least that means he likes you. Otherwise it’d be poop,” Fist said. He sighed and rubbed his face with his hands. “I’m worried about him. He constantly thinks about fighting.”
Maryanne pushed her blankets aside and sat up, shivering in the morning air. Fist tried not to notice the way her undershirt gaped open at the neck. She leaned against his arm. “Don’t worry too hard, Big Guy. He’s a resourceful critter.”
“I know, but . . . I liked it better when he preferred to hide in the trees.” Fist said.
“I get it. But people grow. They change. Especially ones that started out without much smarts. I should know.” She rolled to her knees and leaned in to kiss him. “Don’t worry too hard. Also don’t think I didn’t notice you look down my shirt.”
Fist blushed. “I didn- . . . I tried not to.”
“I know you did,” she said with a chuckle. The gnome warrior turned away and started pulling on her leather armor. “That’s one of the things that makes you so cute.”
Rufus’ voice sounded loudly through the bond. Attack coming!–

Mini Preview #6

I’m proud of the chapter this scene is in. When you get there, you’ll know why. Be prepared for an epic curse fight!

–“I never said I was no great leader,” Lenui harrumphed. “And don’t act all high and mighty to me, dag-blast it! Yer supposed to be a dwarf. Cursin’ is a proud part of our heritage!”
“I’m not saying that cursing doesn’t have its place in our tradition,” the old dwarf allowed. “But only during holidays! And the cursing competition was done as a joke! Your generation is the one that started bringing that muddy language into every day speech!”
“That’s blasted bunk! My grandpappy used to curse me to sleep at night!” Lenui declared.
Old Bill rolled his eyes. “That’s right. You’re from Corntown where coarseness is second nature. But the rest of us weren’t ever that way. It’s your generation that spread it around to the rest of the dwarves. Now it’s become so common place nobody can speak the common language proper anymore!” He pointed his pipe at Lenui. “It’s one of the great travesties of our age. Two hundred years of young dwarfs so empty headed, they can’t spit out a coherent sentence!”
“That’s tiddle-pucky!” Lenui snapped. “Yer just against it ’cause you ain’t quick witted enough to keep up with me.”
“I’ll have you know that back in my younger days I was the champeen curser of my town!” Bill claimed. “I just knew the proper time and place for it.”
Lenui let out a belly rumbling guffaw. “Bull-apples!”
Old Bill’s face twisted into a deep scowl. “You challenging me, boy?”
“I been challengin’ you since we left the dag-blamed Academy,” Lenui growled.–

I hope you have enjoyed them. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Feel free to speculate!

Trevor H. Cooley

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Priestess of War Preview: Chapter One

Howdy folks, The writing is going strong. I’m on track for a pre-Christmas release of Priestess of War. To wet your whistles, I thought I would post the first complete chapter of the book.

SPOILER WARNING for those who have not finished The Troll King. This directly deals with events at the end of that book. Here it goes. Enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments below!




Chapter One


Fist let out a sigh of contentment and placed his large hands behind his head, his eyes closed. He was lying on his back on a comfortable bed. No, it wasn’t a bed. It was softer than that. The ogre felt lighter than air. It was as if he was lying on a cloud. He could feel the warmth of the sun upon his body.

At that thought, a slight frown crossed his features. He had experienced this before. Many times. He grew certain that if he opened his eyes the peaceful feeling would be gone, replaced by some kind of horrible vision. He clenched his eyes closed, willing that softness and warmth to linger.

A rumble reached his ears and the warmth of the sun was diminished by a cool breeze thick with the smell of rain. A storm was coming. Fist groaned. It was happening again. He tried to ignore it.

“Let the dream stay nice,” he pleaded.

A sudden weight settled on his lower body, pushing him deeper into the cloud. A thin hand smacked his face and an insistent female voice said, “Hey! What are you groaning about, Big Guy?”

Fist cracked an eye open and saw Maryanne’s amused eyes looking down at him. She was leaning over him, the tips of her hair dangling down to tickle the sides of his face. The sun behind the gnome’s head lit her auburn hair, turning it the color of fire. Fist smiled up at her, his cheeks flushing as he realized she was straddling his hips.

“What?” she asked, sitting up. Her skin-tight leather armor creaked as she folded her arms. “Don’t just lay there grinning stupidly. We’ve got things to do.”

“No we don’t,” he said and reached up one arm to grasp the back of her neck. He pulled her back towards him. Her eyes narrowed in playful protest but she allowed him to bring her in for a deep kiss.

It lasted only a few moments before she pulled out of his embrace and sat up again. “I mean it, Fist,” she said reproachfully and pointed off to the right. “That storm’s coming on quick and it ain’t made of clouds.”

The cool breeze picked up again, turning into a gust that blew her hair to the side, exposing her floppy ears. The smell of approaching rain was thicker now, but beneath it was a putrid undertone. There was a rumble of thunder and, despite his determination to ignore it, Fist looked in the direction she was pointing.

Lightning flickered in the menacing oncoming clouds. Only Fist knew that it wasn’t truly lightning. The clouds were made up of swarms of flies and winged moonrats and the flashes of light were caused by the flickering glow of their eyes. As if on cue, Fist heard the stomp of oncoming feet and saw his father running towards them, his heavy feet obliterating the clouds beneath him.

“This is my dream!” Fist growled.

Mistress Sarine had taught him that his recurring dreams were part of his spirit magic. She said that they were the Creator’s way of speaking to him and that if he could hold onto his awareness that it was a dream, he could control certain aspects of it. In this case, he wanted to go back to his interesting encounter with Maryanne. He willed everything else to go away.

Evidently, that was not an aspect of the dream he could control, because the storm only grew darker. Crag’s face was bloodied and bruised as he shouted out at him. “Fight!”

Maryanne stood and held his mace out to him, her gaze firm. “C’mon, Fist. He’s right. Stand up and fight!”

Grumbling, Fist rolled to his knees and climbed to his feet. If this was how the dream had to be, he would face it as a warrior. He snatched his mace from the gnome’s hand and he was suddenly outfitted for war. His iron breastplate shimmered with earth magic and his shield was heavy on his left arm. Fist gritted his teeth and sent out threads of earth and air magic. Lightning crackled over the surface of his skin.

“We will fight this evil together,” he promised.

Yes! Fight! Kill! cried Squirrel enthusiastically, appearing on Fist’s shoulder. The furry animal was wearing a vest made of chainmail and a tiny sword was clenched in one of his small hands. Fist lifted one thick brow. Squirrel certainly had grown bloodthirsty since arriving in the mountains.

The wind picked up, buffeting Fist as the smell of rot increased. His father ran towards them as fast as his legs would carry him over the fluffy clouds. Crag arrived just in front of the storm, a look of frustration on his battered face. “I said fight!”

“I am ready,” Fist said, his eyes fixed on the oncoming horde. He was able to make out individual beasts in the cloud now and between the snarling moonrats and specks of flies were larger winged creatures, some of them as large as Fist himself.

“Not them, Toompa!” Crag shouted and swung a heavy fist.

Fist had known this was coming. This dream usually began with Crag punching him off of the clouds. He raised his shield to catch his father’s blow. There was a meaty thud and the ogre chieftain grimaced, shaking his hand.

“We will fight together this time,” Fist declared and reached out with his magic, sending a bolt of lightning into the enemy ranks. There were pained screeches as moonrat eyes burst and blackened bodies fell from the air.

Maryanne fired rapidly, her arrows taking out moonrats one-by-one. Fist saw a large beast break free from the others and hurtle towards her. It was dark and menacing, a tangle of clawed appendages attached to wings. Maryanne’s next arrow struck at the heart of it. The creature continued towards her as the light died from its eyes.

“Maryanne!” Fist cried out as the beast’s heavy body slammed into the gnome warrior, bowling her off the edge of the cloud.

Fist didn’t hesitate. He ran and dove off the edge after her. Squirrel wisely leapt from his shoulder and landed on Crag. Crag and Squirrel continued to fight, Squirrel valiantly skewering flies on his tiny sword as Fist fell from view.

As Fist plummeted after her, he saw Maryanne push her way free from the dead beast’s limp limbs. The spry gnome spread her arms and legs wide, somewhat slowing her descent. Fist plowed into her back.

“I got you!” he declared, wrapping his massive arms around her.

“What the hell’re you doing?” Maryanne shouted back at him in surprise. “Did you jump after me on purpose? Now we’re both falling, ya goblin brain!”

“I know that,” Fist replied. He wasn’t afraid for himself. He always fell in his dream and the landing never hurt him. Of course, landing in the Black Lake led to its own unpleasantries, but he had learned how to will himself not to fall into the Black Lake.

Maryanne, on the other hand, might not be under that same protection. Despite the fact that he knew this was a dream, he couldn’t bear the idea of seeing her die. Besides, he knew from experience that some aspects of the dream tended to come true.

“This is my dream,” he said, holding her tightly as the wind whipped past them and the distant ground closed in. “I choose.”

“Then choose to let go of me!” she snapped and struggled in his arms.

Fist ignored her, willing their descent to slow down. He tried to change the reality of the dream, envisioning both of them standing safe on the shores of the lake below. But as he looked at the approaching mountain range, he realized he wasn’t falling towards the Black lake this time. He was headed somewhere between the lake and the Thunder People Territory.

“Let go,” Maryanne repeated, still trying to pull free. “You’re gonna land on top of me!”

“We’re not gonna hit the ground,” Fist promised her, but his normal tactic wasn’t working. They were still hurtling towards the rocky ground below. As the earth rushed up towards him, Fist could make out the forms of a large group of people rushing away from the Thunder People’s home. It’s my dream, he thought again and tried to picture himself and Maryanne joining the group of people below.

“I said, let GO!” Maryanne snapped her head back, smashing his nose. To his horror, she managed to push free from him just as the ground came up to meet them.

The gnome warrior spun in the air and landed deftly, somehow absorbing the momentum of the fall in a roll on the ground before rising to her feet.

Fist, on the other hand, landed with a splat, face down in the mud. The air was blasted from his lungs and he laid there for a moment unmoving, humiliated. Of course she would land fine without his help. She was a gnome warrior after all.

He could hear the rattle of armor and stomp of footsteps as people marched all around him. A powerful hand gripped his shoulder and pulled him free from the muck, bringing him to his knees. “Dag-gum it, Fist! Get yer sorry hide up. We got a garl-friggin’ war goin’ on!”

“Lenny?” Fist said, wiping mud from his eyes.

The dwarf’s familiar red handlebar mustache was askew and he looked battered and bruised from the fighting, but he just grinned his gap-toothed grin and charged ahead with the others, waving Buster in the air. Fist stood, watching as Academy warriors and brawny ogres rushed past him, intermixed with Mage School wizards. He tried to make out faces to see who else had come with Lenny, but they were all ablur.

“C’mon!” said Maryanne, standing beside him without a spatter of mud on her.

The gnome warrior ran on ahead of him, pulling an arrow from the magical quiver at her waist. Fist tried to run after her but his movements were slow. His arms felt heavy and he grew lethargic and weak. People continued to rush by him, heading towards what he was certain was a massive battle at the Black Lake. Fist tried to take charge, tried to will himself forward, but for some reason this was yet another aspect of the dream he couldn’t control.

“Oo-ooh! Ride?” Rufus asked.

The ape-like rogue horse ran up beside him, his enormous mouth stretched with a wide grin, exposing plate-sized teeth. Squirrel was standing on Rufus’ shoulder and Fist’s eyes widened at small animal’s appearance. His chainmail vest had been replaced with a bandoleer of tiny throwing knives and his wide fluffy tail was gone. In its place was an arching reptilian tail with a pointed barb on the end.

“What happened to you, Squirrel?” Fist asked slowly, curious despite his sluggish state.

I am Deathclaw, Squirrel replied and opened his mouth to expose razor sharp teeth.

Fist would have recoiled but, somehow in the logic of the dream, it made sense. “Thank you, Rufus,” Fist said and tried to raise his heavy leg.

No! said Squirrel, shaking his head. You can’t come up. Not with all those snakes.

“Snakes?” Fist looked down and discovered that his arms and legs were weighed down by dozens of mud-covered brown snakes, each of them latched to him with their teeth.

Fist wasn’t a squeamish sort. He fought giant spiders and ravening trolls without fear. But there was something about snakes that he found unnatural. There was the sinuous way they moved and the fact that even the smallest ones could kill an ogre if they were poisonous enough. He had killed many before, but always with a shiver. This was too much.

He screamed. It was a deep and sluggish sound. It had to be the venom of the snakes that was affecting him.

Fist . . , came the familiar sound of Justan’s thoughts.

Fist didn’t listen. He frantically tried to wave his arms and stomp his legs to shake the snakes off, but all he managed was an odd sort of slow shuffle. His scream continued, panicked in his mind, but aloud it sounded as if he were simply trying to hold a low note.

Fist, I need to talk to you, said Justan’s thoughts again and Fist realized that Justan was there, standing in front of him. There was a tired look on his face.

“Snaaakess,” Fist said in slow motion, pleading to Justan. “Heeellp!”

This is just a dream, Fist, Justan said patiently, his arms folded. Sorry, but I need you to wake up. Something horrible has happened.

The sorrowful feeling coming from Justan’s thoughts jolted through to Fist and he realized that he had let the dream take over. The sluggishness disappeared. “Justan, is that really you and not part of my dream?”

It is, Justan replied. He held out his hand.

Fist reached out to him and the snakes weren’t there anymore. The moment their hands touched, the dream faded from his mind. Fist became aware of the hard ground beneath the thin layer of his bedroll. He could hear Maryanne’s soft snore nearby and could feel the weight of Rufus’ heavy arm over him.

Fist muted those sensations and focused on his connection with Justan through the bond. I am sorry, Justan. I was trying to reach you a while ago and while I was waiting I must have fallen asleep.

It was a long day. We just now stopped for a few hours of sleep ourselves, Justan said. I couldn’t wait for tomorrow, though. I needed to talk to you.

Once again, Fist was overwhelmed by the weary sadness that filled Justan’s thoughts. The ogre was afraid to learn what he had to say. I have a lot to tell you, too, but what happened? Did someone . . . He hesitated to say the word die, but that was definitely the feeling he was getting.

I-I . . . Justan hesitated, unable to form his thoughts into words and Fist’s heart sank. I’ll just show you.

Justan’s memories flowed into Fist’s mind. He saw the two massive armies facing each other. He saw the small platform in the middle of the small marsh at the center of the valley where Jhonate’s father was meeting with the Gnome Warlord to decide whether there would be peace or war.

Aldie led Justan away from the valley and Fist’s heart leapt as Talon came into view. She’s back? Fist feared that Deathclaw’s sister had killed someone close to them. What was she doing in Malaroo?

Just watch, Justan replied and the memory continued.

Fist watched with awe as Justan used his sword to try and heal Talon’s insanity. Then Justan’s focus shifted to the treachery occurring at the armies’ center. Chaos erupted as the ancient troll behemoth rose from the ground beneath the armies and men were swallowed right and left. Thousands of lives were lost right before Justan’s eyes.

When it was over, Fist’s mind was just as numb as Justan’s had been. So many gone. Fist didn’t know most of the people personally. Justan had spent more time with the victims of the massacre. But he had known Djeri the Looker. Fist had spent several nights on guard duty with Lenny’s nephew and had liked him.

And Aldie, Justan said. I didn’t see it myself, but I heard. He was helping evacuate the valley and was pulled underground.

Fist winced. Sir Lance’s son had been so brave during the war. For him and Djeri to die in a foreign land in a war that wasn’t theirs? Horrible.

There were so many lost that the remainder of the army has been in confusion. Since we stopped, Xedrion has had his officers put together a list of those missing. The number keeps growing, Justan sent and his sorrow turned to rage as he added, and it’s all because that gnome was in league with Mellinda.

