Category Archives: Coming Soon

STRANGE MAGIC by Linda Andrews

The final chapter in the saga of the Dugan Brothers

Chapter 1

Dazzler Spitfire’s elven senses tingled, and her pointed ears twitched. Had her magic performed as asked? Standing on shaky legs, she slitted her eyes to peer at her surroundings. For a moment, sunlight sparked off the glitter in her lashes, blinding her, and then she saw it.

Across the two-lane road, boughs of holly climbed the sign welcoming visitors to town. Waxy green leaves and white berries complemented the cranberry script flowing across the walnut marquee: Welcome to Holly, the Most Enchanted Town in the West.

Yes. She’d accomplished the first step in her mission. She fist-pumped. A soft autumn breeze brushed her cheeks.

Gold, tangerine, and scarlet leaves swirled into a gourd-shape before lengthening into a mass resembling an eggplant on the ground in front of her. Two legs and two arms emerged from the torso. Moss knitted together, making a green uniform, and wild mushrooms added buttons and fleecy trim. Leaves wrapped an oval head before the newly formed scarecrow rolled onto his belly.

“Where are we this time?”

“Holly.” The name sweetened Dazzler’s tongue. Candy-cane lines of magic formed a ragged net around the village and blanketed the white church steeple rising above the pines. All this, and it wasn’t even the official holiday season for three more days. How strong would the magic grow after Thanksgiving?

She inhaled the scent, reveled in the cinnamon-and-vanilla aroma of human magic. So imperfect, yet she was so thankful humans took the time to create it.

This place felt like home. Why had she never visited before? Why had Todd always insisted they meet in Flagstaff?

“Holly?” Stick fingers dug into the ground as Cheddar levered up. His acorn eyes blinked twice before he raked red leaves into a pile and shaped them into a Santa Claus hat. “Why did you bring us to a magical town?” Screwing the cap down on his head, he adjusted his pinecone ears to hold it up. “I thought we’re supposed to be investigating why your magic always goes wrong.”

Skipping to his side, Dazzler offered her friend a hand. “We are. Santa recommended I start where my magic works best.”

Which was around Todd Dugan, a resident of Holly—a hub of human Christmas magic. Like elven magic, only different.

More forgiving.

And meant to be shared by all.

Cheddar’s three fingers closed around her wrist. The digits were soft despite being made from twigs. Leaves rustled as he rose to his feet.

“The North Pole is full of Christmas magic. Human and elf. Your magic doesn’t work very well there. Why would it work here?”

“That’s what we’re going to find out.”

And Dazzler hoped Todd would help her. Surely, as her friend, he wouldn’t refuse otherwise she could be stripped of her magic.

She chewed on her bottom lip. Hopefully, Todd didn’t hate magic so much he’d allow the North Pole Review Board to take away her powers.

Releasing Cheddar’s hand, Dazzler traipsed through the dappled sunlight beneath the cottonwoods and pines lining the road. Between the evergreen boughs, she spied the snowy trunks of sycamores, aspen, and poplars. Red flashed as cardinals darted in the forest. The jingle of the bells at the tips of her pointed shoes echoed through the silent woods.

“It smells funny.” Straightening, the scarecrow plucked stray leaves off his velvet vest then tucked them inside.

“It smells wonderful.” Opening her arms, she spun in a circle. “The peppermint scent of elven magic is too…” She mentally fumbled for the right words. “Too harsh. This is warm. Welcoming.”

Antlers gleamed in the dim forest. An ear twitched, and innocent brown eyes scanned the woods. Figgy pudding! She’d forgotten the reindeer.

Dazzler leapt behind a thick pine trunk and held her breath. Her senses strained. Had they seen her? The whole herd were notorious gossips. Tarnished tinsel! The daily reindeer report accounted for more than half the names switching from the Nice list to the Naughty one.

Cheddar’s acorn eyes narrowed. “Why are you hiding?”

She flattened her hands on the trunk. Bark crackled and broke under her touch. She peered around the pine. No red glow of reindeer noses illuminated the shadowy forest. She was safe. For now. But she had to be careful. Sighing, she dusted her hands on her velvet pants.


“Hmm?” She glared at the bells on her shoes. If she wanted to avoid the gossipy reindeer, she’d better ditch the shoes. She closed her eyes and summoned her magic. Her soles tingled, then her toes. Her heart quickened. Please, work. Please…

“Dazzler.” Cheddar grumbled in a voice sounding like two stones rubbing together.

She lost focus. Magic drained down her legs and filtered out of her toes. She shivered at the loss.

Planting his hands on his hips, Cheddar stared up at her. “Did your magic cause letters to disappear again?”

“No.” She clucked her tongue. Just because one sack of mail went astray, everyone blamed her.

She bent over and plucked the bells off her shoes. The breeze caught the green thread and whisked it away.

“Good, because there aren’t any departments left for you to join if you knot ribbons in the mailroom.”

Dragging her heel across the dark loam, she dropped the bells inside the furrow and buried them. Rich soil sucked at her fingers as she changed the bells into truffles. The peppermint scent stung her nose, and she waved it away. The reindeer couldn’t know her location.

Straightening, she smoothed her red vest. “I didn’t screw up sorting letters in the mailroom.”

The job was practically Dazzler-proof. Everyone said so. It wasn’t her fault that not all the letters were sealed. Or that some wish lists fell out of their envelopes.

The scarecrow pursed his lips. “But your magic did mess something up, didn’t it?”

Tucking her fingers inside her vest pockets, she crossed them. A little white lie shouldn’t land her on the Naughty List.

“Not technically.”

Except this time the Review Board planned an in-depth investigation into her off-Pole activities. She boxed up the thoughts, added gift wrap and a ribbon for good measure. It was almost the Christmas season. No time for negativity.

Cheddar grimaced. Sometimes the scarecrow took his role as her conscience a little too seriously. He opened and closed his mouth then huffed a breath. Two leaves flaked off his cheek and drifted to the ground.

“Are we really on a mission for Santa?”

Santa? Well, technically… Dazzler shrugged.

His eyes widened. “Does he even know we’re here?”

She tweaked the pom-pom on his hat. “Not here, precisely. I mean, he ordered me to pull myself together, or I’ll lose my magic once the Board’s inquiry is complete.”

Using both hands to count the days, Cheddar shuffled forward.

“So, we have three days to fix a problem you’ve had for nearly twenty years?”

More than half her thirty-six. She nodded. “We could have longer than three days.”

