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The Real Start of Teaching the Fourth of July


This is Our Land! Jennie and her students show us how to Celebrate America in style… 💞 Bette A. Stevens https://www.4writersandreaders.com

A Teacher's Reflections

The Fourth of July – America’s declaration of independence.  I teach children about the American flag, and patriotism.  It’s important.  Best of all, children often lead the way.  Their interests are the springboard for the best learning.

The Fourth of July is far more than the Boston Pops concert, fireworks, and a barbeque.  It’s remembering our freedom, and how we got there.

Here is a post on what happened at school.  It is celebrating America.  This is the real start to teaching children about the Fourth of July.

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And to my surprise, the children have driven the making of yet another quilt.

Over the past ten years, my preschool class has designed quilts.  Each one materialized because of something the children were passionate about.  When they couldn’t get enough of a song or an idea, I knew I had to give them more.  Together we designed quilts.  The process…

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#RRBC Book of the Month: PURE TRASH by Bette A. Stevens (Adventure/Ages 10-Adult) ONLY 99¢/p for a limited time


A single day. A lifetime of lessons.

PURE TRASH by Bette A. Stevens has been selected one of three books chosen May 2021 Books of the Month by #RaveReviewsBookClub.

PURE TRASH (Available anytime in Paperback $5.49 and eBook $2.99 versions).

ON SALE NOW—ONLY 99¢/p May 12–May 16. 

A great book for adolescents, young adults, parents, guardians, mentors  and educators to read and discuss.

“Delivers a powerful message…”

About PURE TRASH

In this short story prequel to the author’s novel DOG BONE SOUP, Shawn and Willie Daniels are off on a Saturday adventure in search of trash to turn into treasure. It is going to be a great day. Shawn is sure of it. No school and no bullies to remind him that he’s not one of the crowd.

“A nostalgic gem – I was swept away from the first paragraph and thoroughly enjoyed this skillfully written short story. This author knows how to paint mind-pictures and flavor them with taste, smell, and sound.”  WJ Scott, Children’s Author, Fairy Dust.

A sentimental trip into the 1950s, with 9-year-old Shawn and 6-year-old Willie Daniels enjoying ‘The Perfect Day’ until…

PURE TRASH by Bette A. Stevens (Excerpt)

“A Stop at the Top”

Mum said it was three miles to town. I kept my eyes on Willie as we pumped up the first hill. We coasted down the other side with the cool wind brushing our faces, ready to head up the next hill.

“Pull over, Willie,” I hollered when we got to the top of Andover.

Andover was the biggest hill we’d have to climb. We both stood up on our pedals as we started the climb. The turnout in the pines at the top of the hill was the perfect spot to find empty cans and bottles on either side of the ridge. I never did understand why anyone would just throw those bottles out like trash. But I was sure glad they did. Stark’s General Store paid cash, two cents each, and we thought we were rich every time the clerk handed us our reward in real money.

Pedaling up the half-mile hill was a lot of work, but it was worth it, and not for just the empties. Flying down the other side gave me the best feeling in the whole wide world. I guess that’s how that old chicken hawk feels when he soars above the pines at the edge of the field out back of the house.

Once we reached the peak, we plopped our bikes on the ground and threw ourselves onto the soft, damp bed of leaves at the edge of the woods. It was so peaceful. My mind wandered into the sky and I dreamed about the ride down the other side and the 10 cent Orange Crush I’d buy at Stark’s General Store.

The sun was high over the trees across the road before we piled the last of our empty bottles into the huge chicken-wire basket I’d made for my bike last fall. Willie’s bike had a regular basket, but it didn’t hold much. We ran back to grab a few more and stuffed as many as we could into our overall pockets. I shoved the last two down the front of my shirt and tucked it in good and tight.

We were off! What a feeling. Flying into the wind, I could see Willie’s hair whirling in a hundred different directions while my own whipped around my ears and face. Mum would sure take the scissors to the two of us tonight. Then we’d hop into the big metal washtub filled with steaming water from her cook stove. That bath would feel good, too.