That last thought pierced through the haze in Fist’s mind. But that can’t be true.

And yet, it is. Somehow she survived our attack in the Dark Forest and found a new body, Justan said, sending the images he had pulled from Talon’s mind. Fist, she has the Rings of Stardeon. She must be more powerful than ever.

But, Justan, Mellinda is here, Fist said. Locksher saw it. That’s what I was going to tell you tonight.

It was Justan’s turn to be stunned. How is that possible?

Fist sent his memories through the bond and told Justan about their mission to the Black Lake and how it had grown in size and the number of infested monsters had increased. He showed Justan how Locksher had allowed himself to become infested so that he could follow the evil magic to its source.

He discovered that it was Mellinda’s power, Fist explained and repeated what Locksher had said, telling Justan that when Jhonate had hewn Mellinda’s soul in two, her power had found a way to escape into two orange moonrat eyes that had been left behind in the mountains. Her evil is what created the larvae. It worked a lot like the way she made the moonrats.

Justan digested all that Fist had shown him. Then what you’re facing is her power only? None of her old intelligence is behind it?

That is what Locksher sensed when he was communicating with it, Fist replied. The way the wizard had explained it, this was just the abscess that had grown from Mellinda’s soul as she had accumulated more and more evil power over the centuries. Her intelligence was gone.

And Locksher thinks that the Dark Prophet has taken control of this power? Justan asked.

He said that this is the part of Mellinda that was connected to the Dark Bowl. It was running wild and the Dark Prophet sent one of his servants to take charge. This had made the evil more dangerous than before. Now the larvae had more of a purpose than to mindlessly breed and control the living. This servant is using some kind of red spirit magic to make Mellinda’s power do his will.

Red spirit magic? Justan hadn’t heard of that before. Every spirit magic he had seen had been white, black, or gray.

Dark red, Fist replied. He hadn’t seen it himself but that was how Locksher had described it.

Justan considered it for a moment. I’ll have to ask Beth or Tolynn if they know what that color means.

Locksher thinks that this person is probably one of the Dark Prophet’s old soldiers or priestesses, Fist added. She was really powerful. We barely escaped.

It had been the storm that saved them. It had been a harrowing ride away from the lake for the four of them clinging to Rufus’ broad back. The thickly falling snow had obscured their escape, but the mysterious woman had come after them, blindly lashing out with air magic in a vicious attack. Wind whipped at them with the fury of winter’s last gasp.

Rufus’ climbing skill had been sorely tested. The rogue horse nearly fell several times. The ice and slush that clung to the mountainside was treacherous and that was before their enemy sent out vibrating strands of earth magic. Tremors shook the cliff face. Rocks loosened from beneath his hands and he had been forced to make several ill-advised leaps.

For his passengers, the experience had been terrifying. If Locksher hadn’t used air magic to lash everyone to Rufus’ back, surely some of them would have fallen to their deaths. As it was, all of them had been battered and bruised by the constant jerking about. Rufus himself had fractured a wrist after one particularly long fall and Fist had needed to repair it through the bond before they continued on.

Did Maryanne ask my great grandmother if she recognized the woman? Justan asked.

She was going to, but I fell asleep before she had time to tell me what she found out, Fist replied. Mistress Sarine’s bonds had given her an extraordinary lifespan. She had been one of the Prophet’s companions during the war two hundred years ago. If their new enemy was one of the Dark Prophet’s priestesses she should recognize her.

Okay, let me know what you find out tomorrow night, Justan replied and Fist felt the bonding wizard’s weariness overtake the bond again.

I will, Fist said. A feeling of guilt surged within him. The evil he faced in the mountains seemed small compared to importance of the events Justan faced. Justan . . . I am sorry that I was not able to be there with you.

Don’t be, Justan assured him. I can see now that we are both where we need to be. Your mission is every bit as important as . . . His thoughts brightened as an idea occurred to him. Fist, maybe more help is coming than you know. Before he left, the Prophet told Tarah Woodblade he had somewhere else important to be. Somewhere where major players needed his help. Maybe he’s coming to you.

Really? Fist replied, hope stirring in his chest. If the Prophet came surely everything would all end up alright.

I don’t know it for sure, but it makes sense now that we know the Dark Prophet has taken control of the Black Lake, Justan pointed out. And even if the Prophet isn’t coming, the news of what Locksher learned today should force the Mage School and Academy to get moving up there.

I hope so, Fist said somewhat doubtfully. They certainly had been dragging their feet so far. It was mainly the Mage School Council that was slowing things down. The Academy wasn’t prepared to move on their own.

I should go now, Justan said and Fist felt him yawn through the bond. Xedrion will want to continue our march soon and I should sleep as much as I can.

Okay. Justan . . . Tell Jhonate I am sorry about her siblings.

I will, Fist. We’ll talk again tomorrow.

As always, Fist replied. It was their common goodbye at the end of the night, yet Fist felt a twinge of sadness every time Justan’s presence faded.

Fist’s awareness of the world around him increased as his thoughts retreated from the bond. He could hear the distant sound of ogres at campfires, but everyone in their own camp seemed to be asleep. His body was still tired and sore and he tried to drift back to sleep himself, but his mind was too active after all that Justan had shown him.

Fist carefully lifted Rufus’ heavy arm off of his chest. Fist hoped not to wake him, but rogue horses were notoriously light sleepers. The intense core of energy that powered them meant that they needed very little rest, but Rufus had used an immense amount of power the day before. To his relief, the ape-like beast simply rolled to his back with a grunt and kept sleeping.

Fist turned to his other side and reached out to gently nudge the gnome sleeping next to him. “Maryanne,” he whispered.

Her snore stopped mid-breath and she cracked an irritated eye at him. “Huh?”

“I just finished talking to Justan,” he replied, feeling a bit guilty for waking her.

She let out a soft groan and rolled to face him. “And?”

“And . . .” He grimaced. “I wanted to know what Sarine told you.”

She sighed. “Sorry. It’s just that I feel like I was tied up in a sack and beaten by a dozen orcs.”

“Sorry,” Fist said, well aware of the beating they had all taken earlier that day.  “Do you want me to heal you?”

“You do know how to make me tingle in all the right places.” Maryanne gave him a tired smile. “But no. I’ll be fine. What did your bonding wizard have to say?”

Fist briefly told her about the disastrous events in Malaroo. “He says that the woman leading those troll people was Mellinda.”

She frowned. “Impossible.”

“That’s what I told him,” Fist said. “But the people that saw her swore it was true.”

“Sure is something strange going on there,” Maryanne said.

“Did you ask Mistress Sarine about that red spirit magic Locksher saw?” Fist asked.

“Yeah. That concerned her. She said she was going to look into it,” Maryanne replied. “Sarine was pretty distracted, though. She said the Prophet showed up at the Mage School today raising holy hell.”

“Really?” Fist said with a grin. “Justan said John might be coming up here to help us!”

“I don’t think so,” she said regretfully. “He was mainly mad at them because they hadn’t done the ceremony to call a new head wizard. He told them to get off their butts and start making decisions and then he left.”


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Updated Noose Jumpers Cover!

Howdy Folks!

I have a pretty neat announcement to make. I am updating the cover for the Kindle and Audiobook versions of Noose Jumpers.

While I really do love the original cover art, I have received feedback from readers and passionate relatives that the cover wasn’t as immediately eye catching as it should be. Especially in thumbnail form. It is the kind of cover that is more interesting after having read the book, but may not pull folks in from the beginning. So, with a mixture of excitement and sadness for the cover that was, here is the reveal:



I think it screams action and calls back to the old posters of the Spaghetti Western era.

This new artwork was done by the narrator for my audiobooks, Mr. Andrew Tell. As you can see, he is not just a vocal talent, but is also a brilliant cover artist.

For the time being, the Paperback edition will keep the original cover.

What do you folks think?

Trevor H. Cooley

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Priestess of War Cover Reveal!!

Howdy, Folks!

I am very excited to reveal the cover for the next book in the Bowl of Souls, PRIESTESS OF WAR.

Coming soon!

Coming soon!

Renu did a fantastic job with the artwork, as usual. Special thanks to Soers D’ Armes for the beautiful leather armor work. They are the same designers that produced the armor for the Tarah Woodblade cover. You can see more of their work here:

Priestess of War is just weeks away. I am writing like the wind, (If the wind had a mind addled by stress and a mix of Diet Sundrop and Mountain Dew.) I’ll keep you updated here with more details as we get closer. I will be posting preview chapters as well.

For now, I’ll give you the back cover blurb. SPOILERS AHEAD for those who have not finished the TROLL KING yet.

“While Malaroo reels from the Troll Mother’s attack, Justan discovers untapped potential in his magic. Now that he has finally gained the trust of Jhonate’s father, he finds himself opposing the Protector.

Born of war and kept young only by the darkest of magic, the Dark Prophet’s most powerful priestess has returned to the Trafalgan Mountains to take control of the Black Lake’s mindless evil. Now, with a growing army of the infested and dead under her power, she turns her gaze on Dremaldria.

Fist’s chances of helping his former tribe destroy the Black Lake are bleak at best. The combined help of the Academy and the Mage School may not be enough to help him defeat The Priestess of War.”

Thank you so much and if you haven’t already, please give Noose Jumpers a chance. I need to pay some bills!!

Trevor H. Cooley


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Noose Jumpers Audiobook is Here!

The wait is over! You can get your copy now!


14 Hrs long and narrated beautifully by Andrew Tell. Give it a chance, folks. You need something to read while you’re waiting for me to finish Priestess of War, right?

Here’s a bonus fan art Noose Jumper’s Poster by Andrew Tell himself.


“A novel set in a fantastical version of the American West.

The Noose Jumper Era was a chaotic time of lawlessness in the late 1800s when a growing tide of outlaws engaged in a race to become famous. Most of them ended up at the noose.

Three young men emerge from a small town in the territory of New Mexico. They are bound by a pact and guided by mysterious powerful beings that no one else can see. Together they must face off against the Sheriff of Puerta de la Muerte, a wicked man who cannot be struck by bullets. Are they destined to become legends, or are they just mere noose jumpers?”

It should be on Itunes shortly!

Coming up next week, The Priestess of War cover reveal!

Let me know what you think and please, tell your friends.

Trevor H. Cooley

Posted in Audiobooks, The Bowl of Souls, Writing | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

October Update

Howdy folks!

Let me start off with some great news.


The Noose Jumpers Audiobook has been completed and submitted to Audible and Itunes. It should be available to purchase some time in the next 5-10 business days. Please let me know once you see it! I’ll be posting links to it once I have them.

Andrew Tell did a fantastic job with the narration as he has done on the Bowl of Souls books. It runs about 14 hours long and is a lot of fun. He did amazing things with the characters of our heroes and their legendary backers.

For those of you that aren’t audiobook listeners and are eagerly awaiting the next Bowl of Souls novel, please give the Noose Jumpers Kindle Edition or Paperback a chance in the meantime. I know that many of you are put off by the fact that it is set in the Old West, but this is not your standard Western. It is a fantasy in a new world and the beginning of a new series that I plan to write between Bowl of Souls books. Setting aside it’s unconventional setting, it is still my characterization and sense of humor. Judging by the reviews so far and conversations I have had with readers, those of my fans that give it a try really like it and look forward to the next one. I could use your support.

Now for more updates.

Writing of Priestess of War (Book Ten of the Bowl of Souls series and Part Five of the Jharro Grove Saga) is coming along fine. I hope to be finished by the end of November. My wife is holding my grits to the fire to get that done. I think you are going to enjoy where this story goes.

SPOILER WARNING IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED TROLL KING. It features Fist and Justan most heavily, focusing on the aftermath of the disaster in Malaroo and Fist dealing with the new threat that has harnessed the power of the evil in the Black Lake. END OF SPOILERS.

Renu is working on the cover as I write this. There were a few delays along the way, but her work should done soon. I am excited to share that with you.

Also, I am still holding that Bowl of Souls audiobook promotion. I still have many codes left. If you are interested, I would be happy to send you a code for a Bowl of Souls audiobook. Any one of books 1-7 that you wish. The audiobooks are fun alternate way to read the story again and I’d love to get you started.

Finally, I would like to mention that the Noose Jumpers short film is making its rounds of the festival circuit, showing this weekend at the Orlando Film Festival as well as the Way Down Film Festival in Columbus Georgia. My brother is keeping busy attending both of them.

EDIT: The film was nominated for Best Short Film at the Orlando Film Festival! Even though it didn’t win, it’s still a huge honor. Only five were nominated out of over 200 short films!

Thank you. I hope to have more updates for you soon!

Trevor H. Cooley


Posted in Audiobooks, Completely 100% True, Noose Jumpers, The Bowl of Souls, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bowl of Souls Book 10 Title Reveal and September Update!

Howdy folks!

I’ve got several updates to give you, but first an announcement. In the past I have known quite a while in advance what the title of the next book in the Bowl of Souls series is going to be. This time I wasn’t quite sure. I took suggestions from readers and discussed it endlessly with my wife/editor and nothing felt quite right. Finally, while discussing the cover art with the fabulous Renu Sharma, it came to me.

The title of the new book will be, Priestess of War.

Priestess of War is Book Five of the Jharro Grove Saga (There will be one more book in the saga after this one.) and book ten of the Bowl of Souls Series overall. It continues where the Troll King left off. It will deal with Justan and the aftermath in Malaroo, but the main focus deals with Fist’s part of the storyline. The evil in the mountains has grown and, as we found out, a new villain has arrived to take control of the situation. She is the titular character.

More news:

As I mentioned, I have been working with Renu on the cover for the book which I hope to reveal in the next few weeks.

Following the cover reveal, I will begin posting sample chapters of the book, much like I have in the past.

On the audiobook front, Andrew Tell is beginning narration work on Noose Jumpers. We hope to have that book completed and available in October. (Please, if you haven’t picked up the kindle version, do so! This book needs your support!”

The audio version of Priestess of War will be next in the works.. Andrew will start it as soon as he can once I have the book finished.

In other news, The Noose Jumpers short film has been entered into several film festivals. It has been accepted into two of them so far. It will be shown at the Wild Bunch Film Festival in Harrah Oklahoma on September 24th. Link here. I will be there with the director and will be available to sign books after the screening. I will have some copies of Noose Jumpers with me. If you want a sneak peek at the film, see it here. . The version shown at the film festival will be a longer cut with more of a Sergio Leoneish feel.

Finally, I am still running the free audiobook promotion. If you have not yet received a free copy of a Bowl of Souls audiobook, post a comment here or send me a message on my Contact Page or my Facebook Page.  Only one per family and it must be books 1-7 or Hilt’s Pride. (Also the free codes only work on They can’t be used on AudibleUK or AudibleDE.)

Thanks everyone for your support!




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Get a Free Bowl of Souls Audiobook

Howdy Folks!

I mentioned this in the last post, but I thought I would make it more official. To celebrate the release of the Troll King on audible, I am giving away free codes for Bowl of Souls audiobooks on Audible. Here’s why.

I think audiobooks are an underappreciated medium for storytelling. It’s a growing medium for sure, but one most people pass by. A good narrator can open up the world of a book in a new way that you may have missed reading on your own. Andrew Tell does such an amazing job with these books I know that it has added enjoyment of the story for my family.  In my mind it’s akin to seeing a film version or stage play of a novel you like. Only, it sticks to the script.

I have a growing group of audiobook fans, but since this is a new thing to most of my readership, I want to get you started. If you like it, maybe you’ll want to buy the rest. Who knows?

Here are the restrictions.

  1. It must be a Bowl of Souls audiobook and it must be books 1-7 or Hilt’s Pride. (That means not Ogre Apprentice or Troll King)
  2. One free copy per family.
  3. Quantities are limited, so it’s first come first serve.

