Wisp of a Thing (Tufa Series #2)

Wisp of a Thing (Tufa Series #2)

by Alex Bledsoe


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Wisp of a Thing: a unique contemporary fantasy where magic is hidden in plain sight and age-old rivalries simmer just beneath the surface

Alex Bledsoe's The Hum and the Shiver was named one of the Best Fiction Books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews. Now Bledsoe returns to the isolated ridges and hollows of the Smoky Mountains to spin an equally enchanting tale of music and magic older than the hills.

Touched by a very public tragedy, musician Rob Quillen comes to Cloud County, Tennessee, in search of a song that might ease his aching heart. All he knows of the mysterious and reclusive Tufa is what he has read on the Internet: They are an enigmatic clan of swarthy, black-haired mountain people whose historical roots are lost in myth and controversy. Some people say that when the first white settlers came to the Appalachians centuries ago, they found the Tufa already there. Others hint that Tufa blood brings special gifts.

Rob finds both music and mystery in the mountains. Close-lipped locals guard their secrets, even as Rob gets caught up in a subtle power struggle he can't begin to comprehend. A vacationing wife goes missing, raising suspicions of foul play, and a strange feral girl runs wild in the woods, howling in the night like a lost spirit.

Change is coming to Cloud County, and only the night wind knows what part Rob will play when the last leaf falls from the Widow's Tree…and a timeless curse must be broken at last.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765376930
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 03/03/2015
Series: Tufa Series , #2
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 632,220
Product dimensions: 5.51(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.89(d)

About the Author

ALEX BLEDSOE is the critically acclaimed author of The Hum and the Shiver, as well as the novels in the Eddie LaCrosse series, including He Drank, and Saw the Spider.

