“Dreams of Heaven” receives Readers’ Favorite Award

Dreams of Heaven Cover-ebookReviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers’ Favorite

Dreams of Heaven by Elizabeth M. Herrera is an inspirational book that tells a brilliant and heartwarming story, while reflecting on the mysteries of life, love, faith, death, and eternity. Meet Savannah Watkins, a woman just like any other, except that she has very unusual dreams. The recurrent dreams are about the loss of her family in a car accident, so she is caught between the reality of her waking and the trauma of her sleep. As she struggles for answers, Jesus appears and offers to guide her, spending long moments with her along the beach and at the grocer’s. In this sudden yet enlivening contact with the Divine, Watkins discovers the depths of Jesus’ teachings and the answers to the pain of loss that most of us experience at some time in our life.

Reader's-Favorite-5star-Review-logo-200This is an exciting book, filled with wisdom and insight, a story that is both entertaining and inspiring. It starts in the middle of action and the pace picks up from there. It is fast and gripping and I enjoyed how the author managed to keep readers’ curiosity awake and strong through each page of the narrative. Readers will identify with Watkins, a character who is symbolic in that she represents the fears and uncertainties of most readers, living through the desert of faith until the encounter with Jesus. Elizabeth Herrera is a good writer and she has the gift of getting her message across through her storytelling craft. Dreams of Heaven will awaken a new sense of reality in the hearts of readers and the dream of what makes life worth living.


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Review for New Release “Dreams of Heaven” by Elizabeth M. Herrera

Blog - Blue Gator Book Design

Simply Beautiful

DOH-9780990349235-Perfect.inddDreams Of Heaven by Elizabeth Herrera is an absolutely beautiful Christian fantasy novel, that really ‘spoke’ to my heart.

The novel has Jesus at the centre. He is always with us. There is nothing in this life (or death) that we ever have to face without Him. He will always support us, carry us and love us. He is the embodiment of love.

The love just radiates from the story. The love of a mother for her family and her love for Jesus. This love extends to the reader. I felt myself awash with love and with peace.

Dreams Of Heaven is simply beautiful. It will soothe your soul. It will speak to your heart. It will fill you with hope. In its simplicity, Dreams Of Heaven penetrates your very being. I loved it.

Refresh your life and read Dreams Of Heaven today.

JULIA WILSON, Christian Bookaholic

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“Of Stars and Clay” Excerpt

Chapter 1

Amazon Jungle

Earth Sentinels II cover

The day the world changed forever seemed like an ordinary day in the heart of the Amazon jungle. A handful of tribesmen with red-and-black lines painted over their faces stood beside the slow-moving mossy-green river enjoying a day of fishing. The air was hot and humid as usual. Takwa, who was considered the tribe’s best hunter, brought a gourd to his mouth, taking a long guzzle of the fermented brew contained within. The colorful feathers in his hair hung back. After quenching his thirst, he let out a satisfied sigh, passing the coveted beverage to the man next to him.

It was then that Takwa looked to the sky. A passenger plane flew high overhead, leaving behind an iridescent misty trail. He pointed at it, calling out, “Look!”

All of the tribesmen stared at the strange flying beast. They didn’t often see a jumbo airliner this far from civilization.

Standing among them was a young man named Zachary, who was notably different from the others—tall and lanky with sandy-blond hair and fair skin that was perpetually sunburned. He had no painted lines on his skin, and instead of a loincloth, he wore cut-off jeans and a ragged t-shirt with a Pittsburgh Steelers logo on it. He put his hand to his forehead to shield his green eyes from the sun as he gazed at the plane. Zachary frowned because he knew the exhaust fumes weren’t normal. The pearly sheen of the far-reaching trail made it obvious that something was amiss—at least to him.

