In honor of the Fourth of July, here’s a brief passage from my upcoming novel, NOT KNOWING, in which Meg’s archaeology students celebrate the holiday on site at Kawilkan, in the middle of the Belizean jungle.
Saturday would be the Fourth of July. The students had purchased some fireworks in Santa Cruzita and now they were begging to set them off.
“We have to celebrate Independence Day,” Ashley said, following up with a vivid description (with gestures and sound effects) of fireworks displays in her hometown and some even more spectacular displays she’d witnessed in Beaumont on the banks of the Neches River while listening to patriotic music played by the Symphony of Southeast Texas. Of course I’d finally agreed, warning the students to be extra careful.
“You can never be sure of the quality of fireworks,” I said. “I don’t want you to blow anything up. Especially not yourselves.”
Sarah had bought several packages of frozen wieners at the supermarket in Belmopan, as well as a yellow plastic container of mustard and some chutney that she claimed would be just like sweet pickle relish. Elodia and Seth had collaborated on making buns. And since it was a Saturday night, I’d okayed the beer as well, although I insisted that those who were setting off the fireworks must abstain until after everything had exploded.
Pacál said he’d had some experience with Mexican fireworks and volunteered to assist Brad in orchestrating the show. He read the name on each item and explained what they could expect from it. “Provided it really is what it says and provided it works at all.” He was obviously enjoying his role as cultural ombudsman. They cleared an area and agreed on which direction they would try to aim the fireworks.
They started off with a bundle of firecrackers. The spectators complained that they were pretty pathetic, not making nearly enough noise. I felt otherwise. I didn’t want to admit how much I hated fireworks. I remembered that one New Year’s Eve when Rick had gone with me to Charco Seco to meet my parents and how ashamed and angry he’d been at the way he freaked out during the fireworks display. None of the fireworks at the Kawilkan Fourth of July celebration were particularly loud or spectacular and a few were outright duds. But all in all they provided enough entertainment to satisfy our crowd. I was glad when the noise stopped.
The release date for NOT KNOWING is July 20, but you can preorder the ebook now on Amazon. Or join me at Malvern Books at 7 p.m. on the 20th and get a paperback. I’ll sign it for you!
The memories that matter are not at your grave site. There I find only tears, sad faces, loss. No, the memories I seek are in the houses where life happened.
In the kitchen where we sat together shelling peas or on the porch where we ate grapes with ice while waiting for the postman or at the table where we listened to the radio and played endless games and you let me keep score or under the trees where we gathered pecans in autumn. Today I remember life. Happy Mothers’ Day!
Whether you celebrate Beltane or May Day or nothing at all, it’s good to take note of the first day of May, as it brings us ever closer to summer. It’s no wonder the day was traditionally noted by our agricultural antecedents in Europe as a time for the celebration of warmth and fruitfulness, fire and fertility!
I find this particular May Day exhilarating, as it marks the beginning of the month I’ve selected for release of my next novel, Shadow of the Hare. This particular celebration is set for May 21, the day of the full moon that is known is some quarters as “The Hare Moon”.
Associations of hares (sometimes rabbits) with the moon abound in folklore and I’ve always felt a personal resonance with the creatures. The symbolism has worked its way into my novel. Here’s a small taste–it was hard to find one without spoilers!
I remember the year 2053, the year of the Global Peace Accord that officially put an end to war. Lio and I had gone to watch the celebratory fireworks displays on the D. C. mall, sitting in the shadow of one of the big war memorials next to a shallow pool. We lingered, watching the full moon rise, long after the crowd dispersed.
“How do you think they finally got the big weapons manufacturers and military corporations to sign on to the accord?” I asked.
“I’ve wondered about that. I wish I knew. They’ll never make much profit just making explosives for fireworks.” Lio grinned at me. “Although tonight’s show was pretty spectacular. And by that I mean over-the-top excessive.”
I snuggled up closer to Lio as a breeze rose up, rippling the water on the pond where the full moon was reflected. “Of course, weapons aren’t just guns and bombs these days,” I mused.
“Did you ever see a man in the moon when you were a kid?” Lio asked.
“Yeah. At least I think I did.”
“Did you know that in some other parts of the world people see a hare on the face of the moon?”
“I read about that once. I could never see it though. I guess we see what we’re conditioned to see, right? Whatever our culture tells us is there?”
“Probably. And maybe we want it to be a living thing,” he suggested, “something with a face and eyes. Something we can relate to.”
“Can you still see a face on the moon?” I asked.
“Me either. Though sometimes I wish I could.”
PRE-ORDER Shadow of the Hare on Kindle and receive it May 21st!
Celebrate release of Shadow of the Hare May 21st, 1 pm to 4 pm, at Half Price Books on North Lamar in Austin. Get your signed paperback copy and register for free gifts!
Valentine’s Day inevitably (intentionally) brings up questions of Love and Romance, and today it prompted me to examine the romantic relationships of the characters in my Recall Trilogy. Result? I’m forced to admit that my characters appear to have somewhat complicated relationships. Do I want to talk about that? I think I’d rather just give you a few examples.
Here’s Jenda Swain in Way of the Serpent:
Jenda had always found a companion, a lover, on each of her previous eight sabbaticals. The first was the only serious one, leading, as it had, to her marriage to Benjamin Cohen. That marriage had lasted only until Ben’s next leave. All of Jenda’s subsequent sabbatical relationships had been carefully circumscribed. In light of this experience, Jenda was finding Luis-Martín Zenobia unnerving.
Now Malia Poole in the forthcoming Shadow of the Hare:
At some point, Lio and I became lovers. I can’t say we fell in love, because it wasn’t like that, or at least not like the stories I’d read about people falling in love. We started hanging out together. Lio became my best friend…
Finally, Jonathan Swain in Book III of the Recall Trilogy, Flight of the Owl:
I’d always been drawn to Dextra, although not in a sexual way. My years as a monk and then as a retreatant had left me with a more deliberate sexuality than most. That’s hard to explain, I guess. Let’s just say I’d learned how to avoid being driven by my hormones into thoughtless entanglements. I’d learned how to decide for myself and I’d never decided to become entangled with Dextra. I was never sure how she felt. Understanding women’s feelings wasn’t part of my monastic training.
You see what I mean? Complicated. You may now proceed to psychoanalyze the author.
Read more from Donna Dechen Birdwell.
Although I am neither an astrologer nor a prognosticator of any proven reliability, I would like to offer a few observations regarding this Lunar New Year.
The year we are leaving behind is the Year of the Wood Sheep. Sheep, as we know, are gentle animals who move about in herds, becoming easily distressed when left on their own, lost with no sense of direction, crying plaintively. In some eastern cultures, the sheep year is instead a goat year. We also know a thing or two about goats, especially scapegoats. “Wood” or “wooden” are terms often used to convey a sense of thickness, unresponsiveness, lack of intelligence.
The year we are moving into is the Year of the Fire Monkey. Unlike sheep, monkeys are lively, jovial, emotional, unpredictable. In stories, they are often tricksters. As for the fire, well, fire burns wood. Fire is one of the most useful tools ever domesticated by humankind, but also one of the most dangerous.
Based on these thoroughly idiosyncratic observations here is my prediction for the year ahead: things are about to get interesting!