Guest Post: Lucinda E Clarke

Thank you Christoph for hosting me on your blog today where I talk about my new boss from hell.

writerchristophfischer

Today I have the pleasure and honour to host the very talented Lucinda E Clarke on my blog. I’m a big fan of her work and look forward to reading this new psychological thriller series of her. Books 1 & 2 are on sale @ $/£0.99 for a week beginning 12th September.
Now over to Lucinda and her experience as freelance writer

When you earn a living as a freelance writer you meet all kinds of people. You also get to visit all kinds of interesting places. I’ve been inside a power station, numerous factories, radio and TV studios, in helicopters, tunnels under the sea, behind the scenes at Ocean World, honestly the list is endless.

Each time you’re commissioned you have a subject specialist who may or may not be the main client. Either way, it’s a new boss.

I worked with some wonderful people and I also encountered…

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Housekeeping tips

This is sooo me. great advice. (Do check out Bob’s relatives while you’re here).

bluebird of bitterness

❧ Layers of dirt on windows and screens provide a helpful filter against harmful rays from the sun. Consider it an SPF and leave it alone.

❧ Cobwebs draped over lampshades reduce glare from the bulb, thereby creating a romantic atmosphere. If your husband suggests that the light fixtures need dusting, say, “What? And spoil the mood?”

❧ Explain the mounds of pet hair by saying you are collecting it to use for stuffing hand-sewn toys for underprivileged children.

❧ If company is coming, shove everything unsightly into one room and close the door. As you show your guests through your house, say, “I’d show you the den, but Fluffy hates to be disturbed, and the shots are so expensive.”

❧ If dust is really out of control, place a fancy urn on the coffee table and say, “This is where Grandma wanted us to scatter her ashes.”

❧ Mix…

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Meet Guest Author, Lucinda E Clarke…

Chris the Story Reading Ape gave me a guest post so I could rant about my new boss.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

“Write what you know,” they scream at all new authors as they stare at a blank screen or page.

Well I tried. I really did. But I had a huge problem. I know a lot, or, that should be I knew a lot. To be honest I’ve forgotten most of it.

For almost three decades I wrote for clients of all shapes and sizes (and temperaments) for radio, TV, the print media, conference presentations, educational, mayoral speeches and all points in between.

I became an instant expert on such diverse subjects as Shakespeare, car manufacture, crop growing, splitting the atom, climbing ladders, building roads, banking, ocean pollution, geometry – the list is endless. I was one of those nightmare guests at cocktail parties who could rabbit on about anything while making little sense of anything and any in-depth knowledge.

The moment…

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FLASH NEWS

As I sit here in Spain, the rain is pouring down, which is kind of amazing. Poor DH is out there trying to play petanque (Spanish version of the French boules), so I’m expecting a drowned rat home any minute.

I think I’m working with the block editor so not really sure what I’m doing here. I can’t see anywhere to insert the book cover. And have I lost my nice header? You know the one with me floating over the Big Hole in Kimberley, South Africa? It was once a small mountain but man dug that all away in his frenetic lust for diamonds and then went on down, down and down until he created this massive crater. I’ve been meaning to move me over to one side, but looks as if it’s too late.

This is just a really quick blog to announce that I have put Amie: Savage Safari on a Kindle Countdown for the very first time. No idea why I’ve never done it before.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NCDKF8P

The story. Amie the reluctant spy is persuaded to return to the African country of Togodo to oversee a safari camp where international representatives are invited to bid for the rights to mine Togodo’s precious minerals. There is infighting, intrigue and a group out to prevent the auction from taking place.

Amie, pregnant with her first child has no choice but to go and keep an eye open and report back to her British spymasters. To make matters worse, her partner and soul mate Simon has gone missing and she fears for his life.

Lots of fast-paced, page turning action and recent winner of a silver medal in the eLit Awards.

You can grab it for only $/£0.99 on all market places.

PS: Look out for the launch of the 3rd book in my psychological thriller series “A Day on the Life of…” the continuing saga of the Brand family set on the south coast of France by the Mediterranean Sea.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GZNCVWL

Well, I’ve got this far. Rather proud of myself! Take care and stay safe.

GUEST POST MELANIE P SMITH

This week I’d like to welcome another author who is well known to me for two reasons – I’ve read some of her … Paige books, which I have – and on more then one occasion, Melanie has been a whizz helping me out with graphics. So, I’m thrilled to introduce her to you.

MELANIE BANNER

I am a motorcycle riding, animal loving, author and photographer who has always enjoyed a good adventure. When I’m not writing, I can be found riding my Harley, exploring the wilderness, or capturing that next great photo.  Long before I delved into the world of fantasy and suspense, I served nearly three decades in the Special Operations Division for our local Sheriff’s Office working with SWAT, Search & Rescue, K9, the Motor Unit, Investigations and the Child Abduction Response Team.  I now use that training and knowledge to create stories that are action-packed, gripping, and realistic.

Tell us your latest news

MELANIE BOX SET

I’m well into the 5th season of my police procedural — Paige Carter.  Paige and Dax are married now and trying to balance a career with their personal lives.  Dax and his team are focused on the new business while Paige is faced with some intriguing and difficult cases.  Don’t’ worry, the duo still has time for their morning chats and Dax will try to worm his way in as Paige gathers evidence and chases bad guys.  The current season can only be found on my website, but previous seasons are available at all your favorite stores. https://melaniepsmith.com/crime-blog-landing/

MELANIE LAST PIC

I also recently released a short story and the first novel in a new series.  The short story was originally intended for an anthology, but the project just didn’t turn out the way we all hoped so I ended up releasing Love Can Wait independently.  Here’s a brief synopsis….

Sometimes sacrifice is the only solution.  A mother desperate to keep her child.  A father trying to protect his son.  A storm, a tragedy, and a destiny nobody saw coming.

https://books2read.com/LoveCanWait

MELANIE DIVERGENCE

I’m also excited to announce the release of a new Romantic Fantasy — Divergence.  It is the first book in my new Immortals Series. Here’s a brief intro…

Part Mortal, Part Divinity, Fully Devoted.

Meet the immortals -The wiccan, the shifter, the Master of Water, the siren, the healer, the Reader of Minds. Their destiny awaits — if they accept their fate and unite to confront a dangerous enemy in the battle of a lifetime.

The gathering has begun. Six demigods embark on an epic journey of danger, mystical creatures, dark magic, and intrigue. When an ancient prophesy is triggered, the tale of six powerful immortals begins. Legend has it, the chosen six will triumph over evil and restore peace. But first, they must gather together and converge on the land where their parents were defeated. Time is running out, the Titans want revenge, and the future of the entire world is at stake.

Check out my Book Trailer…
https://youtu.be/2ZMon5-BBxY

The two main characters in Divergence are Beckett Prescott and Cassandra Ashton.  Don’t tell anyone, but these two just might fall in love before this tale concludes — it is a romance after all.  Beckett is a wealthy businessman who was orphaned as a child.  His best friend, Zander is also his second in command.  Beckett has no idea he is immortal, but one stormy night he discovers nothing in his world is what it seems.

Cassandra (Cassie) is a Wiccan.  She learned magic at a young age from her parents and her eccentric aunts.  Instead of embracing her gift, she rejects it.  Her single-minded focus is on bringing joy and happiness to others through her novelty shop where she sells lotion, soap, and scented candles.  Nobody needs to know her products include a little something extra of the magical variety, do they?

Want to learn more?  You’re in luck.  Cassie and Beckett sat down to answer a few personal questions about their lives, their family, and their future.

Cassie, where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

I grew up with my parents in Braxton Creek until I was fourteen.  They were killed in a freak accident and I went to live with my two aunts’ in Florida.  My childhood was enchanting — that’s the only world I can think of to describe it.  My mom was a powerful Wiccan and my dad was a formidable sorcerer.  Dad was a gentle soul and the kindest man I’ve ever known.  He taught me how to use my gift to obtain inner peace.  Mom taught me the practicalities of magic as well as strength, fortitude, and grace.  I wish I had inherited just a fraction of my mother’s elegance and style.  Once I went to live with my aunts, they tried to teach me how to have fun and enjoy life.  I’m still working on that, but I think I’m getting better at it.

Beckett, if you could go anywhere with one person, who would you take and where would you go?

I would love to have one more day with my mother.  Where doesn’t matter as long as we have time to relax and just enjoy each other’s company.  Maybe the Amalfi coast in Italy.  I think she’d enjoy the relaxed, carefree atmosphere with the quaint little shops, sun-filled piazzas, and the small, secluded beaches. She always loved spending an afternoon on the lake when I was a child. I think she’d enjoy the beauty of Italy as much as I did.

Cassie, what is the weirdest thing about you and are you proud of it or embarrassed?

That one is easy.  It has to be my magic.  I always knew I could cast spells and create simple potions.  I didn’t know I had seriously powerful magic like my parents.  To be honest, I didn’t realize they were powerful until the prophesy was triggered, and we all converged on this lakehouse.  My magical abilities used to embarrass me.  Now, I think I’m finally learning to be proud of who and what I am.  Beckett’s support and easy acceptance has helped. I still have a long way to go, but I think I’m finally ready to just be me — warts and all.

Beckett, who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

Cassie, of course.  (Smiling, he reached out and took her hand in his.)

