Posts tagged: numenon: a tale of mysticism & money

London Houses, Country Estates, Royalty, Etiquette, Polo, and Golf – Will the Leroy Watches Jr. We Love Survive?

Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull - An Award-winning Contemporary Western

Leroy Watches, Jr., the hero of Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull, is getting to be known and loved.  He’s receiving fan mail. People mention him in emails. “He’s my favorite of all your characters,” someone said. “I’m in love with him,” someone else said. “What’s it like to be surrounded by gorgeous men?” [That referring to Wesley of Mogollon  and Leroy.]

Why shouldn’t they say stuff like that? I’m in love with Leroy, too. What’s not to love? Leroy Watches Jr., you got to know him as the polite, incredibly tall (6′ 8 1/2″) hunk with supernatural powers and great rodeo skills. He’s Grandfather’s (the shaman of Mogollon and Numenon) only blood relation. He is an enrolled member of Grandfather’s Nation, thus Native, African and European American all at once.

In Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull, Leroy emerges from a warm, loving, and full life that stunted him in many ways. He was raised on his Nation’s reservation in New Mexico, the site of the giant spiritual retreat/riot in Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem. More recently, he lived on his father’s cattle ranch near Yosemite, CA. Not much call for sophistication in either place. Or formal table manners, knowledge of etiquette, or anything but shamanic practices and herding cows.

In my upcoming Christmas book, In Love by Christmas, the unfortunate man finds himself dropped into high society, not just high–royal–society, in the UK and other (undisclosed) places. Poor thing. That’s what happens when you’re a figment of my imagination.

I have been researching things like correct deportment [behavior], use of silverware, and how to address nobility and royalty. Along with foxhunting rules and how to play polo. It’s been a hoot.

I have a secret: I once knew all that stuff, and not so I could write a character in a book. I was once a princess, as I spell out in my new, truthful bio on my Amazon page. Yep. I was raised in one of the hallowed neighborhoods of the San Francisco Peninsula. As a matter of fact, it was right here. (Or formerly right there. New owners tore the 1950s structure down.) My parents had been very poor during the Great Depression. They made up for it by being very successful. When I write about  Will Duane, the richest man in the world in my Bloodsong Series, his cronies, buddies, and neighbors, I know what I’m talking about.

My dad could have been the prototype corporate founder/CEO/captain of industry. I spent the best hours of my childhood/teen years riding my horse in Woodside, where the CEOs of almost every Silicon Valley corporation now live. I lived in Woodside for fourteen years, and in Atherton for more than that. I also hung out in Palo Alto. That’s where Steve Jobs lived, the garage where Hewlett and Packard “founded Silicon Valley” is, the fictitious Numenon International Headquarters is sited, and my husband and I resided for seven years.

LINDENWOOD-GATES

These are the gates to the estate on which my family lived. We didn't own the whole thing, it had been subdivided years before. We had an acre of paradise. Lindenwood was formerly the Flood estate, the Floods being leaders from the robber baron era of Atherton.

Living in such neighborhoods is not all formal teas and basking by the pool. No. Rules exist. If you don’t know them, they will. The people you’re trying to get to accept you know the rules. So do their servants, their dogs, and most of the large shrubs in their gardens. Everyone indigenous to the area will know the difference between a pickle fork and a butter knife. Everyone will know that a man must wear a cummerbund with his tuxedo, that a woman who shows her bare legs under a skirt has no taste. Even worse, a woman who wears a tank top with her bra straps showing is worse than than a trollop. She’s nothing. outside the pale of civilization.

Hundreds of such rules exist, and if you came up in Atherton when I did, you had to know them if you were going to be taken seriously. Everyone I knew had had years and years of dancing lessons, cotillions, blah-dy-blahs, to prepare us to be debutantes or their escorts. Making one’s debut in society was cracked up as the highlight of a girl’s existence. Coming out in San Francisco was much more elevated than being a Peninsula deb, but, hey, who can be choosy?

