Sunday, May 29, 2011

Early Feedback from Readers of Distant Cousin: Recirculation (DC5)

Distant Cousin: Recirculation (DC5) has only been out a little while, but the early comments are fun. There's no point in recapping the reviews at Amazon, but several others, including personal communications, might be of interest.

First, there are the commuters, who have read all four books out loud to each other during their long and otherwise boring commute: "We are loving the new book! Already 1/2 done. Hurry up with the next one!"

If they seem to be taking a long time to get through the book, then know that the audio version of Distant Cousin: Reincarnation takes 13 hours to listen to. (See the earlier reports from the commuters here and here.)

The following comments have been edited so as not to spoil anything for new readers:

"I didn't get a chance to let you know that I finished DC5. I didn't read it until after [something in the news happened], so I found it entirely believable.I also enjoyed the fact that the kids got [major parts in the story]."


"After several weeks of work, travel, and visiting kids in California, I at last opened Distant Cousin: Recirculation on the way home Monday night…and just finished it, having had to do a few pieces of work in between. The book is the best yet. You have a gift and we all are most fortunate that you are sharing it with us. was so prophetic at the end….to read this just after [something in the news happened]. You captured the complexity perfectly.


"Your FAN forever!!!!!"

While we're at, we found two new comments tucked away in corners of the internet:

Under the heading "Crusty Old Guy Likes This:"

"I cut my teeth on old school science fiction with bug-eyed monsters, ray guns, and inhospitable planets. This isn't about those. Well maybe it is, with Earth and some of it's inhabitants being the antagonists. This is well written, as one page induces you to read the next. Characters have life. The plot is plausible (we are talking SF here). It also gives some insight into the people, places, and culture of Nueva Espana. I read this out of curiosity and to add another dimension to my reading of late. My curiosity was pleasantly slaked but I wouldn't recommend this to other crusty old guys. We just aren't the target audience. I highly recommended this to my grand daughter. My wife should even enjoy it. Oh yeah, I'll probably read the next in the series."

One more, about Distant Cousin: Reincarnation (DC3):

"In this latest installment of Al Past's Distant Cousin saga, Ana Darcy's greed-driven uncle brings about a deplorable international situation that only she can set aright. To do so, she must make use of all her unique talents and abilities while placing her life in great peril.... This isn't just another action novel. By now Ana is married, and the author cleverly juxtapositions her Thoman adventures with the family life she longs to share with her husband, Matt Mendez, and their twins. He and the kids manage to find a little adventure of their own, which regularly serves as a refreshing aside from the main story line. As usual, Past serves up delectable portraits of the cuisine in the various parts of the country where Ana finds herself, and his depiction of the landscape in diverse regions of the world gives the reader a genuine sense of presence. Flashbacks and unnecessary references to the two preceding Distant Cousin novels are kept to a minimum thus; even readers who are unfamiliar with those works will find Distant Cousin: Reincarnation to be intriguing and captivating. Whether you are new to the universe of Ana Darcy and her friends, or are fortunate enough to have read Distant Cousin and Distant Cousin: Repatriation, this work holds a great deal of enjoyment in store."

To all those who took the trouble to send in their thoughts, our warmest and most heartfelt thanks!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Baby kitties! Serval kitties!

As readers will know, Ana's family has a caracal, not a serval. The serval, also a native of Africa, resembles a half-size cheetah, similarly long and lean, and they make wonderful, active, playful pets for people who know what they're doing. Julie's Jungle devotes several pages to the care and feeding of these beautiful cats, and to discussing the arrangements necessary for living in harmony with them.

The pictures below show servals from babies to adults. As is evident from the photos, they can exist peacefully in the proper domestic situation. The Méndez family may be thinking about one! Thanks, Julie!

See more photos of servals and other cats in the right column, under the blue-eyed Siamese.
Meet Ana Darcy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Sampling of Mexican-American Dichos (Proverbs)

Although Ana is from the planet Thomo, her husband's family would probably be called Mexican-American by most people, though some Hispanics in New Mexico insist that since their ancestors actually arrived before the establishment of the country of Mexico, they should be called Spanish-Americans. We don't care to argue the point, and we don't know how Matt's grandmother, Reyes Méndez might feel about it, but in any case their Spanish is peppered with the traditional words of wisdom we generally call proverbs, in English, and dichos, in Spanish (from "decir," to say or speak).

For example, in Distant Cousin: Reincarnation, Matt's grandmother was once asked how she was doing, to which she replied "¡Vivita y coleanda, gracias!" ("Alive and wagging, thanks!").

On another occasion, when things looked very bad for one member of the family, Abuelita Méndez encouraged her great granddaughter by saying "Donde menos se piensa, salta la liebre" ("When you least expect it, a rabbit jumps out"). Who among us has not been startled by that very event? It's true: you never know what'll happen next.

When that same great granddaughter expressed frustration over her mother's habit of getting into trouble, Sra. Méndez defended her, saying, "Mejor libre albedrío que vivir en las sombras" ("Free will is better than living in shadows").