Read an Excerpt


Peggy Goins stepped out into the cool dawn behind the Catamount Corner motel. As always, she was perfectly coiffed and dressed the way a stylish Southern woman of a certain age should be. Her black hair, streaked with dignified gray, held its own against the wind like the Confederates at the Battle of Brentwood. She drew on her cigarette, leaving lipstick stains on the filter, and luxuriously released a breath made up equally of smoke and condensation. It was still late summer elsewhere, but here in Needsville, high in Appalachia, fall was coming; for the last three mornings, she’d been able to see her breath.
The woods, which started twenty feet from her back door like a solid wall, showed only hints of the impending autumn. A few leaves near the treetops had turned, but most remained green and full. Visible in the distance, the Widow’s Tree towered above the forest. Its leaves were the most stubborn, tenaciously hanging on sometimes until spring, if the winter was mild. It was a transitional period, when the world changed in its cycle and opened a window during which people might also change, if they had the inclination.
Peggy smiled and hummed a song she’d known all her life. It was her way of thanking the world for its gifts.
Something clattered in the big green Dumpster. She threw down her cigarette, ground it into the gravel, and shouted, “Hey! Y’all get out of there! I mean it!” When nothing happened, she walked over and slapped the metal side. It boomed in the silence.
A teenage girl peeked over the Dumpster’s edge. Her eyes, wide and blank beneath a boyish mop of ragged black hair, stared at Peggy. “Don’t give me that look,” Peggy said impatiently. “Get out of there, young lady. Ain’t nothing in there for you.”
The girl slithered over the edge and dropped to the ground. She wore a tattered old orange sundress, and nothing else. Dirt smeared her exposed skin, and candy wrappers from the garbage stuck to one thigh. Breath shot from her nostrils in rapid little puffs, but otherwise she showed no sign that the chill affected her. She growled softly, like an animal, then dashed into the trees. Peggy called after her, “One of these days somebody’s liable to run you off with a shotgun, you know that? Then where’ll you be? Dead in a ditch, that’s where!”
When she was certain the girl had gone, Peggy went back inside, through the Catamount Corner lobby and out the front door. She walked two buildings down to the new post office. The place didn’t open for another hour and a half, but an old man with a bushy white beard already sat in one of the rocking chairs on its porch.
She put her hands on her hips and stared at him. “So when do you plan to do something about that crazy girl in the woods?”
The old man said nothing.
“It can’t go on like this, you know. She’s losing her fear of people. Before long, she’ll be running down the highway, chasing cars like a dog.” Peggy paused and shook her head contemptuously. “And that beard makes you look like some demented ol’ Santa Claus. You planning to keep it?”
By way of reply, he leaned to the side and spit into the bushes. The tobacco left a faint smear in the white whiskers.
Peggy looked up at the sky, still laced with pink clouds from sunrise. “Something’s coming. You know it just like I do, just like everyone with the true in them knows. Careful whatever it is doesn’t trample you on its way through.”
“I’d best be worrying about myself if I was you, Peggy.”
“Don’t you threaten me, Rockhouse Hicks. You’re up to something, aren’t you, old man? All this time, and you still ain’t learned your lesson. You’re going to try something else, just like you did with Bronwyn Hyatt, and when it all goes to hell, you won’t care who you take with you, will you?”
He smiled. “Peggy, darlin’, I didn’t know you cared.”
“I’m just tired of finding that girl in my Dumpster,” she snapped. “Get it stopped, or I’ll stop it for you.”
In a drawl so slow, it seemed to suspend time, the old man said, “When the last leaf falls from the Widow’s Tree this year, she’ll be done for good. No coming back. No bothering anyone no more. Nobody’ll find her bones, and before next spring, nobody’ll even remember her. She’ll just be a wisp of a thing.”
Peggy looked toward the tree, now hidden behind a low patch of morning cloud. She breathed out hard through her nose. “That’s a terrible thing to do, Rockhouse. Even for you, even to her.”
“Set in motion a long time ago,” he said blithely. “Just took this long to finish up.”
“Not everybody’s afraid of you, you know. Eventually somebody’ll stand up to you. Then where will you be?”
“Right here on this porch, Peggy,” he assured her, and patted the chair’s arm with one of his six-fingered hands.
“Hmph,” she said, and stamped away. The old man smiled, with no amusement and more than a little contempt.
Peggy returned to the Catamount Corner. She poured some coffee from the machine in the dining room, then went behind the desk and began sorting the day’s paperwork. The honeymooning couple in room 6 would be checking out soon. They had conceived no children—she always knew when it happened under her roof—and she’d have to strip the bedclothes, wash the disgusting little private hairs out of the shower, and make sure no condom wrappers had fallen into places where another guest might accidentally discover them.
She stared at the swirling pattern of cream and sweetener atop her coffee. A change was coming, all right, one that had nothing to do with the seasons. Needsville changed so slowly, most people—even those with true Tufa blood in them—barely noticed. But this would be a big change. She could sense no details of how that change would manifest or what its results would be. It felt like that moment just before a car crash, when you see the other automobile coming in slow motion, you know what’s about to happen, and yet you can’t do a thing about it.
And then, inevitably, comes the shrieking thunderous impact.
*   *   *
In their double-wide trailer located in the shadow of the mountains just outside Needsville, Doyle Collins awoke to the sound that had become his alarm clock: his wife vomiting.
He rolled over and sat up on the edge of the bed. The thin trailer walls let him enjoy every gasp, gurgle, and splash. As he rubbed his eyes, he reflected that if this were morning sickness, he’d actually feel a manly pride in her nausea. He had nothing to do with this, though. This was caused by the other men in her life: Jim Beam, Johnnie Walker, and Jack Daniel.
He pulled on his jeans, went to the kitchen, and started the coffee. He looked up as Berklee emerged from the bathroom, gasping, red-eyed, and pale.
“Mornin’, Glory,” he said.
“Don’t yell,” she mumbled. “I need coffee.”
“It’s brewing.”
She pushed past him and reached for the aspirin in the cabinet above the stove. She wore one of his undershirts and a pair of baggy cobalt blue panties. He recalled when they fit her snug and tight, a second satin skin on her smooth, firm behind. “Still losing weight, I see,” he said.
He was pretty sure his tone was neutral, but she still glared at him with all the fury her weakened state allowed. “I’ve had the flu, you know. I can’t keep anything down.”
“Except whiskey,” he said, then instantly regretted it.
She threw the aspirin bottle at him. “Don’t mess with me this early in the morning, Doyle!”
He flinched a little as it bounced off his chest. At least the bottle was still closed. The sadness that had grown in him for years kept any anger at bay. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I’m going to get dressed. I got to pick up Dad and get to work.”
“I’m sorry, too,” Berklee said quietly, standing over the sink. Her hair obscured her face.
As Doyle pulled on his coveralls, he fought the overpowering sense of helplessness. His wife, whom he dearly loved, had been spiraling downward since he’d known her, but he always thought his steady affection could somehow forestall it. Now, though, as anything does in a whirlpool, she was moving faster as she neared the center. If something didn’t change, and change soon, she would be lost to him down that great cosmic drain that swallowed wayward souls like hers.
In the distance, a coyote howled its final cry before sliding into its burrow for the day.
And something howled back.
*   *   *
High in the mountains that overlooked Needsville, Bliss Overbay stood on her deck and looked down the hill at her lake. Mist rose from the surface of the water. In the shadow of her big house, the night’s chill remained, and she cinched her robe tight against it. She sipped her tea and considered again the images left over from her dreams.
Being held in a stranger’s arms, his lips about to touch hers.
A hand clawing up from a grave.
And a final confrontation between two people who, should they ever fight, would irrevocably change everything, no matter who won. One wore a white dress splattered with blood.
She finished her tea and glanced at the leaves at the bottom of the cup. They bore out the sense of impending transformation she’d gotten from the dream. She thought about calling some of the other First Daughters of the Tufa, to see if they’d experienced anything similar. Perhaps Mandalay had a different interpretation. But her own ability had never failed her, and she had no reason to doubt it now.
Bliss closed her eyes, weary from the knowledge she alone had been chosen to bear. For an instant, something big and dark broke the surface of the lake, disturbing the insects swarming there. Then, like Bliss’s dream, except for the ripples it was gone.
A cool breeze touched her. From the forested slopes, a distant coyote howl broke the dawn silence. It startled the birds into life, and they burst from the treetops and sailed overhead. A moment later, another cry—closer but definitely not a coyote—sounded in answer to the first one.
Then she went back inside, to shower and get ready for work.

