The “Purrfect” Read for International Feral Cat Day

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Malcolm Gatta’s touching backstory transported me to a fantasy world I’ve not visited in a long time. I lean more toward science fiction and thrillers, not being that much of a vampire or zombie fan, which seem to dominate the fantasy genre of late. But as a cat lover and someone who has often envied my housecats’ idyllic existence, the idea of a cat shifter was intriguing, so I couldn’t resist checking it out. It’s the prequel to a trilogy which I have not yet read, but will probably add it to my reading list after experiencing this beautifully written, albeit heartrending tale of loss and renewed hope.

My only criticism is that I felt the sprinkling of expletives was unnecessary. There were probably only three in the entire story, but they were biggies, didn’t add to the story or characters, and such that I would hesitate to gift this story to my grandchildren. It’s not that I’m personally offended by such language myself. After all, my father was in the Navy and I worked at NASA over 20 years around engineers and such, plus have to admit I drop a few myself from time to time. There’s no question that some situations are best expressed through an expletive. Furthermore, sad but true, coarse language is now a part of today’s popular culture like never before, a possible symptom of what the world has become. However, there are still some who wish to avoid it and/or don’t want to condone much less encourage it. There are also creative ways to include such words in a story without actual use.

I feel crossing the PG barrier can cut off readers from an author’s fan list, which most can ill-afford. It’s apparently still enough of an issue that on sites where books are rated such as MyBookCave, inappropriate language is pointed out along with content related to sex and violence. I didn’t mean to go off on a total rant about it because this story really was outstanding, but it would have been even better to me without the bombs which seemed out of place with the smooth, even poetic, narrative as a whole.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

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Global Cat Day

 

 

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Sign up to Win an Autographed Copy of “The Terra Debacle”

lifechanging+ copySign up before October 30 for a chance to win one of three autographed copies of “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51” being given away through Goodreads. Details here.

 

 

5 Stars for “Elon Musk: Tesla, Space-X, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance

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I’ve been fascinated by Musk for quite a while. I even entertained thoughts he might be some sort of space alien hybrid, helping us develop new technologies. I wondered where this guy came from and where he got all that money. I wondered why his new technologies, which are a threat to industries which have been known to resort to rather nasty tactics to suppress such competition, seemed to have no power to do so in his case. This book certainly answered all my questions and then some. I had no idea he was one of those dot-com millionaires, starting with his connection with PayPal. Explaining where his money came from certainly clarified quite a lot. His personality explained the rest.

As someone who worked as a NASA contractor for over twenty years, I can especially appreciate what he has done with Space-X. While some accuse him, and rightfully so, of being a obsessive workaholic and expecting the same from his employees, you have to admit that his system of finding the best and brightest and luring them to work for him works. Musk doesn’t suffer fools. You disagree with him or goof up and you’re gone. In today’s world of tolerance and dumbing down the general population via our pathetic education system, this certainly goes against the grain. But it gets things done.

I saw so much mediocrity at NASA it was pathetic. But it was only part of the problem as far as technological advances were concerned. I remember seeing an invoice one time for small a metal plate with a part number on it costing thousands of dollars. I mean, really. How ridiculous is that? But that’s how government contracting works. Musk, on the other hand, emphasized efficiency. It was his money, so he pushed for keeping costs down. Rather than buy from a manufacturer on the other side of the world, he would develop the needed facilities and make it himself. He demanded perfection and refused to give up.

One philosophy I always liked and employed as a manager myself was “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Clearly he had the same attitude. His employees knew better than to simply complain about something being an obstacle. They needed to contribute to a solution or get slam-dunked.

There was so much about his management style that I admired. In most cases in today’s world, his tactics will either get you sued for harassment and/or fired. Which explains a lot. But if you want something considered impossible done correctly, that’s what it takes. The results of Musk’s methods speak for themselves.  He does what he says he’ll do and is a force to be reckoned with. He’s not been suppressed by existing industries since he has the money to proceed on his own, unlike most inventors who depend on selling their patents. In that case, they’re typically bought up by competitors, their ideas left to rot somewhere in a file cabinet to assure the status quo.

