Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thanks! and a mystery to be solved....

The photo above shows three people in one row on an airplane flight, just before Christmas, reading Kindles. One of these happens to be Ana's editor, one is his wife, and another his daughter. The picture does not show an unrelated man in the seat across the aisle also reading his Kindle. It's a good example of how popular e-readers and especially Kindles have become.

The story of Ana Darcy Méndez, the first extraterrestrial human to return to Earth, has been a real hit with Kindle owners. We deeply appreciate all those who have enjoyed reading Ana's chronicles, and we wish them (and everyone else) a joyous holiday season and a happy new year. But there is also a mystery connected with this, which we will get to shortly.

The reasons for the stories' popularity are obvious and yet not so obvious. Obviously, they are light, imaginative, and fun reading, with engaging characters and a rich mix of suspense, action, and human interest. There are never enough stories like this. For another, the series is budget priced, always a good thing, especially when compared to the handsome paperback editions. Third, they are ideal books for the Kindle, and for other types of e-readers. Readers of e-books often read in waiting rooms, on airplanes, and wherever idle time pops up, but they quickly put them down when their turn arrives or the plane lands. While many find Ana's stories hard to put down, they are also easy to pick up again without forgetting where the story left off. They are something to look forward to resuming.

The mystery behind their popularity is less obvious. Ana's books are independently published, and receive no promotion from the literary/industrial complex (with the exception of the visionary people at Ana's author is a retired person of embarrassingly modest means, who writes for the fun of it and has an avertising budget of approximately zero. The mystery, in a nutshell, is this: how have so many people managed to find out about the Distant Cousin series?

It can only be word of mouth--readers so pleased that they think to recommend them to spouses, friends, and others. To those thoughtful, considerate people we would like to extend our special thanks. We have no idea who you are, where you are, or how you discovered Ana's stories, but you are in our thoughts as we near completion of the next in the series. Our deepest appreciation and warmest best wishes to you!

Friday, December 17, 2010

What's a Christmas Without Cats?

For Ana's family, no Christmas is complete without cats! Holiday greetings, everyone, and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Easy Gifting for Kindle Owners:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why Would an Extraterrestrial Love Nursery Rhymes?

Ana loves nursery rhymes. She knows nursery rhymes in at least six languages we know of, including her native language, Luvit.

Here is one of her favorites in English, which she learned from her husband's grandmother. Like many such rhymes, it contains a cautionary theme about the relation between parents and children. This one ends on an uncertain note--is the smell real? Her husband pointed out that "to smell a rat" is an English idiom, and it may mean the mama cat suspects that the washing of the mittens might be a ploy by her kittens for second reward.

Idioms are hard to learn in a foreign language, but Ana learned quite a few right along with her toddlers. Nursery rhymes make a nice, simple introduction to poetry as well, and even to literary criticism!

Three little kittens, they lost their mittens,

And they began to cry,

Oh, mother dear, we sadly fear

That we have lost our mittens.

What! Lost your mittens, you naughty kittens!

Then you shall have no pie.

Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.

You shall have no pie.

The three little kittens, they found their mittens,

And they began to cry,

Oh, mother dear, see here, see here,

Our mittens we have found.

Put on your mittens, you silly kittens,

And you shall have some pie.

Purr-r, purr-r, purr-r,

Oh, let us have some pie.

The three little kittens, put on their mittens,

And soon ate up the pie;

Oh, mother dear, we greatly fear

That we have soiled our mittens

What! Soiled your mittens, you naughty kittens!

Then they began to sigh,

Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.

They began to sigh.

The three little kittens, they washed their mittens,

And hung them out to dry;

Oh! mother dear, do you not hear

That we have washed our mittens?

What! Washed your mittens, then you’re such good kittens.

But I smell a rat close by

Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.

We smell a rat close by.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When Writers Write Writers

It's wonderful to hear from readers, all readers. The wide variety of people who've enjoyed the Distant Cousin series is hugely gratifying, and a heartfelt thanks to all who have taken the trouble to send their comments.

It's a different kind of pleasure to hear from other successful writers--by no means better, but gratifying in a special way. It's like an auto mechanic whose work is not only appreciated by his customers, but also by other mechanics. Knowing the machinery from the inside out like they do, well, there's an extra little lift in their feedback.
Here are some comments on Distant Cousin by writers who've been around the track many times themselves:

1. "I'm sorry to say I've hardly read any science fiction, so I cracked it open with low expectations. How quickly that changed! What I most admire is the way you keep the story moving. That's always been the challenge for me in writing fiction. You clearly don't have that problem. All through the book I kept watching you go off around a bend and wondering how the hell is he going to write his way out of this one? And you always did, with a grace that kept the ancient eyelids open and the pages turning as they seldom do. Through all this I cared about the characters and worried about them in their vicissitudes, which seems to me remarkable in that I cared about Darcy the space being early on as real enough to care about."

