Thursday, December 6, 2012

BLOG TOUR: Circles by Ruby Standing Deer

WELCOME TO THE CIRCLES BLOG TOUR!


ABOUT THE BOOK

With much of the world still undiscovered, a small band of people live a peaceful life, until the dream vision of a young boy, Feather Floating In Water, changes everything. Only nine winters old, Feather’s dreams turn his seemingly ordinary childhood into the journey of a lifetime. He must help his people face a terrifying destiny from which they cannot turn away. He must find a way to make his people listen.

Bright Sun Flower, the boy’s grandmother, guides his beginnings, teaching him about the Circle of Life, and how without it, no life can exist. But he needs a bigger push, and gets it from a grey wolf and a Great Elder. The boy’s journey leads him to discover that the Circle of Life involves all people, all living things, and not just the world he knows.

In the end, an ancient People guide the boy in his visions, toward an unexpected place hidden from outsiders.

This story is steeped in American Indian life, in their beliefs and humor, and in their love of family. It shows how we might benefit from the old ways today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author of Circles, Spirals and Courage Through Fear, a short story in a book called Evolution Book 1 Put out by my publishing Company, Evolved Publishing.

Life is a wondrous mystery that I still explore. I spent my youth "feeling" my way thought it. I traveled throughout the seventies, standing on one highway ramp or another, exploring the many corridors of our country, learning about life and what it had to offer.

In 1979, deep in winter, I settled down. I was lucky enough to become the first woman journeyman pressman of a major newspaper in Colorado. After ten years of working on printing presses, an injury forced me down another path.

I made and sold jewelry, cared (still do) for abandoned animals, volunteered for a horse rescue as well as a no kill shelter. I went to school for so many different careers that ended up combining my credits to get a degree in horticulture. Unfortunately, or so I thought back then, two car accidents during my last semester, my last class, prevented my pursuing it as a living.

I had no idea what my future held, but I was fortunate; my caring and understanding husband allowed me to explore other paths and I found one I knew I belong on--writing.

Back then, I had no idea "someone" was pushing me to become a writer.

I had taken creative writing classes off and on throughout my college years, because I always felt the need to write. Nothing came of it, except satisfying my own desires, until that special dream guided me to write my novel, Circles.

I joined a couple writing groups to improve my skills. I met David Lane (aka Lane Diamond), my editor, in a group. He taught me to keep going, not to get discouraged, to write and never give up. He stuck with me and gave me the confidence I needed in myself, to let go of doubt, to move forward.

My animals taught me about myself through their own lives. They showed me that I had the patience to push onward toward my destiny, that to give up meant the end. They helped me learn that if I willed myself to wade through all the murky waters, eventuality, I would see clearly enough to move forward.

I am currently working on Stones, the third in this series and a book of short stories of the paranormal that will have something for everyone even if you are not sure you believe. I might just change your mind!

My mixed bloodlines have shown me many things in life that I am truly grateful for. Thank you, Great Mystery, for the dreams, for the guidance, for the whispers in my mind.

ONLINE LINKS


REVIEW

A fascinating look at life before/during the arrival of the Europeans that disrupted the way of life of so many different Native American groups.  This story focuses on one such group, the Fish People.  Feather Floating in Water is young, but has visions that both scare him and confuse him.  His friends and family seek to help him understand these visions and his destiny, but in the end, it is up to him to find a way to understand what he sees and how to use it to protect his people.  Ruby Standing Deer does a great job of creating likeable and interesting characters as well as a beautiful setting. I wanted to go see the beautiful canyons she describes. I found Feather a delightful and sympathetic character. I also appreciated how the author explains at the beginning the use of modern terms in a historical setting. A lot of historical fiction authors do this, often out of necessity, but it was nice to read her explanation. A wonderful story about growing up and discovering the connections and 'circles' that exist in the world around us.


 CHAPTER 1 and Excerpts



The beginning of change....


