BOOK V: A Curious Light

Angari smoothed his wing feathers, brushing his hands casually over their five-foot length.  The rocky ledge on which he sat was a drab green with soft moss its only ornamentation.  The man, unaware that Angari had watched him appear in a sparkle of light behind a stone outcropping, now stood before him. He was using his mouth to form words, though Angari could clearly understand his thoughts without physical expression.

“Can you tell me the name of this place?”  The sound was guttural and harsh.

“It is called Spring Hollow,” Angari answered, letting his words take the same form the stranger had used.

“Spring Hollow.  Is that the name of the planet or a country?”

Angari crossed his feet and assumed a casual air.  “The planet is Windfallow.  Do you have a reason for asking? Do you not live nearby?”

“No, I come from a great distance.  I am interested in learning about the people who live here.”  The man – Angari assumed he was human- was a few hands taller than Angari, who had been caught in a slightly smaller version of himself.  “Are all the people who live here, uh, winged, like yourself?” The stranger tried to appear unperturbed at the appearance of a humanoid dressed in silky, iridescent leggings and tunic with wings that surely had a span as wide as the creature was tall.  A head of bright yellow curls topped a tanned, well-proportioned body.

“No.  Some of us have wings and some do not.  You seem to know very little about us.  Did you say you were from a far place?”

Brasker decided to trust his instincts and level with the native. “Yes, I do come from a far place and it is not this world.  We fly through space in a big ship called Outrider, and explore any planet we find that might support life.  Your world registered on our machines as one of those.  Do you mind that we are visiting here?

“No, as long as you come in peace and do not stay long.  But why do you come here and what is your purpose?”

“As I said before, we explore planets that have the possibility of sustaining life.  Yours registered as one of that type and so we chanced a landing.”

Angari noted the use of the pronoun, ‘we’, but did not comment on it. Instead, he tendered an invitation to the man.  “While you are here, would you like to meet some of our people, perhaps the King and Queen of Lower Windfallow?”

“Yes, I’d like that.  By the way, my name is Lieutenant Brasker.  And your name is…?”

“Angari.  Follow me, please.”  The winged man turned to a path through the flower-studded meadow.

The landscape was bathed in brilliant sunlight causing the lieutenant to don sunglasses.  The climate control, built into his close-fitting uniform, kept him cool in the warm air.  He dropped back a few steps and touched the comlink on his tunic.  “Brasker to Outrider. Do you read me?” He spoke sotto voice, hoping the creature ahead could not hear

“Captain here, Lieutenant Brasker, report.” The Captain’s voice came through the implant just behind Brasker’s ear.

“I’ve landed on a planet called Windfallow and met a humanoid native named Angari.  He’s taking me to meet some of the people.  It appears to be an agrarian culture, but this guy has wings. And the scancom doesn’t pick him up at all. Haven’t seen any animals so far; the vegetation resembles that of earth with a blue tinge.  We are speaking Galactic standard. At least I’m hearing standard. The man – or whatever he is – is friendly, stands about 1.5 meters, and I’ve told him we’re from another world.  That OK?

“Guess it’ll have to be.  Proceed, Lieutenant.  We will track you from here.  Keep your comlink open. Outrider out.”

(After a walk through the countryside and an overnight stay at the palace, Brasker is ready to leave…)

True to his word, Angari was waiting outside his room when he woke from a sound, pleasant sleep.  Breakfast was a simple meal with the King, Queen and their three small children– and Angari, of course.  The food was served by more of the winged men and women who then sat down to eat with the others.

“I certainly hope the ship is getting all these scancom readings!” Brasker thought to himself.  “I want to know what’s going on here!”

“Would you like me to walk with you to your ship?” Angari offered, carefully keeping a smile from his face.

“If you can just go with me to the place where we first met, I’ll go on from there,” Brasker answered.  “I’ll be fine.”

Angari nodded and they took leave of their royal hosts

When the two reached the parting of the ways, Brasker shook Angari’s hand. It felt like a common enough hand; firm, slightly roughened by the elements.

“Will you be returning to visit us again, Lt. Brasker?” Angari asked.

“As far as I know now, we will not be returning.  This planet seems to have a good blend of citizens and we would not want to bring an imbalance to your population.”

“Very well, I shall bid you farewell,” said Angari, bowing. But before he turned away, he paused.  “May I ask you a question Lt. Brasker?”

