Zipity Do Da, Zipity Yeah

My oh my what a wonderful day.

Today is one of those awesome springtime days here in the beautiful mountains of central Colorado. I had planned on writing something really cool for my final blog post in the A to Z blog challenge and today is just so pretty I can’t bring myself to stay inside another minute. So I encourage everyone, if the weather’s nice, get out and enjoy the day. The wildflowers here are beginning to bloom, if they’re doing it here then she should be doing it other places too. Get outside folks. Enjoy the nice weather, and smell the flowers.

Have fun and happy blogging. We’ll do a review of the challenge in a few days. Now its time to rest the tired brain and enjoy the great outdoors.

 

The Yellow Sky Coven

So for Y today, I decided to give everyone a little bit of background on the interesting characters that make up the Yellow Sky Coven, at least those that show up in “Blood Moon, Yellow Sky.” I’ll save other folks from other books for later posts.

Geraldine, Geri, Beggay is the leader and teacher of the group. During her youth, spent as a teacher’s child out at a home for troubled youth, she met an old Cherokee shaman who, building on her natural aptitude, taught her magic. She found out about the Coalition for Magical Creatures when her teacher applied for membership. Unfortunately, he failed his test. Geri decided at that point, to go on with her life. During the ensuing years, she worked odd jobs, which occasionally included assisting the police with crimes that were outside the mundane realm. Over time, she became the magical sheriff of the Texas panhandle. She stayed active in the magical community and through that, eventually found her own students.

Alex Carlson was one of her first students. He found Geri in his early twenties. They quickly hit it off and she agreed to take him under her wing to teach him more types of magic than he could find in readily available books. Although he came from a magical family, most of which possed at least some psychic or magical skills, he was always looking to expand his knowledge. Alex owned the local independent bookstore, the Halfling’s Hideaway, and attracted a good number of young folk who had a natural aptitude for magic to the shop. Several other members of the coven were people pulled into the shop by the forces of fate.

Stan Belsario was one of the people that found their way into Halfling’s Hideaway. His military family traveled extensively when he was growing up. In each new place, he got out and explored everything he could of local culture. Over time, he was experienced many different types of magic, sometimes not the most savory of sorts. With a youth spent often running in the shadowed streets of third-world countries, he became an accomplished thief. By the time he reached Yellow Sky, the authorities kept watchful eyes on him. After meeting Alex and Geri, and coming under their calming influence, he turned his skills toward helping keep the magical peace that Geri demanded in her territory.

Charles Colfax met Alex in high school. Even though Alex was a couple years older than Charles, they became best friends. Soon after Alex began studying under Geri, Charles and his twin sister Bernadette managed to worm their way in to the group. Like Alex, they came by their magical talents naturally. Both having an affinity for fire, they adopted the magical nicknames of Char and Burn.

Terry and Larry Holloway are the sons of a police officer that Geri worked with on a regular basis. Their father actually recommended them to Geri. They had an interest in the occult and he didn’t want them wandering around on their own and getting into trouble. The Holloways aren’t as strong as some of the other members of the coven, but they bring their own unique flare to the group’s dynamic.

Finally there’s Janie Miller, like the Holloway brothers, she isn’t as strong magically as some of her friends, but she’s very close to Bernadette. The two went to school together and over time, fell in love. She is Burn’s shadow, often a balance to her fiery lover’s temper.

Other members of the coven came along over time, all drawn to the magic teachings that Geri had to offer and the general camaraderie that so many young folks need in their lives. Many things happen to them as a group and as individuals, some of these things are good, some not so good. As we see in “Blood Moon, Yellow Sky,” Geri follows in the footsteps of her magical teacher and applies for membership to the Coalition of Magical Creatures. This leads to the group’s meeting with Tal O’Duirwood that changes all of them forever.

To find out more about Geri and her crew, read the various Yellow Sky books, novellas, and short stories.

W is for Werebears

I’ve done a couple of post the past few weeks, during this A to Z Blog Challenge about lycanthropes and shapeshiftes. With us winding down to a close, and being on W, I figured I’d do another wer post. The logical idea was werewolves, but like vampires there’s been so much written about them. I decided to go for a different species and look at werebears.

Historically, there are only a few cultures that had stories of werebears. In Europe, the Vikings had tales of berserkers, men who in battle would lose their humanity and become enraged beast that were deadly to any and all who came near them. There are folks that claim they would even take on an animal-like physical appearance. Some people view this transformation as a form of lycanthrope and claim, these were werebears. There is no evidence that the condition could be transferred to other people. Several Native American tribes had tales of the bear brothers, bears who could become human, even mate with human women, but were always bears at heart. Again there is no tale of transferring the condition to others, although some tales to speak of the children, of these men, becoming bears.

