Thank you for joining me to celebrate the release of CHASING THUNDERBIRD (Dreamspun Beyond #13), the second book in my Shifter U series.
The release of CHASING THUNDERBIRD is a bit of a bittersweet moment for me. I’d dedicated it to my aunts (both of whom had the unforgivable habit of calling me Fer-Fer!). One of them, my aunt Sharron, lost a battle with cancer before I had the chance to show her the dedication. She loved words in all their forms—she was a poet, an actress, a story teller, a voracious reader—and I think she’d have been tickled to see the shout-out in one of my books. While going through her things, I came across a letter my grandmother wrote to my grandfather (who was stationed in Europe during World War II) telling him of the birth of their first child, my aunt Sharron.
In CHASING THUNDERBIRD, much of Simon’s family history (and his relationship with his grandfather who was battling cancer) drives his determination to prove to the world that thunderbirds exists. So when I came across a document from my own family history, it was too perfect not to share. And, it feels like a fitting tribute to Sharron, who’s birth stopped a war (so to speak…).
So here’s the letter. I’ve typed exactly how it was written, spelling and punctuation and all. And, head’s up, there’s some pretty frank descriptions of a birth 1940s-style…
August 15, 1945
My dearest darling Eddie (daddy)
Yep! Honey it’s all over with except the shouting and I aint talking about the war! I hope you have my cable by now. Sharron Kay arrived about ten minutes after six last night. Darling I wish you could see her! She is a perfect little doll. Lots of black hair and eyes that are so dark blue that they look black. She is, I’m sure, the most wonderful little girl ever to be born.
Yesterday morning I got up feeling fine except every time I moved I almost left a puddle of water behind. Pa brought me down. Got here at 12:30 and I still felt fine except I was still flooding. The nurse brought me in and undressed me, then took me to the bathroom for an enema. About two o’clock I started having pains five minutes apart but they were easy. About three thirty they came every two or three minutes and got harder and harder. Was in a bit of misery from about four until five minutes till six when they had me on the push cart and took me to the delivery room. Things really began to happen fast and furious then and about the third hard pain I had out popped the baby. It was fine from there on out and I’ve never had a single hurt. President Truman was just starting his VJ speech when Sherry made her debut with a loud bawl and by the time she quit crying, the Pres. was thru talking. Sure starting the life out as an important one isn’t she? Guess she is too!
She sure is grand. I sorta hoped for your sake that it would be a boy but we can have him when you come back. She is so bright eyed and lively. After they bathed her when she was born they brought her in and I darn near blew a fuse with pride. She is so sweet. Then this morning at six they brought her in to nurse. When she snuggled her little pug nose up against me I felt like I was the only woman in the world. And how she did suck. She is a regular glutton although there is nothing much but watery milk in my breasts yet. I hope I can continue to nurse her.
I’m so glad the war is finally over. Now maybe you can come home to us before too long. We sure hope so.
We love you very much Eddie and hope you are half as tickled as we are. I really feel wonderful. Loads of love and hugs and kisses. Toots + Sherry
Anyway, I love that my aunt was born literally as the US’s involvement in World War II was ending, and I love that I got her same fascination and appreciation for words and stories of all kinds.
**GIVEAWAY** I’ll be giving away an access code for the audio version of Stalking Buffalo Bill to a random commenter who shares with me: Do you have any fun family stories that carried down through generations? Superstitions?
Back at home, I’d barely hung my coat up when my phone quacked at me. I smiled at the familiar ringtone. Years ago, I’d set my phone to quack like a duck whenever my grandfather called. My mother cringed at the noise. I didn’t know if she objected to the not-very-refined sound or if she resented the relationship I had with my grandfather. I’d been named after him, but they were a little disturbed by how closely I followed in his footsteps. I knew absolutely that she blamed him for my interest in cryptids, especially thunderbirds.
I wondered if somehow Grandpa knew I needed someone to talk to. It wouldn’t be the first time a phone call came at exactly the right time. Hitting the Accept icon, I lifted the phone to my ear. “Hey, Gramps. What’s up?”
“Hey, kiddo. How’s Wyoming treating you?”
My breath caught a bit. Every time I spoke with him, it seemed his voice grew shakier and weaker. It was a constant reminder, a subtle countdown to the day he’d no longer be a part of my life. I made sure my own tone was light, free from worry, when I answered. “Oh, you know. The semester just started, so things are a little unsettled. I’m getting there.” For a second I considered telling him about my evening. He’d always given me good advice, or just let me vent if that’s what I needed. And he always knew which I was looking for without me having to clarify. But he didn’t need any additional stress in his life. I pulled my phone away for a second to check the time. It was after ten here, which meant it was almost midnight in Illinois. “A little late for you, isn’t it?”
Grandpa snorted. It was weaker, rougher than it used to be, but I took comfort in the sound. “I’m retired, boy. I set my own hours.”
I bit back a laugh. He might set his own hours, but Loretta, the nurse at the assisted-living facility Grandpa stayed at, would take away his phone if she knew he was up so late. The thought sent guilt eating at my guts. I hadn’t called in a few weeks—too busy with the new house, new school, new job. I shouldn’t have let it go so long. Grandpa had stage four lung cancer, and his condition was worsening almost daily. Weeks-long gaps in phone calls were inexcusable.
“So, what’s up? You know I’m happy to talk with you, but it is a little late for you to call.”
He harrumphed, and nostalgia and grief nearly overwhelmed me. I was going to miss that about him. “I got a strange phone call.”
“A phone call? From whom?”
“Called himself Richard Smith. Said he was a researcher. Claimed to be interested in the family legends.”
Doubt twisted in my gut. “The family legends?”
Another wet cough and a wheezing breath. I knew the muffled sound I caught next was him spitting into a tissue. Lung cancer sucked.
“In fact,” Grandpa said after clearing his throat, “seems he ran into an artifact from 1897 that he thought I’d be interested in.”
I stilled. It couldn’t be. “You don’t actually think….” I couldn’t bring myself to voice the question. What were the chances after all this time?
Back in the late 1890s, an ancestor of mine had shot a huge bird out of the sky. Its feathers were pitch-black, so dark that light didn’t reflect off them but was instead absorbed into the filaments. He claimed its wingspan was nearly twenty feet—larger than any living bird on record, then or now. It had a hodgepodge of features that, in combination, didn’t fit any other known bird species. According to his journal entry—and a very badly executed drawing—the animal had a relatively narrow sternum with unusually strong flight muscles, a broad wingspan with primary feathers that tilted up like an Andean condor. Instead of the condor’s nearly featherless neck and head, this bird’s head more closely resembled the shorter-necked, sleek-feathered, and hook-beaked golden eagle. Unlike either the condor or the eagle, it also had a pair of long paddle-shaped feathers that stretched out nearly a yard behind the broader, denser tail feathers.
So my relative did what anyone would do with such a creature. He dragged the local newspaperman—the only person in a fifty-mile radius who had a camera—to take a picture of the fantastical bird. The Arizona newspaper even ran the article. But not too long after, all copies of the newspaper and the photographic image plate had disappeared.
Check out Chasing Thunderbird today!
A Shifter U Tale
A legendary love.
Ornithology professor Simon Coleman’s reputation is at risk, and the only way to save his name is to prove thunderbirds are more than creatures of Native American myth. Grad student and part-time barista Ford Whitney has a lot on his plate, but it’s also his duty to make sure the resident bird nerd doesn’t discover shape-shifters—like himself—live on campus.
When a series of incidents related to Simon’s search put him in harm’s way, Ford’s instincts kick in, and they become closer than is strictly proper for student and teacher. Ford is forced to reveal his secrets to Simon, and their relationship is put to the test—Simon must choose between salvaging his reputation and protecting the man who protected him….
j. leigh bailey is an office drone by day and the author of Young Adult and New Adult LGBT Romance by night. She can usually be found with her nose in a book or pressed up against her computer monitor. A book-a-day reading habit sometimes gets in the way of… well, everything…but some habits aren’t worth breaking. She’s been reading romance novels since she was ten years old. The last twenty years or so have not changed her voracious appetite for stories of romance, relationships and achieving that vitally important Happy Ever After. She’s a firm believer that everyone, no matter their gender, age, sexual orientation or paranormal affiliation deserves a happy ending. For upcoming releases and appearances information, sign up for her newsletter athttps://t.co/FfL9gFVJLQ.
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