“Of course,” the spaceman turned back.

“Do you believe in the One who made the universe through which you travel?”

The Lt., who was frequently razzed about his stubborn belief in a transcendent God, smiled.  “I certainly do, Angari.  I certainly do!” He raised his hand in a salute. “I almost hope we meet again, friend.”

Lt. Brasker walked on around the bend and the winged creature turned back toward Skye.  Just before Brasker disappeared from sight, he pointed the scancom once more at Angari.  “Still no reading. Hmmm, the One who made the universe.  Wings…” He shrugged his shoulders and walked on, tapping the comlink. “Brasker to beam up!”

Angari saw the sparkling cylinder of light and, breathing a sigh of relief, sat back down on the moss-covered rock through which there now peeked the shine of Emerald.  Two tiger cubs appeared out of the bushes and rubbed against his legs while squirrels and rabbits hopped to the sparkling stone beside him.  Fragrant blossoms drifted in the air from the ever-blooming trees and several tiny creatures lit on his shoulders.  On closer inspection, however, one noticed that these were tiny winged people.  They laughed and sang in their chiming voices, pulling at Angari’s hair and coaxing him to come back to Skye with them.

“Ok, let’s go!” Angari laughed. “You were very cooperative and very careful!” Suddenly he was as tiny as they were and the whole retinue winked out and reappeared over Skye. Here, the castle was shining with a refracted light that, had he been allowed to see it, would have blinded Brasker as the sun caught the facets of amethyst, ruby and diamond.  They swooped inside where translucent walls allowed the rich sunlight to fall in tiny rainbows over the amber floors and strike fire from the rich, faceted crystal saucers and goblets.

The Queen was just coming into the main hall with a circlet of minuscule Alari ornamenting her snowy hair.  Angari assumed full stature, something short of seven feet, and bowed before her.  “Come, Angari, and let us discuss what you learned of the stranger.” The Queen smiled at him.

“And, what he did not learn of us!” Angari offered the Queen his arm as they walked into the garden.

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BOOK IV: CARNIVORE

The object was too far beneath the surface to reach with one length of the drill, so they situated holes some distance away, then connected and widened them to where they could reset the drill at the bottom of the shaft and go sideways.  At last they were at a point some ten feet from the creature with a wall of ice between.  The voice had become more and more insistent as they fought exhaustion to reach their goal.  But not yet did the voice lose its enticing sweetness, its alluring promises of untold wealth.

Joe looked through the ice wall at the creature.  It was still impossible to tell what it was even though they were now quite close.  But one thing stood out in bright contrast.  They could see what appeared to be chains made of crystal.  These were wound tightly around the creature and flashed with cold fire when the sun hit them at certain angles.

The others stood close, crowding to see what lay beyond.  “Let’s go!” rasped Morrie.  “Let’s get in there!”

“Guys, we gotta sleep first!  We don’t even know what it is.  We can’t finish this without rest!”  Joe looked around.  “Drew, didn’t you bring some sleeping pills with you so you could sleep in the daylight?  I say we force ourselves to sleep.”  When they nodded in agreement, he climbed up the rigging and led the way to the tent, a hot supper and two sleeping pills each.  No one spoke his thoughts aloud.  No one spoke of the struggle he had disobeying the seductive voice.  They managed to sleep for four or five hours and woke refreshed in body if not in mind.  Each had dreamed of wealth, of houses built with rubies and sapphires.  But each had slept.

Now, they were once again hard at it.  Not trusting the drill in such delicate work, they used pick axes to move more slowly through the ice.  The work was backbreaking, but no one complained.  When less than a foot of ice remained, they caught a clearer vision of the crystal chain but the figure remained indistinct.  It was dark-skinned, the shape of a human but much taller and more muscular.  Its head was turned away from them and they could see no sign of life.  Except for the voice – the voice that now allowed a momentary fury to color its temptation – a voice obviously under tight control.

As Joe carefully tapped the last shards of ice separating the crew from the figure, his mind suddenly cleared.  “What are we doing?” He whirled away to those behind.  “Are we all crazy?  How do we know what this thing is?  Nobody knows where we are.  We sent out false co-ordinates to the company.  What if something goes wrong?”

“What could go wrong?  That thing has to have been here for at least a thousand years.  How else would it be so deep?  You can’t tell me a thousand year-old mummy is gonna be dangerous!  Move over.  I’ll finish it.”

Drew pushed Joe aside, but not before Morrie spoke up.  “Then whose voice did we hear?”  That brought all the men to a halt.

“We didn’t actually hear a voice,” argued Charley, “We just thought the words.  Maybe it was set to send out some kind of aural signal so somebody close enough could hear it.’

“Yeah, maybe there’s a message somewhere in there for earth.”  Joe felt his resolve to back away from the adventure crumble in the face of their logic.  He motioned Drew back to work and watched as the body was exposed.  The ice was easier to separate from the body than was expected and soon there lay before them the figure of a man lying face down and wrapped in crystal chains.  The body was perfectly preserved.  No clothing hid the bulging muscles and sinews.  The hands were clenched into the ice as though trying to move the glacier by sheer effort.

Drew, closest to the creature, reached out and touched it.  Instantly, he jerked back.  “It’s warm!”  He moved back forcibly until he was behind the others.  “I tell you that thing’s alive!  I agree with Joe.  We need somebody to know where we are and what’s down here.”

Morrie nodded, “We’ll send a message as soon as we’re back up top.  But look at the chain!  The thing can’t move as long as that chain is in place.  Hey, Joe, what do you make of it?”

Joe looked over Morrie’s shoulder.  “Yeah, it looks like diamonds.  But how did they make it into a chain?  That either had to be one huge diamond or it’s something we’ve never heard of before.”  He reached out to touch it but something made him pause.  Did he see a finger move slightly? He watched the thing’s back to see if he could detect any sign of breathing.  He shook his head.  Breathing?  The thing was ancient.  It was dead.  Joe touched the chain.

No message was sent topside.  No word was heard from the crew of young scientists who’d been sent to explore a glacier within the Arctic Circle.  Crystal chain, forged in another world where evil had never walked, exploded when touched by a human.  A crater swallowed the men, the camp, the drilling rig as though they had never existed, blasting them to dust as a monstrous entity boiled out of its crystalline prison.

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BOOK III The Deceiver

Lightning danced through billowing thunderheads above the volcano. A presence brooded in those clouds; its home destroyed in the fiery depths below, it looked for another. The presence would have gnashed its teeth as it boiled up into the blackness of chaos, but it had no form. Hatred blazed where its heart might have been and it held a face in its memory. The face of a thirteen-year-old named Zach.

A home. It must have a home: a thing of substance, an object with which to manipulate and control the puny minds of men. The presence left the cloud and floated above the earth—seeking, sensing, probing the minds below for weakness, for the skills it needed.

The woman sat at her workbench, her fingers playing idly with a ball of wax. On a shelf above her were a variety of figures—gargoyles, vampires, and wizards—all cast in pewter and all sculpted by her skilled hands. She was known for figures of medieval lore. Those who dabbled in the dark world of demons and witchcraft prized her work.

She seldom had a shape in mind as she began sculpting. The wax seemed to form of its own volition. Now, her fingers began shaping an animal. It was thin and hungry looking; it’s eyes curiously alive. Presently, a jackal stood on her worktable looking back at her. She could not look away. Her hands began to tremble as she reached out to touch her creation. “Cast me!” the jackal hissed. “Now!”

Unable to resist the command, she prepared the molding material and cast the figure. Not until the pewter was cooled and removed from the mold was she released from the spell. She moved back from the table and stared at what she’d made. It was immediately recognizable as a jackal, but it was twisted into a grotesquely ugly caricature of the animal. Its mouth was opened in a snarl, its tail tucked under its body. Evil radiated from it. “Give me eyes! Those rubies you bought yesterday. Put them in!”

She took a box from the drawer and opened it to reveal several small red stones. They’d been bought for a client to make eyes for two gargoyles just cast. Other work was forgotten now. Selecting two, she laid them beside the sculpture, picked up a stamping tool, and took the jackal in hand to work. She dropped it again with a cry of pain. It was white hot to the touch and her hand was blistered.

“Pick me up, fool! Give me eyes! I will not burn you a second time.”

She ignored the request and headed for the first aid kit. As she reached for the salve, she glanced at her hand. The blisters were gone, the skin pink and healthy. If not for the throbbing, she could make herself believe the incident had not happened. “I told you I would not burn you again. Give me eyes!”

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THE WINDFALLOW CHRONICLES: BOOK II OF ROCKS AND GOLD

Zach made a spectacular hole-in-one—right through the windmill, under the swinging gorilla and into the cup. How could life get any better? he thought to himself.  And all with Amanda watching! The girls clapped and giggled and Travis doffed his Bears cap, saluting Zach.

Sally and Melissa Tate were sisters who lived beside Amanda and had become friends with the new girl over the summer. Melissa was a year younger than the others and rather shy. Sally, on the other hand, was never at a loss for words. She commandeered Travis as her own immediately, which pleased Zach no end. He felt a little guilty since he knew Melissa had a crush on him. Guilt aside, he smiled at and talked to her for Amanda’s benefit until he was brave enough to speak directly to Amanda. The evening went well and Zach went home in a glow of happy anticipation of life in the seventh grade.

The glow was forgotten as he stepped into his room to find Angari sitting on his bed. “Angari! How did you get here?” Zach stood in the doorway staring at the full-size Alari sitting on his bed.

“We discovered I was the only one who could come and go freely from our world to yours, Zach. We’ve been trying for years to get it right, but this is the only thing that worked.”

“Years? You were just here a couple of weeks ago. What’s with the years?”

“You’ve forgotten that time flows at a different pace in Windfallow. It has been almost twenty years since you were there.”

Zach dropped into the chair by his desk and stared at Angari. “You’re invisible to everyone but me, aren’t you?”

“Yes. How did you know?”

“Well, you’re not exactly dressed for earth, you know.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Angari looked down at his tights and tunic. His wings were folded along his side and legs and his bright yellow hair was a tousled mass of curls. “Guess it’s just as well they can’t see me, huh?”

“Yeah. Why don’t you look older, Angari, if it’s been twenty years?” Zach suddenly sat up straight. “What about Stilts? He was old when I was there. Is he still alive?”

“Not with us, Zach. He has been taken to the Eternal Plane. I think you will see him when you reach that place.”

“You mean Heaven?”

“Yes, I think that’s what you call it. We’ve been studying the Holy Bible you gave to Stilts.” Tears filled Angari’s eyes. “I am the only angel who has been allowed to read it and only a few of the elders. We are afraid the fallowfolk and the Alari as well would be terribly wounded even to read what your earth has done to the Maker’s Son.”

The tears fell down his cheeks. “How could you do that to Him?” Angari’s wings unfolded and he began to change into the incredible creature Zach had seen before. Then, his wings relaxed and he was plain old Angari again. “Forgive me, Zach, I know it was not you who did it.”

“But I’m just as capable of it, Angari,” Zach said sadly. “That’s the main difference between our world and yours.” He was silent for a moment, then asked, “Can you tell my why you’ve come back?”

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The Great Bell

THE GREAT BELL introduces the series as Zachary Thomas accidentally falls into a tunnel and comes out in Windfallow. He finds his presence there is not an accident for he is able to help the fallowfolk understand how the human mind works in its corrupted state.  He lends his aid to Stilts, an elder fallowman and Angari, an Alari or angel, as they recover one of the Great Bells given the fallowfolk by the Maker and stolen by the demon possessed crooks.

Excerpt

The three visible companions left the woods and walked across the park toward Zach’s house. Few saw them and those that did paid them little attention. They looked like a couple of brothers and a grandpa who had sore feet. “I’ll never get used to these footcovers!” Stilts grumbled more than once.

When they got to the house, Zach’s mother looked at her son and at the two men who were wearing clothes she could swear she had just folded and put away last night. “Mom, I want you to meet Stilts and Sparrow. This is my mom, Sarah. We need to talk to Dad, is he here?”

“How do you do.” Sarah looked more and more perplexed. “He’s in the den, Zach. I’ll come with you.”

The two visitors bowed and followed her through the house. Zach’s father was sitting at a desk in a room filled with books. A computer sat to one side and a Bible lay open before him.

“Dad, can we talk to you?” Zach began, “This is Stilts and Sparrow. I know their names sound funny, but you’ll hear stranger stuff than that in a minute. Oh, this is my Dad, John Thomas.”

Stilts and Sparrow bowed, and Stilts spoke, “It is an honor to meet the parents of Zachary. We of Windfallow salute you.”

Mr. Thomas stood and offered his hand. “Any friend of Zach’s is welcome here.” The visitors shook hands and took the seats he offered. Sarah Thomas was still speechless.

“Dad, have you ever heard of a sign near that overgrown woods in the  park?”  Zach’s dad did not answer. He had just noticed his favorite golf shirt on Stilts. Zach went on. “I went in there after an arrow that got lost, you know? And I fell in a hole and ended up in a place I never saw before.”

“His father stopped him. “Wait a minute. Did you say Windfallow? I don’t recall a town by that name near here. Can you men tell me where you actually live?”

Sparrow took over the conversation at this point. “Mr. Thomas, Zachary has told us you are a preacher, a man of God. Is that correct?”

“Yes, it is. I mean I am, yes. But what has that…”

“It has everything to do with why we are here, and I’ll bring you up to date on what has been happening. But first I must ask you to promise not to let what I am about to say go beyond this house.” He looked at Zach’s parents and, at their nod, continued with the story of how Zach had come into Windfallow, the theft of the Great Bell and what it would mean to his world. It required a bit of history as well and it was soon apparent that Mr. Thomas had never heard of the pact between the two worlds.

“I knew it! The humans forgot the bargain altogether! No wonder the thieves got through! Well, we’ll just have to finish our business here and see that the gate is closed for good. Sorry, Mr. Thomas, I don’t hold you personally to blame.” Stilts wound down and nodded to Sparrow to continue.

“As you can see, Mr. Thomas, we must find the Bell of Fellowship and return it to its rightful place. The thieves do not know who we are and they did not get a good look at our faces. They don’t even know if we are in this world or not.”

“Are you saying you need Zachary’s help in this?” Mrs. Thomas found her voice. “Surely you can’t think of putting our son in danger.”

“No one has passed through the gate in centuries, Ma’am. Our queen believes he was sent to us for this very purpose,” Sparrow tried to explain.

“Do you mean through magic?” Sarah Thomas did not look convinced.

“A kind of magic,” Sparrow answered, “but more like the working of our Maker. He sent Zach to us when we needed him most. None of us knew how to get along in your world, for only I have done any studying of it and that was from a distance. He has given us valuable help already and if you are willing, will give us more.”

Mr. Thomas spoke up. “Is your Maker the same as our God?”

“Yes,” answered Stilts, “One God made all there is in this universe. As we traveled here, Zach told us about your belief in Him and that He even caused a book to be written about Himself. That is a wonderful thing to think of. I would greatly appreciate seeing such a book.”

Mr. Thomas reached back to a shelf. “Here is a Bible you can keep for yourself, Mr. Stilts. I have plenty.”

Stilts took the Bible with a look of deep reverence. “You call it Bible?” he asked.

“Actually, as you can see on the cover, it is called Holy Bible. Bible is an old word for book, but this book was inspired by God and the writers of it put down what the Spirit of God told them to write.”

“Spirit. That’s what is shining in some of you in this world,” said Sparrow thoughtfully. “Thank you, Mr. Thomas. We will guard it well. May we make copies of our own from this?”

“You can as long as you do not change or rearrange it in any way. It must stay true to what is written. Now, how can we help you regain your Bell?”

“You have already helped by giving us clothes and we thank you for them.” Sparrow bowed. “But we need a little of your money in order to search for the Bell. And we need Zachary to help us get around here.”

“How do you propose to find the Bell? Do you know where they will go with it?”

“No, we have no idea where they might hide it. But this I do know. It cannot be rung here without profound consequence. If it is rung here, it will cause a warp in your time. There will be an explosion around it and time will shimmer for many miles around.”

“You mean like the shimmer I saw at the Wood and in my room last night?” Zach asked.

“Yes. We’ll be able to see the shimmer when it gets here, but I do not know what it will do to time.” Sparrow looked at Mr. Thomas, “Is there any way you can keep track of happenings in your world? I mean, would you know if an explosion occurred?”

“Of course. It would probably be on the evening news.” He looked at his watch. “It’s just coming on, let’s see if there’s any mention of it.” He led the way into the living room and turned on the TV.

Sparrow and Stilts jumped back when they saw figures moving on the screen.

“Don’t worry,” laughed Zach. “They’re just pictures.”

