Darlene Foster's Blog

I am delighted to have as my guest today John Howell, a fellow blogger, author, dog lover, and friend. He is here today to tell you about his latest book which I think you will just love. Take it away, John.

 

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Darlene, and thank you for helping me launch this book. I know you are busy with your projects and Dot so thank you for taking the time to help. Speaking of the book, let me describe it. Eternal Road is the story of two people finding their way through the selection process leading to the place where one will spend eternity. Yes, it is true. They both have passed away. James Wainwright just died in an auto accident. Samantha Tourneau died seventeen years before. Sam is James’s guide to help him decide where to spend eternity. This is not your usual thriller or paranormal romance. It is a piece of fiction that is a combination of inspiration, adventure, time travel, sci-fi, a touch of erotica, and a dash of spiritual. In short, it is a lot of things, but hopefully, a story that will make you happy to have read it.

It is now available on Amazon in paper and Kindle. The Kindle edition is introductory priced at 99¢ until October 15th

Here are the universal links for both editions

Kindle

Paper

The blurb

James Wainwright picks up a hitchhiker and discovers two things 1. The woman he picks up is his childhood sweetheart, only Seventeen years older. 2. He is no longer of this world.

James began a road trip alone in his 1956 Oldsmobile. He stops for a hitchhiker only to discover she is his childhood sweetheart, Sam, who disappeared seventeen years before. James learns from Sam falling asleep miles back caused him to perish in a one-car accident. He also comes to understand that Sam was taken and murdered all those years ago, and now she has come back to help him find his eternal home.

The pair visit a number of times and places and are witness to a number of historical events. The rules dictate that they do no harm to the time continuum. Trying to be careful, they inadvertently come to the attention of Lucifer, who would love to have their souls as his subjects. They also find a threat to human survival and desperately need to put in place the fix necessary to save humankind.

The question becomes, will James find his eternal home in grace or lose the battle with Satan for his immortal soul and the future of human life with it? If you like time-travel, adventure, mystery, justice, and the supernatural, this story is for you.

An Excerpt

“The date on the paper is October 26th,1881.”
Sam grabs the news sheet. “The date of the gunfight at the O. K. Corral? We have to find out what time it is now.”
“Why does that matter?”
She gives the paperback to James. “The gunfight happened at 3:00 PM. We might have missed it.”
James shakes his head. “Don’t you think a newspaperman like John Clum would have dashed to the scene instead of sitting in his office if we’d missed it? The sun looks fairly high. What about my watch?”
“Go ahead and look at it.”
James glances at the watch and then back at Sam. “Oh, man. It’s smashed.”
“Yup. The accident.”
James puts his hands to his face. “Why didn’t I notice that before?”
“It didn’t matter before.”
“So, let’s say we are on time—where should we go to view the gunfight?”
Sam chews on her bottom lip. “Might be best to go to the photographic studio right next to the vacant lot where the fight took place. We could stand on the porch and look around the building. I’m curious as to why you actually want to see the battle?”
“This is history. I would love to see the most famous gunfight in the world. Who wouldn’t?”
Sam puts her hand on James’s shoulder. “People get killed.”
He touches her hand. “So, we shouldn’t see it?”
Sam draws her hand away. “I’m just saying that real life and legend are two different things. When people get killed, they bleed, and it isn’t pretty.”
James stands with his palms open. “But the historical part?”
Sam shrugs, “I just want to warn you.”
Sam and James walk down the street and eventually come to the place where the shootout will take place. Sam points to the porch of the photography building. “We can see everything from there.”
James points at the porch. “Of course, we’d have to look around the corner, which means we won’t stay out of sight. What if a stray bullet hits us?”
Sam chuckles. “You’re dead already. So what if a stray bullet hits you?”

The trailer

John’s bio

John is an award-winning author who, after an extensive business career, began writing full time in 2012. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. He has written five other books that are on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. The paperback versions are also available in the Indie Lector store

John lives in Lakeway, Texas, with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

Contact John

Blog Fiction Favorites, http://johnwhowell.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/john.howell.98229241

Twitter –https://www.twitter.com/HowellWave

Goodreads –https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7751796.John_W_Howell

Amazon Author’s page –https://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell

John’s other books

My GRL,

His Revenge

Our Justice

Circumstances of Childhood

The Contract: between heaven and earth

It was great having you here, John. I wish you all the best with your latest book. Dot says hi to Twiggy and Lucy!

