A writer inspired by nature and human nature

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Aside

“Peace Comes Walking” a poem by Bette A. Stevens


“Wishing you Peace, Love, Joy and Hope as we embark on our New Year journey together…”

💞 Bette A. Stevens, Maine author

Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author

Peace Comes Walking POEM bas 2015

Wishing you love, joy and peace in the New Year and beyond. ~ Bette A. Stevens, Maine author/illustrator

[Bette’s Blog]

View original post

Aside

Christmas Eve Ponderings (poem) by Bette A. Stevens + Christmas Music


Wishing you a beautiful Christmas and a New Year filled with God’s richest blessings… 💞 ~Bette A. Stevens

Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author

Christmas Eve Ponderings

The last cookie baked, the final gift wrapped.

Christmas Eve is upon us…

It’s time to relax.

Christmas music is gently reminding us why

Lord Jesus, the Christ Child…

Came down from on high.

He came as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Lived among us on earth…

God’s gifts to bestow.

Loving God, loving others —Christ bought with his life

He epitomized love…

Not anger or strife.

God’s love is a precious gift we’re to share

Not with just those we know…

But with folks everywhere.

© Bette A. Stevens, Maine author

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David
a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
LUKE 2:11 (KJV) Bible


Christmas music in a 3 hours long playlist. Traditional Christmas songs & carols featuring piano, violin & orchestra – arranged and recorded by Peder B. Helland. Christmas songs in the mix:…

View original post 60 more words

Aside

Celebrating The Pine Tree State—Christmas Poem & Artwork by Local Mainers


In honor of the State of Maine’s Bicentennial (official birthday March 15, 2020), I’ll be posting articles about Maine history, events, people, and places that include poetry and photographs throughout 2020 and 2021. Wishing you a Very Merry Christmas and a New Year 2021 filled with the Peace, Love, Joy and Hope found in God’s greatest gift—the Christ Child. ~ Bette A. Stevens 

Isaiah 9: 6

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” 

Maine

NOTE CARD COVER: Artwork Created By 7-year-old Bentley Lang (2017)

Did you know?

  • The Pine Tree State‘s pristine lakes and ponds total 6,000 (Maine.gov).

Last December (2019) I received a phone call that made my day! A local resident had checked out my latest book—My Maine, Haiku through the Seasons, from our local library and called to tell me how much she enjoyed reading it. Now that’s a great way for an author to begin her day…but, the wonder didn’t end on that lovely note. In fact, it blossomed into an extended conversation with the caller, Irene White, a fellow nature lover and gardener. Irene lives on Great Moose Pond, just a few miles from our farmstead in Hartland, Maine.

“I loved your book so much that I wrote a poem, not a haiku, but a poem nevertheless. My Christmas poem was inspired by a sweet card created by a seven-year-old boy named Bentley Lane in 2017.  I enjoyed Bentley’s artwork so much that I purchased several cards from his mother’s craft table at the local Christmas fair in town.” ~Irene White

Silently we all say “thanks”

Poem by Irene White (2019)

It’s a frosty morning
and Christmas is in the air.
So put on your tall boots
and your warm wooly coat.
Hat and mittens too,
and grab the trusty saw.
Warm up the truck 
and head for the woods.
Up there be a stand,
it’s thick and green.
The tracks abound,
this way and that.
The rabbit hopped this way,
and the deer circled round.
But look over there,
the perfect tree.
Push forward, pull back,
again and again.
Until the final cut,
and she’s yours!
Now load it up
and head for home.
Shake off the snow
and bring her in.
All the kids shout, “Yeh”
and the dog gives a leap!
We get ready to string the lights,
and silently we all say, “Thanks.”

Discover how reading and writing poetry benefits everyone from kids to corporate executives at this link on Bette’s blog. Whether you’re a resident Mainer or from away, I invite you to come celebrate Maine. I would love to hear from you if you have a favorite tidbit (i.e. poem/photograph/very short story) to share with us about your love for the The Pine Tree State.

About Bette A. Stevens

Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of eight. Stevens lives in central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys reading, writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies (milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat). Stevens has written articles for ECHOES, The Northern Maine Journal of Rural Culture. Stevens’s books include The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!; Amazing Matilda, Children’s Picture Book (Ages 4-11) 2013 Purple Dragonfly Book Award and Gittle List; Pure Trash (MG/YA/Adult) Short Story; Dog Bone Soup (MG/YA/Adult) Coming of age Novel (2017 KCT International Literary Award Top Finalist 2017); and My Maine, Haiku through the Seasons (Poetry and Photography Collection) 2019.