Along those lines, Tesla is another awesome success story, a venture that was more than once on the brink of failure. But Musk persevered, his vision and intentions a testimony to those who promote such tactics for manifesting what you want. I loved the part where Tesla acquired a former GM plant in Fremont, California (not too far from where I lived many years ago) virtually for free. Tesla is driving conventional car makers crazy. The cars are kicking butt in all areas from safety to speed to virtually “free” fuel as he builds recharging stations.  He’s out to change the world and making steady progress doing so, specifically in previously troubled industries collapsing under their own weight.

His personal life was certainly interesting as well. Did you realize he has 5 boys, i.e. a set of twins and a set of triplets from his first wife, Justine? Or that as a child he was bullied, in some cases brutally enough to land him in the hospital. His photographic memory has served him well, his intelligence and scientific understanding off the scale. If someone tells him something can’t be done, he usually fires them and does it himself. I find that inspiring, not obnoxious.

The author did a great job of providing a glimpse of what this guy is like, not only as a slave-driving manager, but as a person. I admire much of what he stands for and stands up for.  I loved the author’s candid writing style, often imbued with humor that had me laughing out loud. I don’t doubt that I will eventually read this book again. It’s inspirational to see what one determined man can accomplish when he sets his mind to what needs to be done, then commandeers the help and talent he needs to get there, leaving naysayers in the dust. His self-imposed mission is to save the world from itself and so far it looks as if he might do just that. It won’t surprise me one bit if he’s the one who gets us to Mars. If you have any doubts, then you should read this book. It made a believer out of me and restored my faith in old-fashioned hard work and ingenuity, which has somehow gotten lost in our crazy world.

This book convinced me, more than ever, that it’s people like Musk who should be considered heroes in today’s world. Not obnoxious sports figures, crooked politicians, and those who want to be taken care of at others’ expense. It’s time that we return a strong work ethic and intelligence to the status it deserves for making this a better world.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here. I recommend it highly. I will warn you that it contains a multitude of f-bombs. If you want to share this awesome story with your kids, which I also recommend, there’s a cleaned up version you can get here.

Reveal Blast: “The King’s Ransom” by Cheryl Carpinello

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The King’s Ransom, book 1 of Young Knights of the Round Table

12Three Friends. Three Quests. Three Mysterious Predictions

In medieval Wales, eleven-year-old Prince Gavin, thirteen-year-old orphan Philip, and fifteen-year-old blacksmith’s apprentice Bryan are brought together in friendship by one they call the Wild Man. When an advisor to the king is killed and a jewelled medallion is stolen from the king’s treasury, the Wild Man is accused of the theft and murder. Filled with disbelief at the arrest of the Wild Man, the three friends embark upon a knight’s quest to save their friend’s life. To succeed, the three must confront their fears and insecurities, and one of them will have to disclose the biggest secret of all.



Prince Gavin
Gavin’s gaze was drawn back to the castle’s battle-scarred walls and the heavily armed guards. The evil Q.5.1emanating from the structure surrounded and held him captive, like a lone deer surrounded by hungry wolves in the dead of winter, unable to move, its eyes glassy with fear, its limbs frozen by the hypnotic gleam of the wolves’ yellow eyes. Even knowing its life was ending, the deer wouldn’t break and run. So Gavin sat frozen in front of the castle.
The enormity of his quest enveloped Gavin and he sighed. Continuing on meant he might save the Wild Man, but he might put himself in danger as well. King Edward was his father’s enemy and possibly responsible for Aldred’s murder. If Gavin were caught, Edward wouldn’t treat him kindly. The young prince summoned his courage and focused on the Wild Man. It had seemed so simple last night in the company of Bryan and Philip.

Bryan
Q2The air inside the blacksmith shop lay dense and heavy, making it difficult to breathe for any who ventured inside. The fire from the forge still burned red hot, even though the bellows hadn’t fanned the embers in some time. Sixteen-year-old Bryan submersed the newly formed sword into a cold bucket of water. Steam enveloped him, adding to the sweat already streaming down his face. With his free arm, he wiped his forehead and pushed back his soaked red hair.
The blacksmith, James, watched intently as Bryan Balyard lifted the sword out of the water, its blade cooler but still hot to the touch. Holding the sword in front of him, Bryan sighted down the blade’s edge as he’d been taught. Straight and flat, just as it should be. He made a few short cuts to check its balance. It responded well to his moves. Bryan handed the sword to James for approval. After checking its weight and doing a closer inspection of the craftsmanship, James nodded.
“You’re getting better. This weapon is good enough for a knight of the Round Table.”
Bryan beamed, his eyes reddened and watering from the smoke.
“I haven’t an order from any of Arthur’s knights, so make this your own.”
Bryan’s lower jaw dropped.
“Mine?” he forced out.