If you are interested, there are three ways to get your free copy. 1. Contact me with the contact page on this site. 2. Leave a comment on this article (I’ll see your email address). 3.Message me on Facebook. I’ll email you with instructions and your audiobook code.

That’s it. I hope you contact me and get started. It’s a lot of fun.



P.S. If you are an audiobook listener and already have all the books and feel a little left out, contact me and I’ll see if I can’t get you a free Kindle copy.

P.S.S. I just found out that the codes can’t be used on Audible UK or Audible DE. Sorry!

Posted in Audiobooks, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments

The Troll King Audiobook is HERE!! And Giveaway Announcement!

Yes, our long national crisis is finally over. The Troll King is available in audiobook format now!


This is a big one at 16 hrs and 10 mins. Andrew Tell did an amazing job as usual. I think this narration may be my favorite one yet. I love his voice for the Troll King.

With this release, the Bowl of Souls audiobooks have finally caught up with the rest of the series. Don’t feel too disheartened by this, though. The audiobook of my latest novel, Noose Jumpers, is coming in mid-October.

By then I should (If things go as planned) have completed Book Ten in the Bowl of Souls series. Keep your eyes trained here for more details on that new book, including the title announcement, in the next week or so. I have started talking with Renu about the cover art as of today so we have that to look forward to as well.

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the Bowl of Souls in audiobook format, you should. It’s a fun way to relive the books again with the fantastic storytelling skills of James Foster (Books 1 & 2) and Andrew Tell (Books 3-ongoing).

In fact, I’m willing to get you started with an impromptu giveaway! Contact me and receive a free copy of any of the Bowl of Souls books (1-7) in audiobook format. Just use the form at the top of the page or leave your request in the comments. Tell me which book you want and I will send you a code for a free copy from Audible! Here are the books available:

There are some limitations. I can do this for books 1-7 and Hilt’s Pride only. I only have 100 codes so it’s first come, first served. Also one code per family unit, so choose carefully which one you want. Do you want to start from the beginning with Eye of the Moonrat or is there a particular favorite in the series you want to start with? The choice is up to you.

Thank you for all the support,

Trevor H. Cooley

Posted in Audiobooks, The Bowl of Souls | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

Noose Jumpers in Print and Other News

Howdy, folks! I have some updates to pass along.

First of all, Noose Jumpers is now available in Trade Paperback! Like the Bowl of Souls books, it is a 6×9 format with a glossy cover. It looks fantastic. Here’s the wrap around image. Click to zoom in. I love the noose on the spine with the series number in it.

Final Draft 1


Here are some links to the different versions of the book:



Also, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, I thought I would once again include the Short Film that I wrote that inspired this whole endeavor. I talk about it in the author’s note at the end of the book. I wrote this short film as a teaser for a television show concept. Then I wrote the pilot episode. This happened in the months between the release of The Ogre Apprentice and The Troll King. My younger brother Jared and I hashed out the idea and I liked it so much, that I decided I really wanted to make a series out of it. I had already been thinking that I needed to start a new series that I could write between Bowl of Souls books and this was something that had so much potential I had to see it through.

So here, the link to the short film is below. It is an early version of the Noose Jumpers world, so you will notice some distinct differences. One glaring one is that Sandy Tucker and Pecos don’t face off against the Stranger and his prospect in the novel. (Also the Stranger is a bit different here than he is in the book.) The film was done on a tiny budget over a single weekend in New Mexico, but I have to say I was quite impressed with the result. Jared was able to put together an excellent cast and crew, many of whom we would like to be a part of the television show if we can ever garner enough interest to get it made. I actually think that the actor who played the Stranger, J La Rose, would be perfect for the role of the Coyote.



Now, it’s been a week since I completed the book. Early numbers are a bit slow. I figure that many of you are more interested in the next Bowl of Souls book and I understand that. I have certain authors who I like that have one series I prefer above others. (Like R.A. Salvatore and his Drizzt books.) But I hope you’ll give it a try. That way my family can eat while I write the next Bowl of Souls novel. In the future I plan to alternate bewteen the two series, but first I want to complete the Jharro Grove Saga.

Speaking of the next book in the Jharro Grove Saga, I have started writing it. Usually I take a month off between books, but this time I’m heading straight into it. I’ll try to keep you folks updated along the way more than I have in the past. I’m still not sure of the title, but that will come as I go.

I have spent some of the last few days listening to the chapters of the Troll King audiobook that Andrew Tell has finished so far. I thought you might be interested in how the process works. Basically, I send the manuscript to Andrew and he reads through the whole thing. Then he narrates the book in his home recording studio and sends the narration to me chapter-by-chapter. I listen to them and send him notes on character voices or any errors. It always impresses me how he manages to give all these characters their own unique voices. He’s a consummate professional and keeps recording references of each one so that he can remember how he did them. Once he has completed the narration and I have listened through, he does a final edit sweep and once I approve it, we send it off to ACX, who distributes it to Audible, Amazon, and Itunes.

We hope to have the narration of the Troll King finished in the next couple of weeks so that it will be available for purchase by mid August. Then Andrew will start on the narration for Noose Jumpers.

Thank you for your time and support. And please, if you haven’t had the chance yet, please give Noose Jumpers a try.


Trevor H. Cooley


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Noose Jumpers is Now Available!

After eight long months, it’s finally here! Noose Jumpers is live on Amazon.

It’s a Western and a Fantasy with overtones of the old Greek Odysseys. Here is the back cover blurb:
The Noose Jumper Era – A chaotic time of lawlessness in the Old West when a growing tide of outlaws engaged in a race to become famous.
Three young men emerge from a small town in the territory of New Mexico. They are bound by a pact and guided by mysterious powerful beings that no one else can see. Together they must face off against the Sheriff of Puerta de la Muerte, a wicked man who cannot be struck by bullets.
Are they destined to become legends, or are they just mere Noose Jumpers?

Get your copy now! Please give it a read and let me know what you think! I put my heart and soul into this. My wife/editor says it’s her favorite book yet.

Link here:

Noose Jumpers ebook cover 5 gig

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A Quick Update: Noose Jumpers, Bowl of Souls, and Audiobooks

Howdy folks! Things have been crazy the last few weeks I have been working hard, pulling all-nighters in order to finally get Noose Jumpers finished. We are in the editing stage right now. I got a few tweaks to make, however we are really close. Like this weekend close. So keep an eye out here or on my Facebook Or Twitter pages so that you can know the minute Noose Jumpers is released.

Next, I’m going full steam on the Jharro Grove, book five. This one main focus is on Fist and the battle in the mountains. I’m not quite ready to announce the title yet because my wife/editor and I are debating some options. What do you think? I like “The Ogre Mage” (Because of Fist’s growth with his powers) but she feels that could be confusing since we already have “The Ogre Apprentice.” I am also tossing around the title, “The Black Lake”. Not quite sure about that one. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Also, there is something else I would like to address regarding the Bowl of Souls. I have received several messages from people concerned that with this next book being book ten and with me starting this new Noose Jumpers series, that the Bowl of Souls series and the world that inhabits it will be coming to an end. Heck, maybe some of you are hoping it will finally be over. Well, I can promise you that this is not the end. There will be six books altogether in the Jharro Grove Saga (So one more concluding volume after this next one.) I also have plans for two more Sagas in the series. After all, there is the Dark Prophet himself to contend with as well as that mysterious 4th prophet that John alluded to in Ogre Apprentice. Even then I don’t know that it will be over. Though characters may live and die, the world will not. I have been living and breathing the world of the Bowl of Souls since I was a teenager. I have a feeling that as long as I am still breathing and writing there will never truly be a LAST Bowl of Souls book.

In audiobook news, Andrew Tell has started narration on the Troll King. We hope to release it on Audible and Itunes by the end of this month or early August at the latest. Then he will start on Noose Jumpers with a release some time this fall.

Thank you so much, everyone, for you patience. I will update later this week when I have uploaded the finished Noose Jumpers novel to Amazon.




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Noose Jumpers Preview Chapter 4: Introducing Tom Dunn


Howdy folks.The release date on this book is coming soon. I know that I said that months ago, but this time I mean it! Seriously! I love this storyline and the new world I have created and I think you will too.

Here is the last preview chapter as promised. This one introduces Tom Dunn; the youngest member of the Red Star Gang. He is the gambler of the group and his backer is the mischievous specter known only as The Kid.

If you haven’t read the previous preview chapters, you can check them out below:

Preview one: The Death of Bobby Estrella

Preview two: Introducing Luke Bassett

Preview three: Introducing Sandy Tucker

As always, please let me know what you think!

Noose Jumpers ebook cover 5 gig

Right in Front of His Wanted Poster

An excerpt from the Tale of Tom Dunn


“There’s no such thing as cheating at cards. It’s all just part of the game.” – William “Canada Bill” Jones’ last words before being choked to death, Charity Hospital, 1880.


Now that the trains ran through Luna Gorda, the town boasted of no less than four hotels. The Cloverleaf Hotel was the oldest and smallest of them. It was a narrow two story building consisting of three small guest rooms and a bath upstairs and a common area and kitchen downstairs. Established in the early days of the settlement, the Cloverleaf Hotel had long been owned by the O’Malley family. Proprietorship had been passed down through two generations until, at the time of this tale, it was owned and operated by Miss Joline O’Malley.

The small, but cozy parlor of the hotel was filled by a modest bar and two tables, one of which was occupied by four men playing a game of cards. This meant that the small bar needed to be tended and, this early in the day, that meant that the responsibility fell to Joline herself.

She sat glumly behind the bar reading a dime novel, only looking up occasionally to shoot irritated glares at the men when they asked for something. Most of those glares fell upon Tom Dunn. The nerve of him, calling a game together in her parlor in the middle of the day. If she’d had the ability, her eyes would have burned a hole right through the back of his head. She had better things to do than wait on him. On top of that, he expected her to keep her mouth shut about his reputation. If the three men he was playing with hadn’t been guests at her hotel, she would have kicked him out.

Tom, who had his back to her, was wearing a new hat he had bought just the day before. It was a wide brimmed Stetson in the ‘gambler style’ and he had pinned a tilted red star to the side of it. His jacket was lying across the back of the chair behind him and the striped blue shirt he wore had the sleeves rolled up so that the men he played with couldn’t suspect him of hiding cards.

Tom grinned as he dealt out the latest hand of cards. “Joline! A round of whiskey for my friends here! I’m buying!”

If the other men at his table were pleased by his generosity, they didn’t show it. All he got was a general grunt from the three of them. After all, he had won the last three hands and at this point he was buying them drinks with their own money.

Joline slammed her book down on the bar top. Grumbling, she poured four shots of whiskey into tumblers and carried them out to the table.

She started with Albert Swen, a railroad employee that was staying at the hotel while waiting for his next assignment to roll into town. He was a hard, but mild-faced man with a thick chin strap of a beard.

He nodded at her as she placed the glass in front of him, but addressed the man sitting at the table to his right. “So you live in Puerta Muerte, huh?”

“Yep,” said Jorge with a drunken smirk as he cast away the cards he didn’t want. Jorge was a squat Hispanic man who had the rough demeanor of someone who knew how to handle himself in a fight. He had come in town to visit his mistress on his day off and things hadn’t gone well. Jorge already had a tall bottle of cheap wine open in front of him and barely noticed when Joline gave him the whiskey. “Gimme three.”

“Puerta Muerte? That’s about twenty miles from here,” said Denny Dodge, a traveling salesman passing through town. Unlike the other two of Tom’s players, he was dressed all neat and tidy, his mustache oiled and shaped into neat curls on the ends. “In Texas, right?”

Jorge nodded. “Yep. Five miles east of the border.”

Joline served Tom last. He was a handsome man and his mixed Anglo and Mexican heritage showed in his tanned skin and thick black hair. He was grinning cockily as he looked at the cards in his hand. He barely looked up at her when she placed the glass in front of him.

“Thanks, darlin’,” he said in an offhand manner and she realized that he hadn’t drank the first glass she had given him. It was still full.

Joline wanted to smack his narrow mustache right off of his lips. She settled for leaning in close to his ear. “You and I are gonna have us a little talk when this is over.”

If Tom heard the menace in her tone, he didn’t show it. He spoke to Jorge. “I hear Puerta Muerte’s a dangerous place. Folks say it’s full of bandits.”

Jorge chuckled. “Well, that ain’t wrong. But it’s safe enough if you got the Sheriff on your side.”

Joline turned to storm back to the bar and wasn’t aware that she had walked right through the specter of the fifth man at the table. She did, however, feel the pinch that the apparition left on her behind. She lurched and gritted her teeth, but resisted the urge to break a glass over Tom’s head. She resolved to spit in his next glass instead.

Jorge tossed some coins into the small pile in the center of the table. “I’ll call.” There were a few grumbles, but everyone matched his bet.

Albert shrugged. “Two pair.” He laid his cards down to show a pair of tens and jacks.

“Blast!” said Denny, throwing his cards down.

“Three of a kind,” Jorge said with a grin, showing off the three nines in his hand. He reached for the pile of assorted coins.

“Wait,” said Tom. He laid his cards down to show three kings and two jacks. “Full house.”

Jorge’s smile fell. “Aw hell. Again?”

“Best luck I had in months,” said Tom.

Denny picked up the cards and Tom pulled in the coins.

The specter disappeared from behind Jorge and reappeared next to Tom. The strong smell of cloves rolled past Tom’s nostrils. It always smelled like cloves when the Kid appeared.

The specter looked to be somewhere in his teens, but Tom wasn’t sure how old he really was. All he knew was that the Kid was slight of frame and had a youthful face. He wore a pistol on each hip just like Tom did and a Mexican sombrero hung on his back, held there by a cord around his neck.

The specter leaned in close to Tom’s ear. “Boooored!”

Tom winced slightly but he didn’t reply to the loud outburst, knowing that the other players at the table hadn’t registered the disturbance. The Kid was like an impish ghost that only Tom could see or hear. An annoying, but sometimes useful ghost.

The Kid flounced into an empty chair, sitting in it sideways with one leg over the armrest. “What’re we doing here, Tommy?”

Denny finished shuffling the cards and started to deal, but Tom stuck out his hand. “Cut?”

Denny plopped the cards down and Tom cut them. As he did so, he expertly palmed a card. Denny started dealing again.

The Kid snorted. “Cheating for small stakes? You ain’t gonna make your name that way. Come on. There’s bigger fish elsewhere in town.”

Tom cleared his throat. “So Jorge, I hear they got some good games going down in Puerta Muerte but I never dared try heading down there. How does a man get the Sheriff ‘on his side’ as you say?”

“What’re you talking about, Tommy boy?” the Kid asked. “You hate that sheriff.”

Denny nodded in interest. “Yeah, how do you get in with the man? I been looking for a new place to sell my wares.”

The specter, with a bored look, gestured at Denny and the cards spilled clumsily out of the dealer’s hands. Denny swore and picked them back up to reshuffle them before he could continue dealing.

Jorge put down his emptied whiskey tumbler and grinned at being the center of conversation. His voice was slightly slurred. “Well, it ain’t easy. I’m okay ’cause I work for him. Other than that . . . well, you ain’t heard it from me, but you gotta grease the right palms if you know what I mean.”

Tom pretended innocence. “Grease palms? Sounds unsanitary.”

The Kid laughed sarcastically, then gave Tom a deadpan look. “Seriously, I’m gonna cause all kinds of havoc if you don’t get out of here soon.”

“Gimme two,” said Albert the railroad employee, oblivious to the Kid’s threats. He discarded two cards and picked up his replacements as he replied to Tom. “He means you got to pay the Sheriff for protection. I heard about that. It’s a shame, but he ain’t the only sheriff around with that policy.”