[Explore Bette’s Blog]

Aside

Celebrate the Seasons through Poetry


Celebrating My Maine

Maine—The Way Life Should Be…

Find out more at  https://www.theodysseyonline.com/10-reasons-why-maine-the-way-life-should

Did you know?

Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, the state of New Hampshire to the west, the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine’s long rocky Atlantic Coast is known for its frigid waters and an ample fishery—most famed for the Maine lobster. Maine has 3,478 miles of coastline.

Nicknamed The Pine Tree State), Maine was initially a province of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In fact, it was decades after the American Revolution before Maine gained official statehood. The Eastern white pine tree helped fuel the region’s economy in an era when shipbuilding and lumbering reigned supreme. The economic value of those pines actually provided a spark for the American Revolution. Massachusetts didn’t want to lose any of those pine profits it gained after the war, while Mainers struggled for political and economic independence. Maine officially celebrated its Bicentennial on March 15, 2020. Due to the 2020 Pandemic, The Pine Tree State will continue to celebrate its bicentennial through 2021! 

“A nature-filled land that enlivens the senses and soothes the soul—to me, Maine is poetry.”
–Bette A. Stevens

The Power of Poetry

How Readers & Writers of All Ages Benefit from Poetry

  • Improves Verbal Skills & Memory
  • Enhances Cognitive Function
  • Develops Empathy & Insight
  • Encourages Creativity

Why Haiku…

Inspired by the beauty and bounty of my home state, I write poetry in many forms; but I chose haiku for My Maine to offer readers a collection of story poems and photo snapshots of the unique land I know and love.

I invite you to join me as I celebrate #Maine2020 by submitting one of your favorite photos taken in “The Pine Tree State” and writing a haiku too! I’ll be publishing submissions here on my blog throughout 2020. Simply email me at bettestevens@tds.net SUBJECT: “Maine Bicentennial Haiku.”

How to Write Haiku…

 

A Peek Inside the Collection

~Excerpts from Winter Tales~

Frozen polar winds
Wave the ice crystal scepter
Dawn’s magic appears

Silvery branches
Unveil the old, old folktale
A spellbound story

Pine cones and tassels
Mirrored in moonlight upon
White weighted branches

Chickadees dozing
Nestling, captive to pine boughs
Till dawn sets them free

Shovels and snow plows
Storm’s rook ravings unraveled
Till the next arrives

Soups, stews and chowders
Stories told round the table
Favored winter fare

Silently—Snowfalls
Reign over field and forest
Supremely sovereign

Winter white gemstones
Glistening across meadows
Perfect snowshoe day

About the Author

Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of eight. Stevens lives in central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys reading, writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies (milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat). Stevens has written articles for ECHOES, The Northern Maine Journal of Rural Culture. As of July 2019,  Stevens has self-published five books and has a second poetry collection on the drawing board. Find out more about the author and her books at https://www.amazon.com/author/betteastevens

“Happy reading and writing… May the bounty and beauty of each new season inspire you!” 

[Explore Bette’s Blog]

Aside

November Travelers (Haiku) by Bette A. Stevens + Thanksgiving Games & Activities for Families!


Wishing you a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving! 🍂 Bette A. Stevens…

Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author

November is a month when the last leaves of a glorious season in Maine are soon to be whisked away.  It’s also a month when families and friends gather to celebrate Thanksgiving across the USA. Whether you are planning to travel near or far, or maybe just to stay at home where it’s cozy and warm, I wish you all the Happiest of Holidays! ~Bette A. Stevens, Maine author

November Travelers

Haiku by Bette A. Stevens

November travelers

Await an autumn outing

Wind whisks them away

 

Kick back, relax and have fun with the kids this Thanksgiving. Click on the link below to download #free games and activities from KC Edventures for the whole family to enjoy together!

https://www.kcedventures.com/blog/27-free-thanksgiving-games-activities

[Explore Bette’s Blog]

View original post

A Week of Halloween Haikus


SPOOK-tacular haiku from my author friend Priscilla Bettis! 🎃 Happy Halloween…🧡 ~Bette A. Stevens 4writersandreaders.com

Priscilla Bettis, Author

Spooky image of pumpkin at night

I wrote a Halloween haiku every day for a week in anticipation of the haunty holiday.

