Back of Book
Wanders Far lived in dangerous times and was faced with one difficult challenge after another. He was a skinny, quiet boy who was raised on the banks of a tributary of New York State’s Mohawk River, hundreds of years before colonists arrived. One lifetime was not enough for Wanders Far’s old soul.
From a very young age, his wanderlust compelled him down one path after another. No village could contain him.
He was happy living a simple life in the physical world during challenging times. The spirit world had other plans.
A wise, enigmatic shaman mentored Wanders Far and helped him cultivate the supernatural visions that haunted him. His guide could only help him so far.
He set out to become a runner, carrying important messages across the lands of his people and their enemies. He ended up fulfilling a much greater destiny than he ever imagined.
As an amateur author, just getting started, it was so gratifying when American Book Fest contacted me with fantastic news. I was blown away! As if being named a FINALIST in the Fiction/Western category wasn't enough, being a WINNER in the Best Cover Design category was such a huge honor for Wanders Far-An Unlikely Hero's Journey.
The Laramie Book Awards "recognize emerging new talent and outstanding works in the Americana / Western, Pioneer, Civil War, Frontier, and First Nations Novels." Just the kind of books I like to read! So I submitted Wanders Far for consideration. First Wanders Far made the "long list," then the "shortlist," and made it through the semi-finals. Now Wanders Far is a finalist. It would be fun to win, but what a thrill to make it this far!
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Praise for Wanders Far
"This engrossing, well-written novel tells the story of a pivotal moment in Iroquois history through a well-traveled protagonist." - Kirkus Reviews
"Books that mix different genres may appear chaotic or incomplete. The difficulty is that every element must be balanced so as not to overwhelm the others. Of course, this result is possible with a fine author, and David Fitz-Gerald has worked wonders in his amazing book Wanders Far: An Unlikely Hero's Journey. This novel blends historical, spiritual, and adventurous elements. It tells the story of a young Native American, Wanders Far, who lived several centuries before the colonists arrived. A wanderer since an early age, Wanders Far’s wish is to become a runner and carry messages for his people. However, he has visions that make him different from the others. After a shaman helps him understand his gift, Wanders Far will fulfill his destiny.
"Wanders Far is a praiseworthy book from many viewpoints. The first is that it benefits from exquisite storytelling. Fitz-Gerald’s descriptions of people and places are mesmerizing. The characters are well carved, and it is quite surprising to think that they are fictional. Some of them, like Wanders Far and his mother, Bear Fat, are fully-rounded, and in the end, I had the impression that I had personally met them. The ease with which Fitz-Gerald blends reality and spiritual, almost supernatural elements reveals his superior writing skills. Wanders Far: An Unlikely Hero's Journey is one of those books that creates the illusion that everything you read is real. I think that the characters will accompany every reader for a long time. I am glad this is the first installment of a series, and I am looking forward to the next books." - Readers' Favorite
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Excerpts from the book
Wanders Far-An Unlikely Hero's Journey
From Chapter Two: A Good Place to Start a New Life
It was about a month before the spring solstice. The new village was finished. All that was left to do was move everything that remained in the old village.
It was a lot of work. The trail between the old village and the new village became very well worn. A few of the older people had remained behind while the new village was being built. Bear Fat’s mother was one of them. Gentle Breeze was a happy, healthy, 51-year-old great-grandmother. She still mourned the loss of her husband who had died the previous fall and being alone in the longhouse at the old village had left her feeling lonely. She had been accustomed to tending the hearth and preparing meals for Bear Fat and her large family. Gentle Breeze dedicated her time to keeping the old village spotlessly clean while her people spent two months building the new village. Bear Fat knew better than to ask her mother why she would devote so much time to keeping a place clean that no one would occupy again.
Bear Fat’s eyes met her mother’s. She smiled warmly, and softly said, “Mother, it is time to go.” The final parade from the old village began. Their chief ceremonially led the way. Gentle Breeze and Bear Fat brought up the rear. Bear Fat’s position as matriarch was even more important to the people than the chief’s role, and it was fitting that the entire tribe marched between their chief and their matriarch.
Bear Fat kept up with her people. She had made the ten mile walk many times over the previous couple of months as they prepared to move. That final walk was a lot more challenging. She hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. About half way to the new village, it became clear to Bear Fat that her baby was on the way. For weeks she had wondered, would the baby be born in the old village or the new village? She hadn’t thought to wonder whether the baby would be born on the path between villages, but that was exactly what happened. She believed everything in life had meaning. Bear Fat wondered what it meant that her baby would be born along the trail. One day she would come to know.
Seven miles down the path, Bear Fat told her mother the baby was coming. Another mile down the path, she stopped in a small clearing in the woods where the ferns gave way to moss and grass. She thought it looked like a good place to start a new life. With her mother’s help, Bear Fat gave birth to another son. There was no such thing as an effortless labor, but that boy came fast. So that’s what she called him: Fast. Bear Fat liked one-word names for her babies. Her new boy was a strong, healthy, good-looking baby. Bear Fat and Gentle Breeze shared a warm glance. Bear Fat sent her thoughts to the Great Spirit: “May he serve our people well.”
Then they were only three hours behind the rest of the village. Bear Fat wrapped her baby in a tiny blanket and placed him between her breasts, his small head tilted sideways against her chest, and the tiny black smudge of hair on his head tickled her chin. Gentle Breeze helped lift Bear Fat’s pack on to Bear Fat’s back, then picked up her own heavily laden basket. Bear Fat couldn’t wait to get to the new village and introduce her new baby to their people. Having just given birth, it took Bear Fat and Gentle Breeze a long time to walk the final two miles.
From Chapter Fifteen: A Malevolent Presence
Their hosts guided them along the trail to elevated bluffs above the lake. For a long time, they stood at the edge of a cliff, three hundred feet above the surface of the lake, looking out over the glistening, Shining Waters. Immediately over the edge of the cliff there were giant rock formations, mud-colored spires, tortuously sculpted by the elements throughout the ages.
When the others had tired of standing at the precipice, they followed the trail which crossed the bluff then led down the hill to the shore. After a while, Wanders Far was alone. He stood at the edge of the precipice and stretched his arms as wide as he possibly could.
A bald eagle soared into view, looking for a meal, scampering along the exposed terrain. Wanders Far thought the eagle had quite an advantage.
He concentrated and visualized himself seeing the view from the eagle’s perspective. Remarkably, he felt the sensation of his soul leaving his body. Then he felt the spirit of the bird. There was a feeling of hunger, and a need to feed. Wanders Far felt a malevolent presence. The bird was an inhospitable host for the boy and was eager to return to the work of finding a meal.
Briefly, the eagle tolerated the boy’s pointless flight. He spread his wings wide and effortlessly glided across the top of the prominent formations, then tilted effortlessly to the left and flew out over the water. Wanders Far saw himself standing on the edge of the far away cliff through the eagle’s eyes way out over the open water. Then the eagle tilted again, turning back toward the dunes.
The eagle’s eye caught sight of a medium sized jackrabbit near the bottom of a hill, slightly to the west of the cliffs, a very short distance from the pebble beach where Wanders Far’s hosts and companions stood, feet in the water. Wanders Far got a sense that the bird had forgotten that it was carrying him along with it. The bird flew faster, and faster, directly toward the rabbit. Wanders Far felt like the bird would smash itself onto the ground, rendered lifeless by the contact. Yet the boy felt the excitement of the speed, feeling the air pass over the wings of the bird, and the sense of conquest. He felt the need to snatch the rabbit from the ground with the bird’s sharp yellow toes. Moments later, Wanders Far felt the rush of danger that came with approaching the ground and grabbing the rabbit. The possibility of a violent impact and the proximity of a fixed surface was exciting. Fortunately, the eagle expertly avoided a collision without thought or plan, but rather with a skill perfected by years of experience.
As the bird rose again into the air, he seemed to remember that he was carrying an extra spirit, which he no longer was interested in entertaining. The bird gained elevation, and as the eagle flew over the body of Wanders Far, the eagle defecated. Wanders Far felt his spirit return to his own body just in time to experience the sensation of a glob of wet bird excrement land on his back, at the base of his neck.
The eagle landed twenty-five feet from Wanders Far. With a few quick movements, beak and talons ripped the rabbit’s body to shreds. Wanders Far watched as the eagle had his meal. Wanders Far felt the bird’s spirit gloating and taunting the boy, as if it was intentionally depriving Wanders Far of the experience of enjoying the meal. Nonetheless, Wanders Far concentrated on sending a message of gratitude back to the bird, appreciation for the gift of flight and the chance to experience the scenery from a different perspective.
Moments later, the eagle took off from the cliffs and Wanders Far watched until he disappeared into the distance. When he was gone, Wanders Far followed the path westward, down the hill, and then turned to walk along the pebble beach where he caught up with the others.
“Did you see that magnificent eagle?” Dandelion shouted as Wanders Far approached.
Wanders Far nodded, put a slight, mock frown on his face, stretched his arms as he had on the bluff, and slowly spun around, showing his brother the mess he carried on his back.
Dandelion hooted and hollered, jumped up and down, and shouted, “Is that what I think it is?” Dandelion got so excited, it was as if he were envious that his brother had been singled out to receive a great gift. “I never heard of anybody getting crapped on by an eagle.”
Wanders Far shook his head in disbelief. Normally his brother was so relaxed and easy going, nothing much seemed to get him going. Of all the things they experienced together through the years, Wanders Far thought, it took eagle poop for him to find a way to entertain his brother.
Dandelion made sure every member of their host party got a good look before he let his brother wash himself off in the lake. “Have you had enough yet?” Wanders Far finally asked his brother. Then he turned toward the Shining Waters and waded out until the water was deep enough to swim in.
As he bathed, Wanders Far reflected on being carried by the eagle. He had never felt his spirit in the body of an animal before. The only human body Wanders Far could recall sending his spirit into was his brother, Dandelion. Wanders Far chuckled at the thought that the bird knew he was there, but his brother never did. It was a one-way spiritual connection. Wanders Far could read his brother’s thoughts as his brother conjured them and Wanders Far could place his own thoughts in his brother’s mind whenever he wished. On his way back from the water, Wanders Far admonished himself for thinking the eagle was smarter than his brother. The fact was, Wanders Far adored and idolized his carefree sibling.
The next morning, they headed for home.
From Chapter Sixteen: Great Roaring Waterfalls
Follows Stars had constructed a small, temporary encampment right on the bank of the wide river, just above the waterfall. He had been there several days, and had become quite comfortable, passing time by whittling warriors, scouts, and hunters four inches tall. He had carved one runner. He smiled when he saw Wanders Far approach his camp. He knew that Wanders Far would get there first. Follows Stars had visualized Wanders Far’s arrival, and his smile broadened as the boy got closer.
Follows Stars gave Wanders Far a small rock with a turtle painted on the top and one hashmark painted on the bottom. They talked for a couple minutes and the seer congratulated the boy. Then he asked Wanders Far if he had encountered any difficulty finding the checkpoint.
Wanders Far told him, “No, I just imagined where you would be, and there you were!” The seer gave him a bowl of buffalo meat with a thick gravy. Then the seer handed him some cornbread with sunflower seeds and dried blueberries baked into it. It was a heavy meal. Wanders Far ate a few bites and thanked him, passing the bowl back. Buffalo was a rare treat, since most of their villages were just outside of the Buffalo’s normal range.
Follows Stars could have predicted the boy would only eat a little. He closed his eyes and reached for Wanders Far’s hands. After a silent minute, the seer completed his reading. Follows Stars thought, This is the boy I always knew would come. The old man opened his eyes. Wanders Far had been gazing at the lids of the eyes of the old seer. Wanders Far felt a strong energy pass through his torso, not from the hands of the seer, but rather through the very air. It was a happy, comforting feeling of connectedness, not just to the current time and place, the man standing in front of him and the task at hand, but to humanity throughout the ages past, and those yet to come.
The seer asked the boy, “Did you see anything?”
Wanders Far said, “No, I felt it. You have a glorious spirit.”
Follows Stars whispered, “That was exactly what I was going to say to you!” A couple of silent moments passed, and the seer released the boy’s hands. “I want you to have this,” he said, giving Wanders Far the runner he had carved. It looked just like the boy, only a year or two older.
The whole visit lasted ten minutes. After he said goodbye to the seer, Wanders Far stood facing the Great Roaring Waterfalls. For ninety seconds, he soaked it in. Wanders Far felt that he had stayed too long as it was. He was only halfway finished. He took a quick drink of water and was back on the trail, again passing the boys who had stopped to rest at the river, without them even knowing he had been there. Wanders Far wondered what they would think when they discovered that rock number 1 had already been taken. He chuckled at the thought, and walked well past dark, again reaching the abandoned lean-to that he had slept in the night before, only that night it wasn’t abandoned. It was full of sleeping racers. Wanders Far quietly found an unoccupied corner and quickly fell asleep.
All of the racers were up early on the seventh morning. A good night’s sleep had done them all a lot of good, and they were in high spirits, expecting to reach the Great Roaring Waterfalls later that day. They noticed that Wanders Far had caught up to them and congratulated him on his persistence. They hadn’t expected him to make it that far, figuring he would have turned around for home way before that point. When everyone was ready to continue, they all started down the path toward the checkpoint. Wanders Far headed the opposite way.
“Giving up this close to the checkpoint,” one of the younger men chided. Wanders Far just shrugged, hung his head, and gave a sad, weak, defeated wave in parting.