Indeed, the formidable Abuelita Méndez is seldom far from an appropriate dicho. She is known for speaking, and acting, when the time is right ("en caliente y de repente”) ("striking when the iron is hot")!

Here are some more dichos that are surely in her repertoire:

Del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho. (From saying to doing, it's a long way, i.e., it's easier said than done)

En la tierra de los ciegos, el tuerto es rey. (In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.)

Gato maulador, pobre cazador. (A meowing cat is a poor hunter, i.e., a big talker is a little doer)

Un poquito de veneno no mata. (A little poison won't kill you, i.e., food, drink, etc., in moderation is OK)

Más vale onza de prudencia que onza de ciencia. (An ounce of common sense is worth more than an ounce of science.)

El que quiere celestre, que le cueste. (He who wants it easy finds it hard, i.e., the hard way is the easy way)

Con la vara que midas, serás medido. (With the stick that you measure, you will be measured, i.e., judge as you would be judged)

En boca cerrada no entran moscas. (Flies don't enter a closed mouth.)

Amor con amor se paga. (Love is repaid with love.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cats! Time for some caracals!

Raisin, the Méndez family's majestic caracal, is doing well as far as we know. Despite her keen, predatory appearance, she's actually a calm, sweet-tempered cat, unless alarmed.

Caracals, natives of Africa, are exceedingly rare elsewhere, even in zoos. When we asked at our local veterinarian's office if anyone knew what a caracal was, no one did! Yet they make good pets, provided one can make allowances for them, and there are licensed breeders who can provide them to qualifying customers. One of these is Julie's Jungle, in Florida. Anyone curious as to what special accommodations the mid-size cats require of an owner should go to the information page on her website.

Here are some photos of caracal kittens of various ages and several adults, from Julie's breeding stock, we believe. (Right click for the full size photos.) It's worth noting how all Julie's animals get along with each other, just as some cats can get along with some dogs. As with humans, proper upbringing is key.

Thanks, Julie!

(See more caracals, servals, lynxes, and house cats in the column to the right, under the photo of the blue-eyed Siamese kitty-->)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Distant Cousin Apps Coming Soon!

Ana Darcy's stories are coming to an app near you!

Thanks to ScrollMotion, the largest developer of branded apps in the iTunes App Store, the Distant Cousin books will be available as individual mobile apps in the largest app marketplaces, for distribution to smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices, including Apple, Android, Windows Phone 7 and WebOS.

The apps seamlessly combine the wonderful experience of reading books and moble devices. For all those times when you find yourself stuck with nothing to do, now you never need to be bored. It's a unique reading experience!

One app reader comments:

I started Distant Cousin…on my iPhone. Now the pitiful Cowboys are playing and they’re not acting as pitiful as usual so I’m reading your book and watching the ‘Boys off and on. Hubby’s on the sofa and I’m in my comfy chair behind him and he hears me occasionally laughing. He finally asks me what I’m laughing about and I tell him about how I don’t care for anything except stories about normal people and you assured me your book was very normal and that I’d like it so I'm reading it.

Now it’s getting about supper time and we’re hungry. When we do takeout our usual MO is I do the ordering, I drive and my husband goes in and gets the food. Meanwhile, my phone battery is starting to run down so while my husband goes in to get our dinner I am sitting in the car with the engine running, phone plugged in and I’m STILL READING YOUR BOOK!

I love Darcy. I can’t wait to see what happens next. It is indeed a page turner, a cute and funny book with lots of laugh-out-loud parts. You were right. I like it! I just thought I’d let you know that it’s been a fun read and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Another delicious variation on Mexican frijoles

There have to be a million variations of the savory, nutricious basic Mexican dish centered around pinto beans. We have already covered the recipe used by a chuckwagon cook in the old cattle drive days, here, and we have mentioned a less-spicy, dialed back version for those who might prefer a less hearty, more side dish-like, recipe.

Now we're going to go back to the original recipe, but using Anasazi beans, as recommended by one commenter under the original recipe. These are supposedly the beans cultivated by the original Anasazi Indians, of the famous cliff dwellings in the four corners area. We can't verify that, but we can verify that they are smaller than pinto beans, and far more cute. Their taste is still savory, a little more delicate than pintos, with a silky texture.

Again going back to the original recipe, for peppers we have used chili piquines, the tiny, berry-like peppers that grow wild over much of Texas and New Mexico. They are hotter than fire, however, so we used only about a dozen for a pound of beans, resulting in a low-heat factor that shouldn't scare off the timid.

Notice that these peppers, dried after being harvested, need to be ground before being added to the pot. The traditional Mexican way to do this is with a molcahete (from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs) and mano, made from rough volcanic rock. It's a country cousin to the mortar and pestle, more or less, and it is also useful in quickly pulverizing other spices too. They are probably available from specialty cooking stores.

(More recipes in the right column, beneath the photo of cranberry/apple pie a la mode)