Yes, I actually finished Tennis Shoes Book 12 on Saturday. Now I'm furiously rewriting and cleaning it up so that it's ready for publication. I attached a copy to my publisher, but except for their expected reply of, "Thanks! We got it! Looking forward to reading it!" they didn't have much else to say. Thus, I can't offer anyone any predictions as to when it might be on the shelves.
I think I'll go with the title Drums of Desolation unless my publisher strenuously feels otherwise. The title has grown on me. Which is not to say I'd have any problem if it were titled Thorns of Glory, Pt. 1. That's the title I stared at all the months as I was writing it. But Drums of Desolation is unique and quickly distinguishes the book.
Again, it's one of my longer Tennis Shoes books. Doesn't seem to matter though. No matter how long I make 'em, readers are no less frustrated when they read that awful "To be continued..." notice on the last page. Be comforted that I've already started Book 13. I hope to complete the manuscript by the time this one reaches the shelves. In any case, I won't let any other projects interrupt it.
Thanks for your patience (or impatience)! :)
Here's an excerpt from the book that helps readers understand how it ties in with both Sorcerers and Seers and Escape from Zarahemla. The narrator of this excerpt is Harry:
Huracan was back!
Her appearance was astonishing, like a warm surge of electricity to the heart—especially at such a dark and dismal moment. But even miracles generally had explanations. These woods around the lower slopes of the Hill Shim were isolated by plains, rivers, and grasslands. How could Huracan have slipped through hundreds of thousands of Lamanite soldiers? There was only one answer. She’d abandoned Antionum and his contingent of warriors from Seibalche—and recently!—likely within the last few hours. Had she spotted us as our delegation marched toward Shim? Ahh, what did it matter? Heck, if we really wanted to find out how she got here, all we had to do was ask her!
The jaguar bowled over Gidgiddonihah as he reached out to embrace her. Gid’s laughter was like that of a young boy as he rolled on the ground. It was a sweet sound.
“No licking!” cried Gid as she made several attempts to remove the skin of his cheek with her sandpaper tongue. Next Huracan accosted Apollus, who also received her affections with joy. I knew that I was next. Rafa squawked in protest and took to the air. I braced myself for the “bear hug” of a jaguar.
Instead, Huracan circled around my legs like an oversized housecat. At that instant, something else in the woods caught my eye. Someone stood in the trees at almost the precise place where the jaguar had emerged. It was a boy.
He stared at us, nervous and concerned, but doing everything in his power to hide it. The boy was dressed like a common Nephite, but his features . . . were different. They were not Nephite.
Moroni also saw him. “Child,” he said firmly but kindly. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
He replied in a stutter. “I-I was, uh, traveling with the jaguar.”
At that moment Gid returned to his feet. He looked at the boy. At first he stared at him with the same curiosity as the rest of us. Then the intensity of his stare magnified tenfold. The old warrior’s jaw dropped like a grand piano from a rooftop. His eyes became as wide as ostrich eggs.
“I know this boy!” he proclaimed.
We turned to Gid, perplexed.
“You know him?” I asked, wondering if he’d meant something more symbolic like, “I know his race” or “I know what kind of boy he is” or even “I know where he comes from.” I’d known Gidgiddonihah for a long time—many, many years. I’d have thought that in all those years a boy such as this would have been mentioned. Gid had never said a word. Yet Gid had meant exactly what he said.
“Yes,” he confirmed. “I know him. He saved me in a way you cannot imagine. I know him very, very well.”
Gid noticed the boy was also gaping, utterly nonplussed. I think he would have liked to have embrace the teenager as a friend, but the kid appeared so disturbed that Gid was content to place a firm hand on his shoulder.
"Brock, isn't it?" Gid asked. "Brock McConnell?"
In an unsteady voice, Brock inquired, "Gidgiddonihah?"
Gid put his other hand on the boy's opposite shoulder to steady him. "Yes," he confirmed. "Gracious, boy! How did you get here? Where is your sister? How long ago did you arrive?"
He opened and closed his mouth like a goldfish. He was still trying to wrap his head around an incomprehensible reality. He certainly wasn't ready to answer Gid's cannonade of questions. Brock was 13 or 14, lanky, with short-cropped brown hair with a kind of mullet, a throw-back to the 80s, except that the mullet was rounded off like a watermelon slice. His eyes blinked tightly, rapidly, as if trying to rouse himself from a dream.
He asked haltingly, "What . . happened . . . to you?"
Gid leaned back, realizing for the first time how shocking his appearance must have been. "I got old," he said flatly, squinting as if to emphasize the crow's feet.
"How?" asked Brock incredulously. "I saw you yesterday!"
"Yesterday?" Gid sighed wearily and glanced at Moroni who'd remained close by with Gilgal and a couple other captains. Gid seemed to find all this time travel nonsense irksome. Gid was a simple man and he liked simple explanations. Moroni's son, Moronihah, as well as his father, Mormon, and the other members of the Nephite delegation, were crossing the nearby stream to combine forces with the contingent of a thousand Nephite warriors that had been waiting for us at the foot of the hill. My Uncle Garth had joined them. Mormon's mind was beset with more distressing matters than the appearance of a "tame" jaguar and a teenage boy. The fate of two traitors: Judge Tugaloth and Judge Moriantumr. Not to mention the annihilation of their race in a battle that would promptly begin in less than two days.
Zenephi, the corrupt and merciless Chief Judge of the Nephites, had been slain only moments before. He'd attempted to betray the Nephite leaders into enemy hands, deliver them up like roasted pigs with the customary apples in their mouths, hoping that in return he might receive some kind of prestigious post in the "new order" of Cumorah's conquerors. Unfortunately for Zenephi, his treacherous proposal was roundly rejected by Fireborn, the military commander of Teotihuacan, and by Teotihuacan's king, whose name was Spearthrower Owl. They'd expressed no interest in establishing any kind of "new order" of government among the Nephites. They wanted only one thing: the destruction of every breathing man, woman, and child of Nephite birth.
Zenephi's efforts to single-handedly deliver up the Nephite leadership to imprisonment or execution was also rejected by Eagle-Sky-Jaguar, the newly-anointed Lamanite king of Tikal, who the rest of us knew by his less-formal name, Lamanai. Lamanai's rival from the southern highlands also favored annihilation. He was called Sa'abkan, and his kingdom of the Earth-Stone encompassed the land of Zarahemla which had once been the territory of the Nephites. The sentiment of genocide was also supported by the Lamanite kings of the Cloud Mountains and the Weeping Forests. All Lamanite and Gadianton rulers had chosen death over diplomacy. They wanted to wipe the Nephite scourge off the map.
A half hour earlier, as we'd descended the slopes of the Hill Shim, nerves had been very tightly wound. Everyone in the Nephite delegation knew that the Chief Judge had betrayed them. The spring soon snapped and within minutes Zenephi was dead. Several of us, among them Mormon, Moroni, Moronihah, Shem, Comnor, Lamah, Apollus and me, had all tried to protect him, but the wrath of captains like Gilgal, Jeneum and others could not be restrained. Arrows zinged past us, piercing Zenephi's body. The mob's fury had prevailed.
Judge Tugaloth and Judge Moriantumr would have been murdered as well, but Moroni bravely stood before their would-be executioners and proclaimed that he would die with them if the slaughter continued. He appealed to their humanity, insisting their actions only proved that Lord Fireborn was right when he'd called the Nephites as "monsters and vermin." Moroni wanted their fate to be decided by the Nephite people. He ordered Gilgal and the other impassioned lynch-men to march ahead of their group. The mob finally backed down. They marched across the stream and northward toward the gates of the city named for the man they'd just slain. Captains like Shem, Comnor, Lamah, and Moronihah, were now frog-marching Tugaloth and Moriantumr to Mormon's headquarters. Gilgal, however, lingered back. He'd seen and heard many curious and suspicious things over the last several weeks. He might have thought that Brock might reveal answers to certain mysteries that he should have left well enough alone.
Moroni looked eastward. He clearly wanted to catch up to his father and his son, now on the opposite side of the stream. Nevertheless, he turned back and asked Gidgiddonihah, "You know this boy?"
"Yes," said Gid. "And his sister."
"Where did you meet them?"
Gid hesitated. "I . . . met them before we arrived at the ruins of Desolation."
Moroni gave Brock another once-over. He looked at me while simultaneously asking Gid, "Is he a Nephite?"
Moroni knew that I'd been with Gid prior to our reunion at Desolation—the site where Gid and Apollus had fought (almost) to the death—so I realized Moroni was also asking this question of me. I smiled at Gid, but in a non-committal way, as if I was content to let him try to answer Moroni's question without assistance.
I was no fool. This kid looked about as "Nephite" as an Alpine goat herder. But to Moroni, the name "Nephite" wasn't merely racial. Sure, there were many Nephites who tried to make it racial, but like his father, Moroni considered it a cultural designation. A religious identity. That's how his ancestors had viewed it for three hundred years. They wanted others to see it that way as well. To Mormon the name implied that the man was a follower of Christ, while "Lamanite" or "Gadianton" designated an apostate or backslider, no matter their racial origins.
For all practical purposes, I noted very few physical differences between Nephites and Lamanites. That is to say, I noticed great varieties of physical differences. Since the days of Christ's appearance and during several centuries of relative peace there had much mixing among the tribes and kinships. Differences now related to how the tribes dressed, the style of their tattoos, and how they behaved.
Still, Brock was an anomaly. Nothing about the boy's physical features said Nephite, Lamanite or any other local "-ite." His clothing was ancient in style, although terribly out-of-fashion. I vaguely remembered these patterns and weavings from when I was a kid, living in a different Nephite era—the century when the Savior had visited the temple at Bountiful. Modern Nephites would have labeled his clothing as provincial—backwards. The dead giveaway about Brock's true origin was by his shoes. Pure 21st century: Adidas Barricades. This left no doubt: the kid was a time traveler.
I couldn't fathom where Gid had met him. I'd always thought that Gid's only experience with time-travelers were members of my immediate family. Or close associates like Apollus, Pagag, Mary, Micah, and Jesse. However, something deep down had always suggested that this idea didn't quite gel. Even when I was ten-years-old, traveling with Gid by canoe or riding with him on the shoulders of Rachel, the mammoth, I'd always found it odd—and comforting—that Gidgiddonihah had never questioned our origin. He'd never asked my father or uncle about the crazy things they said or out-of-sync events that occurred around us. Gid instinctively knew not to ask, like a professional butler who does his job discreetly and ignores the eccentricities of those he serves. Gid was a warrior. He was our bodyguard. It was a job he relished and did especially well.
Come to think of it, this was the first time I'd ever seen him "tap dance" to protect the secrets of time-travelers.
"Yes," Gid said to Moroni. "He is a Nephite. Not from these parts, but his ancestors traveled northward in the days of the great migrations. He is from a placed called—"
Gid had forgotten the name. Or pretended to forget it (if he'd ever known it to begin with). He looked to Brock for the answer.
"L-Los Angeles," Brock replied.
I learned later Brock should've said St. George, Utah. Anyway, the kid felt a greater connection to Los Angeles.
Moroni liked the name. "Place of the angels," he repeated approvingly.
Smooth, I thought. I think my dad and Uncle had used the old "ancestor-who-migrated-north" line to explain their origins more times than I could count. Gid had obviously learned from the best.
@ 2014 Chris Heimerdinger