Posts Tagged ‘“Ancestors of Star”’

“Tin Hinan”, Chapter 9

December 10, 2010

It’s been a while since I have worked on this wip, but it’s a favorite of Bill Penrose (“Ancestors of Star”, and other books available at and I see  there are still readers of this unfinished novel.

I am stuck doing some research, and it’s tedious at best.  Not for “Tin Hinan” but for another project. Perhaps things move slowly because of the approaching holidays and I just can’t get into it; either the holidays or the writing.

But “Tin” is a sweet story, and when I do go back and look for a finish, something stirs, and it’s not mice in the chimney.  I hope to finish this story early this next year.

Lady Nyo





When you are a Berber and about to wed, you don’t marry a man, you marry the tribe.

The approval of both families was necessary, and since mine were far away, as distant as a star in the nighttime sky, provisions had to be made.


Immel asked for his parent’s approval.  I don’t believe they were surprised, because during the past few moons, he had made clear his intentions.  They remembered his grief in losing Cherifa, and what man is at peace without a wife?


The elders were consulted, the natural course for great and small concerns. Nothing this important could be decided without the elders.



Not all went well. There were objections. Mother Leila told me I would have to appear and explain why I was alone on the distant mountain with my woman.  Gossip always filtered down but the elders wanted to hear the story from my own mouth.


Marrying Immel was bound to raise many considerations.  He was the eldest son of a prominent elder and trusted to lead raids and men.  I was no one, with no family or tribe to represent me.


If I found favor before them, there were other moons to jump. When Immel married me we would have to bring a heavy bride-price to my parents and tribe, appeasing them with much wealth.  Separated by long distances across mountains and desert, our traditions still held.  There was war enough between the different tribes residing in the mountains and deserts. Immel’s tribe did not want more. Tribute would have to be made.


Ah!  It was a necessary evil, but we would make the long trip down the mountain, across the valley, up the mountain, down again, and so forth. And of course I would go with him. In fact, because of the distance and questionable safety of our journey, Immel would lead a caravan of many men to my parents. It would be supplied with gifts to impress my tribe with the wealth of his clan and family.


First, I would have to appear before the elders.  Mother Leila planned on my heavy silver jewelry and my best robes, but I had a different idea, one that Mother Leila would not like at all.


I would appear exactly as Immel and his tribesmen found me.  I would don the robes of a man, the indigo- blue turban and the sword and dagger I had left home with when Takama and I started into the desert.  I believed this would make my case as well as any words from my mouth.  I would make these elders know I was a woman with a mission,  one given to me by the Goddesses.  Well, at least I could try to make them believe that.  Whether the Goddesses spoke to me or not wasn’t their business.


I let Takama into my plan and she thought me crazy.  “What! Do you want to tempt fate? Have you learned nothing about men?  What would Immel think to have his intended show up before the elders dressed like a man?  Some Zar must have scrambled your head!”



She had a point, but I was determined.  Perhaps I felt more power as a man.  During the journey, even though I was fully a woman, just dressed like a man and carrying a dagger and a sword, I did feel some sort of transformation in my liver.  Perhaps men are more powerful by nature, but the sword made me feel power. I was just glad I wasn’t tested in my ability.  Both Takama and I would be dead now and this story would not be told.


The morning I was to appear before the council of elders, I prayed one last time to my silent Goddesses.  Takama was lookout for Mother Leila while I dressed in my male undergarments.   I drew on the long gown men wore and my tribe’s red and white striped burnoose.  I tucked my dagger and short sword into my girdle and wrapped the indigo-dyed cloth around my head, in turban fashion.  I even secured the trailing end over my nose, and walked out to meet Takama in the front room.  The transformation was complete, and Takama, even though she had seen me dressed this way before, trembled.  Perhaps her emotion came from fear, for what I was doing was a fearful thing for a woman to do.


I was to appear before the elders in a small house used by them for tribal meetings.  I strode confidently down the winding road to the courtyard, a young Berber man, tall and thin, but inside, I was quaking.  I entered the wooden door to the house, and sitting on benches were the fifteen elders.  Before them was a rough table with their judgement stones.  Off to the side was Immel.  I expected him to be but had not been sure.


The sky outside was gray, a pale wintry day, and the council room was not well lighted except for a brazier pot in the middle of the room.  There were oil dishes providing some illumination, but still the room was dim. I stood there, the door closed behind me, and I blinked to adjust my eyes from the change outside.


“I am Tin Hinan.”


At my voice, the men looked up, confused, and I glanced over at Immel.  He sat back on his bench, his shoulders hitting the wall, and a wry grin formed on his face.


I removed the veil from my face, exposing my mouth.  “I come amongst you as Immel Uzmir and his men found me.  I dressed as a man when I left my tribe for the safety of my woman, Takama, and myself.  I made this journey to follow my destiny.”


There were some exclamations of surprise and not a few of disdain. My garb was shocking to these men.


A voice called out.  “What reasons do you give, Tin Hinan, for setting out from your parents and tribe?”


I tried to keep the waver from my voice, but my stomach betrayed me.  I felt my right leg shake and I knew fear.  My state must have been obvious to the elders.  Gazing at Immel I saw him slightly nod his head, encouraging me to go on.


“I was to be married to Hasim Azur Dhalid.  The bride-price was paid to my parents.  Gifts were exchanged between our clans. Then, less than a moon before the wedding, I was told Hasim had left for the tent of another woman.  My parent’s gifts were returned, and I knew our tribes would go to war over this insult.”


A mummer spread across the room. Immel looked grim. To any Berber, this would be a grievous insult not only to the family, but also to all the clans. Such an act would call for war.  This mountain tribe was no different in defending honor than my desert home.


“For three days and nights I purified myself and prayed to Ammon, Isis, Ayyur and Neith.  I sought council from the other Goddesses.  On the third night I had my answer.”


I looked down at my feet.  No, I did not have my answer, but these elders did not know. What they knew was what Immel told them. I glanced at him, saw him deep in thought, his eyes hooded, his expression neutral. I did not know what was in his heart, or if he would defend me.


“Is this why you cut your woman’s hair off, daughter?”  A deep voice in the gloom.


“Yes, Father.  My happiness as a new bride would never happen. I also knew my tribe was smaller than the tribe of Hasim. There would be many slaughtered clans if they went to war over this injury to our dignity.”


“You could not think of any other way except to take your woman and leave dressed as a man?  Did your father not try to stop you?  What father would let his daughter leave like that.  Are you sure you are telling us the truth?”  This voice was rough and accusing.



“I am, Father.  I have no reason to lie to you.”


I cast my eyes to the floor, and I thought my stomach would heave. Suddenly, I felt the presence of someone at my left, and glancing up, I found Immel standing next to me.  Although he did not touch me, or hold my hand, I knew he would defend me.  Then, at that point, I realized I could love this man who stood with me in spite of my turning fortunes.


“Fathers.”  I heard Immel’s voice, strong and clear, address the Elders.


“I have come to know Aicha, for that is her birth name, though she would have us call her Tin Hinan.  I have come to know her love for her family, her clan and tribe.  She would sacrifice herself in the desert to avoid the bloodshed.  When we found her in the mountain far from here, she had drawn her sword and pushed her woman behind.  I knew she was woman when I lay eyes on her.”


There was much nodding of heads at this last statement, for men, at any age, can discern a woman, even dressed in the garb of a man.  (I could not help but think Immel rather boastful.)


“And more.  She was a brave woman for she drew a sword against thirty men and stood ready to die.  We men know courage when we see it, but seeing such courage in a woman!”  Immel spat on the ground in emphasis.


“She would have not lasted much longer, for we found the grey wolf and her pack the night before.  They were hunting and it was only a matter of hours before they would have killed these two women.  It is by the grace of the Gods we found them first.”


