Deus volt; Deus mittit me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mark of the Jaguar Book Review

Today I want to feature the book MARK OF THE JAGUAR by Mark Cheney. I just finished the book.


It's clear that Mark is normally a non-fiction writer. His presentation is flawless and his research exhaustive. The book was engaging and interesting. I learned so much about Mayan culture I'd never known before. It's clear Mark has been to the places he talks about. Now I'd like to go to Teotihuacan and Chichen Itsa and a few of the other places he mentioned.

The book follows a boy (and then man) called Yax Kan on a voyage of discovery for truth. He travels his lands searching for evidences of Kulkucan, the Feathered Serpent, or Christ. Along his journey, he meets dissolute religious men, a gorgeous potter's daughter, a golden jaguar, and various fellow searchers for the truth. Yax is a stone carver and scholar of repute. His knowledge of herbs is a trove he can pull from in various instances.

He and his friends work to free a city from the slavery of crooked priests who use a crystal skull to terrorize the citizens into working in their salt mines.

Though a work of fiction, the book often reads as non-fiction. I felt as if I could open the flap of my tent and walk out into the jungles of the Yucatan peninsula.


Here's my interview with the author:

1)         When was the moment you knew you wanted to be an author?
Answer: Probably after writing Poof, the Wonder Dog in 6th grade. However, later in life I wrote numerous articles in connection with my business dealings, some being published in national trade journals, and a local newspaper column. It was not until traveling to Mesoamerica in 1995 that I considered writing about the ancient Maya. I met the publisher of a magazine called Explore the Maya World in the airport terminal in Belize City, Belize, and after a brief conversation he asked if I would like to write about some of the experiences I had just had touring the Maya ruins, etc. It was a couple of years later that I started writing Mark of the Jaguar.

2)         When did actually you start writing?
Answer: I wrote a whimsical song in about 1985, never published, then started writing non-fiction around 1990, and fiction in 1997. I wrote one poem during that period and won a contest with the local writing group and that helped inspire me to continue.
(I used to write songs while I milked goats. Yeah. None of the songs were about goats.)

3)         When writing a book, do you outline, or let the story take you where it will? How did your story benefit from your writing style?
Answer: Way back in 1967 when I first got home from a mission to Florida & Georgia, I developed an interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which was enlarged to include the Nag Hammadi scrolls in Egypt. Once in Egypt, I began to study the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and then the hieroglyphs. Once I learned of the glyphs found in Mesoamerica, I dropped everything else and began looking for correlations with the Reformed Egyptian of the Book of Mormon. I started out writing the first 18 pages of my novel about a Maya shaman while stopped in traffic behind a school bus accident in 1997, then outlined the rest of Part One of the book. Due to size requirements in my first publisher's submission guidelines, I added the sequel as Part Two. Actually, I had a lot to learn, and after sessions with two different editors, and one LDStorytellers' Conference, I made substantial changes in hopes of improving my style and the story in the process. I had to have less narrative, more dialogue, and use more of the five senses in my telling of the story. 

4)         Tell me about the inspiration for this book—the story behind the story.
Answer: After two of seven trips to Mexico and Central America to visit the ruins of the ancient people who had lived there, I began to visualize what it must have been like to live anciently, hundreds of years after the close of the Book of Mormon, and still hundreds of years before the Spanish conquest of these areas. I saw and studied about many things which appeared to me to be evidences that the Book of Mormon people left behind in these ruins: monuments, glyphic writings, structures, and other cultural remains. (See my four articles at BMAF.org in Sept. 2014 describing some of them.)

5)         How was this book therapeutic for you to write?
Answer: It was amazing to have the plot lead me by the nose to places I hadn't expected, meeting characters that revealed themselves as I wrote. I was especially shocked when my protagonist suddenly, but very naturally as a 20 year old, was drawn into a romantic relationship! I was totally unprepared and had lots to learn to even begin to write with the romantic sensitivity it would take to describe his feelings. I was both humbled and helped in my own personal relationships by recognizing all that goes into this kind of writing. The adventure and discovery part was really fun for me, as that is the kind of books that I enjoy reading myself. Writing the book became my R&R after a hard day at work.

6)         What do you hope your readers get from your book?
Answer: Well, because of the book's connection to Book of Mormon archaeology, it has a spiritual element that I want to come across. My MC was on a path of spiritual discovery, and during his quest had many exciting experiences, both dangerous and beautiful, as well. I hope that the readers are drawn into an empathetic relationship with the characters that lets them envision what it might have been like to live anciently around 685 AD, the approximate time frame for the book. 
(I personally developed a real wish to see the places Mark describes.)

