It is with pleasure that I welcome Jordan Bernal as a guest blogger.
Jordan is a long-time friend and mentor. She writes fantasy with elements of mystery and romance. We are sharing two of her fantasy stories today.
The first, The Keepers of Éire (Celtic Dragonriders Book 1), is a modern-day fantasy. For centuries dragons have protected Ireland, their existence kept secret with the help of earth magic and their human riders. Now that secret is threatened as the bodies of four riders are found at sacred Irish sites. Christian Riley, a man with secrets of his own, is haunted by vivid dreams of each slaying. Devan Fraser, an American searching for her Irish heritage and the meaning of an inherited dragon ring, stumbles into the mystery of the murders. Christian’s only memento from the mother who gave him up for adoption is a dragon pendant that matches Devan’s ring. Together they discover their destinies, the truth of dragons, and the depth of honor and loyalty people will go to protect the ones they love.
Jordan’s latest work, The Keepers of Alba (Celtic Dragonriders Book 2), will be released on September 1, 2020. Devan Fraser, the only rider with the magical ability to hear and bespeaking all dragons, is thrust into the middle of a deadly conflict, decades in the making. Separated from her beloved, Christian Riley, she finds herself in a desperate race against time. Can she decipher the obscure meanings outlined in an ancient prophecy and escape a crazed madman before feuding clans destroy Scotland? Or is it already too late? Is the magic that sustains all dragonkind destined for extinction?
Jordan has allowed her protagonist, Devan Fraser, to tell us about herself and the exchanges she has with the author. To keep some control over where Devan goes with the interview, we’ve given her a few questions.
What was life like before Jordan started pulling your strings? I hate to say it, but my life was boring, with a capital B. You see, I was a researcher at a local university until budget cuts took away my position. So, no job and not many prospects. I started looking for a new job when my parents were killed in a vehicle accident. Oh, and I had just broken up with my fiancé, Rick. Rick will tell you just how much of a bore I am as he spouts all my flaws.
What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? Something that I’ve recently learned about myself: I’m fiercely loyal. Once I believe in someone, I am that person’s strongest advocate. It takes a massive falling-out for me to lose faith in someone I trust.
What do you like least about yourself? That I’m a bit too needy. I tie my self-worth into how much I’m needed. I don’t do well with confrontations. I’m more likely to step back from a situation and thus not deal with it. I’m also a bit too trusting. I’m still a work-in-progress and have my doubts at times, but that’s life, right?
What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? You mean, besides leaving the U.S.A on barely a whim, travel to Ireland by myself, and then finding out dragons do exist? Well, I did learn I have a special magical talent: I can hear and speak telepathically with all dragons. That ability led to saving a bullied wingless dragonet, Grayson. It also led me to become a dragonrider with the Tuatha Dragon Clan.
Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about? Not really. My author, Jordan, really knows me, probably better than I know myself. And while Jordan’s constantly putting me in dangerous situations, I’m learning how strong, intelligent, and courageous I can be. Though, I do wish I didn’t have to be bruised and battered so much in the learning. Oh, and I was a bit nervous about how quickly I fell in love with sexy Irishman, Christian, but I’ll not argue too much as the loving is fantastic.
What is your greatest fear? To be alone. Truly alone. When my parents died, I had no one. I was an only child, and my grandparents and uncle on my mother’s side had all died before I was born. I don’t know anything about my father’s side of the family, as he never spoke of them.
What makes you happy? Being needed. Belonging. Especially belonging to the Tuatha Dragon Clan, being a partner to my dragon: Dochas, and being Christian Riley’s friend and lover. And by belonging, my confidence in my abilities is growing.
If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why? Of course, I’d want to have my parents still alive. I miss them terribly. There’s so much I want to talk to them about, or enjoy a walk on the beach, or share a cozy evening sitting by the fire. But without my losing them, I wouldn’t have gone on this wild and crazy journey to Ireland. I wouldn’t have met the love of my life, Christian. And I wouldn’t have become Dochas’ rider.
Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why? Kiely, Padrick’s mother. Kiely is a . . . well, let’s just say she’s a master manipulator as well as a bit of a prejudiced gobshite (I’m learning a few choice Irish slang words).
Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why? I can’t think of anyone. I’m finally who I was destined to become. I get to fly adragonback, so my love of flying is set free. I’m madly, wildly in love with my sexy Irishman. Now, if Christian and I can stay a few steps ahead of the killer—at least until we can stop him—my life would be perfect.
Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog? When Jordan Bernal says she was born on the wrong planet, she’s referring to the third planet in the Sagittarian Sector, known as Pern. So clear and descriptive was Anne McCaffrey in her Dragonriders of Pern series, Jordan was transported into the body, mind, and soul of Anne’s characters. Jordan came away knowing she was destined to be a dragonrider; to hop from one foot to the other on the hot sands of the hatching ground awaiting a dragon of her own. She fantasized about the air currents lifting the dragon she rode, soaring over cliffs and chasms, embracing the joy and freedom as together, they broke gravity’s harsh leash. And most of all, Jordan knew she was meant to create stories with a new set of dragons and dragonriders.
Jordan’s enduring love of dragons and her pursuit of her Celtic heritage inspired her to write and publish novels in her Celtic Dragonriders series through her independent press, Dragon Wing Publishing. Jordan’s website is http://www.jordanbernal.com.
What’s next for you? Lots more adventures (i.e., dangerous situations and personal growth) in The Keepers of Alba (Celtic Dragonriders Book 2) due out September 1, 2020. As you might guess from the title, most of this story takes place in Scotland. Maybe I’ll get to learn about my father’s family after all. I do wonder if I’m related to Jaime Fraser of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Wouldn’t that be awesome! He’s so handsome, for a highlander from the 18th century. But my Christian’s all I need.
What’s on the horizon for you and your author? I’ve had a whirlwind (exhausting, yet exhilarating) seven and a half months (eleven years for Jordan) in The Keepers of Éire & The Keepers of Alba. In between these two novels, I made a guest appearance in Reluctant Paladin—a middle-grade anti-bully story that Jordan published in 2017. I know Jordan won’t keep me at loose ends for too long. After all, Dochas, Christian, and I, along with my other dragon and rider friends, must save the magic from extinction throughout the Celtic lands. That said, it takes Jordan quite a while to write my story. And she’s committed to serving as president for her writing club for at least one term.
Author-Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? Devan covered just about everything, but I’ll expand on one thing: the length of time between novels. As a reader, this can be quite frustrating. Believe me; it is for a writer as well. Yet I just can’t write much faster. These novels, except for Reluctant Paladin, are over 120,000 words long. And I have health issues that require me to utilize voice recognition technology (DragonDictate. Yes, I speak Dragon) to tell Devan’s and Christian’s stories.
On top of that, I’m meticulous in my world-building and character development. I find I’m often researching something or some place to use in the novel. All that .takes time. I promise I’ll be as quick as I can in getting Book 3 of my Celtic Dragonriders series written and into readers’ hands.
How can readers reach you?
Bell, Donnell Ann. Black Pearl. Bell Bridge, 2019.
In most good detective stories, the hero almost always states: “I don’t believe in coincidences.” I beg to offer a different view. In over fifty years of law enforcement and private sector investigations, I have run across more coincidence than you can shake a stick at.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve posted a few book reviews that I was quite proud of until I got a telephone call.
My best friend is a voracious reader. After but a brief hello, he said, “Cramer, I have to tell you I think a couple of your reviews are bad.” Yep, he used the “B-word.” He went on to tell me that one review was of such a frightening nature; he would never read the book.; another so boring he wouldn’t spend money on it until he read some reviews on Amazon. The Amazon reviews convinced him otherwise.
I asked my friend what was so bad about my reviews, and he said, “You didn’t write them for a reader, you wrote them for someone like you.”
My usual response to criticism about what I’ve written is to get angry, set the comment(s) aside for a few days, and then with a much cooler head examine the %&^$#. Usually, I find value and what has been suggested. In this case, I didn’t need to wait or think it over. I knew he was right.
