Tag Archives: Marcha Fox

Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW – Day 4

The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon

by Marcha Fox

Charlie Whitehorse caressed the soft texture of the wool blanket as he gathered its folds around himself against the evening chill. He savored it’s earthy scent, unlocking an onslaught of memories. This wasn’t just any blanket. Over three decades before, he’d watched his ama’sa’ni create this one from scratch. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of his log cabin, gazing into the roaring fire, he recalled how he’d longed to hunt deer with his father and the other elders. But he was a child of seven, his job to help his grandmother, one of the tribe’s weavers. The process of making blankets was long and tedious, one far too boring for a young Navajo boy who felt embarrassed and demeaned performing chores assigned to squaws.

Even now, he remembered every step. First, she’d shown him how to separate the shoulder sections of the fleece, which were the cleanest with the longest staple. After that, she’d instructed him how to prepare the raw wool for spinning. This involved teasing a few locks with his fingers to separate the fibers. Next came combing them with a pair of carders that looked like large, flat dog brushes, manmade imitations of the prickly teasel. Then he’d place the resulting bats in a reed basket, miniature clouds of fluff awaiting her skilled hand. Pure lanolin coated his fingers, making them squeak when rubbed together, its odor one he’d never forget. Nor how it softened callouses earned practicing with his bow. Often he couldn’t work fast enough to keep up with her spinning, accomplished using a spindle to twist the prepared fibers into yarn.

Fortunately, once she spun enough yarn, his part became more interesting. Then he no longer had to sit for hours on end, arms aching from carding. Now he could explore a bit as he gathered the materials she needed to dye the yarn into a variety of warm colors.

The collection process for some substances required a knife or ax, which contributed to the feeling of it being a worthy task for a young brave. Bloodroot, hickory twigs, pokeweed berries, and oak bark were some of the things she requested. Among the most challenging were cochineal beetles which, when dried and ground into powder, would yield crimson. It could take an entire day to gather enough bugs for a single batch, but to both him and his ama’sa’ni, it was a day well-spent.

In fall, goldenrod blossoms were gathered to produce vibrant yellow, though color and intensity depended on various factors. When ama’sa’ni was ready to start the dye process, he’d haul water from either the iron-rich spring to the north side of their village for reds, or the alum-rich one to the east for the yellows, the resident minerals necessary for the fiber to permanently retain its color.

When she’d prepared sufficient yarn, Charlie helped her warp the loom constructed from tree trunks, then wrap the different color yarns on separate sticks that served as shuttles. Then, the best part–weaving–began. He marveled as she’d skillfully alternated shuttles, colorful geometric patterns emerging with each row of weft, until at long last their collective labors produced a finished blanket that was not only functional but a work of art.

Only now, as a grown man, did the wisdom of that experience impress itself upon his mind. Not only the work itself, but what it taught him about nature, going full circle from the vegetation the sheep ate to dyeing the yarn with some of those same plants. Yes, the process was tedious and long; yet the result was well worth it. It taught him patience, perseverance, and appreciation. For simple things. Like a blanket that felt softer to the touch each year, improving with use, unlike so many things that didn’t last. Analogous to life itself. And old friends. A cherished cover that had kept him warm for what would soon be thirty winters, many of which were spent in the frigid Colorado Rockies.

His cultural roots demonstrated man was intended to be an integral part of nature; stewards, not conquerors. Unlike those who’d invaded their land, forced Indigenous population to settle in inferior regions, then even drive them from there, when a wealth of silver, gold, copper, and other minerals were discovered beneath what they considered sacred ground.

Rather than extracting and processing it in a way that honored the earth and showed gratitude for its abundance, they’d virtually raped the land, leaving gaping holes and tunnels behind. Some hundred-fifty years before, his people had sadly admitted defeat and had no choice but to tolerate such behavior.

Yet, their misfortune didn’t end there. It was harvest time in 1869 when a band of drunken Whitemen raided the village, waiting until the tribesmen were away for the final hunt in preparation for winter. The invaders not only ravaged the women and burned their homes, but stampeded the horses that remained in camp. A few young braves, not yet old enough to join the hunt, had attempted to save the steeds, only to be driven by a hoard of deranged miners over the edge of a cliff to be decimated in the ravine a hundred yards below. Charlie recalled when he’d first heard the story as a youth and how he’d imagined himself as one of them.

