Sunday, June 20, 2021

Have a Joyous Solstice!

Summer Solstice – More Than Just the First Day of Summer
(June 20th 8:32PM PDT, June 21st 03:32 UTC)

The term “solstice” comes from the Latin words “sol,” which means sun, and “sistere” which means to stop. The name reflects the fact that the sun seems to pause briefly when it reaches its annual southernmost or northernmost position in the sky before reversing direction. It’s called ‘solstice’ because they are the points in the year where the sun appears to stand still in the sky from the perspective of a watcher watching the sunrise or sunset.

In historical terms, the Solstice is the exact point of time when the daylight outstrips the night in length. That’s hard to reckon, particularly since the exact point in time depends on where you live. Why should that be? 


Take a look at model of the solar system, specifically look at earth. If it’s properly oriented, then it’s a bit tilted, not straight up and down as you might think. Stand back a bit further, and you can see the earth doesn’t travel in a circle around the sun, but in a big oval called an ellipsis.

Since the Solstice varies when it occurs (anywhere between June 20th -23rd), most people won’t know exactly when the earth moves from Spring to Summer. Instead, a variety of festivals from different countries and people celebrate Midsummer. Fortunately, astronomers are available to let us know exactly when the solstice occurs.

Many cultures celebrate the Summer Solstice. A few of these celebrations are: Adonia, St. John's Feast Day, Jani, Liða, Midsommar, Ivan Kupala Day, Juhannus, Mittumaari, Alban Hefin, Gwyl Ganol yr Haf, Sankthans, Jaanipäev, Keskikesä, and Rasos. Oh, my. That’s a lot of celebrating! Wherever you live, you can have a party.

Another group of professionals other than astronomers who can tell you when the solstice occurs are witches. No, not the evil witches with warts and ugly noses, but the Wiccans who inhabit my books and Galdorheim Island in the Barents Sea. This is a fictional place, but is quite close to some very real islands in the Arctic with very real people who live on them.

Midsummer for Wiccans is called Litha. Just like every people who had some means to really look at the movement of the stars and planets Well, the earth is moving, but from where we stand, it appears the stars are the ones in motion. They are, but I’d refer you to Doctor Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the narrator of the Cosmos series, for exactly what’s going on in the universe.

In the second book of my Witches of Galdorheim series, “Midnight Oil,” the exact time the Solstice occurs is crucial to the plot. The magical midnight oil is a curative required by a tribe of mutant Nenets tribespeople to heal the radiation poisoning which deformed them. It must be administered at the exact time the Solstice occurs. The year I selected had to have that event occur (somewhere in the world) at almost precisely midnight on June 20th. Some confusion about the exact moment of the Solstice almost leads to the restorative oil to arrive late at its destination. 

A lot happens to thwart my heroes from delivering the oil on time and in good condition. An evil forest spirit happens to possess the oil. But this isn’t simply a “find the magical thing and deliver it” plot. There’s a lot going on in “Midnight Oil.” A kidnapped boyfriend, mutant tribesfolk, Ajatar the forest spirit, a man who was tragically disemvoweled (lost the ability to pronounce a, e, i, o, or u and sometimes y), a witch trapped on the lost island of Atlantis with the Loch Ness monster, and, um, there’s lots more to discover in the book.

So, back to Litha, the Wiccan midsummer celebration. One of the most famous places in the world to observe the Solstice is at Stonehenge in England, but only if the Solstice occurs during daylight hours (not this year). Nevertheless, the midsummer celebrations (June 25th) take place no matter what time the Solstice actually happens. Stonehenge would be a great place to party. 

Fun thing to do: Find out when the Solstice occurs where you live (compare your local time to Greenwich Meantime).

BAD SPELLING
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?

If you’re a witch living on a remote arctic island, and the entire island runs on magic, lacking magical skills is not just an inconvenience, it can be a matter of life and death–or, at least, a darn good reason to run away from home.

Katrina’s spells don’t just fizzle; they backfire with spectacular results, oftentimes involving green goo. A failure as a witch, Kat decides to run away and find her dead father’s non-magical family. But before she can, she stumbles onto why her magic is out of whack: a curse from a Siberian shaman.

The young witch, accompanied by her half-vampire brother, must travel to the Hall of the Mountain King and the farthest reaches of Siberia to regain her magic, dodging attacks by the shaman along the way.

MIDNIGHT OIL - This is the book depending on the exact time of the Summer Solstice.
Shipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?

Kat is a nervous wreck waiting for her boyfriend's first visit to her Arctic island home. He doesn't show up, so she's sure he’s given her the brushoff.

When she learns he’s disappeared, she sets out on a mission to find him. Things go wrong from the start. Kat is thrown overboard during a violent storm, while her brother and his girlfriend are captured by a mutant island tribe. The mutants hold the girlfriend hostage, demanding the teens recover the only thing that can make the mutants human again–the magical Midnight Oil.

Mustering every bit of her Wiccan magic, Kat rises to the challenge. She invokes her magical skills, learns to fly an ultralight, meets a legendary sea serpent, rescues her boyfriend, and helps a friendly air spirit win the battle against her spiteful sibling. On top of it all, she’s able to recover the Midnight Oil and help the hapless mutants in the nick of time.

SCOTCH BROOM
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.

Kat expects to have a great time on her graduation trip to Stonehenge. However, from the moment she leaves the witches’ arctic island, Galdorheim, she gets in nothing but trouble. Her younger half-brother tries to horn in on her trip, she gets lost in the magical Otherworld realm, is led astray by a supposed friend, then she has to confront a Scottish goddess who’s fallen on hard times.

While dodging the goddess’ minions and trying to find her way out of the Otherworld, Kat soon learns she shouldn’t underestimate the old has-been for one second; the crone still has a few tricks that can drain a witch’s magic in a flash. To make matters worse, Kat's brother secretly followed her into the Otherworld. Now he’s in danger too. Kat has to go one on one with the goddess to save herself and her brother.

BLOOD TIES TESTED (Sequel Story)
Unfortunate events lead a half vampire boy into indulging his vampire side, leaving him with regret and sadness. Can dear old Dad help him forgive himself?

Following the events in the series Witches of Galdorheim, this additional tale relates what happens to Katrina the Witch's younger brother, Rune. Half vampire and half warlock, he faces life with a wisecrack and some powerful magic. Whatever happens, he does not want to be a vampire like his father. Unfortunate events lead him to fatally call on his vampire half. This failure leaves him in anguish. How can he assuage the guilt he feels? His mother thinks he needs to visit dead old dad, a vampire residing in the Tatras Mountains of Slovakia.

SPELLSLINGER (Prequel Story)
What does a teenage half-warlock, half-vampire do to have fun? Why build an old west town on a glacier in the Arctic. There he can play at being the good guy sheriff up against mean old Black Bart.

That things will go horribly wrong is a given. But how does Rune get into and out of the predicament?

This prequel story to the Witches of Galdorheim series gives the reader a chance to get to know the smart-aleck kid, Rune, before he got his magic down pat.

Want the whole series in a single volume? No problem. THE COMPLEAT AND TRUE HISTORY OF THE WITCHES OF GALDORHEIM is only $7.99 and a HUGE savings over buying the books individually.

Also available in other ebook formats at Smashwords for the same price.

Happy Adoptive, Step, and Blood Dads - You're All Special

To all you guys who are taking the job seriously. Special kudos to step-fathers who treat their lady's kids like their own. Also, adoptive dads, a big huzzah for not believing your genes are all that special. You've proven how special they really are.

My husband, Jack, is both a step- and adoptive dad. He went well beyond the call of duty when he not only took on an 8-year-old and 11-year-old as a stepfather but also adopted them when their own biological father (boo on you) signed them over to avoid paying child support (he never did pay any).

I wrote TALES OF A TEXAS BOY  in honor of my own father. I figured the best I could do for him is to immortalize his tall (and partly true) tales. I call it fiction since I can't know exactly what happened when Dad Boles brought his bear to town, when the little red hen took up residence in Ma's kitchen, or how he really met May West in a little diner in East Texas.

On the other hand, nobody else was there, so how I wrote the stories might be the honest truth. Who's to say?

HAPPY FATHERS DAY, JACK!

HAPPY FATHERS DAY, HON!*
* In our family, my brothers and I called my father Honey just like Mom did. Okay, so we were a little whacky; we admit it freely.

Want to get your own father a great gift (or your step-father or your brother who is a great dad or for yourself whether you're a dad or not)?

Large Print at Amazon - Perfect Dads' Day gift.

Ebook at Amazon ON SALE FOR 99 CENTS

Audio Book at Audible

Photo-Illustrated Ebook on Smashwords

How do you handle a crazy jackass? Eddie knows. If you ask Eddie, he'll tell you pigs can fly and show you where to find real mammoth bones. Take his word for it when he tells you always to bet on the bear. These are things he learned while dreaming of becoming a cowboy in West Texas during the Depression. Through Eddie, the hero of "Tales of a Texas Boy," we find that growing up is less about maturity and more about roping your dreams. Hold on tight. It's a bumpy ride. A wonderful read for anyone who enjoys books like "Little House on the Prairie" or "Tom Sawyer." A great bit of nostalgia for seniors, too.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Celebrate Juneteenth!

If even a single person is not free, nobody is truly free. Celebrate Emancipation Day, even though it took Texas until June 19th, 1865 to be informed they were on the losing side of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. That's why Juneteenth is celebrated, although the Amendment was not ratified until December of that year. I'm showing my home states of Oregon's celebratory logo for the now official Federal Holiday




Saturday, June 12, 2021

A Little Nostalgia for Dads

When my father was in his 80’s, he just happened to say, “Did I ever tell you about the cattle drive?”

Thanks, Dad (I actually called him Hon for Honey—long story). Wait until you’re hitting the down slope of life before you mention to your writer daughter you had something interesting to tell me about when you were a kid.

After a chat with light details based on his failing memory, I wrote “The Cattle Drive” starring my father when he was a kid growing up on a West Texas farm during the Depression Era.

What else might he have to say he hasn’t bothered to mention for the last few decades. As it turns out, quite a bit. A lot of it’s funny. After all, a person remembers the humorous event or odd character. Most of the stories also included farm and wild animals. Even better.

Eventually, I wrote a lot more stories to go with the original six or seven I got published in various zines and sites. He got a kick out of them and believed every word was absolutely true. Well, I had to make up a lot of the details, but they were more or less almost true tall tales.

Before he died, I put together 20 or so stories and put them into a single book titled “Tales of a Texas Boy.” I read the stories to him as I wrote for his comments and corrections. It occurred to me that I was reading the stories to him because he couldn’t read them himself. He was going blind with macular degeneration.

I decided that a large print paperback version of the book would appeal to other elders, particularly those with failing vision and/or who grew up in a rural environment.

Turns out the grandmas and grandpas did, indeed, want to read or listen to these stories about a pet bear, a flying pig, a stubborn jackass, skunks in a cornpatch, and lots more.

I thought since this is my blog, I’d let those who are interested know about Tales. They might have somebody in their life (or themselves) who’d like funny and sometimes sad stories.

So, here’s where you can find the book in ebook, print, large print, and audio formats.

Ebook, audio, and regular print paperback: Tales of a Texas Boy - Kindle edition (on sale for 99 cents)
Audio Editions:
 Audio Book at Amazon   Audio Book at Audible

How do you handle a crazy jackass? Eddie knows. If you ask Eddie, he'll tell you pigs can fly and show you where to find real mammoth bones. Take his word for it when he tells you always to bet on the bear. These are things he learned while dreaming of becoming a cowboy in West Texas during the Depression. Through Eddie, the hero of "Tales of a Texas Boy," we find that growing up is less about maturity and more about roping your dreams. Hold on tight. It's a bumpy ride.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Have a Legendary Dad?


TALES OF A TEXAS BOY
Large Print at Amazon - Perfect Dads' Day gift.

You've heard the phrase "A Legend in His Own Time." That's when somebody does something so extraordinary they create a legend around themselves. As time moves on, the legendary aspect grows and morphs into something bigger and, well, more legendary. That legend is helped along by authors writing about the person. Some people have reputations built on very little reality.  19th Century writers hungry for audience share exaggerated the feats of such legendary characters as Kit Carson, Billy the Kid, Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody. These mostly untrue stories made good press for the city folks back east.

Then there's another type of legend. It's when an author bases a book on a real person nobody has ever heard about, but exaggerates the person's feats to make for good reading; the writer creates the legend. Can you think of a case where this has occurred? I imagine there are many, considering possible biographers who hero-worship their subject past the point of reality.

Then I come to my own mini-legendary person: Little Eddie from Tales of a Texas Boy. The stories in this collection are mostly based on some brief vignette passed to me from my father. Those of you who have read the print edition might have slowed down enough to peruse the Foreword where I lay out that Eddie is my father and some additional background on his life. Nothing too exciting there. He just happened to have a few incidents in his life that I could turn from a passing comment into a short story.

I made my father a legend. The stories I wrote about his experiences are so enhanced, they have become the stuff of legends. Yes, a very small part of the population know the stories. However, how long will the Tales books be out in the world? I published the first edition in June, 2007. Coming up on the 3rd anniversary next month. In three years, more than 2000 people have had possession of the book in some form. They may have even read it. If I keep the book in print, how many people will get to know Eddie in ten years? I should mention that the majority of those potential readers picked up the book in the last year.

What's my point here? Not sure other than to state my realization that even not so famous people can become legendary to some extent from some author deciding to write about them.

Tales of a Texas Boy is available in ebook, print, and audio formats. Side note: this book in large print is a popular Fathers' Day gift for those who may have lived through the Great Depression themselves or simply grew up in a rural area. They'll feel right at home.

Ebook at Amazon ON SALE FOR ONLY 99 CENTS

Audio Book at Amazon

Audio Book at Audible

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Book Review: Bad Spelling (The Witches of Galdorheim Series) by Marva Dasef

Book Review: Bad Spelling (The Witches of Galdorheim Series) by Marva Dasef
Review by Heather Haven 
BAD SPELLING

About this book
: Kat can't catch a break. Her mother, brother, and aunt are super witches, but Kat can screw up the simplest spell. Her poor familiar, Teddy the Bunny, puts up with being turned into a half-frog, half-rabbit pile of green goo among other indignities. Every spell just goes wrong, wrong, wrong.

Everyone knows she's got the power, but assume she isn't trying hard enough to master the principles involved in witchcraft. The fault might just be her dead father. A Siberian fisherman, he didn't have a lick of magic, but her mother loved him anyway. Now that dad is buried in a ice cave, Kat decides to find her father's family. Maybe they'd take her since she sure doesn't belong on an arctic island run on magic.

Her super warlock, half vampire brother Rune decides she can't get along without his magic, so the two of them set out across the frozen Barents Sea to Norway, then by troll train to Siberia where her father's family lives.

Along the way, Kat makes some unusual friends, figures out how to use her magic and falls for a changeling troll. Beauty is, as everyone knows, only skin deep.

From Reviews:

• "I think this would be a fun read for any age, and a good 'hook' book for a middle grade reader." — Conda V. Douglas

• "She skillfully plays with familiar themes and myths, but weaves them into an intriguing and original story." — Edith Parzefall

• "There is also a larger narrative in the book which is intolerance." — Vixenne Victorienne "Kymberlyn Reed"

Monday, June 07, 2021

Book Review - Casting Call for a Corpse

Casting Call for a Corpse: A Fun Detective Cozy (The Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries Book 7)Casting Call for a Corpse: A Fun Detective Cozy by Heather Haven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Call me a fan. I've read the entire series of the Alvarez Family Mysteries and have enjoyed every one of them.

I'm giving my rare 5 star rating to this 7th book to honor the previous six. I don't usually stick to cozy mysteries, but Heather Haven knows how to keep a reader wanting more. I hope this isn't the last we see of Lea and the rest of the Alvarez family solving corporate crimes which strangely almost always involve dead people not just corporate shenanigans (the ostensible purpose of Discretionary Inquiries, the family investigation agency).

I needn't add any plot details because that's what readers are for: reading the books and enjoying the plot as it unfolds.

Lucky for you who haven't read these books yet. The full set of 7 books is available as of the time I am posting this review.

One other note: Check out Ms. Haven's other books. They're all as entertaining as these are.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day - 2021

I could not think of any more fitting words than those of Abraham Lincoln delivered at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 memorializing the fallen soldiers.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Tales of a Texas Boy 
Stories by and about My Father


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Remembering the Fallen Warriors

Father: Edward P. Perkins, WWII, 11/27/1921 - 08/01/2011
Grandfather: Louis P. Perkins WWI, 08/16/1888 - 12/11/1953


And to all the others in my family who served their country in the times of war.

Tales of a Texas Boy 
Stories by and about My Father



 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

In Memoriam 2021

Everyone has lost someone in war. Go back far enough, maybe it was the Civil War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, maybe even the Hundred Years War. It's good to take a moment to honor them.

There are also those who go without remembrance even though they gave their lives, not voluntarily, but because others just had to shoot, bomb, and kill. We don't know many of their names, but I'm pretty sure my grandfather did.

My Memorial Day remembrance is for the horses and mules who were absolutely essential to and died because of war. WWI. My grandfather was a veterinary in the Expeditionary Forces in France. This is what he recalled (loosely interpreted by me).

Ebook     Large Print    Audio
From Tales of a Texas Boy 
Stories by and about My Father
 
Pa’s Story
 
World War I took many young men away from their homes and sent them off to foreign shores. Eddie’s Pa was one of those young men. He has his own tale to tell.

In 1916, I was still a young buck and not yet married, so I signed up with Black Jack Pershing to go after Pancho Villa. Ol’ Pancho and his banditos had come into US territory and killed a bunch of folks in Columbus, New Mexico.

I was real good with horses, so soon I was the veterinarian. This was just as well, as I didn’t take well to using a gun. I’d never studied vetting in school, but I’d grown up on a farm in Nebraska and knew just about all there was to know about horses and mules. We chased Pancho and his gang just about all over Mexico, but never did catch up with him. A couple years later, I was still in the service, so I ended up goin’ to France with Black Jack when he got to be a General. I could have decided not to go as I’d done my time, but I knew Black Jack could put me to good use.

We were on the troop ship for weeks. Everybody was seasick for the first few days. The horses seemed to fare fine in that regard, but I was worried we couldn’t exercise them enough. We brought them up from the hold, a few at a time, and let them stretch their legs. We’d lead them in a quick walk around the deck. With the metal decks, we didn’t want them to move very fast for fear they’d slip and fall. I’d hate to have to put down a horse with a broken leg, so we took it real easy. As a result, the horses were not in good fightin’ shape by the time we landed in France.