7

autumn dewy web
silken silver labyrinth
tiny fangs tarry

6

fall weather welcomes
delicate chills like icy
fingers on your neck

5

October howling
winds strum bare willow branches
werewolves howling too

4

ruby hourglass
nestles moonlit poisonous pearls
a hundred eggs stir

3

dead, curled leaves crackle
feet shuffle in night’s dark veil
the wroth witch cackles

2

fog smothers the ground
dropped leaves rot and mold, their stench
like an open grave

1

bat wings whispering
tombstones tumble, a haint weeps
bodies rise and lurch

Have a happy Halloween!

This post was possible due to Bette Stevens’ tips and Anthony Renfro’s encouragement. Thanks, you two.:-)
Author and poet Bette’s blog: here.
Author and poet Anthony’s blog: here.

Feature image is by Andreas Dress on Unsplash.

View original post

Aside

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

[Explore Bette’s Blog]

Welcome to the #RRBC “ROCKIN’ 2020 AWAY” BOOK, BLOG & TRAILER Block Party! @BetteAStevens #Giveaways


 

Hi, and welcome to the Rave Reviews Book Club’s 2020 BOOK, BLOG & TRAILER BLOCK PARTY at Watch Nonnie Write! 

Here’s What I’m Giving Away Today



Leave a comment & YOU COULD BE A WINNER!

  • One (1) $10 Amazon Gift Card
  • One (1) e-book copy of 🌲 MY MAINE, Haiku through the Seasons 🌲by Bette A. Stevens

# of Winners for this stop:  2 



Even with a world-wide pandemic raging, the blessings of 2020 abound…

It’s a Girl!

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today. As a Maine writer and poet, I hope you enjoy taking a peek inside the state I know and love.  It’s a Girl! is a haiku poem about one of the many miracles—the bounty and beauty—that 2020 has brought to us at the farmstead this year. If you haven’t been to the U.S. state of Maine yet, I invite you to add a trip to The Pine Tree State to your wish list. No matter the date or the season, Maine’s miracles are sure to capture your heart and soul. In the meantime, I invite you to watch MY MAINE, Haiku through the Seasons book trailer later in this post to get a taste of what we Mainers are blessed with 365 days a year.  Maine, you’ll  see, is the way life should be!

As the new year began, I was sure it was going to be a year to remember—and it has proven to be just that.

My perspective has changed on so many things. Hubby Dan and I have been self-isolating since March 12. We order groceries online once a month then put on protective masks and gloves as we head out to pick packages up curbside in a town eight miles north. We only go out in public when we must—for things like medical appointments, and banking. This month we’ll pick up our absentee ballots at the town hall and return them in person to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election.

Here in Maine, our 37-acre farmstead has always been a haven. We grow and preserve a lot of our own food (vegetables and fruit), clean up fallen trees to use as supplemental heat in the wintertime, and spend a lot of time outdoors working, exploring and enjoying the beauty and bounty that the land has to offer.

 

Miracles abound… Discovering a fawn in the back field was just one of them.

Rolls (I’m making all my own breads and desserts these days) were baking in the oven when Dan burst through the back door and hollered, “Grab your camera and get out here!” He wouldn’t tell me what was up until we gingerly approached a stand of birches in the back field and he pointed down. There in the tall grass (which he had planned to mow that afternoon) lay a newborn fawn. She was beautiful. The moment I was back at the house, I discovered as much as I could about whitetail deer online. I read everything I could find and prepared to watch and wait for the little one to appear with her mom.

Did I say she? You bet!

I found out that the sex of a fawn can be discovered by the shape of the crown of its head. Round for girl, flat for boy. I expected her to be out and about with mama in early July and I walked the field and trails each day to discover as much as I could first hand. By early July, we discovered that she had a twin—they came out each day romping, stomping and entertaining us while mama cautiously watched them from a distance. It’s been a summer of laughter and fun with our two whitetails on the loose.  If it hadn’t been for self-isolating during the 2020 pandemic, I would have missed it all!

It’s been a great summer of discovery. Check out these  16 Things to Know about Whitetail Fawns https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/big-buck-zone/2013/05/fawn-facts/

 

CLICK Book Trailer  below TO TAKE A PEEK INSIDE...

 

Grab a copy of MY MAINE today! 

 

More of Bette’s Maine

Books by Bette A. Stevens, Maine authorThanks so much for stopping by to read about It’s a Girl and take a peek at MY MAINE, Haiku through the Seasons today! I would love to hear what you think. Your comment could make you one of today’s two Giveaway Winners!

~Bette A. Stevens

Aside

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

[Explore Bette’s Blog]

Aside

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]

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: