Sunday, October 26, 2008

Author Interviews, Continued: Al Past with Ana Darcy

Ana Darcy, of the Distant Cousin series, is the first alien to have come to Earth from another planet. She is a human alien, though, since her people originally lived on Earth over 3,000 years ago. She graciously consented to this interview in the interest of promoting the amicable unity of her fellow Thomans and the peoples of Earth. The questions were submitted by her fans (whose initials appear after each). Her responses have been minimally edited by Al Past.

1. What was the most amazing and astonishing thing that you discovered when you first set foot on earth? (CH)

Oh, my. It was the majesty of Earth, the overwhelming beauty that struck me immediately. When I arrived, I was terrified. I had lived for so many years in a tiny place. Then the passage through the atmosphere was very violent, and I was afraid the escape pod was being destroyed. I didn't know if I had landed at the right place, or if something might attack me when I opened the hatch. My first sensation was the feeling and the smell of the west Texas night-time air, crisp and fragrant, cool and dry. (Later I learned the aroma was from the juniper trees and creosote bushes.) When I climbed to the top of the ridge and saw the dawn, with the mountains and lights far in the distance, lying peacefully under the dome of the stars, it was so beautiful. I realized I was home; our people were home at last. I will never forget that.

2. Ms. Darcy, besides being a woman of extraordinary talent and intelligence, you seem to have the knack for bringing out the very best in everyone with whom you interact. Do you consciously seek to do this, or is it merely the positive effect your own personality has on others? (JW)

You do me too much honor. Thank you! I do not consciously use any particular strategy when dealing with other persons. People generally respond well to respectful treatment. Not all do, to be sure, neither here nor on Thomo, but most do. I like to be treated that way myself. It's a different matter when I am in public as myself, however. Celebrities seem accorded great license. It is often a burden.

3. Ana, I am always impressed by your character, your determination to do the right thing. You act like a serious Christian and I wonder, have you and your husband ever thought about taking your children to church? He must have been a Roman Catholic and taking your children to his church would seem natural and it would help them understand the culture too. (MM)

Yes, my husband was raised in a Roman Catholic family. He tells me they were "relaxed" about it (his word). His father is an independent-thinking gentleman, and I believe his son is much the same. As for myself, while I have been fascinated by Earth's religions, I have not found myself drawn to any to the extent of abandoning my own. I do believe there is a creator of the cosmos, but I cannot claim to understand its nature, nor can I believe that the creator has an awareness of us as individuals. But I do know the universe is orderly, even the parts we do not understand. The source of that order has to be the creator. It falls to us, as parts of that creation, to honor and maintain it in harmony, and to assist others in doing the same.

Our children have attended Roman Catholic services with their grandmother, as well as services at a number of other places of worship. They are aware of a great number of belief systems. As they mature, I expect they will be able to choose the paths that best fulfills them.

Followup question: Did you have anything like a religion on your home planet? Or did you study ethics and morals? Meditation? Anything of a spiritual nature? (MM)
Oh, yes, of course we have religion! Surely, that's one thing that distinguishes us as humans! The first of us to arrive on Thomo were animists, believing that objects and the phenomena of nature had spirits. Those beliefs were shaken by our translation from Earth to Thomo. Over time this system coalesced into worship of a dual supreme being, cosmic heads of clans, in effect. In more recent times, approximately 600 years ago, the two entities gradually melded into a single deity. Today, most Thomans believe in an abstract deity. It reminds me of what I have read of the American Indians' concept of a "Great Spirit." Many Thomans attribute a consciousness to this spirit; some do not. We disagree among ourselves about a great many things, but theology, fortunately, is seldom one of those.

As to ethics, morality, and the other branches of philosophy, yes, there are those of us who ponder these matters. Again, how could one be human and not ponder them? Meditation is not practiced as a separate technique. I suspect that the various schools of meditation on Earth are a function of your many cultures. Thomo, unfortunately, is homogeneous, and lacks the variety and richness of your cultural resources.

4. Your native language, Luvit, fascinates me, Ms. Darcy. Could you briefly explain its relationship to Earth's languages? How many languages do you speak yourself, presently? (BS)

I'll try! Luvit has been determined to be a separate branch of Indo-European, which is one of the 15 super-families of Earth's languages. Within the Indo-European family, English belongs to the Germanic branch. Russian and Polish belong to the Slavic branch. Luvit shares characteristics with both, and therefore must have branched off from Proto-Indo-European a very long time ago, perhaps 3000 years. Linguists have found it a useful source of data to recreate the original Proto-Indo-European language, which has disappeared without a trace. It is an additional benefit that since the separation, Luvit has not been affected by contact with any other human language. Though it has changed over the centuries as all languages do, it offers a much closer and purer tie to the linguistic parent of all European and Scandinavian languages, as well as Hindi and and Iranian and Afghani. I owe a great debt for this explanation to Dr. William Sledd, philologist and linguist, who together with a team of linguists, studied Luvit in great detail. I served mainly as their informant.