2. "A couple of huge successes that are excellent movies, although outside the realm of my top ten favorites, are E.T. and Close Encounters. All of these have a strength of character and plot that pushes your intellect forward while engaging your heartstrings at the same time.

Few movies can really reach this pinnacle, but these, and I am sure many others, have done just that. Distant Cousin does it, too. I can tell you that Distant Cousin is easily the best fictional iU book storywise that I have read. It is also about the tenth or twentieth best fiction novel I have ever read. Wolfen made that list. So did several of the books by Anne Rice, Harold Robbins, and Robert Rimmer. All of the ones that have made the list have that special quality I described. I am holding my breath to the end."

3. "This sequel to Distant Cousin is, like its predecessor, more mainstream literature than science fiction. Readers will find the science fiction elements kept to the background in a storyline that is more about character and society than about the arrival of extra-terrestrials on Earth. We continue to learn more about the culture of our "distant cousins," the humans transplanted on planet Thomo, but the focus is more on our own culture. It is not difficult to believe in the astonishing charisma of Darcy, since we, the readers, are charmed to the point of wanting to read anything that the author cares to write about her. Don't get me wrong--Repatriation has its share of suspense--but the fact is, this novel's allure exists primarily in the depth of characters and also in the nature of the 100-pound demure and spitfire little heroine, our distant cousin, Darcy."

Other opinions: "You suck!"     You sort of suck!   Brides, commuters, subway riders, students of theology, etc., etc.. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Learning Peace from a Cat

It's no secret that cats have their moments of quiet dignity. It's mysterious, and something that dogs seldom do: to sit for hours as if in reflection, zoned out in some Zen-like state of pure being. This can have a calming influence on we humans, if we are open to it. A year or so ago, Ana Darcy Méndez was enjoying being soothed by her cats after a harrowing experience (which will be recounted in the next Distant Cousin volume).

In that quiet moment with her cats, she remembered a poem she enjoyed. (Ana has read a creditable sample of our fiction, but she's not a fast reader in English or Spanish. She tends to enjoy poetry--some poetry--more, as being shorter and more condensed, and offering many opportunities for thoughts and reflections.) She searched the poem out and read it again.

The poem points out that cats teach us "preserving," in the words of the poet. He talks of their "amazing dignity" and their "affirmation of a vital life we humans can only...admire from afar." The word "afar" applies even though the cat may actually be quite close. No one can say where a cat goes when it turns inward, but this seemingly simple poem about the life lessons we can learn from cats is "exactly right," by Charles Bukowski (click "VickiB").

A poem about TWO cats

(More cat poems and other poems in the column to the right,
under the photo of the blue-eyed kitty-->)

Meet Ana Darcy!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Extraterrestrial's Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Ana keeps a notebook, where she records quotations and ideas she wants to remember. She particularly likes this quotation from Walt Whitman, made for Thanksgiving Day:

"'Thanksgiving goes probably far deeper than you folks suppose. I am not sure but it is the source of the highest poetry....We Americans devote an official day to it every year; yet I sometimes fear the real article is almost dead or dying in our self-sufficient, independent Republic. Gratitude, anyhow, has never been made half enough of by the moralists; it is indispensable to a complete character, man's or woman's — the disposition to be appreciative, thankful. That is the main matter, the element, inclination — what geologists call the 'trend.' Of my own life and writings I estimate the giving thanks part, with what it infers, as essentially the best item. I should say the quality of gratitude rounds the whole emotional nature; I should say love and faith would quite lack vitality without it.'"

     Walt Whitman, The Philadelphia Press, Thanksgiving Day, 1884

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christmas Shopping (and Gift Shopping in General) Made Easy!

It's this easy!

There is now a way to send someone a gift they will love with just a few clicks--thanks to Amazon. Amazon has just made it possible to send someone a Kindle edition book in just minutes, complete with a personalized gift message. The recipients don't even need to have a Kindle e-reader, since Amazon offers free Kindle readers for computers, iPads, iPhones, and more!

This possibility applies to something like a million books for the Kindle, but we would like to suggest that Distant Cousin makes a particularly good gift for the general reader. Just check some of the many reader comments on this blog: the story appeals to nearly everyone, young and old, has thrills and chills, a little action, a little romance, great characters, no graphic sex, minimal bad language, and costs less than a greeting card that plays "Happy Birthday!" The popularity of the the books has been totally due to word of mouth--and now it's easier than ever to tell a friend.

How great is it to be able to give someone hours of pleasure for so little? Thanks to Amazon--and to Alexander the Grate (above) for the demonstration!

Giving and Receiving Kindle books as gifts

Reader comments: 

    You Suck!
    Even More!
    A Reader Cries 
    Separation Anxiety
    The Whole Series 
    A Bride Complains!
    Commuters Read to Each Other

Distant Cousin on Amazon:

    (DC1) Distant Cousin
    (DC2) Distant Cousin: Repatriation
    (DC3) Distant Cousin: Reincarnation
    (DC4) Distant Cousin: Regeneration

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What Happens When a Fan of Ana's is a Vintner

Among Ana Darcy Méndez's many fans, there is now at least one vintner. Take a look at his 2010 vintage Champanel! The champanel grape is especially suited to Texas, and this wine is rich, tangy, and very slightly sweet, sort of a Texas beaujolais. The labels aren't bad either!

Foods suitable for this and similar hearty wines: frijoles   pizza 1  pizza 2  pizza 3  pizza 4  Thai crepes  Thai coconut shrimp  Korean carne al pastor

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Answer to the Mystery Animal Question

Here's the answer to the question about the identity of the other baby animal in with the litter of baby serval kitties: it's a kinkajou. (Click to enlarge.)

Also known as a honey bear, kinkajous are New World rainforest mammals. As pets they are playful, gentle, quiet, and have little odor. From all appearances, they love to clean up after a fruit salad is made!

Thanks to Julie's Jungle for the photo.

The original photo, with the baby servals.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A New Litter of Serval Kitties!

Just look at these cute baby serval kittens! They're from Julie's Jungle (thanks!). Julie's servals are most fruitful. We're waiting (and waiting) for more caracal kittens and perhaps even some lynx kittens. She says her lynxes are the most laid back, sweet, and affectionate cats she has. May they get busy!

Extra credit to anyone who can identify the non-serval baby among them. (Answer.)

Even MORE kittens and cats!  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Discourse on Language, and a Chinese Tongue Twister

Ana’s native language is Luvit, which was an extinct branch of the Indo-European family of languages—until Ana returned to Earth, that is. The Indo-European language family is large. It includes most of the languages of Europe (Italian, French, Spanish, German, etc.) as well as several in other countries (Iran, Afghanistan, and India, for example). This has been discussed elsewhere on Ana’s blog.

The people of her planet have developed their own literature, art, music, science, and other fields of study, but they do not have all the “academic” fields that we do. One of these is anthropology, the study of man. That’s probably because their society does not have the fascinating and perplexing diversity that human cultures on Earth have, and that includes linguistics, the study of the languages of man.

Thomans all speak one language: Luvit. There are some differences in the language between Thoman groups living widely apart from others, but these amount to a matter of accents, and do not affect mutual intelligibility.

As a result, Ana has been intrigued by the languages of Earth, which show her totally new and intriguing ways of speaking and thinking. She has had some contact with languages from other language families (Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic, for example) but she’s never been able to learn to speak any of them.

She’s had better luck with learning other Indo-European languages. Her English is quite proficient, and she also speaks Spanish fluently. She’s not bad in several Slavic languages, which are also most closely related to her own Luvit: Czech and Polish, in particular. She can communicate with some difficulty in French and Hindi (also Indo-European).

But she’s totally at sea with Chinese, to name just one. That may be why she was so delighted to find a Chinese poem that’s a tongue twister even for the Chinese. Chinese is what linguists call a “tone” language. For example, the word “ma” has at least four meanings depending on the tone the speaker imparts to it. It can mean “horse,” or “mother,” or "hemp," or “pepper,” but to the Western ear, all four sound identical. Yet any Chinese speaker understands them as completely different words. (See the Chinese character for "ma" above.)

That’s the idea behind the poem she found online. All the words sound to us like “shi,” or “shee.”

Yet the poem begins (in translation) “In a stone den was a poet called Shi, who was a lion addict, who had decided to eat ten. He often went to the market to look for lions.” Ana played this link over and over, laughing in amazement.

Since most of us know as little Chinese as Ana, you might be similarly amazed to hear it recited. Keep in mind that the meaning of the words is conveyed by the tone. You will not hear the tones, but we promise you, a Chinese speaker will.

This is the recitation, and, for the truly curious, this is a discussion of the history of the poem.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Welcome to the Amazonians!

Ana's blog will now be a part of her editor's page at, where her stories have been extremely popular with Kindle owners! It's easy to see why: the Kindle is the premier e-book reader, especially suited for recreational reading, and the Distant Cousin series is budget priced for the Kindle. In fact, the whole series, not even counting Amazon's current sale prices for it, adds up to 14% of the price of a new K-3. You could buy the Distant Cousin series seven times and it would pay for your Kindle! Not that you would do that, but it does illustrate what a bargain the Kindle is, and what the millions of books available for it can yield in savings.

Amazon customers new to Ana Darcy's blog, at Blogspot, will find a wealth of information about Ana herself and her stories: maps, photos of places she's been, some of her favorite recipes, pictures of her cats and other cats, poetry she enjoys, and even music she loves, including the Distant Cousin theme song. It's also where the fifth volume in the Distant Cousin series will be announced, early in 2011. There's also information on the new Distant Cousin Kindle skin from Decal Girl!

In the meantime, we've heard an interesting characterization from one Kindle owner who apologized for taking so long with it. He was going to read just the first volume, but found himself reading the entire series first. Here's what he said:

"I have read a lot of science fiction in the past, and this had a completely different (and believable) spin. It lacked the “techno babble” that I often enjoy, but, if we can’t understand gravity propulsion anyway I suppose it's not necessary to explain it.

"The series was a compelling, heartwarming and sometimes scary page turner.

"Well done sir. I was entertained."

Thank YOU, sir. And welcome to our Amazon visitors!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Class Act: Distant Cousin Skin for the Kindle!

Fans have been requesting a custom Distant Cousin skin for their Kindles for over a year. Now, thanks to Decal Girl, they are finally available! The new design is subtle and classy--see the photos. The front is as shown, stunning and mind-opening. The back reproduces the cover of Distant Cousin, volume 1, with Ana's face barely visible within the Sombrero Galaxy. The photo of the skin did not do it justice; the actual photo from which it was made is shown here, and this is how the back really appears.

If you would like one of these skins to class up your Kindle, below are ordering instructions for the Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 Distant Cousin skins, in either high gloss (as in the photo) or matte, as you prefer. Special thanks to Decal Girl for their technical brilliance and their cooperation!

Kindle 2 - high gloss
A custom Kindle 2 skin would be $20 each for high gloss + S/H. To order you can visit the link below or give us a call to place the order through a representative. This link willl take you to the custom order page on,1764.htm
In the "Notes" box, please type "AKIN2-DistantCousin" so we can link the order to your custom skin.
In the "Quantity" box, please type in "20" (the cost of the skin plus the set-up fee) and then click the "Buy" button. This will bring you to the confirmation page for your order where it will show you your total and ask you for your information for shipping and billing.

Kindle 2 - matte
A custom Kindle 2 would be $25 each for matte + S/H. To order you can visit the link below or give us a call to place the order through a representative. This link will take you to the custom order page on,1764.htm
In the "Notes" box, please type "AKIN2-DistantCousin-matte" so we can link the order to your custom skin.
In the "Quantity" box, please type in "25" (the cost of the skin plus the set-up fee) and then click the "Buy" button. This will bring you to the confirmation page for your order where it will show you your total and ask you for your information for shipping and billing.

Kindle 3 - high gloss
A custom Kindle 3 skin would be $20 each for high gloss + S/H. To order you can visit the link below or give us a call to place the order through a representative. This link will take you to the custom order page on,1764.htm
In the "Notes" box, please type "AK3-DistantCousin" so we can link the order to your custom skin.
In the "Quantity" box, please type in "20 (the cost of the skin plus the set-up fee) and then click the "Buy" button. This will bring you to the confirmation page for your order where it will show you your total and ask you for your information for shipping and billing.

Kindle 3 - matte
A custom Kindle 3 skin would be $23 each for matte + S/H. To order you can visit the link below or give us a call to place the order through a representative. This link will take you to the custom order page on,1764.htm
In the "Notes" box, please type "AK3-DistantCousin-matte" so we can link the order to your custom skin.
In the "Quantity" box, please type in "23" (the cost of the skin plus the set-up fee) and then click the "Buy" button. This will bring you to the confirmation page for your order where it will show you your total and ask you for your information for shipping and billing.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ana Watches Hummingbirds Get Banded (part 2)

There are two kinds of bands visible in these photos: for larger birds, and for hummingbirds. When laid on their backs, the birds become inert. In one photo below, a hummingbird has been laid in a band for a larger bird. The bands used for hummers are barely big enough to fit around a pencil lead. The bottom photo shows a hummingbird sporting his (or her) new band.

(Ana Loves Hummingbirds, part 1)


Friday, October 29, 2010

Ana Visits a Hummingbird Banding Session

Ana loves hummingbirds. This fall, she and Matt visited a wildlife preserve where game managers were banding migrating southbound humminbirds. These tiny birds fly to the Texas coast, fatten up, and then cross the Gulf of Mexico headed for their winter homes. It seems impossible, but they fly down from Colorado and points north, thousands of miles...and then fly back in the spring.

Here are some pictures from their visit. These experts know what they are doing and the birds are not hurt! Ana's heart went out to them. (Each picture may be clicked for a larger version.)

We'll have pictures of the actual banding in the next post in a few days.

(Hummingbirds, part 2)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ana's Favorite Puzzle Poem

Ana and Matt enjoy the occasional poem, though Ana, having grown up on another planet in a different culture speaking a different language, isn't quite as nimble as Matt, who has a BA in English, at picking up all the references.

She did beat him once, however. She figured out what was going on in one poem almost instantly, and had to explain it to her husband. She was so happy she actually clapped her hands and laughed.

It's a lovely poem, by Sylvia Plath. It turns up in many a college freshman anthology, in fact, and most college freshmen do not get it either.