Farther from the shore, wandering alone through the scrub was the tribe’s shaman, Pahtia, an older man with gray hair who was searching for the medicinal herb Pau D’arco, which, when found, would be cut and dried, then used at a later time as a remedy for warding off infections. He was also searching for the Chanca Piedra plant, which offered pain-relief qualities, but he stopped his quest when he noticed his fellow tribesmen staring at the sky. Curious, he hobbled through the underbrush, making his way to the clearing along the riverbank where the jungle canopy gave way to the open skies. There, he stood behind the other men, leaning on his staff while studying the plane’s exhaust trail that reflected the colors of the rainbow as it drifted through the cloudless sky—a hazy cord attached to the silver speck on the horizon.

Pahtia contemplated the situation, muttering, “Bad omen.” 

Zachary overheard his father-in-law’s comment and felt he was right. But at that moment, a fish nibbled on his bait. The young man needed to react quickly, otherwise, the catch would be lost. He jerked the line, swiftly sinking the hook into the mouth of an impressive-sized Pacu, one of the best-tasting fish in the Amazon. The fish fought for its life, wriggling out of the water, shimmering in the sunlight before plunging back into the river.

The other men salivated at the thought of cooking the delicious Pacu in banana leaves over an open fire.

“Careful!” one of the men shouted.

“Not too fast,” another advised.

Takwa tried to steal the line from Zachary’s hand. “Let me do it.”

But Zachary resisted. It was his fish.

The hunter gave up, but stood nearby, irritated.

The Pacu flipped and flopped, desperate to free itself, causing the line to spin off the stick that served as the fishing pole.

“You are a bad fisherman!” Takwa growled.

Zachary ignored the criticism, rewinding the line, trying to exhaust the fish. His amateurish technique frustrated the other men.

The stakes were raised when a 12-foot Black Caiman, one of the largest members of the crocodilian family, noticed the commotion. The prehistoric creature slid into the river, gliding toward an easy meal. This predator was the perfect killing machine. It had armored skin, a mouth full of jagged teeth, and clear lenses that protected its eyes while attacking its prey. It was also incredibly fast when it wanted to be. And although caimans, like alligators and crocodiles, were not usually a threat to grown men, preferring smaller game and fish, one could never be too careful so Zachary kept an eye on the encroaching beast as well as his fish.

No longer a passive bystander, Pahtia warned his son-in-law, “Hurry up! Or you will lose it!”

Sweat beaded on Zachary’s forehead. Too fast, too slow. He tightened the line.

The caiman swished its tail more vigorously, closing the gap, its primordial eyes and ridged spine cutting through the rippling waters.

Then the reptile submerged.

The tribesmen knew the caiman would attack from below.

“Pull!” yelled Pahtia.

Zachary yanked the line, causing it to cut into his fingers as the fish flew into the air, bounding toward the shore.

Everyone’s eyes followed the glistening Pacu. The line slackened as it soared.

The caiman lunged from the water, opening its tooth-riddled jaws, consuming the entire fish and cutting the line before splashing back into the deep murky river.

The men groaned.

“You will never fit in,” Takwa jeered.

Pahtia sighed and rolled his eyes, annoyed by his son-in-law’s continual failures, but then he noticed the blood running down Zachary’s fingers. The healer knew the cut could fester in this hot and humid rainforest, easily turning into a life-threatening infection. Not wanting his daughter’s scorn, he reluctantly offered to help the young man, saying, “Come with me.”

Zachary sighed with indignation. He hated relying on Pahtia for anything, but it was better than staying here among the other men. Takwa’s contempt was obvious even with his back turned to him.

Pahtia led his son-in-law down a narrow path that wandered through dense foliage, tangled vines and ancient trees, heading toward his hut on the outskirts of the village. Few tribe members visited the shaman there. Most only came to see him when they were sick or needed guidance. Pahtia’s powers scared them a bit. After all, if he had the power to heal, didn’t he also have the power to make them sick? Or worse?

As the two men walked along, a flock of blue-headed parrots scattered. On an overhead branch, a toucan studied them, its observant button eyes peering past its enormous black-tipped orange beak. Squirrel monkeys, hidden in the trees, hooted.

Pahtia hummed as he shuffled along, his staff steadying his gait. He was happiest away from the others. He liked being undisturbed while hunting for herbs or journeying to the spirit realm. He knew that one could only clearly hear the spirits’ voices when the mind was quiet.

The shaman’s thatched-roof hut came into view. Its walls were made of bamboo slats spaced evenly apart. The gaps let the breezes flow through. They also allowed Pahtia to detect if anyone was approaching, yet still gave him some measure of privacy.

Inside, dried wild flowers, roots and herbs were tacked to the slats and hanging from the ceiling. Some were spread across the worktable.

Pahtia instructed Zachary to sit near the cold fire pit that he often used for cooking as well as simmering herbal concoctions.

The old man walked to the back of the hut where he rummaged through his assorted botanicals, selecting a few dried leaves and roots, placing them in a stone bowl. He added a splash of chicha, and then began grinding the ingredients together.

Meanwhile, Zachary sat near the ashes staring out the doorway, thinking about the ill-boding plane trail. “Pahtia?”

The shaman stopped mixing, looking up. Deep creases surrounded his eyes.

Zachary suggested, “Why don’t we visit Bechard and ask him about the plane?”

“Never again! That spirit tricked us.”

“He meant well.”

Pahtia shook his head. “He holds a darkness in his heart.” He tapped his chest to emphasize his point.

“Pahtia?”

With a touch of irritation, he answered, “Yes?”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about the plane.”

“I know.” The shaman walked toward Zachary carrying the stone bowl. He sat down to finish mixing the compound.

“What should we do?”

“I am not sure. I will visit Maka later. She always has good advice.” Pahtia was referring to his spirit guide, who helped him with healings, divination and guidance on physical and spiritual matters. He gathered a clump of the smelly herbal remedy with his gnarled fingers. “This will go on your wound to keep it from getting infected so Conchita will not be mad at me.” He added, “You can die from infection, you know.”

Zachary sighed. “Yes, I know.” He hated being treated like a complete idiot.

Pahtia shaped the clump into a ball, casually mentioning, “When I die, I will shapeshift into a great caiman.” His eyes gleamed as he imagined reincarnating as this noble reptile. “Maybe next time, I will take your fish.” He let out a rare chuckle, annoying his son-in-law, and then began humming while applying the fresh salve to the young man’s injured fingers.

Zachary winced.

Pahtia smiled.

Too embarrassed to return to the fishing expedition, Zachary went home to Conchita, who stood in their hut cradling their infant son. Her long black hair hung over part of her face as she gazed at the baby while singing a traditional lullaby. The moment Zachary saw his wife, he forgot all about the failed fishing attempt.

Conchita smiled at her husband, but it faded when she noticed his hand was bandaged with leaves and bamboo twine. She asked with concern, “What happened?”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” he said, wanting to forget the whole thing.

“Let me see it,” she insisted.

Zachary reluctantly held out his injured hand for inspection by the shaman’s daughter.

She balanced the baby on her hip while using her free hand to examine the patch job, sniffing to detect which herbs had been used, flipping his hand over to study the other side, finally conceding, “Father did a good job.”

“Yes, he did.” Zachary glanced around the hut, asking, “Where’s Eva?”

“Outside. See.”

Conchita pointed out the doorway at the sunlit center of the village where the young children were having fun with a Capuchin monkey that jumped from one child’s shoulder to the next, playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can. Four-year-old Eva ran toward the scampering rascal with her hands outstretched, only to have the monkey leap over her sun-bleached curls, landing on top of another child’s shoulder. The children squealed with delight.

Zachary laughed at their antics until he glanced up at the sky. Remnants of the shimmering plane trail still lingered.

Conchita, noticing his troubled expression, asked him, “What is wrong?”

Zachary decided to shake off his worries. After all, what could he do about them? So instead of answering her question, he smiled, brushing Conchita’s long hair away from her face, kissing her neck, softly saying, “Nothing’s wrong. Sit with me.” He sat on the palm leaves that covered the floor, patting them with his uninjured hand to encourage her to join him.

She handed him the baby, and he gently held their son in his arms. Conchita settled beside her husband, then kissed the little one’s forehead to assure him that she was still nearby. The infant gurgled with elation. It was moments like this that Zachary remembered why he had come here.

During the night, Pahtia hobbled through the rainforest using his staff to steady his step. In his other hand, he held a burning torch to light the way. The moon and stars were hidden behind the dark storm clouds forming over the jungle’s canopy. Thunder pounded in the distance, causing the old man to quicken his step.

He made his way across the empty village where everyone was safely tucked inside their huts, sound asleep.

Pahtia peered into his daughter’s home, past the lattice gate blocking the doorway, whispering, “Conchita…”

She stirred, but did not wake.

He held onto the doorframe, poking his staff through the gate, nudging his daughter.

Conchita opened her eyes and saw the silhouetted figure standing outside the hut. She wondered if she was dreaming. It wasn’t until a gust of wind threw the torch flames past Pahtia’s face that she recognized him. She uttered, “Father?”

He tersely responded, “Come with me.” 

She drowsily got up, quietly opening the gate, stepping outside, careful not to disturb her loved ones.

Conchita followed her father to the outskirts of the village, continuing down a barely visible path. Branches and vines, flailing in the storm’s gusts of wind, hindered their progress. She glanced behind herself, feeling an overwhelming urge to return to her children and husband. The farther she went, the stronger the urge became. She stopped in her tracks, asserting herself, “I am not going. Not tonight. Tomorrow, I will come.”

Pahtia looked back at his daughter, solemnly stating, “I have something to share with you. But it must be tonight.” He continued along the path.

Lightning crackled, flashing through the trees.

Against her better judgment, Conchita followed him. “Why not morning?” she asked, her voice nearly drowned out by the rolling thunder.

Without turning around, he declared, “Morning is too late.”

They reached Pahtia’s hut. The flames in the fire pit burned brightly, welcoming them home.

She sat near the fire in her usual spot, combing her windswept hair with her fingers while observing the storm brewing outside.

Pahtia went to his workbench, reverently picking up a leather medicine pouch. He returned to sit beside his daughter. With sentimental eyes, he said to her, “You have been a good apprentice. Learned all I had to teach.” He set the medicine pouch on his lap so he could use both hands to remove the amulet that hung from a leather cord around his neck. “This was my father’s, and now it is yours. Shaman to shaman.”

“Thank you.” Conchita lowered her head to accept the gift. It was a great honor to be declared a shaman. She looked down at the amulet that rested against her chest, picking it up, holding it between her fingers, still not believing the shiny stone her father had worn since she was a child was now hers.

Pahtia continued, “I will ask my helper spirits to be your helpers. All that I have is now yours.”

He opened the medicine pouch’s drawstrings, reaching inside to take out an amethyst quartz cluster. He held it up between his bony fingers. “This has magical powers. Hold out your hand.” He placed it securely in her palm. “This stone holds the vibrations of Mother Earth. Keep it safe.” He pulled out a jaguar’s curved claw. “Not Taslia,” he clarified, referring to his totem animal, which also happened to be a jaguar. “This was my first kill. I was brave and used only a spear. Very dangerous. Very strong energy.” He handed it to Conchita before he once more dug into his bag, removing a plant root. “This is a wise root. It knows the secrets of the rainforest.” Pahtia placed it in Conchita’s hand beside the other sacred articles. Next, he extracted a human tooth, staring at it as if he was remembering how he acquired it so many years ago, then, without an explanation, he returned it to the pouch.

“Father, why are you giving me these things tonight?”

“I had a vision, a prophecy. And in this vision, I saw blood-red skies and a snake slither out of its hole, standing like a man with a gold crown on its head. I heard the moaning of men and women in pain, lying on the ground. Too many to count. The snake took joy in their sorrow, eating them.”

“Stop it. You are scaring me.”

Pahtia became angry. “No daughter of mine is afraid!”

His harsh tone made Conchita regret coming here.

Outside, the storm unleashed its heavy rains.

Pahtia’s demeanor softened. “Forget what I said. I know you are strong. Let us journey together one more time. I need to ask Maka for guidance.”

Conchita believed in her father’s prophecies, but that didn’t mean this one would happen tonight—maybe not even in their lifetime. However, he was more riled up about this one than usual. All she wanted to do was return home and sleep with her family, but the downpour made her hesitant to leave. Besides, she knew her father would prod her until she relented, so Conchita reluctantly agreed, “I will journey with you.”

“Good. Let me get the herb.” The shaman used his staff to stand up, stiffly moving across the floor.

Conchita noticed for the first time how much her father had aged. His frame was frail, and his hair was almost entirely gray. She looked away before he returned.

Pahtia sat beside his daughter once more. He said a prayer while bringing the herb close to his face, honoring it. He dropped the sacred leaves into the fire. Smoke burst out of the flames, billowing all around them.

The pair closed their eyes, breathing deeply, letting the smoke fill their lungs.

The shaman called for his totem animal, “Taslia, please come!”

A moment later, from out of the storm, an ethereal black jaguar padded through the doorway, entering the smoke-filled hut. The ghostly feline stood there swishing her tail, her golden eyes reflecting the flames. The totem animal contained the archetypal powers of strength and courage—attributes that would help Pahtia face the dangers encroaching upon him and his tribe.

The shaman acknowledged Taslia’s presence, “Thank you, old friend, for coming. I need to speak to Maka. Will you please take us to her?”

Taslia nodded.

Pahtia’s spirit rose out of his body and climbed onto the jaguar’s back.

Conchita’s spirit sat behind her father’s essence.

The big cat carried the pair out of the hut, entering the mystical realm of the jungle. Rain dripped from the shadowy leaves as they moved through the trees. 

Conchita held tightly onto her father. Even if they weren’t in mortal danger, she knew they were surrounded by spirits—most were benevolent, but some were malicious.

Pahtia, on the other hand, was enjoying the ride, listening to the jungle sounds while taking in the sights. He breathed deeply, smelling the humus aroma the rain brought to the surface. The sensation of wet leaves dragging across his face and exposed arms didn’t irritate him as it usually would have, instead the cold austere contact made him feel alive.

They moved through a mist and into another realm. Here, the rain ceased.

Strolling out of the trees, the totem animal carried its riders to a waterfall that reflected the moonlight as it cascaded into the ebony lake below.

Pahtia dismounted, then ambled through the ferns. He stood at the edge of the dark water, calling out, “Maka! Please come!”

Conchita stood by his side.

A ball of light appeared from out of the starry sky, hovering above the lake. It expanded into the form of a beautiful woman, who wore white-fringed animal skins decorated with colorful feathers and beads. Her black hair hung down to her knees. The spirit guide gave the visitors a warm smile, saying, “Greetings! It is good to see you again.”

Pahtia bowed his head out of respect. “Greetings to you as well, Maka. Thank you for coming. We need your help. I believe the end is near.”

“The end of what, dear Pahtia?”

“The end of this life—for me and my tribe.”

“Pahtia, you know there is no death. Only change. Why do you falter now?”

The shaman bolstered his chest, touting, “I do not falter! I came for help.”

“I understand your concerns, but keep this in mind. That which seems to be the end is always the beginning. Trust that this is so. To take away the impending change would hinder your spiritual growth. This I cannot do.”

The beautiful spirit guide turned to face Conchita. “This change will be the most difficult for you. Remember these words in the days to come: You are the bearer of the light—an integral part of overcoming the darkness that has lasted for far too long. Great challenges await many.

“Remember, for the caterpillar to become a butterfly is a difficult process—one that requires a tremendous amount of trust as it molts many times before the metamorphosis completes itself. But never does the butterfly mourn the loss of its former self, although, for the caterpillar, the transformation feels like death.”

Maka’s body glowed brighter and brighter until she was lost in the brilliance, breaking into a thousand sparkling lights, dissipating into the night.