They could have the whole season, if the reindeer spies didn’t tell the Board where to find her. She was certain Todd Dugan would help. They weren’t just ex-family but friends. She’d been told friends helped friends in times of trouble. And she was in trouble. By Kringle, he had to help.

Leaves swept toward Cheddar, stuffing and lengthening his limbs until he brushed shoulders with her.

“Why do you think Todd will help? The man hates magic. Doesn’t want anything to do with it.”

“I helped him with his daughter.” Candance was half-elf. Dazzler frowned. Of course, her help with the teenager had been more about normal-girl-growing-up stuff than her burgeoning powers. Dazzler shrugged and gift-wrapped the doubts to hide them from herself.

“I don’t know.” Cheddar chewed on the end of a twig. “You do remember he’s in charge of Holly’s Christmas display this year, right?”

“All the more reason for me to be here.” She flapped a hand, dismissing his concerns. “I can help him with the lights, make this the best year yet, and free him up to tend the reindeer.”

Since the town of Holly was one of the way stations for Santa’s midnight ride, its herd needed to be in tiptop shape. She could stop Todd from splitting his focus. The town might depend on the lights, but the world depended on Santa.

Skipping ahead, Cheddar pivoted. He walked backward, facing her.

“If you’re here in hiding, the reindeer can’t be allowed to see you. Just one report, and news of your location will spread among the elves before first cocoa is finished.”

She opened her mouth then shut it. She knew firsthand how much elves loved gossip.

“Don’t worry, I won’t let the reindeer see me.”

A white tail flashed in the woods. So, how was she to prevent it?

“Good.” Cheddar nodded then turned his body but not his head. “I was afraid you’d want to help him. The last thing we need is a repeat of last Christmas Eve.”

Heat flamed in Dazzler’s cheeks. “I didn’t know the magic corn had turned bad.”

“Santa nearly passed out from the fumes.” Cheddar faced front. “As it was, he had to backtrack to Boise because his eyes teared up, putting him behind schedule.”

And elves loved their schedules.

And order.

And discipline.

And rules.

“That wasn’t my fault.” Despite the cool breeze, sweat beaded Dazzler’s forehead. Would she ever escape her reputation? Glancing down, she glared at the cranberry tunic and tights. Not in this uniform.

She zigged to the side of the road and pushed aside the drooping branches of a willow. Brown grass crunched underfoot as she leapt a drainage ditch. Planting her feet on a carpet of leaves, pine needles, and bark, she closed her eyes and inhaled.

A dollop of magic would fix her clothes.

She tapped into the leylines running underfoot. Leaves rustled. Grass whispered. Peppermint scented the air. A soft breeze picked up the forest offerings and swirled them around her. Her soles tingled; then the sensation climbed her legs, hit her torso, and radiated out her arms and head. The debris knit together, flattened, then stretched. Bark-brown pants wrapped her legs. Sleigh-red and pumpkin-orange colored her new sweater. The lemon-yellow collar of her undershirt hugged her neck.

Cheddar’s nose crinkled. “No jacket?”

Dazzler shrugged. Northern Arizona was warm compared to Santa’s place. “You know elves are quite at home in subzero temperatures. Why do you think Santa picked the North Pole?”

Cheddar scratched his chin. “You do seem to be able to control your magic here. Perhaps, we can solve the mystery after all.”

“I dress myself every day.” Dazzler tapped her toes as her shoes changed into sturdy boots. Changing clothes required minimal energy. Her unique magic traces were practically invisible in Holly’s fabric. She tilted Cheddar’s hat rakishly over his acorn eye. “Come on. Let’s go to town.”

Grumbling, he pushed back the hat.

She reached the side of the road and stomped her boots. Spare leaves and twigs dropped to the asphalt. The church spire rose above the pines.

“The town is this way.”

“I can’t believe Santa would approve of you coming into the human realm to solve your magic problem.” Cheddar’s attention snapped to her so fast two leaves fluttered off his neck. “Your ex-cousin-in-law has a daughter who is the same age as you were when your magic started acting up.”

She nodded. “Except she’s just now coming into her magic. And I’ve had mine since birth.”

Dazzler had been a master weaver at five. At seventeen, her spells had started to go awry. Hope fluttered inside her. Santa’s insights wouldn’t fail her.

Cheddar pushed the pompom on his hat to the back of his head. “You know Todd may not want to see you. He split with his wife at this time of year sixteen years ago. Despite your holidays together, he always makes sure to spend this time alone with his daughter and his family.”

She rubbed the heart birthmark on her wrist. Time didn’t matter when someone lost the love of their life.

“All the more reason for him to be supported by his friends and family.”

Cheddar glanced up at her. His uniform quickly morphed into a flannel shirt and black jeans.

“Have you ever been in love?”

“No.” But she knew what it was like to feel as if something was missing inside, of being incomplete.

She shook off the thought. There was nothing wrong with her.


Tilting his head, the scarecrow pursed his lips. “And if he asks us to leave?”

Todd wouldn’t. He couldn’t. She needed help.

“Then I’ll take my investigation elsewhere.” Stuffing her hands in her pockets, she hid her crossed fingers again. In Todd and Candance, Dazzler was certain she’d find the key to her malfunctioning magic.

They rounded the bend. On the right, a white farmhouse roosted in a meadow. Horses lipped at the yellowing grass. Pine boughs and red ribbons festooned the line of carriages parked along the driveway. On the left, pumpkins huddled in a patch where wooden cutouts of the Kringles, Santa’s sleigh, and his flying reindeer encroached on the symbols of fall.

A reindeer leapt over a hedge trimmed in twinkle lights.

“Ready or not, here I come.”

Antlers twinkled under the forest canopy. The reindeer loved their games.

Dazzler increased her pace. The forest gave way to bungalow suburbs. Wicker snowmen congregated on the right, taking shelter under two leafless apple trees. Lights outlined sloping eaves and spiraled down porch pillars. Oversized candy canes and ribbon candies lined walkways. The road forked near a butter-yellow Victorian offering homemade ornaments. Arrows pointed to the left, directing traffic.

“You lost?”

Standing near a compost box, an old man leaned on the rake in his hands. Leaves formed a pile by his scuffed boots. The rolled-up sleeves of his faded blue thermal shirt revealed a faded anchor tattoo on his forearm. Age pleated ruddy features trimmed by the white hair sticking out from his moth-eaten cap.

“No. Not at all.” Her stomach cramped. She would be welcomed here. She would.

