Tuesday, October 5, 2021

SONS OF THE SPHINX BY CHERYL CARPINELLO




SONS OF THE SPHINX
Author: Cheryl Carpinello
Publisher: Beyond Today Educator
Pages: 189
Genre: YA/Historical Fiction

A grandmother’s gift usually bring happiness. 

Rosa’s gift: a very different story. Hearing the dead alienated her from classmates. Not good for a 15-year-old.

Many times very insistent, the dead cared little for her surroundings. They even bothered her in class. Dates? Forget that.

Then one day, he shows up in her room. An old dead guy. A really old famous dead guy. In living human form!

Thrilling story of battling good and evil in an ancient world.

CHAPTER ONE

I don’t see dead people. I hear them. I talk to them. Boy, you should try that. Talk about people looking at you like you’ve got two heads. That will do it. I used to look in the mirror after talking to them to see what others saw. All I saw was me, Rosa, an ordinary fifteen-year-old girl. Well, not so ordinary. I do have my father’s emerald eyes, but no glowing auras, no ghosts on my shoulders, only my sun-streaked blond hair usually in need of a .

It would be one thing if I talked to famous dead people. You know, like that Elvis Presley guy my mother still drools over? I mean, really? The guy would be, like, ancient today! Anyway, if I talked to him, I could give my mom a personal message like, “Sorry we never got to hook up.” That would be worth a few extra bucks for allowance, don’t you think?

No, the dead people who talk to me are just dead nobodies. Nothing exciting to say. Nothing going down. They’re just hanging out, waiting for—I don’t know—to be more dead, I guess. Or to see how much trouble they can get me in.

Take today in math class. We’re taking this test, see. I’m concentrating real hard on this problem trying to figure height or something. Then I hear this:

“Hey you.”

I jerk up in my chair, searching for the guy doing the talking. I glance at the kids on either side of me. Nothing. I look up at the teacher. He’s glaring at me.

“Great,” I whisper. “He probably thinks I’m trying to cheat.” I bow my head and focus on the problem again.

“You, I’m talking to you.”

I shake my head in hopes of tossing out that voice. I know now. Some dumb dead guy wants to talk to me.

“Would you be quiet? I’m trying to take a math test.”

“Oh sure, that’s okay for you to say. I’ll never take another test again.” His voice breaks up like bad radio reception.

“Not my problem.”

“I died too soon, I really did.”

“Look, I haven’t talked to one yet who didn’t say that. Kind of goes with the dead part. Now leave me alone. You’re going to make me fail this test.”

I hear him snort like he has to blow his nose, if the dead can actually do that. Then comes the kicker.

“I just want another chance. I promise I’ll do better.”

“I’m going to say this one more time. Not my problem. Now leave me alone.” I form three exclamation points in my head so if he is reading my thoughts as well as listening, he will get the picture.

“But it isn’t fair,” he whines. “It just isn’t fair.”

Okay. I’m fed up with this guy. I can’t even remember the formula for the problem I’m trying to answer. I am definitely going to fail if he keeps on yapping. I try to ignore him and concentrate on remembering the stupid formula.

Not fair.”

My brain is fried, and I’ve had enough. I slam my pencil on my desk and stand up. “Bud, I don’t give a damn if it isn’t fair. Just shut the hell up so I can get this test done!”

Did you get the part where I “stand up and yell”? Yep, that earns me an F on the test AND a trip to the AP’s office. I can’t even defend myself. What am I going to say? “Excuse me, I’m sorry I blurted out loud in the middle of a test, and I’m sorry for cussing, but you see, this dead person wouldn’t shut up.” Yeah, that would go over well. Nope, I just sit with my head down, my face burning from embarrassment, and whisper, “It won’t happen again. Had to be the stress over the test.” You get the picture.

The rest of the day I endure the strange looks and whispers by shrugging and mumbling something like “Idiot dead people.” The kids will avoid me for the next few days. I think they’re afraid whatever I have will rub off on them, or that I’ve gone bananas or something. Understandable.

All this comes from my grandmother. When I was little, Nana lived with us, and it was like Halloween every night. She told the most amazing stories about spirits that visited her. Nana said I would inherit her gift, except it’s not a gift. It is definitely a curse. Because of it, I had the first and last sleepover at my house in the third grade when Nana decided to share one of her stories with my best friend Rachel and me. In the years since Nana passed away, I’ve been laughed at, shunned, and avoided, especially after an incident like today.

When my parents get home and hear what happened…Well I might be the one shouting “It’s not fair.”

So now I sit in my bedroom trying to work on a history project. You know, the kind where the teacher puts you in a group, and then no one in the group does anything? Yep, that’s my luck. This is due the day after tomorrow, and no one except me has done anything. I’ll probably fail if it’s not finished. My eyes wander around the room instead of focusing.

“Roosa.”

Without thinking, I blurt out, “It’s Rosa, not Roosa. And I told you to get lost. Now.” I jump to the door and slam it shut. Do the dead have no respect?

And just who is THIS guy? It’s not the same person who got me in trouble at school. That’s nice. Now I have an army of dead people invading my brain. Too bad they can’t do this project for me.

“Roosa.”

Who is this idiot?

“Listen. This is my room, my space. These are my things, and I refuse to share them with dead people!”

I jump on top of my bed; I’m just getting warmed up. It has been a stressful day.

“These are my favorite books on this bookcase. See, my marked up copy of The Once and Future King. Here is my Black Stallion series. And, here, my Grandpa’s National Geographic magazines where I first read about King Tut. All mine!”

I think I’m going nuts. Who rants and raves at the dead? Shaking with frustration, I jump down and sit at my desk. The stupid history project stares back at me. At least it’s on ancient Egypt. Something I’m interested in.

“Roosa.”

Will this guy never give up?