The title is "Metaphors," and the first line is "I'm a riddle in nine syllables."

If you'd like to test yourself, the poem is here. Note & hint: Ana is far better at mathematics than her husband.

If you need more hints, we've hidden some here.

(See more of Ana's favorite poems at left, under the LOVE sculpture.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Taking a Walk in the Universe

Sometimes Ana and Matt sit outside after dinner, sometimes in their little patio, other times under the trees around their house. Once a week or so, they take a walk. They don't live in a neighborhood proper, so they don't have neighbors to wave at and say hello to. Instead, they often cross the old highway in front of their house, through the fields on the other side, and walk along the banks of the Rio Grand, flowing slowly and silently to the south. They live on the eastern side of the river. The sun sets across the river. Often the sun setting into the clouds over the desert makes a gorgeous spectacle.

So it's no surprise Ana would like the poem "Scorcher," by George Bilgere, in which a couple take a walk in the evening. It's perfectly straightforward--there's nothing in it she had to ask Matt to help her understand. She knew about the sounds of crickets and katydids, and the little flashes of lightning bugs. The poem doesn't mention frogs plopping into the river or the puttering of a distant tractor which Ana enjoys, but it does mention greeting neighbors, which they almost never do. She misses that, from her childhood.

What she especially likes is the way the end of the poem sets the walkers' position in the context of the universe, on a "dark planet" on "one of the slender, gracefully swirling arms/of one of the smaller galaxies." She thinks about that often, more often than most of the rest of us. And why shouldn't she?

Another poem Ana likes that's set in the universe

There are many more poems Ana treasures in the table of contents on the right, about halfway down (under the Love sculpture).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Kolache Recipe from a Czech Grandmother

Who would have expected a woman from another planet to experiment with the cuisines of Earth? As a Kindle Board member said, “It's always a pleasure to read a book where the character is so fleshed out that I feel I would know him/her if I met them on the street. Not only would I know them, I'd have invited them to lunch so we could chat!” Learn more!

Wheat was new to Ana when she came to Earth—needless to say. Thomans have many sources of carbohydrates (starches), some of which are similar to several of our grains, but wheat and corn, to name just two, are among Ana’s favorite grains on her new planet.

She loves baked goods, and baking. Here’s a recipe that came to her second or third hand from an honest-to-goodness Czech grandmother. It’s for kolaches, the traditional, much-loved Czech pastry. There’s nothing experimental about this recipe. It comes from the old Czecheslovakia to Texas, where it almost certainly has been used daily for over a hundred years.

True Czech Kolaches

1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup shortening or lard
1 teaspoon of salt
1 package of yeast
1/4 cup of warm water
2 eggs
4 to 5 cups of flour

Scald the milk. Dissolve sugar and salt, and melt butter in milk. Cool.

Proof yeast in water. Add milk mixture and eggs. Work in flour, keeping softer than for bread. Let rise one hour.

Shape into balls. Depress center. Fill with fruit of your choice. Place close together on greased pan. Let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees, until light brown.

(Many more recipes in the right column, halfway down)

Wearable art Ana loves from Mexico, Ecuador, and Guatemala

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Astronomers discover nearby habitable planet? Hello!?

In the news at the moment (September/October 2010) is this item about the discovery of an Earth-like habitable planet only 20 light years away.

Apparently, its climate is livable, if chilly, it could support liquid water and life not unlike Earth's, and it has gravity similar to ours and an atmosphere.

Twenty light years is right next door, in our galaxy of billions of stars, one of billions of galaxies. It makes astronomers think that the number of similar friendly planets in the galaxy has to be very large, as does the probability that some of them would harbor life.

Dr. Steven Vogt of the University of California, Santa Cruz, told a reporter "The number of systems with potentially habitable planets is probably on the order of 10 or 20 per cent, and when you multiply that by the hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, that's a large number. There could be tens of billions of these systems in our galaxy." He adds: "Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it."

You may be sure Ana Darcy Méndez is not surprised. She suggests that scientists look more closely at star systems say, twenty-five light years from Earth. She will tell you there is no "almost" about the chances of a habitable planet at that distance. There is, in fact, a lovely planet at that distance. She knows from personal experience!

(See Stephen Hawking's comment about extraterrestrials here.)

(Asked about Area 51, Ana replies here.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Now, A UN Ambassador for Alien Contact?

Torn from today's headlines (September 28, 2010) comes this item: the United Nations is going to elect an ambassador for when aliens eventually come to Earth!

If the post is approved, it will be filled by 58-year-old astrophysicist Mazlan Othman, now the head of the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Dr. Othman is quoted as saying ""The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day human kind will receive signals from extraterrestrials. When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination."

Indeed it is. However unlikely such contact may be, we feel sure that Dr. Othman may wish to call upon Ana Darcy Méndez as a consultant! After all, which alien would YOU rather consult with?

(See Stephen Hawking's comment about extraterrestrials here.)

(Asked about Area 51, Ana replies here.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Did Aliens Mess With Our Nuclear Missiles?

A recent news item caught our attention: former Air Force officers and men are apparently about to break their years-long silence about UFOs fooling around American nuclear weapons sites.

A number of such supposed incidents are to be detailed, it is said. In one case, the alleged UFO, a glowing red object, hovered around a site with ten Minute Man missiles inside, scaring the blazes out of the guards, setting off alarms, and rendering all ten missiles unusable. The missiles were sixty feet underground at the time, protected with steel and concrete. (They were later restored to operability.)

The Air Force investigated and claimed there was no credible evidence for the event.

Ana Darcy Méndez is as puzzled by these conflicting claims as the rest of us, but with one big difference: she knows there are other intelligent beings out there. She IS one! The beings who transplanted her ancestors to Thomo are another set of known aliens. As far as Thoman history records, those beings were benign. So were the apparent visitors to the missile site, it seems. Some among us might even credit them with commendable intentions.

Ana, for one, does not automatically dread the possibility of contact with extraterrestrial aliens. As a human extraterrestrial alien, she holds her judgment and remains optimistic.

(See Stephen Hawking's comment about extraterrestrials here.)

(Asked about Area 51, Ana replies here.)

Was Ana's space pod sighted near Area 51?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Uh-oh! Readers Write!

Here are a few reader comments over the last two months. We've included a representative sample on the most recent volume, Distant Cousin: Regeneration.
First, some comments on the entire series to date (DC1-DC4):
"Thank you so very much for such wonderful well written books. The books flow so easily you feel like you are a part of the family. You want to be a part of the family. However I am so sad that I have read the last one. My mom loved them and has read them all 3 times already. So they are a big hit with her as well as me.... I will be taking them on my vacation with me so I can read them all again."
"I finished the DC books. I liked them very much. I can’t wait until the next book!!!! I need to know what happens to [character]!"

Comments on DC1, Distant Cousin:
"...a unique take on the sci-fi genre, with a dash of romance. Well written and conceptually well thought out. Definitely a keeper!"
"This is a great book. I found it very engaging, not too heavy with a surprising sensitivity and humor blended in with the sci-fi excitement. I especially liked the positive out look on all the variety Earth has to offer, as a whole we get too comfortable with our own cultures and fail to explore other tastes, smells, textures and customs."
"I loved this book from the minute I picked it up. I usually don't go for Science Fiction books...they seem to be too outlandish or the authors try to make them too "alien" making up so many words and phrases that you lose your spot in the story. This book was nothing like that. It was a wonderfully written story with engaging characters, and I can't wait to read the rest of the series!"
"I like the books. I like the intimacy of reading the story and seeing it in my mind. I have so often been disappointed in what ends up on the screen. It isn't how I see it while reading or thinking about the story and it confuses it all. On the other hand, [a movie] would reach so many more people. Love the books- I can see the movie in my mind and doubt anyone else is seeing the same thing. AND- the Hollywood version might not allow Darcy to be the sweet innocent person she is."

Distant Cousin: Regeneration (DC4)
"This is definitely the best Ana Darcy book yet!"
"I stayed up and read the last half of DC4, really enjoyed it. I love her kids! and that cat. I want that cat but no way I could sneak it in past my neighbors LOL.... My sister wanted me to let you know that she has read DC1-DC4 in less than a week. She really enjoyed them and said if you weren't already writing DC5 she'd hunt you down....Guess she really enjoyed the series. We both were getting a kick out of Darcy and Matt."
"Over all I give [Distant Cousin: Regeneration] 5 1/2 stars out of five. It was my favorite so far! I like stories that focus on the characters, and not around a central plot. It makes the characters seem more real and it's easy to become emotionally invested in their well being. How can you not like a story when you are actually worried about the characters?"
"You have a great way of balancing the action of the story with the personal experiences of the characters which sets the action in motion. Great ending too."
"Awesome!!! I am 3/4 through this book and am literally dragging my heels about finishing it. I ration myself. The story and characters are just so captivating."
"I love the ending--very cool! So thank you so much for the entertaining, beautifully-crafted read, which also made for lots of south-western nostalgia on my part."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Edible Roses?

This is not one of Ana's original recipe ideas, though it sounds like it could be.  It turns out that rose petals are edible, something your humble editor did not know. There are recipes for them easily available online, which is how Ana came up with the two dishes pictured here. Because they are readily available, there's no need to duplicate the recipes here. A search engine will turn them up quickly. If you are curious, I believe Ana used Epicurious.
Being from another planet, Ana is perhaps more receptive to unusual recipe ideas than the rest of us.

One of these is a rose petal salad and the other is a rose petal candy. We can't speak for the taste, but both dishes certainly brighten up a table!

(See more recipes in the Table of Contents in the right column.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The World Begins at a Kitchen Table? (Poem)

The Méndez family does not have a dining room as such. Their front door opens on the long side of a generous-sized room whose opposite long side is the living area. In between is the dining table, which also serves as the kitchen table. The kitchen area is along the wall to the left of the front door, with windows through which approaching visitors may be seen. Someone working in the kitchen can easily talk with another person anywhere in the room, and vice versa. It's a communal space.

Ana loves the room. Her own people are highly family oriented, and so is her husband. Unlike many families today, the Méndez family almost always sits down together for meals. Cooking and cleaning up afterwards are also generally a family affair.

Thus it will not be a surprise to learn that Ana loved the poem that begins "The world begins at the kitchen table." If the line had said "The world begins with the family," it would have meant the same thing to her. She needed Matt to explain to her that the poem refers to an older home which has housed many generations in turn, since no one lays out the dead on the kitchen table any more, nor are babies born on it.

All the same, though their house has been occupied by the Méndez family only in recent years, the basic structure is over 120 years old. Ana likes that.

"Perhaps the World Ends Here," by Joy Harjo

Oops! The link above has been closed (in 2017), as have many links to Ana's other favorite poems. For the workaround to find them another way, please see this link! Thank you!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Distant Cousin Volume 5: Sneak Peek!

There have been many questions as to when the next Distant Cousin book will be out. Answer: early next year.

Here's a sample. Ana's twins, Julio and Clio Méndez, are enjoying challenging summer programs away from home.

* * * * *

Julio Méndez had arranged to meet his sister outside the College of Pharmacy building at the University of New Mexico Medical Center, but he hadn't anticipated how extensive the medical area was. He had to study two "You Are Here" pedestrian maps before he located it—a modern, severe, white, slab-sided building in the block ahead. It was a pleasant walk, though. His home town, Las Cruces, didn't feature the invigorating odor of fir trees like Albuquerque did. Both cities lay against mountain ranges, but Albuquerque's mountains actually had forests.
Only a few people were out in the morning heat, but they represented a wide age range. Some wore lab coats while others tended toward ragged jeans or shorts, and t-shirts. Most carried books. Although he was only 15, he didn't feel out of place. He was as tall as a man—a short man—and he was better dressed than many he saw, in a sharp blue polo shirt and new jeans, the unrealized influence of his mother.
He didn't see his sister until he rounded the corner of the building. She was sitting cross-legged with a book in her lap, in a grassy area at the end of a row of trees, facing away from him. He recognized her khaki book bag between her back and the tree.
He stepped off the sidewalk onto the grass so he could walk silently, with the row of trees hiding his approach. Zeroing in on the exposed edge of her book bag, he took a bold step around the tree to find only the bag and the book on the ground. She had skunked him. In a resigned voice, he said, "Tister."
From behind him, a voice answered, "J-Man."
"How did you know it was me?"
"Don't know. Just felt it."
He turned. She was wearing her favorite denim cargo shorts, a loose green t-shirt that set off her chestnut hair, and white tennies. There was a gleam of amusement in her eyes.
"You're weird, Tister."
"Well, we're twins. How come you can't do that?"
"I'm the normal twin."
"You wish."
"So how you doin'?"
"Not bad. How are you?"
"OK. You hungry? How about some lunch?"
"Sure. What do you feel like?"
"Is there a sandwich shop nearby?"
"Yeah. There's a bunch of places two blocks from here."
"Great. Let's go."
She picked up the book she'd been reading and started to slide it into her bag.
"What's that?"
"That book." He peered at the spine. "'Pharmacognosy?' What is that?"
"Oh," she replied. "Pharmacognosy is the study of medicines from natural sources."
"I never heard of that."
"Dr. Peebles said it used to be common when he was in pharmacy school a long time ago, but it isn't any more. Now, the big companies make the medicines. He said pharmacists today mostly just sell manufactured medicines. They don't make their own like they used to. He gave me this book when he saw I was interested in it. It's really cool. I'm learning about all the properties of drugs: biochemical, physical, biological, stuff like that."
They stayed to the shade as much as they could. Two bicyclists passed them and a jogger trotted diagonally across the sidewalk ahead, wires dangling from her ears.
"I thought you were studying with that guy you hated, Dr. Philpot."
"I was. He's a pretty good doctor, really. I didn't like the way he treated Abuelita after her operation, but he was trying the best he could. He found Dr. Peebles for me when he realized I was more interested in drugs than in being a doctor."
"Pharmacognosy. Sheesh."
"So how about you? How are you doing at Mountain Physics or whatever it is?"
"'Rocky Mountain Tech Labs.' Pretty good. They mostly let me go wherever I want. I mean, I'm an 'intern,' but I'm allowed in most of the labs. Some of them are real interesting and fun."
"Dr. Dave got you in, right? Do you ever see him?"
"He comes up every week or so. I've seen him twice."
"Here's a good sandwich shop."
They entered, supervised the construction of their sandwiches, and found a quiet corner in which to devour them. Julio had eaten a quarter of his before Clio had squeezed lemon into her ice tea and sliced the jalapeño to add to her sandwich (which made Julio frown). She stirred her tea and pulled the toothpick out of her sandwich.
"So why did you want to come today, anyway?"
"To see you before you left, that's why."
"But I'm not leaving for two days."
"Well, there's a guy coming to give a series of lectures. He's some great physicist who's supposed to have good ideas about the unified field theory. I don't wanna miss those."
"The unified what?"
"Never mind. It's complicated. It's just some physicists trying to find one explanation for the four basic forces in the universe. One of them is gravity. It's the gnarliest one. That's why I'm going."
"You would. OK, forget I asked."
"About your vacation—I still can't believe Mom went for that."
"I can't either. I got Dad to OK it first. He helped with Mom. They both signed the permission form."
"I mean, going off to Mexico with doctor Philpot and his family? People we don't even know?"
"Dad has met him, at the hospital and when they set up this summer thing for me. I think he met his wife, too."
"Did he meet his son and daughter? I hope not."
"No, he didn't. Mom hasn't either. Fortunately."
"I still don't understand why you're going on a vacation with people you can barely stand."
Clio set down her sandwich and wiped a dot of mustard off the corner of her mouth. Glancing at the nearby tables, she leaned toward her brother.
"This is just between you and me, OK? Twin stuff…."
"You've fallen in love with his frat boy son?"
"No, doofus! You know where we're going?"
"To Mata Ortiz, in northern Chihuahua. It's famous for its fancy pottery. Mrs. Philpot will probably spend $5000 on ceramics, and maybe sit in with the potters in their workshops. Dr. Philpot will go a bar and drink, unless they have a golf course. I don't know what their kids will do."
"Yeah? So what will you do?"
"Do you remember Doña Dolores?" she asked in a low voice.
"Sure—the curandera you studied with back home. What about her?"
"She says there's a famous hierbero, a Tarahumara Indian, who lives not far from there. He knows everything about medicinal plants. He knows stuff no one else does. She met him once and learned a ton of things. I'm gonna find him. I'm gonna get him to teach me!"
"You're WHAT?" He looked at the nearby tables. No one paid them any attention. He shook his head. Clio leaned forward again.
"This is twin stuff, J-Man. Just you and me, OK?"
"That's nuts, Tister! I mean, there are bandits and smugglers all over northern Mexico, and coyotes smuggling illegals over the border, and…."
"He's somewhere in the Barranca del Cobre, Copper Canyon. High mountains, lots of valleys, few roads. Hardly any strangers go in there. I'll have my satellite phone. I'll be fine."
"OK, forget the bandits. Worry about Mom. Do you know how mad she'll be if she finds out you sneaked off on your own, in Mexico?"
"She won't find out. She and Dad'll be busy with that launch at Cape Kennedy. And anyway, if she calls, she still won't know where I am. You'll be my main contact. You'll cover for me."
"That's crazy, Tister! A phone won't protect you. You have no idea what might happen! It's too risky! Don't do it, please!"
"I have to go, J-Man. I have to! I've wanted to for years. This may be my only chance!"
"You can't just take off by yourself, in another country. It's dangerous over there. Mom would freak out, big time!"
"She's done plenty things like that herself—jumping into that river to get away, sneaking into a country to blow things up…she can do stuff like that, but she gave me grief over Harry Saenz, and he wasn't even a boy friend. Mom doesn't own me."
"Oh, man." He looked at the crumbs on the crumpled paper that had wrapped his sandwich. He shook his head again.
"But…you don't really know anything about this guy. How are you going to even find him?"
"I haven't figured that out yet. I'll do that once I'm down there."
They stared at each other. It was one of the rare times their twin meta-communication didn't work. Clio was as stubborn as her mother. Julio felt his sandwich ball up in his stomach like a wad of clay.

(Also at Barnes and Noble)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Diego Rivera of the Streets?

Here are more murals from the same general area as the ones in the park under the freeway. (Click to enlarge.) It's as if the spirit of Diego Rivera has been channeled through the the civic-minded artists of El Paso. Ana Darcy Méndez, in fact, was impressed by the image of civic consciousness these represent. Such displays are not uncommon on her planet, but not that common here.

If anyone knows of similar expressions of local pride anywhere else in the United States, we'd like to hear about it!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Even MORE Freeway Murals!

Thanks to all those who commented and emailed about the freeway murals on IH10 south of downtown El Paso, where it lies close to the border. For you, and for everyone, here are more. Note the picnickers and the mural commemorating an El Paso activist killed during a demonstration in East Los Angeles. Ana ran right along here. She could have seen any of these!