7)         What is a writing roadblock you've had to overcome, and how have you overcome it?
Answer: I hate to admit that I really did not enjoy rewriting and revising and even improving what I first wrote, since it really came from my heart, but I believed that I had to, based on my critique groups and one particular editor's advice.

8)         Describe your typical writing day.
Answer: Most of my writing is done in the afternoon now, when my wife is well entrenched in her own activities. Mornings and evenings are reserved for our activities together. Once I actually determine what I need to write, the first drafts come pretty easily. As I am an indie writer, I am fortunate not to have deadlines, so I can be pretty relaxed about how much I accomplish each week, and may not write 5-6 days a week, like many authors must.

9)         Traditional publishing vs. self publishing—how did you choose which route to go? What benefits have you seen from your choice?
Answer: Since it is a book with a connection to a particular book of scripture, I first went to an LDS publisher, one of the most well known. The process took over two years and as I indicated, included lengthening the manuscript to a page count that was not indicated in the online submission guidelines, but given verbally when I first sent in a shorter mss. Then I received a form rejection letter, which kind of shocked me after they had requested a number of changes that I made along with the lengthening of the book. Then I went to smaller LDS publisher and was able to actually have some face time with the editor who gave me further advice and asked me to resubmit the mss. This took almost two years before I received another rejection, but this time with the explanation that although the editor recommended publication, her boss gave it to the marketing people for approval and they nixed it as too much of a "niche" story that would not be marketable. After only two rejections, but with this "niche" problem in mind, I decided to self-publish rather than wait any longer. Now my family and friends have copies, and I am in almost the same marketing mode that I would have been with a publisher. The big exception is without a publisher, I am not in any brick and mortar bookstores yet. This could change if I get the award for which I have been nominated. Main benefits are that I chose my own cover and illustrations, no more rewrites, and I have more control than with a traditional LDS publisher. Also, my publisher, AuthorHouse.com does not let me have much input in pricing. I am allowed one price change ONLY, and that is only on the EBook. Something positive, since this was an historical novel set around 685 AD, I was able to include a glossary of terms, historical notes, list of characters and some illustrations of real things and people, like King Kan Balam of Palenque with my protagonist, Yax Kan. Some of the simpler line drawings I did myself, but my daughter did three main illustrations including the cover art, and I was able to get permission from V. Garth Norman, PhD, to use his drawing of the Izapa Stela 5 "Tree of Life" stone.

10)       This is your first published book. Are there others to come?
Answer: Probably. I am seriously considering writing a compilation of the non-fiction articles I have written, and also have been thinking about a book which will cover some of the cases I worked on as a missing persons private investigator. I once gave a presentation to Northern Arizona Romance Writers Association (NARWA) on how to go about creating a false identity for a character in a novel, from the real life experiences I had in tracing people.
(I once fought next to a guy who catches people lying for a career and has written 7 books on lying. He also works for the military interrogating people. I wish I could remember his name.)

Of course, if my first novel, Mark of the Jaguar, takes off I will finish the sequel I have outlined, but that remains to be seen, based on the Whitney awards outcome for 2014. I have been nominated, so am in a holding pattern right now.
(Don't wait for the Whitneys. Just write.)

11)       Why are you a writer?
Answer: Mostly to share my experiences with others, but it is also a creative outlet when it comes to poetry and fiction. There just about has to be some ego involved, I think, to want to continue writing. It gives me lots of "juice" when I get read and receive good comments.

12)        Did anything from your childhood play a role in helping you decide to be a writer? What was it? And how did that person/event influence you? 
Answer: I had excellent writing teachers from grade school up into undergraduate studies. I even took a Creative Writing evening class with my daughter, Tasha, while I was writing the novel. She had started one as well, so it was lots of fun.
(I have a Natassia too!)

13)        Is writing your day job?
Answer: Writing is my main avocation for enjoyment in my retirement. It keeps my brain actively engaged and opens me up to many new experiences. For instance, in 2013 I edited a book that a Facebook friend of mine had written in Portuguese, and then translated to English. It was really interesting to see how her translation included idioms not understandable in English, at least in America. The Portuguese language is very poetic and flowery compared to English, with lots of colloquialisms that we wouldn't normally understand, so the editing included lots of rephrasing. She is still working on the final drafts.
(It's my day job...along with ferrying the last few of my 6 kids to every place of their dreams, lion-taming (okay small nippy puppy), Boy Scout wrangling, wedding planning, and a trillion other details.)