Philip
The late afternoon sun still held the day’s heat. Philip set the ax down and wiped his brow before getting a drink of water. Looking at the stack of chopped wood, he smiled sadly. Two years ago he would never have dreamed he’d be here, chopping wood for food and a dry place to sleep. He shook his head at his thoughts, his shaggy, ill-cut black hair falling unevenly across his forehead. Two years. It seemed like forever.
Two years earlier, he had lived with his parents and baby brother on their small farm up north. His parents worked hard to put food on the table and to pay off the farm. Philip’s main job was to watch baby Benjamin while his mother helped his father in their small field. When Benjamin fell sick, Philip helped his father clear the old stalks and rocks from the soil while his mother nursed the baby. He helped his father carefully plant the winter wheat and barley for harvest in the spring.
As autumn slipped into winter, Benjamin hadn’t gotten better. His tiny body burned with fever. Those last few days when Philip held him, the heat coming from Benjamin threatened to slowly engulf him like the embers of a dying fire.
Then one day, the heat drained from Benjamin’s body, and cold took its place. Philip didn’t understand at first why his mother and father cried. For days they’d waited for the fever to leave, and finally it had. Then he noticed the stillness of Benjamin’s body. His small chest didn’t rise and fall; he wasn’t breathing. Along with the heat, life had also left the tiny body.

Book Sound Track for Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, book 2 and The King’s Ransom, book 1 of Young Knights of the Round Table.



AUTHOR BIO

Original_Author_PhotoI am a retired high school English teacher. A devourer of books growing up, my profession introduced me to writings and authors from times long past. Through my studies and teaching, I fell in love with the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Now, I hope to inspire young readers and those Young-at-Heart to read more through my Tales & Legends for Reluctant Readers set in these worlds.

 

NEW RELEASE from John Reinhard Dizon!

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If you love lots of action and strong characters be sure to check out John Reinhard Dizon’s latest, The Empire, a fast-moving sci-fi thriller. I had lots of fun designing the cover and plan to read it soon. Here’s the blurb:

Driven to the threshold of extinction, the human race has survived the destruction of the Solar System and found a New System to call home. Old rivalries surface, causing the Allied Federation of Alpha and the Terranean Alliance of Beta to take a stand against the Republic of Delta and the Scorpion Empire. A crisis results when Styrena Stone, the daughter of the President of Alpha, is kidnapped. The abductors demand that the Federation accepts a non-aggression pact allowing the Empire to conduct a campaign of terror throughout the System. Only a renegade captain commits an act of mutiny in turning an Imperial starship against Styrena’s captors. Federal agent Von Kilgore is sent to rescue Styrena, with the threat of war looming and the merciless Captain Grav Drachna standing in his path.

You can pick up a print copy on Amazon here or an ebook for 99c from Smashwords here. It will show up on other retailer sites soon. Don’t miss it!

Book Blast: “Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend” (Book 1)

On the Eve of Legend

At the dawn of Camelot, one young girl is about to take her place beside the greatest king inQuote 7 England’s history…. She is a mere child of twelve. But in these medieval days, this is the age when childish things must be put away and greater responsibilities accepted—all in preparation for a betrothal of marriage. For young Lady Guinevere, on the advent of her thirteenth Birth Day, the whole idea is quite unbearable. After all, what could be better than spending her youth playing with her best friend Cedwyn, roaming the grounds around the castle looking for mythical creatures or hunting rabbits? However, the wizard Merlyn—her teacher and friend—knows that destiny has a way of catching up with a person. His arrival sets in motion a series of events that will lead Guinevere to her destiny whether she is ready for it or not.