First coincidence: I had just settled down to read Bell’s, Black Pearl. I had my usual toolkit with me, Post-It notes, pencils, red, black, and blue ink pens, three different colored hi-liters, and a note pad. If you looked at books I’ve reviewed, you would them almost destroyed by the different underlining, high lighting, comments written in the margin, and dogeared pages. These readings take anywhere from one to two weeks.
After the call ended, I took all my weapons of mass destruction and dumped them on my desk. I retired with Black Pearl to where I only read fiction by Bernard Cornwell, Michael Connelly, J.A. Jance, and a rare few others. I read until dinner and then spent the evening enjoying it with my wife.
The next morning, I skipped breakfast and finished Bell’s book before lunch. I enjoyed it and felt fresh; it wasn’t like I had been working on an MFA review.
Today, I wrote and submitted this Amazon Review. I hope it works for my friend.
“Drenched in mystery and violence, from the first page, Bell gives both misleading and factual clues. These are in such a cryptic fashion; it only becomes clear at the end of the action who the killer is. Or does it?
There were several places where I was taken out of the story by a confusing sentence or statement.
What worked for me, but then gave me concern were descriptions. The friendly difference of opinion between Agent DiPietro and the retired sheriff about their choice of motorcycles was realistic and added to the pleasure for me. What didn’t work for me was the lack of description of the Harley-Davidson. Even more distracting was the lack of a word picture of Ouray County and Montrose. I’ve ridden my H-D through there. It is some of the most breathtaking country in Colorado. Bell left out a description of the countryside, as well as some of the other settings.
What worked was the interaction of the characters. Bell drew me into the conversations, and unsaid messages that conveyed much of the action, and worked well with the story’s pacing.
It was an excellent and riveting read. I will buy more of Donnell Ann Bell’s work.”
Second Coincidence: During Shelter in Place (SIP), I am not wearing shirts that require ironing, just T-Shirts. In my closet is a stack of over a hundred of these souvenir shirts. Most are from Harley-Davidson shops. I just reach in and take the one at the top of the pile, sight unseen.
Today: BLACK PEARL Harley-Davidson, Belize
Erdrich, Louise. Tracks: A Novel. New York: Henry Holt, 1988. Print.
Tracks, Erdrich’s fourth of fourteen novels, is set between 1912 and 1924. The message she delivers is that unless tribal members stand together, they face extinction at the hands of the whites. Nanapush, a wise tribal elder understands there must be some accommodation to maintain as much tradition as possible.
Nanapush remains the same wise trickster throughout the story. A tribal elder, he wishes to hold on to the old customs while surviving the new ways forced upon his people by the whites. Early on, he establishes his belief in “…the unrest and curse of trouble that struck our people…was the doing of dissatisfied spirits. I know what’s fact…” (4). He follows with this about the (white) government, “Our trouble came from living … liquor . . . the dollar bill. We stumbled toward the government bait, never looking down, never noticing how the land was snatched from under us at every step” (4).
Nanapush is much more than a thoughtful and straightforward elder. He reads and writes English. He tells his granddaughter about his ancestors, her mother, and about mystical and historical events in an attempt to keep the Chippewa oral traditions alive. He is a survivor, as well as a trickster. He can step back from the force of white encroachment and use traditional life as a shield to avoid extinction.
Pauline Puyat is introduced in Chapter Two when she tells of the men who died saving Fleur’s life and the time the two young women spent together. Much of what we learn about Fleur comes from Pauline’s narration. Twice Fleur drowns, is presumed dead, and then rescued. Both times the rescuers’ reward is an untimely death. “…death by drowning, the death a Chippewa cannot survive unless you are Fleur Pillager” (11). By using these incidents to establish a relationship between Fleur and an evil spirit in the lake, Erdrich shows the reader that Fleur has frightening and mystical powers. Pauline tells the reader: “‘She washed on shore, her skin a dull dead gray, but George Many Women…saw her chest move. Then her eyes spun open, clear black agate, and … ‘You take my place,’ she hissed’” (11).
Nanapush realizes that not just whites cheat the Indian, but Indian cheats Indian.