It took some time, but me and Joe, who got assigned to be my assistant, got them in shape again. Mostly the horses were used to pack gear, but a few officers still rode them. Black Jack Pershing liked to ride on occasion, as did Captain Patton. I thought we should only have mules, since they make better pack animals than horses, but there were never enough mules to go around.


We weren’t in too many battles directly as we were the supply line for the army, but in 1918 it turned pretty bad when we went into the Argonne Forest. They called this an ‘offensive.’ I can see why as it offended me a lot. The fighting went on for nearly two months and only ended in November when the big guys signed the Treaty at Versailles.

In that short two months, it was hell on earth. Thousands of men died. One whole division, the 77th, was cut off for near a week and held out surrounded by the German forces. It was some battle, I can tell you. Almost all day long, I could hear the shells bursting and the sharp reports of rifle fire. And I heard the screams of dying men and horses.

The worst part for me was the horses being swept up in the middle of the battle. It broke my heart to go out on the fields after the fighting passed by and after the dead and wounded men were collected. Sometimes the ground was so soaked with blood that my boots were covered before I got back. A horse with an artery torn open bleeds gallons of blood; men only a few pints. It angered me when I thought how much the horses gave. They didn’t even have a say in goin’ to war. Men, at least, had a choice.

I carried a sidearm and had to shoot more horses than I can count. Those we could save, we’d bring back to the line and see if we could treat their wounds. It was a second heartbreak when they wouldn’t heal proper and we’d take them out behind the tents to put them down. We dug a deep trench to bury them for health reasons and we kept digging every day to hold them all.


While we treated the horses, close by we could see the wounded men being brought back from the battlefield. Legs and arms were already gone or had to be cut off by the doctors right there in the field. From the history I’d read about the Civil War, this was just about as bad. If the choice was amputate or die, then they had to do what was necessary. We dug another trench to hold the arms and legs the doctors cut off; the dead soldiers we wrapped in oilcloth to be sent back behind the lines, where we hoped to send their bodies back home to their families.

All told I spent twenty months in France. It was the worst part of my life and I hoped and prayed we’d never see another war like this again.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Mom Friendly Tales for Mothers Day

Mothers Day is coming up on Sunday and you still have time to get her something nice. If your mom is in the same generation as my mom she grew up in the 20's and 30's, experienced WWII as an adult, and is fond of stories set in rural America, this is a book she will enjoy. Also, if she's sight-impaired, it's available in a Large Print paperback and audio book.

These are stories about my father. He's passed now, but he took great pleasure reading his almost true tall tales. I think you'll enjoy them too. The descriptions of stories below are of particular interest to mothers.

Here are the buy links:
Large Print Paperback Amazon $9.99
Ebook:  Kindle Ebook  - On sale through Mom's Day for 99 cents.
Smashwords EPUB/MOBI Name your own price as low as 99 cents.
Audiobook (also available through AmazonAudible.com (only $6.95)

Here are a few of the twenty-one stories included in the book.

Ma’s Story

Mothers have their own joys and sorrows. Too often they keep their feelings to themselves and even their own families don’t know.

WHEN I WAS a boy, my Ma was a woman of few words, which surprised quite a few folks. The town ladies came out to visit on occasion and she’d go to town to return the favor, but mostly she listened. That did set her apart from the gossipers and them that just liked to talk to hear themselves.

Crossin’ the Creek

Kids went to school, but they didn’t exactly catch the school bus outside the house. Getting to school could be an adventure.

IT’D BEEN RAINING forty days and forty nights is what Ma said, but I only counted up eleven days myself. She did tend to put things in Bible sayin’s, so I won’t say she was lyin’, just exaggeratin’ for effect.



The Thief

The Great Depression was beginning to seep into the lives of the people in West Texas. Insulated to some extent, they began to see the repercussions of the droughts by the people who came south from Oklahoma for relief from the dust storms.

IT ALWAYS MEANS a good time when Pa lets me go with him in the truck. I liked the truck a lot and sometimes he’d let me drive a ways, too. This time, Pa planned on goin’ further than Hereford. We were goin’ to go to Amarillo, the trip some fifty miles. It would take us most of one day to get there and do what we needed to do, so we’d have to camp overnight somewhere along the way.

Out of the Chicken Coop

Most animals on the farm were there for a purpose, rarely as pets. That meant that animals were not allowed in the house like they are today. If they got in, however, it wasn’t always easy to get them out again.

WHEN I WAS just a little kid, no more’n seven if I remember rightly, I was down in the chicken yard tossin’ grain like I was tol’. This one little red hen started followin’ me around instead of peckin’ up the grain like the other chickens. I thought it strange, but just went about my business.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

New Series Now Available from D.L. Keur

Death Scent: A Jessica Anderson K-9 MysteryDeath Scent: A Jessica Anderson K-9 Mystery by D. L. Keur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Available now on Amazon. Print and audio coming soon.

When I saw this book grouped with the cozy mysteries, I groaned just a little bit. You see, I was lucky enough to be able to read the pre-publication edition.

Cozy, this is not, in my opinion. It's an exciting, unique story of a woman and her dog, and her dog, and her dog, and her dog...

No, I'm not a broken record. The strong, yet vulnerable Jessie Andersen has gathered a pack of dogs who are devoted to her and listen to what she wants them to do for her. Since they speak multiple languages (English, German, Dog), they get Jessie and Jessie gets them in return.

When Jessie Anderson had to leave her job as a police officer in Colorado because of the trauma of seeing her partner killed and being wounded herself. She couldn't be a cop any longer.

Returning home to her family's dog training facility, she realized she could continue serving and protecting while still a civilian. She already has her pack, but knows it's difficult to get certified for search and rescue dogs. She turns to technology and gets her own drones--small flying machines operated by the controller on the ground--and begins training herself to use the drones effectively.

On a test run, the drones pick up a view of a person lying still on the ground. Since the person wasn't moving and was more than two miles from her position, she calls 911 to report the possible injured person.

The Sheriff's office follows her directions to the location of the body--a dead woman--and Jessie quickly finds out that no good deed goes unpunished, as the Sheriff's department confiscates her drones and their computer controller as "evidence," since the flights are video-recorded, and the law can see what Jessie saw. Jessie's videos provide a place for law enforcement to start for evidence gathering. There's even a very blurry picture of the killer as he escapes in a red pickup!

Jessie returns to working with her dogs, and tries to find a new way forward in her plans ...without her drones.

...Well, this is a mystery, so you know that eventually Jessie and her dogs will become more deeply involved in the manhunt. Anything more would be spoilers, so I'll continue with my impressions.

This is a great start to what will be a series. I can hardly wait for the others to be released. I like Jessie a lot, and I enjoyed the unraveling of the mystery.

Some things that sets this book above the usual run of cozies. There are lots of wonderful details on the dogs, their personalities, how they are trained, and even certified for search and rescue work. This attention to detail makes this a great read much better than a standard cozy mystery with a cat or a chihuahua in a bakery. Jessie's dogs are real, their training serious, their results incredible. Jessie is an amazing woman. I suspect the author is just a little (maybe a lot) like her character. Dawn Keur can write a helluva story.

P.S. Check out Keur's other books for interesting, well-written tales.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Warrior Women - Faizah's Destiny

 I'm honoring the women warriors from past centuries.

FAIZAH'S DESTINY
The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.

Blurb:

The village magician has gone missing. His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis--the book of magical creatures. They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains. Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.

A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.

Before Mohammad, Arabic religion was based on pantheons of gods and goddesses, much like those of the Greeks and Romans. In “Tales of Abu Nuwas 2: Faizah’s Destiny” I’ve called on Ahura and Anahita, the Greek equivalents to Zeus and Hera. Anahita was not only the protector of women, but she was also the goddess of war, a protector of women warriors.

Real female warriors existed in the Pre-Islamic world.

Artemisia (or Anahita in some sources) was a daughter of Hecatomnus, the founder of the Hecatomnid house that had ruled Caria since the beginning of the 4th century. She was the warrior-Queen of Halicarnassus (now in modern western Turkey). She was also an admiral in Persian King Xerxes navy, coordinating a land/sea attack against the Greeks.

She definitely kicked butts and took no prisoners. I do wonder, though, if this fighting queen was real, noting the similarity of her name to Artemis. Still, the Greek Artemis was an archer who led a pack of wild (Amazon?) women.

Persian and Scythian women regularly fought in battles through the 6th Century (when Mohammad appeared on the scene). Of course, most of their names were scrubbed from any written histories, in the same manner as the war goddess Al Uzza. An interesting an informative essay is on artist Thalia Took’s site (http://www.thaliatook.com/AMGG/aluzza.php). She creates amazing Goddess trading cards.

Finally, this blog http://apranik.blogspot.com/2009/10/persian-female-warriors.html has descriptions of many female warriors. Definitely worth reading.

Iranic Scythian Female Warrior

Persian Female Warrior


Artemisia in Battle Against Greeks
In my research, my image of Faizah was influenced by these female warriors and goddesses of the middle-east. We learn Faizah’s old enough for marriage. Her teacher and mentor, Master Wafai, laments it would be a waste if she were to marry rather than continue her studies of the magical arts.

Faizah’s best friends are boys (Harib and Bahaar), and we discover early on she’s prepared to fight the town bully to protect the boys. Later, the ex-slave boy, Qadir, joins the others at Master Wafai’s school. He becomes part of the group, although remains cool, although willing to join in the search for Wafai.

So, Faizah is smart, educated, no shrinking violet, and she learns that if your friends are boys “you just had to pretend certain gestures, noises, and smells didn’t exist.” Even her background as a hard-working farmer’s daughter prepares her for war as many other of her middle-eastern sisters in myth and history have done.

But first, she has to ‛convince’ the boys she should go on the search for Master Wafai...even if she’s just a girl.

Excerpt:

“Faizah! What are you doing here?” Bahaar blurted. “And why are you dressed like that?”

She grinned, enjoying their aghast looks. “What’s the matter? Haven’t you ever seen a woman wearing trousers before? It’s not that unusual.” She walked past them, starting up the eastern path, as they stared open-mouthed. “Come on, let’s get moving.”

Qadir was the first to react. “Oh, no. No, you can’t come. You’re a, a?”

“What? A girl?” She turned to face them. “You think you’ll have to watch out for the poor little girl?” Suddenly, she punched Bahaar in the chest. The unexpected blow knocked him flat on his back.

“Think I can’t take care of myself?” She shoved Harib’s shoulder while she hooked her foot behind his leg, sending him to the ground next to Bahaar. “Since when?”

That left Qadir. The tall boy was too big for her to take on physically. Faizah stood her ground, fists clenched, as he raised his hand and took a step toward her.

“We told you we didn’t want you along. Just turn around and go home.”

“Who’s we?” Faizah asked; her lips tightened with disdain. “I didn’t hear anybody make you leader! I can go anywhere I please, and you can’t stop me!”

Harib and Bahaar cautiously picked themselves up, their glances darting back and forth between Faizah and Qadir, who stood toe-to-toe, glaring at each other.

No one moved or spoke for a long, uncomfortable moment.

“What’s it going to be?” Faizah broke the tense silence. “I come with you, or I’ll follow you. You decide, but either way, I’m coming!”

She turned to Bahaar and Harib. “Well?”

Bahaar cleared his throat and opened his mouth to speak. He shut it again and turned to Harib. “What do you think?”

“Oh no. You’re not putting this off on me!”

“Fine,” Bahaar said and cleared his throat again. “I say Faizah comes with us. We’ve been friends for a long time, and we’ve always looked out for each other.” He glanced at Harib, who nodded. “She can handle herself. We’ve never had to take care of her before. We won’t have to now.”

“That goes for me, too,” Harib added, looking at Qadir. “We never should have listened to you in the first place. Just because she’s a girl, doesn’t mean she can’t handle herself. Besides, dressed like she is, nobody would know she’s a girl, anyway.”

Qadir never took his eyes off Faizah as he slowly lowered his hand. “All right.” He nodded once, shortly. “But you’d better keep up, ’cause I sure won’t help you.”

“You won’t have to, Qadir,” Faizah said over her shoulder as she started for the pathway leading up into the foothills. “You may not think so, but I really can take care of myself.” To Bahaar and Harib, she added, “Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s go!”

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Spring Goddesses

FAIZAH'S DESTINY: The Tales of Abu Nuwas 2 borrows heavily from Persian mythology, but the gods pretty much match up to the Roman and Greek gods. Essentially, every civilization re-uses the same gods, but give them different names and their own special flavor.

The heroes are often the mighty warrior types: Hercules, Gilgamesh, Samson. Since I’ve written this book for kids, my heroes are teenagers, not at all like the legends (but they might become legendary themselves). They’re not in already in the mythology, so you’ll just have to read "Faizah's Destiny" to find out about them.

Since Easter is all about rebirth - the flowers are blooming, the sheep are lambing, the leaves are .... uh, leaving? Anyway, all cultures appear to have a goddess of Spring. Anahita is very apropos to the reason for the season - sex and birth. Even the Christian god, Jesus, was reborn by rising from the dead.

Anahita

The ancient Persian water goddess, fertility goddess, and patroness of women, as well as a goddess of war. Her name means "the immaculate one". She is portrayed as a virgin, dressed in a golden cloak, and wearing a diamond tiara (sometimes also carrying a water pitcher).
Anahita was very popular and is one of the forms of the 'Great Goddess' which appears in many ancient eastern religions (such as the Syrian/Phoenician goddess Anath). She is associated with rivers and lakes, as the waters of birth. Anahita is sometimes regarded as the consort of Mithra. The dove and the peacock are her sacred animals. I made Anahita my main character’s supporter. She appears to Faizah hovering over a lake. She tells the girl that one or more of her companions (three boys, wouldn’t you know) will be seduced to the dark side by demons. In typical godly fashion, she can’t give Faizah a straight story; she only hints at what might happen.

Excerpt:

Each time the light dimmed, it returned brighter than before, pulsing in time to the beat of her heart. As the shape within the light grew more and more distinct, a part of Faizah’s mind wondered if she should be afraid. Somehow she wasn’t. Instead, she felt a strong attraction to that glowing figure and walked to the lake’s edge to get a better look.

The apparition hovered a few inches above the surface of the lake. Faizah could now see, through the shimmering aura surrounding her, the figure was that of a woman. She was looking out over the lake to the point where the shooting star had disappeared over the caldera rim. Clad in a golden cloak, a diamond tiara adorned her brow, and two small lions lay at her feet. The figure turned slowly to look directly at Faizah, and a gentle smile curved her lips.

Faizah gasped in sudden recognition. This was the goddess Anahita! She did exist! Faizah stood entranced as the patroness of all women, the goddess of water and fertility, and of war, came gliding smoothly over the surface of the lake toward her.

As the figure halted before her, Faizah glanced quickly over her shoulder at their campsite. The boys hadn’t moved, and she could hear Menog’s rumbling snore. She turned back to face the goddess.

“They will not awaken, Faizah,” Anahita’s lilting voice sounded in her ear. “I would speak to you alone.”

“Why...what...why have you appeared to me, Goddess?” Faizah stammered, her voice trembling.
“My husband has listened to your thoughts, Faizah. Ahura favors your purpose. He sent Menog to guide you through the cavern.”

Faizah’s eyes widened as she struggled to grasp what she was hearing. Ahura, too?

“Ah...we are grateful to Ahura for his favor. But...but, if he is protecting us, why did the boys become ill? Why didn’t I get sick, too?”

Anahita’s musical laugh was the tinkling of bells in a breeze. “Pazuzu of the southwest wind controls this valley. He guards it jealously and blows illness toward all who enter. This is why no one lives here.” Her smile widened. “And I might have had some small part in keeping you from getting sick.”

“I have read that Pazuzu can kill,” Faizah ventured, “yet the boys only have a cough. Did you do that, too?”

“No. That was your doing. Pazuzu can indeed kill. The medicine you made is what saved the boys. There is magic in you, Faizah, which is stronger than you know.” Anahita looked over Faizah’s shoulder at their little camp then back at Faizah. Her smile vanished, and her face became serious.

“I, too, favor your journey. But your friends,” she continued with a gesture toward the sleeping boys, “have lost their purpose. Be always on your guard, Faizah, for powerful forces oppose you.”

“If you favor our journey, Goddess, can you not tell me where to find Master Wafai?”

“A fair question, but the answer, I’m sorry to say, is no, I cannot.”

“But...but, you’re a goddess! Surely?”

“Master Wafai is safe; you needn’t worry about him. You are destined to follow a different path.”
Faizah’s brow wrinkled with concern. Why would she be selected by Anahita? She stammered, “What path?”

Anahita’s gaze lowered. “Many no longer believe in us, the gods and goddesses. As their belief wanes, so does our influence in the world. I, my husband, Ahura, my brother and sister goddesses, none of us are as strong as we once were. There are those, like your Master Wafai, who serve us still, and so we retain some of our strength. Even you doubted our existence, but your hope that we were real allows me to appear to you.”

“I’m sorry I ever doubted, Goddess,” Faizah whispered. “What must I do? Is it right that we go first to find the Simurgh, or should we be doing something else?”

“So many questions!” Anahita’s musical laugh drifted across the water. In the distance, a peacock’s raucous shriek seemed to answer her. “Listen, my pet calls to me,” she said. Then her smile faded, and her eyes mirrored the seriousness in her voice.

“Know this, Faizah. I will protect you as much as I can and lend you what assistance I am able. Even so, your success or failure depends on you. Your own wits and your own strength are far more important than any aid I may give you.”

Faizah trembled at the thought that a goddess would depend on her for anything. “Who opposes us?”

“Dev, for one. He relishes the darkness. Darkness begets ignorance, and ignorance begets folly.”

“Dev?” A cold chill ran down Faizah’s back. “The god of war? He is against us? Master Wafai said Dev plots the final war that will destroy the world!”

“This is true. Now you see why it is so important that you succeed in your task.”

Faizah took a deep breath. This was serious. “What else can you tell me? Will we have to face Dev? We’re not heroes. We’re kids. How can we fight a god?” Faizah chewed her lower lip with anxiety.

“I doubt Dev will oppose you directly; he would think that beneath him. Instead, he will send his minions to do his bidding. You must be ever watchful, Faizah, for you cannot know what form they will take. It could be an animal, a human, even a demon sent to turn your friends away from you.”

Anahita’s words did nothing to ease Faizah’s mind. A demon! What could they do against a demon?

*
Faizah's Destiny: The Tales of Abu Nuwas 2
The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.

 In print and ebook at Amazon. 
 In all ebook formats at Smashwords. Currently discounted to $0.99
* If prices haven't changed yet on Amazon, wait until it does

The village magician has gone missing. His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis--the book of magical creatures. They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains. Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.

A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.

Setara's Genie: The Tales of Abu Nuwas 1
A girl, a genie, a few demons. Would could go wrong?
Print and ebook at Amazon 
In all ebook formats at Smashwords on sales for 99 cents.