Feather Floating In Water woke shivering in the warm lodge. Dreams like this haunted him more as he became older, but this one—so real—made him jump up from the sleeping robe he shared with his grandmother. Screams and shouts of people running from burnt lodges still tortured his mind. Their confused expressions! And the fires, so real, had warmed his face.
How is it that dream flames can burn my face?
He sat up in the dim light and peered toward the top of the lodge, where Father Sun peeked through the flap that allowed smoke to escape. Sunrise. I am home and I am safe.
Bright Sun Flower stirred beside him. She must have heard him, probably felt his every movement. "Grandmother," he whispered, "I hear mother and grandfather sleeping. I need a walk, by myself. I will not go far, just to my favorite ridge."
"What troubles you, little one?" She too whispered, as she broke small sticks and tossed them into the low burning embers of the lodge's fire pit.
Flames from the freshly fueled fire brightened the lodge. Bright Sun Flower reached for her thick robe, dense with the hair of the hump-backed animal that thundered across the lands. She wrapped it around the dress she had managed to slip on before the lodge's fire came to life.
"I... I need to be alone."
"You are but eight winters old. Let me go with you, so your mother will not worry when she wakes."
 Most nights, after his grandfather had rolled over to sleep, Feather made his way from his mother's robes to his grandmother's. His mother's rhythmic, soft snores never changed. She seldom stirred, sleeping the peaceful nights of one not plagued by dreams.
Like him, his grandmother had dream visions, maybe the same ones. After one such bad dream, Bright Sun Flower had taken him out to wander the canyons to help him clear his mind. She had told him her dreams showed that he had a destiny, an important one. They had talked and walked until he relaxed enough to laugh and dance around her again.
She had also told him she once held great Power, but gave it up to have a family. Now that her moon times were no more, her Power had returned. Feather, like all of the children, was part of everything that went on in the band. No one kept secrets from the next generation, and he understood moon times... as much as any male could.
What did all this mean—this destiny? Feather leaned up on his knees and watched her add a few more sticks to the hungry fire. Sweat beaded on his forehead and he caught her staring his way when he wiped it with the back of his hand. He wrapped his own robe around himself and crawled past his mother toward the lodge's flap.
"Too young for so many worry lines, Grandson. We should go talk about what bothers you."
Feather Floating In Water knew his grandmother wanted to help, but first he needed to understand what he needed help with. "Not now, please? I need to think."
Too much confusion muddled his mind to want to speak about it. She watched, and he knew she would soon follow no matter his protests.
Nine lodges held the twenty-two members of the Fish People, most now sleeping. Only their sister bands knew of their secluded location nestled amidst the red-orange boulders of the canyon. The large river north of the camp provided abundant fish, and two days' walk away, the plains rumbled with the big humped beasts during this time of budding leaves. The People enjoyed peace and plenty.
The troublesome dream played out again in his mind while he walked the winding path, to the high perch where he could watch Father Sun greet the land. He sat on the ledge watching the soft oranges and yellows slide across the valley below.
Home. I am home. He wrapped his robe tighter. Was this dream a... vision?
He remembered the elder woman from his vision, with long, loose hair flying behind her. She had motioned to several others to follow her into the dense shrubs. They hid themselves within the branches and huddled together. A baby cried, sparking shouts in the strange guttural tongue of those they fled. The People jumped up and ran. The mother tried in desperation to silence her baby, and ran another direction, away from the small group. The elder woman yelled at her to come back, but she ran anyway. The elder grabbed a younger woman, who clung to a girl, and ran into the thick grass while the other woman's scream drew the attackers toward her, and away from the rest of her people.
Her sacrifice saved her people, but what happened to her? These strange creatures must be bad Spirits. They looked like two creatures, but acted as one. Only bad Spirits could be this horrible. Why do they come into my dreams?
Above him, Eagle called, and another came to fly beside the first. They dove into the valley and faded into the canyon's deep purple shadows. Feather smiled and inhaled the cool morning air. The red-orange land burst into life, as dark dots across the valley turned deep green, and the air filled with birdcalls.
The dream faded, as they always did, leaving him to wonder if his mind had again, as his mother often claimed, made things up.
Father Sun warmed his body and he tossed the robe. Comfortable in just his breechclout, he raised his arms to pray.
"Great One, Creator of all, I thank you for this day and for everything I will learn. I am grateful for all you have given me and my people." He lowered his head, but only a moment passed before he raised it again. "Creator, I am scared. Forgive my weakness, but I am only a boy. What are these dreams that come to me? What can I do? Do I have Power, or does my mind make up things as Mother says?"
He dropped his arms at the sound of footfalls approaching from behind—shuffling with a slight limp.
Bright Sun Flower stopped at the top and breathed hard. "I see you tossed your robe. We elder ones do not warm so fast."
Feather smiled and ran past her, down the path to the bottom of the canyon. He splashed in the newly formed stream made by the nearby river, which sent its overflow down the dry washes. He dove down and pretended to catch a fish in his make-believe talons, and fell on his backside in the water. Unhurt by the fall on the rocky pebbles, he jumped up and stomped his way down the stream, back to his grandmother. She quickened her pace to catch up to his open arms.
"You caught me, Grandmother. I was flying so high, I thought maybe you would not be able to reach me! You are taller than I thought."