See Book on Amazon

Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, book 1

Excerpt

Hard to believe that last night she had been so happy. Now, her world had fallen apart. It’s not that I don’t expect to get married. I know I must. But not now, not so soon. And to spring it on her and not give her the opportunity to participate in the decision stung like the bee that had bitten her last summer. Suddenly, the magic of the unicorn seemed so far away. Her eyes started to water. She blinked and tried to wipe the tears away before Cedwyn saw them, but she couldn’t.

“What’s the matter? Why are you crying again? Is it because of that decision your father made?”

Guinevere nodded in reply.

Guinevere–On The Eve of Legend“What do you have to do? Is that what the king and Merlyn were talkin’ about last night in the hall after everyone left?”

“It must be,” she said, wondering if Merlyn had known even in the forest. “When did you see them?”

“I sneaked back into the hall after everyone had gone to bed to see if there was any more circlette left. I saw them with their heads together, but they didn’t see me. They were discussin’ some secret.”

Shaking her head, Guinevere said, “That’s why Father waited for Merlyn before he said anything to me. They came up with this idea between themselves.” She felt so betrayed.

“So, what is it that you have to do? Why have we run away from home?”

“My Father the King and apparently Merlyn have decided that I am to marry King Arthur in two years and become his Queen. I’ll have to leave the castle, my home, you, and everything I’ve grown up with,” she added, not realizing that Cedwyn was staring at her with his mouth wide open.

“He even promised Grandfather’s round table to King Arthur. All without asking!” She finished, sure that she had stated her point clearly. Her eyes strayed to the hand that Arthur had kissed. Quickly she averted them.Quote 6

“Are you sure they said King Arthur?” Cedwyn asked, his amazement showing in his voice.

“Oh yes! I’m sure.”

“That’s fantastic! He’s gonna be a great king! He’s gonna bring all of England together. I heard some of the knights talking about him last night. They said that he is the bravest and best warrior they have ever seen. And the smartest!” He looked at Guinevere and shook his head. “And you are gonna be his Queen!” Disbelief washed over him. “I wish someone would make a decision like that for me!”

“Really? Then you can marry King Arthur!” she said, standing up and stamping her foot.

Then she turned and stomped up the rise.


The Legend Within

by Cheryl Carpinello

            Arthurian stories are steeped in legend. While perceived as fiction, legends often contain elements of factual happenings. It is left up to readers to decide if they believe or not.

In the Arthurian tales I write, I always add one or two of my own legends. Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend contains one of my favorites: The Legend of the Red Deer and the Unicorn. I’ve recited this story at readings and at Medieval Festivals where I have been the storyteller. Here it is:

The Legend of the Red Deer and the Unicorn

A long, long time ago when the forests were young, the unicorns roamed the land of what is now called England. They numbered in the thousands. One day a red deer washed up on a sandy shore during a violent storm. Not knowing the land, the red deer soon became lost, unable to find fresh water and enough grasses to eat. The unicorns found the deer near death from thirst and starvation. These kind creatures nudged and pushed the deer to fresh water and later showed it the best grazing grounds and the Quote 5safest places in the forest to bed down.

Before long the unicorns adopted the deer, which, in turn, promised that all future generations of red deer would protect the unicorns. A few years later, another red deer washed up on the shore, was discovered and saved by the red deer and the unicorns. The two deer later mated and left the unicorn herds.

Hundreds of years passed and in those years, the red deer herds grew in number until there wasn’t a forest without the deer across the land. Sadly, the same could not be said for the unicorns. As men populated the island, a myth arose about the unicorn. It was believed that a unicorn’s horn held strong magic for man, and some even thought it could cure all of men’s ills. To that end, unicorns were hunted ruthlessly for the magical horn, their bodies left to rot once the horn was harvested.

The numbers of unicorns across the land dwindled to just a handful when the unicorns and the red deer met once more. The unicorns asked if the red deer remembered when the unicorns had saved them. The red deer remembered because the memories of the first red deer were passed on to each new deer. Filled with dismay at how few unicorns remained, the red deer kept their promise to protect the unicorns.

Today if you are lucky enough to come across a herd of red deer in England, you must be very quiet and patient. If you wait long enough and look hard enough, between the legs of the red deer, you may catch a glimpse of white. At the middle of each herd, the unicorns thrive and play.


About the Author

Original Author Photo

I am a retired high school English teacher. A devourer of books growing up, my profession introduced me to writings and authors from times long past. Through my studies and teaching, I fell in love with the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Now, I hope to inspire young readers and those Young-at-Heart to read more through my Tales & Legends for Reluctant Readers set in these worlds.

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“Dance of the Lights” by Stephen Geez

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If you have any doubt regarding what life is all about, then you need to read this beautiful story, which will explain it to you. The ultimate love story, I definitely fell in love with most of the characters in this book. They were so real, you felt as if you knew them, that they were your own friends and neighbors, making their way through life and its struggles, including sometimes the painful loss of a loved one. It was an utterly convincing slice of life, where people work hard for what they have, interact with neighbors and loved ones, and most importantly, help one another when the need arises. It was about priorities, caring, and doing the right thing, but not in a flamboyant way. It was about the passage of time, how things change, including people, and the importance of friends.

A light paranormal touch permeated the story, a reminder that what we see is but a small part of what we know as reality. There are some things that simply can’t be explained. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one, yet felt their presence or heard them speaking inside their mind, will relate. Who and what are we? What about those with whom we share our lives, loves, and ambitions? Is it all random? Do certain people come into our lives by chance or design? What is the essence of life? Love? Our very existence?

Don’t expect specific answers to any of these questions because you won’t find them. Rather, there is plenty to ponder. On the one hand, it’s easy to note that those characters who made mistakes were beyond fortunate to find someone to stand behind them and help them get past their troubles. Finances were not a problem for the main characters, who generously shared their substance to help others. Most who fall upon hard times are not so lucky. Those who have had to dig their way out of a bad situation on their own could even feel a touch of bitterness. Yes, this story reflects the ideal, which life seldom is. However, I don’t believe it’s those in sorry circumstances to whom this story applies the most. Rather it would have the most powerful impact on those with the means to help others by expounding the deep satisfaction, friendship, and rewards that come from helping your fellow man.

The characters in this book were familiar in many respects; archetypes, if you will. No doubt you will relate to some more than others, recognize several, and with luck, even see yourself. There are parts that are heart-rending, yet that is a fact of life. Learning to deal with death and grief is part of living.  Learning not to take anything for granted, to appreciate each and every day, realizing that in a flash everything could change, is what enriches our existence.  Years pass a day at a time, yet in what can feel like an instant, they evaporate, leaving you in awe of their passing. Of course the older you are, the more obvious this is.

This cast who populated this story touched my heart in so many ways. In some respects, it was like a  soap opera, as diverse individuals entangled with one another through heredity or circumstance went about their lives, some days normal and predictable, others milestones, or marred by sudden tragedy. In many ways, stories like this are a measure of the reader’s capacity to love. If you don’t fall in love with these characters, feel as if you know them, and even wish you had some of them as friends or neighbors, perhaps you’ve lost touch with your own humanity and need for others in your life.

Author Stephen Geez renders characters you’ll never forget, who’ll live on within your heart forever.  If you could use a few new book-friends or book-neighbors, to say nothing of a nice dose of inspiration, then introduce yourself to these adorable souls over in Tarpon Springs. You’ll be glad you did.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“The Touch: A Supernatural Story” by Robert Flynn III

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There were many things I enjoyed about this book. It was so original that I found it somewhat indescribable. At first the omniscient viewpoint threw me a bit, but it soon became obvious how appropriate it was as you ponder who is telling the tale. The author’s narrative voice is outstanding. It’s as if you can hear the narrator speaking in a somewhat archaic speech that totally works. The characters were real and engaging. I loved Alabama, Gabriel, and Josh as well as the others who joined in as the tale progressed. The premise and supernatural angle is unique and shows the author has a strong grasp on Biblical and Apocryphal descriptions of angels, yet adds a few interpretations of his own.

The plot is intriguing, suspenseful, and keeps you turning the pages. Clearly the world’s sorry situation is reflected and gives you pause what might be going on in other dimensions with regard to the host of wayward and evil humans at large on our planet.

I was somewhat disappointed by the ending, however. Not so much because the story is clearly part of a serial, but because the main characters were seemingly abandoned as new twists were introduced to the story line. I think the author could have handled it better, perhaps by including the characters in which I’d invested interest throughout the rest of the book more directly in the final chapters while still including teasers with regard to the next episode. It felt as if they simply dropped out of existence as a whole new story angle took shape, which would have been a great way to start the next volume as opposed to ending this one.  I was planning on giving this unique tale five stars until the ending, when I dropped it to four because I found its conclusion unsatisfying and not as skillfully rendered as the rest of the book.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

“Watch RWISA Write Showcase Tour” — Day 21

RWISA TOUR (1)

[NOTE:–OMG, it’s my turn in the Blog Tour! My offering is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, Dark Circles, a slightly dark, hard sci-fi love story. No release date has been set. You know how I am with release dates. LOL! Those of you who have read “A Dark of Endless Days” may recognize what is going on in this scene. As an author, I have a really hard time letting good characters ride off into the sunset (or fly off into the stars, as the case may be). This novel will wrap it all up and tie everything together.]

Your Wildest Dreams

by Marcha Fox

I inhaled sharply when I recognized the introductory riff wafting from my favorite 80s station as Your Wildest Dreams by the Moody Blues. Even though I had the original 45 RPM record, the album on cassette tape, and more recently, the CD, I kept them safely locked away so I wouldn’t binge on it. Nonetheless, when KPLV, 93.1 FM in Vegas, got around to playing it every few weeks or so, I’d indulge in a break, a delicious reminder of why I was here.

Consumed by ethereal and intimately familiar sound waves, I got up, closed the blinds, and even though it was unlikely the song’s strains would penetrate my office’s cinder block walls, plugged in my headset so I could crank it up—I mean really up. I melted back into my chair, eyes closed, with what was probably an idiotic smile on my face, savoring each note as the song segued into its lively, 142 BPM tempo. The next three minutes and forty-one seconds, I’d be in heaven.

Even though this song came out eight years after she left, the first time I heard it, back when I was still in college in ’86, I knew two things: One, it would always be “our song”; and Two, I had to find her.

My heart leapt with visions of galaxies beyond, of what might be out there, where she might be. I plunged headlong through space and time, besieged by memories burned into my heart as permanently and painfully as branding was to a newborn calf. Did she remember? Feel the same thing I did? Sense the enchantment of fate-entangled lives?

I memorize pretty easily, which comes in handy, especially with things like the Periodic Table or Maxwell’s equations. And of course, favorite songs. These particular lyrics struck me, hard and personal, from day one, certain it’d been written exclusively for me.

As my eyes teared up, logic intervened and yanked me back to planet Earth.

Grow up, Benson! What are you, a total schmaltz or what?

We were kids, for heaven sakes. A teenage crush. I should’ve gotten over it, but never did. No wonder. Girls like her are rare. One of a kind. She’d already experienced things I never would. Things that were part of my wildest dreams.

The admonition failed, pushed aside by that part of me that felt alive again, jammin’ like a total jerk, mouthing the words as I sang along in my head. It’s not like I’m a teenager anymore, though at the moment I felt like one. No, memories of the heart never die—can’t die, evereven if you try to kill them.

I’d give anything to talk to her. Which of course I have, numerous times over the years, if only in my head. Okay, aloud more often than I care to admit. I could swear it even felt as if she answered a time or two. I suppose that’s how it is with your first love. Or your first kiss, even if it was only a peck on the cheek. It penetrates your soul and stays there forever.

That mid-summer day in ’78 hauling hay was as vivid as yesterday in my mind’s eye. The cloudless sky, sun hot on my neck, the aroma of first-crop alfalfa sweetening the mountain air. I scratched my shoulder, a reflex memory of itchy, stray leaves sticking through my T-shirt. My chest ached as I remembered tear tracks streaking her dust-covered face at something I’d said. Then, days later, that withering look when we lied about her ship.

The one we still have. What’s left of it quietly abandoned beneath a tarp in Building 15, here at Area 51.

How she knew we weren’t telling the truth, I’ll never know. Pretty funny it’s still sitting there. And I’m sure she’d think so, too. I can just hear her saying, “Stupid snurks, I knew they’d never figure it out.” Though actually they did, just didn’t find technology worth pursuing. Even contractors didn’t want it.