Was it any wonder that when the tribesmen returned and found the resulting devastation that their medicine man, likewise a shaman, cursed that canyon?  So far, however, the Whiteman had continued to benefit from exploiting and abusing the entire area. Perhaps the dawn of  the curse resided in the aftermath of the leaching and other processing methods used to extract the precious metals. These involved noxious substances such as arsenic and mercury. Their residue poisoned the ground and eventually migrated to nearby streams when abandoned mines filled with rain and snow melt. The toxic drainage eventually killed all aquatic creatures and drove away wildlife that depended upon such channels for drinking water.

The mines were mostly exhausted, yet water continued to accumulate in their cavities. The latest bitter irony that they were using the excavations’ polluted aftermath to further devastate the ground. The acid mine water was being used for hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, again dishonoring the earth while stealing from its depths.

It was easy for Charlie to question whether or not the curse was real. So far it was questionable, no apparent consequences answered upon those who had wreaked so much destruction for the sake of greed. Only the earth and local wildlife had suffered.

Local tradition dictated that the curse would manifest in its entirety when their actions reached the pinnacle of evil. After that, it would dissipate, but only when the Whiteman and his Indigenous brothers mended their ways; when they closed the persistent rift between them in friendship and cooperation. Unlike many, he was one of the few who had tasted of such sweetness with his friend, Bryan Reynolds. They’d met in their teens, when Charlie had moved north to live with his father in his male parent’s native Cheyenne country. Oddly enough, the two boys even shared the same birthday, spending dozens of adventurous summers together, exploring, hunting, fishing, and growing up in separate cultures, yet being of one heart.

But now Bryan was dead. His life terminated in that very ravine known to his people as Dead Horse Canyon. Charlie suspected his friend’s tragic accident had been orchestrated by those to whom the curse had been directed. Yet so far, no guilty party had been identified, much less suffered due consequences. It didn’t make sense. Seven generations has passed. Surely it was time. And intuition assured him fulfillment was in progress.

But why Bryan? Why now? And what, if anything, was Charlie’s role?

The blanket’s warmth enjoined him to patience. From that first bat of carded wool to its liberation from the loom, it had comforted and instructed him in the ways of life. Legend assured him that the curse would end. Soon. And in some way, currently unknown to him, he would be part of it.

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

 

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Marcha Fox RWISA Author Page

How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click HERE to make application!

Meet #RRBC Spotlight Author Marcha Fox!

Meet Thyron, a Flora Peda Telepathis

 

 Creating engaging characters is not only important to a story’s success, but fun and challenging. Sometimes it takes deliberate thought and hard work to figure out everything about him or her: hair and eye color, quirks, talents, weaknesses, favorite comfort food. However, knowing your characters intimately brings them to life, at which point they help write the story. I love it when that happens!

Thyron, a flora peda telepathis (telepathic walking plant) who appears throughout the Star Trails Tetralogy, was different. I didn’t have to go through a long, drawn-out, creative process to bring him to life. Rather, it was more like Pallas Athene, who burst forth from her father, Zeus’s, head as an adult (clothed in battle armor, no less–no wonder he had a headache).

In other words, Thyron showed up fully developed. Getting to know him was more a matter of discovery than creativity. I knew immediately that he could shuffle about, had eyes, and communicated telepathically, usually in rhyme. In spite of being nearly omniscient, he was naive due to his lack of experience. He hailed from a planet named Sapphira, which was populated by pygmies who didn’t have a spoken, much less written, language. As the most intelligent species on that planet, the flora peda telepathes were worshipped as gods. No ego trip there!

As reviewers began to mention Thyron as their favorite, considering he’s a minor character in the series, I realized he deserved more attention. Thus, I wrote a short story that explained how his path came to cross with Creena’s, protagonist in Beyond the Hidden Sky. In A Dark of Endless Days, he and another minor character, the robot, Aggie, wind up at Area 51. Clearly, that story needed to be told as well. And thus the seed was planted for The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51.