"Adventure at every turn of the page! ~Bette A. Stevens, Maine author "Inspired by nature and human nature."

 

  • GRAB a copy of PURE TRASH by Bette A. Stevens for ONLY 99¢/p May 12–May 16
  • Take a “Look Inside” all of Bette’s books at your Amazon. You’re sure to find something special for everyone on your list.  http://viewauthor.at/BetteAStevens

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Celebrate #EarthDay2021 with a Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ Monarch Butterfly eBook—ONLY 99¢/p Limited Time (April 21-25)


Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ HAPPY EARTH DAY

Please share this post…

Monarch butterflies are a threatened species. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition requesting Endangered Species Act protection for the monarch and its habitat. Yet these butterflies, once a familiar sight, are plummeting toward extinction due to landscape-scale threats from pesticides, development and global climate change. That’s why the Center is working hard to win them protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

AMAZING MATILDA written and illustrated by Maine author Bette A. Stevens ONLY 99¢/p thru April 25:

“Award-winning picture book adventure follows a monarch butterfly through her life cycle and teaches kids important life lessons along the way!”

About the book

AMAZING MATILDA (Ages 5-11 + grownups love it too) Friendship, patience and persistence are among the lessons learned in this gem of a tale featuring an amazing monarch butterfly. This award-winning picture book adventure follows the monarch’s life cycle as Matilda embarks on a quest to make her dream of flying come true. Matilda emerges from her egg on a milkweed leaf, she stretches and yawns and wants to fly. Sparrow tells her to follow her dreams. Toad and Rabbit laugh at a creature without wings who wants to fly. You’ll be as amazed as Toad and Rabbit, as you follow Matilda from egg to imago.

Review Excerpt Blurb:

“Matilda crunched and munched and lunched, leaf after leaf, day after day.”

If you loved P.D. Eastman’s incomparable book, Are You My Mother, about a baby bird’s search for its mother, you must read this book. If Charlotte’s Web is one of your childhood favorites, I say, Move over Charlotte. Matilda is now here! ~Jacqui Murray, WordDreams 

DOWNLOAD a copy of AMAZING MATILDA by Bette A. Stevens ONLY 99¢/p April 21–April 25award-winning monarch butterfly picture book— at YOUR AMAZON

Free Reading Resources for Amazing Matilda

Meet the characters and download Bette’s  #FREE Character Puppets HERE.

Beyond the book

  • Find monarch butterfly resources at your finger tips:

Have fun and learn even more about Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ our amazing monarch butterflies by downloading Bette’s FREE PDF Click here: FUN & LEARNING with Monarch Butterflies where you’ll find:

  • Monarch Facts
  • Coloring Pages
  • Crafts
  • Gardening
  • Video: How to Make an Origami Butterfly
  • Butterfly Teacher Guide and so much more…
  • FIND OUT how you can help protect our Amazing Monarchs

 Find out more about Maine author/illustrator Bette A. Stevens and her books

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Tina Lost in a Crowd (Children’s Picture Book) by Miriam Hurdle – Book Release Tour


Welcome to DAY 2: “Tina Lost in a Crowd” by my author friend Miriam Hurdle 

Author Miriam Hurdle has just released her first children's picture book (Tina Lost in a Crowd)

 

The Making of Tina Lost in a Crowd, Part 2

The Story Behind the Story Tina Lost in a Crowd

The story of Tina Lost in a Crowd is partly based on fact. When my daughter Mercy was eight years old, my sister Yolanda, her husband Patrick, and their son Enoch, who was Mercy’s age, came from Hong Kong to visit us. We took them on tours in northern and southern California. One activity was going to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. I drove the five of us to Rowland Heights Regional Park, then we took the Park & Ride bus to the Hollywood Bowl.

The sky was dark with bright stars when the concert started. Mercy and Enoch swayed side to side when they listened to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and smiled at each other. During the intermission, Patrick left his seat to buy some popcorn. Mercy and Enoch wanted to use the restroom. Yolanda and I urged them to catch up with Patrick.