He squinted at her for a moment; then his attention shifted to Cheddar. Leaves from his pile formed orderly lines and slipped under the scarecrow’s pants, fattening him.

“The both of you are more suited to Pumpkin and their celebration of all things Halloween than Christmas.” The old man stabbed his rake tines into the leaves, stopping their exodus.

Gasping, Cheddar shifted behind her and set his hand against her back. His shudder of fear transmitted through his twig fingers to her.

Dazzler straightened. No one would harm her friend. “I’m Dazzler Spitfire, and this is Cheddar.”

“Ole Henderson.” The old man rubbed his cold-kissed nose and cheeks. “I knew you was magic, but you’re an elf.”

“Of course.” She tucked a black curl behind her pointed ear. Not many magical creatures had ears like hers, even in Halloween towns.

“If you’re one of Santa’s helpers, how come you have a scarecrow with you?”

“Cheddar is my friend.” She raised her chin.

The old man grunted. “You ain’t got a real friend, so you had to make one? I thought everyone was friendly at the North Pole. What kind of elf doesn’t have friends at the North Pole?”

Black trimmed her vision as his words hit too close. She forced herself to breathe.

“Cheddar was a gift. We don’t return gifts at the North Pole.”

Especially after the great cookie fire a decade ago. Not that she’d tell the old man that. Humans needed to believe Santa’s place was perfect and magical.

Ole gathered the remaining leaves before resting the rake against the compost bin. “Thought you elves were supposed to be all white and silvery, like winter? You’re more like bark and leaves. You’d kinda stand out and all, up in the frozen north.”

Dazzler stumbled back a step. Her vision shimmered. “I’m a perfectly good elf.”

Most of the time.

Ole rubbed his chin. “I ain’t saying you’re not, just saying it would be easy for folks to see you from up high. Thought you’d be silver and white to blend in with the snow.”

Cheddar set his chin on her shoulder, stopping her retreat.

“Santa only works with Sylvan elves. Sylvan means woods.” He pointed a knobby twig finger toward the bare trees overhead. “Do you expect that tree to be like all the others? No. You want some trees for shade, others for fruit, and the evergreens for Christmas.”

Ole Henderson’s snowy hair twitched under his knit cap, and he raised his hands in surrender. “Just so long as you can do magic, you’re welcome.”

“Magic?” She blinked. “Holly has the strongest kind of magic outside of Santa’s realm.”

“You obviously have to be filled in about the town.” He removed his fleece-lined jacket from a bent nail on the compost bin and shrugged into it.

“I know all about Holly. The town was founded during the Gold Rush but didn’t really begin to attract a lot of settlers until after the wars that followed.” Dazzler smiled. She was good at research and remembered every bit of the history she’d looked into eighteen years ago. “After the First World War, Santa’s reindeer were exhausted by the time they hit the western US. He feared he wouldn’t keep Christmas for those in the newer states, but thankfully the settlers had a magical background and helped him corral enough elk to fill the team. The way station was created, and the townsfolk started raising reindeer.”

Ole shook his head. “I’m not talking about the town’s history. I’m talking about the man in charge.”

“Todd Dugan?” He was about as perfect as a human could be. Dazzler raised her chin. No one would besmirch her friend.

Ole set his hand on the small of her back and guided her down the lane.

“Guess I should have trusted the mayor to have a backup plan.”

Backup plan? Why would they need one? Dazzler blocked the old man’s view as Cheddar dove into the compost bin. The scarecrow muttered and hummed to the rotting vegetation, offering comfort.

“I know Todd Dugan.”

“Of course you do. He married one of your kind.”

The houses lining the lane grew closer together, then morphed into portly Victorians with white picket fences holding up garland bunting.

Dazzler mentally recited her favorite types of cookies in alphabetical order to cool her temper. At sugar cookies, she found her tongue.

“Todd has been nothing but kind. Why would the mayor need a backup plan?”

“Because of the curse.”

“What curse?”

“Todd is the only Dugan to divorce his mate. Ever.” Ole nodded slowly as if weighed down by the importance of the revelation.

She shrugged. “I have met many humans. Divorce is common in families.” And a little magic went a long way to healing their broken hearts.

Ole tugged his hat off his head and wrung the knit material between his arthritic hands.

“Do you know why we teach science in high school and not magic?”

Dazzler squirmed. This had to be some kind of test. “Magic can’t be taught. It’s felt—in here.” She tapped her chest.

“Exactly.” Ole beamed as if she were a slow student who’d finally understood the lesson.

Except she didn’t understand. Not even a little. Still, she nodded as they turned down Main Street.

Garland arched overhead. Ribbons perched atop globe streetlamps. A man in a white apron scratched an advertisement for pumpkin pies and muffins off the bakery windows. A sandwich board in front of a red-brick diner counted the days remaining of pumpkin spice until the arrival of everything peppermint. A woman fiddled with a display of Santas at the souvenir shop but stopped to stare at them.

Dazzler waved at her, then at the man hanging wreaths on the signposts.

Carolers in street clothes paused at their marks on the corners and went over their playlist. On the marquee above the Art Deco theater, black letters listed the times classic holiday movies would play and boasted free popcorn.

Ole huffed. “You don’t see the problem at all. When a Dugan meets his match, the lights go out in Holly. Once a Dugan wins the love of his mate, his heart overflows, causing every light in town to blaze. What if Todd can’t hold enough magic in his broken heart, and the town stays dark? A lot of folks’s holiday will be ruined. Heavens to Betsy, some might stop believing and dim the fat man’s power. We don’t even know if evicting Todd from town would fix the problem.”

Dazzler caught her breath. Evict Todd, tear him away from his family and friends at the holidays? Surely, no one would be so cruel. She glanced at her human companion. From the set of his jaw, that’s exactly what Ole would do.

Well, not on her watch.

She cracked her knuckles. She’d protect Todd. “Everything will go off without a hitch. You’ll see.”

Ole pursed then flattened his lips. “But…”

“Todd’s heart is here in Holly. His family lives here. His daughter lives here. Everything he loves is here.”

Ole harrumphed.

Voices swelled from the town’s center. Men, women, and children poured out of the businesses lining the square. Ribbons of lights wrapped the lampposts. Clusters of red and green bulbs streamed from the pines lining the walk to the Greek revival courthouse in the center. A marching band practiced Christmas carols in the snow-white gazebo on the right. Around it, wrought iron cafe tables and chairs waited to be filled.

Dazzler floated on a cloud of vanilla and cinnamon. Inhaling deeply, she filled her lungs. Warmth radiated from her center and infused her fingers and toes. Such strong magic. It was wonderful. Amazing. She spun in a circle taking it all in.

“Not bad, eh?” Ole rubbed his hands together. “For those that don’t believe, there’s a logical reason for everything. But for those who do, it’s pure magic.”

A lump formed in her throat. Her feet left the ground, and sugar plums circled her, tickling as they twirled.

“I love it.”

A crowd gathered in the square. Steam danced above mugs of coffee, hot cocoa, and tea. A few reindeer gathered near a grass patch behind the gazebo. Returning to earth, Dazzler shifted into the center of the crowd, glad she was short enough to hide from the four-legged snitches.

The mayor bounded into the gazebo. The crowd quieted. He straightened his suit jacket, pushed up his wire-rim glasses, grinned, and then addressed the crowd.

“I’ll save my speech for Thanksgiving and the few polite citizens who’ll pretend it’s not the same one I give every year.”

Dazzler chuckled along with everyone else. This camaraderie was nice.

“And now for the man to help us usher in the season for ourselves and so many of our town’s visitors.” Mayor Browning pointed to a dark-haired man at the front of the crowd. “Please welcome Todd Dugan.”

The crowd clapped. A few cheered.

Todd climbed the steps two at a time. Cold brushed color on his high cheekbones and crooked nose. His cobalt eyes crackled with energy and enthusiasm. Rolling his broad shoulders, he tugged a tablet from his fawn-colored jacket.

“As we all know, the spirit of Christmas is strongest in the heart of a child.”

He beamed. She smiled back. Joy was so infectious.

Shifting to the edge of the gazebo, he turned the tablet toward a little girl drowsing in her mother’s arms.

“Can you tap that button here?” He pointed to a green box on the screen.

The girl nodded and sucked her thumb. The crowd twittered in sympathy.

But Dazzler sniffed acrid notes of unease. Everyone knew the importance of the Christmas spirit in Santa’s magic. She muttered a little calming spell—everything would be perfect.

The mother removed her daughter’s thumb from her mouth with a pop and pressed it against the box. Magic filled the nooks and crannies of the square. Lights twinkled in trees and on eaves. Pixie-dust trails wrote welcoming messages above the courthouse. An animated Santa and workshop elves danced and hummed as they worked on toys for good boys and girls.

Wonderful. Amazing. Dazzler clapped until her palms hurt. Why had everyone been worried? Todd Dugan could do anything.

Todd straightened. His gaze fell on her, and his eyes wid-ened with shock.

Then he smiled.

Her joy increased. Everything was always better when it was shared.

His lips parted as if he were about to speak.

A voice rang across the square. “It certainly says Christmas.”

Dazzler froze. No. No, this couldn’t be happening. Her cousin Willa couldn’t be here. Then she spied it. The sparkle of glitter on snow-white hair. Elven hair.

Todd tore his attention from Dazzler and pinned his ex-wife with a stare.


And the lights went dark.

STRANGE MAGIC (The Dugan Brothers Book 5), by Linda Andrews, from Zumaya Embraces; Trade paperback, $18.99, ISBN 978-1-61271-374-8, 278 pp.; Ebook, $5.00, ISBN 978-1-61271-375-5 (Kindle), 978-1-61271-376-2 (epub)

Coming soon to wherever fine books and ebooks are sold and at

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Posted by on December 10, 2022 in Coming Soon, Zumaya Embraces


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Coming in July: A Nick of Time, Book 4 of the Adventures of Rupert Starbright!

It’s New Year’s Eve in Graysland, but when the final second fails to come Rupert Starbright finds his entire town frozen in time. Rupert and his school crush Rainn Evertree must travel to the Land of Annum to retrieve the stolen second from the nasty and evil Epoch. They will travel a wild, imaginative, and musical world where all the characters of the Zodiac join Rainn in helping Rupert in his most colorful and challenging adventure yet! 

Chapter 1

A Split Second


Old Year Square shivered along with the folks of Graysland as they counted down the final seconds of the fading year. Frigid winds swirled and swished around the heads and legs of the dozens and dozens who had arrived in the square to greet the newest year. On that wind raced herds of dead leaves that crunched and scraped along the stones. It was Graysland, after all, and here the leaves fell across all the months.

Rupert Dullz stood, his gaze fixed on the giant metal bellberry leaf that sat atop the tall silver Yearling pole, waiting for the countdown to finish. Around him stood his parents, Polgus and Olga, and his grandma Folka, who was bundled up in a brown coat and hat so thick she looked like a bear.


The numbers shouted by the crowd sent clouds of steam into the chill night air. Folka leaned close to Rupert and whispered, “Did you make a wish for the New Year, sweetie?”

Rupert nodded and felt his face grow warm with a blush. A very specific wish had been floating around his head for the last few months. Ever since school began in September, he had noticed a new girl in his sixth-grade class. He wondered if she had noticed him.

It felt like an eternity since he had shared a first kiss with Mynerla in the wondrous land of Far-Myst. He remembered her often, and had wished he could meet another girl who made him feel as special as she had.

This new girl in his class had a very unboring name—Rainn, with two Ns and not just one old boring one. Rainn Evertree. Rupert found it hard to put two words together when she was close by. Even saying hello was harder than reading an entire page from The History of Leaf Cutters. Backwards!

If only she liked him as well. That was his wish.

He kept this wish tightly wrapped in his thoughts. He gazed at the sky, patched with clouds and dabs of glistening stars.


Rupert had experienced great adventure in the wondrous lands of Far-Myst and My-Myst. He had even had the chance to see what his boring town of Graysland had been like in the old days when it was not so boring. That was six months ago, when he’d stepped through Pie O’Sky’s door from old Grayslandville then returned home and celebrated the Winter Joy holiday with his family for the first time.

“The Big Leaf Countdown”, as it was called, was one of the few unboring things that happened in Graysland. He didn’t think his best friend Squeem was boring, either, and sent a friendly wave to him across the square, where he stood with his mom and dad.


Rupert’s heart raced as pulleys creaked on thick ropes and the leaf, cut from a large sheet of green metal, began to lower. The squeaky wheels sent a flock of pigeons into the air, their fluttering wings making fwap! fwap! sounds.

Across the square, Rupert spotted Rainn, in a black capelike coat, a gray woolen hat pulled down low to cover half of her eyes, and a black scarf wrapped tightly around her mouth. Strands of her hair, which shimmered with streaks of brilliant electric blue, hung from beneath her cap.

Rupert thought her hair was so unboring. He had never seen anyone in Graysland with hair of such color. Everyone else’s was the usual, boring old hair colors. He repeated his wish to himself. Then, he noticed she was looking at the sky, and glanced up.

A pitch-black shadow, like that of a giant bird, pushed the clouds aside like a rude man through a crowd. Oddly, stars were not revealed. Instead, strange swirling colors, like motor oil on the surface of a puddle, shimmered.

What the heck is that? Rupert wondered. He turned to ask his father, who was cuddling close to Olga to keep warm.

“Two….O—!” cried the excited crowd.

Something very unexpected happened.

Everything stopped. The metal leaf froze in place less than a foot from the ground. The clouds of visible breath from the gathered residents no longer floated and vanished like ghostly vapor. Instead, it became like a solid mass of thin milk. The pigeons hung in the air like ornaments strung across a line.

All sounds froze, a silence so deep it hurt Rupert’s ears like an explosion of quiet. Only one thing moved—the colors in the sky began swirling like living rainbows all over the square. In that tornado of color, there was a rush of brilliant light and sound.

Then, with a swoosh that vibrated his body, the multicolored winds vanished back into the sky. Silence returned.

Rupert tried to look up to see if it was truly all over but discovered he couldn’t. He could not move his head, or his arms and legs. He could not even shift his eyes about the square. The dozens and dozens of townsfolk were like frozen mannequins. As were the pigeons.

The only thing that was moving and spinning freely were his thoughts. His mind still worked.

This was good.

Rupert tried to think what could have possibly caused this situation. Did a really super-duper cold wind blow through and freeze everyone?


Or maybe his thoughts had been so focused on Rainn that it affected how he was seeing the real world. Maybe it was like time was standing still.

No. That didn’t seem like the answer, either.

What is going on?

In his field of vision, the sight of the pigeons floating in the air, wings spread, filled him with wonder.

I can’t imagine how birds could just hang in the air without flapping their wings.

Imagine! That was the answer.

Rupert’s mind sizzled with sudden excitement. If I can’t imagine why this happened maybe I can Imagine a way to stop it.

It had been some time since he used his Imagining abilities, but he knew the first step was to make his mind as quiet as a library. He needed to shush out all the negative and scary thoughts. He thought about how peaceful the Garden of Dreams was during his journey to the wondrous land of Far-Myst. He recalled the feeling of the warm campfire, and the still night air, and the comforting songs of night birds, and funny, glowing insects.

He felt a smile form. Maybe not on his lips, but in his brain.

Then, Rupert had the image of a clock in his head, like the one over Mrs. Stonelaughter’s desk at school. The clock that seemed to take forever and a day to reach 2:57—the greatest time, when school was over. Sometimes he thought the clock was broken, stuck, its gear gunked up by dust and grease.

Maybe that was what had happened in Graysland. Perhaps there’s some giant, unseen clock that makes days become nights and nights turn into mornings. Maybe, just maybe, that clock was gunked up.

How could it be ungunked?

Anyway, Rupert thought. Where was it? How can I clean the gears of a clock I can’t see?

He would need a special viewing glass to see it.

He figured if he could Imagine that special clock then why not Imagine a way to see it? The glass must be able to move on its own, since his arms were frozen at his sides. It would have little wings, and fly across the square, and settle on the bridge of his nose like his dad’s reading glasses. It would have feathers. Purple feathers on a golden frame.

Yes! Rupert could see such a pair of eyeglasses.

A sound whispered in the solid silence. Tiny pops of cracking air. And there, across the cobblestone road, was an object hovering in the air like a purple bird. Flecks of light struck off gold and glass.

It worked!

The object of his Imagining was approaching, and as it grew closer and clearer, Rupert felt hope in his heart. The flying glasses settled on his nose, and as he peered through the two crystal-clear lenses, he was able to see the ghostly shapes of gears, a multitude of toothy wheels, hanging in the air before him. One of the gears had a gap, just as Rupert had when he’d lost his first baby tooth.

A missing tooth! I just need to imagine a new one.

He brought into his Imagining a seed. A gear-tooth seed. He Imagined planting the seed in the empty slot. With a little splash of Imaginary water it would grow a new tooth, and the gears would move again.

A little sprout of silver popped up; and in seconds, the missing tooth was back, and the gear wheels began to turn, and…

Everything went dark. The gears, the glass lenses, the golden frame, and the purple wings all vanished. The entire town square was nothing but black.

Then, Rupert realized his eyelids were closed, and he gave them the command to open. And they did. And the town was back.

But everyone was still stuck in place like statues. Even the flock of pigeons.

Rupert turned his head and saw his grandma, her smiling face, with its busy roadmap of wrinkles, fixed and frozen.

Wait! He had moved his head! He tried his hands, and soon had his fingers flexing before his face. He took a step. Then another. He had freed himself!

His stomach sank as he looked at his parents, Squeem, and the gathered crowd. The town square was still as motionless as a frozen river. He stepped up to the New Year’s Leaf and brushed its cold, smooth surface with his fingers. It was a mere foot off the ground. A single second from bringing in a new year.

“Weird,” Rupert whispered.

Really weird,” someone said.

A NICK OF TIME (The Adventures of Rupert Starbright Book 4), by Mike DiCerto, from Zumaya Thresholds; Trade paperback, $18.99, ISBN 978-1-61271-099-0, 326 pp.; Ebook, $5.00, ISBN 978-1-61271-100-3 (Kindle), 978-1-61271-101-0 (epub)

Coming in July wherever fine books and ebooks are sold. If you haven’t already met Rupert, start your adventures with Book 1: The Door to Far-Myst


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What is The Color of Fear?

Adversaries, by Lyndi Alexander, the exciting climax to her YA series, coming soon from Zumaya Thresholds

Life after the devastating biological terrorist attack that decimated the White population in the US is beginning to recover as Tzu Lin Kwan is finally able to deliver her precious cargo of herbs to her scientist father. Or is it?

The virus may be mutating, spreading to infect those previously immune. Tzu Shin and his fellow scientists—and now Kwan—are literal prisoners of the US military. The White supremacist army of the demagogue Gabriel has invaded St. Louis. And the Chinese assassin Piao knows where to find his targets.

Kwan and her friends Valery, Eddie, and San are ready to fight to the death to defend their recovering world. The question is: Are courage and determination enough?


August 10
The family house in Cherokee, St. Louis

Jin Piao stretched lazily in the twin-sized bed, savoring the few minutes of quiet. Pale gray light came through the window, announcing the arrival of dawn. Weeks now since the arrival of his caravan, which had started as travelers from disparate areas of San Francisco before gradually uniting as they came cross-country, he’d begun to feel a part of this motley family. Certainly, they welcomed him, sharing meals, playing games in the evenings. He even enjoyed their late-night exchange of conversation in the family room.

No one knew the real reason he was here.

The Ministry of State Security had sent him after Lin Kwan with her packets of Chinese herbs. He’d left Hong Kong, traversed the Pacific Ocean, and come across the United States—what was left of it, anyway.

Kwan had traveled here to find her scientist father. Once they reunited, Piao would be in a position to complete his mission and end the hope of America recovering its former status as a world leader.

So his Chinese masters thought, but there was much they did not know about this land. They’d assumed that during the Second Holocaust, after Cambodian terrorists released the virus that killed White people—first in California, then across the States, then around the world—that the U.S. population would be decimated and therefore easy to conquer. While they hadn’t started the fight, they were certainly happy to finish it.

Piao, however, had discovered that not only had many Whites survived, thanks to mixed racial lines, but that the country had a solid base of citizens of Hispanic and African-American heritage, especially here in St. Louis. This new capital of the States served as a magnet, drawing more survivors every day, the vast majority being people of color. The America his masters had known might no longer exist, but the country was by no means a dead enemy—with or without the herbs.

Lin Kwan had been cagy of late, but he had seen her packing her meager belongings. He gathered she intended to leave for the East, to Ohio, wherever that was. He knew because her traveling companion Valery Paz had none of the privacy reservations of her friend. She told everyone everything. The departure was planned for this week. Once they left, Piao would follow and complete his mission.

He smiled at the thought of being able to return to his wife in China, and his newborn son Hu. They awaited him at the assignment’s end.

Lifting his head from the firm pillow, he listened for foot traffic outside his door. It was quiet. Quieter than it should be. A thrill of alarm zigzagging through his stomach, he twisted out of bed, then opened the door to get a better idea of what was happening.

A dozen people shared this house owned by Eddie Garrick, the radio personality and friend of Xi San. It should be noisier. Several voices came up the polished stairway from the kitchen, one floor below, none of them belonging to the two women.

He hurriedly pulled on the clothing he’d tossed on the floor the previous night, then slipped out into the hall. Kwan and Valery’s room was to the left of his, the door standing open. He peeked inside, finding their bags gone and beds made.

Damn. I’ve missed them. How had that happened?

Barefoot, he padded downstairs to the kitchen, arriving as Xi San and Eddie Garrick came in the back door. Marie Westbrook, their unofficial housemother, set out a fresh tray of biscuits. Her red hair was well-coiffed, and her face perfectly made up, as always, even at the crack of dawn.

“Did the girls get off all right?” she asked, eyes bright.

San nodded, his jaw tight.

Piao studied the former Enforcer, a man who’d lost everything but his life before he’d decided to become a vigilante crime fighter on the streets of San Francisco. San was hard in every way possible—muscle, attitude, and heart. Or he had been, before he met Kwan.

“They’re gone?” Piao said, trying not to sound too alarmed. His mission could be totally lost.

Eddie studied him. “Didn’t know you were so interested in them, buddy.”

Piao realized he needed some excuse for his sudden concern.

“Kwan said Valery was staying here. I was to go with her.”

“Really?” Eddie grabbed a biscuit and took a bite, continuing with his mouth full. “Never said that to me.”

San’s dark eyes pierced the lie. “Or me.”

Marie looked from one to the other of them, eyes narrowed as she tried to suss out the cause of the tension.

“I’m sure we’ll hear from them soon. Kwan, at least, will follow up with news. She’s such a good girl. I just hope she finds her father.”

“We all do,” Piao said. He felt like he was still under scrutiny from San and Eddie, who’d gone to the beverage area of the kitchen, so he moved close to admire Marie’s baking. “Are these for anyone?” he asked.

“Absolutely. Help yourself. Water’s hot for tea.” She went to the doorway and called upstairs for her roommate. “Jack. Breakfast!”

Piao made a show of setting a plate with two biscuits on the nook table, piling them with sweet berry preserves. The other two men began talking about San’s job search and lack of success, and eventually, they wandered out to chat elsewhere. Piao hardly noticed, his mind already making plans.

If the girls had left just within the hour, he could likely catch up with them. The interstate highways were clear to the east; he’d heard people talking about it. A man alone could make good time.

He listened for the footsteps of the others, but no one came. The smell of the biscuits he hadn’t even wanted called to him, and he held one up to his nose, taking a long sniff. After that one moment of sheer enjoyment, he ate them down to the last crumb. The warm bread was flaky and delicious, a novelty to him. They didn’t have such things in China. The closest thing he could compare it to was a biscuit roll, a thin rolled pastry much more like a cookie than this bread.

The jam, too, was full-flavored and delectable.

Even though he’d tried to keep active, teaching martial arts to children at the neighborhood center, he’d gained more than eighteen jin, or twenty pounds, since he’d crossed the ocean on the huge tank ship. Fortunately, his activities had allowed some of it to remain strong muscle.

Marie returned with pudgy old man Jack on her heels. Jack poured them both coffee as she prepared a plate of biscuits; then they headed for the table where Piao sat. It was a perfect chance to escape without drawing attention.

“Please,” he said, giving up his seat, holding the chair for Marie as he’d seen Jack do.

“Oh, you don’t have to go, honey,” she said. “We’d be happy to join you.”

“Yes, Piao,” Jack chimed in. “We haven’t seen you nearly enough since you’ve been teaching.”

Piao bent in a slight bow. “So kind of you, but again I have an early class. Thank you for the breakfast, mou chan.” He turned and left the kitchen.

“Have a good class!” she called after him.

Piao slowed as soon as he was out of sight, wanting to see if anything more was said about the departure of Kwan and her friend, but all he heard was an affectionate, “He’s so sweet” from Marie before Jack launched into a discussion of the medicinal herbs they’d have to harvest that morning.

He bolted up the stairs, closing his door after he entered the room. He pulled on heavy black boots. His brown leather jacket would protect him from the wind while riding his motorcycle, even if it would be too warm by the late August afternoon. Sorting through his remaining belongings, he decided to abandon them. He’d learned to travel light.

Ha! On this trip you came with only the shirt on your back!

