McKenzie Catron’s, A Goblin of the Glade, releases in ONE WEEK on November 28th!
We are revealing chapter one to whet your appetite, as well as announcing an author live chat between McKenzie and Micheline, plus having a Black Friday sale AND an ebook kindle sale! READ ON!
AlSO remember to join McKenzie Catron and Micheline Ryckman on Instagram for a LIVE chat on November 27th at 4pm MST. Cannot wait to see you there!
There’s still time to preorder! Don’t forget we have A Goblin of the Glade available in paperback, hardcover, and an exclusive Whimsical dust jacketed hardcover.
Preorder incentives are sold out but you can still snag the stunning hidden cover design from our website!
Also please note – we have run out of signed bookplates and due to McKenzie’s health, she is not able to sign more. All copies of her books ordered moving forward will be stamped with her signature. Thank you all for your understanding.
Our BIGGEST sale of the year!
Almost everything* in the shop is 30% off NOW until Nov. 27th with code BF2023.
*Discount does not apply to sale/clearance or preorder items.
NOW FOR THE BEST PART!!!
It’s not that I don’t love my sisters, I do, they’ve just been on my nerves since the three of us shared a womb. And right now, they’re squabbling again. Poppy complaining that Posy gets too engrossed in her studies and slacks off around the glade, while Posy huffs and rolls her eyes––she’s not one for words but the sass still oozes from her. It’s a one-sided, semi-silent argument but it’s bickering all the same. I try to ignore them but when Poppy trips on the hem of her too-long cloak, bumps into me, and makes the pile of wood in my arms fall to the ground, I lose it.
“One more word, Poppy, and I swear to Fate…” I groan, irritation clinging to my back like a heavy knapsack.
Poppy and Posy look at me with their identical faces, my face. Their emerald-green goblin skin is all aglow in the morning light as their long, rippled ears blush and full dark brows rise. Their swooping lips pull up in innocent mask-like smiles, and Poppy begins to protest, “But Rose—”
I don’t let her finish. “You dodge your chores by playing with the changeling babes almost every day, you chatterbox.” I swirl an accusatory finger around her face. She bats it away as I turn to Posy whose firefly eyes twinkle with mirth. “And I’m sure you cleared the rest of the autumn harvest just like Rush asked before you transcribed that book for Hazel. Didn’t you, Posy?”
The glee over Poppy’s reprimand fades as Posy’s gaze darts around.
My annoyance fades––of course she got caught up in her task for Hazel. Posy’s special interest has always been gathering information, and the Elder Mother has been something of a mentor to my quiet sister. Posy enjoys the work; even craves the knowledge she absorbs and stores away inside her flawless memory. Though she has never expressed it, I think her fact-finding provides her comfort and a sense of purpose, especially after everything we’ve been through the last ten years.
“Go get it done. I’ll cover for you if dear old brother asks,” I sigh, knowing if she gets in trouble, she’ll find a way to drag me and Poppy into the fray.
Posy gives me a dazzling smile in thanks before spinning on her heel to leave. I grab on to the tails of her coat, stopping her when I see the bulge of a pocket-sized book and her spectacles stuffed inside her vest pocket. Sticking out my hand and flexing my fingers, I motion toward the book.
“Not so fast, hand it over.” I narrow my eyes. “I know better than to let you walk away with unfinished work for the Elder Mother.”
With a pout, and extra care, Posy places the old book in my waiting hand. Then, being careful not to smudge the blue tinted lenses, she puts her wire spectacles on top of the old brown leather as well. Poppy gives her a mocking wave as our triplet follows the stone path to the garden where Fern and the rest of the gnomes are waiting for her help.
Tomorrow is the first day of the last month of the year and the glade is getting colder. Pumpkins and gourds are going out of season along with the sunflowers, while the winterberry holly bushes are newly teeming with red. There’s a lot of work to be done before the first snowfall rolls in these next coming weeks, and everyone needs to pitch in before Christmastide arrives, even Posy. My thoughts flit to Sparrow––no doubt she’s already decorating; she loves Christmastide.