Later, when Patrick came back without them, I panicked. Imagine losing 8-year-old kids in a crowd of 18,000 people. How would I find them? Yolanda and Patrick stayed in their seats while I followed the descending steps between the sections of seats to where I thought they could had gone.

What happened next became one of my most favorite memories. This story is based on this unforgettable moment.

 

 

Blurb

Tina invited her friend Erica to attend a popular Tchaikovsky’s Spectacular concert on a summer evening with her parents. During the intermission, her dad left the seat to buy some snacks. Tina and Erica followed him wanting to use the restroom. The shoving crowd pushed them away, and they lost sight of him. It would be impossible to fight through the 18,000 people to find him or go back to Tina’s mom. What would the girls do?

This story tells about what happened to Tina and Erica after they got lost. Children can adapt to the learning from different situations they may observe or encounter. Adults could have discussions with the children about the situations to help them develop problem-solving skills.

BUY THE BOOK

Book Review

Whether shopping, vacationing or attending a crowded event, families with young children are sure to benefit from Hurdle’s picture book. The illustrations complement the story beautifully. When Tina and her friend Erica find themselves lost at a concert, these young girls know just what to do—stay where they are and wait for an adult to come find them. TINA LOST IN A CROWD is not only a story that young children will enjoy, it teaches safe practices and inspires them to be responsible. This book also provides a springboard for adults (parents/grandparents/teachers) to talk with the children about the book. They’ll be inspired to plan time together keeping a child’s interests in mind.  Whether planning for summer vacation, a family weekend away or trip to the market, Tina’s story will encourage parents to provide high-interest, quality time for their families.  –Bette A. Stevens, author of award-winning children’s book AMAZING MATILDA and other books for children and adults.

About the Author

Miriam Hurdle is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She published four children’s books at twenty-six years old. Her poetry collection received the Solo “Medalist Winner” for the New Apple Summer eBook Award and achieved bestseller status on Amazon.

Miriam writes poetry, short stories, memoir, and children’s books. She earned a Doctor of Education from the University of La Verne in California. After two years of rehabilitation counseling, fifteen years of public-school teaching and ten years in school district administration, she retired and enjoys life with her husband in southern California, and the visits to her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters in Oregon. When not writing, she engages in blogging, gardening, photography, and traveling.

Follow Miriam & find out more about her books

Thanks so much for stopping by to check out Miriam’s new picture book. I highly recommend Tina Lost in a Crowd for families with young children. ~ Bette A. Stevens

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🎄Happy Holidays — Three (3) books Only 99¢/p each through New Year’s Day!🎉


Wishing everyone “A Very Merry Christmas” and “A Happy & Healthy New Year!”  ~Bette A. Stevens, Maine author

🎄Celebrating the holidays🎉 and still looking for a special gift for a friend or family member?

Three of my eBooks are on sale for only 99¢ each through New Year’s Day 2021. I invite you to check them out at https://www.amazon.com/author/betteastevens

NOTE: You can also purchase any of these as paperbacks and download the eBook versions for FREE (Kindle Matchbook) anytime.

About the books

AGES 10–Adult/Novel & Short Story/Historical Fiction

DOG BONE SOUP

“Adventures and misadventures to the likes of Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry.” Frank Scozzari

  • Whether or not you grew up in the 1950s and 60s, you’ll find Dog Bone Soup (Historical Fiction) to be soup for the soul. Shawn and his brother Willie are in charge of handling everything that needs to be done around the ramshackle place they call home—lugging in water for cooking and cleaning, splitting and stacking firewood…But when chores are done, these resourceful kids strike out on boundless adventures that don’t cost a dime. Dog Bone Soup is the poignant tale of a dysfunctional family struggling to survive at a time when others were living The American Dream. This family drama and the emotional world of the characters are timeless and relatable. Dog Bone Soup (2017 Top Finalist KCT International Literary Award) 

PURE TRASH (Short story prequel to the novel Dog Bone Soup)

“A great book for young adults, parents, guardians, mentors, and educators to read. Strongly recommended!” Yoong 

AGES 4–11/ Parents/Grandparents/ Award-Winning Children’s Picture Book

“If you loved P.D. Eastman’s incomparable book, ‘Are You My Mother’ about a baby bird’s search for its mother, you must read this book.” Jacqui Murray

If you read to children, you’re sure to want a copy of AMAZING MATILDA, A Monarch’s Tale (Award-winning Picture Book/Purple Dragonfly Book Award & Gittle List 2013) by Maine author/illustrator on your bookshelf. Follow Matilda, a monarch butterfly (through metamorphosis) from the time she emerges from her egg on a milkweed leaf until she realizes her dream to fly. Challenges and adventure at every turn, this story teaches children that patience and hard work really do pay off.

Find all of Bette’s Books and take a “Look Inside” on YOUR AMAZON

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Magical Whispers by Balroop Singh—New Poetry Collection—#BookRelease #BlogTour


I’m delighted to host Balroop Singh—author, friend and poet—as she announces the release of her latest collection.  I started reading Magical Whispers last night… As I stroll through its pages, I’ll continue to reflect upon the beauty bound within each penning. Read more about the book and I think you’ll agree, this is a collection that you’ll want to add to your book shelf too! ~Bette A. Stevens https://www.4writersandreaders.com 

Book Blurb

I wait for whispers; they regale my muse. Whispers that can be heard by our heart, whispers that ride on the breeze to dispel darkness and ignite hope. I’m sure you would hear them through these poems if you read slowly.

‘Magical Whispers’ would transport you to an island of serenity; beseech you to tread softly on the velvety carpet of nature to feel the ethereal beauty around you. The jigsaw of life would melt and merge as you dive into the warmth of words.

In this book, my poems focus on whispers of Mother Nature, whispers that are subtle but speak louder than words and breathe a quiet message.

Each day reminds us
It’s the symphony of surroundings
That whisper life into us.

Book Information

Title: Magical Whispers

Author: Balroop Singh

Genre: Poetry

Available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08KJQ6K5D


US
UK DE FR ES IT NL JP BR CA MX AU IN

Excerpt

The Last Whisper

I could never plan my life
It just flitted by
Before I could figure it out.

I had just a few desires
Though they kept multiplying
You fulfilled them with a smile.

I have just one more
The last one, I promise
I hope you would consider that.

I want a little cabin in the woods
A tree house with four windows
And a solarium with royal recliners.

Don’t forget to add your bar
One corner could be enough
For the best crystal we bought.

If we have a bridge that swings
I could spend the rest of my days
Reclining in that heavenly bliss.

© Balroop Singh

Meet the Author

Balroop Singh, a former teacher and an educator always had a passion for writing.  She is a poet, a creative non-fiction writer, a relaxed blogger and a doting grandma. She writes about people, emotions and relationships. Her poetry highlights the fact that happiness is not a destination but a chasm to bury agony, anguish, grief, distress and move on! No sea of solitude is so deep that it can drown us. Sometimes aspirations are trampled upon, the boulders of exploitation and discrimination may block your path but those who tread on undeterred are always successful.

When turbulences hit, when shadows of life darken, when they come like unseen robbers, with muffled exterior, when they threaten to shatter your dreams, it is better to break free rather than get sucked by the vortex of emotions.

A self-published author, she is the poet of Sublime Shadows of Life and  Emerging From Shadows, both widely acclaimed poetry books. She has also written When Success Eludes, Emotional Truths Of Relationships Read FREE with Kindle Unlimited and Allow Yourself to be a Better Person.

Balroop Singh has always lived through her heart. She is a great nature lover; she loves to watch birds flying home. The sunsets allure her with their varied hues that they lend to the sky. She can spend endless hours listening to the rustling leaves and the sound of waterfalls. The moonlight streaming through her garden, the flowers, the meadows, the butterflies cast a spell on her. She lives in San Ramon, California.

