Book Review: Two Gun Witch

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Two Gun Witch by Bishop O’Connell


She’s got two guns loaded with magic.
Will they be enough?

Talen is a Stalker, a bounty hunter hired by the Marshal Service to hunt down humans stained by dark magic. She’s also a two-gun witch, one of the few elven women who can wield two magical revolvers, spell irons, at once. For three years she’s lived for the next bounty, and a whisper of vengeance for the destruction of her people.

That changes when she takes the warrant on Margaret Jameson, a new kind of stained, one immune to the usual tools of collection. Upon finding her quarry, Talen realizes Margaret isn’t stained at all, but someone worked very hard to make her appear so.

The search for an answer carries the two unlikely partners from the wilds of the Great Plains to the expansive cities of post-Civil War America. There, they learn the truth is much darker than they imagined, and it could mean the death of millions, or even reshape the world itself.



Wow, this is a great piece of Weird West.

Amazing worldbuilding (my jam), great characters, incredible vistas (translating this into a visual medium like a movie would actually work), good mix of action and plot, nice magic and nice western.

Full disclosure: Received the book as part of an online Facebook Christmas book party, won the contest on best piece of Western History or something like that. No review required.


Final comment (May be considered a spoiler by some)

Goodread only comments since I see this as turning some people off buying the book, and the book really should be bought, especially by those people whom this comment will make them less likely to buy the book.

“Woke” Weird West – this narrative actually acknowledges the systemic racism and misogamy, as well as the War which America still has PTSD from, laying down deep roots to permanently imbedded their poison into our culture. It’s gonna take some mighty and constant tugging to uproot the issues. Generations. Like mint and mimosa.

[Two-Gun Witch is an awesome “weird west” with guns, witches, elves, and the western plains – but it also touched on systemic hatred, the history of bigotry and misogamy, slavery and Jim Crow laws being developed, genocide of indigenous people, dealing with PTSD and other fallout from Civil War, all for the sake of “manifest destiny”.]

Why are books like this important? Sometimes people won’t look in a mirror, but they will visit the funhouse at a carnival – a distorted mirror is still a reflection.

Book Review: Changeling’s Fall

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Changeling’s Fall: The Eisteddfod Chronicles Book 1 by Sarah Joy Adams and Emily Lavin Leverett


Her Faerie Tale is getting awfully grim.

Deor Smithfield had it all figured out. She had a great education, a new job teaching at a good university, and a plan to move across the country to start her new life.

Then her body betrayed her, and she seemed to be falling prey to the same wasting sickness that killed her mother. When medical science failed her in spectacular fashion, Deor’s grandmother told her that her long-lost father was more than just another deadbeat dad – he was a faerie, and she’s a Changeling, half-human, half-fae.

Now Deor has to rush to Faerie in search of her missing father before his magical parting gift kills her. She’s in a new world with no friends, no money, no job, and only a few days to find her disappearing daddy before she’s kicked back out into the mundane world to die.

Oh yeah, and somebody’s hunting Changelings in Faerie.


Nothing like walking into a political battle where you don’t know the players, the rules, or the reasons … and you are the most valuable piece on the board. Professor Deor faces exactly this situation.

Problem for the players – they think she will play their game as a pawn. 

She don’t care who your Daddy is. She isn’t a pawn. And she isn’t playing anything except for Keeps.

A wonderful mix of fantasy, politics, thriller, romance, and anything else the authors – Dr. Adams and Dr. Leverett – could slip in. 

Flash: Forget Kindness

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash (color adjusted by Erin Penn)

The pastoral setting, complete with sheep and cattle munching the summer grass on the rolling hills in between small wooded areas was completed by children running and tumbling over each other like a pack of puppies, laughing. In the distance, a wall city, no doubt home to the boys stood sentry over their play though they have ranged far from their home.

Between the range and the hills, no bow shot would save them from the two pale ghosts watching them from the forest’s abrupt edge when the pastures and fields ended and the wild woods began. The parents of the children, nobles and commoners both judging by the clothing, did not yet need the woods for their fires and the land for their animals. But later, in the fall, more would be cut back. In the meantime, the forest and its guardians watched.