Getting into Thyron’s head was a trip and a half, trying to figure out how he would perceive Earth and us earthlings. Here’s an excerpt when personnel at Hill Air Force Base placed the chamber in which he’d been secured in a shipping box:

Two others arrived, measured the chamber, then quickly constructed a box similar to the others… As he was lowered within its depths, Thyron hyper-photosynthesized with horror–he was surrounded by material that had once been the living tissue of a very unfortunate tree. His villous leaves tingled with revulsion as he sensed screams emanating from the wood’s coarse grain, his mind assaulted by the vision of it being murdered in its prime–cut down, stripped of its bark, then mutilated to suit the demented purposes of humans.

A few scenes later, he was horrified again:

Everyone left except two helmeted MPs. The pair took up stations just outside the open door, weapons slung over their shoulders while they engaged in muffled conversation. One removed a small human-finger-sized cylindrical roll of vegetal materials from a package in one of his pockets, then offered one to the other, after which he lit the bundle with a tiny flame and began to inhale the smoldering vapors, emanating considerable pleasure as he did so.

Thyron gasped, horrified. He’d felt fear vicariously, but never experienced it personally before. Now it gripped him at a visceral limb-chilling level as he considered the many ways people on this dreadful world tortured vegetation. Would they do the same to him? He shuddered with the realization he was probably about to find out.

When Thyron arrives at Area 51, astrobiologist, Gabe Greenley (another character who just showed up) begins to check him out. Gabe’s favorite expression is “Holy guacamole!” which Thyron assumes to be the scientist’s personal diety. Thyron isn’t exactly the usual lab specimen, given he’s sentient and Gabe is psi-sensitive, so the two can communicate. The relationship that developed between them surprised even me. My biggest challenge with this story, given the characters were essentially self-animating, was when Gabe started his scientific investigation.

I pride myself in writing hard science fiction with a generous side-order of science. As a physicist, I knew precious little about botany. To make a long story short, researching and integrating the science side took as long as writing the story! To my delight, however, what I discovered included a generous blast of serendipity.

 The plant I decided to model Thyron after was oxalis. As I learned about its properties, as well as the photosynthesis process in general, I encountered numerous fun facts that dove-tailed with Thyron so beautifully that they fit the category “you can’t make this stuff up.” Even his name, which he’d had long before I’d learned anything about plant physiology, had meaning, given that thylakoids are the part of a plant that receives light, and Thyron’s entire journey in this series was about attaining enlightenment. I discovered that oxalis has medicinal properties after I’d assumed such in the story, as well as the fact that it’s not unheard of for plants to have some level of perception, including defense systems.

A lot of humor arose in the interactions between Thyron and Gabe. I think I had more fun writing this side-story than the entire series. Interestingly enough, I’d started writing the final (I think) book of the series prior to this one, but something told me to stop and write The Terra Debacle. By the time I finished, I realized what a large part it plays in the final wrap-up of what has been a long journey.

This is what happens when you have characters that take over the writing process. I love it when that happens.

AUTHOR BIO:

Marcha Fox is an avid science fiction fan and author with over 20 years’ experience in positions ranging from technical writer to engineer to manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in physics, which was but a prelude to her interest in the unexplained mysteries of the cosmos. Inspired by science fiction to pursue a career in a technical field, she hopes to instill the same fascination in young readers, while providing older ones with classic hard science fiction.

 

Born in Peekskill, New York, she has lived in California, Utah, and Texas in the course of raising her family, which included fifteen years as a stay-at-home mom before returning to college in her 30s to obtain her degree, a feat accomplished while she still had six children at home. All are now grown with children of their own providing her with 17 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren so far. Never at a loss for something to do, besides writing she’ a professional astrologer who enjoys gardening, her two Bengal cats and a sassy tuxedo, and keeping up with family.

 

THE TERRA DEBACLE: PRISONERS AT AREA 51

https://books2read.com/u/b6QelW

 

Blurb:  Thyron is a flora peda telepathis (telepathic walking plant) from the planet Sapphira on an adventure gone terribly wrong. The bad decision of a human girl and her maniacal robot companion has stranded them on Earth, where his botanical cousins face horrible fates such as consumption by herbivores, incineration, and brutal annihilation for use as building material.

 

Following capture, Thyron is transported to Area 51, where NASA exobiologist, Gabe Greenley, studies his every move, ecstatic with the opportunity to examine an entirely new lifeform. In due course, the scientist makes a ground-breaking discovery, distressed by the fact he can never share it due to his security oaths and research agreement. Eventually, he’s confronted by an even worse ethical dilemma that forces him to make a treasonous and potentially deadly decision.

 

Will Thyron’s psychic powers be enough to save him? Is Greenley friend or foe? Or does the exobiologist have a few secrets of his own?

 

Find out in this unique combination of hard science fiction, suspense, and a touch of humor populated with memorable characters in a setting loaded with intrigue. Unexpected plot twists coupled with a unique ending make this an unforgettable tale whether you’re a science fiction fan, botanist, UFO aficionado, or simply enjoy a good story.

 

Twitter: @startrailsiv

Facebook:  @marchafoxauthor

Website: https://www.startrailssaga.com

 

Watch RWISA Write: Marcha Fox

August is Watch RWISA Write month. Today, we celebrate author Marcha Fox!

Your Wildest Dreams

I inhaled sharply when I recognized the introductory riff wafting from my favorite 80s station as Your Wildest Dreams by the Moody Blues. Even though I had the original 45 RPM record, the album on cassette tape, and more recently, the CD, I kept them safely locked away so I wouldn’t binge on it. Nonetheless, when KPLV, 93.1 FM in Vegas, got around to playing it every few weeks or so, I’d indulge in a break, a delicious reminder of why I was here.

Consumed by ethereal and intimately familiar soundwaves, I got up, closed the blinds, and even though it was unlikely the song’s strains would penetrate my office’s cinder block walls, plugged in my headset so I could crank it up—I mean really up. I melted back into my chair, eyes closed, with what was probably an idiotic smile on my face, savoring each note as the song segued into its lively, 142 BPM tempo. The next three minutes and forty-one seconds, I’d be in heaven.

Even though this song came out eight years after she left, the first time I heard it, back when I was still in college in ’86, I knew two things: One, it would always be “our song”; and Two, I had to find her.

My heart leapt with visions of galaxies beyond, of what might be out there, where she might be. I plunged headlong through space and time, besieged by memories burned into my heart as permanently and painfully as branding was to a newborn calf. Did she remember? Feel the same thing I did? Sense the enchantment of fate-entangled lives?

I memorize pretty easily, which comes in handy, especially with things like the Periodic Table or Maxwell’s equations. And of course, favorite songs. These particular lyrics struck me, hard and personal, from day one, certain it’d been written exclusively for me.

As my eyes teared up, logic intervened and yanked me back to planet Earth.

Grow up, Benson! What are you, a total schmaltz or what?

We were kids, for heaven sakes. A teenage crush. I should’ve gotten over it, but never did. No wonder. Girls like her are rare. One of a kind. She’d already experienced things I never would. Things that were part of my wildest dreams.

The admonition failed, pushed aside by that part of me that felt alive again, jammin’ like a total jerk, mouthing the words as I sang along in my head. It’s not like I’m a teenager anymore, though at the moment I felt like one. No, memories of the heart never die—can’t die, evereven if you try to kill them.

I’d give anything to talk to her. Which of course I have, numerous times over the years, if only in my head. Okay, aloud more often than I care to admit. I could swear it even felt as if she answered a time or two. I suppose that’s how it is with your first love. Or your first kiss, even if it was only a peck on the cheek. It penetrates your soul and stays there forever.

That mid-summer day in ’78 hauling hay was as vivid as yesterday in my mind’s eye. The cloudless sky, sun hot on my neck, the aroma of first-crop alfalfa sweetening the mountain air. I scratched my shoulder, a reflex memory of itchy, stray leaves sticking through my T-shirt. My chest ached as I remembered tear tracks streaking her dust-covered face at something I’d said. Then, days later, that withering look when we lied about her ship.

The one we still have. What’s left of it quietly abandoned beneath a tarp in Building 15, here at Area 51.

How she knew we weren’t telling the truth, I’ll never know. Pretty funny it’s still sitting there. And I’m sure she’d think so, too. I can just hear her saying, “Stupid snurks, I knew they’d never figure it out.” Though actually they did, just didn’t find technology worth pursuing. Even contractors didn’t want it.

I had to admit it was pretty crazy, but she was my motivation to get where I was today: just short of a decade of college linked with serendipity that put me in the right place at the right time, hoping someday I’d find her. My life had changed a lot since then. How much had hers changed? Did she make it home? Was she still alive? With the effects of relativistic travel, which I understood only too well, she could still be a teenager, while I was easing into the infamous dirty thirties.

Not good. If I ever did find her, she’d probably think I was some lecherous old fart. Either that, or, with my luck, she’d be married with a bunch of kids. I winced with the thought.

My sentimental reverie vanished when my office door slammed open and Hector Buckhorn rolled in. Literally. Hec’s been stuck in a wheelchair ever since he crashed his hang glider into a New Mexico mountainside during spring break his last semester of college. He ridge soared a lot, particularly around Dulce, over restricted areas where he wasn’t supposed to be. Got caught a couple times, but being Native American, never got in trouble, even though it wasn’t his home reservation. He’s amazingly good at playing dumb, in spite of—or possibly because of—his 150ish IQ. He never talked about his accident, said he couldn’t remember. Makes sense, actually, given he suffered a massive concussion. The only time I ever saw him pissed him off was when he woke up in the hospital and discovered they’d shaved off his hair, since grown back beyond shoulder length.

I dropped the headset around my neck and faked a frown. “Don’t you ever knock, butthead?”

“Hey, man, wazzup?” he said, giving me a funny look. “You okay?”

I laughed. “Of course. Just thinking. Remembering. You know.”

Ahhh. They played that song again, didn’t they?”

“Can’t hide anything from you, can I, Chief?”

“Nope. I figured you were up to somethin’ with your blinds closed.”

He wheeled over to the grey metal, government-issue table on the other side of the room and helped himself to a handful of peanut M&Ms. Once I’d realized during my PhD days at Cal Tech that, in a pinch, they made a pretty decent meal, I’d kept that old, wide-mouth canning jar full. He dumped them in his mouth, perusing me with knowing, dark eyes.

“You were sure enjoyin’ that song of yours,” he said, not even trying to stifle his crooked grin as he munched away.

“Yeah,” I replied, uncomfortable with the conversation’s direction.

“We’ve known each other a long time, Allen,” he said. “Don’t you think it’s time you told me about her?”

“Not much to tell.”

He let fly with a popular expletive related to bovine excrement. “C’mon! What’s her name?” he persisted.

I blew out my cheeks and sighed, knowing resistance was futile. “Creena,” I answered, surprising myself when, again, I got a little choked up. I avoided his eyes by likewise heading for the M&Ms.

“So find her,” he said.

“It’s not that simple,” I replied, pouring myself a handful. “I don’t know where she is.” A statement that was truer than he could possibly imagine.

“I have some resources who could help,” he offered with a conspiratorial wink.

I shook my head, then stalled by popping a few colorful orbs in my mouth.

“Why not? If she’s anywhere on this planet, these guys’ll find her.”

I swallowed hard and paused; met his gaze. “She’s not.”

He scowled, making him look a lot like those old pictures of Cochise. “Say again?”

“She’s. Not.”

“Oh! I’m sorry.”

“Why?”

He shrugged. “I assumed she’s dead. She must’ve been quite a girl.”

“She was. Is. She’s not dead. At least as far as I know.”

His jaw dropped, shocked expression broadcasting the fact he’d caught the implications. “You’re not kidding, are you?”

“Nope.”

“Abductee?” he whispered.

“Nope,” I answered, raiding the candy jar again. “Immigrant.”

His eyes widened as he spewed an expletive that elevated excrement to sanctified status. “Don’t tell me she’s an EBE!”

I nearly spewed partially chewed M&Ms across the room. Extraterrestrial biological entity, indeed! Yet by definition, actually, she was.

I chuckled at his expression and shook my head. “No. Quite human. At least as far as I know.”

“Are you?” he added, chocolate-colored irises rimmed with white. His reaction surprised me—UFOs, even aliens, were no big deal in his culture, just business as usual with the Star People.

“C’mon, Chief! You’ve known me since tenth grade, running high school track!”

He leaned back, searching my face with more solemnity than I’d seen since I told him how Dad died. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, bro,” he said finally, shaking his head.

“You have no idea,” I said, throat constricting as scratchy lyrics from the headset, audible only to me, issued another reminder of why I was here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Marcha Fox

 

[NOTE:–This is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, Dark Circles, a slightly dark, hard sci-fi love story. No release date has been set.]

Marcha Fox, RWISA Author Page