“Can they see or hear us?” asked Stilts with a worried look on his face.

“No it’s a one way setup. Let’s watch.” They all took seats and Mr.

Thomas turned up the volume. A commercial was just winding down for a fast food restaurant. Zach saw a whole range of emotions play across the faces of his new friends. Then the newscaster came on.

“Our top story tonight concerns an explosion that occurred in Oklahoma today. We’re not sure what happened and no one has been able to get to the exact spot to give a report. It appears to have occurred between Miami and Bartlesville, but the news media and police alike are having trouble getting a fix on exactly where the explosion occurred.” A fuzzy picture of a rural area came on screen behind the anchorman’s head.

“Look! It’s the time warp!” Stilts walked to the set thinking he could see better up close. “See the shimmer? That’s what we’re looking for all right! Come on!” He started for the door.

“Wait a minute, Mr. Stilts, let’s see what they’re saying.” Zach’s dad held up his hand for silence as the commentator continued.

“The explosion registered a 5.7 on the Richter scale, but there’s no evidence of a quake and nothing seems to have been damaged. The most unusual effects of it seem to be in the area of time. No one can agree on the day or time within 300 miles.”

“That’s enough for me, too!” Sparrow looked at Zach. “How do we get to this Oklahoma?

“Well, we’re in Indiana right now. How about I show you a map? That will be easier than trying to explain.” Mr. Thomas reached over to the table where a road atlas lay. Zach opened it to a map of the US and showed Sparrow where they were and where they had to go. They were between four hundred and four hundred and fifty miles from Miami, Oklahoma.

“Do our miles correspond to yours, Sparrow?” Zach asked.

“I think they’re about the same. But we could get there quicker if we let Angari fly us there, I guess.”

“Who’s Angari?” Mrs. Thomas asked.

“Oh, boy. How do I explain Angari, Stilts?” Zach saw Angari leaning over the map on the far side of Sparrow.

“Let me try,” the old man said. “You see, in our land the angels are visible. Here, they aren’t. It must have something to do with your world being wounded. In any case, Angari would be known here as an angel. In our land they are called Alari because of their wings.”

“He has wings?” Sarah Thomas looked with awe at the spot Zach had indicated. “He’s an angel? Did you say they are here as well? All the time only we can’t see them?”

“That’s right, Ma’am,” Sparrow spoke up. “Angari, do you think you could let the Thomases see you just this once?”

There was a long silence and then Angari changed before Zach’s eyes.  He began to glow; his garments became bright white and his skin golden bronze. Zach heard a gasp from his parents as Angari came into full view. Even Stilts and Sparrow stepped back a pace.

“Why don’t you look like that in Windfallow?” whispered Stilts, for once subdued.

“Because you couldn’t endure the sight of so many of us in this form.” Angari spread his glistening wings. “Can you imagine what it would be like to order us around if we looked like this?”

“Order you around?” Sparrow grew pale. “We do, don’t we? And we never think a thing of it. Why do you let us?”

“Because we’re your servants. That’s part of our service to the Maker, to give glory to Him and to serve His people. Our service gives Him glory.”

John and Sarah Thomas had been taking in the conversation between the glorious being that had just appeared and the men from Windfallow. John Thomas spoke, “Are you saying that these angels serve the people of Windfallow?”

Stilts answered, his eyes never leaving Angari’s. “Yes sir, but I have never seen one who looked like this.  Angari, will you forgive all my foolish words?”

Angari folded his wings. “Ah, my friends, please forget this form and go back to treating me the way you always have. We are created beings just like yourselves and we serve the Maker in our own way.” He looked at John and Sarah and Zach. “You see me as I really am, but there are other angels in this room who serve you. They are present all over Earth and there will be a day when they will rise to meet the Maker as He comes to you and you will see how many thousands have been among you. Now, can you find places for the heroes to sleep for a few hours? Then, we must head for Oklahoma.”

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POSTS

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BOOKS BY THE MINDSINGER_Donna Swanson

Here you will find descriptions and excerpts from books written by Donna Swanson and directions to their market sources.  Swanson has been writing poetry, prose and news columns for the past forty  years.  Among those works are a poem, Minnie Remembers, and a previously published book, Mind Song.

This will be the home of books past and present for your enjoyment.  All are family friendly and inspirational.  Please browse them at your leisure.

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