 


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Dreams of Heaven is now available!

DOH-9780990349235-Perfect.indd

Dreams of Heaven has released! The story was inspired by a vivid dream where Jesus appeared and showed me four scenes. When I woke up that morning, I knew I would write the story. I remember thinking “how odd”, because I had only written one book in my life, a memoir titled Shaman Stone Soup, which I had assumed would be my one and only, but now, I felt I had been given my next “assignment”.

So I sat at my computer and waited for inspiration, then I wrote whatever came to me. It was an interesting process, because I had no idea how the scenes in my dream would connect, and I couldn’t fathom an ending that would make the two realities, which the main character was facing, come together. But it did.

In Dreams of Heaven, Savannah Watkins is haunted by a dream of losing her family in a tragic car accident, which causes her to vacillate between two lives—before and after the car accident. As she struggles between realities, Jesus Christ suddenly appears to offer her unorthodox guidance. He accompanies her to the grocery store and for walks on the beach while answering some of life’s toughest questions.

I invite you to read Dreams of Heaven. It’s a magical ride with an inspirational message. Book is on sale until August 20th.


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“Dreams of Heaven” Novella — Christian, New Age or Beyond Labels?

Dreams of Heaven Cover-ebook

The inspiration for Dreams of Heaven came to me in a vivid dream. As a healer, I’ve learned to pay attention to vivid dreams, which are a rare occurrence, but always offer profound answers and insights. In this particular dream, Jesus Christ appeared and showed me four scenes. I knew when I awoke that I would write Dreams of Heaven. But why feature Jesus Christ? I’m not Christian. Although I do confess that Jesus is always a part of my shamanic healings (shamanism is a Native American practice) where he appears as a spirit guide. I suppose a Christian would say that Jesus comes to me in a focused prayer, but alas, enough with the labels.

So, one month after the dream and during a winter holiday break, I began to write. But how do you write a story that is not your own? I had no idea how the dream’s scenes would come together or how the story would end. In fact, I couldn’t even conceive of a good ending.

During the writing process, I sat quietly before each session and prayed for inspiration, then typed whatever came to me. (It soon became obvious that it was also a lesson in learning to listen to the Divine Voice, and releasing the fears that prevented me from publically stating unorthodox teachings.)  The story began to weave itself between two realities. In one, a dream of a car accident haunts the main character, Savannah Watson. In the other, she deals with the tragic aftermath. As Savannah struggles with the prophetic dream, Jesus appears and speaks to her. He goes grocery shopping with her, and for walks on the beach, answering her questions (even if she doesn’t always think so).

Unlike many novels and movies that offer generic and vague answers, in Dreams of Heaven, Jesus offers specific messages — but they are given through the interpretation of love, leaving fear and judgement at the door. Messages that many Christians would say dispute the Bible’s teachings, but do they?

The church has offered an interpretation for millenniums, but interpretations can vary. Who is right? I’m not sure it matters. We all have a path to follow, and we choose the one that is right for us. At one time, Christianity was right for me. However, in my early 20s, I lost my faith for a decade before my belief in God and Jesus returned, but without the religious connotations. God without religion? What a novel idea (no pun intended). Which means, this book’s message isn’t right for everyone. But for those looking for answers about redemption without judgement or condemnation, this book is just right.

Genre: Fiction, Spirituality


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Reviews

Dreams of Heaven compels you to examine your beliefs about life and death. You will be drawn to read every page.” —Reverend Emile Gauvreau, Center for Spiritual Living Cape Coral

Dreams of Heaven is a beautifully crafted story that centers on the dream/reality of a terrible family tragedy and the main character’s sudden ability to see and converse with Jesus Christ. Heartfelt and deeply moving, the book is like an epiphanous dream probing the mysteries of birth, life, and death. It is one of those gems of spiritual literature that becomes a permanent fixture in our lives, always remembered as a gift for that special friend with whom we wish to share our most deeply felt beliefs.” — Hal Zina Bennett, Ph.D., Best-selling Author of Write From the Heart and Follow Your Bliss