Copyright © 2013 by Alex Bledsoe

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Wisp of a Thing 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hillbilly fairies? Yes! I love the concept, and for once, I really didnt know what the ending would be! Great summer read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A heartbroken musician. A spell-bound girl. A reluctant leader. Three melodies lovingly woven together in a haunting Appalachian ballad. I loved the first verse (THE HUM AND THE SHIVER). And the second (WISP OF A THING). Mr. Bledsoe: kindly provide the third. SOON!
Teresa_Frohock More than 1 year ago
This is urban fantasy with a southern touch. An absolutely wonderful story that spans the gamut from heartfelt grief to some genuine laugh out loud moments. The Tufa are back and as bad as ever, and in this one, you get to follow musician, Rob Quillen, as he follows the road to Cloud County and discovers the mysteries of the Tufa, who ride the night's wind. Although you don't need to read The Hum and the Shiver to enjoy Wisp of a Thing, I highly recommend that novel too. Both novels are a thoroughly enjoyable read.
LisaB95 More than 1 year ago
Once again, this author paints a masterpiece. Think of how much you loved bedtime stories and fairytales when you were a child. Think of your fondest memories of them. This is your chance to experience that and more as an adult in one written for an adult. The Tufa are every day people like you and I. Their stories are made up of good times and bad times. They live a hard life in the mountains of Tennessee. As the drama unfolds, we see they are much more than what appears to your average human. Their town, Needsville, can only be found by Tufa or those that the night wind sees worthy. And when the Tufa gather to play music, magic happens. I loved this book. We see a lot of Bliss in it. Not so much of Mandalay. This story plays a big part in explaining Rockhouse’s life why he is like he is. Although he has always been an evil constant, I couldn’t help but feel a little bad for him because, after all, he was once such a powerful creature. I guess it would be more fitting to say I pity him now. There were also some really funny parts. I loved how someone called them all a bunch of hillbilly fairies. ♂️ If you like audiobooks, you will love this one. The narrator is to die for. I hope he does more of the series. I have both the book and the audiobook and will be enjoying them again soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the Tufa Novels
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just can't NOT read these Tufa books! I know that when I get to the end of them, I will re-read all of them in order, one right after the other, to the end. I love how they all follow the "old" characters, while introducing new ones all the time. I have had to buy several copies of these books to lend out to friends and family. Love that they also fell in love with them and tell others about them, too. Bring on the Tufa.
redjewel7734 More than 1 year ago
Amazing, fun, powerful and musical read! A great follow up to The Hum and the Shiver, this story of the Appalachian Fae takes us on some great twists and turns as we learn more about the history of and the power dynamics between these supernatural beings hiding out in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. Rob Quillen finds himself enmeshed in the power struggles between the factions of the Tufa when he follows the cryptic advice of a mysterious stranger to go looking for a song that might heal the gaping wound in his soul. As he struggles to understand what is going on, who these people truly are, and why he has been drawn here by powers beyond his ken, will he succeed in his quest and in the process break the curse that threatens the mysterious Curnen or will the curse and an old man's bitterness claim yet another victim?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and engrosing. Once you visit cloud county you will never be the same
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slow start, great ending! Not as good as the first in the series, but that would be very difficult to match. Yep, it is shorter but it is very high quality writing. Well worth the money ! I just read a book by Dean Koontz that was 700 pages that could have had about 400 pages cut!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and will keep reading more that relate to these mysterious mountain folk.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written, this imaginative romp into a mysterious place of old magic sucks you right in and carries you along to a rewarding conclusion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hbby ywy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waste of my time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I truly enjoybthis authors work, some warning should be given. Paying over $12.00 for just over 300 pages is a sad thing Barnes and Noble should include a catagory for how many pages a book has in it, not just its megabyte size
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Agreed, for $12 it is not near enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just turned 14.