Was I a debutante? No. My father was a liberal Democrat. No way he’d let me participate in expensive, upper-class puberty rites. Besides, the only “coming out” ball that really mattered in the United States was in New York. What my friends were so excited about was the the minor leagues.

Several friends were debutantes; I was invited to partake of the introductory festivities, formal teas, and such, that their parents sprang for in preparation of the Big Whammy Ball. Ask me about the time I was at a deb party on a yacht at the San Francisco yacht club and got locked into the ladies room. [Known as the "head" in some circles.] It was a potentially socially ruinous experience where the warped wood of the door stuck in the jam. I could not get it open. The only way I could escape was to raise my voice. [Known as "yelling" in some circles.] That would have been worse than spending the rest of my life locked in the head. That prospect gave me super powers and I yanked that door open like one of the X-men, escaping into the festivities beyond. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were also involved with this, as party guests.

With the influx of tech money, almost all standards of decency have disappeared. Everywhere. I cringe every time I see a woman with a spaghetti-strapped top with her bra straps blatantly showing. This is wrong.

LEROY WATCHES JR.

Leroy Watches Jr., a man any of us could love, and would, if he was real.

I may sling the jive here, but if I walked into a mansion occupied by truly upper class people anywhere on the planet, I would toss off my carefully affected casual demeanor, tuck in my bra straps, and behave like Leroy is going to have to. Or will he? And why?

Will we lose our primitive, incredibly attractive Leroy, the one all of us wish our daughters would marry? Or that we’d like to marry ourselves? Will he change when exposed to an unrelenting barrage of proper English and cummerbunds?

 * * *

That’s why I’m researching polo and foxhunting. Some authors torture their characters with chains and hot tongs. I prefer formal teas and golf.

Searching on-line, I’ve found a series of true gems my search for deportment and proper dress.  Wonderful sources of information for the upwardly mobile, or for all those Silicon Valley geeks who are rolling in money but not culture. Or, for those who worry about suddenly finding themselves in Downton Abbey, knowing that they couldn’t qualify for the lowest housemaid position.

Here is a series of articles which will solve your problems, especially if the issues above concern you:

William Hanson, etiquette consultant, broadcaster, and social commentator, has written about the etiquette faux pas in the various episodes of Downton Abbey. I know you don’t think any exist, but they do. Mr. Hanson, I am not poking fun at your work. Readers, you may think this is unnecessary. But what if that bit of software you’re working on hits it big and you get to move to the neighborhood of your dreams?  What then? There still are people who know about white and black tie and why cummerbunds matter. They know all about what Mr. Hanson discusses and they live in the neighborhoods you aspire to invade. It’s true. So suck in those bra straps and listen up:

Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull was a finalist in the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards

While you're learning about etiquette though Downton Abbey, I'll add a bit in the sidebar. Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull was a finalist in the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards in the Western Category. I'd call it a contemporary visionary western, replete with rodeo and shamans.

 

 

Dounton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 1

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 2

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 3

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 4

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 5

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 6  Tons of great info throughout, but Hanson’s commentary here is stellar, as he explains proper white tie dress. I must raise a nit. In the Chicago Manual of Style, the novelist’s bible, the very few words are upper-cased. I would rather see white tie than White Tie. But my editor may say something else.

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 7

Downton Etiquette Explained – Series 3 Episode 8

 

You can find the most wonderful things by Googling. A while ago, I found Rick Mora, Native American actor, model, and activist by Googling “beautiful Native American man.” Half the image results that came up were of Rick. I shot off the famous email that started everything, and now, he’s not only on the cover of my new book, Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem, I think we’re Facebook Friends. Are we Rick?

I found William Hanson by Googling some etiquette-related topic.  And I found the marvelous Black Tie Guide | A Gentleman’s Guide to Formal Wear, where you can get straightened out on the difference between proper black tie and white tie apparel. Alas, the author was critical of President Obama’s formal dress. I make it a point not to criticize heads of state, especially those who control drones.

Leroy Watches Jr. Will he turn into this?

Leroy Watches Jr. Will we lose our Leroy? Will he turn into this?

Which brings us to the point of all this: you can rise as high as you can, be as smart as you want, and be the first of your race of sex to achieve the ultimate, but if you don’t get your cummerbund right, someone will take pot shots at you.

I point this out time and again in my writing, and I do it in large print in In Love by Christmas. Will Leroy change from the informal, manly guy we know to something like the fellow to the left?

Suave, sophisticated, properly dressed?

Lord, help us.

My, I’ve gone on. I should sell this post as a Kindle short!

Sandy Nathan
Sandy’s Website
Sandy’s Interactive Website
Sandy’s Facebook Page

I didn’t win in the 2014 IPPY Awards – neither did 4,900 other people

Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem (Bloodsong 2)

It’s amazing how the Universe reaches out shows you what really matters. I was getting all anxious about whether or not I’d win anything in the 2014 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards. I put my new book Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem in maybe four categories, doing a shotgun approach and entering it in any category that it might conceivably win. I thought I’d win something. In the past, I’ve won Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals in the IPPYs with other books. I know my stuff is pretty good, and I think Mogollon is the best I’ve written. The cover is amazing.

These concerns were swept aside when my hands began REALLY HURTING in the days before the 2014 IPPY winners were announced. Do not make the mistake of thinking that itty-bitty joints will only have itty-bitty pain. They can have REALLY BIG PAIN.

I have been blissfully abusing my shoulders, arms and hands for almost twenty years, since I began writing full time in 1995. I wrote in eight-hour marathons, producing torrents of words, book upon book, with no physical problems.  Yes, my shoulders would occasionally refuse to move after a writing session, but nothing prepared me for the full scale physical rebellion that occurred as the 2014 IPPY Award contest approached its close.

When your hands REALLY HURT and you’re wondering how you’re going to produce the ten or so books you’ve got as drafts on your hard drive, or if you’re going to be able to keep doing what you love most in life, how you did in a friggin’ contest pales to insignificance.

* * *

A realization threaded through the tenderness of my painful pinkies: if I pulled a big zero, so did approximately 4,900 other entrants! We are the majority! In any democratic system, we’d be the winners! Even though my focus at the moment is on my digital woes, I realized that many of those 4,900 people might like  a pick me up about the whole thing.  Fortunately, I have an article about losing in contests prepared and ready for you. [I've lost before! ;-) ]

If you feel badly about spending a bunch of money and getting nothing back but heartburn, read and enjoy:

While winning is fun, you can learn a lot from losing. Maybe even more than from winning. The last time I lost big in the IPPYs, I wrote a lengthy true story about what I’d learned from losing in horse shows. I’m linking it here and above.  I’m gonna do a short recap below. I think I’ve got about ten minutes more typing in me for the day. (No, my hands haven’t stopped hurting.)

* * *

What you can win from losing: I’ve ridden horses most of my life. My family operated a  ranch where we bred, birthed, raised, trained and showed horses for twenty years. We still have five, even though we’re in retirement mode.

To show horses and win, you have to be a killer.  Getting a horse trained and in shape for showing, getting yourself in the same shape, learning to ride well enough to perform in the show ring, and handling everything that goes on at a show [your nerves and the horse's] is a HUGE job. Huge. You have to really want to win to master all that. You need to develop “one-pointed consciousness” like meditation masters and martial artists. A horse show championship is the black belt of riding.

The Monterrey Trails Classic Peruvian Paso Horse Show was one of the most prestigious shows in the Peruvian Paso breed. One balmy day, I found myself in the arena mounted on Vistoso, one of the best horses we’d bred in twenty years. A gorgeous bright chestnut (think the brightest red Revlon hair color ), Vistoso was an amazing horse. Beautiful head carriage, collection. Gait up the wazoo. Plus I had a jacket that exactly matched his coat. We were on as we cruised around the ring. That horse did not take a false step the entire class.

AZTECA DE ORO BSN & I AT MONTEREY This isn't me on Vistoso, this is me on his full brother, Azteca. Don't have a pic of Vistoso.

I figured we had it made in the shade. The class was ours.

The announcer began calling out the winners. The way Peruvian shows go, everyone who didn’t win is dismissed first, then the awards are announced lowest place to highest: fifth, fourth, third. Second.

For some reason, they called my number. I got second. What!? Impossible. We were perfect. More than perfect. Way better than the winner. She was a petite woman I knew from hanging out at shows. Her horse was a small liver chestnut. Liver? Yes.

She won. I got royally pi**ed. And stayed that way.

Later that evening, the dinner dance that the show hosted was rockin’. Food, drink, everything. And everyone. Threading my way through the crowds, I ran smack into the judge. She beamed at me and said, “Boy, you really rode that horse this afternoon.”

I’m not a  wimp. I’m a liberated woman. I’ve taught assertiveness trainings. I fired back, “If you thought I rode so well, why didn’t you give me first instead of second?” My eyes were not shooting daggers, they were machetes.

She rocked back and said without pause, “This is a really good show. A second here is the same as a championship somewhere else.”

I left, glad I’d asserted myself. I felt righteous.

* * *

Fast forward to the end of the show season. I was at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, the mega-horse park where our National Championships were held that year. That competition was too tough for me; I didn’t make the first cuts in my classes. With nothing else to do, I watched the show from the stadium. My back went up when that woman, the one  who stole the class from me in Monterrey, rode in on that rotten little liver horse.

I leaned forward, a growl turning over in my throat. She was a petite, slender woman with rich brown hair. Her spine was erect, perfectly balanced as she sat the horse. She held her hands low, almost touching the front of the saddle. Her equitation was plu-perfect.

Her horse, the grubby little thing I’d dismissed, wasn’t so grubby when I looked at him carefully. Liver chestnut is actually a rich medium brown, very correct and conservative. The horse was small and fine, elegant, like its rider. They were a brilliant match of type and style. The animal moved along, relaxed, but alert, and precisely gaited.

Riding is one sport where the better you are, the less you do. You can see dressage riders in the Olympics whose horses are doing unbelievable things, but you can’t see the rider doing anything. The pair before me were like that. Exquisite. There’s good riding, and then excellent riding. This was riding touched by angels.

My mouth fell open. My hands went cold. I didn’t win that class in Monterrey because I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t see my competition because I was busy riding my own horse. Seeing that woman in that arena told me that she and that little gelding were world class. (In fact, they would win the National Champion of Champions Performance Gelding title later in the show.)

I remembered what I had said to that judge. My cheeks flamed.  I had been so rude to that nice woman. I am still embarrassed about what I said.

* * *

So there it is: I didn’t win because I didn’t deserve to. I didn’t know I wasn’t the best because I was busy riding my own horse and couldn’t see the others.

Addressing my fellow 4,900 “losers”, am I saying that our books didn’t win in the IPPYs because they weren’t good enough? Well . . .

Let’s take a look at that. When you enter your book in a contest, it’s like entering the arena on Vistoso that day in Monterrey. You can’t see the competition. You don’t know how good the other entrants’ books were. And you’ll never know. Remember me mouthing off to that judge when you feel like screaming over your placement. Don’t do something similar and embarrass yourself.

LET’S LOOK AT BOOK CONTESTS. YOU’VE ZEROED OUT AT THE IPPYS THIS YEAR. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? HERE ARE SOME OPTIONS:

1. Never enter a book contest again. This is a pretty good option. Book contests are expensive. Aside from the cost of editing, proofreading, having my book designed and printed, along with the nineteen (yes, nineteen) years of my life I spent writing my book, Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem, I forked out perhaps $300 in entry fees for the categories I entered.

Here’s a big question: do indie authors need awards from book contests to sell their books? Let’s look at some of the most successful authors––indie or traditional––of our time. Take John Locke, the first indie published author to sell one million ebooks. What did that get him? A lot of money and a contract with Simon & Schuster, one that he designed that meets his needs.  And then we’ve got Amanda Hocking, who parlayed her young adult series into millions of book sales and dollars, and a contract with St. Martin’s Press. Darcie Chan, who published her book as an eBook after being rejected my the major publishers. She’s probably getting close to a million eBook sales by now and is a NYT Bestselling author, not to mention having a lot more loose change. What list of successful indies could leave out JA Konrath, the father of the “you can do better publishing it yourself” movement.

Did any of these people use awards from book contests for independent presses as their springboards to success? No. Did any of them enter such contests? Not that I know of. (I don’t think they do blog tours, either.)

From these success stories, it looks like not entering book contests may increase your chances of success. Figuring out how to effectively sell your book is way to go.

2. Say you want to win prizes and enter more contests. What then? I’m like that. A compulsive competitor. I like to say, “Hi, I’m Sandy Nathan, award-winning author. I’ve won . . .” I like stickers and medals and certificates. I like to increase the number of wins I’ve got and post the new totals all over. Look at my website, for Pete’s sake. If that isn’t ever conspicuous flashing of glitz I don’t know what is.

You’re like me, you didn’t win the IPPYs this year, but you want to try again. Read the linked article and do what it says. This is my famous “What I do to win book contests” article. Do all that and enter your new book next year. [Caveat: you don't need to include press kits anymore, so putting together a winning entry isn't as awful.]

Or–change contests. The IPPYs are a huge, prestigious contest, like the National Championships I described above. Are you up to that competition? If you don’t think you you can make it in the rarefied atmosphere of the IPPYs, pick a different contest. My article on how to win book contests has links to some very nice smaller contests. Maybe one is just perfect for your book.

3. If my recitation of what you actually get out of book contests tells you there’s no sense at all in entering, try picking a contest with really good prizes. Good prizes are a reason to compete even if you see no reason to enter anything after my little pep talk above.  The National Indie Excellence Contest has killer prizes for the top books in the competition. Check ‘em out on their web site. They have regular winner and finalist prizes for the various categories, but the overall winners get stuff like thousands of dollars of services from top publicists.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy (Earth’s End 1) This is The Angel's original cover, which won the Gold.

4. What does winning  mean?

A WINNER! In 2011, I was thrilled and delighted when my book The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy won the Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction at the 2011 IPPYs. I’d won in previous IPPYs, but never a Gold.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy is the first book of the Earth’s End series. The series is a fantasy/sci-fi/visionary fiction tale about people pushed to the literal ends of the earth. In The Angel, nuclear holocaust looms as the characters work to mend their past “business” and figure out how to survive the destruction of the planet.

The Angel is a good book. It’s an important book treating the possibility of nuclear weapons destroying our world, as well as what can come from an economic disaster which is not successfully resolved. It’s beautifully produced and has a killer cover. I like this book very much.

 

 

Lady Grace & the War for a New World

A LOSER! Lady Grace & the War for a New World is the second book in the Earth’s End series. I entered it in the 2012 IPPY Awards. Lady Grace sets out what happens to a small group of survivors of the nuclear war as they begin to create a new world. Every book professional who has touched Lady Grace has told me that it’s not just better than The Angel, it’s way better.

“Your pacing, the plotting, the characters––all are terrific. This is the best writing you’ve done.” That was my editor, who is one tough cookie. Others professionals said the same sort of thing: I’d hit my stride with Lady Grace. I knew it, too.

How do you tell when you’re getting accurate feedback? A woman who told me she’d hated everything I’ve written called me babbling in rapture after reading Lady Grace “It’s fantastic, Sandy. It’s the best book I’ve ever read. How did you do that? Where did you come up with all that?” And more, she went on and on. I loved it.

So, even though everyone loved Lady Grace and it was a better book than the Gold-winning Angel, it got Zippo in the 2012 IPPYs. A big nothing. However,  Lady Grace’s original cover sucked. It was a case of me directing my designer too much and in the wrong direction. We changed the cover and title. Voila! A repackaged book that’s way better that the WINNER! But it’s still a LOSER!

 

Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem (Bloodsong 2)

ANOTHER LOSER! Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem is the best book I’ve written, in my opinion.  My little band of fans also says it’s the best book I’ve written. It’s got a killer cover with Rick Mora, a famous Native American actor, model, and philanthropist on the front.

 

SO WHAT ABOUT JUDGING? I’m not doing the snotty thing that I did to that poor judge in Monterrey.  I don’t know what the competition was in 2012 or 2014, or what the competition was in 2011 when The Angel won the Gold.

It’s just really weird to me that a lesser book should win the competition and a superior ones not even place. Did the judges read it? Maybe totally different judges were working in 2012 and 2014, and they had different preferences. A lot of things could have happened, and some of them must have.

What does the judging mean? What do you win when you win? Are the winners really the best books? What does an award mean?

The more I think on these things, the more I tend to agree with my husband. Maybe twenty-four awards is enough.

So, to the 4,900 friends and fellow campers who did nothing in the  2o14 IPPYs, we’ve finished our romp through Book Contest Land. I don’t know if I made you feel any better after your non-award, but maybe I made  you more thoughtful.

HERE’S BREAKING NEWS ON THE POWER OF BLOGGING AND THE INTERNET: I posted the article you’re reading and thought nothing more of it. A few days later, I Googled 2014 IPPY WINNERS and was stunned to find that my blog article was the #6 ranked entry, with only posts by those who ran the IPPY Awards above me. I Googled again the next day and found my article was #5th and #6th listed out of a total of 247,000 results. It was ranked above ALL THE WINNERS and the gigantic GOODREADS! I’ve got it on my Facebook pages, asking people to share. (If  you’d like to share this blog article, I’ve got a share mechanism on the page somewhere. Have a ball!)

Remains to be seen how this will shake out, but losing that contest may be the biggest break I’ve had!

So long friends, win or lose–blog about it!

HERE’S THE EVIDENCE: A SCREEN SHOT OF MY YOUR SHELF LIFE ARTICLE VERY CLOSE TO THE TOP:

HERE'S PROOF: ;MY ARTICLE ABOUT LOSING GOOGLES #5 AND #6 ABOVE ALL WINNERS AND GOODREADS!

So long for now! Keep losing, everyone! The company’s great and you may get lots of recognition from it!
Sandy Nathan: My old, really cool website with all the award stickers and a free eBook download through May, 2014!

My New, Interactive Website

 

Will Duane in his own words – Meet Will then vote in my contest

WILL DUANE #1
WILL DUANE #1 Will’s a happy camper here. Why not? He’s got $50 billion and the largest corporation ever to exist.
WILL DUANE #2     
WILL DUANE #2 Here’s our second contender. Handsome, white haired, but is   he Will?
WILL DUANE # 3
WILL DUANE # 3 Looks like it’s “Happy Times Are Here Again” for Will

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just loaded the articles showing guys that I think could be Will Duane, the hero of my novel Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem. He’s sort of the hero. A bit crusty and hard to please, but heroic in his heart.

I loaded all these pictures and realized you may know nothing about Will. “Let me … acquaint you!”

Here’s the first chapter Mogollon. Here’s Will in his own words as the book opens:

Chapter 1

Will Duane stared out of the motor home’s tinted window, scowling. The Ashley, his luxurious RV and the hallmark of the Numenon caravan, jolted across the desert in fine form. Will wasn’t doing quite as well.

He turned away from his view, not wanting to face the light. That damned New Mexico sunlight had done something to him. That and all the space. The desert had too much space; it made him feel weird.

He felt as if the core of himself, the hard center that was him, had cracked. He blamed it on the damn light. All day, they’d passed through that bright emptiness. Who he was began to melt away. His control, his purpose, all of him was being undermined.

The terrain did the same thing. All day long dirt, rocks, and cacti surrounded them. Plus those stupid round trees that dotted the landscape like lice. They weren’t even eight feet high. Will hated New Mexico more than he thought possible. They can’t even grow a proper tree.

Will rubbed his chin, feeling a screamer coming on. He would not give in to it. He would stay in control.

“Mark, how much longer?” he shouted.

“It’s right up ahead, Mr. Duane. Over that rise. See the cars.” The driver pointed at a ridge a short distance away. For the last few miles, phalanxes of junker cars from the 1970s had dogged them. Those were their fellow retreat attendees. It was 1997. What kind of people drove cars that old?

Will could see laden vehicles disappearing over the crest. Other cars returned, obviously having dumped their loads. They turned left and entered an enormous parking lot just outside the Mogollon Bowl. Light reflected off the vehicles and hit him like bullets. The parking lot was a junk yard of wrecks with alligatored vinyl tops and mottled paint. He clenched his jaw.

Will sat in his command seat, directly behind the driver, with his back against the cabin’s rear wall.

Looking to his left, Will observed the anxious faces of Betty and Gil. They sat on the banquette that ran along the Ashley’s wall, twisting to see through the big picture window behind them. The opposite wall was covered floor to ceiling with cabinets stuffed with electronic gear, the super computer being the most important. The super computer was the most advanced in existence. Numenon’s technology had been ahead of the pack since the late 1950s when Will founded the corporation.

Will furrowed his brow. Why were Betty, Gil, their driver, and he the only ones in the cabin? When they started, the cabin was almost full. Now there were just four people. Where were the others? He felt so fuzzy; he couldn’t remember what happened five minutes ago.

Sunlight reflected off the chrome of one of the vehicles outside. It struck Will’s eye and he rocked back in his seat. His eyes rolled back and quivered.

Red rock walls rose high above them. He was running, breathing convulsively, sobbing. Thrashing on the ground, fighting. Something crushed him into the rock.

Will blinked, coming back to himself. Something had happened in the desert. He could recall it dimly, like someone else’s dream. Their drive wasn’t just across the desert floor. There had been a canyon, and red cliffs.

He put his hand on his chest. The day before, his doctor told him the tight sensations he felt were nothing. His heart was good. He was okay.

Will rubbed his chin again and tried to remember.

Something came out of the buzzing, disintegrating void inside of him. The old shaman had appeared in the desert in front of them in a golf cart. Will had walked out to him and the light surrounded them. Light had come off the old man, even more than from the sun it seemed. Will had broken down for some reason; he had fallen at the holy man’s feet, sobbing.

Why, why? His disintegration had accelerated since then.

“We’re here,” Mark called. The Ashley pulled over the bank. Will jumped up and grabbed the back of the driver’s chair.

“What is it, Will?” Betty asked. She and Gil moved forward, straining for a look at the sacred place where they would spend the next week.

“Oh, my God,” she said.

The others were speechless.

* * *

Betty peered through the windshield. The Mogollon Bowl spread out before them; as far as she could see, a writhing mass of people were interspersed with camping equipment. Well, some of it was camping equipment. Shabby tents and tarps on poles. Shade canopies on aluminum legs. People unloaded cars and headed back to the parking lot outside the Bowl. Other cars inched around, searching for a place to camp. The Bowl crawled with movement.

That’s all it had; no trees, no lawn, and no structures existed except two derelict buildings in the distance. The Indians’ hallowed  sacred ground looked like the desert they’d crossed, but less interesting. It was rocks and dirt and chaos.

This was the legendary Mogollon Bowl where anyone could become psychic and all of your problems disappeared? Betty thought of all the work she’d done to prepare her brief on Grandfather, the famous shaman who led the retreat, and on those closest to him. On Indian history. On the Bowl itself. For this?

She looked at Will, knowing what his reaction would be. Will only stayed at five-star hotels. Living in the luxurious Ashley was his idea of camping. Her boss’s face grayed with horror. He turned to her, his mouth gaping.

Before Will could speak, Doug Saunders charged out of the bedroom. “Will, I will not stay in this dump! If we have to stay here for a week, I quit.”

Betty glanced at Gil Canao, who looked out the window in glum silence. She opened her mouth to echo Doug’s sentiment, when Will grabbed Doug and hugged him like a grieving father.

“I thought we’d lost you,” Will cried.

With that, the memory descended upon her—what had happened on the drive in. Will lying in that canyon, covered with blood, bones bent at impossible angles, squashed. Really, squashed flat. Doug lay next to him, foam coming out of his mouth, his body bent backward in a crescent arc. Blue and bloodless, both of them.

Her sobs took her by surprise. Her hands went to her face and she doubled over. Will, Gil, and Doug jumped toward her. Will caught her in his arms, and the other two men joined the hug. The minute they touched her, her backbone stiffened. She pulled herself erect, trapped in the circle of solicitous males.

Tears streaked her face. “Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t …” Will handed her his handkerchief. She snatched it gratefully.

“It’s okay, Betty,” they said at once.

But it wasn’t okay. They almost died, all of them. A flash flood would have killed them in that narrow ribbon canyon. Floods happened right now, in early spring. It had been a horrible, horrible trip. But Bud Creeman had saved them.

“We have to find Bud and thank him again.” She looked up at Will. “He was so good to us. Let’s find him, and then let’s leave. Okay, Will?”

Will’s brow lowered and his jaw tightened. “I’ll get you out of here tomorrow, I promise. I’m going to stay.” They stared at him. “I have to stay here—I have business to complete.”

Betty pulled out of her despair enough to stammer, “But, Will, you told us that the mine deal was dead.”

“It is, Betty. I promise you.” He glanced out the windshield. The Indians were beginning to cluster around the Ashley. “I have personal business with Grandfather.”

She had heard so many of Will’s empty promises that she didn’t know what to think. “I want to go home to John.” The tears came again. She wiped her face, conscious that she’d shed more tears in public in the previous five minutes than she had in twenty-eight years of being the head of Will’s secretarial staff. Private tears didn’t count.

“I’ll make arrangements for all of you to leave. You don’t have to deal with this …” Will’s arm swept the crowd outside.

Betty looked out the window. Indians wearing hats and jeans and shirts of every color surrounded the RV. Faces. Braids. Bodies, short and tall; fat and thin. Some were very dark, almost like African Americans. Others were as light as Gil Canao. Their eyes grabbed hers. Black to hazel, those eyes bored into the Ashley, trying to see past the tinted windows. Trying to see them. But they couldn’t, of course.

Not one face was friendly, not one mouth smiled. They stared, a half circle of intense eyes, brown skin, dark hair. The first ring was followed by another, and another. Some began to point at the Ashley and laugh. Two Indians dashed out and stood in front of the vehicle, posing. Others took their picture. They ran back to their friends, laughing uproariously. Another pair came forward for a souvenir photograph, and then another. The crowd roared.

They were laughing at them! The representatives of the largest corporation on the earth. Not representatives—the founder of the largest corporation in history and the richest man in the world, and his top staff.

Betty would have been more offended, but she knew why the Indians were so hostile. Grandfather was retiring from public life in a week, and this was his People’s last chance to spend time with their shaman. And here they were, Will Duane and his fancy Numenon crew, crashing it.

If they dislike us so, what must they think of Grandfather for inviting us? 

More Natives gathered, forming a circle around all five vehicles in the caravan. Betty couldn’t see where the crowd ended.

Will looked out the window. “Drive over them, Mark.”

“I can’t, sir.”

“Why?”

“There’s someone at the door.”

There’s Will and the gang portrayed as they arrive at the Meeting, the retreat run by Grandfather, the famous Native American shaman.

The other articles in this series can be found through the links:

Sandy Nathan
Website #1    Website # 2, the Interactive One!

 

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