We’re supposed to chronicle the reigns of the 18th Dynasty and evaluate the successes/failures of each pharaoh. I chose King Tutankhamen. Mom took me to the Tut exhibit when it toured the US. Talk about magnificent! I still have my ticket stub pinned on the wall above my desk.

“Roosa.”

“I hear nothing.”

King Tut ruled Egypt at the age of nine over three thousand years ago. It wasn’t until 1922 that Howard Carter discovered his hidden burial site.

Next to the Tut ticket is my favorite picture of Ankhesenamun and Tut. You know the one: it’s on the back of the Golden Throne. He’s sitting in the throne; she’s standing facing him, one arm outstretched, touching him. I’m not a romantic—well, maybe a little. The point is, in that picture, the love they feel for each other is so obvious. I’m going to use it for the presentation. It’s the one item that shows them as real people, not just a part of history.

I like looking at that picture. Sometimes I even imagine myself as Ankhesenamun. I know, I have no life. You try being in tenth grade and living with a curse. See how many boyfriends you have.

Sometimes I think they are discussing their future. You know, how many children they’ll have, and how they’ll raise them. Maybe they talk about what’s happening in Egypt, and she shows her support with a simple touch on his arm. They could also be talking about where they’ll be buried. They did that, you know. Had their burial chambers ready years before their deaths.

On days like today when I’m feeling depressed—the curse will do that to me—it could be Ankhesenamun is saying goodbye to Tut as he dies. She assures him they will meet in the afterlife. What would it be like to wander the earth looking for my husband’s spirit or ba? Does Tut look for hers?

“I do, Roosa.”

I turn around and scream.

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Monday, September 20, 2021

Read a Chapter: Death Rules the Night, by Rosemary and Larry Mild



About DEATH RULES THE NIGHT:
 

In Death Rules the Night, the fourth Dan and Rivka Sherman mystery, Rosemary and Larry Mild deliver a smart, suspenseful tale that will keep readers spellbound.

 

About Death Rules the Night: Reluctant sleuths Dan and Rivka yearn for a tranquil life as owners of The Olde Victorian Bookstore in Annapolis, Maryland. When copies of a tell-all book on the prominent Atkins family go missing from the bookstore, from all the local libraries, and even from the author’s bookshelves, Dan wants to know why. But the price of “why” brings threats, stalking, break-ins—and a brutal murder. He and Rivka fear for their lives.

 

The Atkins family secrets are weaving a sinister web. Tom Dwyer, a retired truck driver, is ready to confess to a crime that he and Frank Mulhaney, another driver, committed twenty years ago. Frank plots revenge on Tom. Bookstore clerk Ivy hears ugly gossip aimed at derailing her wedding. Will the family secrets finally see the light of day? And will the killer ever be caught?

 

Death Rules the Night is a tightly woven, cleverly plotted tale with an irresistible cast of characters—including Lord Byron, the wily bookstore cat who springs his own surprise.

 


About the Authors:


ROSEMARY AND LARRY MILD, cheerful partners in crime, coauthor mystery, suspense, and fantasy fiction.  Rosemary and Larry have published award-winning novels, short stories, and essays. They co-authored the popular Paco and Molly Mystery Series; Hawaii adventure/thrillers Cry Ohana and Honolulu Heat; and three volumes of short stories, many of which appear in anthologies. After forty-plus years in Maryland, the Milds currently make their home in Honolulu, where they cherish time with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. 

 

ROSEMARY, a graduate of Smith College and former assistant editor of Harper’s, also delves into her own nonfiction life. She published two memoirs: Love! Laugh! Panic! Life With My Mother and the acclaimed Miriam’s World—and Mine, for the beloved daughter they lost in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. On her lighter side, Rosemary also writes award-winning humorous essays, such as failing the test to get on Jeopardy; and working for a giant free-spending corporation on a sudden budget: “No new pencil unless you turn in the old stub.”  


LARRY, who was only called Lawrence when he’d done something wrong, graduated from American University in Information Systems Management. In 2019 he published his autobiography, No Place To Be But Here: My Life and Times, which traces his thirty-eight-year professional engineering career from its beginning as an electronics technician in the U.S. Navy, to a field engineer riding Navy ships, to a digital systems/instrument designer for major Government contractors in the signal analysis field, to where he rose to the most senior level of principal engineer when he retired in 1993.


Making use of his past creativity and problem-solving abilities, Larry naturally drifted into the realm of mystery writing, where he also claims to be more devious than his partner in crime and best love, Rosemary. So he conjures up their plots and writes the first drafts, leaving Rosemary to breathe life into their characters and sizzle into their scenes. A perfect marriage of their talents.


THE MILDS are active members of Sisters in Crime where Larry is a Mister in Crime; Mystery Writers of America; and Hawaii Fiction Writers. In 2013 they waved goodbye to Severna Park, Maryland and moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where they cherish quality time with their daughters and grandchildren. When Honolulu hosted Left Coast Crime in 2017, Rosemary and Larry were the program co-chairs for “Honolulu Havoc.”


Over a dozen worldwide trips to Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Great Britain, France, Italy, Israel, Egypt, and more have wormed their way into their amazing stories. In their limited spare time, they are active members of the Honolulu Jewish Film Festival committee, where Larry is the statistician and recordkeeper for their film ratings.  


Connect with the authors on the web:

https://www.magicile.com

https://www.facebook.com/rosemary.mild.1

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosemary-mild-930



Brother and Sister

 from Death Rules the Night by Rosemary and Larry Mild


Cora drove her bright green Mercedes SL Class convertible up to the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel entrance and turned the car over to a young, good-looking valet parker, who tried unsuccessfully to flirt with her. Inside the lobby, she ignored the reception desk and headed straight for the elevator. Dressed in a navy business suit, she made her way directly to room 233. She knocked rapidly four times and waited.