When I write, I like to look at things a little differently and try to put new twists on things. Werebears help me do that. In my Yellow Sky books, I use a lot of lycanthrope species, all a little different. One of the things that set the bears apart from the others, is that they have more control over their changes, even the ones who aren’t magic users. They have more control over their animal side. The reason this is, is that they submerge themselves in their bear form for a week at a time, once a year. I actually have my bears hibernate, just like real wild bears would. This total submersion into their bear for an extended time gives werebears greater control than any other wers in the Yellow Sky universe, except those who were magic users before they became wers, or those who were born to wereparents. I’m even going to tell the story of one of the hibernations in a future book. No, it won’t be a sleeper.

I think that one of the reasons some authors, particularly romance authors, shy away from using bears, is that they see bears as big and fat, not something you want to see in a romance. Although wild bears do use a layer of fat to survive their hibernation, most of the time, bears are anything but fat, they are lean, muscular creatures at the top of their form. They are physical power personified. I bring that to the werebears in my writing. In their human forms they may be large imposing people, but they are not fat, they are muscular and powerful. They are still totally capable of being sexy and don’t mind proving it.

So stop in sometime and catch some of my bears in action. The main bears we see are Suzzy Goodberries, matriarch of the Bittertooth Bear Clan, J.P. Montgomery, head of security for the Coalition of Magical Creatures, and Jamie Thatcher, partner of Charles Colfax, a vampire, and member of the Yellow Sky coven. Jamie gets a lot more action than Suzzy or J.P., but who knows, we might see more of them in the future if my readers want it.

Werebears might not get the same attention, either in classic mythology and legends, or modern culture, as werewolves, but they still make interesting characters and can be a lot of fun. So amble on over and share a roar instead of a howl once in a while.

V is for Versatility

When someone says versatility what do you think of? Do you think about an all-in-one tool? Do you think of someone who can adapt to almost any situation? Do you think of sex? Versatility can be all of these.

By our very nature, humans should be versatile in all things. We live in a very dynamic environment. We never know if things are going to be the same from day to day, even though we try very hard to make things consistent from day to day. People get into their grooves and don’t like to change. They like to keep to the same patterns, eat the same things, drive the same way to work, watch the same things on TV and generally never change anything they don’t have to. But when you change things up a bit it’s amazing how much extra energy you can find and how much more interesting life becomes.

People should become more versatile, it helps keep stress down. If you’re not afraid to get off the beaten path…well your beaten path, it helps you relax. If you’re afraid to try new routes and say there’s an accident on your way to work, you’re stuck in traffic and might be late for work. If you can be versatile and try a different route several things occur, one you might find something new and unexpected, you don’t have to sit there waiting for things to clear and you can avoid the stress of not being in control of the situation. Take control and be versatile.

Life gets better when you can more easily adapt to a situation and when you adapt without stress, it shows a certain level of versatility. Stop and look at things and ask yourself how you can do something a little different each day. Be like our world, be dynamic and versatile.

UFOs

Go back to before recorded times, man has seen things in the sky that he could not explain. Sometimes those things were just clouds, other times they were vastly more material.

Some of the earliest Hindu text recount great battles between their Gods, that occurred with flying cities and flying objects. Many of these had beams of light that danced around between the combatants. Over the past century, archeological sites have been located in Asia that suggest the remains found there may have been exposed to nuclear weapons thousands of years before the human race developed the technology. Could this be coincidence in an area that has legends of deities battling in flying cities over the Earth?

Around the Mediterranean Sea, there are many tales of Gods and angels appearing to people, often out of a light beam from the sky. When you look at many of the religious artworks from the area, they show strange objects in the sky. We are now beginning to wonder if these objects may be extraterrestrial in origin. Then we also have things like the white horse of Dover in England that was constructed in the ancient past that can only be fully appreciated from the sky. There is more evidence of visitation in the ancient world that we could ever imagine, and that evidence continues right through to modern day.

Events like Roswell back in 1947 have occurred all over the world. Recently there have been a large number of sightings captured on video thanks to the proliferation of person video recording devices such as cell phones. Although there are a lot of hoaxes, there are enough that cannot be explained that we need to be questioning.