Of course.  A final question for both of you.  Will be we seeing more of you in the future, or has your story already been told?

“You will definitely be seeing more of us,” Beckett answered.

“Our story is only beginning,” Cassie added.

“Our group has now gathered but we have a lot of work ahead of us.  We’re not ready to face what’s coming,” Beckett sobered.

“And,” Cassie added.  “The prophesy talks about three phases.  We might have the first leg behind us — but now it’s time to train and prepare.  Our entire groups needs more training.  None of us really knows the extent of our gifts.  I think Luna knows more than she’s sharing but a nuclear explosion wouldn’t force that woman to spill her secrets.”

Beckett laughed and agreed.

If you enjoyed learning about Beckett and Cassie, you can purchase their story at all major eBook stores.

https://books2read.com/Divergence

What are your current projects?

MELANIE ARTIFICE

I am currently writing the second book in my Immortals series titled Artifice.  It picks up where Divergence leaves off and continues with the story of six immortals trying to unite to defeat the Titans and save earth.  Each of them comes from a family with extraordinary talent.  But, with power comes responsibility.  Can they join together in this season of training, or will outside influences tear them apart?

You can learn more here:-

Visit my website at https://melaniepsmith.com/ to learn more.

Check out my brochures for book details, links and trailers
https://geni.us/FantasyBrochure
https://geni.us/SuspenseBrochure
https://geni.us/FictionBrochure

Connect with me—

https://amazon.com/author/melaniepsmith
https://geni.us/MPSBookBub
https://geni.us/MPSFacebook
https://geni.us/MPSTwitter
https://geni.us/MPSmithYouTube
https://geni.us/MPSPinterest

Thank you so much Melanie for being my guest this week.

If you would like a guest spot, then leave a comment below or contact me on FaceBook – Lucinda E Clarke

GUEST POST MICHAEL PARKER

Before Michael sent me the material for his guest post, I had no idea he had written so many books. I read ‘Hell’s Gate some years ago, I grabbed it as it was set in east Africa, and really enjoyed it. I must look out for some of his other books. It was a surprise to learn that he also lived in the same province of Spain as I do now.

Michael Parker 1

Michael Parker: my story.

I have been writing thrillers for many years and have experienced the highs and lows of being a writer. My first novel, NORTH SLOPE was published in 1980.

I was married to Patricia for sixty years and so very sad to say, she passed away recently after a long battle with cancer.

(That is very, very sad to hear and I’m sure all our thoughts and loving wishes go out to Michael at this difficult time.

We lived in Spain for seventeen years, moving back to England in 2014. We have four sons, ten grandchildren and three great grandsons. My hobby is writing, of course, and to date I have had fourteen novels published (nine in hardback). You can see my list in Author Central. My other hobbies are (were) snooker, speedway, football and music. I used to play snooker every week, watch football and speedway, and used to play the keyboard (not too well). I am a born again Christian and played keyboard in my fellowship in Spain for several years. I worked as a maintenance technician most of my adult life, serving sixteen years in the Royal Air Force, and about seventeen years with a food manufacturer. I retired in 1996 (I was fifty-five years old) and moved out to Spain a year later with Pat. We are now living at Pagham in West Sussex. Other jobs I have done include Merchant Seaman, office boy, and general maintenance for a chicken farmer!

I have received many excellent comments about my writing, but the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. I am a member of the International Thriller Writers and used to be a contributing editor with them.

In 2009, I worked on a global project with eleven other writers and produced a novel called PASSAGE TO REDEMPTION. This is now available as a POD novel and Kindle by Acclaimed Books Ltd. (www.acclaimedbooks.com) of which I am an associate.

Michael P 9

 

My thriller novel titled THE BOY FROM BERLIN, which was released in December 2011, was published by Harlequin who purchased (leased) the English language paperback rights for North America and Canada for five years along with THE EAGLE’S COVENANT.

Meanwhile my current paperbacks: NORTH SLOPE; A COVERT WAR; ROSELLI’S GOLD; HELL’S GATE; THE DEVIL’S TRINITY; SHADOW OF THE WOLF; PAST IMPERFECT; A DANGEROUS GAME; WHERE THE WICKED DWELL; and NO TIME TO DIE are available on Amazon and other major outlets through Draft2Digital publishing.

My title, PAST IMPERFECT, a romance with a hard-edged back story, was released by my London publisher, Hale, in January 2015 — I never expected my publisher to accept it. The e-book followed in February. This is a romance with a rough-edged back story. Something of a change from my other titles. It is now available in paperback.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

 I have also published a non-fiction work titled: A WORD IN YOUR EAR (How God changed my retirement plans). This is an anecdotal account of how I became a born-again Christian after moving to Spain, even though I had no plans to do anything of the kind when we moved out there. I eventually preached at Christian fellowships around the Costa Blanca area and the book contains some of my earlier sermons. It is available on Amazon.

