I’m Jim Aarons. We met at the Central Coast Writer’s Conference this past September. Plus, I’ve been following you from earlier conferences, focusing on what you are looking for in an author, inwardly relieved you are willing to work with hybrid authors.
I have three finished manuscripts; K’aalógii, My Butterfly Boy, The Inconvenient Goddess, and Death from Down Under.
K’aalógii is a love story involving Katie Reynolds and Rory Evans. They meet at veterinary school in Davis, California. Katie is a Navajo Indian while Rory, a white dude, is a character modeled after myself when I was in vet school. He becomes enamored with Katie the first time he sees her, during the orientation picnic held for incoming first-year students. However, because of Katie’s upbringing on the Navajo reservation, she doesn’t have similar feelings for Rory. She has learned to be distrustful of white people who the Navajo call bilagáana.
But Rory’s wishes are answered when he and Katie are assigned to be lab partners in the anatomy lab. Rory begins working on Katie to whittle down her defenses. He persuades her to spend time with him on extracurricular activities such as horseback rides and bike trips, finally cajoling her into a dinner date in Old Sacramento where he doesn’t have enough money for the French dinner, he promised her.
They fall in love, sort of, and this ‘sort of’ situation is a major component in creating readers’ interest throughout the book because Katie continually reverts to her ‘unsure about this man’ status time and again. This doubt becomes overwhelming when Katie realizes she is pregnant with Rory’s baby. The tipping point comes during a wilderness camping trip to a mysterious canyon on the Havasupai Reservation that spews warm blue water into a creek that eventually mixes with the turbid brown waters of the Colorado River. Rory discovers a cave he wants to explore and brings Katie to the place. Feeling uneasy about it, Katie admonishes herself to ‘get over it’ and follows Rory inside. The intrusion wakens a mystical force setting off an eerie confrontation with ancient spirits. Katie’s initial worries were correct; the force pushes Rory from the cave and shrouds Katie in a black veil, causing her to lose consciousness. When Rory finally works his way back inside, he realizes Katie is losing the baby.
A helicopter is called in to evacuate the stricken woman, and Katie is saved, but the baby is lost. Katie still isn’t right following her discharge from the hospital, and her mother arranges for medicine men, called Hatałii, to set up a Navajo healing ceremony called the Enemy Way.
Rory becomes a part of the ceremony and Katie is cured of her depression, but significant doubts plague her after the Enemy Way. Believing her affection to Rory was the real cause of the miscarriage Katie breaks up with Rory, quits vet school, and returns to the rez. Rory finishes vet school and takes a job in Paso Robles, California.
Remember, this is a love story, and Katie comes to realize Rory is the man she wants. Her assumption is correct; when they meet at the wedding of two former classmates, their love is reignited.
After K’aalógii, My Butterfly Boy the modern Katie Reynolds stories continue in Yéiitsoh Omen, Tsegi Ruins, and The First Altar. These books are completed but haven’t gone through final edits.
The second story I’m pitching is The Inconvenient Goddess. Katie is blown into the past to the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs Akhenaten and Tutankhamen.
The interim book, The First Altar, tells the story of Rory and Katie to the point where Katie disappears into ancient times. I use the last chapter of The First Altar as an explanatory chapter in the early part of The Inconvenient Goddess so that the books stand independently of each other.
Katie does return to Rory. While he’s growing a practice in Paso Robles Katie splits her time between him and her new aims in vet school; going on to earn an MPVM degree, a masters in preventative medicine study. One of her MPVM projects entails going to the Middle East to investigate a disease outbreak in Lalish, an ancient place in the hills of northern Iraq where an infection between sheep is jumping into the human populace, eerily similar to the Old Testament tales of plague.
Another student, René accompanies her. He will become her supporter, her link to sanity when she realizes she’s in 1328 BC.
Back to The Inconvenient Goddess. During their modern-day plague study ISIS invades Lalish. Katie and René run for protection inside a 3,000-year-old temple where a grenade blows them back in time. Katie is found first. Unconscious and bleeding she is discovered wrapped in the blue altar-cloth René threw around them. Blue was a rare color in 1328 BC and was one reason that made the ancients feel this temple intruder was a goddess. Plus, both Katie and René were wearing blue United Nations zip-up jackets, another indication both were royal divinities.
Katie is befriended by Moudad, Lalish’s ancient Yezidi priest. Moudad’s wife Rabea and the temple staff nurse Katie back to health; she sustains a broken collar bone as well as a bullet wound to her right thigh. However, Katie’s divinity becomes undeniable to these ancients when Rabea discovers a T-shaped piece of plastic in Katie’s modern-day underwear. Her IUD has been blown from her vagina and is taken as another a sign Katie is Ištar, the ancient goddess of love and war.
Plus, Katie’s appearance is different; she has long black hair and dark eyes. The ancient Yezidi all have blue eyes and light-colored hair because they carry a genetic trait that originated in southern Russia near the Caspian Sea. When their ancestors first migrated into the Middle East they were so different from the rest of the ancient world they were seen as gods themselves. That’s why there are so many statues of blue-eyed gods from this period. These were the giants Noah complained about in the Old Testament when he smugly assured normal people the ogres were drowned in The Flood. And that’s why the flood took place where it did. Mt Ararat is in eastern Turkey, the center of the horse culture at the time.
But they weren’t gods, or ogres, they were tall blue-eyed people with light hair, and they had mastered chariot warfare. These were the horse people of the steppes who brought the horse and chariot into the Middle East. As centuries wore on the god and ogre titles changed as the lighter newbies intermingled among the darker residents, but they maintained a classed hierarchy because they possessed superior warfare knowledge.
These lighter skinned horse people became the ruling elite because they had the corner on chariot warfare. They became the governors and rulers of districts, even influencing royal lines of descent. In different waves these horse people spread their influence south into Syria, Lebanon, and ancient Israel. When they entered Egypt they were called Hyksos and were viewed suspiciously as foreigners. But Egypt flourished because a new ability to wage war became available to the pharaohs.
The goddess Ištar is front and center in the minds of these chariot drivers. But Katie has no idea how powerful she is. Before being called Ištar, Katie was referred to as Inanna, beginning a two-thousand-year tradition of her as the goddess of war as well as love, sensuality, fertility, and procreation. The Bible calls her Ashtoreth. Later she was revered as Astarte and Aphrodite.
Ištar was as powerful in Egypt as she was in the rest of the known world. The Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten’s wife Nefertiti was from this horse culture and revered the goddess, bringing her into the Egyptian pantheon. Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep III requested Ištar’s statue be sent to him to help with a plague going through his country. In the book The Inconvenient Goddess Akhenaten wants Katie to come to Egypt to help with another plague. The Pharaoh is in a bind. He’s the ruler who kicked out all other gods except Aten, but now that he needs extra help the priests of Amun won’t let him use the old gods because he has diminished their power and they are angry at him. Akhenaten looks to Katie because he needs this powerful ally from his wife’s heritage.
The Inconvenient Goddess deals with the early part of Katie’s ancient story. Moudad and Rabea nurse her to health as word spreads Ištar has come to earth. Tushratta, the Mitanni king who rules ancient Iraq sends forty chariots to the small village of Lalish to see about this divine manifestation — enamored with the horses Katie accepts his offer to travel south to Nuzi where she meets Kikkuli, the master horse trainer of the kingdom.
Kikkuli is smart enough to realize Katie is not divine, yet he is impressed with her horse acumen. I open the book with this session: Katie calmly subdues a wild horse, one so untrainable Kikkuli had no luck doing what Katie did in an afternoon. Realizes what an asset Katie can be Kikkuli becomes her champion.
Unlike many modern doctors, Katie isn’t prepared to take on the mantle of divine goddess. She’s still recovering from her wounds and needs to make the psychological jump into divinity. The Inconvenient Goddess ends when Katie finally accepts her divine mantle. Kikkuli takes her to the place of eternal flames. A crater in central Iraq near Nuzi burns flammable gas oozing from the ground. Flames jump from the ground, even today. It was in this ancient holy place that Katie final tells René she’s going to accept the call: she’s ready to be Ištar.
Four stories come after The Inconvenient Goddess; Of Gods and Mortals, Queen of the Orontes, The Ivory Kingdom, and The Goddess of Death.
Death from Down Under is the third story I am pitching today. It is the first story in the Rory Evans line-up. Although Katie does a cameo in Death, the rest of these Rory Evans adventures occur when Katie is missing, and Rory worries and hopes he’ll see her again. That hope creates a reason for him not to get emotionally close to the ladies he meets. One of them, Marol, would be a perfect wife. She’s intelligent, wealthy, she travels the world with her brother Hugh shooting film documentaries.
Jen, one of Doc Rory’s clients, introduces a new disease into the United States when she sneaks sugar gliders into Paso Robles through SFO, San Francisco International airport on the last leg of her trip to Australia.
Jen is a world-class Chesapeake Bay breeder who is called upon to sell one of her puppies to Billy, a rugged, wealthy widower in Queensland, Australia. Jen's dedication to her breed sends her to the wild Australian forests to complete the sale while she waits for her puppy to be released from quarantine. For a month, she will be separated a continent apart from her home and her husband. During this time, she is drawn into the novelty of the Australian world. Her love of animals, her loneliness and her need for family will send her down a rabbit hole of choices, and the path she picks proves disastrous.
There are issues involved when bringing an animal into Australia. The country is free of rabies and intends to stay that way, so any dog entering the country must undergo a thirty-day quarantine at one of three government quarantine stations. Jen picks the Sydney location because it is closest to Billy, who lives north of there in Queensland. He has a farm in Gatton.
Jen is introduced to sugar gliders while visiting a friend of Billy’s and feels it is something she needs to bring home with her. Have you ever seen, or held a glider? These brown furry marsupials fit in the palm of your hand, are cute and cuddly, unlike the leathery-skinned bats, we have in the States. Many places in the U.S. allow people to keep sugar gliders. But not California. Still, Jen was so enamored with a strain of white sugar gliders she covets them the first time she gazes upon one and formulates a plot to smuggle a group of four into the United States.
Although exporting gliders from Australia is illegal, Jen still decides to smuggle the animals into the states. She purchases Dusty, a Queensland Heeler to bring home and hires a welder to construct a hidden partition in the back of the kennel.
Hidden in the back of Dusty’s crate the gliders are secretly relocated to rural Paso Robles, on the central coast of California where they adjust exceedingly well. Soon Jen is dealing with lots of sugar glider babies. But, the gliders are carrying the Hendra Virus inside their blood systems, harboring an infection that kills horses and the people associated with them; horse owners and veterinarians. The epidemic has just recently been mapped out in Australia, so no one in the U.S. understands the real problem when people in California start dying of an unknown disease.
Rory is on the front line of this emerging disease. He sees the deaths firsthand. Luckily, he was away with Katie when his relief veterinarian was stricken and died from the mysterious illness. Katie arrives with disease experts from UC Davis. She’s in the MPVM program, earning a second postgraduate degree in preventative veterinary medicine. This problem is right up her alley; the Hendra Virus is what scientists term a zoonosis, a disease found in animals suddenly begins infecting humans. Jen’s place is quarantined. Debilitated to the point they need hospitalization Jen’s husband and neighbors are found infected with the Hendra Virus, so they are moved to the isolation section of Twin Cities Hospital. Still, the effort isn’t helpful, Jen’s husband dies, and his body is sent to Colorado to further the scientific study of this horrendous outbreak.
The infection is officially diagnosed to be caused by the Hendra Virus. However, the sugar gliders are never implicated as the culprit; Jen moved them days before the feds descended on the property. Because the only other possibility is the dog Dusty, he is euthanized, and the problem is officially solved. Jen flees to Australia. Husbandless, she looks to Billy for comfort.
Death from Down Under is a thriller; in the last chapter Rory is called out to treat a horse ill with signs eerily similar to the Hendra infections he witnessed, and immediately told the owner to drop the lead rope and leave the pen. Novel noises draw his attention as he leaves the paddock. Honey, his assistant, recognizes their tones as sugar gliders because she helped Jen raise them. There are sugar gliders in the hollow of a nearby tree.
I place Death from Down Under in a different category than the Katie books. I’m calling this section the Rory Evans Adventures. These are the stories that happen when Katie is gone. Rory yearns for her but continues on.
I have finished or am close to finishing other Rory adventures; Cocaine Eggs, The Tiger Lady, and The Devil Hunters. These are thrillers that involve veterinary themes. In Cocaine Eggs Rory uncovers a plot where imported ostrich eggs are filled with cocaine. The Tiger Lady relates the story of a client who brought a tiger sanctuary to the hills of Paso Robles. She ends up getting attacked. The Devil Hunters is a book about saving Tasmanian Devils from a wasting disease in Tasmania by moving them into the eastern hills of New South Wales where Rory runs into the thought-to-be-extinct Tasmanian Tiger.
This is my literary world, Laurie. I hope you can find a place for me in your agency. As you can see I’m not a one-trick-pony, nor am I lazy. My wife, Mary Macgregor is narrating my books into audio. She has the experience and talent. Her famous song, Torn Between Two Lovers came out when you and I were in college. We planned on using ACX as a platform, but now I think you said it would be best going through Audiobooks. I need to find those notes.
Hopefully I’ve intrigued you with these views of my world. Let me know if you feel there is a place for me at your agency, Laurie. I look forward to working with you. Recalling our conversation from the fall I understood you didn’t place a single new author last year. I suppose things continue to look sparse. That’s why I’ve shown you my entire collection. It’s a Hail Mary pass. Possibly one of the story threads will pique your interest.
I want to keep this letter as short as possible, so I’m sending you three more emails, each containing the first 50 pages of the three books I’m pitching.
James E. Aarons, DVM
The ADHD Author