"You silly one! You are like a bear cub who races without thought to where he is going." Her laughter echoed down the winding canyon.
She put him down and reached for his hand. They walked beside each other, enjoying the fresh scent brought on by the early season rain that had danced a gentle patter on their lodge all night.
 "Grandmother, why are there so many smells, and why does the rain make them smell better? I bet it is because the rain has special medicine."
She smiled and rubbed his wet hair. "Yes, every being has special medicine. Even you have special medicine."
"Why can I taste the plants in the air after a rain? Why do birds only make nests after the snow comes no more? What about the cold season? They need a home then too, right?"
"The birds make nests to raise their young in, where they are safe. When they teach them to fly, they no longer need the nest—"
Feather raced down to the stream again, arms spread wide. He sped back his grandmother's direction, but twisted his body and dashed past her.
"Little one, come back to me," she called out. "I have something important to show you. I have much to teach you this day, things that you will remember the rest of your life. Things you will pass onto your children someday." She sat on a boulder next to the canyon wall.
He reluctantly turned from his playing and ran to her.
"Walking is not your way, is it?"
He dove onto her lap in response.
"Ugh, little one, not so hard. I am made of flesh, not stone." She pointed to a small group of plants growing out of a crack in the jagged wall next to them. Tiny white flowers forced their way from the buds that imprisoned them, ready to burst forth. "See how the buds try to bloom? New buds struggle to be born so they can become the flowers they were meant to be."
Feather held up his left hand to shield his eyes from Father Sun's intensity, and held a flower bud in his other. He offered it to her and grinned. "This is for you. Soon it will bloom like the smiles on your face." He smiled as she accepted the flower. "Tell me the story about my name."
She stretched her knees under his weight. He tried to stand, but she pulled him back onto her lap and brushed his damp, shoulder-length hair out of his eyes.
"I know your knees hurt. You are old now and I must learn to be careful that I do not break you." He tightened his lips and stared once more into her eyes.
"Little one, I am not so old that you will break me." She chuckled and went on with the story. "Your name came from your grandfather's father. He gave you his name long before you were born. He said you would carry on with the journey he could not."
"And then what? Tell me about the bird." He squirmed on her lap.
He had listened to the story of Hawk Soaring's father too many times to count, but still he begged to hear it whenever he could.
She held him in place with her eyes. "Your grandfathers' father looked up as a big blue-grey bird flew across the river and dropped a wing feather in the water's current. He understood right away that he must lead the people to a safer place.
"He heard the call of his Spirit Guide, and went on a Vision Quest to pray for answers. On the fifth morning, he returned to camp and told us to prepare for a long journey along the little river we children played in. We would go toward the place Father Sun sleeps."
She leaned in closer and whispered. "Visions are not normally spoken of, but he felt the need to tell us. His Spirit Guide warned him that our people faced a danger, and that we would suffer if we did not move and follow the river.
"For many days, we walked. Days turned into moons, and the late season of falling leaves came upon us. We had to stop."
Feather sat tall, shoulders back. "He led us to this land, right? The big waters where we never hunger? So we named ourselves the Fish People."
She pulled him closer and hugged him. "The cold was long and hard, and he knew he would not be able to lead us when the snow melted." She paused and sighed. "He told your grandfather of a boy that would be born to our daughter, and that, in time, this boy would know what to do. He asked us to give the child his name."
He pulled his shoulders back further, took a deep breath to push out his chest, and tugged at the fringe on her sleeve. "I am that boy, right? But how will I know what to do? I will know, right?"
"Do not worry, little one, the Spirits will guide you. Besides, it is many seasons away."
Worry etched crisscrossing lines on her face, and he caressed her cheek as she had touched his so many times.
"It is okay, I will make you proud." He wrapped his arms around her, hugged her tight, and then pulled back to gaze into her eyes. "How do we know things? Like dreams? Why do I sometimes have dreams that make me think I am awake?"
"Dreams are often that way, carrying messages we must try to understand. Sometimes we should tell someone we know about them." She reached for his chin and held it in her hand so he had to look into her eyes. "Someone like a caring grandmother, maybe?"
 Feather continued talking even with her holding his chin. "How do we know when to wake and when to sing blessing songs? Grandfather says Creator gave animals life first, and they taught us to survive. He told me we are all related. What does this mean?"
"Feather, do not speak so many words at once. Speak slow so your mind will not get confused. Do you want to talk about your dreams? I will tell you mine."
He bowed his head and would not look into her eyes.
With a heavy sigh, she put a hand on either side of his face and stared into his eyes. "I will answer your most important question now. All things are joined, meaning one cannot exist without the other. Everything that exists is part of everything else, making it a single thing. It all connects in some way to us, to the canyon, to the sky, the stars, the animals, even things we cannot see. It is only possible to understand something if we understand how it is connected to everything else."
She placed soil in his hand and put a seed, which had fallen from a nearby plant, on top. "The seed needs the soil, which needs the rain that comes from the sky. The animals eat the plant and leave the remains on the ground, and it goes back into our Mother, her body. It is a Sacred Circle. Everything needs something else in order to live. We need the animals, and they need food, but what makes plants grow?"
"Water, like the word in my name! I understand. Everything needs something else."
He jumped up and ran over to the water, and stooped down to wave his hands through it.
Before long, he stood with arms spread wide and splashed down the stream again, laughing and racing out of sight around a curve.
***
Bright Sun Flower leaned and stretched her tight back against the canyon wall.
Red and yellow quillwork zigzagged around the edge of her dress. She caressed the colorful artwork with withered hands, wondering how her daughter, Makes Baskets, had created such picturesque detail. Her daughter's ability to weave the bright colors so well, using Porcupine's quills, impressed her—the quills' sharp tips could stab fingers, if not dampened first to soften them.
A yellow- and green-quilled turtle climbed her right hip. She followed his path with her fingers. His colors shone vibrantly, as those of the turtle in her dream had many winters before. That new hatchling had turned away from the big salty water, rather than enter it, until she gently guided him back.
She had also had a vision that Feather Floating In Water would be born backwards. She had spent much time away from everyone, to pray for his safe arrival. Four days later, he had been born the right way, and with the birthmark of a yellow and green turtle on his back. The dream had shown her that Feather would need guidance, or he might turn away from his destiny.
She searched for the familiar pair of Eagles who always followed her, but instead heard the cry of Wolf. Though it echoed far away, it still made her shudder. Wolves have started to howl in my dreams. They are protectors, but who needs protection? Feather? So soon?
She needed to allow her mind to focus on other things. She admired the beauty of the canyon's red, orange and off-white colors—the way they swirled and mixed, forming designs on the canyon walls. The smell of the damp soil and the freshness of the damp plants comforted her.
This is our home. Many seasons will pass before anything happens.
She looked away, but a tug on her silver-shot braid turned her mind back to Feather, who stood grinning in front of her.
He said, "Are you going to finish your story?"
"I would like to, yes. Sit on my lap, little one."
"Grandmother, your smile is as warm as Father Sun."
Bright Sun Flower hugged him to her breast. "Ready to listen?"
Feather nodded and leaned back when she let go of him.
She pointed to the flower missing a bud. "This is an important story, one you will carry in your heart all of your life. Look again at the flowers and describe their shape."
Feather knelt onto his bare knees to get a better look. "As you said before, round. Even the plant's leaves are growing in a circle on the ground where the plant came out." He looked closer still. "Even the tiny yellow centers inside the flowers are all round!"
He jumped up and gazed at his grandmother's face. "Your face is round too, and your eyes are round." He touched his eyes. "Are mine round too?"
He reached out and touched her face before she could answer him. "Your face has lines of secrets and wisdom. Grandfather told me that is why he has them. I asked him why I did not have any, and he just patted me on the shoulder and told me that someday I would have them too. He says you have many more lines than he does. Does that mean you are wiser?"
Well, you old— "Why yes, that is exactly why I am wiser than your grandfather. He knows he will never have as much wisdom as me." She shook her head. "Poor man."
I will stretch out your wrinkles, old man!
She smiled at her grandson while planning ways to get back at her man, Hawk Soaring. Before Feather could ask what she was thinking, she stood up.
Her knees crackled as she leaned forward. "Let us take a walk and see what else we can find that is round."
Bright Sun Flower smiled at the little boy who stood taller, proud of his discoveries. As they wandered the canyon, he pointed out many more plants, round tree trunks and stones, and a spider's web glistening under Father Sun's angled light.
"Look, Grandmother, it has the colors of the rainbow, and it is round. Spider could have made her web any shape, but she chose to make it round." He looked up. "And Father Sun is round too. I want to see more!"
"Little one, some Peoples call Sky, Father Sky and Sun—" Falls on empty ears....
Farther down the canyon trail, the boy's energy finally wore on her. An oval-shaped boulder nestled into the canyon wall provided a place for her to sit and rest. She used her hands to stretch her tired back, praised him and held his little body close to hers. She enjoyed the fragrant scents of all the wild plants he had been kneeling in that morning.
"So, what did you learn today?" She held him at arm's length and looked into his expressive eyes.
He scratched his head and squinted in thought. "Well, I learned everything is round in its own way, even our own bodies. Father Sun is round, so our Mother we walk upon must also be round. This roundness connects us, like the dirt and seeds and rain and the animals. All are parts of the Circle."
He tilted his head and grinned at her. "I also learned you are much wiser than Grandfather."
He had learned about connectedness, an important lesson for one so young.
How did Feather understand our Mother is round? I was much older when I understood. Much older.
"You, my little one, are my Shining Light."
Eagles above called to each other, and in their sound, she heard the future. She thought of her vision—a future she did not understand.
Strange people cast dark shadows and overwhelm the land. Animals flee with nowhere to run. The people take and take more, until they crack the Circle of Life. The Mother's body turns grey and plants crisp from lack of water.
She had seen all life end, and wondered if the Circle could survive and put itself back together. No sense telling others her vision—not yet anyway. They would just think her addled.
 The Mother was forever. Yet even Bright Sun Flower saw the landscape change when boulders became loose after a hard rain. Nothing stayed the same. Nothing.
She looked at her hair, once black as a moonless night, now silvered as the starlit sky. Everything changes.
      
Excerpts


He watched as Feather tossed flat stones in the hopes they would skip across the river.
The boy stopped and turned to him. "Grandmother said she had too much to do this day to play with me, but that you had lots of time, and that I should take you out for a walk. She did not want you getting stiff. What does stiff mean?"
"Ah, stiff means bent over from too much work. I work so hard, she worries that I might get sore. Such a caring grandmother you have."
Feather's wide eyes and big smile stopped Hawk Soaring from telling his grandson he was not about to get stiff. He couldn't help but grin. He had spent so many winters with his woman that he couldn't remember them all.
She remains as beautiful as ever. Perhaps just a bit more opinionated. I could love no one else.
Feather grinned back. "Why are you smiling so much? Better be careful—you could lose some more teeth. They could fall out!"
Hawk Soaring bent over with laughter. His grandson had long been amused by his nearly toothless bottom jaw. "Little one, if I lose any more teeth, you will have to feed me, because it will be your fault!"
He stood up, reached out to Feather for support, and wiped happy tears from his eyes. "There, now none will fall out, because I am standing up. You are such a joy. You should walk me more. I would like that."
"Really? Grandmother says you sit around with your old friends because, at your age, you cannot do as much as you used to do, and she says you need lots of rest. I would not want to tire you out." He maintained his serious tone, tightened his lips, and squared his chin. "Will I wear you out? Because if I did, Grandmother would have no one to help her when she gets as old as you. I would have worn you all out and used you up."

                                                          ***
   She reached out and squeezed him to the basket of raspberries that sat across the front of her dress. "What a lucky mother I am to have such a son, so smart and so good to look at. Girls will fight over you like a dog fights over a bone."
"Um... Mother?"
She drifted into thoughts of how special her son would be to another woman someday. Another woman? How could my son ever leave me? She would have to be a very special woman to take my son! I would not allow just any woman to take his hand and lead him away from me. She would first need to prove herself worthy of such a fine man. Never—
"Mother? Mother, please listen to me!"
She shook her head to clear her mind, and focused on Feather. "What is it, my son?"
She gazed into his laughing eyes. Puzzled, she pushed him back, and gasped at her wet, sticky arms, red with tiny seeds stuck all over them—and her dress! The berries had oozed through the basket when she had squeezed him to her bosom.
"Hoohaaa-haaa! The only place you do not have berries on you is red too!" He pointed to her ever-warming face, laughed, and fell backwards off the boulder.
Good one—another story for the long winter. This will be real fun, walking back to camp with an empty basket and a red-seeded dress top. "Son, stop laughing and look at me!"
He obeyed and looked at her—for a split second—then roared with laughter and held his belly. He kicked up red dust that painted him the same color.
 
                                                             ***
  Makes Baskets slipped and wet rocks and started to lose her grip on her mother. The loud crash against the canyon walls drowned out her screams. She too felt the dangerous pull of the muddy water. She reached out for a small tree above the water, but it uprooted and washed away in the torrent.
Teeth grabbed the back of her dress and hands pulled at her as she held onto her mother's slipping hand. Panic rose as her grip weakened.
She felt the furious kick of her unborn child. The pain caught her by surprise and she gasped. The water became alive to Makes Baskets. It tried to claim her and the innocent child, who had yet to see the outside world. She fought hard, screaming and praying for help. She was not going to lose her mother or the daughter who—she swore—cried inside her.
She struggled to tighten her grip on her mother's hand. Her legs cramped and she stretched them in hopes of relieving the pain, but the action made her slip more. Two hearts now beat in rapid unison inside her. Fear made it impossible to swallow. Her throat tightened.
Feather's scream brought another concern to her dwindling strength.


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