One of the elders stood up slowly, and addressed us.


“Immel Uzmir and Tin Hinan.  The Council of Elders will meet on this matter and cast our stones together.  We will call you both back within a matter of days, and give you our decision.  May the Gods and Goddesses continue to champion your fortune.”


I looked up at Immel. H gave a weak smile and pulled his veil over his face.  Turning on his heel he walked out, stooping to get his height through the door.  I bowed to the elders, as a proper woman should and followed Immel outside into the bleak winter day.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2910

Comments on Writing a Novel, Literary Influences, Works-In-Progress, and Chapter 42 from “Devil’s Revenge”

April 7, 2010

I wrote this blog entry last July.  Noticed that some were reading it this morning per my blog stats, and went to re-read it myself.

I had to laugh!  Not much changes in my life because I am writing a couple of novels, and Bill Penrose’s warning to FINISH A DAMN BOOK!  still stands true.   I did finish “Devil’s Revenge” and in posting parts on a website and on this blog  it had its supporters.  A lot of times I kept going because of the dedicated readers who pushed me with suggestions, questions, ideas…things I hadn’t considered myself in the writing.

The last 3 plus years has been productive.  I went through some diversions (D/s, bdsm, some scoundrels, a bit of a bad patch health-wise) but I never stopped writing. Even published two small books.  Sometimes I wondered where in hell all this was going.  And WHY was I continuing to write….blindly some days.

There are no pat answers to any of this…and with some other writers who have become dear and abiding friends, I can say this:  just keep writing.  Some days it seems  there are no ideas in the brain pan, and other days you are sprouting in all directions like a tree in spring.

Perhaps the key here is reading….and reading broadly.  For a couple of years I was involved in an erotica website, but I didn’t read much erotica except what was produced on that site.  Erotica can be a dead end I think.  Bill Penrose (“Ancestors of Star”, etc) has always maintained that my dipping my toes in this genre was slight.  I think he is right.  And frankly, I read such ponderous bdsm crap  I wanted to cry.  Some of it was horrifying and some just…boring.  Be careful of the influences you let into your life.  They could be worse writers than thou art.

I have a couple of friends who are serious writers.  We churn a lot of issues over together and I think one thing is proved:  You have to read broadly.  Not just the Iliad, some classics, some contemporary novels, but take some risks here: it’s only time and these efforts, regardless whether you finish something or not, will have an impact.   You will find bits and pieces sneaking into your writing and perhaps that will be all to the good.

I do remember some influences when I was writing “Devil”:  I had attempted “Tristram Shandy” (I hold no one can read that complete novel!), read for the third time (took 25 years, though) “Tom Jones” (I love this novel!!  It’s archaic but very, very valuable for so many things) “Pamela” and “Mists of Avalon”.  All these works found some resonance in this new (only my second) novel.  Perhaps uncomfortable places, but they settled in, sometimes in the dialogue, some times in the plots.

Since January I have been working on “The Kimono”.  This is a hard one to write because the research is paramount.  But! It’s going…slowly, and some days I could cry and tear my hair, but it’s going.

Recently I picked out an old book from my shelves:  “The English Spirit, Essays in History and Literature” by A.L. Rowse.  Good God! This is such a wonderful book!  It has absolutely nothing to do with what I am writing, but the lyricism of the writer is so good, and the essays are so involving,  I can’t help but learn something from this for future usage. Beyond that, though, it’s just a joy and pleasure to read, and I am hoping Rowse’s lyricism will rub off onto my own attempts.

Nothing more than the pure joy of reading and reading broadly. I am hoping my writer friends heed this, because I do believe we don’t live by our loins alone (that’s to the erotica writers…lol!) but there are worlds out there….that we pull in here….for our productions.

Lady Nyo

(below from July, 2009 blog entry)

Where are the directions for writing a novel?  As much as it’s discussed, apparently, there aren’t any. Well, there are suggestions and some guidelines, but  nothing in concrete.  It’s as individual as the author and has different approaches.  The key thing I am told is to keep going.

And that’s the rub.  I’ve been working on this quirky novel for over 3 years now, and it never seems to finish.  That is ‘normal’ from what I am told by those who HAVE finished novels.

And it keeps changing before my eyes.  Some days the characters gang up on me and take over the action, and other days they are as glum and silent as stones.  They take me down dead ends  and plot twists where I am blind as a bat, but for some reason,  they usually throw me a bone and with the breadcrumbs of design, I can work my way back into the light. (All this begs who is in control of the novel? Not exactly an easy question….it’s a weird partnership)

Bill Penrose has been a great influence and encourager on my writing this novel and other pieces.  He has always stood at my side when I was really lost in space on this novel (and other things) and given me the wisdom and experience of his own efforts.  Bill Penrose is a writer and a terrifically polished one at that.  Many decades writing does that to one who is open to learning and change.  Three years ago, Bill and Nick Nicholson, a fine Aussie writer, grabbed me from the lists of ERWA and put me in a private group and gave me lots of advice and guidance.  They continued to do so in another group for serious writers:  Not Dead Yet.  They worked over my beginning attempts and I learned.  Not enough, but I did learn some important and elemental things about writing.  I still have a lot to learn.  But they both stuck with me and believed in the characters.  Bill taught me how to critically ‘love’ my characters, and my imagination was fired by his own.

All this is to say that Bill gave me a good kick in the fanny very recently and told me that I owed it to him and my other readers to finish ’some’ novel.  (I have about 3 others more than 1/2 way through)  He’s right, and I was distancing myself from the hard work of finishing it.  I’ve been warned.

This is a quirky novel.  This is also a rough draft.  It’s been serialized a bit on this blog, and elsewhere….and the readership has been consistent.  I have a good ‘dedicated reader’ for this one, and I am listening hard to her opinions.  Every author needs this, and it helps a lot.  Thank you, M.

This is a bit unfair to new readers, to bring you into the action towards the end of a novel, but if interested, you can go back through the year’s blog and pick up the threads.

Bess: the narrator, is a 21st century  writer who is zapped through dimensions to the 19th century, and further to 8th century Wales, and  ‘home’ again to the 19th.

Madame Gormosy:  A Devil, a shapeshifter.  She can appear male or female at will.  She is a crucial character in most of the novel and one of my favorites.

M. Abigor:  A very powerful and nasty Demon, an Arch Duke of Hell, and also a Healer.  Go figure.  He’s the main ally of the next character, and pulling the strings and planning the final action.

M. le Devil, or aka:  Garrett Cortelyou.  Tall, handsome, dangerous and funny, Garrett is half human, but also half Demon.  He is locked (for centuries) in battle with Obadiah, a particularly demented demon.  Bess seems like a prize, but she is just a pawn  between these two.

Lady Nyo

Chapter 42.


We came home.  How this happened isn’t clear.  Perhaps we flew out of that castle, off that island, out of that century like cannon shot and soared through the universe into the present.  Perhaps we tumbled like meteors over and over until we crashed into the earth.  I have no idea, but I would suppose it had to do with the mythical ley lines .

Garrett explained before what he knew about them. Some mystical,  magical spirit markers where the astral body could easily move.  He called it a ‘rip in the fabric of time’.  A portal to other dimensions.  I think Devils use this frequently to hop and jump from century to century, to show up when they are least wanted.

I read a while ago about this new mathematical “String Theory”, where scientists were theorizing extra dimensions more strange than anything we could conceive (ha! I could tell them some things…)  where we could pass from one dimension to another.  Certain  places the Earth’s energy increased and perhaps these were the portals.

But I just don’t remember how it happened to us, to return to the early 19th century. I must have had my eyes closed.

No, that’s not quite true. I do remember something.

I was lost in the darkness, with pinpoints of light travelling above, and small hills far under my feet. Those lights must be whirls of distant galaxies, stars and all that occupy the heavens, and those hills?  I remember Garrett talking about mole hills, the nurseries of different creatures, things beyond our imagination, things only a mother could love.