Find & Follow the author

Thanks so much for stopping by to meet Balroop Singh and enjoy a peek inside her new book—Magical Whispers. Balroop and I would love to hear from you. May all your days be filled with magic! ~ Bette A. Stevens

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Liars and Thieves (Book 1 in new fantasy series) by D.W. Peach—#Blogtour Book Launch


If you love fantasy fiction and enjoy descriptive writing at its best, D.W. (Diana Wallace) Peach is an author you won’t want to miss… If you’re like me and fantasy is not an auto-go-to genre for you, this is the perfect time to give it a try!  Diana, it’s wonderful to have you here today to give us a peek into the first book of your new series—Liars and Thieves (Unraveling the Veil series).  Diana’s writing is superlative!

Liars and Thieves (Fantasy Fiction) by D.W. Peach

 

 

Blurb

Behind the Veil, the hordes gather, eager to savage the world. But Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, is untroubled by the shimmering wall that holds his beasts at bay. For if he cannot cleanse the land of life, the races will do it for him. All he needs is a spark to light the fire.

Three unlikely allies stand in his way.

A misfit elf plagued by failure—

When Elanalue Windthorn abandons her soldiers to hunt a goblin, she strays into forbidden territory.

A changeling who betrays his home—

Talin Raska is a talented liar, thief, and spy. He makes a fatal mistake—he falls for his mark.

A halfbreed goblin with deadly secrets—

Naj’ar is a loner with a talent he doesn’t understand and cannot control, one that threatens all he holds dear.

When the spark of Chaos ignites, miners go missing. But they won’t be the last to vanish. As the cycles of blame whirl through the Borderland, old animosities flare, accusations break bonds, and war looms.

Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands.

Q & A

Why are changelings vegetarians?

In this series, changelings have the ability to transform into animals. Talin, one of my main characters, explains at one point that spending time as an animal has given him a greater respect for them. He’s personally experienced their lives: the freedom, the danger, instincts, and emotion. Changelings don’t see themselves as masters over animals, but as part of the vast diversity of creatures. In his own words, “There are consequences to shifting over time. You’ll see. After a while, you start understanding the beauty of animals in a new way, how they have a right to their lives as much as we.”

Liars and Thieves Book Trailer

Liars and Thieves Global Purchase Linkhttp://a-fwd.com/asin=B08FGQ2W3Q

 

Author Bio

Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Find D.W. Peach and her books

Dear Readers,

Thanks so much for stopping by to meet Diana and check out her latest book. I invite you to visit her Amazon book page and stock  up on some fabulous fantasy fiction from an author who knows how to keep readers turning the pages!

Happy Reading!

Bette A. Stevens

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NEW BOOK IN SERIES (Prehistoric Fiction) Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray


I’m delighted to have author Jacqui Murray with us today as she launches her new book—Against All Odds, Book 3 of the Crossroads series. The trilogy takes readers on a journey into prehistoric times where survival is never guaranteed. Xhosa’s extraordinary prehistoric saga concludes in this thriller you won’t want to miss! ~ Bette 

Book Summary

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!

 

 

How did early man tell time?

Like today’s most primitive communities, early man didn’t care about hours or minutes. His metric was how much sunlight remained before he must find a safe place to sleep. Therefore, they indicated time in the future by pointing to a place in the sky where the sun would eventually reach. They might say, “Return by this point” and mean, “Return when Sun reaches this point in the sky.”

What are Others? And why capitalize it?

Others refers to all Homo species including Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and archaic Homo Sapiens. Capitalization indicates Xhosa’s respect for the individuals or their tribes. This is also true when animal species are capitalized such as Gazelle or Mammoth. If the characters refer to them in general terms, they aren’t capitalized.

Who are the “Hairy Ones” who Pan-do once shared a cave with?

These are Homo habilis, mostly extinct by this point in time. When you read Pan-do’s description of them, you’ll understand why.

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

Book information

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

About the Author

Jacqui Murray

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.

Find & Follow Jacqui Murray

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.