I had to admit it was pretty crazy, but she was my motivation to get where I was today: just short of a decade of college linked with serendipity that put me in the right place at the right time, hoping someday I’d find her. My life had changed a lot since then. How much had hers changed? Did she make it home? Was she still alive? With the effects of relativistic travel, which I understood only too well, she could still be a teenager, while I was easing into the infamous dirty thirties.

Not good. If I ever did find her, she’d probably think I was some lecherous old fart. Either that, or, with my luck, she’d be married with a bunch of kids. I winced with the thought.

My sentimental reverie vanished when my office door slammed open and Hector Buckhorn rolled in. Literally. Hec’s been stuck in a wheelchair ever since he crashed his hang glider into a New Mexico mountainside during spring break his last semester of college. He ridge soared a lot, particularly around Dulce, over restricted areas where he wasn’t supposed to be. Got caught a couple times, but being Native American, never got in trouble, even though it wasn’t his home reservation. He’s amazingly good at playing dumb, in spite of—or possibly because of—his 150ish IQ. He never talked about his accident, said he couldn’t remember. Makes sense, actually, given he suffered a massive concussion. The only time I ever saw him pissed him off was when he woke up in the hospital and discovered they’d shaved off his hair, since grown back beyond shoulder length.

I dropped the headset around my neck and faked a frown. “Don’t you ever knock, butthead?”

“Hey, man, wazzup?” he said, giving me a funny look. “You okay?”

I laughed. “Of course. Just thinking. Remembering. You know.”

Ahhh. They played that song again, didn’t they?”

“Can’t hide anything from you, can I, Chief?”

“Nope. I figured you were up to somethin’ with your blinds closed.”

He wheeled over to the grey metal, government-issue table on the other side of the room and helped himself to a handful of peanut M&Ms. Once I’d realized during my PhD days at Cal Tech that, in a pinch, they made a pretty decent meal, I’d kept that old, wide-mouth canning jar full. He dumped them in his mouth, perusing me with knowing, dark eyes.

“You were sure enjoyin’ that song of yours,” he said, not even trying to stifle his crooked grin as he munched away.

“Yeah,” I replied, uncomfortable with the conversation’s direction.

“We’ve known each other a long time, Allen,” he said. “Don’t you think it’s time you told me about her?”

“Not much to tell.”

He let fly with a popular expletive related to bovine excrement. “C’mon! What’s her name?” he persisted.

I blew out my cheeks and sighed, knowing resistance was futile. “Creena,” I answered, surprising myself when, again, I got a little choked up. I avoided his eyes by likewise heading for the M&Ms.

“So find her,” he said.

“It’s not that simple,” I replied, pouring myself a handful. “I don’t know where she is.” A statement that was truer than he could possibly imagine.

“I have some resources who could help,” he offered with a conspiratorial wink.

I shook my head, then stalled by popping a few colorful orbs in my mouth.

“Why not? If she’s anywhere on this planet, these guys’ll find her.”

I swallowed hard and paused; met his gaze. “She’s not.”

He scowled, making him look a lot like those old pictures of Cochise. “Say again?”

“She’s. Not.”

“Oh! I’m sorry.”

“Why?”

He shrugged. “I assumed she’s dead. She must’ve been quite a girl.”

“She was. Is. She’s not dead. At least as far as I know.”

His jaw dropped, shocked expression broadcasting the fact he’d caught the implications. “You’re not kidding, are you?”

“Nope.”

“Abductee?” he whispered.

“Nope,” I answered, raiding the candy jar again. “Immigrant.”

His eyes widened as he spewed an expletive that elevated excrement to sanctified status. “Don’t tell me she’s an EBE!”

I nearly spewed partially chewed M&Ms across the room. Extraterrestrial biological entity, indeed! Yet by definition, actually, she was.

I chuckled at his expression and shook my head. “No. Quite human. At least as far as I know.”

“Are you?” he added, chocolate-colored irises rimmed with white. His reaction surprised me—UFOs, even aliens, were no big deal in his culture, just business as usual with the Star People.

“C’mon, Chief! You’ve known me since tenth grade, running high school track!”

He leaned back, searching my face with more solemnity than I’d seen since I told him how Dad died. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, bro,” he said finally, shaking his head.

“You have no idea,” I said, throat constricting as scratchy lyrics from the headset, audible only to me, issued another reminder of why I was here.

* * *

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