I seemed enormous, crossing great distances with only the breath of the cosmic wind to blow me afar, yet at the same time the universe was too vast, there were no breadcrumbs to follow.  I couldn’t see Garrett at all, I seemed to be alone.  Perhaps this was Death.  But I knew it wasn’t because I still worried, there was no peace.  Death would bring peace unless I was a ghost.

“Ah! She is coming back to life, she is awakening.”

I heard the voice of Madame Gormosy and I came conscious like a drowning woman, gasping and gulping air.

I blinked my eyes, trying to focus and there was Garrett and sweet Madame looking worried.  I still felt the effects of whatever drug was used for the time travel, but moaned with joy to see that troublesome Madame. I passed my tongue over my dried lips and tried to speak.

“Don’t labor yourself, ma cherie.   Here, drink this water, don’t gulp.”

She held a glass to my lips as Garrett slipped behind and pulled me up to a sitting position.  Of course I gulped and spilled more down the front of my nightdress.

“She will make it.”  I heard Garrett’s voice and turned my head to look at him over my shoulder.

I could have spit at him.  I was angry, and didn’t know why.   I felt disconnected and wondered if my atoms had been so disarranged as to warp my body, perhaps my mind? I pinched myself, as I would do over and over in the days to come, just to feel that small pain, to know I was alive.

I recovered after two days, felt more ‘normal’.  Something had changed though and it wasn’t just me.

Madame was always present. She hardly left me alone.  I didn’t say much, too distanced somehow to talk, or even play faro.  Madame was patient.  She didn’t push me in her usual fashion.  At times I glanced at her and she seemed worried, preoccupied in some way.  But then her expression would clear and though her eyes did not sparkle as before, she gave me encouraging little smiles as if to reassure everything would be fine.

It became clear things really had changed, would not return to whatever appeared before as normal. If I thought our coming ‘home’ would have allowed us more time together, I was very mistaken.  Garrett was mostly absent from the house.  When he arrived, I was asleep.

One evening after Madame had lit candles and found me sitting in the window seat, she came and sat down.  Smoothing her skirts across her thighs with her wrinkled and spotted hands, she sighed and looked out at the gathering darkness.

“Can you talk a little about your troubles, ma cherie?  You are so silent now, no laughter, no lightness.  I worry about you, dear child, but you seem none the worse for wear.”

I looked at Madame, the powdered gray hair, skin a lead white and those familiar moue on her face.  Suddenly I felt a sob rise in my throat and great tears began to fall.  I looked at her dear face and realized I had missed Madame Gormosy more than I could bear and here she was, before me, her own pain creasing her aged face.

“Oh, Madame!  I have missed you so much.”

I sobbed out my fear and loneliness and blindly pushed forth my hands towards her, feeling her catch me and draw me to her bosom.  Her hands went around my back, patting me firmly as I heaved great gulping sobs into her breasts, washing the lead powder from her skin and soaking her bodice.

“Ah, ma cherie, I have missed you, too! Who can I play my beloved faro with?  Once I told you how stupid other devils were.  Who can cheat like you? They are bumblers and no fun. They never tip their cards towards me, the solemn devils, they never kick their shoes off under the table, never let me read their deepest thoughts.  Ah! They are no amusement at all!”

I had to laugh.  Madame was very vain about her winnings, and kept them in a lacquered box.  But when I had no more coin to play with her, she would dump the box out and divide the coin equally. Well, perhaps I give her too much credit and have to remember she is a tricky devil, so I would suppose she would rake a bit of coin into her lap.  But all in all, she entertained me, and took great pains to do so.

She snapped her fingers and produced two rather large bowls of tea for us.  So much better than the stout Garrett would snap for.  Madame understood women, even though she was half male, and knew a crying jag would not be comforted by a tankard of ale.

I sipped the hot tea and wiped my eyes with the back of my hand, and heard her ‘tut, tut’, as she leaned over and attempted to dry my tears with a large linen handkerchief. I started to laugh, a rather forlorn and empty attempt at laughter, but Madame was predictable.  So was I, apparently.

“What is now to happen, Madame?”  I looked at where my tears had made her white powder run and her wrinkled, old bosom exposed over the top of her plum, velvet gown.  She smelled a little like boiled cabbage.

“Ah, M. le Devil should have many plans by now.  Since you both have returned, he has met everyday with some creature or other.”

Her eyes glittered as she dipped her face into her bowl. The old devil knew something!

“Have you seen who he meets?  Is M. Abigor a visitor?”

“Ah, my curious girl, I only get a glimpse of a tail or a hoof, not much to go on.  Perhaps a slight smell of brimstone, nothing much to identify. These queer devils are all the same, n’est ce pas?”

Madame Gormosy was lying. We both knew they didn’t have tails or hooves, they would look like respectable gentlemen, even though their danger did not come from the swords that dangled at their sides.

Madame cocked her head and narrowed her eyes.  “Perhaps we apply some powder and rouge, get you into a tight corset, do your hair and you will feel like facing life again?  No one can face the future in their nightgown.  We women have our own power, neh?”

I sighed. I was back amongst devils, and at least they were familiar. Their magic I knew, at least some of it.  No tattooed snakes travelling the length of arms, nor Warrior Queens speaking in tongues.   Just Madame Gormosy with her transvestite ability and snapping her fingers for bowls of tea.  There was still this issue of Garrett disappearing and it seemed that coming ‘home’ had done little to change that.  I needed some answers and the only way was to do as Madame demanded.  I shook off my suspicions and gathered myself.  I was still very much a part of this puzzle.  Dark forces were gathering and I still was just a pawn on a demented chessboard.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009

“The Zar Tales”

February 11, 2010

"The Zar Tales"

Gets published.  In a few days, probably.

Bill Penrose, the dear friend and writer who formatted “A Seasoning of Lust” last year this time, has done his magic again.  Bill has taken these projects of mine and made them real.  He is a very well published author himself,  (“Ancestors of Star”  and “Anne the Healer” just to mention two books available from and also a research scientist, though what he does boggles my brain. Something to do with chemistry and conductors and lots of things mysterious.

This level of friendship is amazing to me.  What he does…the formatting…is the HARD work to me.  Mysterious and beyond my capabilities.  The writing is easy…..the formatting is difficult. doesn’t take prisoners, though they tout themselves as ‘easy to use’.   Hah!

But I think we both learned from the first book and Bill is, once again…working his magic here.

Thank you, Bill.

Lady Nyo

(Below I am posting a part of the last chapter of “The Zar Tale” just for fun. It is part, the end part of a very long wedding scene.)

Gifts were piled on the long table before them: rugs and blankets, pots and a few pieces of silver.  These gifts were to start the new couple on their life together.

The moon rose up into Heaven and was girdled with an array of distant stars.  A soft nighttime breeze wafted over the fields and a bonfire was lit and still the dancing went on.  The feasting and music continued, likely to last throughout the night and into the early hours of the dawn.

Ali looked down at Shakira, whose head in her heavy wedding crown was supported by the high backed chair she had been sitting on all day.  She could not move much for the combined weight of the crown and the heavy amber and silver necklaces almost immobilized her.

“Shakira, my wife” said Ali tenderly.  “Walk out with me a bit and let us have a moment apart of all our friends.”

Shakira was glad to do so, and since her bridesmaids were sitting all to the left of her, they remove the heavy headdress and some of the wedding jewelry.  That done, she felt the weight of the world lifted from her and she gathered her robes and walked apace with Ali.

Standing in the dark away from the bonfire, with only the moon to grace the ground with light, Ali put his arm around her shoulders and looked out across the landscape, now only shadows and dark mystery.

He, once a mighty Zar, and before a fierce Berber warrior, was now just a man, a mortal with no mystical powers.  At the thought of this moment, where he stood on the ground with a worthy woman at his side, he could have shed tears for his good fortune.

Now he would grow old, as other mortals and he would labor as other men for his bread. He would be part of a humanity that brought justice into the world, no longer a ghost who passed for little, but a man who had substance when the night fell and the dawn came.  His feet would walk on the hard earth and he could feel the winds come down from the mountain on his face.  He could feel the coolness of water and the heat of fire.  He was man.

A sudden cold wind blew where they were standing and Ali pulled Shakira close.  He glanced up at the moon and just for a moment, it looked a sickly green. The stars seemed to melt and revolve in a tangle up in the sky and Shakira shivered under his arm. It was only a second, but for Ali, he knew the signs.  If the others, especially the former Zars had seen what he did, they didn’t say a word.

Perhaps it was just the wine the men had been drinking and it meant nothing at all.  But Ali scowled at the moon and put his hand on his Berber sword.  He had been a Zar for a thousand years not for nothing.

Shakira did not see the change in the moon, but nestled under the strong arm of her new husband.

For her part, she was very glad her husband was mortal, and when the wedding guests tied their hands together with strong yarn and led them to Shakira’s house with drums and flutes and much laughter, she knew she had the best of all worlds.  She had the protection and love of a mortal, and though a Zar could be an enchanting being, the man in her life now was the substance of the best of her dreams.

* * *

But this is not the end of the story.  We will leave them both to enjoy the early months of their wedding, but there is much more to this Zar tale.

Do you remember the Mullahs they met on that black mountain road?  Those who judged Shakira Sheikha so harshly?  The ones who met an unfortunate fate?

These Mullahs were judged in Paradise and sent back to earth, but now in the form of Zars!

And they weren’t of the ‘helpful’ variety as were Ali and his Berber and Persian friends.

No, they were out for revenge and now imbued with the power of a terrible djinn.

The End (for now)


Jane Kohut-Bartels

“The Zar Tale”

Copyrighted, 2010

A Chapter from “Ancestors of Star”

November 4, 2009

Bill Gaius is one of my favorite authors.  He writes blockbuster mysteries and action packed novels.  He’s also a good friend and one of the most generous of men in critting works by new writers.

I love reading Bill’s work, in part because it’s always a good story and he’s a polished writer.  He writes insightful and believable characters, even when he throws a bit of mysticism into the works.

Lady Nyo

Excerpt from William Gaius’ ‘The Ancestors of Star’.

Tim Hyatt has been outraged and embarrassed when Lucy White Eyes is apparently kidnapped from his care by armed members of a reservation drug gang. From a number of tiny clues, he thinks he’s guessed where the ‘kidnappers’ took Lucy White Eyes. On a cold November Saturday, Tim decides to check out his guess by hiking into the sacred canyon of the ancestors to try to find Lucy White Eyes and her fugitive boyfriend, Michael Talking Deer. City-bred, he has no idea what he’s getting himself into.

* * *

[from the previous chapter:]

Should I run the distance to the shrubbery on the other side, or move slowly? Should I crawl or stay on my feet? I scanned the cliffs, riddled with caves and erosion troughs, to see if someone had spotted me. There was nothing. I moved slowly across the open space, one careful step at a time, looking about as I moved.

hurtled forward into the sand. I couldn’t inhale. The breath had been knocked out of me. Pain slowly rose through my back and left side where a boot had hit me. I lay paralyzed, face down. Before I had time to panic, my ability to draw breath slowly returned in painful, wheezing gasps. I turned my head so I wouldn’t inhale sand. A knee settled into the small of my back and a large hand pressed my head firmly against the ground.

He didn’t say anything at first, but wrapped my left wrist with thick cord. My other wrist was pulled back and tied to the left one.

“He’s alone, I’m sure of it.” The voice was Lucy White Eyes’. “You didn’t have to kick him so hard, Michael. You might have broken his back.”

“He’s fine,” came a man’s soft, sing-song Lagalero accent. “Get up, white boy.”

I slowly stood up, which is not easy to do with hands tied, wearing a backpack, and punished by a sharp pain running from back to chest. Talking Deer helped, in his own way, yanking on my tied hands until my shoulders screamed with pain. Lucy stood in front of me, a rifle dangling from her hand, looking worried. I still couldn’t draw a full breath, and rocked forward and back on my feet, working to pull air noisily into my lungs. The canyon walls spun, and seemed to be falling in on me.

Talking Deer gripped my bound wrists and pushed me along the bank of the stream. Pain shot up my side and I gasped for breath each time I stumbled. After another hundred yards, we broke into a sheltered clearing in front of a broad, shallow cave. Under the rock overhang, a tent had been erected and a little corral had been built of slender poles bound with rope. It housed two horses.

He gestured to a boulder. “Sit down.”

I balanced myself on the flat-topped stone, trying to minimize the agony in my ribs. “You don’t need to do this. I came up here to see you.”

“Shut up.”

Lucy tugged at Talking Deer’s arm, and whispered in his ear.

“Don’t move.” He pulled an automatic pistol from behind his back and made sure I saw it. He took Lucy some distance away, where they spoke together for a few moments. The conversation grew louder and more heated, until Lucy put her fists on her hips and he threw up his hands in surrender. He shoved the gun into his belt and came back to where I sat watching.

“Luce tells me you’re smart,” he said, “So I’m going to take a chance with you. You have to promise to be a courteous guest, and not fight with the host.”

“That was a hell of a welcome.” It hurt to talk. “I won’t be fighting anyone for a while.”

“It could have been worse. I had you in my sights five minutes before you set off my little alarm. You were making more fucking racket than a herd of buffalo. I decided it would be safer to knife you than risk the sound of a shot. But Luce, here, convinced me I should find out what you’re doing up here first.”

“I want her to come back to the rez and make good on her promise to Metal Head.”

“You’re fucking stupid. You could be dead now.” He moved beside me and loosened the ropes. He smelled of sweat and wood smoke. “Welcome to Mike and Lucy’s Place,” he said, as I shook the ropes loose and rubbed the circulation back into my hands.

“It looks like you have regular housekeeping set up here,” I said. “And I’m guessing you can’t be seen from the air?”

“Not even with one of those heat-seeking cameras. All they’ll see is rocks. We can hold out here forever.”

“What about me? I know where you are now. You can’t let me go, can you?”

“I can. In fact, I have to. Our people go missing in these mountains all the time, but Lucy says a biliga’ana boy missing on the rez is going to bring a lot of attention. Search parties and everything. I guess she’s right. Anyway, you probably told Star where you were going. I hear you can’t take a piss without her say-so.”

I felt my face flush. “Yeah, I did tell her,” I lied.

Lucy said, “Tim, you’ve got to go back without me. But first, you have to stay for lunch, and listen to some things.”

“Come back with me, Lucy. You’re important to your people now. No one else can take up Metal Head’s job.”

“And she’s a witness, too, against me and my friends,” grumbled Talking Deer.

Another lie wouldn’t hurt. “The Feds don’t need her any more. They’ve got lots of evidence without her. Let her work with Metal Head. Let her go.”

He chuckled. “You’ve got it backwards. I don’t tell Luce to do anything. She can walk out of here anytime she wants. But she tells me she doesn’t want.”

“But how long do you think you can stay here? Someone will come for you sooner or later.”
“How did you know I was here?”

”A lucky guess,” I said. “I mean, I saw the tracks leading in here and took it from there. But you can’t stay here forever, can you?”

“You don’t understand us much, do you?” he said. “Half the rez probably knows we’re up here. My three friends brought Lucy here. They’ll check on us once in a while, and I’d never count on them to keep their mouths shut. Anyway, our people have been here a hundred years. Luce and I aren’t the only ones that know about this place.”

“Then why haven’t they hunted you down already?”

“Because they don’t want to.” Talking Deer stood up. “Come here and I’ll show you something.” I followed him into the cave, past the horses, to where the roof sloped down to meet the floor. An ancient mud-brick wall closed off a cramped space the size of a closet. He produced a flashlight from somewhere, and snapped it on.

“Ah!” I jumped back, startled. The last thing I expected to see was another face grinning back at me. A skeleton was curled up in there, its empty eye sockets staring in my general direction. A shiver rippled down my spine and lodged in my crotch.

“Luce calls him Buddy.”

My involuntary reaction had hurt my ribs again. I wheezed, “Is that one of the original people? The ones who built the ruins?”

He shook his head. “Buddy’s a Lagalero. His hair is done in a Lagalero braid, and his jewellery is Lagalero. He’s been there no more than a hundred years, I’m sure of it.”

“Was he buried here?”

“He died right there where you see him. Our custom is to bury our dead in a secret place for a couple of years, and then put the bones into a pit with the rest of our clan. There’s no pit around here, just this one poor old guy. Nobody buried him.”

“So why did you show him to me?”

“Not because I need the practice speaking English,” he said. “I’m trying to show you something.”

He squatted and kept the flashlight beam on the bony face. “I think Buddy was running away from something, maybe the soldiers, or an enemy, and he came up here. He lived a long time, too. This cave was a mess, with deer bones, corn, and yucca scraps all over. I’m thinking he survived here on his own for years.”

“…and you can stay here, too?” Against my better judgment, I was beginning to like this guy. I had to remind myself that he was at least partially responsible for Blue Antelope’s death.

“You’re quick,” he said. “Buddy knew that this place would be easy to defend. I found his bow and two dozen worn-out arrows, and a Winchester saddle ring carbine at least a hundred years old. There’s empty 30-06 cartridges all over the canyon. But it looks like he died of natural causes. He crawled into this old room and piled up some rocks to keep the animals out, and just died.”

“That’s interesting. So what are you trying to show me?”

“What I’m saying is that if anyone comes up here to get me, I’ll get some of them. They can only kill one of me. I’d rather die up here like Buddy than burn out my life in a jail cell.”

“I get your point. Everyone knows you’re here, but no one’s saying anything. If I go back and make a public issue of it, they’ll have no choice but to come and get you, and if they do, some people will get killed.”

“Luce said you were smart.”

“What about Hunter? Wouldn’t he know about this place?”

“Sure as shit he knows. But while I’m up here, no one’s getting hurt, right? You said it yourself. He’s off the hook as long as nobody says anything out loud. Between the drug charges and the manslaughter, I’m looking at twenty years minimum, with good behavior and all that. When I get out, I’ll be in my forties, and most of my life will be over. I won’t be taken out of here in cuffs. I’ll either leave in a bag or I’ll end up like Buddy.” He jerked his thumb towards the little tomb.

I said, “But if you stay up here, won’t it be just like you’re in jail?”

“This isn’t jail,” he said. “Here, I can live like my ancestors. They’re all around this place. You can feel them, and at night, you can even hear them. I can hunt my own meat and grow my corn and defend this land. Down in the town, they’ll forget about me. And Lucy…Lucy will be with me, if she wants…”

“I want, Mike.”

I said, “Lucy, I don’t know much about the desert, but think of what it’ll be like, living up here. Having to gather enough food for winter, plant crops, gather firewood, no medical help. You’re going to be cold and hungry. You’ll have to get feed for the horses, too, won’t you?”

“I don’t care what happens to me, if I can be with Mike.” Her dark almond eyes were as hot and determined as Star’s had ever been.

“Let’s have something to eat,” said Talking Deer. I followed them to the front of the cave, where a small fire burned within a wall of rocks. A steel cooking pot was near the flames to keep the contents warm.

“Mike’s proud of me,” said Lucy. “He brought back his first deer two days ago, and I butchered it myself, even if the coyotes got some of it. And I dug up a couple of yucca hearts, and found some herbs to flavor it all. This is our first meal eating off the land, now that our store-bought food’s getting low.”

Lucy didn’t look like a sixteen-year-old flirt now. She was a busy housewife, bringing worn Melmac plates and utensils to a flat rock that served as a dining table. Using a worn kitchen glove, she brought over the stew pot and ladled a portion onto each plate.

Talking Deer spooned some stew from his plate, but Lucy said, “Wait, Mike.” He held the spoon in front of his mouth, blowing on it, while she threw a little out the door with the ladle, saying something in Lagalero. She explained to me, “Always a little for the Holy Ones. Then they’ll keep us safe and supplied with everything we need.”

The stew was actually very tasty, and I accepted seconds. If she could make meals like this from the things they found in the canyon, she and Mike could actually live well up here. But soon, there would be snow. The rocks would be slippery, and the stream would freeze, and the wind would howl down the canyon.

I had one question left, and I debated with myself a minute before asking. “What exactly happened to Mary Jackson and the others?”

“None of your fucking business,” said Talking Deer.

“Mike, don’t be rude,” said Lucy. “I’ll tell you, Tim.”

She came and sat next to me. “After the deal was finished, Mike came looking for me, and drove up and down the road. He didn’t want me left out on the desert all night, he said. While he was doing that, Curtis and Mannie and Mary all went off to hide the stash.”

“Shut up, Luce,” warned Talking Deer.

“I guess they must have kept some back after they hid it, and started smoking. Mary had never done meth before. Anyway, Mike caught up with them and they were so sick, he drove them into town and dumped them in front of someone’s house and blew the horn.”

“Mary was alive when I left them,” said Talking Deer sullenly.

I said, “Was it worth it? The meth, I mean.”

“Don’t preach to me, biliga’ana,” Mike spat. “You won’t ever have to live like us. Everyone has to make money somehow. And people want the stuff. They really want it. But that’s done now. There’s just three of the boys left, the ones you met on the road. They never wanted us selling meth in the first place, and they’re really scared after Curtis and Mary died.”

I wasn’t going to push the argument while I was in his kingdom. It wouldn’t help anyway.

“Do you keep the meth up here?”

“No. Luce won’t allow it. She says I won’t be able to hunt and we won’t be able to grow crops, and we’ll just die. She’s right, I guess.”

“Well, the meth you guys brought in is still down there somewhere. Do you really want it to get into circulation among the other Marys and Curtises?”

Lucy tugged at Talking Deer’s arm. “Mike, this is your chance. Money’s no good to us up here anyway. Let Tim get rid of it now.”

He looked out of the cave mouth for a moment, and nodded regretfully. I got out a piece of paper, and he drew a detailed map to the stash. “Remember, don’t handle it with your bare hands, or you’ll end up where Curtis and Mary are.”

When the meal was finished, I said, “When can I leave?” I looked at my watch. “It’s going to be dark in a couple of hours, and I left my flashlight in the car.”

“We’ll take you to your car now. We’ve got to sweep our tracks away, anyway.”

From inside the cave, I hadn’t noticed that a steady rain had been falling for some time. The walk back to my car was wet and cold, and dark was coming on fast. I had to walk quickly in the soft sand, which aggravated the pain in my side and made it harder to breathe properly. Talking Deer apologized for kicking me so hard, but his words didn’t help. By the time we reached the car, the sky was almost dark and there was neither moon nor stars. His flashlight was our only guide.

When I was about to get in my car, Lucy came over and kissed me on the cheek. “You won’t be telling anyone, will you?”

“No, Lucy, I won’t.”

“And will you apologize to Metal Head for me?”

“He can’t, Luce,” said Talking Deer. “Metal Head, and everyone else, would know that Tim knows where we are.”

In truth, I hadn’t made up my mind what to do.

Driving in the rain and darkness down to Stone Giant Road, I turned left and found the narrow, unnamed track that passed an abandoned hogan.