Nanapush sees that the future requires accommodation if the tribe is to maintain a modicum of Chippewa tradition and allow him to save his granddaughter. “For I did stand for tribal chairman…To become a bureaucrat myself … the only place where I could find a ledge to kneel on, to reach through the loophole and draw you home” (225).
Tracks is a dark but dynamic, and well worth reading. Erdrich provides a deep understanding of the plight of the indigenous people of this continent without a moral discourse.
McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West. 2010 Modern Library Edition ed. New York, NY: Modern Library, 2010. Print.
Many consider Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian too violent to read. Violence begins on the second page and continues unabated to the end. McCarthy delivers a treatise on man’s inhumanity to man in the form of genocide. Blood is a constant theme as blood is spilled in one senseless massacre after another. Blood is not the result of conflict, but the reason for it.
McCarthy weaves what could be a series of short stories describing the worth or lack of indigenous people’s lives in the latter half of the nineteenth century west. The story, seen through the eyes of the narrator, follows the Kid and a gang of killers. McCarthy’s narrator never allows the reader inside the mind of the characters. We learn only what McCarthy wants as he develops his characters. He forces the reader to imagine one’s vision of the murderous thoughts. He is masterful in constructing his performers while forcing his readers to judge them.
McCarthy uses understated allegory to deliver messages that express what the characters are or what they represent. Spitting is used throughout as a symbol of the low regard the men have for anything, including human life. The insult of the act says more than dialogue could deliver. Wolves are symbolic actors. Almost daily, we see wolves. The humans and the wolves are representative of hunters looking for easy prey. The only difference, wolves kill for survival.
Glanton and his gang are inherently immoral, evil, clichés of bad guys in black hats. The governments of Mexico and the United States, equally evil, legitimatize genocide. This allowed for the ferocious and persistent murder and attempted extermination of the native peoples of both countries.
Genocide is the predominant theme. Except for the Delaware’s, the Indians are shown as savages. This holds even when the Diegueño Indians rescue the Kid and the ex-priest. “They would have died if the indians had not found them” (312). The narrator refers to these people as savages, as aborigines. “they saw the halfnaked savages crouched…” (312).
Two central characters, Glanton and the Judge, build upon the theme of genocide. Glanton, when he kills an old Indian woman sitting in the square of an impoverished Mexican village. When he sees three of his men squatting with her, he dismounts and kills her. “The woman looked up. Neither courage nor heartsink in those old eyes. He . . . put the pistol to her head and fired” (102). On the very next page, he confirms his complete contempt for life when he tells the only Mexican in his band to scalp the woman’s corpse with these chilling words, “Get that receipt for us” (103). She is nothing more than a hundred-dollar bounty.
The reader becomes almost inured to the violence. Once the butchery began, it seems as though there can be nothing more disturbing—there is—the Judge is evil incarnate. The gang surprises and attacks a large Indian encampment, “the partisans [Glanton’s men] nineteen in number bearing down upon the encampment where there lay sleeping upward of a thousand souls” (161). The Judge leaves the devastated village with a captured child, a ten-year-old boy. He treats the child humanely, and the boy becomes somewhat of a mascot. Three days later, the depth of the Judge’s evil is shown. “Toadvine saw him with the child as he passed with his saddle, but when he came back ten minutes later leading his horse the child was dead and the judge had scalped it” (170). The reader is left to wonder if the Judge killed the boy because he thrives on murder, or if he defiled the child and killed him afterward.
McCarthy’s colorful and graphic language adds significantly to the ability of the reader to see, understand, and experience the scenes and settings. Short and straightforward, his portrayal of the gang as they cross the desert, conveys in a few easy to read lines, in which the reader can feel, and smell the riders. “They rode on, and the wind drove the fine gray dust before them and they rode an army of graybeards, gray men, gray horses” (259).
The Kid, born into a violent world, dies a violent death forty-five years later. Some assume that the Judge, a pedophile, and sexual deviant, rapes the Kid and leaves him for dead. We’ll never know the answer.
McCarthy’s final message to the reader, evil cannot be eradicated; it lives forever.