If we are being visited by alien life forms other than Justin Beiber, what does it mean? Are they here to help us? Are they here to harm us? Are they here to mate with us? These and many other questions abound around the topic of UFOs. Could it be that the major governments of the world have known about them for years and are keeping it secret for fear of upsetting the populace?

Do a bit of research on your own. Hit youtube, check out the many videos that are posted there and draw your own conclusions. Then watch the sky, see what strange and unusual things you might see up there. The truth is out there.

T is for Tal O’Duirwood

Character Study

To the general public, Tal O’Duirwood is somewhat of an enigma. Seldom seen, his name is whispered with fear throughout most corners of the metaphysical world. He is the boogie man that werewolf mothers tell their children of to make them behave. As an enforcer for the Coalition of Magical Creatures, he has earned their fear by keeping the magical world from creeping out of the shadows and into the light of the mundane world. Tal likes the fact that the metaphysical public doesn’t know who he really is, and that his name is the source of terror around the world.

Very few people actually know the real Tal O’Duirwood. He holds onto his privacy with both hands. Those that he accepts into his life and into his secrets, find a friend the likes of which they could never hope to find again. He is loyal to his close friends and family and doesn’t accept betrayal easily. For nearly two thousand years, the most important thing to him was knowledge, particularly magical knowledge. He comes by his thirst for knowledge naturally. He got it from his mother, the dragon Oleta, the last pure dragon of England.

Tal was raised by his father Taliesin, a druid and one of the Merlin’s of Brittan. Tal was trained as a druid from before he was born. He didn’t discover his dragon heritage until his twenty-first birthday, when, at his father’s urging, he finally changed into a dragon. With his first transformation into his other form, Tal stopped aging. So now, although he is nearly two thousand years old, he appears to be in his early twenties.

Over his long life, Tal explored most of the known world, even venturing into places lost or forgotten to most people. His never-ending thirst for knowledge, combined with his personal quest to find other dragon’s has kept him going. When the Spanish first explored the New World, Tal took the opportunity to get out of Europe and see what there was to find. On the voyage across the Atlantic, he fell for a young noble named Estaben de’Oro. They set off by themselves as Tal sought to find some of the native magic users before the main body of the Conquistadors could. This proved disastrous for Estaben as they were attacked by vampires deep in the Amazon Jungle. Tal knew how to save the young noble’s life, but the Spaniard became a vampire. Tal had known the company of vampires before. They were long lived, like he was and made adequate companions.

Over the course of their journeys, Tal and Estaben came to the Colorado Rockies, where Tal found a place that the magics sung to him and he decided to call home. In the mountains Tal could be freer than he could in towns, although Estaben still had to feed on humans to sustain his life. The vampire eventually betrayed Tal by creating a companion of his own and the two vampires went on a bloody rampage across several western states. Being unable to bring himself to hunt them down, Tal retreated into his newly-built library and immersed himself into his studies, coming out from time to time to work with some of the native shamans, learning new magics.

Around 1900, as America was growing ever westward, Tal was found by a werewolf, William Sheffield, who was part of a new organization called the Coalition of Magical Creatures. William had followed rumors of Tal across the west, hoping to recruit him for the group that was going to unite the many factions of magical creatures under one organization. Tal was reluctant at first, but finally went to see what the Coalition had to offer. Over time he became their chief enforcer in the western United States.

Nearly a hundred years later he is called to Yellow Sky Texas where a witch named Geraldine, Geri, Beggay is dealing with a vampire problem in her small town. Her problem is named Steven Goldson, a man formerly known as Estaben de’Oro. Amongst Geri’s students is a man named Alex Carlson. Within moments of meeting the handsome mage, Tal feels their lives intertwine. After nearly two thousand years, the lone dragon had found a man to call his own.

Personal statistics.

Height : Human form : five feet, ten inches

Dragon form : seven feet five inches at the shoulder, twenty feet long

Weight: Human form: one hundred seventy five pounds

Dragon form : two thousand six hundred and fifty pounds.

Wing Span: Twenty five feet two inches.

Hair color : Black

Scale color : Black, after bonding with Alex his top most neck ridge along his head is now red.

Eye Color : sapphire blue

Follow Tal’s adventure in my Yellow Sky series.

Highlights:

His meeting with William Sheffield “The Wolf’s Proposition

His first meeting with Alex Carlson “Blood Moon, Yellow Sky

His bonding to Alex “Hearts Blood Fusion

Coming soon the short story of Tal’s first flight “First Flight” appearing in “Here There be Dragons” from Wicked East publishing.