The watchers’ eyes danced over the double handful of children so far from the safety of the walled city, howling like a pack of wolves, chasing one boy slightly ahead of the rest. The couple was not pleased to see a pack hunting in their territory.

The lead boy was dirtier than the pack members and younger than most of his pursuers. His rough-spun clothes had a slightly different cut indicating maybe one of the lesser religions or an immigrant child, the watchers weren’t familiar with the intricate strata of the city-born but could pick out an outsider easily. After all, those are the best prey as this pack had discovered.

All kinds of boys chased, with clothing from fine to sturdy. In the middle ran a tireless child with long silken hair flowing behind him, the pure white a beacon among the humans. Silks and jeweled colors as well as location in the pack indicate his status. Also among the pack were two golden-tressed children, with hair not quite as inhumanly straight as the pure-bred elf, their skin not as pale and lacking the inner glow of natural magik. Their clothing not quite as fine. One ran toward the front of the group, nearly too old to be part of this hunt, his longer strides leading the way. The other lagged in the back egging on the others, yellow eyes wild with the pleasure of pursuit.

The watchers also had white hair and untannable skin, their slanted yellow eyes noting the three pack members related to their race. All of them were older than the watchers by several years.

The elder of the two asked, “Shall we intervene sister?”

“Yes, let’s,” she answered, lifting the camouflage cloak’s hood over the leaves mingling with her braids. Together they moved quietly, invisibly, using their magiks to dampen their natural glow, appearing little more than branches moving in the wind with an occasional flash of white sunlight dappling the green and brown.

The hounds had ran down the fox and encircled the defeated bloody boy. Several pack members threw small stones with practiced accuracy. Other closed to kick and punch. The mob roared insults as damaging as their fists, laughing as both hit and wounded. They hid their actions in the shadows of the trees out of sight of the city.

Suddenly among them appeared the watchers, now actors.

“Go away.” The noble elf, sneered at his younger woodland cousins. “This has nothing to do with the likes of you. Return to your trees.”

“No.” The woodland-raised boy responded without inflection. He raised his hand, his cloak and linen shirt falling back along his pale arm. Dropping the glamour hiding his glow, the hand flared, freezing the tormentors in place.

He looked at the beaten boy shivering in the center of the lot, unfurling from his fetal position to find out why the kicking had stopped. The youngster held his ribs on the left side. Seeing the two wood elves and his frozen harassers, he scuttled back as best he could until he bumped up against one of the pack. His eyes darted between the blond noble spawn and the barbaric wizard, clearly trying to figure out which was the biggest threat.

The male wood elf, just two years older than the prey, made the decision easier. He showed his teeth, the pointed canines of a meat eater. “Run while you can.”

The lad scrambled, stood, and ran further into the woods, as though those would provide safety from what he left behind.

When the crashing sounds of the panicked animal faded, the wood elf turned his attention to the crowd he held motionless. “Now for those who would hunt in our woods–”

“No brother, let me. I’ve never had a kill.” His younger sister interrupted, her lilting soft voice carrying like a hawk screech through the company.

Her brother shuddered but pulled back the death magik he had been preparing. His sister was stronger and far more dangerous than him, but not yet come fully into her own. Of the two, she would be ruler and he follower. Up until now he had mentored her, but today, it seemed, would be the day she would come into her own.

First blood.

The enemies which chased them aged her quicker than they knew; they would come to regret that when the pair returned to home and reclaimed their birthrights.

“Cover our tracks,” she ordered without a second thought, already the leader. He bowed his head to her will and slipped off as she raised her hand and took over the spell holding the youths as though she cast it herself.

The dethroned elf queen, not yet eight, but the bloodline of dozen queens from Under-the-Hill ran through her veins, walked among the human and the elven children. Offspring of those who had forsaken the traditions. Even the purebred elf, son of the city’s sovereign and half-way through his studies could not displace the magik holding him. Her will held them all.