Today I am a guest over at Anne Stormont’s wonderful blog, Put it in Writing. Anne is an excellent author and a great supporter of other writers. If you wonder what a “typical day” looks like for me, read on.

Today it’s the turn of author Darlene Foster to give us a glimpse into the unpredictable and variety-filled days that make up her life as a writer. Darlene writes enthralling children’s adventure fiction. She also writes short stories and a wonderful blog with lots of posts and photos about her travels.

Darlene Foster’s Writing Life in a Day

I will start by saying there is no such thing as a typical day in my life anymore. I worked for 48 years and my life was very structured. During the latter part of my working life, I decided to follow my dream of becoming a writer and made a vow to write for two hours a day, no matter what. And I did, usually in the evening after dinner while others watched TV. As a result, I wrote and published four books and several short stories.

Now I’m retired and live for the most part in sunny Spain. I seem to have rebelled against structure in my day, so I write whenever I find some time. I no longer write every day either, although I write most days. In the past five years since I retired, I have written four more books.

Read more about my not so typical day here.

To win readers over we need to write characters so authentic they feel like real people. How do we do this? By brainstorming a character’s backstory, personality, needs, desires, and their day-to-day world. Lucky for us, one aspect of their daily life is a goldmine of characterization: the type of work they do.  

Think about it: a job can reveal personality, skills, beliefs, fears, desires, and more, which is why Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi created The Occupation Thesaurus, a writing guide that profiles 124 possible careers and the story-worthy information that goes with each. To help with this project, I’m sharing my experience as an Employment/Career Counsellor below, in case this career is a perfect fit for your character!

You can find the full list of Contributed Occupation Profiles and check out The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careers at Writers Helping Writers.

OCCUPATION: Employment/Career Counsellor
OVERVIEW

An Employment/Career Counsellor provides coaching to individuals searching for suitable and sustainable employment by assessing what jobs would be the right fit based on aptitudes, interests, education and capability. The job involves helping clients overcome barriers to employment, assist in creating effective resumes and cover letters, practise interview skills and develop a targeted job search.

The position often includes designing and facilitating job search and life skills workshops, as well as conducting assessments. Clients include people from all walks of life, abilities and cultural backgrounds. An Employment/Career Counsellor might work for a government funded agency, in an educational institution or be self-employed.

NECESSARY TRAINING

Although there are no strict education requirements for becoming a career counsellor, many employers prefer you hold a Bachelor´s Degree.

An Employment Counsellor Certificate is a definite asset as is a Job Club Facilitator Certificate.

I have a CERTESL (Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language) from the University of Saskatchewan which was very helpful as I worked with job searching immigrants from many different countries.

USEFUL SKILLS, TALENTS, OR ABILITIES

CREATIVITY, DETAIL-ORIENTED,  EMPATHY, EQUANIMITY, EXCEPTIONAL MEMORY, GAINING THE TRUST OF OTHERS, GOOD LISTENING SKILLS,  INTUITION, LEADERSHIP, MAKING PEOPLE LAUGH, MULTITASKING, NETWORKING, ORGANIZATION, OUT-OF-THE-BOX THINKING, PUBLIC SPEAKING, READING PEOPLE,  RESEARCH, RESPECTFUL, SENSITIVITY, STRATEGIC THINKING, STRONG COMMUNICATION SKILLS, TEACHING, TIME MANAGEMENT, WRITING

SOURCES OF FRICTION

Some unemployed people can be unstable and blame the counsellor for them not getting a job

Participants in workshops may come from cultures that clash and cause friction in the classroom

Clients may share unsettling information with their counsellor like suicidal thoughts or illegal activities

Some people don’t like being told their resume isn’t good or that they should dress better for an interview

Government funding can stop, causing the counsellor to have to look for work themselves

A client may become infatuated with his/her counsellor and stalk them

Career councillors can get too caught up in the client’s problems

A client may suffer from mental illness or have a history of violence

WRITERS SHOULD KNOW…

Employment/Career Counsellors risk becoming too close to their clients and have difficulty keeping their work and personal life separate.