Also coming soon, the second Yellow Sky novel.

Shapeshiters

Shapeshifters, often just called shifters in today’s vernacular, have been elements of myth and legend for as long as mankind has told tales. Long ago, Gods like Zeus could change their shape into many different things animal, vegetable and mineral. Many of the Native American Gods were shapeshifters, most notably Coyote, the Trickster God. In the Middle Ages shape changing was something that a lot of witches were rumored to do thanks to their knowledge of magic.

Today, in popular culture, we have a large number of shifters ranging from long-forgotten Gods, to love sick werewolves and strange alien life forms. It is unclear which tales were the true sparks for the current popularity in shifters, but today there are entire genres in literature devoted to them. A large majority of the paranormal works out there have shapeshifters of one form or another (pun intended) gracing their pages. Werewolves abound as do dragons, seals, otters, bears and other types of beasties. Most of the lycanthrope shifters are said to be suffering a curse, either from a witch’s spell or another lycanthrope’s bite. For a lot of people this curse and the angst it brings is part of what makes the werewolf, or other wer attractive. It makes them an underdog and gives them something to overcome.

Thanks to Bram Stoker, a number of sexy vampires as change into other things while moving about on their nightly hunt for blood. Vampires are often seen changing into bats, wolves, ravens or mist depending on the needs of the story. With vampires, the shapeshifting is part of the power and allure of the blood drinker. It helps add another element of mystery to the creature.

Magical shapeshifting is a lot like vampire shape changing. The witch, wizard, shaman or sorcerer uses magic to leave their human form behind. Sometimes it’s through a spell, sometimes it’s with a magic item, you can even find it as a wish being granted. Magical shapeshifting has been used for everything from flying to carry a message to changing into an animal to communicate with other animals of the same kind. A wizard who changes himself into a kitten and invades a maiden’s bed chamber is less likely to be rebuked than one that just strolls in.

Over time, space aliens have even gotten in on the shapeshifter band wagon. It gives them the power to pass for human even if their real form might be a plant, a giant bear beast or maybe a pool of jelly. An unknown life form transforming into a human shape makes people more receptive to them and in pop culture, makes them sexier.

Nowadays, shapeshifters aren’t the scary monsters they used to be in the past. Thanks to good spin agents, they are seen as tormented souls, lost and lonely, in need of someone to love them. The beastly side of them makes them sexy. No matter what your flavor of shifter is, there’s something out there for you to try.

I enjoy writing about shifters and more than a few can be found in my Yellow Sky stories and my E.S. Peters Investigations books. Monday’s blog will be a character study of one of them, Tal O’Duirwood. Stop by and check it out.

R is for Red-Tailed Hawks

WOW, did you see that large hawk on the phone pole we just drove past? The odds are it was a red-tailed hawk. Red tails are the most frequently seen hawks in North America. They are a member of the buteo family, or soaring hawks. Extremely adaptable, red tails are found in most environments on the continent. You can see them in the country, you can see them in the cities, you can see them in the mountains, the deserts and the plains. There are even red tails living on Park Avenue in New York City, talk about top of the food chain.

Red-tailed hawks get their name from the brick-red tail of the adults. When they are juveniles, their tail is striped in two-tone browns. This buteo actually comes in a wide spectrum of colors from white to near black. There are about 15 recognized subspecies, some vary is color like the dark Harlan’s red-tailed hawk and the very light Krider’s red-tailed hawk, while others are just geographically separated and show some slight genetic variances. The eastern  birds and the western birds show differences in size.

Like all Buteos, red-tailed hawks are opportunistic hunters. They feed on just about anything they can catch, but their preference is for small mammals like mice, rats, rabbits and squirrels. They aren’t opposed to going after birds and reptiles as well.

Red tails like to nest in open areas, places where they can have their nest in a tall tree, and then look out over fields where lunch wanders by on a regular basis. Their numbers exploded when modern farming cleared vast sections of forest, leaving agricultural expanses that have a few trees here and there. Those trees provide nesting places while the fields provide hunting areas.

At around two years of age, most red-tailed hawks become sexually mature. At this point they choose a mate. Mating flights can be spectacular to watch and can go on several days before the female settles on a male. Once her mind is made up, they are monogamous for the useful life of the male. In the cases where the female is younger than the male, once he can no longer provide for her and her family, she will evict him from her territory and entice a younger male in. It is the female’s territory the male is just there for food and fertilization. Red tails lay between 1 and 5 eggs that take about 32 days to hatch. Over the next six weeks, the chicks are fed large amounts of food. When they fledge, they are normally at the highest weight they will ever have, and in some cases are actually larger than their parents since their immature tail and wing feathers are slightly longer than their corresponding adult plumage. For up to ten weeks after fledging, they stay near their parents as they learn to fly and hunt. Once they have it figured out, or when the fall winds start blowing, they leave their birth place and head south, setting out on their first migration.