His ego still burned at the way Kwan’s sensei Li Zhong had bested him on the docks in Hong Kong. Piao could have killed him, and the girl, and disposed of the damned herbs over the side of the boat, and no one would have been the wiser. Who’d have guessed the old warrior still had a few tricks left in him?

The last thing he packed was a shiny silver-barreled gun he tucked into the side pocket of the pack for easy access. He’d scrounged it in one of the small towns the group had passed through on its way from California. He preferred hand-to-hand combat, but he had to assure the success of his mission.

Once he found Kwan, her traitor father, and the herbs all in the same place, he could destroy them all. He’d end this threat to his country at last, and go home to hold his son.

He grabbed his backpack, then closed the door as he went out, hoping to delay discovery of his departure as long as he could. His bike was parked in the rear of the house. He hopped on, started it with a single kick, and headed off to find the highway.

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Posted by on September 25, 2020 in Coming Soon, Zumaya Thresholds


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The decision is made!

Basset pup with shades
Pre-order RUTHERFORD, CANINE COMIC at the Kindle and Barnes & Noble ebook stores

I went off by myself and tried to think of funny situations a dog might find himself in. Then, I worked them into a joke. I recalled when a family with a bunch of kids came by one time. The kids were chasing some of the dogs and teasing them. I thought of a good one.

Hey, what’s got four legs and an arm? Give up? A Rottweiler in a crowd.

I’m not sure whether or not humans would appreciate it, but since they couldn’t understand me, I’ve never worried much about it. If I can get a fellow canine to laugh, I was in my glory. I’d forget about whatever was bothering me.
After that, when I wasn’t thinking up new jokes or telling them, I would play with my brothers and sisters. There weren’t any of them my age. When I was born, there were seven of us, but they’re all long gone now. We only had three or four months together before they went off to new homes. As hard as it was to see them go, I was happy for them. It was their destiny to become part of a loving family, and to compete proudly at dog shows. I tried not to think about it too much. It always made me kind of sad—not the dog show part, but the new-family part.

I was okay, though. New pups are fun to be around—most of the time. Humans think puppies are so darn cute, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that. But there’s one thing about puppies that isn’t particularly attractive. Have you ever noticed that it’s all about them?

I’m not saying they’re selfish. It’s just that their basic instincts early on are to be individuals, not team players. I don’t blame them. They can’t help themselves. They want everyone to do things for them. “Rutherford, get me this. Rutherford, I’m hungry. Rutherford, can you scratch my ear?” They haven’t figured out yet that their mission in life is to serve.

What really bugs me, though, sometimes, is that most of them are just too immature to appreciate my humor. I remember one time when I asked them, “Hey, how does your owner know if you’ve been drinking from the toilet?”

They just scratched their heads.

“’Cause your breath smells…better.”

A lot of the older dogs roar at that one, but not the puppies. I guess they haven’t had enough life experience.

But someday, they’ll think back to that joke, and out of nowhere, they’ll just start laughing. I probably won’t be there to see it, but that’s okay. I take comfort in the fact that, whenever or wherever it happens, they might think fondly of their big brother.

I still believed my dream of becoming a watchdog would come true someday, but in the meantime, I guess stand-up comic would have to do. And I was pretty certain I could make it work.

So, if I couldn’t offer protection, then I would become the best stand-up comedian I could be. Entertaining your fellow man—er, dog—might not seem like a noble effort. But, you know, you just can’t put a price on what a smile or a chuckle or a good belly laugh can do for a fellow canine. It can help them forget their troubles. I was happy to accept this new challenge.
From that point on, I held my head high, sat up on my hind legs, and was proud to call myself Rutherford—Canine Comic.

Rutherford, Canine Comic will be released in ebook on 11 September at Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play, and in trade paperback wherever good books are sold.


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Rutherford Discovers A Career

Mr. Davis is one of the best-known and most respected breeders in the state. He’s in his eighties, I think; all I know is that he’s been around for decades. At least, that’s what I hear folks say. Mr. Davis prides himself on top quality basset hounds. He tells anyone who will listen that he raises the best show dogs in the country. Lately, I’ve started to worry how long he’ll keep me here. If no one seems interested, will he eventually get tired of taking care of me?

What I needed was a skill—a real skill—some sort of talent to make me impossible to replace. I needed to prove to him and all the others I’m really good at something—and not just good, but the best. Then he’ll have to keep me. Right?

Well, it made perfect sense to me.

So, I asked my mom one day if she could name one thing I did better than any of the other dogs. It took her a minute to think of something. That made me a little nervous.

“Let me see, now,” she said. “It’s really hard to come up with just one thing. You’re so good at everything.” Spoken like a true mother.

“Mom, I’m not talking about being good at something. Is there anything I do better than anyone else?”

She turned her head and smiled. Then, as it sometimes does, her back leg started thumping, and it slowly began moving in the direction of her head. I knew exactly what she needed.

“Let me take care of that for you,” I said. “That’s what I’m here for.” I reached up with my front paw and began scratching her ear.

“Mmmmm.” She put her head back and closed her eyes. “Now, there’s something you’re really good at.”

“Anybody can scratch an itch,” I said. “There’s gotta be something better.”

My mother was now in deep thought. “Give me another minute.”

This wasn’t going well. If your own mother couldn’t think of something—anything—that set you apart from the pack, then you were in big trouble.

She looked at me with a nervous smile. I could tell she was struggling to come up with something. It was starting to get embarrassing—for both of us. It was time to change the subject.

“Hey, Mom, did you hear about the dog who got too close to an electric fan and lost his nose?”

“Oh, dear,” she said. “Without a nose, how does he smell?”

I grinned. “He smells like all dogs—awful!”

She shook her head and started laughing. “Oh, Rutherford, where do you come up with this stuff? You never seem to run out of…” She paused. “Wait a minute. That’s it.”

“What?” I said.

“You’re the best joke-teller on the farm—hands down.”

I smiled. You know, she was right. As much as I’ve always wanted to be someone’s watchdog, I kind of knew it might take time to get discovered. And so, just to keep my spirits up, and to make the others think I was okay with being passed over, I went out of my way to learn new jokes to tell everyone.

It always made me feel good to see the others laugh. It took some of the sting out of rejection. And when I stopped to think about it, no one knew more jokes than I did—and if I have to say so myself—no one could deliver a punchline any better than I can. It’s an art, I’ll have you know. And it all has to do with timing.

“I do like telling a good joke,” I said. “And all the others do seem to enjoy them.”

“They love your jokes,” my mother said. “You have a real talent, son.”

It was nice to hear her say that. So, I could do something better than the rest. That was great.