Before they got married, Rush, with the help of the glade, built them a cottage at the end of the stream by the watermill. It was my half-brother’s wedding gift to his changeling bride, a home of her own with room to expand, accessible for her and her magic elder tree wheelchair, and close enough to Sparrow’s old house but far enough away for privacy.
They had their wedding in the fall when Sparrow turned twenty. Posy, Poppy, and I were nine and ecstatic to have The Changeling Queen, Slayer of Witches, our liberator, as a sister.
It didn’t take long for their family to grow because Sparrow made use of all the changeling hearts that had been stashed away by her and Aspen many moons ago. I don’t think either of them knew the twigs would ever be useful. Mainly because the pair confiscated the hearts from the trolls to discourage the burly old faeries from creating changelings to swap for human babes. But I suppose the efforts to stop the trolls’ kleptomaniac tendencies ended up being a blessing.
The three of us girls were there when Sparrow and Rush took the hidden hearts from the chest beneath Aspen’s bed and brought them to the eldest troll, Bramwell. They asked him to charm the woven elder twig hearts, and together, the trolls took up their magic once more. After a few years, the mossy faeries created a whole gaggle of nieces and nephews, an adorable group of changeling babes.
Some of them run past Poppy and I with red, frost-tipped noses and bright laughs while their slow grandparents lumber after them on thick, lazy limbs. The trolls wave at us in synchronized motion as they follow the children. My sister looks at the giggling brood with her watchful, raspberry eyes. She loves our makeshift family more than words can say and prefers, above all else, to be their caretaker. While Posy is the scholar, Poppy is the maternal one, content to wipe snotty noses and bandage scraped knees while she dreams of having kids of her own. And right now, while she watches the children fly by, her face betrays it all.
I look down at my boots––then there’s me––I’m not really the dutiful sister I appear to be. Honestly, I prefer adventure in far-off places, and journeys that don’t involve mundane chores. But it seems that it’s my turn to be the responsible one today. My eyes lift. “You go, Poppy, Bramwell is too old to chase after them. Especially Lark; she’s going to give that old-timer a heart attack if she tries climbing the maple trees again. He almost threw out a hip wrangling Starling out of an imp’s nest in the barn yesterday.”
Poppy kicks the wood still scattered over the crunchy, yellowed grass as she sprints after them, flickering in and out of sight, using her goblin ancestry to sneak up on the kids. “You’re the best, Rose!” She shouts this over her shoulder before she disappears entirely.
“You owe me your dessert tonight,” I yell back, a playful threat coating my words. My sisters know better than to mess with me when there’s sugary sweets involved. I’ve been paid with delicacies for chores and secrets many a time.
Thinking of layered cake slices makes my stomach moan as I pocket Posy’s things and bend to collect the fallen firewood. My breath billows in the crisp air when I finally head down the smooth, snaking path ahead. It’s not too cold outside in the daylight, at least not for me, but for others it’s intolerable. Aspen requires more heat as of late, and that means more wood for bigger, longer burning fires in her hearth.
Her health has been poor these past few years, but it wasn’t until this past summer that she started to truly decline. Now she’s become frail and tired, mostly bound to her bed as the moon changes cycles. Sometimes it’s even too much for her to talk or pick up her sewing projects, and she hasn’t been outside since Hallowtide. She’s dying. I know it. Sparrow knows it. We all know it, but none of us know why, or how long she has left.
Hazel and Posy have been researching, scouring every book, tome, and crumbling scroll for an answer or clue. Sparrow even begged her mother to let the trolls make her a new body, to infuse her soul into a changeling heart, just as Sparrow herself came to be, but Aspen refuses. She told me that she’d played with Fate by recreating her human daughter, and knows better now. “When it’s my time, darling, it’s my time,” she’d said.