The versatility of the red-tailed hawk makes it a very popular falconry bird across the world. We are lucky here in the United States to have access to a wild population of birds that licensed falconers can pull from. In other countries, they rely on captive bred birds. Here in the U.S., they are the birds that most falconers have during their apprenticeship. They are a very hardy bird and quickly adapt to proper handling. Partnered with a skilled falconer, there’s not much a red tail can’t hunt. I’ve had red tails hunt everything from pheasant, jack rabbits and snow-shoe hairs down to snakes and mice. We don’t actively hunt snakes and mice, they just kinda happen out in the field. I know of several red tails that are avid duck hunters. In most hunts, the falconer will release the bird at the edge of the field. The hawk will fly to the top of a tree, pole, even buildings or large rocks. From its perch, the red tail watches as her falconer, companions and possibly dogs, (around here we just refer to the support staff as her minions) scour the area for prey. When prey is spotted, the person spotting lets out a hardy “Ho, Ho, Ho” and points towards the fleeing critter. The hawk then drops off her perch and flies down the prey. In a perfect flight, she’ll catch it. Unfortunately, life is rarely perfect and she’ll miss more times than she’ll catch, just like if she was in the wild. When the catch is made, the falconer rushes to his bird’s side and if she needs help dispatching her quarry, he’ll assist. Every time a falconer takes a bird out and turns it loose to hunt, the bird makes the decision to come back. They can fly we can’t. If a bird is being improperly treated, it can leave, and every year many do. They are extremely intelligent and aren’t afraid to show it.

Red-tailed hawks are one of the most abundant and beautiful birds of prey that we have here in North America. Watch the roadsides as you travel about and you will frequently see them perched on phone poles, buildings, and in the tops of trees just waiting for the opportunity to swoop down and make our world a little cleaner by removing another rodent. Watch for the flash of red as their tails pass over the sun, it’s an incredibly beautiful color, to go along with a completely awesome bird.

 

Q is for Quetzalcoatl

Throughout early Mesoamerica, a mysterious deity ruled the lands. From what is now Texas down through South America a feathered serpent was feared and worshiped by the native peoples. The Aztecs called him Quetzalcoatl. He was worshiped as the God of the sky, of knowledge, of the dawn and was the patron of the Aztec priesthood. It is believed that the worship of the Feathered Serpent began around 400 BCE and lasted well after the Spanish conquered the land. There are even some rumors floating around that there are still cults deep in the jungle that follow the old ways of the serpent.

All over ancient Mesoamerica, the serpent motif is found in the architecture, with snakes holding sway in temples as well as homes. It is this abundance of snakes, many of whom sport feathers, that shows the vast influence of Quetzalcoatl. There are even entire temples raised to him, such as the Quetzalcoatl Temple/pyramid in Teotihuacan, north east of Mexico City.

The earliest depictions of Quetzalcoatl show a completely serpentine body with feathers about the head. As the Mayan culture grew, the God became more human but retained his feathered reptilian head. The Maya depicted him as the embodiment of the sky itself, and in many of their hieroglyphs a priest is seen giving the serpent of knowledge to a new king. After the fall of Teotihuacan around 600ACE, the cult of the feathered serpent spread south from Mexico.

There were legends that told of the return of Quetzalcoatl to the area. Some people believe that when Cortez landed in Mexico the ruling party at the time, led by Emperor Montezuma II thought him to be the return of the feathered serpent. Of course that rumor was started by the Spanish after the conquest of the Aztecs and many historians disagree with the idea, claiming it to be propaganda. More recently, some Mormons have claimed that some of the descriptions of Quetzalcoatl as a white man that came down from the sky are actually visions of Jesus visiting America long before the Spanish ever got here. There are others that believe that the feathered serpent and many of the other primitive Gods are actually space aliens moving among the young cultures of our planet for their own amusement.

Whatever the truth may be, the cult of the feathered serpent has one of the longest histories of any religious cult on our planet. Some people still believe that it is Quetzalcoatl that will arrive back on this planet later this year to herald our world into a new age of understanding and enlightenment.