But the more I thought about this talent of mine, the more I wondered how it would help me in the long run. I was flattered that other dogs enjoyed my humor, but was it enough to convince Mr. Davis I was a valuable asset here on the farm?

“I like entertaining everyone,” I told my mother, “but what good is it, really?”

“What good is it?” she said. “Rutherford, you single-handedly keep the morale sky-high around here. Everyone is always so happy to see you. You’re never without a smile and a funny story. That’s priceless.”

“But Mr. Davis is a human. He can’t understand my jokes. He doesn’t know I have this talent. Someday, he’s going to get tired of taking care of me, and he’s just going to dump me somewhere.”

My mother shook her head. “What are you talking about? Mr. Davis loves you. He knows that you’re…” She glanced at my short leg, “…special. He would never get rid of you. You’re one of his favorites.” She smiled weakly. “Of course, I wish I could say the same thing about his son.”

His son—now, that was another subject. Horace Davis was nothing like his father. He always seemed to be in a foul mood. He never played with any of us. I don’t think he even liked us. He treated us like—well, dogs. And he never smiled.

Wait a minute—I take that back. Whenever someone pulled out his wallet to pay for one of us—then, and only then, would he smile.

I, for one, didn’t trust him. And I’m sure my mother felt the same way. More than once she warned us about staying away from him. I wasn’t sure why, but I didn’t want to find out.

He always made me feel uncomfortable. Whenever he saw me, he would shake his head and make this grunting sound. For the longest time, I’ve had a feeling that if Horace is ever running this place, there’ll be no room around here for me.

I decided that if I concentrated on my joke-telling and helped keep spirits high around the place, I could survive anything.

To be continued…

(Enjoying Rutherford’s story? The ebook is now available for pre-order both in the Kindle Store and at Barnes & Noble.)


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What’s more fun than a basset hound?

Cute sitting tricolor basset hound puppy wearing yellow and orange sunglasses on a white background
A basset hound who’s a stand-up comic. Meet Rutherford, coming soon from Zumaya Thresholds, NOW AVAILABLE WHEREVER GOOD BOOKS ARE SOLD

Chapter 1

Canine Comic

For as long as I can remember, there was only one thing I ever wanted in life. One thing that would have made me happy and content.

All I’ve ever wanted was a chance to be a watchdog. A real watchdog. One who would stand guard and protect his owners from harm. One who would alert them in the event of danger. One who would save his family from a raging fire, from unwanted intruders, or from pesky squirrels and raccoons.

That’s been my dream for the longest time. And someday I’ll realize that goal. I just know it. You wait and see.

As each day passes, I wait for the call. Will it be today, I wonder? Or maybe tomorrow? There’s nothing holding me back. I have all of the necessary qualifications—I’m fearless, hard-working, and loyal. I even meet the age requirement. In a few months, I’ll be celebrating my second birthday—in people years, that is. I haven’t quite figured out exactly how old that is in dog years, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s nearly grown up. I like to think I’m mature enough to handle the job.

But sometimes I think I’m the only one who seems to think so. If people would just give me a chance, I could be a great watchdog.

I was telling my mother the other day about my ultimate goal in life. I can tell her anything. My mother Iris, a proud basset hound, was busy cleaning up after the puppies when I found her.

“Mom, you know what I want to be when I grow up?”

“What’s that?”

“A watchdog,” I said proudly.

I’ll never forget her reaction. She chuckled. She actually chuckled.

“Oh, Rutherford, be serious,” she said. “What do you really want to be?”

“I am serious. I want to be a watchdog.”

She pulled me closer and licked my face. I love it when she does that. It’s always so warm and cozy to lie next to her.

“Sweetheart, you’re a basset hound. You’re not a Doberman or a German shepherd. People don’t get basset hounds for protection.”

“Why not?”

She smiled weakly. “Well, we’re just not built that way. Look at us—we have long bodies and short legs. We’re not very strong, and we can’t run fast. We just wouldn’t be effective as watchdogs.”

I sighed. I was hoping for a different answer.

“Rutherford, you have to accept the fact that we’re here for a different reason. Mr. Davis breeds us to become the best show dogs in the state. People don’t come here looking for watchdogs. They come here looking for dogs they can enter in competitions who’ll someday become Best in Show.”

“I know all that,” I said. “But it’s not good enough. I want more out of life than beauty pageants. I want to make a difference. And I just figured that becoming a watchdog would do that.”

My mother nuzzled my cheek. “Son, if that’s what you truly want, I’m not going to stand in your way. But it’s going to be difficult to convince others that you’re watchdog material.”

I appreciated her support. She was trying to let me down easy—just like a mother. But I’m determined, and nothing will stop me from reaching my ultimate goal. I’m well aware it will be an uphill battle. For nearly two years, I’ve been passed over by people looking for a show winner, and I knew exactly why. My mother would never say it to my face, but both she and I know I’ll never be Best in Show.

Not that I even wanted to.

See, I was born with a little handicap that seems to scare people away. I’m not as fast as some of the others. Big deal. How important is speed, anyway? When you’re a watchdog, you don’t run away. You hold your ground—and I can do that just fine. So, the fact I have one hind leg an inch shorter than the other three shouldn’t mean a thing. I’ve learned to live with it. Why couldn’t they?

Heck, I’ve met plenty of three-legged dogs in my time, and they do just fine. I have all four of mine. That should count for something.

But whenever families show up here and see me limp around the yard, I know what they’re thinking. I can see it on their faces. They know a defect like mine would never win them a dog show. So, they want nothing to do with me.

And that’s fine. I’ve learned to handle rejection. The ones that really bug me are the folks who feel sorry for me.

“Aw, see that poor dog over there?” they say. “He’s cute, but let’s keep looking.”

I hate that. I don’t need their pity. I need a chance to show them what I can do. I’m not dog show material, but I can do other stuff—like being a watchdog—if they’d just give me the chance.

So, at the end of each day, I’m still here, and that worries me a little.

(To be continued…)

RUTHERFORD, CANINE COMIC, by John Madormo, illus. by Brad Foster, coming September 2020 from Zumaya Thresholds; Trade paperback, ISBN  978-1-61271-353-3, Ebook, ISBN 978-1-61271-354-0 (Kindle), 978-1-61271-355-7 (epub)

Available from the Zumaya eBookstore,, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, B&N Press, Kobo, and Google Play Books, and via special order at your favorite independent bookseller. Have a library card? Ask your library to get the ebook from Overstock.


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