ISBN: 978-0-9903492-3-5
Page Count: 150
Publisher: Blue Gator Inc.
Publication Date: August 5, 2017

“The Organic Farm” book excerpt from “Earth Sentinels: The Storm Creators”


Earth Sentinels Cover-Amazon-240pg.inddChapter 3

The Organic Farm

On a sunny August morning, the Thompson family was busy harvesting their organic crops. Marilyn and her husband, Larry, had retired early from their stressful jobs in New York City and bought this quaint farm in Pennsylvania to get back to nature, pouring half of their life savings into the venture.

Marilyn rested while wiping the sweat from her face with a handkerchief. She stuffed it back in her pocket while looking out over the rolling hills, admiring the fertile farm beds filled with tomatoes, radishes, green beans and squash. All of this organic produce would be sold at a local farmers’ market. Bees buzzed and butterflies floated over the late blooms. She watched her 17-year-old son, Zachary, select ripe tomatoes, setting them in a wagon. He had grown a few inches taller than his father, but he had her sandy-blond hair and fine features.

Car tires scrunched over the crushed limestone driveway, coming to a stop. Dust floated around the tires. An older couple got out of the vehicle, standing side by side looking solemn.

Marilyn, Larry and Zachary waved at their neighbors, Burt and Nancy Wheeler, who returned the greeting, but remained where they stood. Something was wrong.

Larry said to his wife, “This can’t be good…looks like their best milk cow died.”

Marilyn replied, “Shhh…this might be serious. Come on.”

The Thompsons walked out of the field, passing the red barn that housed the milk cow. The chickens scratching in the yard scurried away clucking.

The neighbors met them halfway.

Larry shook the man’s hand. “Good morning.”

Burt said, “Morning. Sorry we didn’t call first, but we’ve got something important to tell you.”

“Okay…”

“This would be better sitting down.”

The Thompson family suddenly felt a sense of dread. Larry responded, “Sure, this way.” He led his neighbors through the back door of the centennial farmhouse. They entered the kitchen, taking their seats at the long plank table. Marilyn asked the neighbors if they would like something to drink, but they shook their heads.

Burt started the conversation, “We’ve been having problems with our cows, one died, and a few had stillborn calves. We heard other farmers had the same thing, so we tested our well and lake. And well…” Bert found it difficult to say the words, “The results showed toxic chemicals and methane gas.” The dairy farmer became visibly upset, his voice wavering as he said, “We’ve lived here for four generations and never had a problem with our water before they started fracking.”

“How can that be?” Marilyn asked, “They aren’t even drilling close to us!” 

“Yeah…well,” answered Burt, “we did some research and found out that Pennsylvania allows horizontal drilling, so a rig can be a mile or more away, but drill right under your house without your permission, if you don’t own the mineral rights.” He rubbed his forehead, noticeably stressed. “We own ours, and told them, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ We didn’t want their money. The farm’s enough for us. But obviously someone near us either took the money or didn’t own the rights.”

“But where’d the chemicals come from?” Larry asked.

“The fracking water. They pump millions of gallons of water, laced with chemicals, so they can extract more gas out of the shoal. Then they have the nerve to tell us it’s all suctioned up, but common sense tells ’ya it can’t be, not all of it. And if they hit an underground stream or aquifer, the contaminated water can flow for miles.”

His wife confided, “We plan on moving our cows to my cousin’s place in Dauphin County. We can’t in good conscience sell the milk. But what’ll we do? Farming’s all we know.” She bit her bottom lip, trying not to cry.

Burt changed the subject, delicately asking the Thompsons, “Have you tested your water? I only ask because our land butts up to yours.”

The awareness that the organic farm might be ruined settled over Marilyn like a dark fog. How can we claim the produce is organic if there are chemicals in the water? How can we sell it at all? She contemplated these troubling questions before quietly saying, “We didn’t give in. We refused to let them test our land and still…” she trailed off. Zachary put his arm around his mother to comfort her.