I looked inside the hogan, poking the flashlight beam around. It was a filthy mess of beer bottles, food wrappers, discarded clothing, and condoms. Trickles of water leaked through the roof and glittered in the flashlight beam. A rusty stove stood in the center of the floor, its bent chimney pipe leading up through the hogan’s smoke hole. A low wall of mortared stones surrounded the stove. In a few minutes, my freezing fingers found and dislodged the loose stone inside the wall. I thought, this hiding place is a cliché. If no one had found it, it was because no one had looked.

Behind the stone, some paper had been pushed in to fill the space. I pulled it out, and a plastic bag the size of a basketball rolled heavily into the wet fireplace ashes. Many smaller bags were inside, each containing slivers of shattered glass, the smoke-able form of methamphetamine.

I held it in one hand and examined it with the flashlight. The drugs in this package had killed Blue Antelope and Curtis Marks, might soon put four men in prison, and condemned Michael Talking Deer and Lucy White Eyes to living in heroic squalor in the mountains. It also indirectly created the real possibility that the tribal patrimony of the Lagalero might be lost forever.

The meth was pure evil. Its purpose was only to kill and spread misery.

It was also evidence, and I was about to commit a felony and destroy it. Without it, the four Redskin Rangers in custody might go free. On the other hand, if I turned it in, I’d have to reveal the whereabouts of Talking Deer. And I’d made a promise to Lucy and didn’t want to break it. I looked at the stove and considered burning the meth. But it was possible some passing car might spot the fire or smoke.

A narrow wash ran with water a few yards from the hogan. I crouched with my back to the wind and began to empty the bags into the rapid flow. I rinsed my hands every few minutes to avoid absorbing the chemical through my skin. There were hundreds of the little bags, and dumping the whole stash took almost an hour. Finally, shivering violently, I climbed into my car, turned on the heat, and headed back to town.

Taped to the door of my room, I found a sealed envelope, rather than just the usual page torn from Star’s square notepad. I opened it and read, ‘As time goes by? Feel like dancing tonight?’ Her little scrawled signature, the five-pointed star, was at the bottom.

It was some hours later that she saw the huge bruise on my ribs. I said I’d fallen while hiking. She warned me not to go into the mountains alone again.

NOTE: ‘The Ancestors of Star’ is available for sale as trade paper ($14.95) or download ($4.95) at Lulu:

Bill Gaius’ current work in progress is on view at

Interview with Bill Gaius, Author of “Ancestors of Star”

October 16, 2009

Bill has been a good friend and adviser for three years now.  I have come to admire the man and the author of a number of fascinating novels and wanted to interview him for a while.  Recently I put together a few questions to do this interview.  Bill’s answers were better extensions of my original questions and the go to  a depth  I believe will be interesting to most writers who read this blog.

Bill also produced my first book, “A Seasoning of Lust”, published by and will be doing the same for my upcoming book, “The Zar Tales”, also to be published by

Bill has been a generous and insightful writing mentor for me since we  met and I think what he has to say about self-publishing and traditional publishing needs to be heard.  This interview only taps the surface of many subjects.

Lady Nyo

I know you are a biochemist, Bill, a research scientist.  When did you start writing fiction and did your work fit in your writing or was it something that was very separate from it?

When I was very young, we lived on a busy street where I had no playmates. When I was four, I found a chemistry book my father picked up on the street and, with my mother’s help, learned to read. From the age of seven or so, I read reams of fiction until I became a teenager and girls subsumed everything but science fiction and James Bond.

I tried my hand at writing fiction as a teenager, producing a few very bad short stories. In grad school, using my aging portable typewriter, I spent my evenings writing a novel based on my Canadian Navy experience. I still have a copy of it. It’s not very good.

From then until I was 53, I had little interest in fiction, reading or writing, until a strange encounter in the desert kicked off the writing of ‘The Sisters of Kali’, my first attempt at a novel. More about that below.

Notice that I’ve said nothing about my scientific career. My writing has had nothing to do with my professional career until this year, when I began working on ‘Mortal Turpitude’. I think this division of interests is a manifestation of a mild case of attention deficit disorder, since I have trouble remaining intensely interested in any subject for long.

You have written a number of novels now, (Sisters of Kali, Ancestors of Star, Anne the Healer, Unattended Deaths, Mortal Turpitude)  Do you consider yourself to write mainstream fiction or is this mostly erotica?

I’ve written both, but I can’t call myself a writer of either. My most mainstream story was ‘Anne the Healer’, which contains exactly one understated sex scene at the very end. ‘The Ancestors of Star’, on the other hand, is based on the growth of a young man’s sexual obsession with his female Native boss, with numerous explicit scenes. There are loads of non-erotic adventures in the story, too, which keep it from being repetitive, wall-to-wall sex for 326 pages.

I’ve tried thrillers twice now, slowly coming to the conclusion that it may not be my natural turf. The first attempt, ‘Unattended Deaths’, bogged down and was never finished, and the second, ‘Mortal Turpitude’, has ground nearly to a halt, even though I’m determined to beat it into submission and finish it. I’m probably going to give up on plot-driven novels and return to character-based stories, where I feel more at home.

Do you write for a specific market?  Has that changed over the course of your writing career?

I write strictly for myself and the Warrior Queen. I also post some of it on writing forums and on a website, So I suppose I have to admit that I had no market in mind, with the possible exception of my attempts to write thrillers.

What do you feel is going on with publishing and do you feel that things are radically changing?  Is self publishing a viable alternative?

Few significant changes seem to be happening in – or rather, to – traditional publishing, which is allowing itself to sink like the ‘Titanic’ without meaningful attempts to rescue itself. Meanwhile, all around, self-publishers, bloggers, tweeters, and fanfic writers are breaking new ground and putting technology to work, developing a new paradigm for writing.

For most of us, self-publishing is the only realistic alternative. There were 400,000 new books published last year, more than half of them fiction. Beating those odds is akin to winning the lottery, and is not something I aspire to. A few hours leafing through some of the 12000 hopeful novels on (Harper-Collins’ ‘electronic slush pile’) were enough to convince me that the competition out there is very, very good.

If I were to write a sure-thing best seller today, and it was picked up by a major publisher, it could be as long as five years before it hit the shelves, and then it would only get its 60 or 90 days before being recycled into disposable plates and toilet paper. I like the control of self-publishing, but it would be nice to have the distribution horsepower that you can only get from the traditional megacorporate publishing houses. The jury is not back on the future of publishing in general.

“Sisters of Kali” is a huge book.  I know you are considering a revival and rewrite of it.  I also know that this book in particular helped you develop your own ideas of religion and spirituality.  Anything that can do that must have a powerful message in there.  Please talk a little about that journey for yourself.

After a scientific career with little interest in fiction, the writing bug struck again, literally from the sky. We were vacationing in Sedona, Arizona, inquiring into the mystical qualities of the area. One afternoon, I sat on a rock high above the valley until, after several hours, a story began forming in my head. Later, I called it my ‘cosmic download’. When I returned to my hotel, I began frantically making notes. Seven years later, I completed the first draft of ‘The Sisters of Kali’.

‘Sisters’, 215000 words long and seriously in need of condensing and rewriting, records the adventures of a small group of women who believe they have been commissioned by God (who appears in female form) to prevent a worldwide war fifty years in the future. The premise of ‘Sisters’ is condensed in one short passage:

Isanna was the first to speak. “Are we expected to stop this war? The Goddess seriously expects five women living in a shack to change the course of history?”

Sandra said, “Isanna, little causes have larger effects, and these effects become causes of still larger effects. Most great events begin with a few individuals, but at the time, no one can connect the tiny beginnings with the great consequences. They are sometimes beyond the ability of Kali Herself to predict.