“You are killers like us. I can see,” her eyes raked like claws over them, “two spirits clinging to you. Their blood never leaving where it had been spilled, biding their time. It has now arrived.”

The second son of the local king and his courtier sycophants struggled harder, sweat beading on their brows. She released the tightness of the bonds so their struggle would be visible to the others. The rest of the pack’s eyes grew white with fear when they realized not even the most powerful among them could escape what was to come.

“The tongue torments, the body attacks, and the fist and feet deliver pain, so it was done to others. So shall it be returned in full to each involved. Let those who suffered pay back the torments, attacks, and pain.” The young girls’ words growled like angry bear and screamed like an eagle half a second before and after her spoken sounds. At the end of the spell, she slashed her hand down releasing the pack from stasis.

Pain and fear dropped them to their knees.

“For your age, a kindness. Not everyone will dies here.” She smiled with her canines showing as the screams started. “Only if you killed, you will die.”

“No, no, I’ve never killed anyone.” The noble with the blond hair who ran in the back of the group twisted in pain, begging.

She glided to where he lay. “Then you are the worst coward of the pack. Killing by using others.” Bruises started forming on his lightly tanned skin, and his screams start in earnest. “If your pack spirit has delivered pain, your fist and tongue remember and so shall it be done.”

She inhaled deeply, then sealed the spell so none could stop it. “By my will.”

The screams ripped the throats of the boys into shreds. None would ever speak again if they managed to survive.

Only one child did not scream, but he stared. How he stared.

The soon-to-be baptized killer slipped among the rolling bodies like a lady at a ball swishing through a crowd. She stood beside the six-year old when he managed to whisper, “What’s happening?”

She glanced down at where he sat, trembling – a year and an eternity stood between them in age. Within her the queens woke, their spirits clinging to their blood centuries after their death. “You should choose your companions more wisely. Today you would have been a killer. Instead a spirit of retribution stole out of the woods; that is all you will remember.”

She touched his forehead. “Now run, and no one but you will ever know you were here.”

The boy ran and ran. Through the gates and to his guildman father’s home to hide in the workroom the rest of the day, week, month, and year. He never left the city walls again.


The prey stopped running, listening to the faroff screams. Lost, gulping air against an ancient oak, tears streaming through the blood marring his face.

Behind him a silent ghost stepped out of the shadow and touches his shoulder. The glow of magik flowed over the hand into the boy’s body healing and into his mind to hide the actions of two children who would not be found yet. “Run home child, the woods kept you safe today. Forget its kindness because it may not happen ever again.”

(words 1550; first published 3/29/2020)

Flash: Join the Herd

Image provided by alexisdc at

“I still don’t know Phillip.” Ezekiel rubbed the back of his neck. The two best friends would be walking on stage in moments for a fundraiser, in reversed outfits to match their nearly opposite looks. Ezekiel wore black linen slacks, a midnight silk shirt, and white suspenders making his pale white skin that much lighter and his dark hair into a shard of night.

Putting the final shine on his white oxford shoes, Phillip, long used to his partner’s pre-presentation nervous breakdowns, smiled at his reflection in the leather.  His white linen slacks, with a crushed white silk poet’s blouse unbuttoned to show off his prematurely white chest curls against his African American skin was perfectly set off by the black suspenders. “It’s for charity. Just get out there, sing a little karaoke, play to the audience to drive up the price, then we take the old lady who wins the bid out for dinner next week at  American Soul and Steak.”

Zeke started pacing in the small space set aside for them. “I’m too Sexy?” he whined.

“It’s a song you actually know and in a key you can sing.” Phil leaned back in the solitary chair and put his shiny shoes on the box doubling as their table. “I had very limited options.”

“We could have tapped dance.”

“You could have tapped dance; I could have fallen flat on my face.” The black man stretched out his full length, nearly six foot three inches of hard broad muscle, most leftover from his college football scholarship days before he and Zeke dropped out their junior year as their second start-up blew the roof off their niche in the computer industry. “Beside tap dancing isn’t sexy. I don’t want to be the lowest bid winner in the Hot Bachelors for Protect and Immunize. That would be embarrassing.”

“What’s embarrassing is performing like monkeys. We could have just donated money; I’m sure they would have been happy with a check with four zeros following the one.”

“Not really. Half of the battle for immunization is getting the word out, and sex sells best. Word from an attractive mouth, which yours qualifies for bro,” Phil made a kissing noise toward his friend, “has tons more value in that part of the battle than anonymous dollars. That is a full house out there, and everyone out there has either proven all their immunizations are up-to date or just got a booster tetanus and whatever else they were missing before sitting down for their overpriced baby hot dog rolled up in some biscuit batter.”

“You know, I think they would be happy with just one of us, we should go talk–”

The door opened, and one of the female volunteers at the annual event popped her head in, “Ready to go?”

“Yes.” Phil jumped to his feet and grabbed his reluctant friend.

“I need to button–”

“Nope, if you wanted to do that, you should have done that earlier instead of dripping sexy all over me in there. Carlie, tell Ezekiel that the women in the audience don’t want buttoned shirts.”

Rushed with a thousand details, the woman responded on cue with a voice delivering flat, matter-of-fact reality like a doctor telling a patient to turn his head and cough. “Mr. Blaze, just keep your pants on, and the women will swoon. Otherwise we will need to break out the firehose.”

“Have you ever broken out the firehose for the fundraiser?” Zeke asked, fascinated at the prospect.

“Just keep your pants on. Both of you” Their escort waved from the wings at the announcer, a politician known for her maverick tendencies and her staunch support of all things health care. “Break a leg and thank you.” And like that, the woman was on her way to collect the next charge. Twelve local bachelors had volunteered in all.




“I can’t believe you talked me into this.” Freedom whispered behind her hand to her friend, bodyguard, and adviser during the lull in the auction, cupping the words with her magic so they carried directly to Jane’s ears.

Jane tipped her chair back, away from the minuscule two-person table where they sat in the shadows, until it hit the wall beside the fire exit. After looking either direction along the wall, and doing another full sweep of the room with her slanted green eyes, she responded to her mistress, charge, and close friend, “You need an escort next week, someone worthy of a princess but from this world, that is if you want to keep these lands out of your brother’s greedy hands.” Switching out of the magic whisper, since this world lacked the eldritch energies needed to maintain spells for anyone but royal blood, the fire sprite continued in accented modern speech. “We are already half-way through; you will need to make a choice soon if you are going to make one.”

Freedom rolled her dark eyes and responded in flawless American English. “You are always rushing me.”

“You are always needing to be rushed.”

“A princess is always on time. Everyone else is either late or early. You told me that yourself.”

“I also taught you to respect the worth of others.”

Giving her councilor a quick, mischievous smile, Freedom responded, “That you did, but I fail to see how this … spectacle … gives proper value to anyone.”

“The value is in the worth it brings to humanity.”

The auctioneer, the woman who had originally invited Freedom and Jane to the event, activated her mike as the next bid stepped on stage. The immaculately dressed black man who immediately drew the attention of the room with a glamour and charm usually absent in humans, raising Freedom’s interest like none of the other handsome men before him. That one could possibly stand up to her brother and parents when they visit to see how her negotiations were coming. Her eyes drunk in his broad shoulders and the muscular chest peaking through his partially opened shirt. Very possible.

Behind him rushed a disheveled half-dressed white man hunched over, who stopped in the middle of the stage and stared at the audience. His hawk-like features froze, not in fear so much as realization of others. His shoulders settled back and attention snapped from the first man to him. A small half-smile turned up the left side of his lip. Snapping his unbutton shirt wider, he spun like the floor was ice, ending with a flourish where he went on tiptoes, thrusting out his knees, perfectly balanced for a moment. Then rocking back. Freedom’s mouth watered.

He went over to stand by the first man. The black man towered over Representative Cutter, and the white man added another six inches to that, well displayed now he was standing straight. Nowhere near the pure muscle mass as the first man, they were likely of weight but Freedom could count to six on either of their bellies.

“The next in our Herd is the only pair of the night. Y’all know Phillip Morrow and Ezekiel Markow, boy geniuses and bachelors about town, about to sell their newest startup to Space-X. Before we see what other talents these men have, I think we should set up our baseline.”

“Fifty!” Shouted from the audience. The same person who had bid fifty for the previous six men. She never bid any further, but seemed to be having fun. Everyone laughed, expecting the bid at this point.

“Five hundred,” came a different voice. Two of the early sales had stopped at five hundred, not started there. Several women who had been raising the sticks with the round numbers, laid them back down. The white man grabbed the black man’s arm when the bid had been placed. The black man put his hand on the other, before brushing the hand down.

Interesting. As much as she hated court intrigue, Freedom had been raised on it. These two men would be hers. She tapped Jane’s hand indicating bids may be placed on her behalf. Jane didn’t put anything forward yet, because now wasn’t time to enter the fray, but soon.

“Five hundred from Ms. Eerdman of Securities, Listings, Underwritings, and Trades.” Maxine repeated from the stage. “That is a great start.” With that line, which she had repeated after each initial bidding cycle, the state representative handed the microphone over to the man dressed in white. A woman dressed completely in black ran out a second mike for the other man.

Once they verified their microphones were working, the white man spoke in a raspy, deep, panting voice, with a beat like he was drilling into a woman and whispering into her ear “I’m too sexy for my love.” Next black man started making sounds unlike anything Freedom ever heard. A drumbeat formed, and guitar string plucked from nothing. Against the deeper voice still rocking in her chest and vibrating through her body, the drumbeat pounded opposite beats keeping Freedom off kilter and wanting more. On stage, the man dressed in black spun and danced, playing with his white suspenders, slowly buttoning up his shirt.

Freedom glanced at Jane, and her bodyguard ran her tongue around her lips. Around them older women started dancing to the music, as though it brought back memories of a younger time.

The growl continued, talking about cars and pussies and loves. The voice beat and instrument supported the monotone, making it throb.

“I’m too sexy for this song.” Then all sound stopped.

Freedom partially collapsed on the table.

Someone in the audience immediately cried out, “”Two thousand,” instantly topping the highest bid of the night.

Representative Cutter hustled across the stage to grab her mike back. “I hear two thousand from number thirty-nine.”

“Five.” “Five thousand five hundred.” The bidding continued until reaching ten thousand, again placed by the lady from the securities firm.

The final three bids had bounced between her and a much older lady who sat at a table with three men, one her age and two clearly her sons. The woman had earlier bid on the second bachelor of the night, also clearly related to the family but another generation younger than the sons. The grandmother hadn’t won but had raised the price by an extra two hundred dollars. The woman who had won the bid afterwards had gone over and kissed the gray-haired woman on the cheek and plucked the $200 the grandmother held out before going to pay for her winning bid.

Neither Freedom or Jane raised their paddles during the auction as there was one more piece to the performance based on previous parts of the show. 

“Thank you all.” Representative Cutter shivered. “This is so exciting. But before we place the final bids on these hot bachelors, let’s find out why they wanted to ‘Join the Herd’ tonight. Phillip, why don’t you go first?”

Freedom returned to sitting straight, prepared to be bored with prepared speeches about helping others and a chance to give back to the community. Bread-and-butter shit she heard all the time when home, but essential for the smooth running of politics. She had mastered looking politely interested in hearing someone say essentially the same thing for the fifth time in an hour.

The black man took the microphone. A rich baritone poured out cheerful, yet serious. “During my time at college, Go Bulldogs,” some of the crowd roared the cheer back at him as the man punched his fist up, working the crowd with rare skill, “I traveled for exhibit games in Europe and Africa. There I got to see children with polio, yellow fever, and a host of other diseases we have … had … kicked in America. We can’t let these killers back into America. It must stop now, we need to draw our line in the sand, and that line starts at the health centers around the nation.”

He passed the mike to the other man who waited for the clapping to end. After the adoration for the much better than average bread-and-butter speech died down, his hawk-like cheekbones sharpened, his white features drained of color. He stared at the audience until some started shifting in their seats. Then his toe-curling deep voice rumbled its raspy fingers down everyone’s spines. “I don’t know how many of you remember the year of the H1N1 flu strain. My mother was pregnant at the time, after years of trying with my step-father. I was twelve. Both he and I had gotten our shots in October, but several people at Mom’s workplace didn’t think it was necessary. They never got sick. No, for them it wasn’t a problem. They only carried the disease. To the one person who could not get the shot that year. H1N1 killed pregnant women. Herd Immunity would have saved my mother, instead we got to bury my three-month premature brother and mom side-by-side. Get your fucking shots. Save everyone while saving yourself.”

Shoving the microphone back at the representative, the man stepped out of the spotlight. After wiping tears from her face, Maxine tried to resurrect the party atmosphere by reiterating the catchphrase of the night, “Join the Herd. Wow. Thank you Zeke.” She coughed, clearing the emotions from her throat. “So the present bid is $10,000. Yes, Mrs. Rovin.” She nodded at the old woman with her family who did a couple quick finger motions. “$15,000. I hear $15,000. We will be raising in thousand dollar increments. $15,000.”

“$20,000,” yelled out Ms. Eerdman.

“$20,000, I see number sixty-eight,” Jane had finally raised her paddle, so the auctioneer took the bid to the next price up. “$21,000.”

The security woman sent a death stare at their dark corner and raised her paddle. 

“22,000.” The white hair lady fingers danced again while she raised her paddle. “25,000. Thank you Mrs. Rovin.”

“Fifty thousand.” Ms. Eerdman screamed, her voice raising into the hysterical octaves. The room silenced at the outburst.

Mrs. Rovin nearly raised her paddle again, but her husband put his hand on the wood handle.

“I have 50,000. Going once.”

The securities woman sat back in her chair, smug as a rockendrabble in the berry patch.

“Going twice.”

Freedom took a particular dislike to the woman and raised her paddle.

“I see sixty-nine, raising to 51,000…” Representative Cutter stopped as Freedom rocked the paddle like she had seen others do when the price being quoted didn’t match what they wanted.  “Yes, Lady Veresuo. How much do you want to bid?”

The quiet room filled with sounds of moving cloth as those in the know, turned in their seats to peer toward where the Representative looked. Capable of easily projecting over the noise to carry to the furthermost corner of room, Freedom stated, “There are two of them. I would like to bid $51,000 … each.”

The security lady threw her paddle across several tables in anger.

“If I am understanding the bid correctly, the present bid for the Team M&M is one hundred and two thousand.” The representative stared into the shadows until Freedom nodded. Ms. Eerdman, realizing her error, stood to retrieve her paddle. Once the auctioneer received the affirmative to her price, she went into verbal overdrive before the security woman could take two steps. “One Oh Two thousand is my bid. Going-once-twice-sold!”

Very intriguing, Freedom thought again, watching as each of the women in the room reacted differently to the turn of events. She would need to come to more of these functions if her court expanded to this country.

(words 2,592; first published 9/29/2019)

Flash: Wind in Her Hair

Photo by Candice Picard on Unsplash, cropped and colored by Erin Penn

The blonde tosses her hair as she walks out the cabin door so the seawind doesn’t grab it, hitting me in the face with her golden tresses. I wish I could say the effect is erotic with the scent of sunshine on lilacs or the feel of silk brushing my lips.

Actually, I will go with the feel of silk – spider silk. Black widow version.

Just like the poisonous bitch ahead of me. Too bad I can’t backstab her right now, but that would go badly since we will be docking in elfhome shortly. I slowly lift my hand to remove the strands. She barely tolerated being around a human being for the entirety of the journey; spitting in her hair wouldn’t go well but moving fast would go worse. Her reflexes are insane and any move within a certain range was treated like an attack.

Because of the chain around my waist, I am always within range.

(words 158; first published 5/19/2019)