Aspen is headstrong, but I look up to her. And over the past decade she’s been a surrogate mother to us triplets, gathering us beneath her wings, loving us and trying to help us heal after the horror of Black Annis. None of us like to talk about our time in that cold iron cage though…it broke our Pop’s mind, and the trauma lingers over me and my sisters too. Most of the time I repress the memories; it’s just easier if I shove them deep inside––so deep that they, like the night-crawling bogeys, cannot see the light of day. I know they’re not gone, no matter how deep I push, because similar to the creatures that haunt my daytime periphery like hazy impish ghouls, they linger.
I ignore them all though, shaking them off along with the shades of dark, blue belladonna-soaked memories while I wipe the soles of my travel worn boots on the doormat outside Sparrow’s childhood home. Balancing the wood in one arm is a juggling act that includes using my chin as I reach for the doorknob blindly. When the front door opens, a wall of heat slaps me in the face, but I’m quick to close it all in with a kick, making sure the precious warmth doesn’t escape. The chopped wood gets dumped in the log rack against the wall, and then I survey the room.
It’s one of Aspen’s better days because I see she’s sitting up. It’s a welcome sight. She’s bundled in the chair next to the blazing hearth, and Sparrow is pouring her something hot in a chipped cup.
“Ah, my two favorite people. How are you ladies doing this fine morning?” I ask, pulling off my scarf and hanging it on a hook protruding from the wall.
“Hello, Primrose,” Aspen chuckles, keeping her attention on the needlework she holds in her shaky hands.
I hear a thump from behind the open cupboards in the kitchen. “I thought I was your favorite person,” Rush’s voice calls. He must be making a post-breakfast snack because the smell of yeast and sugar floats through the room like sweet, powder-dusted sprites. Sparrow has taught him a thing or two about baking since their wedding day, and thank goodness for that since the things he tried to feed Posy, Poppy, and I as kids were vile.
“Your wife won that spot ages ago, brother,” I call back, a lightness from familiar banter filling my chest.
Sparrow laughs, wheelchair gliding over the scratched floors to put the kettle back in the kitchen. “Darn right I did,” she says over her shoulder. “I plied you girls with enough sweets to earn your favor for a lifetime.”
This invokes a playful argument between Rush and Sparrow in the kitchen, but I head for Aspen, crouching by her chair, hands clutching the armrest. “How are you feeling today?”
She lays her work in her lap, the bright, colored threads splaying across the quilt that covers her legs. She smiles at me with fond wrinkled eyes before tucking an errant curl behind my pointed ear. Her fingers quiver. “Better than yesterday, darling.”
While that may be true, I fear that tomorrow will be worse. She looks tired, so tired that I can feel the sag of it in my bones. Her posture reminds me of a storybook in Sparrow’s collection about a man condemned to hold up the heavens on his back. There’s a curve in between her shoulders where they meet her neck, like the strain of keeping herself upright weighs on her body.
Settling my chin on my hands, I look up at her the same way I did as a child. My sisters and I don’t remember our mother, so Aspen has been the closest thing we’ve ever had. I love her. “Is there anything I can get you?” I ask, eager to make her feel better.
“See if there’s any biscuits you can sneak me to dunk in my tea, will you? Sparrow seems to think too much sugar will bring me to Death’s door faster. I keep telling her, I’ll go in my own time.”
I shake my head, always so surprised by how poised she remains through suffering. She speaks about dying so frankly, so at peace––it’s something I will never understand.
“Three or four?” I whisper as I stand, knowing her soft spot for baked goods almost matches mine.
A grin lights up her wane face, freckles almost hidden by her pallor. “As many as your pockets will fit.”
With a snort, I make my way to the suspiciously silent kitchen. I saunter in as loud as I can, but I still catch the lovebirds with their lips locked. My half-brother is leaning over Sparrow, letting the handles of her wheelchair behind her shoulders hold his weight. She runs her palms over his short hair and cups his scruffy face with tender hands. The silver band on her left ring finger winks before I cover my eyes with dramatic flair. “Come on, not by the food, you two. You have your own house, leave this one unsullied for all our sakes, please.” I search blindly for the table that holds the biscuit jar.