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The Magic Seeds” book excerpt from “Earth Sentinels: The Storm Creators”

Earth Sentinels Cover-Amazon-240pg.inddChapter 2

The Magic Seeds

Mahakanta Suresh stood at the edge of his field staring at the withered cotton crop. His farm had been handed down through many generations, providing not only a living, but a good way of life in India’s Cotton Belt. He leaned heavily on his hoe, reminiscing of a time long ago when his father had danced with his mother after a bountiful harvest. The entire village had prospered that year, celebrating late into the night with food, spirits and music. His father had stepped away from the festivities and sauntered over to him, holding out a velvety fig he had picked fresh from a banyan branch. Mahakanta plucked the sweet, earthy tasting treat from his father’s weathered hand, watching him laugh heartily, drunk from the free-flowing wine.

Mahakanta savored his childhood memory before it faded, leaving him to face the devastation in front of him. He could have survived the misfortune of one bad season, but alas, last year’s crop had also failed. Now there was no money left to buy new seeds. He would lose his farm and house to the moneylenders who had extended him credit.

He could no longer face his wife and three children, who silently ate their dinner each night while hopelessness filled the air. His family once had a future, but without property, they would be burdened with a husband and father who couldn’t support or provide for them. They would become the lowest of the low.

A sacred cow wandered past him. The bells on its collar clinked as it headed toward his neighbor’s field, which was filled with thriving cotton grown from traditional seeds. Mahakanta remembered the purveyor arriving at his doorstep two years earlier, catching him as he returned home after a hard day’s work. The salesman opened his satchel, showing Mahakanta charts and photos of other customers’ cotton fields that yielded 10 times the average using his new magic seeds. In addition, he touted that the magic seeds resisted pests, eliminating the need to purchase expensive pesticides. The purveyor promised the magic seeds would make Mahakanta a very wealthy man, but what the salesman did not tell him was that these seeds were not drought tolerant like the traditional ones that had been used for generations in India. And the man did not share the fact that the seeds were genetically structured to self-destruct, ensuring that Mahakanta would have to buy new seeds the following year.

So with hope for a better future, Mahakanta naively bought and planted the magic seeds, watching the green shoots emerge in the spring. However, it was not long before the plants withered in the scorching sun and succumbed to the hungry bollworms.

How Mahakanta wished he had switched back to the traditional seeds after the first failed crop, but the purveyor assured him that the dismal harvest was caused by the drought, not the magic seeds, and the next bountiful crop would more than make up for his losses. Mahakanta’s misplaced trust had been a deadly mistake. His only comfort was that he wasn’t the only one who had fallen under the spell of the magic seeds. Dozens of other farmers in his village had done the same thing.

Knowing he could not survive this second disaster, Mahakanta unscrewed the cap on a pesticide bottle, took one last look at the land of his ancestors, then gulped the toxic fluid. The acid scorched his throat as he swallowed, and the noxious fumes made him gag and cough violently. He thought it was a fitting punishment for his failure, expecting to be dead before his family came back from working in the fields.

Instead, his son found him writhing on the ground in agonizing pain. His wife ran over screaming for help. A neighbor who had found Mahakanta not long after he drank the pesticide explained what had happened. There was nothing anyone could do—the poison always took its victim.

The wife held Mahakanta’s head in her lap and wailed, tears streaking down her cheeks, “I told you the money wasn’t important! Why didn’t you listen!?”

Mahakanta did not respond. The pain made him oblivious to his surroundings. He convulsed violently, spewing red-speckled vomit all over the front of his shirt.

His wife continued to sob, rocking back and forth in utter grief.

Mahakanta was overcome with pain. Everything went dark. He felt his body become weightless. A blue mist appeared, forming into shapes that turned into human forms. He recognized a neighbor who had committed suicide a few weeks earlier. Countless numbers of spirits came forward, one after another, each a victim of crop failure caused by the magic seeds. Before Mahakanta could ask why they came, they escorted him away.

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