As for my other languages, I am most fluent in Luvit and English. I also have passing familiarity with French and Spanish, as well as very elementary abilities in Czech, Russian, Sedlak, Hindi, Japanese, and Chinese, which I studied privately for some years.

5. What stories and legends do your people have about the race which removed you from Earth and about the journey from Earth to Thomo? Did the alien race that transplanted your people to Thomo give you any assistance for survival on the new planet? Have your people ever encountered any artifacts of that alien race on Thomo? (DS)

We have only the most basic conjecture as to the beings who took our earliest ancestors to Thomo. At the time, we were not literate and not experienced enough to understand what we were going through. At first the travelers' memories were preserved in oral verses, passing through several generations, until being written down. Here is what little we know.
No one ever saw the beings directly, because they wore some sort of covering. Surviving drawings and legends indicate they were large, perhaps half again as tall as humans and maybe three times the weight of a human. We do not know if the covering was so they could remain hidden or because Earth's atmosphere, and Thomo's, might have been harmful to them. We know nothing about the method of transport, only that our ancestors were treated well. We were approximately 1300 in number.
Thoman history is counted in generations as well as in Thoman years, which would be meaningless to you (although they are 14.7 Earth months long). When I left Thomo, we were in the 162nd generation, with a generation counting as 20 Earth years. According to our stories, the beings returned seven times, the last being in the 14th generation. After that, they communicated electronically through the 65th generation. Since then we have heard nothing from them. We don't know if they disappeared or if they are still following our affairs. If they are, we have been unable to detect it.
The first generations had a very hard time. Many died. Gradually, the beings (the Thoman word for them is the Others) supplied assistance and technology. A writing system was created. Agriculture was developed. (Our ancestors had been nomads.) Civil engineering began. Over the generations, materials technology, tool making, electricity, medicine, and basic physics were introduced. The Others never spoke to us with sounds. Since the 85th generation, we have been on our own, inventing and innovating without further help. Thus, if Thomans are more advanced in some respects than the people of Earth, it is not necessarily because we are smarter. We had help!
We have no artifacts of the Others whatsoever, beyond the developments they fostered. We don't know why they moved us to Thomo. Perhaps most significantly, we do know that there is at least one race of alien beings besides humans in the universe. That has had a great impact on our thought.

(To be continued)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Author Interview with Characters: A Continuing Series

(Kim set off a flurry of creativity with her interview - so it was suggested in the IAG discussion group that as many of us as possible do interviews with our characters. I have chosen to interview two of my own characters from "To Truckee's Trail", the party co-leader, Elisha Stephens, and part-time guide Isaac "Old Man" Hitchcock.)

CH: So, gentlemen – thank you for taking a little time from your duties as wagon master and… er… assistant trail guide to answer questions from IAG about your experiences in taking a wagon train all the way to California.

ES: (inaudible mumble)
IH: (chuckling richly) Oh, missy, that ain’t no trouble at all, seein’ as I ain’t really no guide, no-how. I’m just along for the ride, with my fuss-budget daughter Izzy an’ her passel o’ young ones. Heading to Californy, they were, after m’ son-in-law. He been gone two year, now. Went to get hisself a homestead there, sent a letter sayin’ they were to come after. Me, I think he went to get some peace an’ quiet… Izzy, she’s the nagging sort…

CH: Yes, Mr. Hitchcock… but if I may ask you both – why California? There was no trail to follow once past Ft. Hall in 1844. Neither of you, or your chief guide, Mr. Greenwood had even traveled that overland trail, before Why not Oregon, like all the other travelers that year?

ES: Nicer weather.
IH: Waaalll, as I said, Samuel Patterson, Izzy’s man, he was already there, had hisself a nice little rancho, an’ o’ course Izzy wouldn’t hear no different about taking a wagon and the passel o’ young-uns and going to join him. (Winking broadly) And it ain’t exackly true that I never had been there, no sirreebob. I been there years before, came over with some fur-trapping friends o’mine. But it was unofficial-like. We wasn’t supposed to be there, but the alcalde and the governor an them, they all looked the other way, like. Beautiful country it were then – golden mustard on all them hills, and the hills and valleys so green and rich with critters – you’d almost believe they walk up and almost beg to me made your dinner! (chuckles and slaps his knee) Missy, the stories I could tell you, folk wouldn’t believe!

ES: (inaudible mumble)
CH: Mr. Stephens, I didn’t quite hear that – did you have something to add?

ES: (slightly louder) Most don’t. Believe him.

CH: And why would that be, Mr. Stephens?
ES: Tells too many yarns. Exaggerates something turrible.

CH: But surely Mr. Hitchcock’s experience was of value…
ES: Some entertaining, I’ll give him that.

CH: Would you care to explain?
ES: No.

IH: (Still chuckling) The Capn’ is a man of few words, missy, an’ them he values as if each one were worth six bits. The miracle is he was ever elected captain, back at the start in Council Bluffs.
ES: Doc Townsend’s idea.
IH: And the Doc’s doing, missy! Everyone thought he’d be the captain of the party, for sure, but he let out that he had enough to do with doctorin’, and didn’t want no truck with organizing the train and leading all us fine folk out into the wilderness.

ES: Sensible man.

CH: I take that you are referring to your party co-leader, Doctor Townsend. Why do you say that, Captain Stephens?

ES: Knows his limits.
IH: Ah, but the Doctor, he’s a proper caution! He’s an eddicated man, no doubt. Took a whole box of books, all the way over the mountains. I tell you, missy – everyone looked to the Doctor. Everyone’s good friend, trust in a pinch and in a hard place without a second thought. Did have a temper, though – member, ‘Lisha, with old Derby and his campfire out on the plains, when you gave order for no fires to be lit after dark, for fear of the Sioux? Old Man Derby, he just kept lighting that fire, daring you an’ the Doc to put it out. Onliest time I saw the Doc near to losing his temper…

CH: (waiting a moment and looking toward ES) Do you want to elaborate on that, Captain Stephens?

ES: No.

CH: Very well then – if you each could tell me, in your opinion, what was the absolute, very worst part of the journey and the greatest challenge. Mr. Hitchcock?

IH: Oh, that would be the desert, missy. They call it the Forty-Mile Desert, but truth to tell, I think it’s something longer than that. All the way from the last water at the Sink… Me, I’d place it at sixty miles an’more. We left at sundown, with everything that would hold water full to the brim, an’ the boys cut green rushes for the oxen. Everyone walked that could, all during the night, following the Cap’n an’ Ol’ Greenwood’s boy, riding ahead with lanterns, following the tracks that Cap’n Stephens an’ the Doc and Joe Foster made, when they went on long scout to find that river that the o’l Injun tol’ us of. A night and a day and another night, missy – can you imagine that? No water, no speck of green, no shade. Jes’ putting one foot in front of the other. Old Murphy, he told them old Irish stories to his children, just to keep them moving. The oxen – I dunno how they kept on, bawlin’ for water all that time, and nothing but what we had brung. We had to cut them loose when they smelled that water in the old Injun’s river, though. Otherwise they’d have wrecked the wagons, and then where would we have been, hey?

CH: In a bit of a pickle, I should imagine. Captain Stephens, what did you see as the most challenging moment?
ES: Getting the wagons up the pass.
IH: Hah! Had to unload them, every last scrap – and haul them wagons straight up a cliff. Give me a surefooted mule anytime, missy – those critters can find a way you’d swear wasn’t fit fer anything but a cat…

CH: (waiting a moment for elaboration from Captain Stephens.) Did you want to elaborate, Captain Stephens.

ES: No.

CH: Well… thank the both of you for being so frank and forthcoming about your incredible journey – I think we’ve managed to use up all the time that we have…

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weekend Update - 18 October

Member Nan Hawthorne at Shieldwall Books writes -
In December, Nine Arches Press will be launching their second pamphlet, "Lady Godiva and Me" by Liam Guilar. "Lady Godiva and Me" is a sharp, attentive and candid sequence, and so much more than just the re-telling of the legend of a lady who dared to ride through the city unclothed… If you'd like to get an exclusive taster of this forthcoming collection, they will be sending out e-poems every Monday from 20th October straight to your inbox for the six weeks leading up to the collection's launch. All you need to do is send an email with the subject line 'Lady Godiva and Me e-poems' to and they'll add you to the list.

Member Kim Mcdougall has an interview with one of her characters:

Interview with Xavier Saint Amant from ‘Luminari’The elusive Mr. Saint Amant recently sat down (after dark) with author Kim McDougall for a rare interview.
KM: Thank you for agreeing to see me, Mr. Saint Amant. May I call you Xavier?

XSA: If that makes you comfortable.(A wolf howls in the distance and the hundreds of candles lighting the room, flicker)XSA: Are you comfortable?

KM: Yes. Yes. Thank you.XSA: I could offer you wine, but my assistant has locked himself in the cellar again.

KM: Does that happen a lot?
XSA: Yes. Good help is hard to come by in my line of work.

KM: And what work is that exactly?
XSA: Alchemy.

KM: Alchemy? I didn’t think there was much of a market for that anymore.XSA: I’m not in it for the money.
KM: Yes I’ve heard of your humanitarian efforts…

(XSA laughs)XSA: You’ve never interviewed a vampire before, have you, Miss McDougall?(KM shakes head.)

XSA: Humanitarian isn’t quite the word for my work. I help vampires in need. Those who can’t or won’t hunt for themselves. I’m like a soup kitchen, but I don’t serve soup.

KM: I see. I’ve heard you developed a drug that enables vampires to go out in the sunlight. The Luminari. Is this true?

(With uncanny speed XSA crosses the small space between them. He leans over and whispers in her ear.)XSA: It doesn’t work on mortals, but I could fix that for you.

(KM squirms away and stands.)KM: Yes, well. Maybe another time. Perhaps now would be a good time for a tour of your…ah…soup kitchen. My readers would find that fascinating.(A scream breaks the quiet.)

XSA: Yes, let me show you around.

(More here)

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Plea from Books for Soldiers

(The following was forward to me through one of my other blogs)

Soldier Charity Faces Closure: Corporate Donations Dry Up

North Carolina – has sent thousands of care
packages to our troops deployed outside the US since March 2003. But is in dire financial need now, and may close.
The site must raise $22,000 by October 31 or it will stop taking new
requests on December 1, finish filling remaining care package requests
for the holidays, and cease operations December 31.

"It's a bad economy," says Storm Williams, the founder and webmaster.
"Times are tough for all non profits." Williams says they had an
aggressive fundraising campaign that started the first of 2008.
Corporations they had previously relied upon have been unable to
repeat their support this year. "By April, we received a stack of
letters that began with, 'we deeply regret not being able to donate
this year.'"

Starting in May, they tried again, managing to shrink a $53,000
deficit to $22,000 by September's end. They also asked for help from
deployed troops, sending them US flags to fly in Iraq and Afghanistan
to give as thank-you gifts for the more generous donors. "We are so
grateful," said David, one of the site's moderators trying to drum up
fundraising. "Soldiers and Marines have flown flags for us, sending
them back with certificates signed by their Commanders. It's an
activity we used to arrange for the members. It was a lot of fun, 2-3
times a year and most importantly, for free. Now it's just to

"Right now, we are just looking to get donations. The regular members
have been awesomely generous, but can only do so much." Williams
jokes, "BFS has always been in survival mode."

"We use our website. Soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and Coast
Guard make requests at The site is
secure; we restrict access to those who've been approved to send

"With our financial difficulties, we've not been able to upgrade. The
member-approval process is still by hand from snail-mail applications.
We had hoped to hire a programmer to make the site more responsive.
We are pursuing a number of avenues for fundraising, looking forward
to 2009 and beyond, but there is the very real possibility we will
close in 2008." Williams concluded, "We're broke. Our parent
organization gave us an ultimatum to stand on our own in 2008. We
have not been able to do that yet."

Donations are gratefully accepted, either through PayPal on the site's
donation page ( ), or by check
payable and mailed to

Books For Soldiers
2008 Fund Drive
116 Lowes Food Drive #123
Lewisville, NC 27023

More details can be found here, or by sending an email here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Poem for the IAG - by Steve Knutsson

I realize my life has run

A never ending course

From daylight’s bright expanding sun

To night’s astounding force

We are but folks subjected to

The daily whims and wits

Of those we seek to make anew

Our friends and daily hits

Our lives speed on incessantly

O’er life’s unbroken roads

We time our selves increasingly

To bear the added loads

A traveler I seek to be

In midnight sun so bright

Before the turning calendar

Turns daylight into night

Please pause with me on this fine day

To hold your friends quite near

And tell them things you’d never say

The things they’d want to hear

Weekly Update - October 4th

Kim McDougall at Blazing Trailers says "Preview the Book has announced it's new editor's picks and two Blazing Trailers creations made the cut!

The first book is Maybe We are Flamingos, by Sue Thurman and the second is The Little Man in the Map. I'm very excited about both of these! The second one is narrated by my daughter Genevieve!"

IAG member Jessica James had a very long account of a day in the life of a real authors at her blog.... It's not all skittles, beer and hovering personal assistants, people!

101 Uses for an Antique Tractor

(Courtesy of Al Past)