R.A. (Rob) Johnson is a pan-genrist author whose writing stretches from micro-fiction to novel series, and spans historical thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and even speculative nonfiction, for YA readers through adults. His forty-year career as a software engineer diverted much of his writing output to journal articles, academic papers, marketing collateral, design specs, and the ever-present code, which led to over forty-five issued patents and dozens more pending.

His writing often features an element of mystery that challenges the reader to examine the story and their world on many levels. Then again, some of it is just plain fun.

Tales from the Wood: A Modern Fairytale by R.A. Johnson

In Tales from the Wood: A Modern Fairytale, Cindy inherits a fortune from her estranged grandfather, but it comes with a catch. Listening to her grandfather's favorite record propels her into a world of myth, magic, and music. Guided by Jack, the Green Man of myth, and the tree spirit, Auntie Hemlock, Cindy joins a troupe of traveling minstrels: a handsome singer, a bard, a dancer, a teamster, and a silent flute player. They are sexy and mysterious and fun, but also dangerous. Can she trust them? Will they help her find her way back home? Or will she get lost in their world, losing her Way until going back and going home are not the same?

Based on the Jethro Tull album "Songs from the Wood," Tales weaves the themes of the songs on that iconic prog-rock album into a modern portal fairy tale of love and lust, trust and betrayal, revenge and redemption; all while our heroine tries to find her Way by following her heart.



  • "Well-written folklore references in an engaging modern fairy tale."

    – Ian Anderson, founder of Jethro Tull
  • "A fun fantasy that's as unforgettable as a catchy tune."

    – Kirkus Reviews
  • "…this well-written book was flawless and a joy to read."

    – Online Bookclub Review (Four stars out of four)



The big old house's library was packed floor to ceiling, but not with books, though many of the thousands of its denizens told stories of love and loss, joy and heartache. Some simply made you tap your foot and smile. Still others could bring tears to the eyes of even the most stoic, without a single word.

The ancient, dark wooden shelves seemed to groan under the weight of the burdens they had borne for so many decades.

"There sure are a lot of them," Cindy said. She sat in a straight-back chair before a massive mahogany desk. It was a chair she sat in many times before as she grew up from a little girl to a twenty-something woman. It had been a good ten years since her last visit, though.

A stranger sat in the desk chair this time. He nodded. His three-piece suit was out of place in this realm of the dim and distant, dusty past.

He should've worn tweed, Cindy thought, remembering the many times she had squirmed in this very chair.

The lawyer cleared his throat. "Your grandfather was very proud of his collection. Some of these recordings are extremely rare."

Cindy barely heard the words. The memories those towering shelves evoked were too distracting.

Pops always wore that ratty old tweed sport coat with the patches at the elbow, she thought.

"He was very proud of you, as well. He often talked about you and how you would tell each other stories when you visited."

Cindy smiled, reminiscing despite herself. "We did. Fantastic stories." Memories of Pops telling her tales so full of detail that, as a child, she lost herself in the magical world they shared.

But then she snapped back to the present and waved her hand. "As you can see, he took things to the extreme."

She pointed at various objects around the room. A carving of the Green Man from folklore glowered from high up in each corner of the room. A gold amulet, he claimed he pulled from a peat bog, rested under a glass dome on one shelf. Paintings of fairies and nymphs, spirits and demons, hung about the room.

Looking more closely, she muttered, "They could use a good cleaning."

"Indeed, your grandfather had trouble keeping assistants. They only seemed to last a few months or so…until the last one. Ian, I think his name was. He took good care of your grandfather until—until he just disappeared one day."

The lawyer shrugged, then leaned forward across the desk. "He missed you. A great deal, I suspect, though he would never admit it. Even so, you could tell from the way he spoke of your visits. He worried, too. He worried that you might have lost your way."

Shattered dreams—a cheating husband—will do that to you. I should have…I don't know. Something.

Cindy felt things she had suppressed for a long time. Guilt. Regret. Shame. And a new feeling of loneliness and loss.

She thought, He's gone and I'll never be able to see him again, to tell him I'm sorry. The visit that I've put off for so long will never happen now. No more fantasies shared in front of the fireplace.

The lawyer cleared his throat to bring her back to reality, then continued, "The appraisers have valued the entire musical library at between two and three million, but you could probably get three or four times that if you split it up."

That got her attention.

"Wait. Two or three million? Dollars?"

"At a minimum. I can recommend—"

Her mind raced. That would pay off my loans, and credit cards, and… Wait. This is Pops we're talkin' about.

"And he left them all to me?"

"He did…under one condition."

Her expression revealed her thoughts. I knew there was a catch. With Pops, there was always a catch. And I bet I know what it is.

"Of course, there's a 'condition.' What is it?"

The lawyer stood and took two steps to the wall behind the desk. He reached up and pulled down an LP that held pride of place among the thousands of albums, forty-fives, and seventy-eights.

I knew it.

"He tried to get me to listen to that thing a dozen times," she muttered, but kept the rest of her thoughts to herself.

That's why I stopped coming. He seemed obsessed with it. It was creepy.

The album sleeve was scuffed and worn, but its cover picture still showed what looked like a bad museum tableau of a medieval campfire scene. The lawyer held it almost reverently. Cindy felt her stomach clench when she imagined what her grandfather's condition might be.

"Your grandfather specified in his will that nothing transfers to you until you listen to this album in its entirety."

Her surprise was obvious when she said, "That's it? I don't have to dance around a Maypole or draw ancient runes and chant in some forgotten language?"

The lawyer chuckled. "Nope. Just listen to this record."

Relief flowed through her, though tinged with suspicion. Still…

"Ah, forty minutes of my time is certainly worth a couple mil."

Cindy opened a music app on her phone and pulled earbuds from her purse.

"No," the lawyer said, "you don't understand. You need to listen to this recording."

He carried the record, cradled in his hands like a precious religious icon, to the highest-end audio system Cindy had ever seen. Placing the vinyl on the turntable, he carefully washed and dried the first side, then indicated an overstuffed armchair. Cindy abandoned the wooden guest chair and gratefully settled into the much more comfortable seat. Then he handed her a set of studio quality headphones.

"You must listen with these. I will flip to the other side when necessary."

She shrugged. "Seems like overkill, but sure."

She settled the headphones over her ears and gave the lawyer a jaunty thumbs up. Silence reigned for a moment, followed by a second or two of scratchy noise. When the words and music burst forth, they filled her being. The melody caught her mind and sent it spinning. Images formed that belied her presence in the stuffy library. She saw verdant valleys and primeval forests. She heard birdsong and the skittering of woodland creatures darting through the high grass. Cool breezes kissed her cheeks and wafted scents of wood smoke and honeysuckle to her nose.

The singers' voices entranced her while their contrapuntal harmonies painted a picture of a hard life well lived in a mythical time and place. The invitation was clear: "Come join us for an adventure, a celebration, laughter, love, and maybe even a little danger."

She might have resisted the voices, the guitars, drums, and tinkling bells, but the flute…ah the flute dove straight into her subconscious with its haunting notes and trills. Its calling was irresistible.