Excerpt Time - The Wild Turkeys

Wild Turkeys BC image 2 - 4-23-2020
It's time for another excerpt. This time I've chosen an excerpt from Book 3, The Wild Turkeys. 

Tully and the turkeys turned towards Caitlin. They hummed.

"Loyal Caitlin," Tully intoned. The turkeys swelled with song. "There are dark times ahead of you, loyal friend. Be strong and you will be rewarded."

"We are here for you," Crystal sang.

Caitlin frowned. She shivered. She didn't like the turkeys talk about quests and dark times. She winced. Rio, who was still draped across her shoulders had inadvertently dug his claws into her shoulders at Tully's talk of dark times.

"Is the silver water a mirror?" Trudie asked.

 The turkeys stretched out their necks and fluttered their feathers. "The Trudie seeks the truth," they sang.

 Trudie frowned. She wished that the turkeys would provide straight answers. She needed to crack their code.

 The turkeys sang.

 "But why is that bad?" she asked. She didn't understand why a mirror could be bad.

 "The silver water has many states," Tully replied. The other turkeys hummed. "When it is a bridge, the Hero must beware."

 Molly frowned. Whoever heard of a mirror being a bridge?

 "Why?" Rio asked. He had a feeling he knew the answer.

 Tully and the turkeys swayed and sang.

 "He is Destruction. Beware the Hero! Beware of the Silver Water,” Tully intoned.

 "Beware, beware," the other turkeys whispered.

 Caitlin felt a breeze lift her hair. She heard the rustle of leaves. She stroked Rio's soft fur.

 "But why..?" Trudie started to ask. The turkeys' song stilled. The wind sighed. They could hear the cottonwoods creek. Tully and the turkeys vanished. They found themselves hand in hand standing before the open gate.

Through the gate


Excerpt from Book 1, The Lost Colors

It's time for another excerpt. This is taken from book 1, the Lost Colors.

Lost Colors Cover for Kindle

This is the book that started the series. 

Rio sniffed the air. "I think we are getting close to something," he muttered. He could feel something different in the air, something electric.

Cautiously they followed the faint trail on their bikes. The alley opened up behind an old abandoned two story building. The place was deserted. There was no one about. The trail led directly to the middle of this building, and stopped before a rusted door.

"Do you think we should go inside?" Molly asked. 

"Is it open?" Trudie asked.

"Wait, what should we do about our bikes?" Caitlin asked.

Rio had jumped down and was gazing intently at the trail that ended in front of the rusted door. He could feel his whiskers tingling with alarm.  "I think we should go back home," he warned.

But Molly, Trudie and Caitlin were too excited to listen. It was so quiet and still. There was no one about. "Let's leave our bikes around the corner, by that old shed. They will be out of sight," Caitlin suggested. They took their bikes behind the old shed and left them there. "Rio, if you are scared, you could wait here?"

Rio was having none of that. He followed slinking low to the ground and his ears flat against his head.

The rusting door opened easily. The faint yellow trail led them inside. Caitlin, Molly and Trudie followed closely. Rio opened his mouth and sniffed. His whiskers tingled. The ground floor of the building was completely empty of human occupants. But Rio could sense rustling of tiny creatures. His ears pricked forward. He smelled the mustiness of mice. The girls left him to explore.

Inside the empty building, the yellow trail was easy to follow. It led them towards stairs. It was not completely dark in the building and in its stairwell. They followed the trail up the stairs to the second floor. As they exited the second floor stairwell, they entered a long passageway with closed doors on either side. At the end of the passageway a light of some kind streamed out of an open room. They walked as quietly as possible but their footsteps still sounded awfully loud in the silence.

"What's this?" Molly asked.

They finally reached the open door. The room was filled with the brightest silver light. It had long narrow tables covered with bottles and glass beakers. On one side of the room there was a bank of computers and computer monitors that hummed quietly. In the center of the room, raised on a platform was a large glass-like cauldron that was filled with mist. It made a faint popping sound.

"It looks like some kind of lab," Trudie whispered.

Caitlin nodded. She stared at the cauldron. The mist cleared. Inside the cauldron she could see colors. Reds, blues, oranges, pinks and greens all swirled and bubbled inside the cauldron.

"Look!"  Caitlin pointed at the cauldron. "Do you see it?"

 "I can see the colors!" Molly gasped.

 "I can't see any color. I see the mist, but the liquid inside is completely clear," Trudie observed.

"Where's Rio?" Molly asked, looking around for the cat.

Caitlin frowned. She looked around. Where was Rio?

"We had better get going," she said. "We need to find Rio!"

Meanwhile, Trudie had walked over to the wall of computer monitors, and was peering curiously at their screens. "You go, I just want to see what this is all about," she said.

"I don't think it is a very good idea to split up," Molly said.

 "She's right," Caitlin said. "Come on, Trudie, let's go!"       

Reluctantly Trudie followed Caitlin and Molly out of the room. They had just entered the passageway when they heard the sounds of voices in the building coming towards them from the floor below.

"Oh no!" Caitlin exclaimed. "We'd better hide!"


Excerpt time - from book 2, The Missing Cats

I chose this excerpt from Book 2, The Missing Cats. 

"Gerrowhowl," the most chilling sound came from Rio. He did not like the lights, nor did he like all the staring people.  

    Mrs. Brewster stopped Caitlin's dad.    

          "He must come out," Mrs. Brewster said. The public and some Very Important People had come to see Rio.

          "Mrs. Brewster," Caitlin's dad said putting the carrier down on the floor, "that is not a good idea."

          Mrs. Brewster was having none of this. She moved deceptively quickly for a woman of her size. She bent down, and pulled the zip along the top. The pet carrier opened. Rio seized his chance. He leapt out of his cat carrier.

          "Rio!" Caitlin cried.

          Rio hissed at the wall of people. He seemed to fly - a blur of bright white fur, leaping up the steps, onto the stage, and up onto the podium. His black tail lashed wildly. He stared out at the waiting people. He seemed to glow under the spotlights. His white whiskers looked extra white against his dark panda face. Cameras clicked and flashed, whirled and peeped.

          The crowd oohed, the crowd ahhed.

          Mayor Bradley was a little surprised at the change in plan. But he was a politician, and prided himself in being able to think on his feet and to read a crowd.

          He grabbed hold of the ribbon and swung the medal at the cat. Rio's blue eyes narrowed to slits. He flattened his ears, opened his mouth and snarled, showing perfectly white, sharp teeth. He rose up on his hind legs, and with a large white paw he batted at the medal swinging on its ribbon.

          The Mayor had good reflexes for a human. He jerked the ribbon, and the medal danced out of Rio's reach.

          Some members of the audience applauded.

          Tail lashing, Rio focused intently on the medal dangling enticingly at the end of the ribbon.

          "I now present Rio, the Cat, this medal for bravery," the Mayor announced as he jerked the ribbon. The medal swung back and forth. Rio tensed ready to spring. 

          Before Mayor Bradley had a chance to place the ribbon over Rio's head, Rio snatched the medal with his sharp teeth, and then leaped off the podium. He disappeared into the green room, the medal gripped in his mouth and the ribbon trailing behind him.

          The crowd cheered. Mrs. Brewster face changed to the same color as her dress.  Mayor Bradley smiled and clapped politely while the cameras rolled.

          "The medal is presented to Rio for bravery, and with our grateful thanks," Mayor Bradley said into the microphone, and at the reporters.

          Caitlin and her dad rushed after Rio. They found him, curled up, with his medal in his cat carrier, waiting to be taken home.

          "What a good cat!" Caitlin's dad said."

I can just picture Rio leaping for his medal.

Rio Medal


Coordinates, Longitude and Latitude - The Story of Imagination & Geometry

In the 4th book, The Forgetful Ferret, Caitlin, and her friends solve a secret code – a set of coordinates. That got me thinking. How do we know where we are and where we are going? Thanks to modern technology, our smart phones, available apps and a legion of satellites orbiting our planet it takes a couple of taps, and before you know it, your smartphone is giving you directions.

Imagination is a wonderful thing. I am not so sure about geometry. But the story of longitude and latitude is really a story about imagination and geometry.

Ancient Greeks and Phoenicians had great imaginations. The Phoenicians were great explorers. They observed the night sky with its patterns and constellations. They noticed that one star remained constant throughout the four seasons – and that was the North Star (or Polaris.)

Ancient Greeks, Eratosthenes and Hipparchus imagined that the Earth had imaginary lines - with two sets of parallel lines – one running north – south, the other running east – west. This was first used by Eratosthenes. Eratosthenes was a mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer, and music theorist (quite a guy.) He was born in 276 BC. Hipparchus, a Greek astronomer, geographer, and mathematician was the first to use these lines as coordinates for specific locations.

Geometry is important to our story of longitude and latitude. Without geometry we would not be able calculate either latitude or longitude. For instance, the Phoenicians were the first to determine latitude (imaginary east – west lines)– the distance from Earth’s poles. The Phoenicians determined latitude in this way - at night they would use the stars such as the North Star or Polaris in the Northern Hemisphere. Once Polaris is located then work out the angle in degrees between Polaris’ position and the northern horizon. Navigators would use a quadrant or a sextant to do this. This angle measure is the same latitude north of the equator.

Longitude (imaginary north-south lines) cannot be determined this way. To accurately calculate longitude, one needs a fixed known point (a meridian) and accurate time. On land with easily identified landmarks the calculation of longitude was easier. (Although it took several centuries before accurate time pieces were invented.) But at sea, the accurate calculation of longitude was difficult – there were no identifiable landmarks on the open seas.

There were many disastrous shipping disasters due to the inaccuracy of the longitude calculations at sea. Navigators would follow the latitudes (easier to calculate) and then hope for the best. The Eighteenth century was a century of exploration. Britain, and France competed for supremacy of the seas. It made a huge difference to be able to accurately navigate where they needed to sail. There were a couple of Government initiatives designed to reward innovation.

In 1714 the British government offered a £10,000 prize for accuracy within one degree of latitude (60 nautical miles at the equator) to £20,000 for accuracy within one-half of a degree for any person or persons who could accurately calculate longitude while at sea. That was a lot of money back then. According to the BBC the prize was won by John Harrison. But this is not entirely true. The official prize was never awarded. (reference John Harrison - Scientist of the Day - Linda Hall Library )

John Harrison, was born March 24th, 1693 and was a British clockmaker. He built a series of clocks that could accurately measure time. (These clocks were accurate for their time, one such clock (the H4) sailed for Jamaica in 1761, and 2 months later was only 5 seconds slow.)  The Board of Longitude (no doubt not very eager to pay out the prize money) demanded a re-trial. The second voyage in 1764, the timepiece gave a longitude error of 10 miles. Still the Board resisted paying out the prize money. It took an appeal to King George III himself before final payments were made. Harrison was required to give the Board all his clocks, notes and drawings.

A prime meridian is the line of longitude where the longitude is defined to be 0 degrees. In October 1884 the Greenwich Meridian was selected by delegates representing 25 nations to be common zero of longitude and standard time of reckoning around the world.

This is a good thing. Because before that was decided there were a number of prime meridians around the world. This would have made it extremely confusing. Now with the Greenwich Meridian being a common zero then all lines of longitude can be calculated using the relative position to the Greenwich Meridian, the position of the sun and the reference time.

Oddly enough time and the ability to accurately tell the time was very important to calculating longitude. The reason why is that to pinpoint a location, it needed to be compared to the corresponding time at two different locations.

This seems very confusing. But it is not when you picture the earth turning on its axis as it moves around the Sun. Now picture a fixed point on the earth. Now look at your watch and what is the time?

Say the time is noon. Let us call that local time. But the time at the prime meridian is 5pm. Which means if someone were standing on the prime meridian at noon our time it would be 5pm their time. Each hour represents 15 degrees in the earth’s rotation. (360 degrees divided by 24 hours.) That means the longitude  at the place were we are standing is 5 times 15 which is 75 degrees.

Sources:

See Wikipedia Eratosthenes - Wikipedia for more information about Eratosthenes

Wikipedia mentions Hipparchus in a nice entry about the History of Longitude. History of longitude - Wikipedia For more information about Hipparchus see Hipparchus - Biography, Facts and Pictures (famousscientists.org)

For an interesting in depth description of Harrison’s first Sea Watch (H4) see In-Depth: The Microscopic Magic of H4, Harrison’s First Sea Watch | SJX Watches (watchesbysjx.com)

The Linda Hall Library has an interesting write up of John Harrison the British clockmaker who “won” the Board of Longitude’s competition. John Harrison - Scientist of the Day - Linda Hall Library

Britannica has the clearest description and explanation. latitude and longitude | Definition, Examples, Diagrams, & Facts | Britannica


Announcement! Coming Soon: Book 5, The Coyote King

Book 5, The Coyote King is coming soon. In this next exciting adventure, Meatloaf, MacDougal's cat who is working with the secret organization called the Circle to stop MacDougal, knows that MacDougal is planning something. Why is MacDougal so interested the new family who just moved into Caitlin's neighborhood?

The Coyote King will be available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback. 

 

 


Happy Thanksgiving

When I first came to America, I was invited to share my first Thanksgiving meal at a friend of my mom and dad. They lived up in the mountains. I remember we had already had our first snow fall for the season. I remember the crisp bite of cold air, and the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. The table was laden with dishes – stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, and gravy. The roasted turkey was huge. I had never seen anything so large.

I think Thanksgiving is a lovely tradition. It is a wonderful time to gather, connect with family and friends  and remind ourselves of all the things we are thankful. This year, thanks to COVID-19, Thanksgiving is going to be a quite different experience. 

In The Wild Turkeys Caitlin and Rio experience a unique Thanksgiving. Here is a short extract…

"Look Lloyd," Mrs. Brewster gasped. She pointed towards the door.

Caitlin's mom gasped. Podge laughed. Shanaya giggled. Caitlin glared at Podge.

In the doorway, his tail feathers fanned bristled Tully. Behind him, Caitlin could make out two of the other females - Amber and Crystal.

"Oh no!" Caitlin cried. The wild turkeys had gotten out of the garage. Where was Rio? They needed Rio.

Tully clucked. He looked at each of them. Mr. Brewster who was about to put a helping of turkey meat into his mouth put his fork down.

Caitlin felt a rush of cold air.

"Rio?" Caitlin yelled.

Angus, Mr. Brewster's dog who had been lying at Mr. Brewster's feet, sat up and whimpered.

"Well?" Mrs. Brewster demanded. "Megan, aren't you going to do something?"

"Erm?" Caitlin's mom said.

Mrs. Brewster stood up. "Now look here," she said to Tully. "This is a Thanksgiving meal. You know perfectly well that turkey meat is eaten by Americans at Thanksgiving. There is no need to act so shocked. Now, why don't you take," she waved at poor Bert, "him and go back to where you came from."

Silence.

Caitlin's mom gaped at Mrs. Brewster. Caitlin could not believe that Mrs. Brewster was talking to a wild turkey.

Mrs. Brewster continued. "Now, shoo," she waved her arms at Tully.

Tully stomped a foot. His feathers rustled.

"I wouldn't do that," Podge whispered.

Mrs. Brewster said again, "now shoo!"

Angus dropped to his belly and whined. Under the table, he found the calm presence of Rio. He licked Rio's face, and wagged his tail. 

Tully stared at Mrs. Brewster. He puffed himself up, and then with feathers swaying he started to strut towards Mrs. Brewster.

"Sit down, Prudence," Mr. Brewster hissed, "and be quiet."

Mrs. Brewster frowned at her husband. "I will not!" she retorted. "I will not be dictated to by these, these," she seemed at a loss for words.

"Turkeys?" Podge supplied helpfully. He grinned. Caitlin thought it was unfair that he seemed to be enjoying himself. 

Tully stopped, and blinked at Mr. Brewster.

Caitlin heard the faint whisper of song.

Angus whined again and rolled onto his back displaying his tummy.

"Come Bert," Caitlin could hear Crystal call. "Come to us, Bert," she heard the song swell.

"Gobble?" Bert replied. He stared down at the diners, and then at Tully and Crystal. He shifted and bobbed.

Caitlin thought that Bert was confused. She didn't think Bert knew quite how to come down from the highest shelf.

Podge followed her gaze. "You don't think?" he asked as Bert ruffled his feathers.

Then Bert launched himself and tried to flap at the same time. Unfortunately, Bert was not a very coordinated turkey.

"Gobble!" Bert cried and fell to the center of the dining room table.

Crash!

Shanaya gasped as Bert narrowly missed her plate of food. Mrs. Brewster was not so lucky as the poor turkey landed partially on her plate. Bert panicked. He didn't like this. He wanted to get to safety and Tully. He tried to jump, but his claws caught on the dish of macaroni and cheese. He and the macaroni and cheese slid across the table.

Bert leapt and sent the macaroni and cheese crashing to the floor.

"Argghh!" Mrs. Brewster screamed. Bert landed in the middle of her chest. She stumbled, and then fell back.

Thump.

"Oomph!" Mrs. Brewster said as she landed on the floor.

"Gobble!" a terrified Bert called. He had not meant to land in the middle of the woman's chest. "Gobble?" he cried again calling for Tully.

Bert hopped off Mrs. Brewster's chest "Gobble?" he asked peering up at the large male.

"Gobble!" Tully said.

"Gobble, gobble, cluck, cluck," Crystal and Amber called.

Bert darted around Tully and followed the sounds to Crystal and Amber.

Tully rustled his feathers and clucking quietly followed Bert.

Podge reached over to Caitlin and removed one of Bert's feathers from Caitlin's hair. He handed it to her. "Best Thanksgiving Ever," Podge grinned.”