Most recent news: Joffe Books, one of the indie world’s successful on-line publishers, will be relaunching my romance, PAST IMPERFECT this coming autumn.

 

Thank you so much, Michael, for being my guest this week.

If you’re an author and would like to be featured on this blog, drop a note in the comments below or pm me on FB.

Stay safe and take care.

Lucinda

 

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING + FREE BOOK

I thought I would quickly write this blog before WP push me on to the new format, and I can’t find my way around. I’ve told myself not to be paranoid about life but not only is WP changing, but so is FB, my main channels of communication with the outside world. I may be marooned on a desert island not able to talk to anyone and be forced to bug DH all day.

I wanted to share with you that I’m excited. Now, this does not happen too often, especially when I talk about my books. I’ve always been the same. When I made videos and TV programmes, I was NEVER satisfied with them. I always wanted them to look better.

I know this is a problem for independent authors. We doubt our own work.

However, I do feel differently about my new genre. I’ve no idea why I decided to write psychological thrillers. But I’ve so enjoyed scribbling them.

Leah Brand 5x8-eBook smallA Year in the Life of Leah Brand came out in August last year. I didn’t do much for the launch, but since then she has sold well with minimal advertising. –
Somebody is driving Leah to the edge of madness when everyday objects in the house take on a life of their own. Is it her imagination? Is she going insane? Why would anyone want to hurt her?

mybook.to/LeahBrand

andrea kindle

I was away for 3 months from December and arriving back in Spain 8 hours before lock down, I had amazing peace and quiet to sit and write book 2 – A Year in the Life of Andrea Coe. Again, I gently pushed it out into the wide world with barely a whisper, hoping to catch a captive audience who were all Netflixed out.

How well do you know your best friend? Can you trust her?  Would you be driven to murder her?mybook.to/AndreaCoe

By now, I was so enthusiastic that I immediately began book 3 A Year in the Life of Deidre Flynn. I’m now waiting for the paperback proof and as soon as I’ve checked it out, I’ll set a publication date sometime next month.

deidre kindle

For the first time ever, I’m really excited about a series that I’ve written. Each book is a standalone, but they do follow in sequence, continuing the story of the lives of the Brand family.

While there is an ending in Leah, some readers were left a little puzzled, or maybe unconvinced. Book 2 makes everything crystal clear, and the tables are switched back in book 3, set in the south of France as to who is behind the terrifying attacks. I have to admit, that I throw everything but the kitchen sink at them

I’m already into book 4, and I’ve relocated them from England, to France and Belinda the sassy teenager is now in to Los Angeles.

I’ve broken every rule in the book – my covers don’t follow tradition, and my titles are too long, but I’m excited about the series and I’ve had so much fun.

I’ve run two competitions, and had lots of participation and I’m searching for ways to hold a bigger, online launch this time, or at least advertise more.

WANT AN EARLY COPY?

This is a one off offer, which will expire on August 31st, but if you would like a pre-publication copy of the new book, in the hope you might write a comment or two on the ‘Big A’ when it comes out officially, then post in the comments below or send me a pm on Facebook.

And while you’re here, if you’ve read this far (thank you), how about signing up for my newsletter which is a mixed bag of news, authors, competitions, smiles and anecdotes.  You get a free novella for doing so and the link to part 2 in the month end newsletter where you can also win an exclusive paperback copy of the Worst Riding School which is not on sale anywhere. Oh, and I scribble your name in the front before I post it to you. Impressive eh?  http://eepurl.com/cz-Mpv

Feel free to share this. In the meantime, stay healthy and stay safe.

WordPress Owners: Please Read

My feelings exactly. – Why change? And now Facebook is at it as well! Do they know how long it takes wrinklies to learn a new programme!

beetleypete

If anyone who reads this is not happy with the new Block Editor, if you don’t want to use it, wish it had never happened, and quite literally hate the thing, then please reblog this post, share it constantly on social media, and let’s see if we can get WordPress to take notice of us.

Dear WordPress, you have started to force the Block Editor on your blogging community. You must have your reasons for this, and I supect they are commerical ones. After all, you have to make a profit, and you continue to provide a basic blogging platform free of charge to the majority of your bloggers.

However.

You will also be aware that a significant percentage of your loyal bloggers absolutelyHATEthis new Block Editor. It is not intuitive, and we can see no good reason for it having to be forced on us.

It is…

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GUEST POST GORDON BICKERSTAFF

I have bought all Gordon’s books, every single one, and I’ve loved them all. I have one still lurking on my kindle, waiting for a special day. I love his characters, especially Zoe, although I have a real soft spot for Gavin. I like nervous heroes! If you enjoy crime/spy /science type thrillers then do check out these books. Over to Gordon.

I’ve been writing thrillers for nine years since I retired after 32 years teaching and research in higher education and 25 years teaching for the Open University.

My background in biochemistry fuels my imagination with material for creating thrillers underpinned by biomedical threads. Seven books have been published, and book eight, The Belgravia Sanction, will be published later in 2020.

GORDON

The series has been well received and picked up a couple of book awards.

The Black Fox won a gold medal in the 2019 Readers Favorite Annual book awards and in the 2019 Independent Author Network Annual Book Awards received the Outstanding Fiction Award in thriller/espionage. Tabula Rasa won a gold medal in the 2018 Readers Favorite Annual book awards.

My stories take inspiration from the 1970s TV series Doomwatch. The cornerstone of the books is the Lambeth Group. A Home Office covert unit who investigate top secret crimes that cannot be prosecuted or made public because they would damage the government and the country. Spies, special forces, and academic specialists are brought together to tackle criminal activity capable of bringing the country and the world to its knees.

The Group came into being when a group of twenty-six, university vice-chancellors, from elite universities met secretly with Home Office mandarins at the Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London. They formulated a covert doomwatch policing strategy for protection of the country from criminal, unethical, unprincipled scientists, and technologists.

gordon's books

The principal characters in the series are special forces-trained soldier, Zoe Tampsin, and biochemist Dr Gavin Shawlens. Zoe is a tough kick-ass character who uses brain rather than brawn to win the day. Readers generally like her. They understand where she’s coming from, and know what to expect.

Gavin, on the other hand, has confused some readers. He’s criticised for being a wimp who runs away from trouble when he’s scared. He’s an academic, naive in the world of espionage, not a trained spy or a soldier. His expertise helps Zoe to understand the mechanics of the issue being investigated. He does have moments of bravery in sticky situations, but not often.

The Belgravia Sanction is the next outing for Gavin and Zoe. A first draft of the blurb is given below. Any feedback would be welcome.

The Belgravia Sanction You can hide but you cannot escape my wrath.

In a remote Scottish cottage, two men and two women die from gunshot wounds. Police believe one killed the other three, then committed suicide. One of the four worked undercover for the Lambeth Group, and his team mate is missing. To find out what happened, a second team will follow the bread crumbs.

Led by Zoe Tampsin, they uncover a government deception, and expose a terrorist group operating in plain sight. An attack is imminent, which will destroy the special relationship between the UK and the USA. Zoe is prepared to stop them, but there is a deep-seated traitor in her camp, planning to stop her at any cost.

Social media links:

Bookbubhttps://www.bookbub.com/profile/gordon-bickerstaff

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012357701552

Twitter: @GFBickerstaff

GoodreadsAuthorPage: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5776209.Gordon_Bickerstaff

Website: http://bit.ly/1g4gEoa

Availability:

Amazon: amzn.to/2EWlhs3

Apple: https://bit.ly/3eEYtKXApple

Kobo: bit.ly/3eDtiQ4Kobo

Nook: bit.ly/386rSexB7N

Thank you, Gordon, for being my guest this week. I will certainly be grabbing The Belgravia Sanction the moment it comes out.

If you’re an author and would like to be featured on this blog, drop a note in the comments below or pm me on FB.

Stay safe and take care.

Lucinda

GUEST POST JACQUI MURRAY

My guest this week is running a blog tour for the launch of her new book. (I’ve still to work out how these operate, but more than happy to post about a book that looks like a great read).

jACQUI MURRAY PIC

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Winter 2021.

Her new release is the third in her prehistoric series.  Xhosa’s extraordinary prehistoric saga concludes, filled with hardship, courage, survival, and family.

JACUI MURRAY BOOK PIC

A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.

 The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.

 From prehistoric fiction author Jacqui Murray comes the unforgettable saga of a courageous woman who questions assumptions, searches for truth, and does what she must despite daunting opposition. Read the final chapter of her search for freedom, safety, and a new home.

 A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

Click on the link to view an amazing video for the book.

(https://youtu.be/l5bpxvZDoSY)

JACQUI MURRAY PIC 2

Title and author: Against All Odds

Series: Book 3 in the Crossroads series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

JACQUI MURRAY MAP

These are all the places where you can link up with Jacqui, and learn more about this great series. I can’t wait to read them, but I shall start with book 1.

Amazon Author Page:        https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                     https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:                        http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                        http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                          http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                         https://jacquimurray.net

And for a taste of the new book, read on:-

Chapter 1

 The foothills of the Pyrenees

They came out of the mountains, hair frozen in sparkling strands, hands and feet wrapped in shredded pelts, ribs etched against their skin under ragged hides white with snow, faces haggard with fatigue. Blood crusted scrapes and gashes, many recent, others almost healed, reminders of the violent struggles endured on their journey.

Though their steps flagged, not one of these upright creatures exhibited a hint of defeat. All males and a few females carried at least one spear, some two, many with warclubs strapped to their backs. Despite the anxiety and fear of entering this foreign land, hope energized them today, that their migration might be at an end.

All of them—Xhosa and her tribe, Pan-do and his, Wind, Zvi, and Seeker—had been chased from their homes by enemies. In their flight, they found each other. It took time to work through their differences but now they traveled side by side, respected ideas not theirs, and called themselves the People.

Their charismatic Leaders—Xhosa, Wind, and Pan-do—were known as reliable friends to those who earned their trust and dangerous enemies to those who opposed them. Two wolves—Spirit and Black Wolf—journeyed with them. Though the People lacked the animals’ sharp claws, dense fur, and piercing teeth, each considered the other “pack” and would defend them to death.

The exhausted group straggled down the gently sloping flank, feet shuffling carefully over the slippery scree. The ground changed from talus to stunted tufts of grass, sparse and brown which made walking easier. Optimism shone from their faces even as their tired eyes flicked side to side in search of unexpected movement, ears strained for out-of-place noises, and noses sniffed.

 

Rather than continue across the meadow, Xhosa led the People into the shade of the edging forest.

“Do you smell it, Wind?” Anticipation filled her gestures.

She and Wind, pairmates as well as Co-Leaders, stood quietly, absorbing their surroundings. Light filtered lazily through the canopy, the shadowed ground dappled with patches of warmth. She sniffed in the essence of wet earth and rotting leaves, the mustiness of moss, and something else much more enticing.

“It’s there.” She pointed and strode forward, lengthening her stride.

An icy gust whipped down the hillside through the shadows and raised bumps on her arms but she ignored it. The forest gave way to open sky and searing heat. It was too hot for her thin pelt but she didn’t stop to remove it. Green stalks swayed as far as she could see, edged on one side by more mountains and the other by some sort of leaves and branches. Sunlight glinted off the rippled surface of a distant river as it curled over the terrain.

“Dung!” The scent overpowered every other odor.

Wind huffed to her side. “It’s been a long time since we smelled dung that wasn’t frozen.”

“We did it, Wind.” Her eyes glistened with relief.

For most of a Moon, dread gnawed at her courage and left her wondering if following the guidance of Seeker—a boy barely a man—was a mistake. But Seeker assured her in his ebullient way that once out of the hills, their new homebase would welcome them. Xhosa wanted to believe him because she wasn’t sure what else to do. Nor did she know what to do if it didn’t work.

Wind motioned, arms inclusive, “It’s beautiful, Xhosa.”

Siri, Pan-do, Ngili, the wolves Spirit and Black Wolf, and the rest of the People gathered around Xhosa and Wind, eyes locked on what lay in front of them.

Pan-do whispered, “We made it.” His eyes were moist, mouth open.

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, hands close to his body. “With all this grass, Gazelle or Mammoth must be nearby.”

Dust, the Lead Scout, trotted up, coming from a tall cliff far ahead on their forward path. “I think there are caves there.”

The People hadn’t slept in a cave since leaving Viper and the Mountain Dwellers. It would be a treat if true.

Xhosa looked behind. Shadows already stretched as far from the bottom of the rocky slopes as sunlight to the top. Daylight would soon end.

“We don’t have much time. Let’s rest and then see if those are caves.”

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, fingers spaced out, palms up, “I’ll go with Dust to check.” He added a swift spread-fingered swipe with first one hand and then the other, followed by a quick bob of his head and a puff.

Xhosa brushed both hands down her sides. Go.

The People spoke with a complex combination of hand motions, facial expressions, body movements, and sounds augmented with chirrups, snaps, hisses, and whistles. By the time Ngili finished talking, Xhosa knew how many would join him, where they would go, and how long they’d be away. The People’s communication was sophisticated but quiet, a precaution especially in unfamiliar areas. Unusual sounds—voices, for example—stood out. All animals made noises but few as varied as the People’s. Why alert Others who lived here to their presence? Xhosa would do that in her own time, in her own way.

Dust, Ngili, and two scouts soon receded into the landscape, the only evidence of their passage a slight disturbance in the slender waving stalks. Despite the dung scents, the abundant plant food, and the glisten of a faraway river, Xhosa crossed her arms over her chest and paced.

Something is wrong.

She searched the forests and the rippling field that had swallowed up Dust and Ngili . Xhosa possessed the ability to see great distances in sufficient detail to find trails, footprints, movement, or the glitter of sun off eyes.

She saw none of those and that made her more uncomfortable.

With this wealth of food and water, Others should be here.

Wind motioned, palms flattened against his chest, “The mountains we crossed touched Sun. They’re cold and barren. Few can do what we did to get here, Xhosa. We are safe.”

Xhosa could hear in his voice, see in his gestures, that despite his bravado, Wind too felt uneasy about what they didn’t see and hear.

But she grinned. “I don’t know how I survived without someone being able to read my thoughts.”

She trotted over to a stream that fed into the river she had noticed. She stretched out on her belly, flat on the soft grass at the water’s edge, and took a long, satisfying drink of the sweet liquid. Thirst quenched, she collected handfuls of the tender shoots of new plants growing along the shore, ate what she wanted and tossed the rest into a communal food pile that would be shared with all the People. It was already filling up with fat fish speared from the slow-moving pools beside the river, tasty reeds and cattails, and even a handful of eggs plucked from nests not hidden well enough along the shore and in the roots of trees. The wolves snapped birds from the air and swallowed them almost whole, coughing up feathers.

Xhosa leaned back on her hands, sniffing the unique fragrance of each groupmember. Zvi was sweaty from wrestling with Spirit. Siri smelled sourly of hunger but she wouldn’t eat until Honey’s bleeding foot was wrapped in mulch and leaves. The females with new babies exuded the pleasant aroma of milk. Some scents jumbled together making them impossible to identify. When Xhosa became Leader of the People, before it merged with Pan-do’s and Hawk’s, the People had been small enough that she could recognize everyone by their odor. Now, she kept track of her tribe while Pan-do did the same with his. Wind helped everyone.

Done eating, the People sprawled on the warm ground, soaking up Sun’s remaining rays, chatting contentedly with gestures and the occasional sigh. Water dripped from their thawing bodies, soaking into the thirsty ground, as the remaining ice and snow on their pelts and in their hair melted away.

Xhosa and Wind sat apart from the others, on a log long ago softened by rot. She uprooted handfuls of grass and wiped the sweat from Wind’s body, as he did hers. The soft scratch felt good and the earthy fragrance reminded her of times long gone. When he finished, she harvested chunks of green moss from the log’s decaying bark and stuffed them into her neck sack. All the People wore one of these around their necks. Even the wolves did when they were migrating.

Finished, she leaned against Wind and closed her eyes. In a group of Others, her pairmate stood out. A Big Head, the People’s traditional enemy, the ones who drove Xhosa and her tribe from their long-established home, Wind had earned Xhosa’s trust by saving her life more than once and then, as a member of her People, sharing Big Head spear tricks and warrior skills with her Leads. Before long, each of them individually told her that thanks to Wind they could now defeat an attack which they couldn’t have done in the past. Whatever distrust her People harbored toward him faded away.

“Xhosa!” Dust panted up to her. “I found a cave. And we found trace of a herd. Ngili is tracking it.”

By the time Sun settled into its night nest, the People were ensconced in the cave Dust found. They had to squeeze together to fit but all were thrilled to sleep without waking to frozen toes and numb fingers. Stone and Zvi—the burliest of the People—lugged rocks in and Siri built a fire that quickly warmed the interior. The subadults gathered kindling to feed it and arranged who would be responsible throughout the night for keeping it lit.

Usually, the wolves slept scattered among the People but with Black Wolf close to delivering her pups, she dug out an opening in the back and claimed it as her den. Then she settled to her belly, one leg forward, the other bent back, eyebrows twitching.

Xhosa strode toward the nest she would share with Wind but stopped at the sight of Seeker, weight on his bottom, legs crossed in front of his body in the uncomfortable position he preferred. His pairmate Lyta curled next to him with their best friend, Zvi.

Xhosa approached Seeker. “You are not outside.”

Every night as long as Xhosa could remember, the enigmatic male lay on his back, gaze fixed steadily on the star-dotted sky, spouting what to Xhosa sounded like gibberish to whoever listened. Intermittently, he leapt to his feet and spun dizzying circles or bounced from one foot to the other, huffing and chirping. Lyta and Zvi would either join him or watch. He once explained to Xhosa that this was how he studied the changes in the night sky—the appearance and disappearance of particular stars or their movement in relation to each other—so he could guide the People accurately. This nightly process was how they had moved from the distant start of Endless Pond to this cave where Endless Pond seemed to end.

He didn’t respond to her statement, didn’t even acknowledge her. That worried Xhosa. She hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that danger lurked around them, somewhere. Seeker’s anxious look didn’t help.

She squatted at his side and added a question to her declaration. “The stars aren’t talking to you?”