I hear Rush pull away from Sparrow with an exaggerated smack of his lips, and when I uncover my eyes, I see his dark umber skin is flushed with happiness. “You know, Rose, one day you’ll find someone who––”
Pressing my hands to my ears, I crinkle my nose with a shiver. “Nope. Hard pass, I’d rather be a spinster. I’d sooner run thousands of miles back to the beach towns before I subject myself to that.”
“Aw, you just got back a few weeks ago, don’t leave me alone with your siblings again until after Christmastide,” Sparrow pleads with a quirk to her reddened lips. She may be pushing close to twenty-nine but when it comes to Rush, she looks like a lovestruck teenager again.
Speaking of the devil, it was my brother who passed on his spirit for adventure to me; he had no more use for it after courting Sparrow. And as soon as I was old enough and weighed down with all the salt Aspen could make me carry, I set out to see the world. I went west to discover the seas made of sand before wandering east to the moon-churned oceans. Once I tried to go south but I couldn’t make it past the birch trees that grow before the pine forests, their white bark reminding me too much of the banshee trees surrounding that old, harrowing cave––the one that will forever haunt me. I had to turn back. After that I sought solace in the black sanded beaches I’d left in the east; it helped, a little.
The holidays called me back home to the glade before I could meander north. This faerie laden land is where I belong, but I will always love to roam. New journeys call to me, my keen sense of goblin smell leading the way. I want to see the whole world someday. But family comes first. I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon, not with the state Aspen is in. If anything happens to her, I’ll need to be here for the aftermath, to be a part of the glue that’s going to hold everyone together in their grief.
In the meantime, I’ll putter around the glade and pick up my triplets’ slack when needed, all the while dreaming of greener hills and warmer weather. I’ll pester Rush when Posy and Poppy pester me, and I’ll brood with the brownies in the barn when I want some peace and quiet. Maybe I’ll even play with the cute little booger-faced changelings and sneak off to Hazel’s cottage to raid her elderberry wine stash once I’ve reached peak boredom.
I stick my hand out to my sister-in-law. “Don’t kiss my brother like that in front of me again and I’ll think about sticking around.”
Sparrow’s pale hand slips into my green grasp. “Deal,” she says with a firm shake. Her pristine, black lacquered chair, enchanted by the Elder Mother herself, spins from her husband and leads her back toward the sitting area.
“Honey—” Rush sulks at the prospect of kisses being withheld.
“Don’t forget to take the bread out of the oven, my love,” Sparrow laughs. “You wouldn’t want to burn your masterpiece.”
He grumbles as he turns his attention to the clay oven, the source of the yeast and sugar scent. I think I spy a lopsided braid-like loaf bathed in spotty patches of egg-wash inside.
Under the guise of sympathy, I give him a heavy pat on his shoulder while my other hand reaches for the biscuit jar. Once I have my prizes tucked into my other pocket, free of Posy’s belongings, I dash from the kitchen, hoping Rush doesn’t see the crumbs falling in my wake.
The front door flies open when I return to Aspen’s side, bouncing off the wall as tiny feet run inside. A trail of wet prints are strewn across the wood floor as a changeling child cries, “Mommy, Mommy!” Robin flings her arms around Sparrow’s thin legs.
The youngest of Rush and Sparrow’s children would be the spitting image of her mother if it weren’t for her silver eyes. She has Sparrow’s ivory skin, dark wavy hair, and button nose. Robin even has the same heart made of elder twigs cloaked in a troll charm sitting inside her chest, but she has her father’s gaze.
Rush comes stumbling in, silver eyes wide with panic. “What is it? Where’s the fire?”
“Starling pushed me in the stream again.” Robin gives a pitiful shiver, bottom lip quivering.
