JOAN PROCTOR: Dragon Doctor

By Patricia Valdez

A recent trip to the Denver Zoo with my grandchildren produced an interesting result. My oldest granddaughter (age 3 ½) bypassed the monkeys, elephants and, to my horror (my fav) tigers- to fixate on the Komodo dragon in the reptile house! She even wanted to return there before we left the zoo. We bought her a stuffed toy Komodo dragon (glad they had that), and I went online to buy a suitable science book to follow up with.

I was also happy to come across this picture book based on a true story. Joan Proctor was born in 1897 and, as a child, became fascinated with reptiles. Being sickly and missing a lot of school allowed her time for self study and she quickly became an expert in this area. Eventually, she became the assistant to the curator of fish and reptiles at the National History Museum in London. Four years later, she became the curator distinguishing herself for her research and her ability to create lifelike habitats for the animals in her care. In 1923, she became curator of reptiles at the London Zoo.

Shortly after, Joan received the first two live Komodo dragons to reach Europe. Komodo dragons had only been discovered in 1910 and very little was known about them. Joan nursed Sumba and Sumbawa back to health after a rough journey. She created a suitable enclosure and did much to further scientific knowledge of the new species. Much gentler than their reputation, she was known for walking Sumbawa through the reptile house steering him with his tail.

The author has created a delightful tale about a little girl who pursued her passion and eventually contributed in her own special way. This is a book about following your interests and talents, especially motivating for little girls who are often easily molded on how to fit in and often lose their unique spark. So, this is a book for all the little Joans- whether they like lizards or not!  

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PAINTED ROCKS

I remember walking the trails last summer and seeing all kinds of painted rocks. Some were obviously done by kids and others were quite refined and artistic. All were uplifting in a time of isolation and confusion of the Covid crisis. This year my husband and I (as part of a greater project with the TS), painted some of our own. It was a fun project and I think as our little treasures disappear, we’ll be creating some more and placing them on nearby trails. Stories have emerged that communities all over the US have shared this painted rock craze. So where did it all start?

Several years ago, Megan Murphy, walked the beaches of Cape Cod looking for signs from her deceased parents. If she spied a heart-shaped rock, she felt connected to her father and a piece of sea glass became associated with her mother. Finding these items on her walks helped her cope with life. She noticed other people looking for things on their walks as well. So one day, she choose five rocks and wrote messages for others to find. She was astonished when a friend texted later in the day with a photo of one of the rocks saying she had found it and it was exactly what she needed. This moment of what I call synchronicity, launched the Kindness Rocks Project (https://bit.ly/35P3I83).

The movement took off and spread across communities. Most people have no idea how the rock painting got started. And like all good ideas, it has a power all its own. So simple, so utterly Aquarian! Individuals rely on personal creativity, put in service to humanity, done anonymously. Perfect. Grab your brush!

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Fav from the past-

I fondly remember this book from my own childhood. What an adventure!

Claudia and Jamie run away from home and hide out in the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art. A beautiful statue leads Claudia to the mysterious, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Find out the real story behind the book by following the link below.

https://rb.gy/qllst8

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THE GHOST STORY

IN LITERATURE

This time of year as the days grow short and the air crisp, Halloween lurks just around the corner, my thoughts turn to those creepy tales told before the fire. Ghosts figure in many of them and the traditional ghost story has a long history. Every culture produced oral and/or written stories of ghosts.

Among the earliest written examples, Homer’s Odyssey depicts a journey into the underworld where the hero finds ghosts of the dead. A haunted house was portrayed by Plautus, the Roman playwright in his work entitled, Mostellaria. The ghost bound in chains was perhaps first described by Pliny the Younger in another haunted place tale. The Roman writer, Seneca was also fond of using ghosts in his tragedies. These classical examples would start to set the stage for the development of ghost stories in our own culture and day.

In celebration of the deep roots of this tradition, I remind everyone of my own ghost tale offering. The e-book has been discounted from $4.99 to $2.99 for all of October. The print copy is also available.  

Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WnlqZX

E- book available: https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP

TIMELESS TULIPS, DARK DIAMONDS- A GHOST STORY

When fourteen-year-old Lydia travels to Amsterdam with her parents, the last thing she expects is the weird incidents that plague her stay. Curtains flutter mysteriously, and unexplained shadows move through the kitchen unnerving her. But Lydia is more concerned with the potential move to upstate New York. She dismisses the odd occurrences blaming them on jet lag and the various symptoms of her migraine disease.

When Lydia’s father lands a new job and the family moves to an area first settled by the Dutch, the bizarre happenings continue. Suffering from migraines has never been easy, but now Lydia must face what she may have inadvertently brought home with her. A vengeful ghost!

E- book SALE: $2.99 https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP

VISIONARY FICTION FOR KIDS!

What is visionary fiction? It’s a new term for a collection of highly engaging stories.

According to the Visionary Fiction Alliance, “Visionary Fiction embraces spiritual and esoteric wisdom, often from ancient sources, and makes it relevant for our modern life. Gems of this spiritual wisdom are brought forth in story form so that readers can experience the wisdom from within themselves. Visionary fiction emphasizes the future and envisions humanity’s transition into evolved consciousness.”

My work falls in this category and I’m going to introduce you to a few more books by my fellow visionary writers. Grab one or two and enjoy. If you’ve read other books in this category (and you probably have, you just didn’t know it), feel free to leave a comment below.

The Dreams of Phillip Aisling and the Numinous Nagwaagan (Vol 1) by Brandon Bosse

Phillip Aisling is just like any other boy, or so he thought. On the night of his 13th birthday he has a dream so vivid that he is convinced it was real! He soon learns that he has begun training with the Dream Masters. They practice lucid dreaming to be able to fully control their dreams, giving them immense power. But when his vivid dreams turn into nightmares he never wants to fall asleep again! In his struggle to understand his remarkable dreams and prevent terrible nightmares, he finds The Dreamer’s Dictionary written to help young Dreamers make sense of their new powers.

Dragon Boy by Jim Murdoch

Eric daydreams of dragons. In his imagination, he believes he is, in reality, a dragon. As a dragon, he discovers Dreamland, a place where dreams come true.

But not everything we imagine is good. Fear and worry trap the only person to help heal Eric’s sick mother. Eric sees no hope of rescue until his friend, Enya, mentions the middle eye.

Orville Mouse and the Puzzle of the Clockwork Glowbirds (Orville Wellington Mouse Bk 1) by Tom Hoffman

Orville Wellington Mouse lives with his Mum in the quiet fishing village of Muridaan Falls, Symoca. His life takes an unexpected turn when he learns his best friend Sophia Mouse is not only from another planet, but is also a member of the Shapers Guild, a group of powerful mice who are able to convert their thoughts into physical objects.

Ana’s Dream of Flying by Mary R. Woldering

Ana, a young girl in Tennessee in the 1960’s, discovers the truth about her art, it’s connection to other realms. Something from beyond Earth is watching her as it searches for the pieces of her shattered soul. Tonight, when she thinks she is dreaming, it will take her flying, to remind her of the time when they were Gods.

My books can be found by following the link below.

https://amzn.to/33TcrTh

BOOK SALE

For the next two weeks (May 30-Jun 15), INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS, Kindle edition, will be on sale for $2.99 ( orig. price $4.99).

HIGH ALTITUDE MAGIC & MYSTERY:

Sixteen year old Blake travels to Base Camp on Mt. Everest to spend time with his physician father. When a deadly avalanche occurs, Dad is forced to rethink things and sends Blake away. Now accompanied by a Sherpa guide, and in possession of a mysterious camera, Blake undertakes a journey that will challenge everything he believes. In the magical Himalayas, he will be forever changed by what he experiences.

To find my books, follow the link below.