“Who’s there?” a deep male voice answered. 

“Your sister.” 

Muddy opened the door and blinked twice. “What the hell are you doing here?” 

“That’s no way to greet your sister. Aren’t you going to invite me in?” 

“Sister schmister. What the hell are you up to? You’re not one to make social calls, especially not to me. Out with it, woman. You must want something from me.” 

“Of course not, dear brother. It’s just that I hadn’t heard from you in several days, and I wanted to thank you for handling the movers at the old house. It sure made our lives a lot easier on moving day. At first, I wondered why you volunteered, but then I realized that you were just being nice.” 

“Meaning you thought I was acting out of character?” he asked. His sarcastic tone was not missed. 

“Don’t get me wrong, Muddy. Motive aside, you were appreciated. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to come in and sit down.” 

“Of course, my manners seem to be malfunctioning today.” His hand swept through a healthy arc, showing her the way in. 

Cora took a seat in front of the wide glass sliding doors. The expanse revealed a view of the Annapolis City Dock and its famous Ego Alley, a tiny harbor inlet where boat owners paraded their floating prides and joys during the summer season. Muddy sat down on the bed opposite her and tried to analyze her real reason for coming. 

“Yeah, I was just being nice.” He sounded as though even he wasn’t convinced of his own generosity. Her gratitude didn’t sound right to him. She hasn’t any idea that I really needed time in the empty house to seal off the secret room from the new owners. 

“Muddy, I know you were opposed to Rae selling the house, but Daddy left it to her, and she should be free to do with it as she pleases. I believe she sold it for money to support her writing career.” 

“Rae should’ve asked each of us whether we wanted to buy it beforehand,” he complained. “She never asked me. That’s why I’m so pissed at her.” The old buzzard could have left something for his only son. The house would have been nice—even a partnership, so I could have blocked any sale. 

“I didn’t know you wanted to buy the house,” said Cora. “Were you able to save that much dough serving in the Merchant Marines all this time?” The Merchant Marines pays well, but not that well, she thought. 

“No, but one of you sisters might have wanted to keep it—maybe turn it into a bed and breakfast or something.” He admitted to himself, No way I could have saved that much, even if I’d behaved and avoided spending the lion’s share on whisky, waste, and whores. 

“I have no interest in that sort of thing,” said Cora, “and Gloria certainly couldn’t handle a project like that. No, Rae did the right thing in selling it. There are far too many rooms to clean and take care of without maintaining an expensive household staff.” 

“But our house has been in the family since colonial times,” Muddy protested, “and I don’t want to see strangers living in it.” Ordinarily, I wouldn’t give a crap. 

“I didn’t know you felt that way,” she said. “You’ve never taken any interest in the family history before.” The sonofabitch is lying. What’s his motive? 

“There’re a lot of things you don’t know about me,” declared Muddy. 

“I’m sure there are, but one thing is nagging at me.” 

“What’s that?” 

“Why are you so suddenly interested in Daddy’s book?” 

“Who says I am?” 

“It’s kind of obvious. I hear you’ve been following Dan Sherman, that bookseller, all over the place ever since he borrowed Daddy’s manuscript from Rae.” 

“Damn it. You’ve been talking to that Sherman guy, haven’t you?” 

“Maybe,” she admitted. “But why are you following him around otherwise?” 

“That’s my business—and you’d better stay out of it if you know what’s good for you.” He hadn’t meant to voice an ugly threat; it just spilled out. 

“What are you trying to hide, little brother?” Now I’ve got him, she thought. 

“That also is my business, not yours.” The bitch is getting too close. 

“I’ll bet dollars to donuts it has something to do with the house. Doesn’t it, Muddy dear?” 

“You’re all wrong, Cora. You couldn’t be more wrong.” Too damn close. 

“Ah! Perhaps you protest way too much, little brother.” 

“Now you’re getting much too obnoxious, I think you ought to leave.” 

“Why, Muddy? Am I getting too close to the truth?” 

“You wouldn’t know the truth if you stepped in it. Now get the hell out of here before I throw you out.” 

Cora stood and walked toward the door. As she passed him, he reached out and pinched her hard on the rump. It was his way of curbing his frustration—a way of having the last word. She spun around and slapped him—a stinging blow across the face in one swinging action. Stunned for only a few seconds, he returned an even stronger slap. She ran out the door in tears, the left side of her face wearing a red mark half the size of his hand. It smarted now, but later, it would turn sore, black and blue. She had failed to get Muddy to admit to anything, but she thought she knew what he might be hiding.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

WORDS KILL BY DAVID MYLES ROBINSON

 


Title: WORDS KILL

Author: David Myles Robinson
Publisher: Terra Nova Books
Pages: 250
Genre: Thriller / Suspense

Famed reporter Russell Blaze is dead. It appears to be an accident, but after Russ’s funeral, his son, Cody, finds a letter in which his father explains that the death may have been murder. It directs Cody to Russ’s unfinished memoir for clues as to what may have happened. The opening words are: On the night of October 16, 1968, I uttered a sentence that would haunt me for the rest of my life. The sentence was, “Someone should kill that motherfucker.”

As Cody delves into the memoir, a window opens into a tragic past and thrusts the still-burning embers of another time’s radical violence into the political reality of the present. History that once seemed far away becomes a deeply personal immersion for Cody into the storied heyday of the Haight: drugs, sex, war protesters, right-wing militias, ground-breaking journalism—and the mysterious Gloria, who wanders into his father’s pad one day to just “crash here for a while until things calm down.”

Cody discovers aspects of his father’s life he never knew, and slowly begins to understand the significance of those words his father spoke in 1968.

Words Kill is a story of loss, violence, and racism; love, hate, and discovery. It is a story of then … and now.

CHAPTER ONE

As Russell Blaze emerged from the public parking garage on Montgomery, the famous San Francisco fog enveloped him and sent a chill through his body. He pulled his brown houndstooth sport coat around his chest, crossed his arms, and stuck his hands in his armpits. Despite the biting, wet cold, Russ smiled to himself. It was his first time in the city since the great pandemic of 2020, and it was good to see people out on the streets again.

As he turned onto Columbus, the wind coming off the bay hit him. He lowered his head and strode forward. He didn’t have far to go. He was meeting his son, Cody, at the historic Tadich Grill, which Russ was pleased to see had survived the shutdowns. He looked up and saw the sign not far ahead. Then his attention was drawn to a striking woman who was walking toward him. Her stride seemed purposeful as her high heels clicked on the pavement. She looked to be around Russ’s age, seventyish, and wore a gray wool pantsuit with a white blouse. Her gray hair was cut short. As they passed, Russ studied her face. Her green eyes darted his way for a brief moment, and Russ imagined some past familiarity. Was she someone he knew? Someone he should have acknowledged? She hadn’t seemed to recognize him.

Russ saw Cody standing at the entrance to the restaurant and put the woman out of his mind. Cody, in his early thirties, stood a little over six feet tall, about two inches taller than Russ. He had inherited his father’s rugged good looks but wore his hair short while Russ had spent his life sporting long hair, one of his enduring holdovers from his hippie days in the Haight Ashbury. A moment later, father and son hugged before they entered the restaurant.

They were seated in a dark wood-paneled booth. Russ ordered a vodka martini. Cody ordered a Coke. He was on his lunch break and was due in federal court in a few hours.

Cody watched his father studying the menu and smiled. “Why are you even looking at the menu?” he asked. “We both know you’re going to have the Cioppino and a glass of Pinot Grigio.”

Russ looked up and grinned. “Oh, we know that, do we? Mister smarty pants lawyer.” The grin disappeared as fast as it had appeared as he looked back down at the menu. Cody said nothing but continued to watch his father stare at a menu he knew by heart. Russ had aged well, Cody thought, although his chiseled face was well-lined and his brown eyes, usually intense and piercing, would sometimes drift into a faraway look.

After a moment, Cody was struck by the thought that Russ wasn’t really looking at the menu at all. He was thinking about something else. That, in and of itself, wasn’t surprising. Although Russ had been an exemplary father, never missing a soccer game or a debate club tournament or any of the myriad events parents were expected to attend, Cody had noticed from a young age that Russ would sometimes space out as if his internal attention became focused on something else. It would start with that faraway look, and at times Cody thought he saw a kind of sadness in Russ’s expression. But it was always fleeting, and more often than not, Cody assumed he’d imagined it.

Russ must have felt his son watching him; he looked up again, smiled, and put the menu down. A moment later, as an ancient waiter asked to take their order, Russ said he’d like the Cioppino and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

When the waiter left, Cody asked, “Something on your mind, Dad? You seem distracted.”

Russ gave a small shake of his head. “No, not really. Just before I arrived, I passed a woman on the street I thought I recognized, but I can’t reel it in. It bugs me when that happens.”

“Give yourself a break,” Cody said. “You’ve interviewed thousands of people in your career. You can’t expect to remember every one of them.”

Russ shrugged and drank the last of his martini. “Especially at my advanced age,” he said. “Tell me what’s happening in your world. Anything new?”

Cody smiled. “I thought you’d never ask. I’m in the process of settling a major discrimination case.”

“Nice. Can you tell me about it?”

“Not too much. I’m sure the defendant will insist on a confidentiality clause.” Cody paused and took a sip of his Coke. “Let’s just say it’s a big tech firm that allowed and, at times, even nurtured an environment of sexual harassment.” Cody paused again and then let out a small snort of a laugh. “With a dash of racism. We got our hands on a bunch of internal emails. One of my favorites was from the CFO that referred to a Black woman in accounting. The email said he’d like to get some of that ‘brown sugar,’ ” Cody said, making air quotes.

“Oh, my.”

“That’s what we said. Anyway, I’ve been lead counsel on it and have worked my ass off, so it’s very rewarding.” He grinned again. “Not to mention it will be a big payday.”

The two men were silent while the waiter served their food and poured Russ’s wine. When he left, Russ raised his glass in a toast. “I’m proud of you, Son.”

What Russ didn’t say was how bittersweet it made him feel that Cody had become a civil rights attorney. That was a story he’d save for another day.

But Cody never saw his father again.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

TUTANKHAMEN SPEAKS BY CHERYL CARPINELLO


TUTANKHAMEN SPEAKS
Author: Cheryl Carpinello
Publisher: Beyond Today Educator
Pages: 81
Genre: YA/Historical Fiction

From over 3000 years ago comes the voice of the Boy King.

Scrolls found buried in the basement of the Egyptian Museum. Transcribed in an ancient hand. Record the words of King Tut for all to read.

Tutankhamen answers all of the lingering questions, including the big one.

Discover the real story behind this famous pharaoh. Transport yourself back to an Ancient Egypt filled with mystery, magic, and danger!


CHAPTER ONE


Dear _________,

          Long ago the old texts of ancient Egypt alluded to a scroll in which King Tut spoke to the people from beyond the tomb. Many archeologists put this down to an incorrect translation of the ancient Egyptian texts. Others swore to accuracy of the translation. None of that mattered because the scroll in question could not be found. Scholars labeled it a hoax, something that never existed. It was ludicrous to imagine someone speaking from the grave. They were wrong on both accounts.

While helping to clean out a basement room in the Cairo Museum after the Arab Spring, I found an old scroll wrapped in linen and stuffed in a box. Upon further examination of said scroll, I decided to translate it myself, being, as you know, an expert in Egyptian hieroglyphs and scripts. What I found convinced me that this was the missing scroll of Tutankhamen’s voice from the grave.

The condition of the text varies from well-preserved to hardly able to read. In several instances, large chunks of the text were totally eroded away. Some entries had only a beginning sentence or two while others had no ending. It was the details given that convinced me that King Tutankhamen did indeed speak from beyond the tomb, from the Land of Everlasting Life. But I will leave you to decide for yourself. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. If you agree with me, I urge you to publish what I have sent so that the world can see this important time-altering work.

Yours Sincerely,

S.L. Wood

Author/Editor’s Note:

Several years ago I met the Egyptian scholar S.L. Wood at a lecture on the state of Egyptian antiquities in the 21st century. We talked over dinner about our fascination with and love of ancient Egypt. Over the intervening years, I received emails apprising me of items of significance he had come across. You see, Wood spent his hours in museum basements, not in the field. “Treasures,” he told me, “are hidden deep in the basements of museums around the world.”

One day a package arrived from him. His accompanying letter (part of which you’ve already read) explained what he had sent. Blown away by what I read, I’ve followed his wishes and published his find for the world to read and marvel about.

I’ve edited Wood’s translation of Tutankhamen’s words into chapters, giving the translation more of a story format. This was done entirely for readers’ enjoyment. I also chose to use ‘aten’ to show the time of the Aten worship, and ‘amen’ of ‘amun’ to show Tut and Ankhesenpaaten’s return to Amun’s worship.]

As Wood stated in his letter, pages of text were either missing or damaged. In instances where what remained ignited my interest, I have included those.

Here’s hoping you will enjoy this rare peek into the life of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh King Tut!

Tutankhamen Speaks

(Stories from My Life)

Father and Me

Do you have favorite memories from your childhood that you can’t bear to let go, that immediately transport you back to that time and place you will remember forever and ever? I have two that happened on the same day.

I was six years old and barefoot in the middle of winter. This I remember because the sand and stones did not burn blisters on my feet. My hands could touch the granite blocks in the square without recoiling like a snake does when its rest is disturbed in the heat.

That morning I remember waking up to a shrill noise echoing off the walls in my chamber and down the halls.

My half sister Ankhesenpaaten came running into my bedroom.

“Tutankhaten, Tutankhaten, you must get up!”

“What is that noise?” I asked, struggling to put on my tunic as she entered.

“It is an elephant! One the generals brought it this morning as a gift for Father.”

“An elephant? Wherever did he find one?”

“I don’t know. Come quickly, or we shall miss it!” she shouted back as she ran out of the room.

I followed her down the hallway, the sound building as we got the closer to our father’s receiving room. Rushing into the arched entrance lined with pictographs of the Aten, my father’s god, our bodies froze, our eyes not believing what we beheld.

In front of our father stood the biggest animal we had ever seen.

“Tutankhaten, do you see it? Do you believe such a magnificent creature is here, in our palace?” Ankhesenpaaten was breathless after the rush down the hallway, but it didn’t stop her from running on about the elephant.

And it was magnificent!

It stood there, its smooth gray skin dripping sweat. The enormous legs and feet shifted nonstop in agitation. Ears as big as me flapped nervously as its head, too small in proportion to the body, swung back and forth, its tiny eyes seeking a way out. At the front of the head was its long trunk framed by the biggest horns I had ever seen.

Suddenly, the trunk arched and stretched. The noise that had wakened me now blasted out of that trunk and threatened to deafen all in the room, including Ankhesenpaaten and me.

Our father stood and motioned at the door. He was also saying something, but no one could hear a word.

A man appeared from the other side of the animal. He was dressed in the desert white gown worn by those who made the plains of sand their home. He touched the gray beast on the left side. The animal ceased that horrible noise, turned around, and followed the man out the door. That was when I saw the tail. What a funny addition to such a large animal! The tail was puny, short, and sickly looking. If the head of this animal was too small for the enormous body, then the tail was woefully out of place. It was too short to be of any use flicking away flies and gnats and couldn’t even reach halfway up the body.

I looked questioningly at my father. Noticing me, he nodded his head in the direction the creature had gone. Then he did a strange thing. He held out his hand to me.

I can’t remember another time that he’d ever exhibited such affection toward me. Usually he reserved that for my half-sisters. Ankhesenpaaten squeezed my arm and gave me a push in Father’s direction.

A grin spread across my entire face. I might have even skipped to him. I know my heart was skipping.

Placing my tiny hand in his, his strong but delicate fingers wrapped around mine. A smile even touched his lips as he gently tugged on my arm.

Hand-in-hand we walked out of the palace and into the pleasant Egyptian winter sunlight in full view of all his subjects, who had also heard the deafening noise and had gathered to view the strange animal. Ankhesenpaaten followed at Father’s heels, not attempting to hide the smile on her face.

This day was the day that my father the Pharaoh Akhenaten acknowledged me as his rightful heir to the throne of Egypt. Me, Tutankhaten. However, this is not the main reason I remember this day.

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Monday, August 16, 2021

BANDITS OF BASSWOOD BY E.P. BELLOWS





BANDITS OF BASSWOOD
Author: E.P. Bellows
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 195
Genre: Children's Fantasy

John William Drake was born an explorer; just like many, many Drakes before him. His adventure really began with the discovery of a book hidden in the ceiling, followed by the mysterious disappearance of his father. He lived every day in misery until his twelfth birthday. A new friend gave him an invitation he could not turn down… follow me and change your destiny.

He never imagined being captured by bandits and taken to a ship riddled with river rats was part of his fate. Not just any bandits – the Bandits of Basswood; known to be a ruthless and wild crew of thieves. Trying to escape would be a ridiculous idea. No one has ever escaped and lived to tell about it. Uncovering traces of his missing father gave him hope and upped the stakes. John William was determined to get off the ship alive and search for the missing pieces of the puzzle. The chase out of Basswood was on. He took a chance to change his destiny and ended up on a wild ride to solve the most important mystery of his life.

CHAPTER ONE

THE UNNAMED GUARDIAN

The sun dimmed to a subtle orange glow as it drifted below the tree line, marking the near end to another day in Copious Forest. Within those trees, the Guardian of Copia weaved cautiously between the dense branches. One snap of a twig would bring unwanted attention. He was carrying something so precious, if lost, the unimaginable would inevitably follow.

He pulled his sweat-drenched cap off his head. The breeze cooled his dirt crusted reddish brown curls. The shadows cast from the trees stood as giants looming over him. Shadows and darkness usually lead to visitors.

The Guardian moved swiftly to find an opening where the sun still crept intricate carvings out by its leather strap. “You will be safe with me for the rest of my years.” He rubbed his fingers along the surface.

The forest fell silent. “Who’s there?” The guardian shoved his hat on his head. He peered into the shadows. The surrounding trees rattled. A chill shot up the guardian’s spine. Snap! Twigs and other bits of forest crunched.

“Show yourself!” The branches on every tree rumbled and the echo of vicious snarling closed in on him. He lightly stepped over to the darkness through the trees around him. Trembling, he raised his arm to the branch in front of him and shifted it over.

As he peeked through the gap, hundreds of squinty green, glowing eyes stared back. Time came to an abrupt halt. He tried to scream but no words came out. His feet were anchored to the ground as they slithered closer, and closer. “Shadow jumpers!”

Before he could make a move, the beasts pounced. Razor-sharp claws and teeth engulfed his body, pulling him to the ground. He wrestled and kicked as claws tore through his clothes.

The medallion was yanked from his grip. “No!” the guardian roared. The strap of the medallion yanked his wrist to and fro as it unraveled. “Get off me, you pests!” He grunted. With his last bit of strength he grabbed hold of the shadow jumper wrestling the medallion away and threw him into a tree trunk.

That only enraged the beasts who pounced with even more ferocity. The guardian’s head bounced off the ground.

A sliver of moonlight pierced the trees creating a faint beam of light on the forest floor. The guardian strained and stretched his arm as far as it would go. The beam’s reflection bounced off the very tip of the medallion. The shadow jumpers hissed and pulled away.

Seizing his opportunity, he leaped to his feet. Claws ripped at his back as he darted through trees. The guardian burst through a thicket of branches into a small, sparse pocket where the moonlight shined through, unobstructed by tall trees. The vicious beasts squealed, and within seconds, disappeared back into the shadows.

Breathless and battered, the guardian collapsed to his knees.

“Well, this is a fine mess.” He pulled at the remains of his blood-soaked shirt.

The medallion still dangled from his wrist. “Some guardian I’ve turned out to be.” He untangled the strap and slipped the medallion into his pocket.

he trees in front of him rustled. “Oh, not again…”

A pudgy green creature with long, gangly limbs and bulgy eyes stumbled into view. “There you are! What kept you? How much time do you think I have to twiddle my fingers around waiting for you?” The frog-like creature tapped his foot with fisted hands on his hips.

“Oh, am I late? Sorry about that, Ferdinand.” The guardian groaned and struggled to his feet.
“What happened?” Ferdinand’s eyes bulged even more.

“Oh… this?” The guardian held out his arm, revealing his wounds. Bloody claw marks covered the symbol on his arm.

Ferdinand grabbed his arm and held it close to his eyeballs. “Your guardian symbol – I can’t even make out the feathered wings under all of your blood. Clearly you tangled with something in a nasty disposition.” Ferdinand squinted suspiciously.

“I can’t get anything past you. Yep, that bush I fell into was terribly angry with me. It chewed me up and spit me out… so to speak.” The guardian slid his torn sleeve over his cuts. “I suppose my guardian wings have been clipped. It is time to go home and nurse my wounds, wouldn’t you say?” Telling Ferdinand about his encounter with the shadow jumpers would only cause him to panic.

Ferdinand huffed. “Well, since you are late and have kept me waiting, I’d say the hour has come and gone. Now follow me; let’s get this over with.” He followed Ferdinand to the thick base of a beautiful tree dripping with emerald leaves. Specks of twinkling light popped off the trunk until a portion of it dissolved into a hole large enough to hop through. “This is it.” He shielded his eyes from the intense light bursting through the trunk. Ferdinand lunged into the hole and disappeared.

The guardian clutched the medallion sitting securely in his pocket. “If this works, Copia will be safe forever.” He took a deep breath and backed up to get a running start. At full speed, he dove headfirst through the hole. The light embraced him as he traveled through before shooting him out the other side. He took a tumble into Fern Forest and lay on his back. The night sky was a glorious sight. He gazed at the stars hovering over the tree tops. There were no beasts to hide from, the burden was lifted. He finally had nothing to fear.

“Until next time, my friend!” Ferdinand shouted.

The guardian gave him a hearty wave and watched him leap back through the tree. In seconds, the trunk closed up and all that remained were a few lingering specks of light.

“It is so good to be home.” A broad smile spread across the guardian’s face. He stretched his body across the forest floor, absorbing the familiar smells. “Oops, I almost forgot…,” he chuckled and shoved his hand into his pocket. “Wait a minute…” his fingers scraped the seams. He yanked the pocket inside out… then the other pocket. All that remained in both pockets was clumps of dirt and a few tiny lint balls – but no medallion.

“It’s gone – how could it just – just disappear?” He scoured the ground for hours with no luck. “What was I thinking… trying to take something sacred out of the realm? Azra’s Pith is done for.”

Images of the shadow jumpers discovering the medallion sitting in plain sight at the passageway ran through his head. “They will unlock the lost city and destroy the realm. I must get back to Azra’s Pith.” The guardian pounded his fists against the broad trunk.