“You have heard the truth that the beating of the wings of butterflies in Sumatra can ultimately cause a hurricane in the Caribbean.”

She startled us by clapping her hands on her knees and crying, “But it is equally true that the same butterflies can stop the hurricane! And we will be those butterflies!”

Writing “Sisters” was more than a feeble first attempt at fiction. Thinking through the story and the assumptions behind it helped me clarify some of my own religious beliefs. For example, the experience led to a believable rationale – for me – of God’s interest in puny humans within the context of the greater Universe. It’s only necessary to imagine that God is not perfect and finished, but constantly driven to grow. The experiences of human beings (and possible other life forms elsewhere) are the sustenance from which God is constantly recreating Herself.

‘Mortal Turpitude’ is quite the scientific thriller.  I can see more how you wrote ‘from your experience’ in medical research, etc.  Why did you pick this particular issue to write on?  Do you think of topicality when you format an idea for a book?  This one certainly has the interest of readers in part because of swine flu and all the international news….a world wide issue.

The latter years of my scientific career were spent developing sensors for detecting bacteria and viruses of the sort that terrorists might distribute among us, so I’d been in contact with some of the Government and academic people working in this area. I know how serious the threat can be.

I am also interested in contrasting the culture of academic scientific investigation with the political and pragmatic society that surrounds it. Long before ‘Mortal Turpitude’, I spent some years working in the high-pressure environment of an academic molecular biology laboratory. In this competitive world, it’s considered a sin to take a day off, or an hour with the family in an evening. Newspapers and happenings outside the laboratory were simply not relevant. I’ve tried to recreate this insular environment with its atmosphere of unrelenting obligation in ‘Mortal Turpitude’.

“Ancestors of Star”, now published by, is set within the Native American culture.  Living in Arizona as you do, is it the environment and cultures that inspired this particular book?

I’ve been fascinated by Native American cultures since moving to Arizona, particularly those like the Navajo, who’ve retained much of their ancient culture and language. At the same time, they’ve adapted to the modern world with its frozen foods, cell phones and satellite television. I created the Lagalero tribe for two reasons. The Navajo, after whom they are roughly patterned, have religious beliefs and taboos that were incompatible with the plan for the novel. Also, many Natives resent outsiders pretending to portray their culture. Mostly, life as a Native in modern America is gritty, poor, and often violent, and it is only the strength of the family and their culture that keep them together. Bu their social systems are far too intricate to be comprehended by someone who doesn’t live in them full time.

Finally, because the story includes many erotic interludes, I also wanted to avoid offending Natives who might read it, and avoid misleading non-Natives who might believe it. Sexual mores vary greatly among Southwest tribes, and are tightly governed by a system of customs and taboos that are partly observed and partly ignored.

In general, what inspires you to write?  Is writing a political or a personal statement, or both?

I make few political statements in my writing. I write because I can. I write well enough to convince myself that there are others out there willing to read it.

I like writing erotic material because it embodies some of my own fantasies and experience. I also like writing stories that involve a little bit of magic. ‘Anne the Healer’ had her mysterious and unwelcome ability to heal the sick, ‘The Sisters of Kali’ has direct communication with God, and ‘The Ancestors of Star’ has the ancestor spirits, who encourage and guide Tim, the young hero, in forming a loving and mature relationship with the older Elaine Yellow Star.

NOTE: ‘The Ancestors of Star’ is available for sale as trade paper ($14.95) or download ($4.95) at Lulu:

Bill Gaius’ current work in progress is on view at

“ANCESTORS OF STAR”, a new novel by William Gaius

September 20, 2009
Canyon de Chelly in NE Arizona, but looks just like Ancestors Canyon

Canyon de Chelly in NE Arizona, but looks just like Ancestors Canyon

Bill Gaius is  a good friend and a great writer.  For the last three years we’ve exchanged manuscripts of our novels and to say his influence on my  writing made me a better  writer is to understate this.  His gentle mentoring got me out of many holes.

I was fortunate to be there when Bill started “Ancestors” and saw the amount of passion and research he put into this novel.  Bill is one of the most polished and careful writers I know.  This book presents an exciting mix of cross cultural events and strong characters with a description  of a physical landscape that broadens the imagination and a mystical element that is believable.

Bill knows and writes from the heart of the matter and it shows.

Lady Nyo

Introduction to Chapter 15 of ‘The Ancestors of Star’.

Tim Hyatt is a college athlete and Big Man on Campus, but his plans are very serious: a career as a medical doctor, and a prosperous life with his fiancee, Natalie. Hoping to win one of the scarce Government scholarships for medical students, he takes a year from college to gain clinical experience on the tiny Lagalero reservation in New Mexico. Once on the job, he learns that his new boss, the older Elaine Yellow Star, hires a young man every year and expects more from him than cleaning bedpans.

Star soon seduces Tim, as she has all the young men before him, and uses him for her own gratification, while ignoring the lust she’s sparked in him. After an initial infatuation with her vibrant sexuality, Tim rebels in a fury and distances himself from her. But she insinuates herself into his thoughts and he cannot escape his addiction to her. He begins seeking answers, first from the last living shaman of the tribe, and later, by going directly to the sacred canyon, the home of the ancestor spirits of the Lagalero.

The full novel, ‘Ancestors of Star’ is available from
as a trade paperback ($14.95) or as an unlocked PDF download ($4.95).

Chapter 15

Next day, I woke slowly, but the more consciousness grew, the more a heartsickness crept over me. A great, gaping pit opened up in my chest. I sniffed the air, but instead of the sweet tang of Star’s body, there was only the odor of the detergent I’d used to launder my bedding.
I looked at the clock, and it read 5:15. An hour before I would go to get her breakfast.
What had she meant by a ‘hormone storm’? After three days, I’d gained a little perspective. Before the night in the Super 8, I’d been thoroughly pussy whipped, as compliant as a pet dog. Like an idiot, I let her take the lead and give the orders. This had been utterly out of character for me. Evidently, she believed this was due to the ritual she’d performed in Ancestor Canyon. She’d gone on to deprive me of sexual release for a month, and it plainly excited her to do so. She must have had at least thirty or forty orgasms during that time. And somehow, according to her, I should be grateful. I certainly had no right to be upset!
What was a ‘hormone storm’ to her was a return to proper manhood for me. I didn’t need her. I could go ahead and do my job, and give her no excuse to get rid of me. I could serve my time, and walk out of here with recommendations from Waters and Murphy, at least. I could cultivate some other important locals and get more recommendations.
Or I could leave. But I didn’t treat that as a serious option anymore. I could take anything she could dish out, and I’d already learned to tolerate the spartan reservation life.
But my mind and body were at odds. The more I tried to hate her, the more she invaded my thoughts, waking and sleeping. Cursing her capriciousness didn’t help. I dreamed of her, naked and stretched on her back in the ancient ruin, or smiling on the sofa in her room, or driving in her Jeep with her black hair blowing out behind.
The alarm shrilled, and I showered, dressed, and crossed to the cafeteria. I returned with Star’s tray, and tapped on her door.
“Who is it?” The muffled voice was as soft and musical as ever.
“Your breakfast,” I said.
“Leave it by the door,” she said, in a less musical voice.
Shit! I put down the tray and stomped back to my own room. In the clinic, I slammed the bedpans about, and banged and punched through my other tasks. Before lunch, I checked the schedule to see who needed a ride to the clinic today, but there were no names listed.
No one to drive to the clinic! But who else knew this, or paid attention to the list? I could finally ditch this place for a few hours.
I stuffed a sandwich, two cokes, and a quart of water into my backpack and walked out to the van. I drove out of town, out into the desert, without destination or purpose. In an hour, I found myself between the sheer walls of Ancestor Canyon, following the rutted road until the van would go no farther. The mysterious structure in the canyon wall drew me onward, from rock to rock, into the great crack in the cliff face, and up the sloping sandstone to the ledge.
Recalling Star’s tale about the ancestral spirits, and how they defended their ancient home, I spent several minutes gathering the nerve to walk the narrow ledge. I ventured slowly onto it, trying not to look into the void, and sweating in spite of the cool breeze. The ledge was much narrower than I remembered, barely wide enough to move one foot beside another.
In spite of my caution, a golf ball-sized rock found its way under my shoe. My leg buckled, but fortunately, I stumbled toward the rockface, rather than out into the abyss. I clung to the sandstone for a few minutes until my heart slowed and my legs regained their strength. After that, I touched one hand to the wall for balance as I crept along, until I staggered onto the wide platform where the ancient structure stood. I fell to my knees before the massive ruin, breathing hard and terrified by the prospect of going back.
I slipped into the little door, following the chain of connected rooms, and emerged in the room where the mesquite tree sheltered the little altar. It was time to think about exactly why I’d come here, because at that moment, I had no idea. I’d ditched my responsibilities at the clinic and ventured onto this haunted platform, but why?
In front of the little altar where Star had burned the pinon wood, I sat crosslegged. What was I expected to do? I thought I might meditate, but I’d never done it before. I’d heard you were supposed to just sit still and let all thoughts drain away. I tried this for a few minutes, but every time I tried to empty my mind, images of Star flowed in to fill up the space.
A hawk circled in the canyon, barely using its wings. It swooped by, a hundred feet away, on the downwind half of its spiral.
A foot shifted on loose rock behind me. I twisted around, but there was no one. I stood up on aching knees and looked into the adjacent rooms, and up at the overhanging cliff. Surely, the noise had been something dropped by a bird, or a stone dislodged by the wind. Perhaps a small animal moving to escape the gaze of the hawk.
As I resumed sitting in front of the altar, the breeze loosened my hat. I removed it and tucked the brim under my butt so it wouldn’t blow around the room. In another few minutes, the sun would go behind the cliff and the hat wouldn’t matter.
Wind rushed through the ancient structure. Its soughing was like the shuffling of ancient feet. Every so often, the murmur of voices would reach my ears, a trick of the wind in the rooms and crevices of this sacred structure.
Whatever my reason in coming here, it wasn’t working. The light was beginning to dim and it was time to leave while I could still find my way down to the van. I stood up and walked in a circle to limber up my legs before heading through the connected rooms. Once out of the structure and in the full force of the wind, I pulled my hat down close over my ears and stepped toward the narrow ledge.
And stopped.
The muscles girdling my waist and crotch crawled and tingled with apprehension. Someone’s coming the other way. I neither saw nor heard anything, but I knew someone was there, just as I knew when someone stared at me in a crowd or through a window. I waited, and waited, but no one appeared.
I tried one more step toward the ledge, and I began to shake, worse than before. There was someone there!
A bony hand gripped my shoulder and froze me in place. My cry echoed across the canyon, a cry in my own voice, though I had no recall of screaming. Now I knew for certain that the spirits were going to hurl me over the edge, and take revenge for the way I had treated their daughter.
I cautiously reached for the hand that held fast to my shoulder. But it was only a twig blown from a mesquite somewhere up on the cliff. I brushed it off, and it blew onto the haunted ledge, bounced once, twice, and vanished over the precipice, down to the place where the spirits planned to send me. Except I wouldn’t float gently down, like that twig. I’d hit like a bag of soup, spattering guts and brains and blood over the jagged stones.
My legs were jelly as I staggered back to the altar room. I sat in front of the altar and felt safer again. Evaporating sweat chilled my face and the small of my back. I busied myself collecting unburned fragments of wood and making a tiny structure, as Star had. When I had finished, however, I had no way to set it afire. I ran my fingers through the ashes and debris under the altar niche, and turned up two unused wooden matches.
I knew now why I’d come here. I had to beg forgiveness of Star’s ancestors. They had bound me to her, but I had not obeyed.
I picked up one of the matches, and the wind instantly died. In the deathly quiet, leather-shod feet scuffed as the spirits gathered behind me, watching. I leaped from my knees to my feet in one motion and screamed, “Leave me alone!”
Of course, there was no one there. Only my own echo, dying away, “…alone …alone …alone…”
The match had gone astray, but I didn’t care. I lay on my side, curled into a fetal position, and thought of my mother, and father, and Star, and Natalie, and my college friends. My family would be devastated by my disappearance. My corpse, dried and mummified by the wind and sun, would eventually be found in this ruin. If I tried to leave, I would rot unseen at the base of the cliff, feeding the coyotes and eagles. Sooner or later, searchers would find the van. They might even find some bones, if the animals left them in place when they finished with me.
I looked at my watch, but the numbers seemed written in a foreign script. The hands pointed in directions that I couldn’t interpret. But I could guess at the time by the sky. The shadows were climbing the canyon wall with unnatural speed.
The narrow ledge, my only escape to the bottom of the cliff, and from there to Lag City, and the clinic, and Star, and life itself, had become very dark. It was too late to leave, even if the spirits refrained from hurling me to the canyon floor. I found the last wooden match and put it in my pocket, and curled up again, huddled in a fetal ball as the air grew chillier.
After a time, I propped myself up long enough to reach into my little backpack. I drank a soda and ate the sandwich. I kept the wrapper as possible fuel or kindling. The food banked my fear a little, but it was not going to help me get down from here in the darkness. I was going to spend the night, at least.
It was going to be cold tonight, exposed on this cliffside. The ancient dwelling would give me some protection from the wind, but temperatures might get down into the 40s or even lower. In my tee shirt and jeans, I might as well be naked.
As the sky darkened, the temperature plummeted, and I succumbed to fits of shivering. I searched my brain for my most comforting memories, something to hang onto in the depths of the night. I thought of Natalie and the nights with her in her dorm room at NIU. But my mind compulsively drifted back to Star. I thought of my mother. When I was a child frightened by lightning, I’d run into her room and she’d cuddle me under the covers. But I was a grown man now, and my greatest comfort was when Star slept on my shoulder and her breath whistled in my ear.
The stars came out, one by one, but there was no sign of a moon. I shivered violently and continuously, and fumbled in my pack for my flashlight. The batteries were fresh, but it wouldn’t light. With shaking fingers, I disassembled it to look for the problem. The bulb dropped out and bounced to where it couldn’t be found in the dusky light.
I found the last match in my pocket and resumed my place in front of the altar. The light was so weak I could barely see it. The match struck on the fifth try, and I ignited the little tower of wood. Soon I had a flame going, about as big as my hand. Once more, I felt the presences watching me, and the night breeze carried their voices.
This time, I was not afraid of them. I expected to soon be among them.
“Fathers and Mothers of Elaine Yellow Star,” I said. I hoped they understood my meaning, even if they didn’t understand English. “Show me where I’ve gone wrong. I need to be with her, I want to belong to her – ”
I stopped. I hadn’t voiced it aloud before. I needed Star! Everything else in my life, including my pride, was a trivial afterthought to that single fact.
“Help me get through this night,” I asked the spirits, “and I will treat your daughter the way she deserves to be treated. I swear this on my God and on yours.”
The voices grew in volume and number. A single pure note thrummed in my ears as the wind whistled through the ancient dwelling. The cold night wind blew on me. But even as I shivered and dreaded the night ahead, the spirits blew their warm breath in my face. Their hands touched my cheek and stroked my hair. My shivering stopped and I sighed in relief.
They urged me to lie back. The floor of the altar room was as soft as it had been when I made love to Star on this very spot. The ghosts sang their hypnotic songs in my ear, and I drifted off to sleep, dreaming that I was swaddled with Star’s warm body in a heavy featherbed.

[end ch. 15]

The full novel, ‘Ancestors of Star’ is available from
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