About the Book
Title: The Raven’s Daughter
By: Peggy A. Wheeler
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Publication Date: February 29th
Synopsis: A Murdering Monster and a Myth Come to Life
After a police shootout where she killed a man, criminologist Maggie Tall Bear Sloan retires from the force to enjoy peace and quiet in rural California. When sets of young twins are murdered in her town, the local sheriff recruits her to solve the gruesome killings.
But to catch a killer, Maggie either accepts her true nature as a “pukkukwerek” —the shapeshifting monster killer of Yurok legend—or more children will die.
As the manhunt intensifies and her own family is threatened, Maggie will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. Whether she’s awake or asleep dreaming, Maggie is faced with a difficult choice: embrace her heritage—even if it means turning into myth itself—or deny that heritage and lose everything.
About the Author
Peggy A. Wheeler is published under the names of Peggy A. Wheeler, Peggy Wheeler and Peggy Dembicer. Her non-fiction articles and poetry have appeared in a number of national magazines and anthologies. She has written for Llewellyn Worldwide. Most recently, her short story Mama’s Special Stew appears in WOMEN WRITING THE WEIRD II: Dreadful Daughters, by Dog Horn Press.
Her B.A. in English Literature is from U.C.L.A. Her M.A. in English with a Creative Writing emphasis is from California State University at Northridge. While attending U.C.L.A., Peggy was one of only twelve students (and the only undergraduate) chosen to study with Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate of the United States. She won first prize awards for two of her poems from an Evergreen Women’s Press nation wide poetry contest. Her poetry received honorable mentions from the judges of a Los Angeles Poetry Festival and The Academy of American Poets. Peggy’s poem Du Fu was nominated for a Rhysling award for Best Science Fiction Poem. Her manuscript for THE RAVEN’S DAUGHTER was a top ten finalist in the 2014 CCC Great Novel contest.
Read an Excerpt!An unkindness of ravens, knocking and cawing, settled into the branches of a gray pine. Maggie squinted at them through the morning glare of the sun, and reached into her coat pocket. “You gluttonous, winged pigs.” She withdrew her hand and tossed corn onto the dirt. No matter where Margaret Tall-Bear Sloan was, ravens were certain to be nearby. She always carried corn.
The phone rang. She dropped the kernels remaining in her palm, and sprinted into her cottage. “Hello?”
“I’ve got bad news,” said Jake Lubbock, Wicklow’s sheriff.
“Don’t tell me. More kids?”
“Six-year-old girls. The O’Malley twins.”
“Dammit. God dammit.”
“You still thinking about joining the reserves? Your certification is current, and you still have your license to carry. Right? I can expedite this.”
“Maggie, listen to me. We sure could use your help. Two sets of twins in less than eight months.
No clues. We can’t get a handle on this.”
“You know after what happened in Oakland, I don’t deal with child killers. I’m sorry, but I have to say no.”
“Can we meet for lunch and talk? At least hear me out.”
“What time? I’ve got an appointment this morning. I can be in town around one if that’s not too late.”
“One it is,” Jake said. “And…Maggie?”
“Don’t thank me. I’m not getting involved. This is only lunch, and you’re buying.”
“Whatever you say. See you at The Dandelion.”
She slicked back a few stray hairs. Not bad for an old broad. With her bare foot, she stroked Samantha, her blue point Siamese rescue cat with a crooked tail and an attitude. The slinky feline leapt onto the table and butted Maggie’s hand in a bid for additional petting.
For 46, Maggie figured she’d held up pretty good, her complexion wrinkle-free except tiny crows’ feet at the corners of her eyes when she smiled, which was seldom. Maggie had Yurok features from her mother’s side, toasted butter skin and Native hair, glossy stuff of legends she plaited into a thick salt-and-pepper braid that fell to her waist. Her lime green eyes that turned dark olive when she became angry, which was often, she owed to her Northern Irish father.
She pulled on her favorite T-shirt, the one that read, “I’m half white but can’t prove it,” kicked off fuzzy pink slippers, yanked on her Dan Post boots, and left with her dog following close behind. “See ya later, Samantha. Keep the mice away while we’re gone.”
She opened the door to her ‘54 cherry red Chevy pickup. “C’mon, Chester.” The old bloodhound leapt into the passenger’s seat. As Maggie headed toward town, a raucous cry broke the mid-day stillness. She glanced in her rearview mirror. “Yup, ravens following us, Chester. What a big surprise, eh boy?”
“Hi,” she said as she entered the café. The screen door slammed behind her.
“You look really pretty today,” Jake said. “I ordered a cup o’ java for you.”
“Thanks, and if you hit on me, I’m walking out.” Maggie laughed as she slipped into the booth opposite Jake. “Can’t stay long anyway. Chester’s in the truck.”
A waitress with spiky purple hair, an earplug the color and size of a new copper penny and a dragonfly tattoo on her neck set mugs of coffee on the table. “Ready?”
Jake and Maggie put in their orders, but the waitress lingered.
“Yes, Dawn?” Jake asked.
“Sheriff, those little girls, the O’Malley’s? Their family lives in my neighborhood. Their mom was planning a party for their seventh birthdays this Saturday, and she’d hired me to help out. I hope you catch that asshole.”
“We’ll get the guy, I promise. We’ll have him by…”
As he spoke to the waitress, Jake raked his fingers through his hair from right above his brow to the nape of his neck. When stressed, he had a disarming habit of combing his fingers over his scalp. Maggie drifted into a memory.
She had first noticed him in 8th grade during a math exam. Jake sat at the desk in front of her raking his fingers through his hair again and again distracting her so much she almost flubbed the test. “Would you knock it off with the hair thing,” she whispered. “I can’t concentrate.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to bug y…,” he said turning in his seat to apologize, but the moment he made eye contact with her, he froze. His last word caught in his throat, and the only other sounds from his gaping mouth were stutters.
That was how their friendship began. Jake became the only person, maybe other than her friend Sally, Maggie could be herself with. But, there was no way she could make herself want him the way he wanted her. Even now as older adults, they jousted, kidded each other, argued, and picked on one another like adolescents. For Maggie, this was her way to demonstrate the only affection for him she could muster. Not known for a stellar sense of humor, Maggie never joked with anyone else like she did with Jake. She took no pleasure in breaking his heart, although she’d done it a hundred times
“Want a refill?” Dawn said, breaking Maggie’s revere.
“Sure. Thanks. “The waitress poured the coffee, and departed, her red Doc Martens clumping against the tile floor.
Jake shook his head and laughed. “Those shoes can’t be comfortable to work in.”
Maggie grabbed her bag and inched from behind the table. “I really can’t handle kid murders. You’re going to have to fly solo or hire someone else. Thanks for the coffee, but I have to leave.”
“Wait, Maggie. At least have some lunch. Food’s already ordered. C’mon. If you don’t want to give us a hand, I understand, okay? I’m not going to pressure you.”
“You better not be lying.”
“Stay put. Please.”
She scooted back and said nothing as she stirred a packet of sugar into her mug.
“I thought you liked your coffee black.”
“Yeah, I do. But, today, I need something a little sweet.” She studied Jake’s face.
Although handsome in a rough sort of way, the years had neither been easy nor kind to him. “You say there are no clues?”
“That’s what’s so goddamn baffling. We can’t even find footprints. It’s like a ghost is killing these kids, Maggie. Forensics can’t find hairs, cloth fibers, or fingerprints.”
“Nothing at all we can work with?”
“From what we can tell, it looks as though the son-of-a-bitch keeps the kids for a couple of days.” He leaned across the table, looking around the café to ensure no one was listening, and whispered, “We find the kids face-to-face, arms around one another in an embrace. In each case they were placed…I don’t mean dumped… placed in graves almost reverently. This is the work of a 100 percent authentic sicko.” He leaned back, laced his fingers behind his head, and stretched. His upper back made an audible pop. “Damn, I’m getting to be an old, creaky fart. You don’t want to retire, Maggie. C’mon. Get on the reserves. Help us out. We need you. I need you.”
“Any sign of sexual assault?” she asked.
“How old did you say the victims are?”
“No younger than four, no older than eight.”
“Yeah, Mag. Pretty much.”
“Shit.” With the fingers of both hands she massaged the tops of her shoulders.
A scraping noise outside caught their attention. “Will you look at that?” Jake pointed at the window.
“Check out all those crows.”On the ledge, a half dozen ravens perched in a row.
“They aren’t crows.”
Maggie settled into her lounge chair overlooking Wild River. Her lump of a lazy bloodhound stretched out on the grass beside her, and Samantha curled into a snug ball on her chest. She’d put on her favorite Clannad CD, and opened a paperback book, Learning Irish Gaelic.
The lunch meeting with Jake wore on her, and Maggie had not slept much the night before.
The placid music lulled her into drowsiness. Her eyes closed, and as she fell asleep, her fingers went limp and the book slid from her lap landing with a soft plop on the ground.
She dreamed she was a raven. She flew through a remote part of the forest deep into the Trinity Alps. Below, elk and bear foraged for food. Maggie cawed a greeting to them, veered west and flew toward the white cliffs of Sunset Mountain. Beneath the shade of an old Douglas fir, alive in spite of being split nearly in two by lightning, she saw a thin human-like figure, only much too tall to be a human, hunched over something. Curious, as ravens are, she flew closer, settled onto the limb of the fir and cocked her head to get a better look.
An emaciated Native man in dirty torn buckskins with strips of rotting flesh hanging from his hands and face busied himself digging a rectangular hole with a spade. The man had long, stringy black hair that appeared plucked out in patches revealing skull the color of coffee stains. The music of unseen whistles and drums echoed off the cliffs.
“Who are you?” she said. The question came out in a series of caws and clicks.
He ceased his digging, tilted his head above to the branch where she perched. With one eye he stared at her. Where his other eye should have been was a foul hole from which dropped, one at a time, glistening maggots.
About the Soundtrack
This is pretty easy. I don’t have specific “songs” or cuts off of CDs. I’d say a mix of traditional Native American music, especially drumming and flute, and Traditional/Contemporary Irish music. I prefer more haunting melodies to upbeat or fast music. This is a dark story after all!