It is a challenging career but also very rewarding, especially when an individual finds a great job due to the coaching, which turns their life around.

Due to the many ups and downs, people in this field can suffer from stress and stress-related illnesses.

Have any questions about this job? I’d be happy to answer. Just leave a comment below!

I enjoy following Jennie Fitzkee, a preschool teacher in New England. I have featured her here on my blog. She believes in the power of reading out loud to children of all ages, including reading chapter books to preschoolers. Jennie recently posted about the books she read this summer, which included great picture books as well as some chapter books. And guess what, she included Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone! I was delighted that she enjoyed the story and wrote a good review. I’m included with some pretty awesome authors too.

This is part of what she wrote:

Amanda and Leah see the Calgary Stampede (a rodeo), go on a cattle drive, visit Buffalo Jump, and the dinosaur museum.  These adventures are intertwined with a mystery- Amanda finds a stone, which people seem to want, one cowboy in particular.  Amanda is curious about the markings on the stone and is determined to learn more.  She is the modern day Nancy Drew, and her sleuthing proves to be both dangerous and exciting at times.

Please read the rest of her post.

https://jenniefitzkee.com/2020/08/30/my-summer-of-books-part-3/

I am delighted to be included in this anthology of unedited short stories, poems, and articles from around the world written during the 2020 Pandemic.

The Blurb

With Love, Comes Hope offers a unique glimpse into the lives of ordinary people, as they coped, suffered and inspired others; in this unprecedented time, the population of our planet found common cause. Frontline and key workers everywhere ventured out to save lives and protect the vulnerable, supplying and delivering food alongside other essential services, like teaching, transport, rubbish collection; all workers valiantly striving in difficult circumstances. Vast numbers of people self-isolated for weeks or months and adhered to new hand cleaning and face-covering regimes. Most of the world experienced a lengthy period of lockdown and economies were mothballed.

Around the world, governments responded differently with greater or lesser success, and the lives of the population were impacted in many different ways. There was large-scale loss of life, personal devastation, and enduring and serious health compromises. Many lost loved ones, families were cast into tragedy, jobs were lost and businesses failed. But there was also profound inspiration, people doing good, helping neighbours, friends and those, especially, in need of protection. Doctors, nurses, carers and support workers – cleaners, cooks, security people, heroically put their own lives in danger to care for the sick, often at the expense of being with their own families.

There have been pandemics before with even higher casualties, but we have never experienced a pandemic in such a connected society. The human race may not have responded as well as it could but for the first time, there was international communication and, to a very large extent, cooperation.

This book is one such example; it shares the voices of people from many countries. It is a collection of personal accounts, poems, stories and reminiscences from around our beautiful planet and illustrates the innate kindness of people in desperate times and a shared wish for something better for all our futures – a common thread in this volume, With Love, Comes Hope: Stories and Inspiration during the 2020 Pandemic.

100% of the royalties will be donated to an international humanitarian charity called Bridge2, based on the Channel Island of Guernsey.

The contributions came from the following countries: Bangladesh, Australia, Brazil, United Kingdom, Spain, South Africa, Israel, Greece, Canada, Italy, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, China (inc. Hong Kong), India, Romania, Japan, Haiti, Denmark, The Philippines, The Netherlands, Saint Helena, Guernsey, New Zealand, Palestine, Germany, Russia, France.

Here is a radio podcast by one of the organizers of the project https://www.talkradioeurope.com/clients/mmoss250820.mp3

This book can be purchased in print or digital format on most Amazon sites.

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com.au

Amazon.es

This valuable piece of our history should be in everyone´s library.

Part of the Estacion Inglesa experience was a field trip to the medieval village of Trujillo, in the Cáceres province of Extremadura, 40 kilometers away from the resort. For a history buff like me, this was a real treat.  

We started our tour in the Plaza Mayor where an equestrian statue of Trujillo´s famous son, the conquistador, Francisco Pizarro takes centre stage. The Spanish participants gave us presentations, in English, at each point of interest. From the presentation by the statue, we learned it is believed Pizarro’s ghost lives on in the statue.

Listening intently to the interesting presentation

I loved wandering the labyrinth of narrow streets in one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Spain. Old stone walls overhung with gorgeous flowers, impressive mansions, churches and monasteries, echoed the past as time stood still for me.

A monastery, now a secondary school. Note the faces above the door.

We learned about tenth-century cisterns built by the Moors, as explained by a participant.

At the birthplace of Francisco Pizarro, we learned he was a poor, illiterate boy who sailed to the Americas in 1509 where he discovered new lands and made his fortune. A local boy done well! There is also a small museum attached which unfortunately was not open.

The birthplace of Francisco Pizarro

We ended our tour at the exquisite castle overlooking the town. Trujillo’s castle is of 10th-century Arabic origin later added to by the Christians. Magnificent views of the town are visible from the battlements as well as views of the rural countryside from the back of the castle.

Castillo de Trujillo
The Moorish entrance to the castle
Inside the castle walls
View of the village from the battlements
The rural countryside from the back of the castle
Our Lady of the Victory

A short climb took us to the hermitage of Our Lady of the Victory, Trujillo’s patron. She faces out toward the town above the castle entrance. By inserting a 50 cent coin, she will spin around in her alcove to bless you.

We had time to explore on our own, take pictures and do some shopping in the unique little shops around the plaza. I bought some smokey paprika, a specialty of the area, and some lovely tea. The area is well known for its cheeses and the national cheese festival is held here in early May. But I didn’t think cheese would travel well in the near 40 degree celsius temperatures, so refrained from purchasing any.

Stork’s nest in the clock tower means good luck

Local storks make their home in many of the towers around town. Black storks are common in the area.

Palacio de la Conquista

Some of the buildings are elaborately decorated, like the Palacio de la Conquista where carved images of Pizarro and his lover Inés Yupanqui (sister of the Inca emperor Atahualpa) along with their daughter Francisca and her husband Hernando Pizarro are displayed.

What a delight to visit a village mostly unchanged from the times of the conquistadors. I recall learning about these people and times at school in Canada many years ago, never for one minute imagining I would one day be able to visit.

A magical day I will never forget.

For those of us who love to travel and meet new people, this has not been a good year. Many travel plans have been cancelled and it’s been difficult to make future plans as we don’t know what lies ahead. When an opportunity to join an English immersion program in another part of Spain came up, I jumped at the chance. And I’m so glad I did. I had volunteered for a similar program thirteen years ago, and in spite of some limitations due to the Corona19 Virus, this was just as enjoyable and rewarding.

The six-day Estacion Inglesa program consisted of 10 English speaking volunteers and 10 Spanish speaking professionals seeking to improve their English communication skills. The program was well organized, with a variety of participants and activities. Even during meals, two English speakers shared a table with two Spanish speakers to keep the conversations going.

Meal time conversation, the only time without wearing masks
Amazing food was served. I loved this roasted vegetable tower.
Desserts too beautiful to eat.

For our time and effort, English speaking volunteers are provided 4-star accommodation in a lovely setting and three fabulous meals every day. The program I took part in was held at Hospederia Parque de Monfrague, in Extramadura, a province in the southwest part of Spain, near the border of Portugal. This is a part of Spain I hadn’t been to before. The hotel, situated in a National Park, had lots of open spaces for us to keep the required two-metre distance. A perfect spot to engage in conversation with gorgeous views of oak orchards, foothills, sheep, cattle, and horses grazing, and bulls resting under a tree.

The lovely view from my room
Sheep, bulls and a horse – rural Spain.
One of many places to hold one to one conversations

It was a win-win situation. The Spanish participants improved their English speaking skills notably while they gained confidence and became much more comfortable with the language. And for us volunteers, we made some amazing friends, learned a lot about Spain, the people and culture, and had a lot of fun.