To the side, Lyta wriggled, not comfortable in the seated position Seeker preferred but determined to try because Seeker liked it so much. Zvi crouched on the balls of her feet, the more traditional pose. She’d tried to sit on her bottom, legs crossed in front, but kept falling backward. Besides, it took her too long to rise from that position which meant if Lyta needed help, she couldn’t respond quickly. Squatting, for her, made more sense. Seeker didn’t care. He expected all to do what worked for them. Both his best friend and his future pairmate were long accustomed to his eccentricities.

Finally, Seeker offered Xhosa only a confused frown.

That’s not a “Yes they are,” and that raised the hair on her neck. Before she could ask more, Ngili scrambled through the thistle barrier the youngsters had placed around the cave’s mouth to prevent the entrance of intruders and hurried toward Xhosa.

He motioned, “I lost the herd’s trace in the dark. I’ll try again tomorrow,” and then raced toward where the hunters had gathered. They were all tired. Some would mate before sleeping but not Ngili. He hadn’t given up hope that his pairmate, Hecate, would come back.

After a final glance at Seeker, Xhosa joined Wind in their nest. She squatted behind him and teased the dirt and debris from his long head hair, occasionally focusing on a difficult tangle until her fingers could move easily through his hair. When she finished, he did the same for her.

As he groomed, he said, “I’ll join Ngili tomorrow. If there are herds, we will find them.”

“Pan-do and I will continue with the People.”

They said nothing more, both enjoying the calming feel of nails scratching on their skin and the intimacy of someone they trusted implicitly. Done, both fell asleep.

The first rays of daylight filtered into the cave. Black Wolf was already outside, padding back and forth restlessly, huffing uncomfortably. Wind left with Ngili and a handful of scouts, knowing Xhosa would leave a trail to wherever they settled when Sun’s light ran out. Though Spirit usually went with the hunters, today he stayed with Black Wolf.

Xhosa and Pan-do led. Dust copied their pace and direction but a distance away. With Ngili and Wind searching for meat, Xhosa focused on finding a cave large enough for the People. They strode onward, gaze sweeping the landscape, everyone grazing on berries, roots, and worms as they walked. Sporadically, Xhosa heard a faraway squawk or glimpsed a covey of birds as they exploded into flight, fleeing an unknown threat. It was the direction Ngili and Wind had gone, and told her how far they’d gotten.

The People rested by a waterhole. They searched its shoreline for prints but found none. Wherever the herds lived, they didn’t drink here so the People moved on, through copses of young saplings and around a bed of haphazardly-strewn boulders. The air tasted of flowers, warm earth, and the mild tang of salt, but the dung they found was hard and old.

Xhosa touched Pan-do’s hand and both stopped, eyes forward. “Do you smell that? It reminds me of Endless Pond.”

He pointed to his strong side and the direction they were walking. “From there and there. How can it be on two sides?”

Xhosa tingled. One of her People—Rainbow—had abandoned them long ago, taking many males and females with him. Others she and her People ran into while migrating here told her Rainbow traveled the same route she did but along the opposite shore of Endless Pond. For him, as for her, this was as far as he could go without folding back on himself.

If they got this far. If any survived.

She pushed aside those thoughts. Before searching for whatever remnants remained of Rainbow’s group, the People must find a homebase. All they suffered to get here—the interminable walking, the loss of Hawk, the death of groupmembers, Nightshade’s treachery—was for naught if they didn’t establish a home.

Spirit bumped her leg. Black Wolf panted at her mate’s side, her belly almost touching the ground.

Xhosa motioned, “Your mate’s pups won’t wait much longer. We will find a den for her.”

Spirit took off, his movements graceful and fluid with Black Wolf lumbering after him.

Not much later, Pan-do squinted ahead. “I think Spirit found a cave.”

Xhosa leaned forward, narrowing her gaze, and finally saw where Spirit stopped. He sat on his haunches at the base of a cliff, facing her, nose twitching, tail swishing the dirt behind him.

It took the rest of the day to cross over the craggy scrubland, up and down the deep ravines, and around the occasional spot of slippery ice. The cave proved too small for the People but not for Black Wolf’s needs. With much scuffling and panting, she created a nest for her pups and disappeared into the cool dark hole. The People settled outside, under an overhang that would protect them from rain and predators, and far enough away to not bother the new mother. As soon as Ngili and Wind arrived, shaking their heads that they hadn’t found a herd, they left again to search for signs of a trail left by former inhabitants of this cave.

Xhosa’s chest squeezed and her stomach knotted. Spirit padded up to her side, hackles puffed, nostrils flaring. He agreed. Something about this area made her tingle but for now, until Black Wolf finished, they must stay.

Thank you Jacqui for being my guest this week.  And, for introducing us to a new genre, one that many of us seldom meet.  Hope your book launch is a great success.