14)       (Some might say this question is the most important of all...) What is your absolute must-have writing snack?
Answer: Until a few months ago, it was chocolate of one kind or another, now it has changed . . . to sugarless Russell Stover chocolates! Dry roasted peanuts are a close second. One of my nf articles is on the history of cacao, not coincidentally.
(For me it's plantain chips. I LOVE those almost more than chocolate.)

Links to my FB page and blogs, as well as Amazon, BN, etc. https://www.facebook.com/MarkoftheJaguarbook?ref=hl ; 

http://indiebookoftheday.com/past-winners/ (Scroll down to Sept. 11, 2014 to my novel.)


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To Dog or not to Dog

Eh! I forgot to post my limerick for National Limerick day. So here it is in all its splendor:

We recently got a new puppy
We got him a leash and a cuppy
He's just like a child
He's sweet and he's wild
When he poops we wish he was a guppy
© 2015 by H. Linn Murphy
So what actually happened is someone dumped this puppy in the back of the pick-up in front of our house along with a bag of dog food. We really hadn't planned on getting a dog. My son has wanted a dog so much he can taste it, for years. We jokingly get him fake dogs. I don't know. Maybe we're a little bit warped.

So we got this dog the other night. Immediately the kids named him and went and bought him a leash and a collar. And then when he slipped that one a few times, they bought a choke chain. They're sleeping next to him and walking him and potty training him. It's going to be some serious heartbreak if we don't keep him.

But we also have a family trip coming up. And we have a wedding in the works along with being extremely busy. Dogs are expensive and training one is time consuming. They chew things up and poop all over and get out of the gate and die and get diseases.

But every day that goes by Riley (Bazinga) burrows further into our hearts.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Boots and Saddles

Here's an excerpt from SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO, the book I'm selling for Mother's Day:

The barrel champion was going down. She just didn’t know it yet.
It was a tiny border town like hundreds of other Wyoming
towns that ran together in a blur. The same announcer droned on
and on about Tamsin Tucker’s accomplishments and awards and
theorized about her chances. Tamsin’s mind ran on automatic as she
thought her way through the race, oblivious to the roar of the crowd,
the smell of popcorn and hot dogs and hot iron gates, old leather,
sweaty horse, and manure. She visualized her horse, Chimborazo,
approaching the barrels, Tamsin’s body taut as she leaned into the
cloverleaf turns, keeping her limbs tucked and her hands quiet, but
driving hard, and then the final sprint down the alley leading out of
the arena. Check the cinch, check the hat, settle into a better position
in the saddle, recheck the gloves, seat the grip more firmly on the
reins—and then do it all again.
Tamsin glanced over at the newcomer on the circuit. She could
tell the girl was nervous. “You’re going to do fine,” Tamsin said with
a grin.

The girl nodded. “Thanks.”
Tamsin was just visualizing the official handing her the trophy
when the bell clanged and Chimborazo exploded out of the alley
with a cloud of dust and a flash of Tamsin’s blue silk shirt.
They blazed around the first barrel, clumps of dirt flying up
in their wake, horse and rider a symphony of harmonious, well-
schooled movement. Tamsin’s honey-colored hair streamed back,
her face a mask of grit and rock-steady determination. The second
barrel blurred past. Just as they went into the third, she looked up. In
that brief moment her life changed forever. It was like slow-motion
agony. Her husband, Troy, better known as Bobo the rodeo clown.
With a girl.
One instant of lost concentration and Tamsin’s iron grip slipped.
She could feel Chimborazo’s hooves losing purchase. She was
yelling, “No, no, no!” but there was nothing she could do as the
arena floor came slamming up to meet them.
© 2015 by H. Linn Murphy

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mother's Day Book Bash

I'm rockin' the Mother's Day Book Bash today, splashing it all over Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. I'd love to sell a ton of books. And the other books are looking way tempting. How will I even break even unless you buy my book?

Mother's Day Book Bash Sale and Ireland

Our Mother's Day BOOK SALE starts today!!! Twenty eight wonderful E-books a mother would love. Mine is pictured last, but don't buy it last...:o) Buy SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO. You won't be disappointed. And that's from a mother of six. We know best. Come to my blog and peruse the feast. You can buy from here.

Also we have a flame rating. Mine is about a two flamer book. That means there is some passionate kissing. I gave mine a two flame because the kisses are more than granny-on-the-cheek kind of kissing, but Deseret Book distributes this book, so you know it's clean.
@~-->--->-----------------
                                
Can I interest you in a bridge? Rofl No, the reason I'm working hard on this book sale is my mom roped me into doing what I've always wanted to do: Go to Ireland. She knew inertia would get me. Anywho, she put the thumbscrews on until I told her I would commit to raising the money and going.

 I'm planning on doing loads of research for books and maybe for other people for part of it. So this is me raising the money. Panhandle or sell newspapers on the corner is a last resort since I'm embarrassing enough to my kids...;o) and I'm trying not to have to go get a burger-flipping job so that I can still keep the fifteen books I've got in the pipeline running smoothly out to people.

I'm unveiling my other plan today: If you want to be added to a very special list, donate a dollar or so. The people on that list will get a running video commentary of my trip to Ireland. In other words, I'll take you along visually.  I plan on doing loads of book research, so I'll record sights, sounds, and smells. We'll be sleeping in a castle. I'll tell you how it feels. I'll ask every question I can think to ask the locals. I want to go off the beaten path and do crazy things.

I also want to try and take pictures of cemeteries and look at records since my sister and I want to find a branch of our genealogy. So I can perhaps make inquiries for you. An extra donation for extra work would be nice. The idea would be to load in as much experience as possible.

There are a couple of stipulations, however. I don't drink liquor of any kind. So trying the local whiskey won't happen. I'm not saying I won't slip into a neighborhood pub for a couple of minutes to sit and listen if they're playing good music, but I won't drink the brew. And I won't do anything illegal or immoral. There are too many other wacky and fun things to experience.

So if you'd like to go along for the ride as my video guest, or if you'd just like to send a writer to Ireland, or if you'd like me to help you out with some research, kindly proffer your name and your donation...:o)
Erin Go Bragh!




Saturday, May 2, 2015

Honey Badgers and Cobras and Grumps, Oh My!

Huh. Well look at that. I actually LOST readers doing Poetry month. Who knew? I'm either going to have to get funnier or lump them all in one long post like I've done in the past.

Welp. Let's just say I'm a bit tapped out today. I've been doing chores and I'm in it to hit the rack with a good read. So I've decided to favor you with a snippet of something I'm working on called YEAR OF THE HONEY BADGER. So here goes:

That night Sabra lay awake, staring up at the tin roof, wondering what she'd actually expected. It wasn't like she'd thought there'd be a five star hotel with jacuzzi and spa nearby. But it seemed not too much to ask to have a shower and maybe a stove to cook on. She sat bolt upright in bed. There had been a stove. She distinctly remembered it sitting there in the corner of the room next to a tiny, ancient refrigerator.
“Ha ha. You got me Stirling, you eel-brained toadstool. You probably have regular food to eat too. At any rate, the next time we go to town, I'm getting my own supply of food. And I'm going to start building the ratels a better place to live tomorrow. That all right, Darwin?”
The honey badger had hunkered down and was licking his paws. She could hear his tongue rasping on his teeth.
Finally the cares of the day crashed down on Sabra and she fell deeply asleep.
Until the slight scraping noise woke her. There it was again.
Scritch. Scritch. Scritch.
Slowly she reached down into her shoe and grabbed her flashlight, flicking it on.
There, right in front of her hammock, lay a snake.
It's tongue flickered, tasting the air.
The snake rared up, weaving slightly as it got its bearings.
Sabra tried not to move, not to breathe.
Her heart hammered like rolling thunder in her ears.
She noticed the distinctive markings on its head and must have jumped slightly.
It flipped its hood open, hanging there in front of her as if examining her curiously.
At first Sabra locked up, petrified. What could she do?
Then she remembered Stirling and how much sneering he'd do if she let herself freak out her first night over a snake.
Her mind sped between possibilities.
Nothing viable came to mind.
The snake could strike faster than she could throw anything.
What could she do, throw a shoe at it? No.
She had to wait it out. And hope.
She stared at the cobra until she thought she'd pass out from holding her breath.
Spots swam in front of her eyes just as the snake, with a last flick of its tongue, lowered itself and slithered away.
She couldn't move, but she took a tentative breath, slamming her eyes closed as the rasping of its scales disappeared into the further corner of the structure. It was after rodents that feasted on the badger's food. Clearly she'd have to make the place more secure in the morning. But what about tonight?
Then she remembered the fearless little animals she had come to study. They regularly went up against cobras. Their thick hide rarely let a snake's teeth sink in. She slowly slipped out of the hammock and crawled haltingly over to the cages. Contrary to what Richie had said, he hadn't clicked Darwin's lock shut. He'd have been out in a nanosecond. Sabra wondered why he wasn't already. She opened the lock and swung the door wide. Darwin's eyes gleamed in the dimness. She backed away from the cage, hoping the little creature would make his escape and go snake hunting.
At first the animal simply sat there.
“You're probably wondering why I'm letting you out, my friend. I bet you're thinking I'm going to do something to you. I'm sure nobody lets you out on purpose unless it's for blood draws or something. It's safe, though. You'll get it soon. I'll bet you're more intelligent than those lunks in the house.” Sabra stopped, realizing she was rambling. The cobra had thrown her more than she liked to admit. Clearly her voice was confusing the ratel. She climbed onto the table, sure that being up there wouldn't save her from the badger or the snake. It would simply make them take longer to get to her. Staying awake was the real reason she was up there.
Finally, after it had been quiet for some time, she heard the stealthy rattle of the cage door, then the skittering sound as Darwin's claws hit the wood of the cage on the way out. She heard him snuffling and the click of his claws as he padded around the room. She was just about convinced that the cobra had beat a hasty retreat when a commotion sparked in the corner. She heard the hiss of the snake and grunts and growls from the angry mustelid, as well as thuds and thumps as the two circled and writhed.
Oh how she wanted to turn on the flashlight and see what was happening. But surprising a honey badger in the middle of a fight was never a good idea, especially if the snake wasn't dead yet. She huddled on top of the table hoping it would all end well.
There was a yelp, as if the snake struck something vulnerable. Then a growl and a couple more thuds and the place went quiet. Sabra was just about to turn on her flashlight and check, when she heard the snuffling and padding of clawed feet. So it was over. And now, just like in the Dr. Seuss book with the mice and cats in it, she had to figure out how to deal with the H. B., as Richie called it.
She turned on her flashlight and squawked. Blood spattered the walls of the corner and badger tracks made trails all over the area. Darwin sat beneath the bank of cages chewing contentedly on part of the snake as if it were a popsicle. Sabra wanted to toss some of the snake into his cage, hoping he'd jump in there himself to finish it off. It would have been the simple solution, except getting between a honey badger and its hard-won food was an even dumber idea than turning on the flashlight in a fight.
Finally Sabra spotted a chunk which had, for some reason, rolled away. She jumped down, grabbed the piece, tossed it in Darwin's cage, scurried back to the table and skidded on. Darwin barely looked up from his snake snack. With her luck, he'd be too full to bother with the fragment in his cage—too full and too smart to fall for that ploy. But it was all she could think of at the moment. She flipped the flashlight back off, hoping the badger wouldn't smell the snake on her skin and come exploring.
She hugged her knees, waiting, wondering if she would catch heck for letting the badger out. Her eyelids grew heavy and she could barely keep her head from hitting her knees. Tomorrow she'd have to work on closing up the holes in the walls.
If she survived.

Chapter 4--

“What the heck?” The words woke Sabra from an uneasy sleep atop the table. She looked blearily up into the face of her new “best friend,” Stirling. “Why is the cage open? And where's the badger?”
“Mwaf.” Sabra had never been her best in the early morning.
Stirling stalked over and bent to peer into the cage. “Crazy!” he exclaimed, reaching up to shut the door and click the lock. “He's in there asleep!”
That got to Sabra. She scrambled off the table and over to the badger's cage, worried suddenly that the snake had actually made contact with a vulnerable part of its vicious opponent. She pushed Stirling out of the way. Could Darwin be dead in there? She scratched on the bars and the little animal shuddered in its sleep. Thank heavens. I couldn't live with myself if Darwin died to save my life. She breathed a sigh of relief and stepped back. If Darwin showed signs of having been bitten, she'd have to say something. Otherwise? No. Why add fuel to the fire they were building up about how she shouldn't be sleeping in the badger shed?
Sabra refused to tell the guys why she couldn't hold her eyes open that day. They were already ribbing her about being an up-at-noon princess. She simply ate her oatmeal mush and got to work shoring up the gaps under the door, around the corroded glass of the windows, and in the corners of the lab. 
© 2015 by H. Linn Murphy

Friday, May 1, 2015

Who Lights Your Way?

Yesterday, the last day of April, I was teaching Seminary, so I neglected to come and do a final poem. I can't let that stand, so here's today's poem based on yesterday's set and it's a heavy hitter, a Credo Poem. Thanks, Stephanie Abney for being our guide through National Poetry Month. You can learn what a Credo Poem is from her site. Here's mine:












I believe...
In the incredible power of prayer, 
The love of our Elder Brother, 
The over-reaching adoration of Our Father in Heaven, 
The plan He has for the happiness of His children 
And that we are the masters of our fate and the pilots of our ships.












But I don't believe we can do it all alone.
I believe in a Beacon of Light far outstripping anything we can offer
I believe in the power of Obedience,
I believe in the gifts of Kindness, Mercy, Understanding, Wisdom
And I believe in Love, guiding us back to His side.
So where we find safe harbour depends on which Star we set sail by, during this voyage on which we've embarked.
© 2015 by H. Linn Murphy