QSFer A.M. Burns has a new fantasy/steampunk book out:
After his family is killed by thieves, sole survivor Trey McAlister is taken in by a nearby Comanche clan. Trey has a gift for magic and the clan’s shaman, Singing Crow, makes him an apprentice. While learning to control his powers, Trey bonds with a young warrior and shape shifter, Gray Talon. When they are sent out on a quest to find the missing daughter of a dragon, they encounter the same bandits who murdered Trey’s family, as well as a man made of copper who drives Trey to dig deeper into the magics that created him.
It doesn’t take them long to discover a rancher near Cheyenne, Wyoming is plotting to build a workforce of copper men—and has captured the dragon’s daughter they’ve been searching for. Trey and Gray Talon must draw on all their knowledge and skills to complete their quest—one that grows more complicated, and more dangerous, with each passing day.
Book One of Native Ingenuity
Near the edge of the canyon, one of the large bulls started to pull up and tried to turn the herd toward the east. Spears and fangs did not seem to deter the bull, and as Gray Talon watched, it tossed one of the wolves off and into the seething mass of buffalo. Gray Talon folded his golden-brown wings and with a scream dropped from his hover toward the bull. He had hoped to be able to try this move. He had tried similar things in the past, but nothing this exciting. As he neared the bull, and he was sure of his trajectory as well as the bull’s movements, he shifted from his eagle form to a bear form. The impact with the bull knocked the wind out of him. His claws scrambled to find a purchase in the shaggy hump. He bit down hard as his hind legs raked the side of the beast, causing it to turn slightly. It was enough that the movement of the rest of the herd around it, and its own loss of footing, caused it to tumble into the canyon. The animals around it followed it down to their deaths.
As the bull began it plummet down toward the canyon floor, Gray Talon let it go and launched himself toward the next-closest buffalo, hoping to get clear enough that he could take to the skies again. He wasn’t about to risk getting injured between forms. The first time, back on Bald Peak, was enough for him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get clear of the falling buffalos. He danced about to keep on top of them as they cascaded over the side of the canyon. It was like trying to run across a moving ice floe. He leapt from buffalo to buffalo trying to get above the fall. All it would take was the wrong move, and he would end up in the middle of the pile of carcasses accumulating on the ground below him. He regretted the bear form. After a dozen leaps and pulling himself free of two horns, he realized his cat form would have allowed him to jump clear long enough to assume his eagle form. The short, powerful legs of the bear could barely make the leaps from one animal to the other and still manage to avoid the hooves and horns enough to remain in one piece.
Eventually Gray Talon lost count of how many buffalo he had vaulted over. He hoped they were nearing the end of the herd. His legs were getting more tired by the second. With each leap he feared it would be his last. Then he hit the side of a calf wrong. The animal was much smaller than he was, and they started to fall end over end. He frantically tried to find something to either grab hold of or push off from. He fell and tried to figure out the best way to get the least amount of damage when he hit the pile of buffalo. All he could hope for was it would be a soft part of a buffalo he hit and not a horn, hoof, or worse yet, a rock the buffalo had missed in their fall.
Then his descent stopped. He floated in midair, moving gently away from the last of the falling buffalo. He glanced up and saw Trey on his black-and-white horse at the edge of the cliff. His spear, with its obsidian point glowing with power, was raised high over his head. Once clear of the falling buffalo, Gray Talon shifted to eagle form and flew over to Trey.
The sun glistened off the sweat and blood that covered both Trey and the horse. It makes him glow like one of the spirits of legend, Gray Talon thought as he circled around for landing. The rest of the buffalo herd moved off to the east, the way the first bull had tried to drive them. The tribe was beginning to make their way into the canyon to start the long process of preparing the kill for transport to the winter camp. The wind shifted. The storms would come by nightfall. But no one would care since they now had the food they so desperately needed.
Trey McAlister jumped off his horse as Gray Talon landed and assumed his human form. Time roaming the grasslands with the Comanche tribe had hardened Trey, and nearly constant exposure to the sun had tinted his light skin to the point where it was darker than his sun-bleached hair. He wrapped his strong muscular arms around Gray Talon and picked him up off the ground.
“That was a bit too close, my love.” He kissed Gray Talon deeply.
“I knew you’d be there in time to catch me.” Gray Talon laughed as their lips parted. “You’ll always be there to catch me.”
Trey grabbed his horse’s reins in one hand and wrapped an arm around Gray Talon’s waist with the other. “That was quite a stunt you pulled, and lots of buffalo down there bear the mark of your claws.” He laughed as they peered over the edge of the canyon at the impressive pile of buffalo that lay in the dust at the foot of the cliff.
Gray Talon looked into the handsome visage for a moment. He could never get tired of looking at that face, so different than the other’s he looked at every day. Trey was determined to keep a smooth jawline like the Comanche men but had to shave every day, lest that golden stubble start showing on the crack in his chin and his round cheekbones. This time of year his shaggy eyebrows were almost white from the sun, and he was beginning to get faint lines around his eyes even though Laughing Hawk kept giving him an ointment from cactus gel to help them go away. Gray Talon thought they added character to his already beautiful face.
“You know me, always having to show off a bit; helps make the girls more jealous of you.” He ran his fingers up through the thick yellow hair that covered Trey’s bare chest.
“Like they need any more encouragement to be jealous.” Trey pushed him away playfully. Gray Talon knew not all the women of the tribe treated Trey well since he had what they wanted. They all wanted to be the mother of his sons, who might be the next legend in the tribe.
A.M. Burns lives in the Colorado Rockies with his partner, several dogs, cats, horses, and birds. When he’s not writing, he’s often fixing fences, splitting wood, hiking in the mountains, or flying his hawks. He’s enjoyed writing since he was in high school, but it wasn’t until the past few years that he’s begun truly honing his craft. He is the current president of the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group: http://www.csfwg.org. Having lived both in Colorado and Texas, rugged frontier types and independent attitudes often show up in his work.