Wow! A great excerpt from Against All Odds, Book 3 of Jacqui Murray’s fascinating and well-researched “Crossroads trilogy.” I’ve recently finished Book 1,  Survival of the Fittest, and can’t wait to follow the rest of Xhosa’s extraordinary journey in Book 2 and Book 3. If you haven’t started the trilogy yet, I invite you to download the series. Here’s a blurb from my recent review of Survival of the Fittest—“As the first book in Jacqui Murray’s Crossroad trilogy, this believable story of the existential struggle of early humans for survival has me hooked! Highly recommended.”  ~Bette A. Stevens

[Explore Bette’s Blog]

Guest Author: Noelle Granger ~ The Last Pilgrim… A new book!


Check out The Last Pilgrim—historical fiction release from N.A. Granger. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genes and Granger is one of my favorite authors. Her Rhe Brewtser mystery series, set in Maine, is sure to keep you turning the pages. The Last Pilgrim is on my kindle and I look forward to a great story! Read all about Noelle and check out her books on Sue’s blog and grab a copy of her books today. You’ll be glad you did! ~Bette A. Stevens, https://www.4writersandreaders.com

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

The thin shoulders of the Pilgrim women bore much of the work to ensure the survival and growth of the early Plymouth colony. Despite the vital role these women played, historians and writers of historical fiction have largely ignored their contributions. The Last Pilgrim attempts to capture this.

Growing up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, I was steeped in Pilgrim history. Costumed in period clothing, I portrayed various girls and young women in the weekly reenactments of the Pilgrims’ progresses up Leyden Street. Under the direction of the indomitable Rose Briggs, I learned the goodwife arts of cooking on a hearth, making candles, and the washing, carding, spinning and dying of wool at the Harlow House. Then, after a year of studying for the role, I became one of the first tour guides at the re-creation of the early Pilgrim village at Plimoth Plantation.

I chose to focus on one woman, Mary…

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Celebrate EARTH DAY with a Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ Monarch Butterfly eBook—ONLY 99¢/p Limited Time (April 21-24)


Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ HAPPY EARTH DAY

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Monarch butterflies are a threatened species. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition requesting Endangered Species Act protection for the monarch and its habitat. Yet these butterflies, once a familiar sight, are plummeting toward extinction due to landscape-scale threats from pesticides, development and global climate change. That’s why the Center is working hard to win them protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

AMAZING MATILDA written and illustrated by Maine author Bette A. Stevens ONLY 99¢/p thru April 24:

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About the book

AMAZING MATILDA (Ages 5-11 + grownups love it too) Friendship, patience and persistence are among the lessons learned in this gem of a tale featuring an amazing monarch butterfly. This award-winning picture book adventure follows the monarch’s life cycle as Matilda embarks on a quest to make her dream of flying come true. Matilda emerges from her egg on a milkweed leaf, she stretches and yawns and wants to fly. Sparrow tells her to follow her dreams. Toad and Rabbit laugh at a creature without wings who wants to fly. You’ll be as amazed as Toad and Rabbit, as you follow Matilda from egg to imago.

Review Excerpt Blurb:

“Matilda crunched and munched and lunched, leaf after leaf, day after day.”

If you loved P.D. Eastman’s incomparable book, Are You My Mother, about a baby bird’s search for its mother, you must read this book. If Charlotte’s Web is one of your childhood favorites, I say, Move over Charlotte. Matilda is now here! ~Jacqui Murray, WordDreams 

DOWNLOAD a copy of AMAZING MATILDA by Bette A. Stevens ONLY 99¢/p April 21–April 24award-winning monarch butterfly picture book— at YOUR AMAZON

Free Reading Resources for Amazing Matilda

Meet the characters and download Bette’s  #FREE Character Puppets HERE.

Beyond the book

  • Find monarch butterfly resources at your finger tips:

Have fun and learn even more about Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ our amazing monarch butterflies by downloading Bette’s FREE PDF Click here: FUN & LEARNING with Monarch Butterflies where you’ll find:

  • Monarch Facts
  • Coloring Pages
  • Crafts
  • Gardening
  • Video: How to Make an Origami Butterfly
  • Butterfly Teacher Guide and so much more…
  • FIND OUT how you can help protect our Amazing Monarchs

 Find out more about Maine author/illustrator Bette A. Stevens and her books

[Explore Bette’s Blog]

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