Many perfect spots for one to one conversations at the hotel
English communication wearing the obligatory masks
A chat about common idioms under a tree

Besides many one to one conversations, the various group activities included a board meeting, a debate, making phone calls, creating a photo video, quizzes, and other games. The only rule is no Spanish can be spoken as it is an English immersion program. To keep us all safe, masks were required at all times except when eating which made it a bit more difficult, but we managed OK.

Having fun creating a Zombie photovideo.
Yes, that’s me, the dead Zombie on the left.

The days were long but I loved every moment because I got to talk to interesting people and you know I love doing that. Making new friends was a bonus. This was a highlight in my otherwise lack of adventure year.

We were each presented with a certificate of program completion
All of us at the medieval village, keeping appropriate distances

One day we were taken on a field trip to a medieval village, but I’ll save that for another post.

For more information about this program https://www.estacioninglesa.es/en/

Note: All photos were taken by myself or the Program Coordinator

I am pleased to be taking part in the virtual book launch of Against All Odds, the final book in Jacqui Murray´s fascinating trilogy.

Xhosa’s extraordinary prehistoric saga concludes, filled with hardship, courage, survival, and family.

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 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.

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

Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray

Book 3 in the Crossroads series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

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

Some questions the author has kindly answered

How do you know Xhosa’s People are as smart as they seem in this book?

A study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior places the appearance of human-like ways of thinking with the emergence of Homo erectus. The complex thought required to create their stone tools (called Acheulean) and their functional variety (which includes cutters, choppers, handaxes, cleavers, flakes, and scrapers) have long inspired many paleoanthropologists to believe Homo erectus was smart. A 2017 study that mapped student brains while they recreated these tools revealed that this work required the ability to “hold in mind” information—much as you and I do to plan complete complex tasks. “The fact that these more advanced forms of cognition were required to create Acheulean hand axes … means the date for this more humanlike type of cognition can be pushed back to at least 1.8 million years ago …” [Indiana University. “‘Humanlike’ ways of thinking evolved 1.8 million years ago.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2017. ]

Not definitive but interesting!

Convince me they communicate effectively with gestures, body movements, and facial expressions.

I get this a lot. Let me give you two examples. First, have you ever been around someone who doesn’t speak your language and still, the two of you communicate? It’s probably via hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions. Much can be said without voices.

Second, think of sign language. Sophisticated ideas are communicated with hands and facial expressions around the world daily. That’s how Xhosa and her kind did it.

I’m surprised by the sophistication and cleverness of some of their actions.


Homo erectus could pass as a modern man dressed properly and if the viewer carried no precognitions about what he expected. But he lacked many of the social constructs we take for granted. Because these traits don’t fossilize, we extrapolate what life was like from artifacts like their sophisticated tools.

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.

Social Media contacts:

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/JacquiMurray/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

Enjoy the excerpt

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.

A book worth checking out!

I´m pleased to be a guest on Wanda Luthman´s blog where I talk about Why I Wrote Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action. Check it out.

Wanda Luthman's Children's Books

Children’s Author, Darlene Foster

Hello, everyone!

Welcome to Wanda Luthman’s Children’s Book Blog.

Today, I want to introduce to you one of my favorite children’s authors. I’ve known her virtually for several years now. Her name is Darlene Foster and she’s written a series of books on a girl named Amanda in the Amanda Travels series.

Darlene, please tell us about you and your inspiration for this book as well as the series…

Why I Wrote Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action

My interest in the country of Holland began when a teacher read us a book called, Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates, by Mary Mapes Dodge, which I loved. The book, written in 1865, by an author who had never been to Holland herself but heard stories about it from her Dutch neighbours.

Over the years I read other books that took place in Holland, many of them…

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Amanda in Spain: The Girl in the Painting is getting some international attention recently. The book is being featured on Sally Cronin’s (from Ireland) Smorgasbord Children’s Cafe and Bookstore today with a superb review by Balroop Singh from the USA. Read the article and review here

A Spanish participant in an English speaking program I recently volunteered for, (more on that later) ordered a copy to help him with his English reading skills. He was delighted to receive it from amazon.es in two days.

A happy Amanda fan.

I am delighted to see that this book is still very popular. I wrote it before I moved to Spain!

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