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BOOKS ON PANDEMICS:

1918 Flu

With the outbreak of Covid19, so much of media coverage is quick to point out how little is known. Events are unfolding quickly, and guidance is becoming more and more fine-tuned. I wondered if anything could be learned from the past. In the recent past, I can recall reading only one book set in the time of the 1918 flu pandemic. It is the first one I list below. From what I remember, the author did a good job setting the stage with what was going on during that crisis. My grandmother would have been 12 then and I wish I’d had the foresight to ask her what she remembered of the time. Certainly, no one anticipated how the disease would spread or how devastating its consequences were going to be. Below are some books to spark your interest in another time this nation faced crisis.  

In the Shadow of Blackbirds- Cat Winters

“In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. At her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love–a boy who died in battle–returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?”

Pharmacy Girl: The Great War, Spanish Influenza, and the Truth About Billy Detwiler- Kate Szegda

“Everyone likes Josie, except the spoiled and arrogant Billy Detwiler. He calls her Pharmacy Girl, but it is no compliment. As the hazy days of September 1918 drift into the deadly autumn of Spanish influenza, twelve-year-old Josie Winslow’s everyday problems of school and friends, even the war effort at home, become insignificant as everyone battles the epidemic. Josie’s parents try to isolate her from the flu, but Josie is no slacker. She faces Billy in a class election, raises money for the Liberty Loan, and steps up to help the family when her mother comes down with influenza. Josie catches the flu after helping the people she loves—and hates—to survive.”

This Time of Dying-Reina James

“It is October 1918, and England is gathering its dead. For Henry Speake, of Speake & Son Undertakers, laying to rest the shattered bodies of young men sent home from the front has become a grimly familiar duty. But then a country already reeling from war faces an unexpected shock: an epidemic. The Spanish influenza will kill more people than World War I, and more people than the fourteenth-century bubonic plague. There is no cure, no help from the government, not even a clear sense of what is happening—but more and more people keep getting sick, and strangely enough, it is often the young and healthy ones who die.”

Fever Year- Don Brown (Graphic Novel)

“New Year’s Day, 1918. America has declared war on Germany and is gathering troops to fight. But there’s something coming that is deadlier than any war.
 
When people begin to fall ill, most Americans don’t suspect influenza. The flu is known to be dangerous to the very old, young, or frail. But the Spanish flu is exceptionally violent. Soon, thousands of people succumb. Then tens of thousands . . . hundreds of thousands and more. Graves can’t be dug quickly enough.
 
What made the influenza of 1918 so exceptionally deadly—and what can modern science help us understand about this tragic episode in history? With a journalist’s discerning eye for facts and an artist’s instinct for true emotion, Sibert Honor recipient Don Brown sets out to answer these questions and more in Fever Year.”

As Bright as Heaven- Susan Meissner

“In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters—Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa—a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without—and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.”

The Last Town on Earth- Thomas Mullen

1918 flu epidemic-
“Deep in the mist-shrouded forests of the Pacific Northwest is a small mill town called Commonwealth, conceived as a haven for workers weary of exploitation. For Philip Worthy, the adopted son of the town’s founder, it is a haven in another sense–as the first place in his life he’s had a loving family to call his own.

And yet, the ideals that define this outpost are being threatened from all sides. A world war is raging, and with the fear of spies rampant, the loyalty of all Americans is coming under scrutiny. Meanwhile, another shadow has fallen across the region in the form of a deadly illness striking down vast swaths of surrounding communities.

When Commonwealth votes to quarantine itself against contagion, guards are posted at the single road leading in and out of town, and Philip Worthy is among them. He will be unlucky enough to be on duty when a cold, hungry, tired–and apparently ill–soldier presents himself at the town’s doorstep begging for sanctuary. The encounter that ensues, and the shots that are fired, will have deafening reverberations throughout Commonwealth, escalating until every human value–love, patriotism, community, family, friendship–not to mention the town’s very survival, is imperiled.”

