Weird Western Spotlight: Judith Tarr


photo credit: Lori Faith Merritt


Welcome back for another look at the authors and books in the Weird Western StoryBundle. Today I’m really excited to welcome Judith Tarr. If you’ve been reading fantasy since the 80s, her name is almost certainly one you recognize, and her newest novel, Dragons in the Earth, is making its debut in the bundle. I just read Dragons in the Earth, and it’s a lovely book. Contemporary fantasy set in the desert around Tucson, Arizona [where, it turns out, Ms. Tarr and I are practically neighbors!], dipping back into ancient history and prehistory. Plus horses; horse-lovers will especially enjoy this book.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello there. I’m a native New Englander (from Maine, no less) transplanted to and flourishing in the Arizona desert. I moved here for my health and stayed because it’s home.

2. What drew you to writing weird westerns? What do you enjoy about it?
I didn’t actually set out to write a weird western. I wanted to write something about horses (since I live on a horse farm) and about Tucson, where I live, and of course about magic because both horses and Tucson are made of it. I ran a Kickstarter and wrote Dragons in the Earth, and planned to publish it with Book View Cafe, the authors’ cooperative. Its official publication date is September 20th.

Then Blair, the curator of the Weird West bundle, asked me if I had anything on that theme. And I had this, right then, being prepared for publication. So I sped up the process a bit, and here it is. It’s a heart book, a book about where I live on multiple levels. It’s a love song to the land I live in.

3. What particular flavor of weird western is your book that’s in the Weird Western bundle? Science fiction, fantasy, horror, other, none of the above, all of the above?
It’s contemporary fantasy. Also, a horse story. And it has dragons.

4. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your book.
As I said above, it’s the world I live in. We call it Tucson Magic. This country has been inhabited for at least 14,000 years. The land I live on has stone rings set there by the old people, two to three thousand years ago, to catch water and nourish whatever would grow there. They’re persisted because in the desert, unless someone comes through with a bulldozer and blades it flat, whatever you put down stays where it is for thousands of years.

That’s magic. So are horses. And I’ve always felt that dragons sleep under the mountains. They definitely play in the air above them.

I wrote about that. I set it in the Tucson I know, with a few changes for the story’s sake. The ranch exists, though it’s a combination of two separate places. The horses…well. Maybe they do. Maybe they’re only in dreams.

5. Where can we find out more about you and your books?
The best place to start is my author page at Book View Cafe.



Dragons in the Earth (Horses of the Moon #1)

Dragons sleep in the earth here.

Claire is barely scraping a living on her friend’s ranch near Tucson, Arizona. She looks after the long-abandoned horse facility, makes occasional attempts to resuscitate her academic career, and pays the bills, more or less, with her skills as an animal communicator. Those skills don’t always let her say the tactful thing to the human with the checkbook. Sometimes she has to tell the truth.

After a particularly unfortunate session, Claire gets one last chance to keep her home and her livelihood. A small herd of horses needs a place to live and a person to care for them.

But these are no ordinary horses. They represent an old, old breed, the rarest in the world, and they protect an ancient and terrible secret. And something is hunting them.

The ranch is a perfect sanctuary. The powers that live on and under and above it can protect the horses—if Claire can control them. But first she has to control her own abilities, and learn to believe in herself.


Dragons sleep in the earth here.

I feel them. Sometimes I see them—in my head, in dreams, in the hunched shapes of mountains curled around the flattened bowls of the valleys.

They’re always there. I’m always aware of them, but sometimes the awareness sinks down deep, till I can almost forget them.

That day, for example, when I’d finally had enough of failing to make a living.

I don’t exactly live at the back of beyond, but a mile and a half of ranch road and a pair of dry washes can keep the worst of the city folk at bay. Unfortunately, my client was desperate. A phone consult wasn’t enough. She needed to see me in person. Now. Immediately.

She cruised past the long-empty horse pastures in a hot-pink limo, parked herself on my weather-worn deck, and brandished her fashion accessory.

Somewhere under the hot-pink dye was a teacup poodle. He knew exactly what he looked like, and he was not even remotely happy about it.

“Dorrie says you’re the best,” said the owner of the arm he was draped over. No human emotion could penetrate the Botox mask, but her voice had a raw edge. “I need the best. Bruno hasn’t been himself, and he won’t talk to anyone. He bit his masseuse. His astrologer says there’s no cosmic reason for him to be so difficult. Will you please ask him—”

I’d had a bad morning. One of the swamp coolers had died with a puff of smoke and a smell of something burnt and electrical, and it might be October but it was still ninety degrees in the afternoons. I needed that cooler.

I also needed this appointment, or there wouldn’t be any money to pay for the cooler repair. I braced myself to nod and look sympathetic and tell the client what she wanted to hear.

The dog under the pink fluff looked me in the eye.

There weren’t any words. There seldom are. I have to translate.

“He says,” I said, “that all that’s wrong with him is you. Dye him pink one more time, and he’ll bite you harder than he bit the feelgood-hands lady. He wants to be a dog. You want a handbag, he says, get one that’s dead already.”

When I snap and say exactly what the animal is saying to me, sometimes their captors start screaming. I got slapped once.

This one fixed me with a flat, hard stare. “Bruno loves me,” she said.

No, he doesn’t. I bit my tongue to keep from saying it aloud.

Bruno sank his teeth into her arm.

That shocked a shriek out of her. The limo driver had a first-aid kit and paramedic’s training, which was a good thing. Bruno had strong jaws for a tiny dog, and teeth like needles.

They roared off in a cloud of dust. I stood on my front step, with the heat already coming up, and my bank balance no happier than it had been before.

About the Author:
Judith Tarr has written historicals and historical fantasies and epic fantasies, contemporary fantasy and science fiction. She has won the Crawford Award, and been nominated for the World Fantasy Award. She lives near Tucson, Arizona with an assortment of cats, a blue-eyed spirit dog, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.

Kyra sez: Don’t miss out on Dragons in the Earth and a bunch of other great Weird Western books available at a great price from StoryBundle through Sept. 8. In the meantime, Fantasy Book Critic and Horror World are holding giveaways where you can win a free bundle! The giveaways run for a few more days, so don’t delay if you want to enter.

Finally, a roundup of links to features and interviews with the Weird Western StoryBundle authors can be found on bundle curator Blair MacGregor’s site, so be sure to check those out.

About kyrahalland

Kyra Halland has always loved fantasy. She has also always loved a good love story. She combines those two loves by writing the kinds of romantic fantasy novels she loves to read, tales of magical worlds where complicated, honorable heroes and strong, smart, feminine heroines work together to save their world - or their own small corner of it - and each other. Kyra Halland lives in southern Arizona. She's a wife, mom and mom-in-law, proud grandma, and devoted servant to three cats. View all posts by kyrahalland

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