“Ferdinand – please, come back!” There was no response; he was alone and back at home. He would have to wait for a special key to appear to return to Azra’s Pith. That could take weeks – or even years.
The glow of a lantern shined though the trees in the distance. “Who’s out there?”

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Monday, August 2, 2021

MY FEATS IN THESE SHOES BY RONDA BEAMAN



MY FEATS IN THESE SHOES
Author: Ronda Beaman

Publisher: Adelaide Books
Pages
: 190
Genre: Memoir/Inspiration/SelfHelp

BOOK BLURB:

If memoirs, done right, tap the right sort of personal journey to ignite fresh insight and inspiration into the human journey, then what better way to humorously and poignantly illuminate the sequential steps and stages of life than with shoes?

“My Feats in These Shoes” is an exuberantly spunky woman’s spirited and irrepressible romp—slips, missteps, leaps, scuffs, and twirls—toward becoming something bigger, something better, something more.

Far from serving up trauma porn (or emotional bunions), this memoir is an upbeat, humorous, affectionate and affecting coming of age memoir that ends each chapter with a ‘Put Yourself in My Shoes’ section for readers to consider their own strides in pursuing an out of the shoe box life.

CHAPTER ONE

Baby Needs New Shoes

It isn’t the mountain to climb that wears you out, it’s the pebble in your shoes.

—Muhammad Ali

My dad’s favorite books, Mein Kampf, Think and Grow Rich, and How to Win Friends and Influence People are book-ended by my bronzed baby shoes.

The shoes have deep copper colored wrinkles and folds, they cave in slightly at the arch, and one is missing a shoelace. My report cards aren’t bronzed, neither are my pacifiers, baby blankets, rattles, or bottles. My graduation shoes or wedding shoes are not plastered for posterity, only my baby shoes.

No other personal artifact, it seems, is significant enough to be preserved for all time as what I had on my feet when taking my first steps into the world. I chose to believe my bronzed baby shoes are a tiny monument to potential and promise. Over- come by this notion, I once made the mistake of asking my dad who it was that had my shoes bronzed and he said, “Why would I know? What a waste of money…and copper.”

Seeing my bronzed shoes on my parents’ shelf as a young girl made me feel I might be destined for something momentous, despite my dad’s snide comments or unsettling reading material. Looking at them made me feel a little famous; like, ‘Why would my shoes be preserved for all time if I wasn’t special? To someone?’

I considered the possible benefactors and did a mental lineup of possible characters who might have cared enough, or loved me enough to save the shoes, schlep them to the bronzing place, and ensure they were preserved for all time. The whole process took some effort—and as my dad had grumped—someone spent the cash. Both of which were in short supply when I was born.

My maternal grandmother, Echo Rose, stood 5’4” barefoot, was substantially redheaded with bright blue eyes, a DD chest, and the predictable man trouble that often accompanies those measurements. A photo of her at age seventeen shows her scowling into the sun, her arm raised and her hand above her forehead, but the sun still directly in her eyes. She is circled by a number of men from the 1932 Olympic track and field team. She had volunteered to be a times keeper at the prestigious event. None of the men were looking at the camera, their eyes were fixated on my grandmothers amply filled angora sweater. She looked not just aware but accus- tomed to the attention. In fact, decades later in her life I was with her when a man rushed to open a door for her.

“Grandma, you’ve still got it!” I joked.
“At this age, who needs it? she replied, not missing a beat.

The day I was born, she was thirty-six years old. Her own mother, my great-grandmother, had been forty when she started having children and then had eight of them in succession. Echo was in the middle of this pack and despite so many efforts, with so many men, in so many jobs, the middle is pretty much where she stayed throughout her life.

At the time of my birth, she was also a divorced, single, working mother of three children who still lived at home—one of them being my teenaged, pregnant mother. Echo had dreams and aspirations of her own but, not unlike her name, whatever she tried to be or do with her life came back to her a little less strong and clear than how it started. She wanted to be a good mother but married crummy men who didn’t support her. She wanted to be a performer but instead loaded her daughters with lessons and cos- tumes and hoped, in vain, they would become the star she wanted to be. She worked fifty hours or more a week as a WWII riveter, developed people skills in retail customer service, and eventually was promoted to a fashion buyer position at a large and prosperous department store long before it was chic to have a career.

Echo had an easy laugh, a love for life, and a poet’s soul. She wrote poems about her day, poems about her family, her garden, and her work. She wrote poems she sent as birthday cards, poems for holiday gatherings, and metaphoric poems about sturgeons.

“When does the sturgeon get the urgin? It’s in the spring.” “When does the flower feel its power? It’s in the spring.”

In all of the eighty-eight years I knew her, I never heard her say “I’m tired.” Although in constant pain and taking daily morphine for a back injury, she never missed out on a chance to have fun. Her motto was, “I’m gonna feel awful sitting at home or going out— might as well go out!” And off she would go, me in tow, to Disneyland, museums, carnivals, or cake decorating class. She gave me a roof over my head, a crib in her room, and from the beginning made me feel like I was worthy of the “Sugar Plum” nickname she gave me. She taught me that a woman could call her own shots, build her own life, and have meaningful work outside the home long before society agreed. “Who needs a man?” she would always say, and then grab a hammer, a needle and thread, or a paycheck and get “it,” whatever “it” was, done.

Where was my grandfather?

This question echoed many times a day from extended family, neighbors, my mother, my ten-year-old aunt and my seven-year-old uncle. I didn’t miss him because I never saw him or even met him until I was in my thirties, and that turned out to be too soon.

At the time of my birth, he was a bellman at a tiny, exclusive hotel in Hollywood. That’s not accurate. He was a tiny bellman, at an exclusive hotel. In pictures from this era, he is standing as tall as a guy 5’5” can stand and is wearing a jaunty pill box hat, tilted slightly to the right, a red vest, white shirt, slacks, and a pair of loafers. Loafer being a key descriptor of more than his shoes.