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YA Series Concluding

Publishers Weekly has reported on several bestselling series which concluded this fall. It might be a great time to dig into one of these since you’ll no longer have to wait for the last book. Although I’ve read Neal Schusterman and Kendare Blake, I’m unfamiliar with their latest works. I must admit, these seem pretty dark but maybe winter calls for these dark tales…

Neal Schusterman- author of Unwind, Everlost, and Downsiders, and many others. He also writes screenplays for movies and TV (including Goosebumps & Animorphs).

His latest series is called Arc of the Scythe (trilogy). In a time when humanity has solved hunger, disease, war, and death, only the Scythes can end life and keep the population under control. Two reluctant apprentices, Citra and Rowan struggle to learn their craft and requisite lessons.

Kendare Blake- author of Anna Dressed in Blood and Antigoddess.

Her latest series is titled the Three Dark Crowns. On the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplet sisters is born. Each possesses a special kind of magic. The night the sisters turn sixteen, a battle to the death for the throne begins.  

Holly Black- author of The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest.

Her latest series is called The Folk of the Air (trilogy). Jude and her two sisters are stolen to live among the fey. Eventually, Jude becomes entangled in royal faerie matters.

To find my books, click on the link below.

https://amzn.to/2EHCvX7

LYDIA INTERVIEWS ELLIS:

Hey, gang! I’m Lydia. In Ellis’ book, Timeless Tulips, Dark Diamonds- A Ghost Story, I was the fourteen-year-old moving to Upstate New York dealing with the ghost of a Dutch girl from the 17th century. At the time, I thought ghosts weren’t real, but first-hand experience has a way of shattering your reality. Today I have the chance to grill the writer— I mean ask a few behind the scenes questions. Some I have an inkling about, others I’m just as clueless as the reader is.      

I’m like totally over this, but how was it that Annika became your favorite?

Yeah, about that. You were always intended to be the main character but by the end of the story, it was obvious Annika had taken over. Partly, it was the history of the period that was so captivating and interesting. 17th century Holland and what Annika’s family goes through during the boom and bust of the tulip market grips us. That’s not to say what you experience is to be trivialized. Lydia- your world changes alongside Annika’s. You both make moves and go through things neither of you expect.

That’s for sure! And now that I know Annika’s whole story, I get why she acted the way she did. It was just so scary and aggravating at the time. But, like I said- I’m over Annika being more of the focus of the book.

Speaking of our connection, how am I like you? What makes us different?

You deal with the same mother/daughter issues but with a maturity I didn’t have. We both are “book” people and have a love for animals. Both of us struggle to find our place in the world. Don’t we all?

What was the toughest scene in the book to write?

You know this one.

Yeah, but I gotta ask.

Tell them.

The incident when Mom had to call the ambulance.

Why?

Because it really happened that way.

Right. That scene was written from experience. It was just before Christmas and I was starring at the Christmas tree. The lights started to behave strangely. I witnessed a bizarre and beautiful phenomenon, I later learned was called “aura”. Events intensified where I lost my ability to speak and access language. My brain shut down. Some people call this a stroke in slow motion. Very scary. In fact, it was and is the scariest thing to ever happen to me. And these incidents continued for twelve years. Imagine, experiencing unpredictable, stroke-like symptoms for a dozen years… That’s why this scene was so hard to write and re-read.

Would you say this is your most personal book?

Absolutely. We’ve already talked about the migraine connection but there are other elements as well. In the dedication, I mention being a toddler and talking about a ghost I would see at night. This book also explores mother/daughter issues I myself experienced. Lydia is far more perceptive and processes these topics with insight I didn’t possess at her age. In many ways, the book was cathartic in allowing me to explore themes of illness, emerging spirituality, healing, and personal power.    

e-book

Can I have a sequel?

No way! Sorry, my dear, your story has been told.

Is Annika getting a sequel?

This is starting to sound like whining. I’ve already given you credit for being mature. Now, what impression are readers going to be left with?

Oops. I just want you to know that I’m available should another plotline jump into that writer head of yours.

Got it.

Anyway, thanks for hanging out today! Timeless Tulips, Dark Diamonds is out in print and e-book. Follow the links below.

Print: https://amzn.to/2WnlqZX

E- book: https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP