Coyote Breathing – I Believe

Reason to Believe   Inspired by the WordPress Daily prompt

At the end of every day, sometimes in the middle, I go to the stats of this blog and check it see if anyone is listening. Everyday my reason to believe is that my novel is good, and that others will be purchasing it to see why I believe so much in the story, and it’s goodness, and it’s positive outcome. Some days my belief is rewarded, other days… well not so much. Maybe today will be a good day!

In the novel there is a chapter that opens where the main character has been taken out into the Arizona desert to camp. She’s a city girl relocated, and she doesn’t know what to think of the silence, the dense dark of wilderness, and of her new life in Arizona. Especially when a wild coyote tries to break into the camper.

Here is an excerpt:

Chapter 7:

The Coyote’s Breath was Hot

Utah border, northern Arizona

The dark, silent night seemed to close in on the truck like a black scourge. Holding her hand up before her face, close enough that she could feel the warmth from her palm, Jessica realized she couldn’t even see it, and that really unnerved her.

She was lying on her back, fully dressed and trussed up in a sleeping bag. Next to her, Alex was breathing the slow, easy in-and-out of someone asleep. They were camping out on the Navajo Reservation, and after finishing the dinner dishes from their meager meal, Alex casually turned off the lantern. They climbed into the back of the truck’s camper shell to lie on a soft futon designed for just such an occasion as this, and he promptly fell asleep.

Jessica, on the other hand, laid stiff and holding her breath. From the first moment they’d arrived in this isolated place, Jessica had felt uncomfortable. It was like sensory depravation for her. There was absolutely no sound except the light breeze blowing through the small bushes speckling the ground. No traffic, no people, no engines, no nothing. At one point it was so quiet she could hear the sound of her own blood in her ears, like when you put a seashell up to your ear and hear the ocean. She was a city girl in a place she could not comprehend. All around her was spooky silence, and Jessica felt displaced and nervous. The more she tried to relax, the tenser she became.

She held her breath and tried to listen for sounds outside the truck, but could only hear Alex’s steady breathing. Damn, why couldn’t she sleep like that? She tried to relax her body, but the more she tried to let go, the more she tensed up. Her eyes were adjusting to the dark, and indistinct shapes showed in her peripheral sight. All right. Think it through. What are you afraid of? The only large animals around are coyotes, and they’re actually afraid of man. Alex says they’ll run if they see you.

“Ahh…” another thought rose up in her mind, “…but what if the coyote was rabid?”

She looked to her right at the camper window, half opened, leaving only a screen between her and the outside. She began to get dizzy with holding her breath.

Oh, my, God, Jessica thought, I have to get my fear under control. This is awful.

She began to apply a technique she’d learned in Buddhism. Calming the mind, keeping it focused on one thing – her breathing. The idea was to get her breathing to slow, her mind to relax, and the fear to dissolve.

Suddenly, to her utter astonishment, a real coyote lunged through the screen of the window and was attempting to jump into the camper shell. The coyote wasn’t able to get his whole body through the window on his first leap, but it was obvious that he was determined to reach his prey. He dangled awkwardly over her, riotously yelping and barking, all the time slinging flecks of rabid foam all over her hair and face. She could hear the sound of his back claws frantically scratching the metal of the truck’s body.  She knew he was trying to get a good foothold so he could make it the rest of the way into the camper to attack them. Jessica was frozen with fear. The coyote’s breath was hot and stank of something wild and foul, and his sharp teeth seemed to get closer to her exposed head with each jerk.

Jessica sat straight up, jerking away from the animal. She couldn’t stop the scream that billowed up out of her chest, and it woke Alex with a start.

“What?” he asked, bleary eyed. “What happened? Are you OK?”

Buy the novel and find out why her faith and love wins out in the end.

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. To read the novel you can download it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the iBookstore. The third edition is soon to be released. I can finally afford a professional editor! Blue Moon Bench by D L Blanchard

So, I believe my novel is a good book, and at the end of the day, I just know if I stick with it, others will believe that too.

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Serial #1 – The Blessedness of Forgetting

Excerpt from “Blue Moon Bench” -Copyrighted material – use prohibited without written consent of author

Chapter 4: The Blessedness of Forgetting

The Rim of the Grand Canyon

The large, long-horned sheep stood perfectly still on the ledge above Mac. The two stared at each other for several seconds before the wild animal spurted up the impossibly sheer wall to disappear behind an outcropping of boulders. It was beginning to turn dusk in the Grand Canyon and Mac wanted to make it to the rim before dark. After his stare-down with the sheep, he again gave his attention to the trail and began his own rapid climb out. His plan was to meet Alex at his base camp above the cave that was receiving Alex’s research group’s undivided attention.

The cave Alex and his team were working on was located high up on a steep wall where it was hidden over the centuries from hikers and explorers. It was a yawning cavern where a large extended family of early natives had made their home deep in the canyon wall. When Mac had last visited the site with Alex, erosion and probably earthquakes over the centuries had sheared off the path into the cave, making it impossible to enter except by repelling down from the top. That was why it had never been found before now. Mac knew that Alex was now trying to beat a deadline that had been set for him by the Smithsonian Institute.

Mac was jealous that the Institute had gotten wind of Alex’s project. Although Mac also had been researching a cave for over a year with much more importance, he was reluctant to reveal it yet to the public. His site needed to be handled with much more delicacy than Alex’s, but he knew he’d one day get more attention for his own find. In his native homeland, there were thousands of sites that hadn’t been discovered yet, and he hoped to one-day return to Australia for that reason. He had little to stay for in the United States anymore.

As Mac negotiated the darkening trail, his mind found a familiar notch of anger. It was a place where Mac got comfort, a place that was easy and safe. He knew how to feel jealousy, oh yes, he knew. He wondered again why the bloody hell Alex always seemed to have everything he always wanted. The bloke had been born with the damn silver spoon in his mouth, and good things just gravitated his way. While Mac always had to fight and claw for everything he had. He felt the familiar flush of temper in his face. But he wasn’t hopeless anymore. No, Mac had a plan.

Stopping on the trail, he zipped open a pocket on his pack and removed a small, highintensity light with a thick elastic band attached. He quickly slipped the band around his head, centering the light in the middle of his forehead, and clicked it on. The light flooded the trail so he could see his out of the canyon. He was almost to the top and the glow of light from Alex’s camp glimmered on the ridge above him.

His thoughts of Alex led him to a further thought. After Rachel’s death, he’d noticed that Alex had wanted to be alone more and more. That’s why it had surprised him when he’d come home with a new bride. While Jessica was a beautiful woman, Mac couldn’t imagine how anyone who had been married to Rachel could even think of trying to replace her. Rachel had been blond and spectacularly beautiful. Jessica seemed nice, but she sure as bloody hell didn’t measure up to Rachel in his mind. Still, Mac thought to himself, that blond-haired, gray-eyed witch had been filled with betrayal. Mac swallowed his anger as he came to the canyons rim. He knew that he had to forget the past, to move on. To pretend like everything was normal until he could wind things up and leave. Then he didn’t care what the bloomin’ lot of them thought, he’d be free.

As Mac came out of the gloom of the evening dusk and into the campfire’s light, Alex turned from something he was packing in the back of his Rover.

“Well, I’m so glad you decided to stay ‘ere tonight to feed an old bloke.” Mac’s Australian accent sounded even more pronounced as it often did after he was away from other people for several days.

“Old, my ass.” Alex said. They both knew Mac had just hiked around fifty of the hardest miles of country anywhere and he knew he look damned fit.

As darkness settled in, all four of the researchers sat around the campfire and ate the meal that had been prepared for them. The students Alex was working with and Mac conversed about what he had found on his hike, and they told him about the newest findings in the cave. Soon Alex joined the discussion, and Mac sat back watching him. In the course of their conversation, he mentioned his parents and Mac thought they would have enjoyed being there in the mix of the conversation, listening to the theories and discoveries. They had always enjoyed stimulating discussions, and no matter how detailed it got, they loved learning more about Alex’s field of study.

Mac’s own parents had died when he was only a tike, and he’d come to America to study anthropology in Albuquerque. He’d always thought Alex’s parents were exactly what his parents would have been like, if they’d lived. Alex’s father had been a cattle rancher for many years here on the plains of northern Arizona. With his private land and agreements with the BLM for grazing rights, his fortune was made early in life, and he married a sweet cowgirl from Winslow. Mac’s own Mom and Dad started out with a small three-room billabong house, and little land, but still they raised cattle from when Mac was an infant.

By the time Alex was born, Mac knew that Alex’s family had moved into the two thousand, six hundred square-foot ranch house where Alex & Jessica now lived. The ranch was named “The Monte Vista” after the hotel in Flagstaff where his father won the small original homestead in a private poker game. The name meant “Mountain Vista” in Spanish and there was no doubt that the view of the San Francisco Peaks from the ranch was spectacular. In comparison, Mac’s own home in Flagstaff was close to the university, and by most standards, not modest. But it still wasn’t a ranch.

Mac stretched out his legs and leaned against a rock, staring at the fire. He remembered when he was a young man and he and Alex used to visit his ranch on summer break. Alex’s father used to talk about how the Navajo people would drive the old dirt road to Flagstaff once a month across his ranch. With their wagons full of woven blankets and Yeis’ (the Navajo Kachina dolls) ready for trade, the Navajo families went to trade for flour, sugar and fresh fruits and vegetables — things they couldn’t get out on the reservation. Even today, Mac could still see the line of lava rocks used to mark the road’s track, which still ran parallel with the new highway that still makes its way into today’s modern Flagstaff. He often saw Navajo families driving into town, but now it was on the paved road and their transportation was a pickup truck instead of a wagon. Few had blankets to trade, and they were usually on the way to K-Mart for odds and ends, or a quick stop at the local hamburger joint for fried zucchini and a cheeseburger. Life on the reservation was hard, and most families had either moved into town, or struggled to live on the reservation in small hogans, without electricity or running water. Mac knew that Navajo’s often chose that way of life, however, because the possession of material items went against their religious beliefs. It seemed that life, as a Navajo today was a tug-of-war between being a good Christian and not giving up cultural beliefs of the Navajo rituals.

Mac looked up from his pondering and saw that the two students had finished their coffee and gone off to their respective sleeping bags. He watched as one of them came out of his tent and shook his bedding to check for scorpions or other desert visitors in the folds of the blanket. As Mac and Alex shared the dying campfire, a group of coyotes could be heard off in the distance, and Mac was reminded of when he used to camp out in the desert of New Mexico.

He had been working on his master’s degree in Albuquerque and Alex joined him in the program late. The two would go on long expeditions into the desert, the best of friends, looking for lost cultures and listening to the serenade of the local coyote families at night as they sat around a campfire.

Alex had then taken three years abroad to work with some of the most noted anthropologists in the world, working on digs in South America, Asia, and Egypt, while Mac had stayed in the U.S. struggling to make ends meet. Alex had learned to scale steep cliffs from some of the best rock climbers in the world, and Mac would hear stories at home of how he’d won competitions involving some of the most technical climbs outside the U.S.

By that time, Mac was in Arizona happily publishing book after book on Navajo & Hopi cultural differences, and gaining tenure at the University of Arizona. The two had kept touch over the years and even worked together on a couple of projects that involved ancient sites in New Mexico. During all Alex’s travels, however, Mac knew that he never stopped thinking about his home. He told Mac that he knew he would eventually return to use his knowledge to help research and save the history of native cultures right in his own backyard just as Mac would. And that’s exactly what he had done.

Now, Mac knew that Alex had been flirting with the idea of running for state representative, something a group of local businessmen were supporting. They both knew it would give him the opportunity to do even more for the preservation of Arizona’s history. Alex being nominated seemed like one more morsel served on the Alex Dawson plate. It was something Mac was having trouble getting behind. Mac now remembered that eleven years before, Alex had finally traveled home to stay, bringing with him a new wife, the beautiful Rachel. Alex had told Mac that he’d met her on a ski trip he’d taken with friends in Europe, on a break from work. Rachel was there, training with her team for the Olympics and he had immediately been floored by her beauty and intelligence, which to Mac was completely understandable. Mac understood how two weeks together in such a romantic spot could spelled trouble for a couple. Alex had failed to return to his research in South America, and Rachel had failed to make the team because of her absence at the trials. Somehow, they decided marriage was the only solution for such negligence. Mac supposed that it made sense at the time. He felt the usual black regret in the pit of his stomach. What a mistake it had all been. He felt the familiar anger rise up inside of him, dark and uncontrollable.

Alex suddenly rose, throwing the stub of his cigar into the fire and walking up to the edge of the canyon. Mac watched him as he looked out into the blackness. Looking up at the sky himself, he saw that stars and a small sliver of a moon had come out to give slight illumination to the landscape, sculpting the shapes of the different pinnacles like huge spirits, standing still and quiet in the Grand Canyon’s vast darkness.

To be continued with Serial 2 – Follow this blog

Tears of Compassion

Someone recently asked me what the most gripping scene was in my book; to tell the truth there are several.  But…. this one stands out as the most suspenseful and memorable for me as the writer.  I’ll set it up for you.

Jessica, the main character, decides to take a walk with her dog to find a hidden cave that appears to have gold artifacts, and could be the motive for the murder of Rachel – a murder she suspects her new husband committed. Determined to solve the mystery, she continues to search for the cave.  But so is someone else!

“They arrived at the small cave entrance and the dog became over excited about exploring. Jessica calmed her down, and then pulled out her flashlight so they could both see well in the gloom. The cave was shallow, as she remembered it, and after some scrambling and with the use of the light, she found a cubby hole to one side that she’d missed the first time.

It was about four feet deep and low enough that she had to crawl on all fours to enter. Inside she felt to find a clean metal trunk hidden under a heavy canvas tarp, and a sturdy looking lock protecting the contents. Carefully searching the area, she found a hidden key and was able to unlock the trunk.

Inside the trunk Jessica found an expensive collection of rock climbing gear. The equipment looked like the same kind Alex used to climb, and it was in good condition. She carefully closed the trunk, snapping the lock closed and re-draped the canvas tarp. Carefully returning the key to its hiding place, she decided it probably belonged to a Navajo who liked to climb as recreation here on the reservation, and left it here for convenience.

Jessica slipped on her rain jacket against the light rain that had started outside and then securely wrapped Chili’s leash around her wrist. Discouraged that her investigation had been fruitless, they began the walk back up the trail. Once again a trickle of sand and small pebbles showered down on them, and this time she had a strange feeling that someone was above them. Both she and Chili stood perfectly still, listening for any other sounds, but soon moved on after hearing only the wind and a hawk far down the canyon.

Just before they reached the top of the trail, Jessica heard the angry buzz of a bee off to her right. She made a rapid swat at it and then tried to pick up their pace, wanting to reach the rim before it began to rain in earnest. Chili stopped on the trail, however, and lifted her head, her ears perked and listening. Jessica gave her leash a tug, and another buzz went by her ear, but this time closer, with a strange crack immediately after it.

Just as she realized it was a rifle shot, Chili let out a loud screaming yelp. Jessica whipped around in time to see the dog catapult into the air, jerking at the end of the leash hard enough to tumble over the edge of the cliff!

Jessica hit the ground to duck away from any more bullets and then looked around her. She could see no one above them. Chili was now hanging suspended over the canyon with nothing but Jessica’s strangle hold on the leash standing between her and a plunge to death. She crawled over to the edge while trying to keep the leash secure. Poor Chili was crying horribly, and twisting in the air, her harness firm and strong. Jessica was relieved to see that the dog was suspended above a small ledge right below them.

“Hold on girl,” she said trying to reassure the struggling dog. She began an earnest prayer quietly under her breath, tears of compassion spontaneously welling up in her eyes.

The leash painfully cut into her wrist as she tried to lower Chili onto the ledge. Lying on her stomach, she extended her arm as far as possible and still came up short, dust and dirt invading her eyes and mouth. Her arm was beginning to give out from holding all the weight of the wildly squirming dog, but she knew Chili might be hurt worse if she let go. Even if she landed safely, there was no guarantee the wounded dog wouldn’t run off the edge of the canyon in confusion without Jessica there to stop her.

The shooter forgotten as she edged further over the lip of the canyon, sweat popped out on her forehead and she extended the reach of the leash now growing slippery with perspiration. The sound of the dog in pain was almost too much for Jessica as she strained to stretch over the rim further wanting Chili’s landing to be soft. She suddenly felt herself start to slide headfirst into the canyon, tears blurring her sight.

Right before she went over the lip of the ledge, she tried to grab at a small tree that had rooted next to her, wanting to save the dog a hard landing at any cost. The tree couldn’t hold her weight and she went over sideways, landing hard right next to Chili, her legs dangling over the edge. Her shoulder took all the impact and the pain was so intense she almost blacked out.

Lying for a several seconds, stunned, Chili’s pitiful whine made its way into the fog of her own pain. She looked over and grabbed the collar to prevent the wounded dog from moving, the ledge only about four feet wide, about 12 feet below the rim with very little room to maneuver. The vast space of the canyon was simply an inch away and it gave her intense vertigo. She immediately sat up and pulled herself away from the edge as much as possible. Leaning her back against the canyon wall while still holding Chili’s collar, she closed her eyes, continually repeating the auspicious prayer, her perfect faith rooted in the ancient practice. A miracle was needed.

Once she gained a little space in her mind, she was able to give Chili a closer look and saw that the dog was lying on her side, her breathing rapid and shallow. Inspecting Chili’s wound, she was rewarded with a piercing yowl as the dog tried to jerk away. The bullet had gone through the fleshy part of the neck and out the chest. She soothed the dog into laying still, her compassion for her pet enormous, and she was calm with the conviction that it would not end here. She just wouldn’t let it.

“Shhh. It’s OK Chili. Don’t worry,” she said, petting her ears back, planting a kiss on her forehead, her own tears mingling with dust and blood. She suddenly grew still wondering who had shot them, and would they shoot again.”

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