When he didn’t go to work, which was regularly, he played the ponies at Santa Anita racetrack. He left his hotel job early and often, caught a bus to the track, and lost any money he had made at his hour or two on the job. The only shoes my grandfather was ever interested in were his own or those worn by a horse.

My seventeen-year-old mother, Echo’s eldest daughter, was also a petite redhead. She was often mistaken for Debbie Reyn- olds and just plain mistaken. For instance, the prom night I was conceived—an event that gives a whole new meaning to Senior Ball—she erroneously believed the boy in the backseat meant it when he said he loved her. By this time, she had been cooking, cleaning, ironing, sewing, and standing in for her working mother—and a father who never ponied up—and was itching to be in someone else’s shoes.

My dad, the boy in the aforementioned back seat, was a handsome star athlete and smooth talker. He was popular, a “catch”, and my mother willingly lost more than her Keds in the back seat of his Oldsmobile. Nine months later I was born, but the childish things like the prom queen crown and letterman’s sweater were never, ever, really put away. I grew up with the stories of the glory, glamour, and popularity my parents had reluctantly surrendered “because we had you.”

Sometime after the ink had dried on my birth certificate foot- print and before my first birthday, my dad moved into the very house my mother had tried to escape by dating him. And speaking of escapes, my dad had tried; leaving my mother to attend col- lege in another state and even pledged a fraternity. Once I was born though, he was forced to pack up his university potential and pipe paraphernalia—a new habit he thought made him look collegiate—and return to the pledge he had made my mother.

My parents still had pimples, no paycheck, and delusional, somewhat unwarranted self-regard. I am sure there is a scientific or psychological name for this disorder. Throughout my life I just called the syndrome Mommy and Daddy.

My adolescent parents could barely take care of themselves, let alone another needy, self-centered, hungry human. With idle days at home they practiced creative child-care. One favorite activity became scooping me up out of my crib, standing me on the ground in front of them, and dropping ice cubes down the back of my diaper. Watching me stomp my pudgy, baby feet around the house gave them cheap laughs and me welts.

My teen parents were overwhelmed and under-prepared, maybe even uninterested, and if ice cubes down the pants were considered playtime then buying or preserving baby shoes were most likely not a priority.

And my gambling grandfather, with his losing track record, was most likely extremely careful to never utter, “Baby needs new shoes!” for fear he might have to provide them.

It does not take too many leaps of armchair psychology to know my first pair of shoes were purchased by the only employed and generous person in my family…my grandmother, Echo.

It makes me smile to imagine her making a special detour home from work to pick up the bronzed baby shoes she ordered. I like to think that she was looking at them and smiling while she recalled those moments when she held my hand and watched me walk—wobbly, then willfully forward, taking my first steps toward an unclaimed childhood.

Your past doesn’t define you.

Sure, my dad kicked my self-esteem to the curb when he told me my feet were ugly. Shame on him. But if I let that comment—or the other hundreds like it—define me forever, shame on me. And the same goes for you. Better to concentrate on who, what, and where you can find or create love than hold on to disappointment and despair.

You can blame parents, teachers, whoever and whatever for your depression, failures, anxiety, lack of focus, and ongoing heartache. Heck, blame someone else for every wrong, every slight, every set back you have faced. How’s that been working for you so far? I’ll answer that—all you’re getting from the blame game is emotional bunions!

At some point, you have to put on your big boy or big girl boots and get on with it. The world doesn’t care if you give up, if you stay standing in one place claiming everyone let you down and it’s all their fault that you stepped in it. Nope, the world just keeps on going without you.

I have never known anyone great who didn’t face hundreds of pebbles in their shoes as they climbed their mountain of purpose, contribution, and meaning. What do they do? They untie their shoes, pick out the biggest pebbles, throw them underfoot, put their shoes back on and then put all their weight into pulverizing the remaining gravel holding them back or down—and then they keep climbing.

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About the Author


Dr. Ronda Beaman has been Chief Creative Officer for the global research and solution firm PEAK Learning, Inc., since 1990. As a national award-winning educator, Dr. Beaman is Clinical Professor of Leadership at The Orfalea School of Business, California Polytechnic University. She is Founder and Executive Director of Dream Makers SLO, a non-profit foundation granting final wishes to financially- challenged, terminally-ill adults, and serves on the Board of Directors for the National Pay It Forward Foundation. She was recently named a Stanford Fellow at the Distinguished Career Institute.

Her national award-winning book, You’re Only Young Twice, has been printed in five languages. Her memoir, Little Miss Merit Badge, was an Amazon bestseller and was featured at The Golden Globe Awards. Her children’s book, Seal With a Kiss, is designed to improve skills for beginning readers and is offered at Lindamood-Bell Learning Centers internationally. My Feats in These Shoes will be released in Spring 2021.

Dr. Beaman is an internationally recognized expert on leadership, resilience, fitness, education, and life coaching. She has conducted research in a host of areas, written many academic articles and books, and won numerous awards. She was selected by the Singapore Ministry of the Family as their honored Speaker of the Year and named the first recipient of the National Education Association’s “Excellence in the Academy: Art of Teaching” award. She has been selected as a faculty resource for the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) university in Argentina, Kyoto and India, where she received the highest speaker ratings among 36 elite faculty. She has been featured on major media including CBS and Fox Television, USA Today, and is a national thought leader for American Health Network.

Dr. Beaman earned her doctorate in Leadership at Arizona State University. She is also a certified executive coach and personal trainer with multiple credentials from the Aerobic Research Center. Her family was named “America’s Most Creative Family” by USA Today and she won the SCW National Fitness Idol competition.

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