“Did you push him back?” I ask.
“Rose,” Rush hisses. “Not helpful.”
Shrugging, I slip Aspen one of the chocolate-iced biscuits and grab one for myself. We nibble as we watch the parents at work.
“I’m sorry, sweet girl, that wasn’t very nice of your brother. Where is he now?” Sparrow pulls the cold, soggy child into her lap, wiping away her tears.
Robin sniffles. “Auntie Poppy put him in a timeout after making him say sorry.”
With a long-suffering sigh, Rush kneels to rub warmth into his daughter’s back. Robin plays with Sparrow’s almost waist length hair as she leans against her chest, brows sad and furrowed.
“Remember what Daddy said about playing by the stream?” Rush asks.
“Someone could get hurt or taken by Nelly Longarms,” Robin mumbles.
I hold back a laugh, thinking of the witch who’s trying to steal Jenny Greenteeth’s notoriety for stalking lakes and rivers for victims. Hearing about the story of how Rush and Sparrow had slain Jenny, I grew up without caution for most water. The glade’s streams and the world’s oceans were safe. Rivers and lakes on the other hand are always a gamble, even after news of Jenny’s death spread like wildfire and the story of the elusive Changeling Queen grew. Witches became afraid of the figure that felled her and Black Annis. Though Nelly Longarms is said to be testing her luck by being on the prowl, and her existence is now used as a tactic to get kids to behave around water.
Sparrow rolls her eyes at Rush before turning her gaze back to her little girl. “Daddy will take you home to get changed and cozy, okay? I’ll be there by lunchtime.”
Rush points at Aspen. “I’ll be back for our sewing time. I have a new project for us, lots of buttons to reattach to the kids’ jackets.” My half-brother scoops up his daughter and turns for the door. Quickly, I slip a biscuit from my pocket with a finger to my lips, planting it in Robin’s chilly fist as Rush carries her away. She gives me a toothy grin, then munches, spilling crumbs over her father’s shoulder all the way out the door. The pair pass both Posy and Poppy making their way inside the home.
“Special delivery,” Poppy chirps, twirling her way inside to plant a kiss on Aspen’s cheek. She’s moving towards Sparrow when she sees the dark splotch covering the woman’s cream-colored trousers and earthen sweater. “You’re wet,” she states, confused.
“Well spotted, genius,” I say around a mouthful of chocolatey-biscuity-goodness.
Posy crosses the floor with more grace, kissing both Aspen and Sparrow on the cheek in greeting before setting a basket full of autumn harvest on the scuffed kitchen table. Poppy and I are making unpleasant faces at each other when Posy shoves her hand in my pocket to retrieve her book and spectacles. I don’t even get in a word before the blue eyeglasses are perched on her nose and her book is open. She plops down to sit on the tabletop, foregoing an actual chair. I try to distract Posy from reading, retaliating for my rudely picked pockets while Poppy roots through her basket. She organizes some pickings, setting them aside for canning and pickling while Sparrow mops at her damp lap with the sleeve of her sweater. Aspen beckons her closer to the fire, telling her to get dry before going out into the cold to make the short trip home. We settle into a quiet sort of concurrence until a sudden sharp scratching at the window makes us all jump in surprise. I look, expecting one of my nieces or nephews with a stick in hand, but instead there’s a black cat. It sits on the windowsill perched in smoky shadow, not unlike the ones always flickering at the perimeter of my gaze. Except, there is no real shadow darkening this animal, it’s only the inky fur on its body floating in the non-existent wind.
My memories spark. There was a night, many years ago, when my sisters and I were little enough to share a bed, when Sparrow and Rush sat in our room telling us a story. They told us of a giant wolf-like dog that turned into a spectral horse with sulfurous eyes, a creature draped in chains and whispers. The feline eyes that stare at us through the window are glowing yellow, unnatural in their luminescence.
It’s a Pooka, and it looks like it wants to come inside.