Monthly Archives: March 2016

Avebury Stone Circle

On the same day that Anne and I went to Stonehenge last year, we also visited Avebury Stone Circle, although it was quite a different experience.  For one thing, you don’t have to stay on a path. You can walk wherever you want.

The stone circle at Avebury is also so large that it is impossible to photograph it completely except from the air. In the picture below the ditch and embankment that surround the site can be seen (in part) and the stones seem tiny. They’re not. They’re “YUGE.” (Sorry, just a little political humor).

5 Long view

That embankment and ditch (which makes this site a “henge”  is over a kilometer in circumference.  That’s a lot of digging  It was not built, as they say, in a day.

4 Four Stones

Since Anne and I did not have a helicopter or a balloon, we were limited to the shots we took with our feet firmly placed upon the ground.  Our minds, of course, continued to float.3 Anne

The stones that make up the outside circle are massive and have not been chiseled into shape as they are at Stonehenge. They seem to stand today as they were found. Some speculate that they were chosen for their shape. Others speculate that some are supposed to be female and others male. We won’t go there.

Dogs sheep

As we said, at Avebury visitors are free to walk among the stones.   They can even touch the rough surfaces, which is not possible at Stonehenge. But be careful where you step, since there are sheep grazing in the same fields.2 Touching

If you do touch them, you have the feeling that you are touching something that was once holy. Maybe they still are. So much effort must have had some great purpose, and would not a great purpose have a lingering effect.  Who knows?1villageA village grew up in the midst of the stones, which just adds to the experience as you wander here and there. At one point a few centuries ago, some villagers thought they should get rid of the stones since they had been put in place in a pagan time and for a pagan reason. Supposedly, the skeleton of one of those villagers still lies  beneath a stone that did not take kindly to being buried. The Black death soon followed, putting an end to that particular effort to destroy what was not understood. Later on, in the 18th Century, many of the stones were broken apart and used for building materials.  We let out a long sigh of dismay when we hear such things.

Stone and ManOf course, we saw faces on some of the stones. The question naturally comes to mind as to whether the people who originally placed the stones saw the faces too. Did they think it was funny? Fortuitous? Something else?

Cat plus twoThis one in particular seems to have been a witness to many dramas. What if it could talk?

JanusWere they laughing as they pushed and pulled these tremendous pieces of stone into place? Did they call this one, “the guy with the big nose?” Was there someone in town who resembled him?

The Butler

We understand completely why a visit to Stonehenge is so regimented. Many millions visit every year and if people did not stay on the paths the place would be trampled and the stones would be threatened. But if you want a different experience, one in which you can get very close to these massive pieces of rock, see them from every angle, touch them, close your eyes, and maybe get in touch with the souls of the men and women who put them in place, then by all means visit Avebury. You will not be sorry.

Search For The Red Ghost by Sherry Alexander

We welcome Sherry Alexander to our blog today. After you get to know the author a little bit, we will share our five star review of her very exciting latest novel, Search For The Red Ghost. But first we have to say that getting to meet other writers on our blog is a real bonus for us as writers. 

author pix-1

Sherry Alexander is admittedly obsessed with American and Native American history, and she is quick to point out that she comes by it honestly. Her ancestors were pioneers who traveled West during the 1800s in hopes of making a new life, and she was fascinated by the stories of their lives on the frontier. “As a kid, I wanted to be a pioneer, so reading books was the last thing on my mind. Instead, my siblings and I explored the forests of Scappoose, Oregon, and dreamed of forging new trails to unknown lands.” When she’s not thinking or writing about historical adventures, she is homeschooling her 11 year-old granddaughter, listening to Hawaiian slack guitar, watching a John Wayne western, or exploring the forest behind her home with her husband of 47 years.

Search for the Red Ghost began with a legend. “While researching my non-fiction book, The Great Camel Experiment of the Old West, I came across the Legend of the Red Ghost. It is about an unknown beast that tramples a woman to death on a small 1880s Arizona ranch. This legend made me wonder what would happen if the woman’s son wanted revenge against the creature who killed his mother. This book is the answer to that question. In addition, the main character, Jake, is modeled after my brother, John McCormick—a Master Hunter—who would walk through fire to find the person or the animal responsible for hurting anyone in his family.”

Summary

Thirteen-year-old Jake Thrasher’s mother is dead, and the only clues left by the beast that killed her are a few strands of red hair and a set of plate-sized tracks. When his Army Scout father refuses to hunt it down, Jake takes matters into his own hands. Feeling abandoned and betrayed by his father, Jake’s desire for revenge takes him on a dangerous journey that not only tests his courage but his desire to survive. Wolves, snakes, grizzlies, renegade Apache, and the ever-present threat of death are waiting for him. Will Jake find his Red Ghost? Or, will he succumb to the inherent dangers?

Search for the Red Ghost 333x500

Excerpt:

Storm lunged forward, reared, and lost her footing. She drove her back hooves into the ground, but her front feet slipped out from her, and she went crazy—snorting, bucking, sliding, and kicking up dirt. Jake grabbed the saddle horn, and struggled to stay upright. He pulled up on the reins, and tried to regain control. Suddenly, the leather-buckling strap ripped, and the cinch broke free. There was no time to react.

The saddle slipped, and catapulted Jake over the mare’s head. He hit the ground hard then started to roll. He caught a glimpse of Storm struggling wildly to get to her feet, and she was coming toward him—nostrils flared, mouth wide open, and legs flailing.

One hoof kicked the fullness of his right calf, and another knocked the air from his lungs when it struck the middle of his back. Jake tumbled and rolled as the sunlight flickered to black, grew hazy, and disappeared.

Review

Search for the Red Ghost by Sherry Alexander is a coming-of-age story set in Arizona in the 1880’s. Although it has been many years since I was among the target ‘tween audience, I was still glued to the page. Jake is a stubborn thirteen-year-old who wants to be treated as a man. An unknown animal has killed his mother and Jake finds its tracks along with strands of its red hair. When his army scout father is called away due to raids by Apache, Jake sets off alone to find what he calls the Red Ghost. The trail takes him through the desert and a series of deadly incidents along the way involving rattlesnakes, a grizzly bear, a mountain lion, a group of settlers moving through the territory, and bands of Apache. The desert itself is an enemy, and the search for food and water is a constant preoccupation as the days pass. Action abounds. This is a well-written, well-researched book that has the feel of gritty truth to it. A young person, or an older person like me, will learn a great deal about staying alive in the desert and tracking. Jake does many amazing things to survive and some moments are truly frightening. But he never stops being his age. I cannot imagine a young person who would not enjoy this book. I recommend it with five stars.

Search For The Red Ghost was released by MuseitUp Publishing, an award-winning Canadian Publishing house of ebooks and print books in several genres. It is available at all ebook retailers including:

Barnes and Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/search-for-the-red-ghost-sherry-alexander/1123161139?ean=2940152680805

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Search-Red-Ghost-Sherry-Alexander-ebook/dp/B019NSK8BK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1454043446&sr=8-2&keywords=search+for+the+red+ghost

 

Kobo

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/search-for-the-red-ghost

We thank Sherry Alexander for being a guest on our blog today and for writing such an exciting book.

Welcome to Author Susan Royal from Deep in the Heart of (East) Texas

We welcome Susan Royal to our blog today.  She was born in south Texas, raised in west Texas, and lives now in East Texas–so it’s safe to say she is a Texan!

Bio photo

We have read  Susan’s novel, In My Own Shadow, for which we gave a five star review on Amazon that can be read hereIn My Own Shadow is a fantasy/adventure/romance and we are sure you will like it.  In fact, we are sure you would like all of her stories. She writes time travel adventures and fantasy adventures along with the forays into romance.

Susan has supplied us with some great answers to our questions, so let’s get started.

  1. Please share with us a memory of visiting the library or of reading, preferably as a young child.

I’ll never forget my childhood visits to the Bookmobile. An unassuming trailer dispatched every other week from the large central library in downtown San Antonio, Texas, it rested in the parking lot of the shopping center near our home for the entire day. Its presence beckoned me with as much anticipation as a picnic or day at the pool, because it represented adventure, escape and fantasy.

While my mother did her weekly grocery shopping, my sisters and I spent the morning hanging out there, prowling the shelves and deciding which books we’d take home. They lined the walls from floor to ceiling on either side of the trailers with open doors at each end. Once we made our decisions, we checked out at a miniscule table at the front where an attendant sat. And you guessed it, they were reading a book.

In early summer, I stood before the shelves, the breeze from the open doors stirring the hair on the back of my neck. I picked up volume after volume, poring over illustrations, reading dust jackets, author notes and sometimes a chapter or two. By the time July rolled around, it was a good idea to visit as early in the morning as possible or be forced to endure the humidity and the sweat trickling down the small of my back. Those days, I grabbed books with the most interesting looking covers and left as quickly as possible, in search of a cooler spot.

(I can see this so clearly! Wonderful!)

  1. Which book have you inherited from the generation above; that is, which book have you read and has stayed with you and made you reread it in whole or in part? What about the book created this attraction?

I was twelve or thirteen when I discovered Poul Anderson’s fantasy, Three Hearts and Three Lions. Along with that I remember The Glory Road by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

(Looks like we have some reading to do. Sigh…)

  1. Which book would you like to leave to future generations with the hope that they will read it? Why? (NOT one of the books you’ve written).

Anything written by Ray Bradbury, because of the way he was able to paint a picture with words.

  1. Take a photograph of one of your bookshelves. If a stranger were to enter your room and see it, what would it tell that person about you.

Desk

A stranger might think it’s cluttered, but to me it signifies controlled chaos.

(That desk does not look messy to me at all. You should see mine).

  1. Please tell us about your next book.

I have two that are close to being finished. I call it the big reveal stage. Where everything in the story comes together. Questions are answered and things resolved. One of them is a coming of age book about a young boy growing up in the sixties whose life is turned upside down when he goes to live with his grandparents in a small town in the hill country and encounters a ghost. The other book is the third in my time travel series about two people who fall in love despite being from very different worlds.

(They sound great, Susan).

  1. Are there any genres that you have never written in that you would like to try? Why or why not?

Eventually I want to write urban fantasy…and post- apocalyptic…if and when the stories reveal themselves to me.

  1. Attach a photo of you (preferably one that we have not seen before!) It is always nice to have a photo of you doing something you enjoy like hiking or travelling. A short description of what you are doing would be great.

Sorry I don’t have a picture like that…I’m usually the photographer…let’s just pretend I’m birdwatching here.

(Ken is a birder as well. It is easy for him to imagine you watching a few Texan birds that don’t fly this far north).

We also asked Susan if there were something she would like to say that is not covered by one of our questions and she responded with this short piece that will prepare you the excerpt that will follow:

I had a lot of fun writing about Xander and Suse and all the inhabitants of the mythical town of Battington. It’s a mix of humour and romance with a little mystery, something I think people will enjoy. However, I didn’t start out with the intentions of writing a fairy tale, especially not one about a little person who is good as solving puzzles. It all happened like this.

 A few years ago the company my son, Hunter, worked for sent him to Arkansas for training. The plant was located in a sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere. One so small they rolled up the sidewalks come sundown every night. No movie theatre, no restaurants to speak of, no entertainment at all.

 Basically, he was sitting in his motel room, bored out of his mind. He didn’t even think to bring a book to read. He called me, complaining. Now Hunter has a great imagination. So I told him to use it. “Start my next story for me.” Over the next few nights we collaborated on a story about Xander, Quep and the town of Battington. It was so charming I took it and ran with it. And that’s how Xander and the Tangled Web came to be.

Here is the cover:

xanders tangled web-Small2

And now the excerpt from Xander’s Tangled Web!

“Out of my face, you mangy beastie!”

The rumbling bass voice came out of nowhere. Xander jumped like he’d been scalded. Up at first light and on the road soon after, he’d dozed off and allowed Quep’s reins to go slack. The shaggy little pony wandered over to the side of the road for tender shoots of grass growing there.

“Look at you, riding along with your nose stuck up in the air like royalty.”

Xander squinted in the direction of the voice and spied a man dressed in raggedy brown homespun who blended with the landscape like a toad on moss. Arms crossed and lips pinched together tightly together, the man stared back at him.

“Sorry, Frawl.” Xander yanked on Quep’s reins. “You’re out bright and early. Are you on your way to Battington?”

“Aye, I have pressing business.”

“Is that so?” Xander couldn’t begin to imagine what kind. It was a well-known fact that his second cousin once removed avoided anything remotely connected with work.

The other man fished in his pocket and brought out copper coins. “Where d’ye think? I’m on me way to Battington to spend an afternoon at Ardley’s tavern. What about you?”

“I’m going to town as well, to pick up supplies and catch up on all the latest.”

Frawl flashed a grin. “Since we’re both headed in the same direction, how about you let me ride along? I can fill you in on all the tittle-tattle.”

Xander ground his teeth. So much for a nice, quiet trip. “Sure. Come on.”

As big around as he was tall, Frawl grunted and strained a bit before he managed to climb astride the pony. “You heard the latest?”

Xander shook his head. “Reckon not. I haven’t been to market in a fortnight. Suse and I live so far out we never get any news, unless a bird happens to fly by and share.”

“Unless a bird…?” It took a moment or two, but Frawl finally realized Xander was joking. After he stopped laughing, he pulled out a checkered rag, wiped his eyes and blew his nose. “You do have a quick wit.”

“Well, are you going to tell me or not?” Xander was less inclined to believe hearsay than most, but he did have a weakness for listening.

“Aye, I’ll begin at the beginning.” Frawl chuckled and rubbed his hands together. “Of late, some of the royalty has been frequenting the market more often than normal. Not, as you might believe, for fresh blue milk or a rare piece of fairy silk, though I have been told the merchant in the big corner stall with all the fancy notions has some in his possession so fine he swears the cloth will float…”

“Get to the point, will you?”

“Pardon, I digress.” Frawl cleared his throat. “Now, where was I? Oh yes. It turns out it wasn’t just any royalty, but one of old King Leander’s daughters. Princess Mena herself. Anyways, word went round she was after a good apothecary. Reason being, she wanted to purchase a spell.”

“But why come to Battington market? Why wouldn’t she ask her father’s sorcerer instead?”

“Turns out, she didn’t want just any old spell, she wanted a love potion. When she showed up at Mercury’s shop, he was nervous enough. After he found out what she fancied, it near did him in. Everyone knows love potions are dicey at best. Sometimes they work and sometimes not. There’s always the chance some poor unfortunate soul could end up turning into a tree toad.”

And here are all the places where you can find out more about Susan and buy her books!

Xander’s Tangled Web (fantasy, mystery)

http://bit.ly/1X3ZY6r

In My Own Shadow (fantasy, adventure, romance)
http://tinyurl.com/bqbxm41
Not Long Ago (time travel, adventure, romance)
http://tinyurl.com/85vgye3

Not Long Ago book trailer

http://youtu.be/vOIQVdWUigU/

All books available at MuseItUp, Amazon, B&N, Goodreads
http://susanroyal.moonfruit.com
http://susanaroyal.wordpress.com