“Oh,” said Tom, discarding two cards of his own. He looked to Jorge. “Is it expensive?”

Jorge hiccupped. “Depends if he likes you.” He leaned towards Denny. “I wouldn’t go there if I were you, salesman. The Sheriff don’t like ballyhoo men.”

Albert tossed in two quarters. “Raise you fifty. So what do you do for the Sheriff that keeps you safe, Jorge?”

Jorge took a drink directly from the bottle in front of him and wiped his mouth before saying proudly, “I work at the bank in town.”

Tom shot a meaningful glance to the Kid and scoffed. “A bank? In a town full of outlaws? Who’d dare put their money in there?”

“Hey! I keep it safe!” Jorge said with a frown. “’Sides, no one’s even tried to rob it since the Sheriff started putting his own money in there. No one would dare.”

The Kid was now leaning forward with interest.

“The Sheriff puts his own money in?” Tom’s eyebrows furrowed in disbelief. “I heard he sends it out of town.”

Jorge shook his head. “No way. I seen it myself. He has his own safe in the vault that no one else can use. Makes the deposits hisself.” Jorge paused, blinking suddenly as if realizing he had said too much. “But you didn’t hear that from me.”

A smug look briefly crossed Tom’s face and he winked at The Kid. “No worries. It’s none of my business anyhow.”

“Now you’re talkin’,” said the Kid with a chuckle.

Jorge looked blearily down at his cards and scowled, then tossed them on the table. “I’m done, boys. Gotta try and see the missus one last time before I head back to town. Got a shift tomorrow.”

He picked up his bottle, which now had about a third left in it, and planted it against his lips. He tilted his head way back. The Kid, a mischievous look on his face, reached out and made a squeezing motion with his hand.

The remaining wine in the bottle sprayed out into Jorge’s mouth and down the front of his shirt. The man coughed and sputtered, looking at the bottle like it was possessed. The other three men stared at him for a moment, then laughed.

Jorge looked back at them as if trying to decide whether or not to get angry. Finally, he chuckled and stood from his chair. He shook his head as he wiped off what liquid he could. “Well that caps it. I’m off.”

The bank guard grabbed what remaining money he had off of the table and walked out toward the front door, muttering to himself.

“The rest of you still in?” Tom asked.

“Yeah,” Albert said, scratching his head.

“Me too,” said Denny. He chewed his lip while looking at his cards. “I don’t get what he was saying. If Puerta Muerte’s full of outlaws, why would they be so scared of a lawman? You’d think they’d just shoot him.”

“Some have tried,” Tom said and tossed in another quarter. “I’ll raise you two bits.”

Denny tossed in a quarter of his own. “And?”

“Ain’t you heard?” Albert said. The railroad man’s eyes went wide and his voice took on a mysterious tone. “They say he can’t be hit by bullets.”

Tom snorted. “Yeah, I heard that, too. Bunch of hogwash if you ask me.”

“I don’t know,” said the Kid. The specter turned in his chair and propped his feet up on the table, placing his hands behind his head. “Come on, Tommy. You seen stranger things.”

Denny seemed just as dubious as Tom. “Seems to me they just haven’t found the right shooter.” The salesman sighed. “I call. What yall got?”

Albert laid down his cards. “Two pair. Aces high.”

Tom grinned and dropped his cards on the table. “Three kings.”

“No way!” said Denny, scowling as he threw down his cards. “Five hands in a row you had three kings. No one’s that lucky.”

Tom pulled the pile of coins towards him. “You’re right. I’d best stop now.”

“Just a minute,” said Albert with a frown. “That’s my drinking money. I want a chance to win it back.”

Tom gave them both an apologetic smile. “Sorry, a good gambler knows when his luck is out and that’s my last gasp. I’m calling it a day. Maybe we can play again another time.”

“Finally!” the Kid groaned and disappeared in an aromatic cloud of clove.

The two remaining men grumbled as Tom stood. He pulled on his coat and gathered his winnings into a leather pouch, then stopped by the bar to pay his tab. “Joline, your service was dag-gum remarkable. As usual.”

He smiled back at the scowl she gave him and dropped a few extra dollars and change on the bar. With a tip of his hat, he turned and walked out the door.

Tom stepped out onto the hotel’s front porch and winced at the sunlight. It was a beautiful day, clear and hot. The old main street was sparsely populated with people going about their business, mostly locals. He could hear the hammering of nails from two streets over. New buildings were still being built.

Tom’s grin widened. He loved the new Luna Gorda. It had once been a dreary place in his mind; a slow-paced town where the locals got nowhere, but the train’s coming had brought new life to the place. He envisioned that one day it could be as big as Mesilla or Santa Fe.

Part of him itched to head over to the new street and peruse the shops again, perhaps spend some of that money he had just made. Unfortunately, his business was in the old section of town. He started walking down the street towards the saloon, nodding to folks along the way.

Tom stopped in front of the jailhouse as something caught his eye. He turned and looked at the bulletin board covered in wanted posters. A giggle escaped his lips and he moved closer, jumping up the two steps to the porch. Amid the jumble of bounty promises were the three members of his gang.

Luke’s poster read, Luke Bassett, of the Red Star Gang. Wanted for Robbery and Public Disturbance. Reward, $150. The artist’s rendering was a decent one, highly detailed, though the person who had drawn it obviously was working only from eyewitness accounts. They had drawn a surprisingly accurate depiction of Luke’s intense eyes, but most of his face was obscured by a bandana marked with a tilted star.

Sandy’s poster wasn’t quite as well done. The artist had drawn him with a full beard and his hair looked darker than the dusty brown it really was. His bounty was a bit higher than Luke’s for some reason at $175.

Tom’s grin fell away as he saw his own wanted poster. The artist had drawn Tom with an overwide nose, his eyes slightly crossed, and there was a stupid grin on his face. His bounty was also lower than the others, which he found insulting. But the thing that bothered him the most was the way they had written his name. It read, Tomas Jefferson Dunn, of the Red Star Gang. Wanted for Robbery. Bounty $125.

Tom drew back, his face twisted with disgust. He caught the smell of cloves as the Kid appeared next to him. The specter pointed at the wanted poster and let out a guffaw.

“They still ain’t changed it, huh? You never have told me how that happened. What was it? Marshals get your name wrong? Or was your daddy just a bad speller?”

Tom frowned. It was actually worse. His father had wanted to name him after one of the founding fathers, but his mother had wanted to name him Tomas after his grandfather. “Shut up, Kid.”

“Hey!” said a child’s voice and Tom looked down to see that just a few feet away was a young boy with a piece of coal in his hand. He was using it to draw on the walkway.

Tom put on a smile. “Sorry. What’s your name?”

The child’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Neddy.”

“Hi, Neddy. Mind if I borrow that piece of coal?” Tom asked. “Just for one second.” He snatched it from Neddy’s hand before the child had time to decide. “I’ll give it back. I promise.”

His jaw set, Tom took the piece of coal and began working on the poster.


In the parlor of the Cloverleaf Hotel, Albert and Denny were still sitting at the table looking unhappy.

“I just know my luck was about to turn around,” Albert was saying. Surely there was a way he could make the money back. “Denny, you going anywhere soon?”

The salesman put down his drink and shrugged. “My train don’t come in for a few hours yet. Why?”

Albert turned towards the bar. “Hey, Miss Joline. There anyone else staying here that we can call down to play a game?”

Joline put her dime novel down and gave him a dull look. “Nope. You two are the only ones here for the day.”

“Aw hell,” Albert moped.

Joline frowned. Why wouldn’t the men just leave already? As long as they were sitting in the common room drinking, she had to stay. She made a decision.

Joline shook her head exaggeratedly. “I really can’t believe you boys actually went and played a game with Tom Dunn in the first place.”

“What do you mean?” Albert said, suddenly suspicious. “He famous or something?”

Joline didn’t bother to suppress her smile. “Famous for cheating, maybe.” Both men stood and she added, “He couldn’t have gone far.”


Tom stood back and nodded in satisfaction at the changes he had made to the poster. The smile on his face in the poster no longer looked quite so goofy and he had given it a proper mustache. More importantly, he had blackened out some of the letters and it now read, Tom Dunn, of the Red Star Gang. Wanted for Robbery. Bounty $725.00.

“Sad,” said the Kid in amusement.

“I think it’s a definite improvement,” Tom replied.

He tossed the piece of coal back to the the child just as the door to the inn burst open. Albert and Denny spilled out, wincing as their eyes adjusted to the sun. Tom quickly turned to head across the street, but it was too late. The two men started towards him.

“Hey!” shouted Albert. “You stop there, Tom Dunn!”

“Yeah, you . . . scoundrel!” echoed Denny. The other people in the street turned to look.

The Kid chuckled. “Gee, I wonder what gave you away?”

Tom sighed. “Joline, I’d bet. She still hasn’t forgiven me for kissing her sister.”

“Well, you gonna fight it out in front of the jail?” the Kid asked, gesturing at Tom’s wanted poster.

“Uh, no,” Tom replied and walked towards the two men, wearing a disarming smile. He met them in front of the general store. “What is it, gentlemen?” He started patting his pockets. “Did I forget something back there?”

“We want our money back, sir!” Denny harrumphed.

Tom blinked innocently. “And why would I do that?”

Albert pointed a stiff finger. “You were cheating!”

“Woah now,” Tom said, feigning shock. “Hey, that’s a slanderous charge. Why’d you think that?”

“We know!” Denny insisted.

“That’s right,” Albert agreed. “Pay up. No one gets three kings five hands in a row.”

The Kid appeared atop a horse tethered in front of the store. He sat atop the horse’s rump cross-legged, and sucked at his teeth. “Sloppy.”

Tom placed his hands on his hips not far from his two pistols, “That was just blind luck, sirs. Do you have any proof of this?”

Albert, eying the guns, drew his own pistol and pointed it at Tom. “The hell with proof, cheater! Give us our money and we’ll be on our way.”

“Put the gun down, Albert,” Tom said. He left his expression unfazed, but he was surprised by this aggressive behavior from the railroad man. “You ain’t gonna shoot. Sheriff Dale’s office is just over there and he is a personal friend.”

“Oh ain’t I?” Albert’s lips pulled back from his teeth and he pulled back the hammer with a click. “I ain’t about to let a thief cheat me and get away with it.”

Denny licked his lips. The salesman had seen enough gunfights in his travels and had no desire to be caught in the middle of one. The other onlookers had similar thoughts and began entering buildings or heading for alleyways where they could watch from safety.

Looking uncomfortable, Denny said, “Just give the winnings over, Dunn. Then we’ll let you go like nothing happened.”

“Well, I protest! I take great offense at being called a cheater,” Tom said. “Still, I suppose I have no choice . . .”

Tom reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out the pouch of coins. Albert held out his free hand, but Tom tossed the pouch at the man’s gun. Albert turned and fumbled with the pouch, finally catching it in the crook of his arm. By that time, Tom had already run up to him.

He started with a punch to Albert’s nose, which rocked the man’s head back. Tom then grabbed the man’s wrist and twisted, wrenching the gun from his fingers. He breathed a sigh of relief that it didn’t go off.

Albert punched him in the ribs with his free hand and Tom swung an elbow into the side of the man’s face. This knocked the railroad man back far enough that Tom was able to get his foot up. Tom’s front kick caught the railroad man in the stomach and sent him stumbling backwards.

Tom let the purse fall and cracked the railroad man’s gun open. He shook the bullets onto the ground, then tossed the gun to the side and took a step back. “Now I want you two to stop and think for just a dag-gum moment-!”

Denny surprised him with a flying tackle from behind that took Tom to the ground. Tom’s hat flew off and he ended up with a mouthful of dirt. He twisted, trying to shake the man off.

Tom sputtered, spitting mud. “Damnit, Denny! Get off me!”

The salesman was no brawler, but he held on tight and he was behind Tom in such a position that it was hard for Tom to get any leverage. They tussled for awhile until Tom was finally able to flip over so that he was on top of Denny.

Tom pried at the man’s fingers, twisting them until, with a yelp of pain, the salesman finally let go. Tom rolled to his feet and when Denny tried to sit up, Tom lashed out with a right hook. The salesman fell to his back; out cold.

“Stop right there!” said Albert. The railroad man was down on one knee and was clutching his pistol, having used the time of Denny’s distraction to retrieve and load it.

“Great.” Tom grimaced, spitting again. He was now covered in fine dirt that had adhered to his sweat and his hair was sticking up in all directions. “I’m sure I look ridiculous.”

Albert stood. “Now pick that purse back up and this time you walk over and hand it to me.” He cocked the hammer and glared. His split lip and bloodied nose made him look all the more furious. “And don’t you think I won’t shoot.”

What Albert didn’t know was that he was now standing directly behind the horse that Tom’s ghostly companion was perched on. Just as Tom was about to retrieve the purse, the Kid cried out and smacked the horse across the rump.

Tom was the only one who saw what had happened, but the horse definitely felt it. The poor beast felt a sting like twenty horseflies biting at once. It let out a scream and kicked out with both rear hooves, catching Albert right in the lower back.

The kick sent the unfortunate railroad man up on his toes. He let out a shocked cry and his finger convulsed around the trigger. The gun went off, causing the spectators to gasp. Luckily, the force of the kick had knocked Albert’s aim high and the bullet shot harmlessly into the air.

Tom took the opportunity to step forward deliver an uppercut that knocked the man out. As Albert hit the dirt Tom dusted himself off and picked up his pouch of winnings.

He looked up at the Kid. “I’m surprised you interfered like that.”

The Kid shrugged. “The horse did it.”

They were interrupted by the sound of the door of the Sheriff’s Office slamming open. “Tomas Jefferson Dun!” shouted Sheriff Jim Dale.

Tom rolled his eyes at the way the Sheriff had pronounced his name, putting so much emphasis on the Mexican way of saying it. He turned. “It’s just Tom! You know that, Dale.”

Dale stood in the open doorway of his office with a shotgun in his hands. He was a middle-aged man with a thick mustache and a confident demeanor that came from his years of experience training under the retired Sheriff Paul. He stormed toward Tom, his deputy following closely behind him with a rifle at the ready.

“What the hell’re you doing starting a fight right outside my door?” Dale asked, his voice flabbergasted. “Right in front of your wanted poster, even?”

“I didn’t start no fight,” Tom insisted. He pointed at the fallen forms of Albert and Denny. “I was being robbed! That man drew on me and that man tried to help him.”

Sheriff Dale chuckled. “They were robbing you? Right. What’d you do? Cheat them at cards?”

Tom frowned. “I cheated nobody, Dale. It was just a friendly game.”

“I saw it, Uncle Dale, sir!” said the boy that Tom had taken the coal from earlier. “Those men did start the fight.”

Dale glanced at the child, then gazed down the street at all the onlookers that had come out from their cover. He raised his voice. “Anyone see anything different?”  There were a few noncommittal head shakes, but no one spoke up. He turned back to face Tom. “I should arrest you right now.”

“What for?” Tom protested. “I didn’t shoot nobody. I didn’t rob nobody. You can’t even get me for being drunk in the streets.” He took a few steps toward the Sheriff and opened his mouth. “Here! Smell my breath.”

The Sheriff raised a disgusted hand and called out to his deputy. “Ted, go get the Doc. These men need seein’ to.”

Tom feigned offense. “Ain’t you going to ask me if I want you to arrest these men?”

“There’s only two reasons I don’t haul you in right now,” Dale said, raising two fingers. “First, your momma makes the best pie in town and I know she won’t forgive me. Second, your tiny bounty ain’t worth my time.”

“Two reasons?” Tom said. “I’m impressed, Sheriff. I didn’t know you could count that high.” At Dale’s enraged scowl, he raised his hands and added, “Just a joke. I wasn’t gonna ask you to haul them in. I think they’ve learned their lesson.”

Dale spat. “Get out of my sight, Tom. Next time you make a ruckus in my town I will arrest you. And that’s a promise.”

“Understood,” Tom replied. He walked over and picked up his new hat. He smacked the dust off of it, frowning at the way it clung to the felt.

“And that goes for your friends too,” Dale added. “You tell ‘em I said it!”

Tom raised a hand in acknowledgement and headed across the street and into Hank’s Saloon.


End of Preview Four.

Noose Jumpers: A Mythological Western coming soon! Stay tuned for more details.

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Noose Jumpers Preview Chapter 3: Introducing Sandy Tucker

Howdy folks! It’s been awhile.

I feel I must explain why the book isn’t here yet. That house purchasing deal I mentioned in my last post dragged on and on. Financial issues suck. Every day they need something else. Every day the story changes. I don’t need to get into details or name names, but the first half of this year has been one of the most stressful in my life. Unfortunately, that struggle led to a bad case of the dreaded “writer’s block” we hear so much about. This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced it, but it has been the worst.

The good news is that’s over now. The house is ours. The burden is lessened. Life goes on. I’m back at it. I estimate that Noose Jumpers is just a few short weeks from being finished.

I know that most of you are waiting for the next Bowl of Souls novel, (And the audiobook for The Ogre Apprentice which is currently in production.) but I hope you are excited for this book as well. It’s new and exciting for me. It will be the first non Bowl of Souls book I have written and the beginning of a new series that I’m hoping will continue between installments of the adventures of Justan and Co. It’s a new world, an alternate history of the Old West, and full of mythological tropes, (Gods and spirits and otherworldy power.) that I think make it really unique.

To help keep you hungry for the project, I’m posting a third chapter from this book. The last sample was an introduction to one of our three young outlaws; the gunfighter, Luke Bassett. This one introduces Sandy Tucker; the Red Star Gang’s sharpshooter.

Now, if you haven’t read the first two samples, I suggest you read them first. Links below:

Part One

Part Two

Noose Jumpers ebook cover 5 gig

Half an Outlaw

An excerpt from The Tale of Sandy Tucker


“The ignorance of these bastards! Just ’cause a man’s good at using a gun don’t mean he’s bad.” – Wyatt Earp, while reading the paper one morning in San Francisco, 1896


The town of Puerta de la Muerte was a Texas town located fifteen miles from the New Mexico Territory border. It was a no-good place full of no-good folks and the hills around it were no better. It was bandit country, a lawless part of the countryside where bad men could freely roam. Unfortunately, it was also on a prime spot of land. Built over an aquifer, the town was an ideal stop for people looking to take the long journey over desert plains to the more populous areas of the state.

Folks who knew the area avoided the place whenever possible. But not all people were savvy enough to understand the wisdom of taking the long way around. Folks with the misfortune of having a desire or need to travel through the area had a difficult time finding drivers willing to take them. Those few carriage drivers willing to make the journey charged high fees for their service.

Ted Bertram, was such a driver. He was a weathered man with a hunched over frame, but keen eyes and a sharp mind. He was a veteran coachman with decades of experience and had been guiding folks through Puerta de la Muerte for a number of years. In all that time, his carriage had only been robbed twice and that was because he had a system that worked.

On this day, though, he was wondering if the extra money this journey made him was worth it. It was a hot day and he had a head cold and, to make matters worse, his passengers were wealthy and naïve to the ways of the frontier. They looked it, too. The old man and his granddaughter were the types of folks that would get an outlaw salivating. Ted worried that his usual methods for passing through the area unscathed would fall short this time.

His plan required making it within five miles of town without being hassled. This was normally an easy matter. Just stick to the main road. The bandits knew better than to attack people on the way into town. But this day there had been several times when Ted’s keen eyes had caught the figure of a rider in the hills. The rider had kept his distance so far, but seemed to be watching the coach.

Several times, Ted grasped the rifle he kept on the bench next to him, taking strength from its comforting weight. He also had a short barreled shotgun in a holster next to the bench, but he rarely had to use it. These weapons were mainly for show, something he carried in plain view to give his passengers confidence. He wondered if he would have to use them this trip.

Time crawled by at an incredibly slow pace. Ted would have urged his horses forward faster if the road hadn’t been so heavily rutted. Despite his concerns, the rider never approached. Ted chuckled with relief as the carriage came to the top of the large hill at the appointed place without incident. His contact would be waiting nearby.

Sure enough, standing in the middle of the road at the bottom of the hill, was a gray horse with a yellow flag affixed to its saddle. A man stood in front of the horse and waved the carriage down. Ted’s smile faded when he saw the silver star gleaming on the man’s lapel.

Ted slowed the horses down and brought the carriage to a stop at the bottom of the hill. He scowled as the man approached.

Deputy Ed Willis had an odd shape. He was slender all over except for a tight potbelly, like a snake that had just swallowed supper. In fact, a snake was a good description for the man. His eyes darted about too much and his lips wore a permanent sneer.

He approached the carriage, walking with the strutting bravado of an underling confident in the power of his position. He looked up at the driver and his voice had an oily drawl as he said, “Morning, Ted. You don’t look too happy to see me. You prefer to see Santos or some of the Black Spots maybe?”

“Some days,” Ted replied gruffly. In his mind, Willis was almost as bad as those bandits. “Where’s Buddy?”

“Couldn’t make it,” the deputy said with a smile. “Got himself shot last night.”

From the pleased look in the man’s eyes, Ted wondered if Willis had been the one to shoot him. “That’s too bad.” Not that Ted had any particular affection for his regular contact. Buddy was just another one of the Sheriff’s lackeys. He was a lot less likely to be trouble, though. “Buddy gonna be okay?”

Deputy Willis shrugged. “He was only shot in the foot. The doc’s looking after him, but then again, Doc got shot in the hand, so . . .” He chuckled. “We’ll see.”

Ted tried not to let his disgust for the deputy show. “I suppose you’ll be wanting the Sheriff’s toll?”

Willis raised a sarcastic eyebrow in response. “Ain’t standing here waiting to shine your shoes.”

Ted reached into his jacket. Willis warily placed his hand on the gun at his waist in response. Frowning, the driver pulled out a pouch of coins. He tossed them down to the deputy. Willis weighed the bag in his hand and peered inside.

Ted waited for the deputy to give him a nod, then held out his hand expectantly. “Now give me the flag so I can go on my way.”

The flag told the outlaws in the area that the bearer was under the Sheriff’s protection. None of the local outlaw gangs would dare rob someone riding under that flag. Ted’s agreement with the Sheriff was the only reason he was still in business.

Deputy Willis reached into his jacket, but paused, staring at the carriage door. Ted leaned over the side of the bench and peered back. He winced when he saw that the old man inside the coach had opened the door and was sticking his head out.

“I say!” the old man said in a pompous manner. A neatly trimmed wisp of white curls surrounded the sides of his balding head and he wore a golden monocle tucked over his right eye. A polished brass chain hung from his vest pocket. His voice had an aristocratic British lilt as he continued, “Driver, why have we stopped? It was hot enough when we were moving. It’s insufferable without a breeze through the window.”

A greedy smile grew on the deputy’s face as his eyes took in the man and his finery. Then he saw the pretty woman peering out from behind the old man and his grin turned into a leer. Willis removed his hand from the inside of his jacket and to Ted’s dismay, he wasn’t holding the flag.

“It looks like I’m not quite ready to let you go yet, Ted,” Willis said. The deputy walked to the side of the carriage and turned his predatory smile on the two passengers. He took off his hat, revealing a greasy tangle of thinning hair. “Howdy folks. I’m Deputy Willis.”

The woman pushed the door further open and gave the deputy a skeptical gaze. She had a head full of red curls, plump lips, and wore a lacy dress that strained under the weight of her bosom. Her voice had a similar tone to her grandfather’s, but with a light and airy lilt. “Deputy of where, sir?”

Willis’ smile just broadened as he took her in. “Why I come from the town of Puerta de la Muerte, just a few miles away.”

The old man, finally noticing the unsettling demeanor of this newcomer, narrowed his eyes. “Er, and why are you stopping us, good deputy?”

“Well if you ain’t noticed, you just entered the great state of Texas,” Willis replied, putting on a serious face. “The border is a dangerous place. Banditos and outlaws everywhere. Hell, you’re lucky that Puerta Muerte’s so close by. Sheriff has me patrol this here road. You know, just to make sure that honest folk such as yourselves are safe.”

The old man sighed with relief, but the young woman just squinted at him. “Outlaws everywhere, you say? And you patrol this road alone? One man?”

“Oh, it only takes one if’n you’re the right kind of man,” Deputy Willis said. He leaned up against the carriage, his leer reappearing. “And what is your name, miss?”

She hesitated at first, then arched a haughty eyebrow. “Sarah Covington.”

Ted cleared his throat loudly. This was a scene ripe to get out of hand and exactly the reason why he had been so worried at the deputy’s arrival. “It’s time we left now, Willis. I got a place to be with these folks by sundown. Just give me the flag.”

Deputy Willis didn’t take his eyes off of the woman. “You ain’t leaving yet, Ted. I need to inspect the contents of this here wagon. I think I smell . . . contraband.”

The old man swallowed. “Now that, sir, is an insult! What is this about?”

Ted raised his voice. “Look, like I said, these folks are in a hurry. I already paid the Sheriff’s toll. He and I have a deal and that means you let us be.”

The deputy drew his gun and turned, pointing it at the driver. His face was twisted with anger. “You’ll stay till I say you can leave!” He returned his attention to the passengers. “Now step outside! Both of you! Unless you mean to get yourselves arrested!”

On a hilltop a short distance away Sandy Tucker sat astride his horse, watching the confrontation. Despite being just twenty-four years of age, he had a rugged look. He had sharp eyes that had been pinched by the sun and a rugged stubble covered his jaw. He wore a battered felt hat, a tan duster, and had a bandoleer of rifle bullets slung across his chest. On his belt hung a seldom used revolver and in the center of his wide silver belt buckle shone a tilted blood red star.

Sandy tsked in mild concern as he saw the deputy shove the rich old man roughly against the carriage. With trembling hands, the old man reached into his coat and handed over a thick wallet and a gold pocket watch. The deputy then switched his focus to the woman.

Sighing, Sandy reached down to the long holster attached to his horse’s saddle and drew his rifle. He was proud of this gun. It was a Winchester 1863 model, modified with an elongated barrel for extra range and accuracy. He peered down the sights, observing the deputy approach the woman. He watched as, with a growl, the woman swung her hand and delivered the lawman a ringing slap. Sandy smiled.

“What’re you waiting for?” asked a man from a horse a few paces to Sandy’s left.

Sandy’s companion was a much older man, looking to be in his late forties. He had a weathered face and a thick handlebar mustache that was peppered with gray. He wore a tall hat almost as battered as Sandy’s and he kept an unlit cigar clenched in the corner of his mouth. His brow was furrowed in amusement as he gave Sandy an assessing look.

“A good entrance is all about timing. You taught me that, didn’t you, Pecos?” Sandy asked, narrowing his focus on the stagecoach below as the deputy threw the woman to the ground.

Pecos scratched at his jaw. “Well, sure, son. But this is gettin’ on the hairy side. No hero needs to wait till mid-rape.”

“I never claimed to be a hero,” Sandy replied. He shifted his shoulders slightly and focused tighter, his finger moving around the trigger. “Still . . .”

Deputy Willis’ grin was all teeth as he looked down on the woman in front of him. She glared back up at him in outrage. “Get back in the carriage, Sarah. You and me are gonna have us a little reconnoiter.”

“Stop that this instant!” shouted Sarah’s grandfather. His face was beet red with fear and indignance. “What kind of lawman do you propose to be?”

Willis pointed his gun at the old man. “The kind that’ll shoot you if you don’t do what I say. Now you and Driver Ted are gonna take you a little stroll back up that hill and wait there until the young lady and I are finished with our little talk.”

“Hey!” snapped Ted and Willis looked up at the driver to see that the man had a rifle trained on him. “That’s enough! I may have to let you rob me from time to time, but I’m not putting up with this! You put that pistol away and get out of here.”

Willis’ grin turned to a snarl. He kept his gun trained on the old man. “You toss that rifle to the ground right now or I will pop this old man’s melon! If that happens then you and the girl will be next.”

Ted grimaced at having his bluff called. He was in a bad spot. If he fired first, he would likely drop Willis before he could get his shot off, but then he’d have to explain a dead deputy to the Sheriff and he knew that wouldn’t go over well. He let his gun drop to the ground. “I will make sure your boss hears about this.”

“Yeah? He ain’t hearing nothing,” the deputy snarled and pointed his pistol at the driver.

A shot rang out. Blood blossomed from the base of the thumb on the deputy’s shooting hand and a bullet splintered the wood of the stagecoach beyond him. He stared at the hole in the meat of his hand in shock as the pistol tumbled from his numb fingers and dropped to the ground.

Everyone glanced around, looking for the origin of the shot. They saw Sandy riding towards them at a trot. He was standing in the stirrups, his rifle still trained on the deputy.

Willis saw him coming. Clutching his wounded hand to his chest, he bent down to pick up the pistol with his uninjured hand. He fumbled with it for a moment, trembling with shock. By the time the deputy raised his gun, Sandy had closed in.

“I wouldn’t try that, Willis,” Sandy said. “You ain’t left handed.”

“I know you.” The deputy’s mouth quivered with pain and rage as he lowered his pistol. “You shot me in the shooting hand. You don’t shoot a man in his shooting hand! Might as well have shot me in the balls!”

“Believe me, it was tempting,” Sandy replied. “But I thought it was nicer this way. At least your hand has a chance of healing.” His voice turned serious. “Drop your gun, Willis.”

Willis’ eyes narrowed. “You shot a man of the law. You know what that means?”

“And I’m willing to put another one in your skull right now,” Sandy replied. “Now drop it!”

Deputy dropped his gun with a snarl. “You got a hankerin’ for that noose, don’t you, Red Star? The Sheriff’ll have your neck for this.”

Sandy grinned at that remark. He swung his leg over the saddle and hopped down from his horse, then pulled his own pistol. He stowed his rifle away in its saddle holster and approached the deputy.

“I doubt the Sheriff likes you that much,” Sandy said. “Hell, I doubt anyone would miss you. Now raise your hands.”

Willis gave out a pained gasp as he lifted his wounded hand into the air. Blood dripped down the man’s arm as Sandy went through his pockets. Sandy retrieved the old man’s pocket watch and wallet, along with the driver’s toll. Finally, he dug a yellow piece of cloth from within the deputy’s jacket.

“I think that’s almost everything,” Sandy said. He cocked his head. “But I know you don’t walk around without any money of your own.”

“Don’t carry any out of town,” Willis snapped.

“Check his boots,” offered Pecos helpfully. Sandy’s companion was leaning against the rear of the carriage. He had taken off his hat, exposing a mop of graying blond hair. He began tightening the hat band. “The sneaky ones always keep a stash in their boots.”

Sandy wrinkled his nose at the thought of touching bills that had been nestled against the greasy man’s foot, but shrugged. Money was money after all. He nodded towards the deputy’s feet. “Take off your boots.”

“That ain’t right,” Willis protested.

“Come on, now. I checked everywhere else,” Sandy pressed.

The deputy scowled. “It’s in my right boot. But my hand . . . How am I supposed to get it off?”

Sandy gestured to the wealthy old man. “You. Take off his boot.”

The British man looked aghast. “Me?”

“You,” Sandy insisted.

The old man hesitantly moved to the deputy’s side. Willis lifted his foot and wobbled on one leg as the gentleman, with a look of repulsion, tried to remove the boot using just the thumb and forefinger of each hand.

While the two men struggled, Sarah still sat on the ground her arms folded indignantly. She addressed Sandy. “Tell me, sir. Now that you have stopped this scoundrel, what are your intentions?”

“Yeah, Tucker. What’re you up to?” Ted asked. He had been watching the events unfold with a mixture of relief and concern.

Sandy waved a hand absently. “We’ll discuss that once the deputy’s gone, Ted.”

“Do you know this man, driver?” Sarah asked.

Ted shrugged. “I’ve seen him around.”

Sandy repressed a chuckle. Ted received most of his business from folks traveling through Luna Gorda. He was practically a local.

“I have it,” the old man announced triumphantly, holding the boot up. Deputy Willis lowered his bare foot to the ground and gave him a pale glare.

“Didn’t your momma teach you to wear socks with your boots?” Sandy asked. He nodded to the old man. “Take out the cash,”

The old man screwed up his face again and he stuck his hand inside the boot. He pulled out a loose handful of damp bills. “It’s not much,” he said, sounding offended that he’d had to stoop so low for so little.

“Well how much did you expect to find in my damn boot?” Willis grumped.

“It’s good enough,” Sandy assured the old man. “Now hand me the bills and toss the boot off the road.”

“But!” Willis said, watching in disbelief as the old man threw the boot into a tangle of tumbleweeds. “Now you’re just being mean!”

“That’s me,” Sandy replied. “Get out of here, Willis.”

Deputy Willis took a few steps and hesitated, eyeing the discarded revolver that lay in the dirt. “My gun-.”

Sandy pulled back the hammer on his pistol in response. Deputy Willis, scowling and wincing, walked over to his horse and mounted up. Before leaving, he looked back over his shoulder. “Wait till the Sheriff hears what you did. Next time I see you, you’re dead!”

Sandy gave him a half grin. “Ride back to Puerta Muerte with one boot. See if the Sheriff stops laughing long enough to care about your story.”

Having no response to that, the deputy growled and galloped away. Sandy holstered his gun and picked up the deputy’s discarded pistol. He spun it in his hand, looking it over. It was a nice gun, one of those newfangled Peacemakers. But Sandy preferred his older Colt. He had fine-tuned its accuracy and it used the same cartridges as his Winchester Rifle.

He turned to face the others and saw that they were all looking at him warily. Pecos, who was still leaning against the carriage behind them, chuckled. “So what do you have to say to the folks you rescued, El Bandito?”

Sandy ignored him and opened the old man’s wallet. He leafed through the bills, nodding appreciatively, then pulled half of them out and folded them up before tucking them into the interior pocket of his duster. He tossed the half-empty wallet to the old man and inspected the watch for a moment before shrugging and tossing that back to the old man as well.

“Can’t say as I need another watch,” Sandy said.

The old man frowned at the lightness of his wallet. “But my money . . .”

“Only took half of it. Finder’s fee,” Sandy said. He glanced over to Driver Ted as he pocketed the pouch of coins. “I’ll be keeping the Sheriff’s toll too.”

Neither of the two men looked too happy with this result. Pecos cleared his throat and gestured with his head at Sarah, who was still sitting on the ground, evidently waiting for someone to pick her up. Sandy pursed his lips and extended his hand to the woman. “Ma’am.”

She hesitantly reached out and allowed him to pull her to her feet. He took a step back and spun the deputy’s gun in his hand again. “Do you have a handbag?”

Pecos snorted, shaking his head.

Sarah scowled and reached in through the carriage’s open door. She yanked out a frilly looking purse and opened it up. Grumbling, she pulled out several bills and crumpled them, then threw them at Sandy with a snarl. They struck his chest and he caught them with his free hand.

“There!” she snapped. “Now you have half my money too!”

Sandy blinked as he tucked the crumpled money into his pocket with the rest. “Much obliged, ma’am. But that’s not why I asked.”

He lifted the deputy’s gun and walked over to her. Her eyes widened and she took a step back, but he simply shoved the gun into her hand bag.

Sandy gave her a dull look. “Next time a man like that tries to put his hands on you, shoot him.”

The woman frowned as if trying to decide whether to pull the gun out and shoot him for starters. “Then can I have my money back?”

Sandy smiled. “That’s a pretty hairpin. Are those real pearls?”

“It’s a hair comb!” Sarah growled and tore the item out of her hair, sending her red hair cascading about her shoulders as she shoved the comb into his hands. He hadn’t seen the detail before, but it was a beautiful piece, backed with polished silver. “And yes, those are real pearls. Except for the green ones. Those are jade!”

Sandy stowed the hair comb away, then bowed and held the carriage door open for her. With a harrumph, Sarah stormed inside. Sandy looked at the old man and jerked his head towards the door. The old man cleared his throat quite snootily and joined her.

Sandy shut the door and turned his attention to the driver. “If I were you, Ted, I’d get moving in case the Sheriff sends someone looking for you.”

The grizzled man nodded. “I’ll be needing that flag then.”

Sandy threw the yellow piece of fabric up to the driver. “You know this’ll only be good till the Sheriff tells everyone the color’s changed.”

Driver Ted busied himself fastening the small flag onto a pole attached to the side of the driver’s seat. “You don’t have to tell me. I’m keeping these folks as far from Puerta Muerte as possible.”

“Smart,” Sandy replied. “You’d best be on your way then.”

He turned and strode over to his horse. Without so much as a look back, he climbed up and set off up the hillside at a gallop.

Sarah watched Sandy leave, not sure whether to be grateful or hate him. She stuck her head out of the carriage window. “Who was that man, driver?”

“That there was Sandy Tucker,” he said, giving her a knowing look. “An outlaw with the Red Star Gang.”

“An outlaw, Sarah!” said the old man excitedly.

Sandy kept up his speed until he was a good distance away. Once he was sure that he was completely out of eyesight, he slowed to a trot and began counting his money. A self-satisfied smile spread across his face.

A sudden gust of wind blew over Sandy and Pecos appeared beside him. “I can’t believe you took their money,”

Sandy frowned at his mentor. “I only took half of it.”

The old cowboy chewed the nub of his cigar in amused disapproval. “And the lady’s hair thing? Really?”

“Don’t look at me like that. I am an outlaw after all,” Sandy snapped. “What would you have done?”

Pecos shrugged. “I never had much need for money.”

“Well I do.” Sandy sighed and looked westward towards the New Mexico border. “Besides, I doubt I’ll be getting any where we’re headed next.”





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Protector of the Grove Audiobook Now Available!

POTG audiobook.jpg

Howdy folks!

Protector of the Grove; The Bowl of Souls: Book Seven and Part Two of the Jharro Grove Saga is available now! Andrew Tell did a fantastic job with the narration as usual.Here is the back cover blurb for those of you that are unfamiliar.

“Jhonate’s reprieve from her father has been cut short. She is forced to return home to Malaroo, bringing Justan along with her. The journey she has avoided for so long has become all the more difficult because someone wants Justan dead.
The rogue horse Esmine, a mythical beast of remarkable power, has been captured by a troupe of dwarf smugglers. They are taking her to the nation Alberri where a gnome scholar awaits with a vicious plan to sacrifice the beast and bind its powerful soul to make a weapon of mass destruction. Tarah Woodblade must gather a group of warriors and rescue Esmine before she is taken to Alberri.
Evil stirs. Darkness is building. But can anyone trust Xedrion, The Protector of the Grove?”

Here is the Audible link:

It will show up on Amazon and Itunes within the next few days.

In additional news, I am still working on finalizing Noose Jumpers. It has taken me a lot longer than expected. The pressures of creating a new world that exists within our own history has been more complicated than expected. There is a lot more research involved and quite frankly there has been a bunch of stressful other junk I have been going through that has slowed me down. Still, I am mostly finished with the book. More updates to follow!



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Noose Jumpers Preview Chapter 2: Introducing Luke Bassett

Howdy Folks,

Things have been a little quiet on the site for the last few weeks, I know.  The writing of this book has taken longer than expected. Partially because this is an all new world and all new characters and has required more research and creation time than I thought it would. Also partially because I am in the middle of trying to sell my old house and purchase the one we have been living in the past two years, (A long story that I don’t need to get into here.) Thus, the release date has been pushed back a bit. I’ll tell you know something more specific when I am close to being finished.

In the meantime, as an apology for the delay, here is a second preview chapter of Noose Jumpers. If you haven’t had a chance to read the first one, (The Death of Bobby Estrella) it’s here.

Also if you haven’t seen the short film that I wrote based on the concepts in this book, you really should. It was directed by my brother, Jared Cooley (who you might recognize from the cover of War of Stardeon), and stars some great hollywood actors. See it HERE.

One last thing. Narration is underway for Protector of the Grove. We hope to have the audiobook available for purchase by the end of the month.

Now here you go. Preview chapter 2.


A Glassful of Worms

An excerpt from The Tale of Luke Bassett


“A bit o’ the devil in every bottle!” – Promise made by a horned cherub in an ad for ‘El Diablo Fine Spirits’ placed in the Tombstone Epitaph, June 21, 1886


The mid-summer sun blazed overhead as Luke reigned in his horse atop a dusty hillside just outside of Luna Gorda. He paused to peer down into the town below and a frown tightened his brow. So much had changed.

The town, which had already doubled in size in the twelve years since Estrella’s hanging, was quickly growing. The railway station in Luna Gorda had only been complete for just a few short months, but a whole new street of buildings had already been constructed. The builders weren’t finished, either. Luke saw the pale skeletal frames of several structures and could hear the rap of hammers and nail.

He supposed that the changes were a positive thing for the locals. More people passing through would mean more money brought in. His mother would be busy running the schoolhouse and with all the new construction, his stepfather was likely bringing home a lot of money. What Luke didn’t like was the possibility of Luna Gorda turning into a major town. More people meant more law.

Luke wiped the back of his arm across his brow and sighed at the muddy streak of sweat he left behind on the sleeve of his duster. The weather on his journey had been hot and windy. Dirt coated him like a gray blanket.

He slid down from his horse and removed his duster, shaking the road dust off of it. Luke folded it and put it away into his saddlebag, then beat the dirt off of his hat and pulled out a small mirror to examine his image. He saw that the duster had protected his finely-tailored blue suitcoat and vest against the majority of the dirt but, except for the one clean spot in the center of his forehead, his face was filthy.

Luke untied his canteen from the saddle and shook it. He had filled it at a creek early that morning and it was still half full. He took a quick swig, then used some of the water to wet down a clean bandana. He began to wipe the grime off of his face, keeping an eye on the mirror to be sure that he was getting all of it.

The face that appeared from under the dirt was still as freckled as it had been when he was a boy, though his face had filled out some. A thick red goatee now grew around his lips and prominent jaw. The green eyes that looked back at him had seen a lot in the past few years and there was a hardness in them that Luke noted with satisfaction.

“Primping?” asked a deep throaty voice.

A black horse appeared next to Luke’s, forming into existence with an audible whoosh. The Stranger sat astride it on a saddle red as blood. A black mist wafted around them for a brief moment before evaporating into the air. The Stranger wore his familiar black duster and black hat and, unlike Luke’s, both were clean of dust. He cocked his head and gave Luke a questioning look with his good eye.

Luke spared his theatrical arrival little more than a glance. He continued to wipe the dirt and sweat from his neck. “Aren’t you the one who told me how important appearances are?”

“It’s true folks should see you’re not some common dirty outlaw,” the Stranger conceded. “But no need to polish up standing out here in the open.”

“No one’s paying me any mind right now but you,” Luke replied. Satisfied with his appearance, he put the mirror and damp cloth away. He then reached down with his left hand and drew his revolver.

It was a well-used Smith and Wesson top break revolver with a smooth action and mahogany grips. It was his favorite gun, purchased with the money from his first big score. Quickly, Luke inspected it, wiping a thin coat of road dust off of it. He cracked the weapon open to spin the cylinder. He had cleaned it the night before, but it never hurt to check again.

Nodding in satisfaction, he slid it back into the holster at his waist. Then he reached his right hand into his suitcoat to withdraw his spare gun from its shoulder holster under his left arm. Luke knew it had probably been protected from the dirt, but he checked it anyway. This one was also a top break revolver, as he preferred, but he wasn’t sure of the manufacturer. It had a short barrel and a five shot-cylinder. The dead man he had taken it from had claimed he’d had it custom made, but there were no markings on it that Luke could find.

“You expecting trouble?” the Stranger asked, his voice filled with irritation.

Luke gazed down the hole in the barrel and spun the cylinder again. “You’ve always demanded I be prepared.”

“Still shouldn’t check your gun so often,” the Stranger said. “Makes you look nervous.”

“You seem awfully particular today,” Luke replied with a chuckle. He snapped his spare gun closed and put it away. He looked the Stranger in the eye. “Is there a problem I should know about?”

“Problem?” A cigar appeared in the Stranger’s fingers. He lifted it to his lips and blew on the end. The tip of the cigar burst into flame. He turned his eye to the streets of Luna Gorda below. “It’s this town. I don’t like it when you come back here. It’s a weakness.”

Luke snorted and climbed back up onto his horse. “It’s just a town, Stranger. No different from any other.”

The specter took a deep draw from his cigar. Smoke curled around his lips as he said, “Bobby Estrella told me the same thing.” Then he and his horse disappeared in a burst of black mist.

Luke winced. He had grown used to his mentor’s dark and demanding demeanor, but that last remark had hit a bit close to home. He shrugged it off and rode down the hillside towards Luna Gorda.

The new section of town was busy with people strutting about, some of them in fancy dress. These weren’t locals, but travelers stopping in town along the way. From the dearth of horses, many of them were likely passengers perhaps waiting for the next train to Albuquerque. The newest buildings were inns and shops built solely for the purpose of catering to the needs of these visitors.

For some reason this made Luke’s skin crawl. This place reminded him of other towns, bigger ones. It seemed wrong for something like this to spring up in Luna Gorda. He quickly turned down an alleyway and headed for the old main street.

Some of the tension left his shoulders as the familiar buildings came into view. Yet even here there were changes. The windows of the old barber shop were boarded up, the barber pole taken down. The street wasn’t even as well maintained as in years past. The huge ruts left by carriages on rainy days past hadn’t been filled in.

Luke paused outside the sheriff’s office, noting that there was no rocking chair in its place in front of the jailhouse. Old Sheriff Paul had retired a few years back and his replacement, Sheriff Dale, had decided to part with tradition. Luke’s eyes were drawn to the bounty board outside the office and a smile crossed his lips as he saw some familiar faces.

A peal of raucous laughter from across the street caught Luke’s attention. He slid down from his horse and tied it up outside the saloon. This, at least, would be a place where he could feel at home. His smile faltered when he saw that the old saloon sign had been taken down. In its place was a newly painted sign that said, Hank’s Saloon. Luke pushed his way through the swinging doors and stepped inside.

At least the interior hadn’t changed much. He found the familiar jumble of mismatched chairs and tables comforting. The only surprise was how empty the place was. Even though it was only mid-afternoon, the place was usually at least half-full of travelers and the sound of piano playing could be heard from the street. Today, the piano at the back of the room stood vacant and there was only one table occupied.

The three men sitting there were talking loudly and laughing like they had been drinking for a long while already. Luke’s eyes gave them a practiced glance. There were two bottles of liquor opened on the table and they were playing a game of cards but there was no cash at stake. The two of them with their backs to him wore pistol belts, but he dismissed them as a threat. Their clothes weren’t dirty and the fact that there hadn’t been any horses tied outside told him they had likely come by train.

Luke walked up to the bar and eyed the old barman who was facing away from him, cleaning a glass. “When did you start calling the place ‘Hank’s Saloon’?”

The barman spun around, rag and glass in hand, and blinked in surprise at his sudden appearance. A reproachful smile lit up his weathered face. “Well, hello to you too, Luke.”

Luke raised an eyebrow in response. “The hello was implied.”

The old man chuckled. “Got the new sign done last week. Some railroad tycoon built a saloon of his own next to the station. Don’t want folks to get confused.” He cocked his head. “You been to see your momma yet?”

“Just pour me some mezcal, Hank,” Luke said.

The men at the table behind him chose that moment to burst out in a round of laughter. Hank shot them an irritated glance, but returned his attention to Luke. “You should see her. I saw her over at the church just this Sunday. I heard her telling the pastor how worried she was, you know with that bounty on your head and all.”

“If I was looking for a lecture I would have been to see her first,” Luke interrupted with a glower. “Mezcal.”

The barman shook his head and placed the glass on the counter in front of Luke. He turned around and grabbed a bottle off of the shelf. “Just see her before you go. I promise I won’t tell her you came here first.”

Hank pulled the stopper and went to pour, but Luke placed his hand over the top of the glass. “Uh-uh. The real thing.”

Hank frowned and bent to fuss around under the counter. Bottles clinked and when he stood back up, he held a dusty clear bottle. He lifted it and wiped off the dust to reveal a gold label with a demonic skull on the front that read, El Diablo Mezcal. There was very little liquor remaining in the bottle and Luke could just make out the fat white worm sitting in the bottom.

“Don’t care what you say!” shouted one of the men at the table. He was the loudest mouthed of the three men, his voice gravelly and thick with whiskey. “I done worked the tracks on three different railroads and I say one injun’s worth ten of them lazy Chinamen!”

Hank rolled his eyes, but didn’t look directly at the men, instead focusing on wiping the dust off the neck of the bottle. He pulled out the stopper and sniffed at the liquid inside, his lips twisted in disgust. “I can’t believe you still like this rotgut, Luke.”

Luke watched as Hank poured the last dregs of the bottle into the glass, skillfully stopping just before the worm fell out. The bartender then started to set the bottle down, but Luke raised his hand. “Don’t spare the worm.”

“You know that thing’s not supposed to be in there,” Hank said, but Luke just gave him a dull look in reply.

Hank sighed. He tilted the bottle over the glass again and tapped the bottom. The pale plump worm tumbled out of the neck and plopped into the glass. Luke picked up the glass and tilted it slowly back, draining a good third of it. He swallowed and hissed through his teeth.

Hank winced. “Disgusting. This brand’s garbage. I used to tell Estrella that too. No decent brewer would let a worm into their liquor.”

“Nonsense,” said the Stranger’s deep voice. The specter appeared in a flash of black mist, leaning against the bar next to Luke. “Diablo is the only brand.”

Luke wasn’t surprised when the bartender didn’t react to the specter’s presence. No one seemed to be able to see or hear the Stranger except for him. He had learned that lesson early on, though it had taken several embarrassing episodes before he had been convinced.

A full glass appeared in the Stranger’s hand. Unlike Luke’s glass, it was filled with living worms. They squirmed in the clear liquor. He lifted it in front of his face and a grin parted the Stranger’s pale lips, exposing a set of yellowed teeth, several of them capped with gold. He chuckled. “A piece of the devil in every glass.”

Luke ignored him and took another swallow. “Don’t make any changes, Hank. That mezcal is why I keep coming back to you.”

While he nursed his drink, the men at the table behind him continued their argument. Evidently they weren’t mere passengers, but employees of the railroad; overseers of the workers. The gravelly-voiced one was highly opinionated and responded angrily to the quieter words of the other men at his table. “I tell you I seen ‘em every day! Sittin’ around the tracks in their stupid hats, layin’ down, beggin’ for water! Hell, the water boys spent half the day fillin’ Chinaman cups.”

“Pshh!” said another one. “C’mon, Gary! No way they’re lazier than any average Irishman. Half the layabouts in every town I been in are red-headed paddies.”

Hank shot Luke a cautious glance. When he was a child, Luke had been sensitive about his red hair and freckled face. He used to get into scraps with the other children when they teased him about it. But if the remark bothered him, Luke didn’t let it show.

“Bull!” said the one they called Gary. “That’s only if they’re drunk. You put a common sober Irishman on the line and he’d outwork any two Chinese!”

“What about the injuns?” asked the calmest of the three. “I used to work the chain gangs and they was always a problem.”

The Stranger growled and drained his glass in one big gulp. He slammed it back down on the bar and said, “Ain’t it a bit loud in here?”

“Damn right,” Luke said under his breath. He threw back his head and poured the last of the liquor into his mouth. The stiff worm tumbled across his tongue and he pinned it between his molars as he swallowed the liquid down.

The burning of the alcohol was nothing compared to the sensation when the worm burst. An acidic tang filled his mouth and the burning sensation travelled upwards from his throat into his mind, settling somewhere just behind his eyes. Luke shook slightly as he let out a slow breath. The Stranger grinned.

“ . . . and we hardly had to water the injuns,” Gary continued at the top of his voice. “Naw! I tell you it don’t matter if a man’s red, black, or brown. They’s all better than them yellow-!”

“Would you shut the hell up?” Luke shouted. He didn’t turn around, but just stared at his empty glass, processing the sensation in his head.

The men at the table were momentarily stunned into silence. Loudmouthed Gary was the first one to come to his senses enough to summon some outrage. “You talkin’ to me?”

“You’re the one hurting my ears,” Luke said, still not bothering to face the man.

The chair scraped against the wood floor as Gary stood. “What’s your problem, boy? Your momma a Chinaman?”

Luke said nothing. He wondered if the burning in his mind had really been caused by the worm or if it was the Stranger’s doing? He’d never had that particular reaction from eating a mezcal worm before. Whatever it was, he sure felt alive.

“You know who I am, boy?” Gary pressed, his low voice threatening.

There was another slight scraping sound and Luke turned his head just enough to catch the man’s silhouette out of the corner of his eye. Gary now held a rifle in his right hand. The reason Luke hadn’t noticed the weapon before was that it had been lying on the ground next to his chair.

Luke’s jaw tightened. How sloppy. “Yeah. You’re the loud one.”

The Stranger chuckled.

Gary growled and strode forward. He gripped his rifle in both hands and swung it back, aiming to slam the butt right into the back of Luke’s neck. He wasn’t expecting his prey to be so fast.

Luke spun, his left hand drawing his sidearm in one fluid motion. He shoved the revolver between Gary’s upraised arms and jabbed the end of the barrel right into the base of the man’s nose. Gary flinched in pain and let go of the rifle with one hand as he stepped back, but Luke moved with him, keeping his front sight jabbed into the man’s septum.

The other two men’s jaws dropped in shock as Gary stumbled backwards. The back of his legs hit the table and he fell backwards across it, sending their liquor bottles spinning onto the floor. Luke didn’t let up, putting one knee up on the table and leaning over the man, his gun still pressing painfully into tender flesh.

Gary cried out in pain and Luke reached for the rifle with his free hand, attempting to pry it from the man’s fingers. Gary resisted until Luke pulled back the hammer with his thumb and pressed harder. Luke’s eyes were feverish with intensity and to Gary it seemed he was looking into the gaze of a madman. Gary let go of his weapon.

“Luke!” said Hank, alarmed. “Don’t pull that in here!”

At that point, one of Gary’s friends had gathered his wits enough to grab his own pistol. Luke sensed the movement and released the rifle. By the time the man brought his weapon to bear, Luke had drawn his spare from the shoulder holster and had it pointed at his face.

“I’d put that back away if I were you,” Luke advised, his intense gaze still focused on the man pinned underneath him.

Gary’s friend trembled. As Luke had drawn his spare, his jacket had flapped open, exposing the offset red star sewn into the silky black interior. He put his gun away, licking his lips as he said, “Red Star, Gary.”

Gary swallowed. “Y-you’re Luke Basset? The gunfighter? I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean nothing about your mama.”

Luke smiled at the recognition in the man’s voice. It was good to know that his reputation was growing. Luke Basset of the Red Star Gang had a $150 bounty and a tendency for challenging other gunfighters.

Luke let his expression grow eager. “So . . . Gary who? You were anxious for me to know. You anyone . . . famous?”

“N-no! I’m a nobody!” Gary promised. “Just a drunk railroad man is all.”

Luke looked at the other two men that shared Gary’s table. “Is that so?”

The two men nodded their heads, backing away. Luke pulled away from Gary and stepped back, letting the man sit up. He kept both guns trained on the men as Gary rubbed blood from his nose with one shaking hand.

“Then get out,” Luke said. “You bother me.”

Gary snatched up his rifle and he and his friends rushed out of the saloon. Luke smiled and put his guns away. He returned to the bar.

The Stranger shook his head and downed another wormy shot glass. “I’d have shot him.”

Hank wasn’t so pleased. “What’re you doing, Luke? Chasing away my customers? They ain’t even paid yet!”

Luke sighed and reached into his jacket pocket. He pulled out a stack of bills and peeled off a few. He smacked them down on the bar. “I didn’t want that loudmouth around anyway. I’m here to meet someone.”

Hank picked up the money and counted it quickly. “Fine, but what if those railroad men bring back the sheriff?”

“Dale?” Luke scoffed. “He won’t do anything. No one was shot.”

“Yeah?” Hank said. “Don’t forget that bounty of yours. What if they try to collect it?”

“Dale’s not so eager to bring me in. My bounty’s not big enough to make it worth his while.” He smiled. “Yet.”

The barman gave him a wary look. “Will you promise me you’re not going to shoot this person you’re meeting? Least not in here?”

Luke leaned against the counter and lifted his shot glass, gesturing for Hank to fill it. “I paid you enough to open another bottle.”

Hank frowned, but bent down behind the bar again. When he stood he was holding an even dustier bottle of mezcal, this one full. Luke could see two worms drifting lazily in the bottom. “This is my last bottle. You’re lucky I didn’t just throw it out.”

“Order more. You know we’ll be back for it,” Luke said, gesturing with his glass again.

“We?” Hank said.

Luke pursed his lips, irritated by his slipup. The Stranger chuckled again and vanished.

Luke didn’t correct himself, but waited until Hank had opened the bottle and filled his glass before saying, “Don’t worry. I’m not here planning to shoot anybody. The person I’m meeting here is an old friend.”



Let me know what you think!

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Noose Jumpers Short Film and Book Trailer Premiere!

Noose Jumpers ebook cover 5 gig

Howdy folks!

It’s strange how every book and comes about in a different way. For Eye of the Moonrat, it came about from childhood fantasies; literally years of dreaming up a complex world full of characters that caught my imagination. Tarah Woodblade came by way of a different process; my cousin and I brainstorming character ideas to use in a Bowl of Souls role playing game.

Noose jumpers started as a concept for an article I wrote back in 2008 on my old blog (which was basically a humor blog filled with fictitious posts. The blog still remains HERE if you are curious, though I can’t promise the writing quality you have come to expect from me.) The idea was that Noose Jumping was a predecessor to Bungie Jumping. The ultimate rush, an Old West sport where the goal was to try to get yourself hung by committing as many crimes as possible.

That germ of an idea stuck with me for several years, evolving in complexity until it was no longer a joke concept but evolved into an idea that could become the basis for a series of books and new type of magic system. The idea turned into  a point of time in the Old West where a new wave of outlaws rose from the dust and wreaked havoc, guided by mysterious powers and competing to become legends of the west. It was called the Noose Jumper Era because many of them ended their lives hanging on the loop of a noose.

When my brother, who is an independent filmmaker, spoke to me about writing something with him it came back to mind. We started talking about the possibility of putting together a pilot for a television show. We both love old westerns and the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns in particular and I brought up Noose Jumpers because I felt that it was a concept perfect for television. Together we developed it, expanding on my basic ideas. I wrote up a short film script that showcased the concept and he started putting funding together. I then started writing a script for a full pilot episode and enjoyed the ideas and characters so much that I knew I wanted to start a new series of novels based on it.

My brother put together a great group of actors and key film personnel and shot the short film back in June of 2015. Post production took months but is finally complete and the finished product is ready for your eyes and ears. Now the scene in the film you are about to watch does NOT occur in the book, so there are no spoilers. It does nicely set up the ideas that are showcased in the series, though and we hope that it could someday lead to a television or film opportunity. Please enjoy.

In addition, if you want to get an idea of how the book is going to flow, check out the preview chapter I posted a while back. The book starts with a series of bangs.



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Noose Jumpers Preview Chapter: The Death of Bobby Estrella

Howdy folks! It’s time for my traditional posting of a sample chapter of my upcoming novel. This book is new and different and has been a lot of fun for me to write. It is a western and a fantasy and a mythology and I hope you enjoy it.


Now, without further ado,

Noose Jumpers ebook cover 5 gig

The Death of Bobby Estrella


“Death ain’t always the end of a man’s story. Well, for most folks it is. I mean . . . they’re dead. You stop showing up, folks forget you after a while. But for some men, those that lived and died just right, their death is just the beginning of the story.” – Old Jim, town drunk and soothsayer.


It was twelve years before the trains came to Luna Gorda. The town was located in the southeastern corner of the New Mexico Territory, just fifteen miles from the Texas border. Luna Gorda had been built around one of the minor but well-travelled roads leading to the more populated cities to the north and west. Over its two decades of existence the town had become a frequent pit stop for merchants and travelers alike.

The locals were a hardy mix of Mexican and frontier American stock and the town showed it. The buildings were an eclectic jumble of adobe, brick, and wood plank constructions. The whole assembly looked a bit slapdash on first glance, but if the buildings had one common trait it was that they were tough and made to last.

The streets of Luna Gordo were clean and usually bustling with folks going about their business. On this day, however, trouble was coming and folks knew it. The town was quiet, the streets empty.

Three boys, Tom, Sandy, and Luke, aged ten and twelve and eleven respectively, refused to stay inside like the others. Quietly, they clambered out of the second story window behind the butcher shop and stepped onto the balcony. Once certain that no one was aware of their escape, they boosted each other up and climbed onto the roof.

The boys crept up the slightly sloping roof, careful not to make a sound. Upon reaching the front of the building, they crouched behind a high point in the decorative molding and peered into the street below. The butcher shop, owned by Sandy’s parents, was located on the main street and offered the boys a prime view of the situation below.

At the center of town, right across from each other, were two buildings seemingly at odds; the saloon and the jailhouse. Old Sheriff Paul had been one of the first settlers of Luna Gorda and had ordered the buildings situated like that on purpose. Drunken men were a lot less likely to start trouble if they exited the saloon to see the law waiting to take them in. There was a rocking chair set on the porch in front of the sheriff’s office and whenever the saloon was full either one of the deputies or Sheriff Paul himself would be stationed there, waiting with a shotgun across his lap.

There was no one stationed there today, though. Sheriff Paul had grown less brash and more wise in his old age. He and his deputies waited inside, content to deal with the aftermath of events instead of becoming part of them. It was probably a smart decision because in the street between the jailhouse and the saloon were four members of the Black Spot Gang.

The Black Spots were one of the most feared outlaw bands in the region. Made up mostly of ex-miners, they were known for smudging the right side of their faces with coal dust. They stayed mainly on the Texas side of the border, holding up stagecoaches and rustling cattle. Appearances in Luna Gorda were rare, but today was different. Bobby Estrella had crossed a line with Pablo Jones, the leader of the gang, a dangerous man with an $1,100 bounty.

They were ugly brutes; rough men with hard faces. Their legs were bowed by life on horseback and they were armed, each of them wearing well-used pistols and bandoleers of bullets slung across their chests. To the boys watching from above, it seemed as if the black smears on the men’s cheeks gave them some sort of supernatural power. They gave off a predatory aura that was so tangible it distorted the air around them.

The outlaws had turned a horse cart on its side and rolled several barrels of goods away from the front of the general store to block the street. One of them had even dragged the sheriff’s rocking chair into the middle of the road and sat in it. There they lounged on their makeshift barricade, dark hats pulled low over their eyes as they sweltered under the hot sun, waiting for Luna Gorda’s famous gunfighter to make an appearance.

“You see him?” whispered Tom. The youngest and shortest of the boys, he had found himself wedged behind the other two. He couldn’t see the street beyond the barricade from his position and he didn’t dare stand taller for fear of being seen.

“Shh!” Luke hissed. Heavily freckled, the red-haired boy had fierce green eyes and thick eyebrows that knit close together when he scowled. “I ain’t seen him yet, but he’s coming. I’m sure of it.”

Sandy turned his head away from the street to look at the two of them. “Well, he’d better come quick, ‘cause if my momma finds out we’re up here, she’s gonna kill us.”

Sandy was taller and thicker than the other two boys. Helping his father in the butcher shop had helped him build some muscle on his frame. He was also the most even-tempered and often found himself having to be the voice of reason in their little troop.

“I said shh!” Luke said looking back at his friends. “No one’s worried about your momma, Sandy. It’s those Black Spots by the saloon. They might shoot us if they hear us!”

Tom grinned at Sandy’s frown. “Yeah, Sandy. Shush! Think how mad your momma will be if you get shot.”

“My whispering was quieter than either of your shushings,” Sandy replied coolly.

Tom chuckled and raised himself up higher to get a better look at the street. His eyes widened. Tom stood and pointed, forgetting in his excitement the possible danger below. Sandy quickly pulled him back down, but Tom didn’t stop his smiling. “He’s here! Bobby Estrella is here!”

The other two boys quickly looked to see Bobby round the edge of the barn at the far end of town and turn onto the main street. He rode a white horse and was wearing a white hat and a fancy shirt with red fringe on the pockets. He wore black chaps and on each thigh was sewn his signature symbol; an offset white star.

To the boys, he shone like a hero out of legend.

Bobby “Estrella” Finn was a true son of Luna Gorda. His heritage was like the town in microcosm. His father was an Irish immigrant and his mother of Mexican blood. It showed in the way his light brown hair and Anglo looks were mixed with darkly tanned skin.

His ties with the town went deeper than that, though. Bobby was orphaned as a small child and the people of Luna Gorda raised him. He was passed from home to home and was fed and taught by the community.

Bobby had been the pride of the town in his youth. The orphan was charming, easy going, smart, and not afraid to work. The nickname “Estrella”, which was Spanish for star, had been given to him because of the way his personality shone. He latched onto that name with pleasure. As he grew to his teenage years, he began introducing himself as Bobby Estrella. If someone asked about his parents, he would tell them that his father was a ghost and that his mother was Luna Gorda.

(Observer’s Note: Though the correct Spanish pronunciation of Estrella turns the two “L”s into a “Y” sound, Bobby tended to prefer the local Americanized bastardization of the word. When he introduced himself it was Bobby Estrella with the two “L”s pronounced like in the word “fella”. This created a debate in the town that went nowhere. In the end, his name was pronounced differently depending on who you were talking to.)

The locals hadn’t believed it when they first heard he had become an outlaw. Every time the sheriff would put up his wanted poster, someone would tear it down. But as his bounty grew, so did the evidence against him. People that had housed him in his youth began finding small packages of money left at their doors and each time Bobby would travel into town, he was wearing more extravagant things.

This day, Estrella’s wanted poster advertised that his bounty in the Territory of New Mexico was $1,750. He was wanted for robbery, murder, and cattle rustling, but you wouldn’t have known it from the flamboyant manner in which he entered his home town. The cocky grin on his face didn’t lessen when the Black Spots’ barricade came into view.

Riding a short distance behind him was a much less resplendent man on a skinny mule. His cheeks were sallow and he had the rumpled look of a man who had slept in his clothes for several nights in a row. He was twitching and eyeing the waiting gang nervously. The boys watching recognized him right away as Jeb Wickee, town layabout and part-time deputy. He was also Bobby Estrella’s childhood friend and local informant.

The Black Spots stood as Bobby came into view and the air of menace surrounding them intensified. Estrella slowed down as he approached and hopped down from his horse. He then turned away from them and handed the reigns to Jeb.

“Here. Hitch ‘em up. I’ll be just a minute,” Bobby said casually.

“Estrella!” shouted the tallest of the Black Spots. His name was Gil Beverly and he had a bounty of $700. He was the one that Pablo put in charge of this mission. “I wouldn’t turn my back if I was you.”

Estrella turned back to face them and shook his head. “Just what are you desperadoes doing?”

“You know why we’re here,” said Gil.

Bobby sighed. “What I meant was, what are the four of you doing sitting in the middle of the street?”

Gil blinked at the question and when he didn’t respond right away one of the others spoke up, “We’re here to keep you from gettin’ away.”

“Yeah, but it’s blazing out here. Aren’t you hot?” Estrella asked, his face etched with concern. He took off his hat and fanned his face as he walked slowly towards them. “You could have waited in the shade in front of the saloon. I wouldn’t have minded.”

“That’s enough! We know how you are, Bobby, and we ain’t putting up with your jackassery,” Gill snapped and the hands of the Black Spots twitched near their revolvers. “Pablo wants the gold you run off with. Now hand it over.”

Estrella stopped. “Jackassery?” He let out a charming laugh. “Come on, Gil, I was genuinely worried about your comfort.”

Gill growled. The street was tight with tension. The boys watching from above were riveted, their mouths gaping open in anticipation of the gunfight that would surely ensue, but Luke found his attention drawn to a strange anomaly. A man had appeared on the porch in front of the storefront next to Estrella. Luke could have sworn he hadn’t been there before.

This new stranger was leaning back against the wall in the shade, placing a lit cigar in his mouth. He was wearing a wide hat and a long black duster and as he lifted his head, Luke saw beneath the brim of his hat. The man’s face was pale and he wore a patch over his right eye. As for his other eye, it was probably just a reflection from the burning ember on the end of the cigar, but to Luke it had a supernatural gleam. There was something oddly familiar about that gleam.

“Hand over the gold or we’ll fill you with holes,” Gil promised.

Estrella didn’t respond right away. He had noticed the stranger too. Bobby turned his head to look at the man and the cocky grin slid off of his face.

“He ain’t smiling now,” mocked one of the Black Spots.

Bobby paid him no mind. The stranger let out a puff of smoke and mouthed something that Luke could not hear. Bobby cocked his head questioningly and the stranger gave him a slow nod.

When Estrella turned his attention back to the Black Spots, his smile had returned. “About that gold. I’m afraid I gave most of it away. As for the rest . . .” He spread his arms wide. “I’m wearing it.”

“Then you’re a dead man,” Gil promised.

“I doubt you brought enough men for that,” Bobby replied, dropping his arms and hovering his hand over the pearl handle of his shiny revolver.

Gil drew his gun and the rest of the Black Spots followed.

Estrella was faster. By the time Gil had raised his weapon to firing position, Bobby’s first shot had struck him in the heart. Bobby held down the trigger and fanned the hammer three more times.

Two of the other men dropped, but the fourth man was just winged. He was able to squeeze off a shot, but it went wide. Bobby shot twice more and the man fell over dead.

Bobby shook his head as he placed his gun back in its holster. “I told Pablo that if he was going to come for me he’d have to-.”

Another shot rang out.

Estrella jerked and stared down at his right leg. Blood blossomed from his thigh and ran down over his chaps, streaking the white star red. He slowly turned around.

The boys gasped. Luke’s eyes immediately searched for the stranger, but the man had disappeared from the shadows. Instead, standing in the street with a dirty pistol in his hand, was Estrella’s informant.

Bobby’s jaw dropped in shock. “Jeb?”

“Don’t bother trying to shoot me, Estrella,” Jeb replied with a sneer on his face. “You fired six shots. No bullets left.”

“But why?” Bobby asked. “Did Pablo get to you?”

The man didn’t answer, but kept his gun trained on Estrella as he walked onto the porch of the sheriff’s office. He kicked the door hard twice. “Sheriff Paul, get out here! I got a bounty to collect.”

Jeb Wickee, a man who’d never had more than fifty dollars to his name, had just become $1,750 richer.

“No way,” said Luke. Sandy and Tom couldn’t help but share his disbelief at their hero’s misfortune. The three boys watched sadly as the sheriff and his deputies apprehended Bobby and took him inside the jailhouse.

“I can’t believe that Jeb, turning Bobby in,” said Sandy with a glower. “You watch, Estrella ain’t going down this easy.”

“Yeah!” Tom agreed. “No way Sheriff Paul can keep Bobby behind bars. He’ll escape. Then Jeb will be the one that’s sorry.”

Luke wasn’t so confident. Something about the way Bobby’s shoulders had drooped as the sheriff had dragged him away gave the whole thing a feeling of permanence.

The street was soon swarming with people exclaiming over the scene. The boys climbed down from the rooftop and snuck back into Sandy’s room. They arrived just in time, because Sandy’s mother rushed in moments later and shooed his friends home.

The rest of their day flew by. Their minds were abuzz with what they had seen and they barely noticed the tedium of chores or the taste of their evening meals. They all had difficulty sleeping that night. As for Luke, his dreams were haunted by the pale-faced stranger and the glow of the cigar ember reflected in his one good eye.

The news of Bobby Estrella’s capture spread quickly through the town. The majority of them, still enamored with the charismatic boy that had grown up among them, wished for clemency. After all, he had never done any of them harm and the men he killed had all been outlaws anyway. Some of them even spoke with the sheriff, trying to get him to let Bobby go. But Sheriff Paul, though a man with many faults, was a true man of the law. He refused to do anything with the prisoner until he had heard from the judge.

Unfortunately for Estrella, Judge Wilson was not one of the town majority. He was relatively new to Luna Gorda and hadn’t known Bobby as a child. The list of Estrella’s alleged crimes was extensive and as a rancher himself, the judge found the crime of cattle rustling particularly damning. He didn’t take long to deliberate over his ruling.

Bobby Estrella was to be hung.

The week leading up to the hanging was a busy one in Luna Gorda. The town’s citizens were in an uproar over the ruling. Sandy’s mother herself brought a petition around, gathering signatures urging for a pardon. She handed it to Judge Wilson, but the man wasn’t to be swayed, not even with eighty percent of the people against him. As he reminded her, the rulings of the Judicial Branch of the American Government weren’t up for vote.

The townsfolk visited Bobby in droves. He was gracious to all of them and they kept him well fed but, despite his sparkling attitude, there was no reprieve. The gallows was built at the edge of town.

The day of the hanging was a grim one. The sky was filled with dark foreboding clouds and most of the locals, those that loved Bobby best, stayed home. Nevertheless, the area around the gallows was flooded with interested visitors. Some came with morbid curiosity. Others had more personal reasons for attending. There were a great many Black Spots in the crowd.

Luke, Tom, and Sandy were told to go nowhere near the terrible event. Of course, they ignored their parents’ edicts and snuck to the edge of town. Careful to avoid being seen by anyone they knew, the boys found a proper vantage point where they would miss nothing.

They watched as Bobby Estrella was marched up to the gallows. He gave the crowd a charming smile as he was led up onto the platform and his crimes were read aloud. Then the preacher took the stage. And since he rarely had the opportunity to preach to such an eager crowd, he made the most of it. The preacher gave a rousing sermon, prancing about and waving his Bible as he first damned Estrella’s actions, then cried to the Lord for mercy on his ever living soul.

Estrella rolled his eyes at first, but as the sermon went on, his humor left him. His face went grim and he began to stare off into the distance. Some people in the crowd craned their necks to see what he was looking at so intently, but they seemed to find nothing of note and returned their attention to the preacher.

Luke saw something different. Standing away from the crowd, next to a ragged oak tree, was the pale-faced stranger that he had seen talking to Bobby. He wore the same black hat and duster he had on the day of the gunfight and he was looking right back at Estrella.

The dark clouds above churned and their gazes remained locked, the stranger silently smoking his cigar until the preacher ran out of steam. Finally, a bag was pulled over Bobby’s head, cutting off their connection. As the noose was placed around Estrella’s neck, the stranger spat in derision and turned away.

Up to that point, Tom and Sandy had been certain that a reprieve was coming. There was no way this was the end. Somehow Estrella was going to pull some sort of trick and get away. The grim certainty of the moment hit them as the lever was pulled. The door under Bobby’s feet gave way and they gasped, closing their eyes, unwilling to see their hero die.

Luke, however, was unable to look away. Sweat beaded on his forehead and his expression was feverish as Estrella fell and jerked to a stop. Later, the scene would replay in his mind and he would throw up, but at the moment it happened, his thoughts were detached and emotionless. Was this real? Was any of it? He turned his eyes from the dead man’s twitching boots and saw that the stranger was gone.

Lightning crackled and the clouds chose that moment to release their bounty. Rain fell in a torrent and the crowd dispersed, their entertainment over. The three friends, as unafraid of getting wet as young boys are, walked sadly forward and stood before the gallows.

“I can’t believe it really happened,” said Tom.

Sandy grimaced, looking sick to his stomach. “They ain’t even gonna cut him down?”

“Maybe they will later. When it stops raining,” Tom replied. A look of determination crossed his face. “When I’m as big as Bobby, they ain’t catching me.”

“Me neither,” said Luke.

Sandy scoffed. “You two? As famous as him?”

“And why not?” Tom asked.

“You’re kids,” Sandy said dismissively.

“Everybody starts out that way,” Tom said. “What? Don’t you wanna be famous when you’re older?”

“Of course I do!” A smile crossed Sandy’s lips. “I just don’t think you can do it.”

While the other two continued arguing, Luke watched the body slowly rotating. He couldn’t take his eyes off of the hole in Estrella’s black chaps and the offset star that had been stained red with Bobby’s blood.

As he stared, the sounds of his friends talking and the falling rain faded. Luke’s eyes widened as, suddenly, the stranger was standing next to him.

For a moment it seemed as though the man was completely dry, but rain soon poured off of his black wide-brimmed hat. Luke looked up at the stranger’s face and was paralyzed with fear. Up close, the man’s face was terrible to behold. Scars crisscrossed his features, including a long one that started above his eyepatch and ended at his upper lip.

Luke realized he had been wrong. The gleam in the man eye wasn’t a reflection of the cigar’s ember. His iris gave off an internal glow of its own. He had a sudden memory of seeing that glow before, only it was two eyes instead of one.

The stranger with the demonic eye smiled and leaned in close to Luke’s ear. He spoke with a deep throaty voice, “You could be better than Estrella. You could be legends.”

There was a rumble of thunder and the man was gone. Luke’s fear vanished along with him, replaced by a strange eagerness. He swung around looking for the man, then turned to ask his friends if they had seen him, but they were still arguing.

“Like you’d shoot a man,” Sandy was saying.

“You’re the one of us that’s scared of the thought of shooting folks, Sandy,” Tom replied. “You ain’t brave like me and Luke.”

Sandy snorted. “I’m a way better shot than you.”

“Yeah, shootin’ tin cans,” Tom said.

“And prairie dogs. And rabbits,” Sandy reminded him. “Remember that rattler?”

Tom shrugged. “So you’re good at that. Whatever. We’re all good at different stuff.” He nodded, an idea forming in his mind. “Hey, I know. We should form our own gang in Estrella’s memory. We can call it, ‘Tom’s boys.’”

“We are not choosing that name,” Sandy said. He rubbed his chin. “Still, I like the idea. Three boys from Luna Gorda taking on every crooked gun in the west.”

“We could be huge,” Tom agreed.

Luke licked his lips and a feverish grin spread across his face as he echoed the stranger’s words. “We could be legends.”




Thank you for reading and please let me know what you think in the comments below!

Trevor H. Cooley

Posted in Audiobooks, Noose Jumpers, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments